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1864 August 17: “Books, papers & letters just suit me and my mind starves without them. How well I should like to be at home to-night!”

August 17, 2014

A homesick Edwin Levings, with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry in Georgia, writes to his Cousin Hattie Levings.  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.

Near Atlanta Ga Aug. 17th / ’64

Dear Cousin Hattie,

                                     Your much wished for letter, dated 31st July was received by us several days ago, and I read it with all the expected pleasure, and thank you for it.

I presume you have read what I wrote to you in a letter to Lottie.  You did not think I was censuring you I hope.  I was confident your time was fully occupied and perhaps better occupied than it would have been in writing letters to me.

But now that your school term is nearly out and you will be more at leasure [sic], you can attend to your teasing cousins.

It  is now 3 o’clock P.M. and as we are to draw rations early tomorrow morning and expect to make another movement, I thought I would not delay writing longer.

Since the great battles around Atlanta, the accounts of which you have doubtless read, the Army of the Tenn. has held the center and we have had much easier times.  I think we shall soon be on the flank position again, and if so, may have some more fighting to do; but it is difficult to tell what movement is intended.  No serious fighting had taken place this week ∼ all seems very quiet except on the skirmish line where there is considerable picket firing, doing no particular hurt.  The rebels seem quiet, but as they now see we are not going to test their breastworks.  I doubt not they are trying some game of strategy, for no sooner do we begin to settle down in our operations,—when we are not doing much, than they they [sic] show more vigor; and if we are not very vigilant we must take consequences.  A force of rebels estimated from 300 to 20,000  mad a dash at our communications near Dalton, but what damage they did no one seems to know.  That was the other day.  Our rations were immediately cut down to 3/5 and all unnecessary picket firing ordered to cease; but the impression is that the damage, if any, was slight, and we are told we are to draw rations as usual & write at pleasure.

I am glad you like Mr. Weld¹ as a teacher.  If you did not, you would feel very unpleasant.  If I ever get home, I will plunge into books or I greatly mistake.  I know not what to do many times for the lack of reading matter.  Books, papers & letters just suit me and my mind starves without them.  How well I should like to be at home to-night !   Wouldn’t it be fine?—but I must not dwell on that subject.  There comes up the idea of comfort & so on,—the nice fixings & a thousand more things that please, you see.  What kind of soldier would I be if I let my thoughts and desires run after such things?  Why I felt half provoked at a fellow yesterday for mentioning such things as warm brisket[?], turkey dumplings &c, but then we do have funny times talking over Mother’s good things.  We get together in groups and talk and laugh, and I don’t see but we relish in imagination there things as much as if we actually had them.   We have good fare, but not very good accommodations for cooking.  Supper is about ready.  Homer and Dale,² our comrade, is getting it.  We shall have some solidified bread, an admixture of coffee & sugar, and a compound of dessicated potatoes & beef.  You may laugh but Homer says this supper is not to be sneezed at.  In all truth, Hattie, we do enjoy ourselves, spite of all the disadvantages & privations incidents to our life.

1.  Allen Hayden Weld (1809-1882).
2.  Edwin’s brother Homer, and their friend Wilber P. Dale.

Edwin Levings letter of August 17, 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 August 17, 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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