Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If the War Lasts Ten Years

Here are snippets from two-letters-in-one. William St. Clair, musician for Company E, 31st Indiana, Camp Calhoun, Kentucky, November 8, 1861, to his cousins Hattie and Lib.

Samuel France (1839-1900), my great great grandfather, served alongside St. Clair in the same company. Jeremiah C. France (1840-1865), Samuel's brother, was also at Camp Calhoun during this same period, serving in Company G, 43rd Indiana. 

[W]e left Henderson last Friday it rained all day and night and we had a hard time climbing over the mountains and hills we was two days coming 35 miles but we have a beautiful camp here it is on top of a high hill on the bank of the Green River. [T]here’s a secesh town on the other side of the river but they all left when they heard we was coming except what few Union people there was there that old fellow that we took the tobacc’ from has left home and gone in the secesh army. We took two steamboats from the rebels we are using them to carry the mail from Evansville, up here to us we are 95 miles right south from Evansville . . .

Soldier’s life is easy and very hard in some respects. I am very well satisfied in the service of my country and would be if it was as hard again [although] home is dear to one that has a happy home but I never expect to see home until peace is restored to the Union for I would not be satisfied if I was there and my friends gone and me at home neutral. [I]f the war lasts ten years my mind is now that I will stay unless it is my lot to fall among the many on the battlefield. [W]e have plenty to eat plenty for soldiers anyway. We have bacon and coffee and sea buisket [sic] that is so hard that a wagon can run over them and not break them we have to soak them in coffee until they get so we can eat them. [W]e have beans sometimes and beef when we get them we have a feast and potatoes.
Well Lib I have to go to dinner and I will have to quit writing you must write again soon, [G]ive my love to the best looking girl out there . . .
(This is my transcription. Scans of the full original letter can be seen at Wabash Valley Visions & Voices: A Digital Memory Project,

Note: Many died at Camp Calhoun of infectious diseases. Those among the 31st Indiana who lived through this, their first prolonged exposure to camp life, moved out in early 1862 for their first big battle at Fort Donelson, Tennessee -- fought 150 years ago this week.

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.

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