1865 June 17: “I think the next class of troops that will be discharged are the veterans. . . . The Regular Army will be raised to the required number, and then we will be discharged”
Ed Levings is still feeling somewhat depressed that the 12th Wisconsin Infantry is not getting mustered out quickly. 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.
Hd. 3rd, 2nd Div. 17th N. C.
Near Louisville Ky, June 17th, 1865
My Dear Parents;
Within the last two weeks I have not written to you, but I did not forget that you were looking for a letter; and I must tell you that of late I have been rather delinquent. I was not in the writing mood. Vexations and disappointments combined to make me miserable, and when I attempted to write, as I did one day to you, my mind was so hampered by unpleasant thoughts about the prospects &c that I quit writing and tore up the sheet. I saw that there was no probability that we would be discharged very soon, and this with other things, such as half rations, and ignorance as to what the government intended to do with us, made me feel anything but pleasant. I knew you would be disappointed to hear that we must remain in service awhile longer. I concluded the better way was not to mourn over an event I could not control, and I said I will try and be contented and remember that “there is a good time coming”, and it may not be far distant. And yesterday we received your letter of the 4th inst. and I perceived you had not been too sanguine about our coming home right away, and I felt better. I then thought I could write you a letter, and now I am doing it. Well, the men whose term of service would expire with the coming October have been mustered out, and now there is an order to muster out all whose terms of service would expire by Oct 1866,— another step toward mustering out the troops. The government does but one thing at a time, and I think the next class of troops that will be discharged are the veterans. I have no idea that we will be kept more than 6 or 8 months. The Regular Army will be raised to the required number, and then we will be discharged. The men who have longest to serve will probably be kept the longest. The time will seem long to us, but I calculate to make as good use of it in some way, and any suggestions from you will be welcome. — Ten per cent of the men are to be immediately furloughed for twenty days, and when they return, more will be furloughed. You need not look to see us home on a twenty day furlough — it is too short a time. Bye and bye, a longer time might be given, when we would try and get furloughs. Next week we shall receive pay,—one installment of bounty and eight months pay. Of course, we know not what our future movements may be. I think we shall be scattered about the country to aid in the enforcement of the laws where necessary, or untill the several State governments can be reorganized and can assume the place of military authority. By that time there will be a Regular Army to do the soldiering. — We left Washington on the 7th inst via the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. and reached Louisville the morning of the 12th — a distance of more than 800 miles. We took the boats at Parkersburg.¹ The terminal of the B. & O. R. R. and came down in 44 hours, coming farther (425 miles) and in less time, than on the cars. In my next I will tell you about Washington, and our trip from here to Louisville. — We have seen the 30th boys. They look well mostly. John White will go home next week.
[Edwin did not sign off]
1. Parkersburg, West Virginia, is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Parkersburg in 1857, but lacked a crossing over the Ohio River until after the Civil War. When the B&O completed the Parkersburg Bridge to Belpre (1868-70) , it was the longest railroad bridge in the world.
A copy of an address, also dated June 17, 1865, was included with Edwin’s letter. Although Edwin does not say who, it was most likely written by the general of the Third Division, Mortimer D. Leggett.
Hd. Qrs. 3rd Div 17th A. C.
Near Louisville K. [Kentucky] June 17th/’65
Soldiers of the Third Division :
During the last four years you have displayed your valor and patriotism on scores of battle-fields. Scores of times have you met the enemies of our Government in deadly conflict, and always proved victorious. You never suffered your lines to be broken, you never attacked a position held by the enemy, which you failed to take. You never were driven from a position which you attempted to hold.
When the history of the bloody battles and arduous campaigns in which you have been engaged shall be truthfully written, it will be said of the Old Third Division : “It never knew defeat.—It was never late in battle, and never early out.— It never turned its back to the enemy.— It always responded to the order, ‘forward’ with a cheer, and moved without regard to the obstacles or force in its front, and stopped only when its own commander sounded the ‘Halt’.”
Of your name and record justly feel proud. Soldiers guard well that name! Don’t suffer any feeling of disappointment or discounted to lead you to tarnish that proud record, which, up to this date, is without a blot.
When we left N. C., our visions of home with its comforts and endearments were strong, and we all hoped, ere this, to be there. But the Gov’t determined that it would be imprudent to so soon disband us. Every inch of territory, lately in rebellion, is still under under under Martial Law, and while Martial Law prevails the war is not at an end, though active warfare may have ceased. Until reorganizations takes place, & Civil Tribunals are ready to assume the control now exercised by the Military Authority, soldies [sic] will be needed, and we may justly & legally be held in service, and have no just rights to complain.
It is the expressed desire of the Govt to reduce its expenses as much and as rapidly as possible, and we may rely when being mustered out of the service at the earliest of moment deemed prudent by the authorities at Washington.
For the meantime, a liberal percentage of the men will be permitted to visit their homes on furlough, and the usual discipline must be maintained in camp.
See other Sheet. [Ed’s letter]