Letter written by Lieutenant Charles Wilkins of the 1st U.S. Infantry to his girlfriend Sarah while in a camp near Corinth, Mississippi. Wilkins mentions a Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia. He remarks on the cold weather and snow. Wilkins aims to be in New Hampshire within three months. He describes a planned foraging trip for the next morning. The latter part of the letter is dated January 21st, after Wilkins returned from foraging.
January 16th 1863
Being once more in communication with the States, I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. I received three papers from you Jan. 4th. Can assure you they were very gratefully received, as we had not seen a paper since Dec. 16th. I am almost discouraged at times at our want of success of our army in Virginia. Our loss at Fredericksburg must have been very great. I learned through my brother at Winchester that Lt. Jas. Sanborn of the 11th N.H. Vols. left the field with two wounded and was not seen until the next day. Think he had better have been shot, if he had not the courage to stand up to the work should have
supposed he would have had too much pride to run. What kind of a story will he tell on his return home. Suppose you are having nice sleighing. We have almost snow enough for sleighing but have not the sleigh. The weather is very cold. I had to keep up a fire all night to keep warm. We feel the cold much more when we have it, from the fact that the changes are very sudden.
I think it is a settled thing that we are to go north to recruit, probably to St. Louis Arsenal. Should like to be sent East on the recruiting service. And then; well I will not anticipate, for fear I should be disappointed. But we shall know soon, perhaps in a month. It will take at least three months to fill up our regiment. I have made up my mind that I shall be in New Hampshire
in less than three months. I am going out with a foraging party in the morning; to be gone two or three days. I shall go from twenty to twenty-five miles. The traveling is very bad on account of recent rains. Our foraging parties are sometimes attacked, but I think there is no danger of being attacked by them, on account of the traveling. Think I will not finish this until I return.
January 21st. I returned with my train of forage night before last. I had 42 wagons and sixty men to guard them. I did not know that I was to have the command of the train until just as I was ready to start, when the post Q.M. said, Lieut. Wilkins, you will take command of the train. I started at ten o’clock on Saturday morning on the Purdy, Tenn.
road, went about twenty miles. The first day took forage enough from a planter to feed night and morning. Started at light the next morning went to [???] got thirteen loads; then went about six miles east – to Snake Creek – where I filled the balance of my teams with corn & hay. I got 12 geese & six chickens for the officer’s mess at the same place. I then thought I would find a better road to go back, and started on the Monterey road, and camped within half a mile of that place on Sunday night. I was then fifteen miles from camp. I woke up the next morning at five, had the mules fed and harnessed, about this time it began to rain. My waiter brought me a piece of chicken, some bread, and a cup of coffee for my breakfast. It rained all day on Monday, and when I got in was about as wet as a “drowned rat.” got a little cold sleeping on the ground. The major was well pleased with my success, so were all the officers
Received a paper from you last night. In it you say you have not heard from me for five weeks. I think I have sent you three letters and this is the fourth since Dec. 20th. I met with an accident last night. The mail arrived late, and I went out to see what I was to get, and ran against a tree, cutting my forehead and chin. This morning I found I could see out of one eye; the other is “closed for repairs.” Hope to be all right in a few days. Think in future will let the orderly fetch me my mail matter. I have been setting in my tent all day, and what do you suppose has been the drift of my thoughts[?] Will tell you in my next letter.
I remain very truly yours,
N.B. you will probably get another letter from me soon
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.