Letter written by Private James Perry Campbell of Company D, 79th IL Infantry, to a friend, from Chattanooga, TN. Campbell is recovering from an illness in the hospital, where he has been since the Battle of Chickamauga. He is “heart sick” after the army was forced to retreat, having hoped for a victory that would end the war. He describes casualties on both sides, including the “River of Death” at Chickamauga, and the reality of dying for one’s country. He states that a soldier’s real motivation is less in glory and more in dreams of peace and going home. He mentions Braxton Bragg’s army is also camped nearby and that Confederate soldiers were stealing clothing left on the battlefield. Campbell thanks his friend for looking after his family.
Chattanooga Tenn. Oct. 17th 1863
I take this oportunity to write you a few lines. I must excuse my self for not writing oftener to you, but I scarcely ever write except to home, I think that my diarhea is getting better since I have been here in the hospital I have been here ever since the battle waiting on the wounded and I think if I keep my self whare I can take care of my self that I will get shet [shed] of it after a while but this is a poor place for that purpose it is the most disagreeable place I ever was in, this is the first time I have been away from my ridgment since it came out in the servis, The ridgment is camped in about four hundred yards of my hospital the boys are all well what few thare is of them left, The hospital I stay at has about six hundred patients in it and my ward has had 36 and thare has 13 of them died and several more of them are bound to die yet, but the cases we have here are all of the worst kind the slightly wounded wer all sent to Nashville and other places north This was a very distructive and hard fought battlethe hardest of the whole war I think, I tell you Tom, I though when we comenced to fall back to this place that we wer gon up, it was a new thing for this army to retreat it was the first time it had ever done that trick, I never felt so heart sick in my life
as I did when our army had to give up the field for I had though only of victory before and then a speedy close of the war and the joys of home dear home a gain, but we did not have that field without an effort as the dead of both armies will testify, it was the bloodiest field of the war and we left many a brave soldier thare who gave his life for his countries salvation I saw whole brigades cut to pieces at a single charge and even divisions melted away like snow we ever as you have learned before this greatly out numbered, our ridgement lost a bout half of our men but we do not know who is killed or who was taken prisoners as the fight we suffered most in took place after night, but Tom it will not take more than one more such a scratch and the history of the 79th regment may be writen in full for it will be with the things that wer, And what their history the ridgement may be remembered but those that composed it will be forgotton befor the flesh drops from their bones, talk to a soldier a bout the glory of dying for his country (as some of the northern papers do) and he will point you to the ditches on the field of Chickamauga and ask you what glory you can see in 3 or 4 hundred dead bodies piled in one narrow ditch, it is to save their country and get home to their families a gain that animates the soldier to do his duty, the fame of dying in the battle especially when that fame is to be sung by such selfish and cowardly men as the majority of those at the north are is not prised verry highly by a soldier, but talk to him of peace and of home and you will animate his whole
soul, the soldiers want an honorable peace, not one of Vanlandinghams, Well here we are or what is left of us laying in a half circle round this town and Braggs army lays in the same shape just outside of ours, and neither of them seems willing to attact the other, I think that the rebs got the worst of the fight in killed, but we lost a great many guns and other soldier traps the rebs got a good suply of clothing from our boys that was left on the field they got one suit from me the best I had
Tom I feel much obliged to you for the interest you take in the welfare of my family and hope I may yet be able to partly return thos favors, but that must be left to the will and providence of an alwise and merciful God who rules and controls the destinies of man as well as those of nations and armies, If thare can be a fare price got for that land of mine I would like to have it sold and if it is not too much trouble I would like to get you to see if you can make a sale of it, and to help Hester to collect some of those debts if help will do any good, I must close this letter and I hope it will find you all well and doing well. Tell Hester that I am getting along verry well now and feel more like getting well than I ever have since I have been aling with the diarhea, Remember me to your wife and tell her I think she mite have writen to me
Your ever faithful friend and brother
J. Perry Campbell
James Perry Campbell, from Paris, IL, enlisted in Company D of the 79th IL Volunteer Infantry on August 1, 1862. He served as a private and mustered out on June 12, 1865 at Camp Butler.