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1864 June 9: “We do not have enough to eat, … I would rather they would keep their extra pay & give me full rations”

June 9, 2014

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  The final page seems to be missing, so there is no signature, but this is definitely Ed Levings’ handwriting.

Acworth Ga.  June 9th 1864

My Dear Parents :

                                 I wrote last from Rome, but did not write much for the want of time.  I now hasten to improve the first opportunity, and to give you an account of our march over the mountains, for I know there rests on your minds a feverish anxiety to learn how I stood the tramp.

The 3rd and 4th Divisions, 17th Corps, left Decatur, Ala. on the 27th ult. and arrived here yesterday, having marched a distance of 335 miles, with but a single day’s rest during the time.  The 12th never did as hard marching before, ~ its Meridian march is no comparison.  No other march ever tested the patience and endurance of the men so severely, and I have not a doubt but that it has produced effects that will lead to many a broken-down constitution.  The whole command suffered a great deal from the fatigue of this march and the universal statement is that it was the hardest time it ever experienced.  We carried our knapsacks lightened of all that could be spared, lived on 2/3 rations which consisted of hard bread, pork and beef, coffee, sugar, salt and pepper.  The mountainous districts afforded but little to eat, the people were poor and needed all they possessed, consequently we did not try to forage much upon them.  Aside from onions, a little meat and corn meal, we did not have much to vary our fare.  The worst feature of the march was we were compelled to travel too far in a day.  We did not march more than 15 or 18 miles daily, but that distance under the circumstances was too much.  We were climbing steep mountains and hills, fording streams where the water was sometimes up to the waist, were footsore and needed sleep & rest, and carried knapsacks and were discouraged.  [paragraph break added]

Old Blair [Francis P. Blair] was to blame and when our Div. Gen. (Gen. Grisham [sic: Walter Q. Gresham]) complained to him and requested a rest, he was inexorable, and there seemed no way but for each man to abide his fate.  We made no allowances for bad weather, bad roads or anything else, but sitting on his fine horse and looking like a peacock, without a word or a smile for anybody, measured off his regular 15 or 18 miles, making his headquarters as some nice house, obliging us to march oftentimes till midnight to come up with him, ~ once till 8 in the morning and in this instance our brigade went to bed without any supper, prefering [sic] a little sleep rather than food ; and then were hurried off before they could get breakfast.  There was no necessity for marching us so as we could learn.  Blair was reported under arrest when we arrived at Kingston because he should have been here sooner.  He lay at Cairo longer than necessary and it is thought he meant to make us make up the time.  I have heard many a man say he would shoot him if he ever has a chance, and I know he is generally very unpopular.  Officers up to Div. Generals do not hesitate to express  their dislike of him.  President Lincoln [Abraham Lincoln] will lose a large vote in this Corp because of Blair.  The opinion is he has given him command simply to appease the Copperhead sentiment at home.  I do not think the boys will fight with much confidence while he leads them, but enough of this.  I will simply say I stood the march as well as the best of the boys and am in excellent health.  [paragraph break added]

I don’t think much of this reduced, “improved, ration system.”  We do not have enough to eat, of somethings; for instance, sugar & meat of which we get but ½ rations.  I would rather they would keep their extra pay & give me full rations.  I presume the calculations are to live largely off the country, and I assure you I shall so endeavor.  There will be an abundance of fruit this year, & considerable wheat & corn, which will be good in quality.  Wheat will be ready to cut in 2 weeks, but there will be no one to cut it.

[Edwin D. Levings]

Edwin Levings letter of June 9, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of June 9, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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