Letter written by Lieutenant Charles Wilkins of the 1st U.S. Infantry to his girlfriend Sarah while in camp near Corinth, Mississippi. Wilkins describes how the battalion are acting as heavy artillery, narrowly avoiding being involved in heavy fire from the Rebel troops, and a practical joke pulled by his commanding officer involving General William Rosecrans.
Camp near Corinth, Miss.
August 8th 1862
Dear Friend [Sarah]: Having a little spare time I take my pen to write you a short letter, hoping that you will not think me presuming in writing you, as it is a pleasure to think that I am classed among your friends. [I’m glad] to know that though far away I am not forgotten. I arrived here on the 20th of May. We have a pretty camp ground. It is in the park in front of a very pretty house once occupied by a member of the Polk family who is serving in the Rebel army. The house is of course occupied by the officer’s battalion. Our camp is about one mile from Corinth in a southwesterly
direction. We have but six companies here. The battalion are acting as heavy artillery, having the best siege train in the Western army, consisting of six thirty-pounder rifled Parrott Guns, three eight inch howitzers and two twelve- pounder Wiard guns. The battalion keeps their rifles, so we have to drill as infantry and heavy artillery. We have in the estimation of many lost our best general (Halleck), who is now in Washington. The Army of the Miss. is now under command of Genl. U. S. Grant. Our forces here are very much scattered on account of the large tract of country which we have to guard. I came pretty near getting into a fight on the 28th May, before the evacuation of Corinth. Four of our Parrott guns were ordered up about one mile in order to silence a Rebel battery. But the works were not completed for but one [gun], and I was ordered to remain
behind in charge of the three that were left [behind]. By so doing, I escaped a very hot fire from the enemy. We fired three shells from our Parrotts, with what effect we did not learn till after the evacuation. The three shells killed six men. One hit an engine, killing the engineer. The distance was estimated at two and a half miles. We got the range by seeing rockets sent up the night before by the Rebels.
The officers are all furnished with saddle horses. We ride nearly every day. Capt. Williams got off a pretty good joke on the officers of the 1st Infantry the other day (by the way, he is in command of the battalion). There has been a board for the examination of officers. He told us that we had got to go before the board, and if found deficient, we should be discharged the service. He gave us one
week to get ready. I believe some of the officers did not sleep two nights during the time. At the expiration of the week, he told us we studied so well he would not have us examined at all. We afterwards learned they [examinations] were only for volunteers. Genl. Rosecrans heard of it, and says he shall come over and inspect us. We are prepared. We drill every morning one hour and a half. I heard from my brother a few days ago. [I] think you never saw him. He is at Bolivar, Tenn. [I] shall make him a visit in a few days, but I must close, hoping this will find you in as good health as the writer. [I] believe my health was never better than now.
2nd Lieut. 1st U.S. Infty,
Charles Wilkins was born in Henniker, New Hampshire to James and Sarah Wilkins. He originally enlisted in Company B of the 2nd NH Infantry on June 1, 1861 at the age of 25. He served as a private until wounded at the 1st Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He remained on wounded leave at Hennikee, NH until January, 1862, when he was appointed 2nd lieutenant, 1st U.S. Infantry, to date from Feb. 19, 1862. On May 25, 1863 Lt. Wilkins was wounded at Vicksburg, MS and died of his wounds on June 20, 1863. He was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious service in action at Vicksburg, June 20,1863.