Letter written by Corporal Amos Kibbee of the 1st Battalion, 4th IL Cavalry, to his cousin Hattie, from Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee. Kibbee describes his transfer from the 29th IL Regiment to the 4th IL Cavalry after the battle of Shiloh. He describes what it is like for a soldier in battle, and the overwhelming feeling to completely destroy the enemy that comes as a means of self-preservation. Kibbee writes that Nashville, New Orleans, Richmond, and Memphis are all in Union possession, and does not see how the Confederates could at this point hope for success. He is anxious for the war to end as he feels he is not suited to a soldier’s life – his main goal is for the war to end rather than to be promoted in the military. He requests that his cousin be available when he visits home so that they may spend time together, and that he will likely move back to Illinois.
Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn. May 11th, 62
Dear Cousin Hattie
Yours of April 20 came to hand yesterday and I avail myself of the time given me today on account of being on guard all night to answer it, although perhaps I should do it better if I were not so sleepy and tired. I think I forgot to tell you in my last that we have been transferred from the 29th Reg. of Infantry to the first battalion of the 4th Cavalry, commanded by Col. Dickey. We have been attached to this since directly after the battle of the 6th and 7th of April. The division to which I belong (the first, Gen. McClernand’s) was very badly cut up in the fight and they have many sick, and I think this may be the reason why we are held in reserve, and it is very probable we shall not participate in the coming struggle which is hourly expected, and which, indeed, is now already being fought, but more the fashion of a siege than an assault. We have heard cannonading in the direction of Corinth this morning, which implies that “somebody is being hurt.” I have shared the fortunes of this division of the army ever since its organization at Cairo. I was with it at Forts Henry and Donelson, and at Shiloh. It is unnecessary to tell you that the army met with little opposition at Fort Henry, but we had several cavalry skirmishes with their mounted scouts, shotgun cavalry.
So I have been in two regular pitched battles. Although I have seen blood enough spilt, yet I can hardly content myself to be a noncombatant in the present impending battle. Yet I think you will hardly demonstrate this “bloodthirstiness,” but a desire for a speedy peace, which can only be accomplished through their utter and complete overthrow, and to endure this I am willing, yes, anxious to “brave the leaden storm” once more. There is much to plead in extenuation for the soldier who is so often accused of forgetting the feelings of this better nature. There is a wide difference between experiencing the wild and terrible excitement on the battlefield, and contemplating it from afar. It is utterly useless for anyone to attempt to describe such feelings in language, but this much I can say. It is an utter forgetfulness of everything but a desire to destroy your enemy in the quickest way possible. I think perhaps it is self preservation more than anything else that prompts this feeling. But in all my experience I have never seen a soldier offer the least indignity to a dead or wounded enemy. No truly brave man would do this. Only cowards are capable of it, and I think, Hattie, you would find more than one here to dispute the word of anyone who would call me a coward, or accuse me of inhumanity to a suffering friend or foe. Well, the battle of Yorktown, or rather the siege, has been brought
to a successful issue, and the Rebels are in full retreat towards Richmond, and I hope it may have the influence upon the destiny of this war that all have presaged for it. With Nashville, New Orleans, and Richmond, and Memphis in our possession, their armies defeated on every field and side, what can induce them to hope for ultimate success? It is nothing but reckless foolhardiness to protract the struggle longer. But if they will carry it on to the bitter end, the consequences must rest upon their own heads, and nothing but destruction, almost annihilation, awaits them with its horrors enhanced a hundred fold if we adopt Gen. Hunter’s last resort, which ere long will be done. I am anxious that this war should close for many reasons. First, a soldier’s life does not suit me very well, and next, you must know that it is time nearly thrown away from a pecuniary point of view. You know of course that the wages are small, and it is very little we can lay up out of it, and I wish to be doing something for myself. For it is useless to deny it. I am growing old fast. The misfortunes and hardships of a few years have done the work of many. God heed the day of peace. Well, I am going to write something now which perhaps I never should. If I had not seen that little “my” in parenthesis in connection with Lieutenant Leek. I protest against your doing so again will tell you why. Since we have entered
upon the scenes that have tried mens’ souls we have had many trying times of danger, where officers especially have been watched by jealous eyes, and I regret to say it, but he has greatly fallen from the estimation in which he was held at first by the men under his command who think the feather in his heart a little whiter than the big black one in his hat. They think he is troubled with a disease popularly demonstrated “the bighead.” But this is too common a failing among army officers. You wished to know what kind of a looking man our captain is. He is a man about my height, not so heavy built, will weigh about 150 pounds, light complexion, sandy hair, tolerably good looking, is about 38 years old, has a wife and several children at home. As his temperament would indicate, he is passionate and impulsive, and if he is lacking in anything it is in cool discrimination in times of peril. He is liked by some, and disliked by some, but he is a very good officer. My ambition consists more in wishing to bring this war to a successful termination than for official promotion, and I would rather hear of peace today than be assured of a brigadier generalship in six months more of war. I cannot see the necessity for your keeping to the school room so steadily. Surely you might consult your own wishes and feelings for this season, anyhow, or at least a part of it, for I am going to stay perhaps a month when I come, and shall want you at liberty then while I stay, or I shall be lonesome. I expect to go back to Illinois to live after visiting all my relatives there. Yours truly,
Ame to Hatt
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Tell your mother that I thank her very much for her good wishes, and should be as glad to see her as she would me, I’ll warrant. And “Sister Lizzie” the same. I can imagine the pretty things she said; “tell” me. Tell Madison I am coming to see him and stay a whole week. And if I should conclude to take my horse with me, perhaps we won’t have some madcap races. My black [horse] is not in as good condition as he was. He has had awful hard usage and poor feed. The roads are too bad to haul forage, but he will improve as soon as we get plenty again. You may look for me about the first of August; a year from [my] time of entry [in the army].
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We are encamped about half way between Pittsburg and Corinth. [We] shall move up a little closer tomorrow. A.K. to H.
Amos Kibbee, from Metropolis, IL, enlisted on August 7, 1861 as a corporal in an independent company of Illinois cavalry, designed to be attached to an infantry regiment as an adjunct unit. His company was assigned to the 29th IL Infantry during the battle of Shiloh, but was transferred to the 1st Battalion, 4th IL Cavalry immediately thereafter. In the spring of 1863 various independent companies were re-organized to form the 15th IL Cavalry, and Kibbee was assigned to Company B. He was promoted to sergeant (no date recorded). Kibbee was mustered out of the army on August 25, 1864, at the expiration of his three years’ enlistment.