Letter written by Lieutenant Charles Wilkins of the 1st U.S. Infantry to his girlfriend Sarah while in camp near Corinth, Mississippi. Wilkins seems to be suffering from depression, claiming to have the “blues.” Wilkins was officer of the day on Christmas, and therefore had to remain in camp. He describes a meager Christmas dinner, as well as a few humorous interactions with fellow officers and guards in the camp. Wilkins laments the soldiers who willingly leave their homes and families only to end up “in a lonely grave.”
Christmas Eve Dec. 25
I hardly know how to commence writing tonight. Wish you would give me a remedy for the blues, for believe I have them occasionally. Here I am almost out of the world, and within a few days’ ride, my friends cut of[f] from all communication with them. It has been nearly a fortnight since the enemy destroyed a portion of the railroad at Humboldt, a short distance from Jackson, [Tenn]. When the damage will be repaired I don’t know. The enemy have destroyed all our stores at Holly Springs also. There was a report that the enemy had also captured La Grange, but hope it is not so, for my brother is there. There is so many rumors afloat that [I] have made up my mind to believe nothing until I can see it with my own eyes.
You can imagine I think how I have passed Christmas when I tell you that being officer of the day [I am] being obliged to remain in camp. We are now on half rations, so you will say we had not much of a dinner. Will give you our bill of fare for dinner – fresh beef, bread and coffee, with a little stale butter. Don’t know when I have been so much amused as I was last night. As I was returning to camp, having called on a brother officer, it was a little late. As I was walking along the sentry challenged me. Says he, say Christmas gift or halt. I could not help but laugh, and pass on. The fellow was intoxicated. But when I got to our own camp, the sentinel says, “Who comes there?” I answered, “a friend with the countersign.” “Advance friend with the countersign.” I gave him it. He says the countersign is right, advance friend. I will tell you what remedy I have when
a little low spirited. I take out one of your letters and read it. You can hardly imagine (I think) the pleasure I experience in receiving your kind letters, nor can you tell how often I read them, and reread them. When will this rebellion be crushed, and the soldier return to his friends. It makes me feel sad to think of the poor soldier who left home and friends feeling confident the he should return untouched and immortalized by his friends at the close of the war, and who now sleeps in a lonely grave. I think that there is no danger to be apprehended from a fight here, for I think the enemy do not care to trouble us. They were a little too severely punished on the 4th of Oct.
Saturday, Dec. 27th
Hearing that there would be a mail leave in the morning, [I] will send this. We have not had any papers since the 17th
We had a very severe thunder shower this afternoon. It has passed over, and is quite pleasant but cool. It seems strange to have a thunder shower in the winter, but it does not seem at all like winter. You will see by the first part of my letter that we have strange rumors. There was not a man killed at Jackson, Tenn., and whether the other rumors are true remains to be told, as we have no means of knowing. Think I have written as much as you will care to read, so will close by hoping to hear from you soon.
I remain truly yours,
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.