Letters from the battlefield

As we rapidly approach the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Wabash Valley Visions & Voices is putting the final touches on a special collection celebrating and remembering the War Between the States or the War of the Rebellion. Many of the items in this collection are personal letters of soldiers. These letters provide a “ground level” view of the war — the hardships, sickness, death and, yes, the simple joys of life.

One such letter [a transcript] is from Confederate soldier Joseph Thompson to his wife, Mary, written near Corinth, Miss., April 27-29, 1862. It is part of the Vigo County Historical Society’s collection. Part of this letter reads:

“At dress parade, an order from [P.G.T.] Beauregard [Confederate general] was read commanding us to cook five days[’] rations and always keep that much ahead. Our boys were very much excited last evening as it was thought that the enemy would attack us this morning. They are surely advancing upon us. Yesterday, our advance guard had a bloody skirmish with them. Quite a number of our men was lost. Indeed, there is not a day but what there is a skirmish.

“The conscript law is, I fear, going to do much more harm than good. Our Volunteers are greatly excited. While regiments and companies whose time expired last week are now under arrest for stacking arms and declaring they would go home. The Soldiers feel that this law takes away their liberties and robs them of all the honor and patriotism of volunteering. With compulsory feeling in their breasts, they never will fight as they have done.

“They say that they will pay us today and, as soon as I get the money, I will close this letter. O, how I wish I could take the money to you my Self! Although my time is now so short, God only knows, in these critical times what may happen [h]ere then. But some how, I am bouyed up by hope, and hope bids me be of good cheer. What a blessed thing is hope.”

To view this transcript more closely, click here. To learn more about the Vigo County Indiana Civil War Sesquicentennial Project, visit here.

The digitization of Civil War memorabilia is made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act Mini-Digitization Grant from the Indiana State Library. Partners in the project include Indiana State University’s Cunningham Memorial Library, the Vigo County Public Library, the Vigo County Historical Society and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

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