Letter written by Private Sereno Bridge, Gilbert’s Company of Illinois Independent Cavalry [later Company H, 12th IL Cavalry], to his wife, from Benton Barracks in St. Louis, MO. The miserable weather has given him time to write a letter. Bridge describes the conditions of the camp. He also writes that the army chaplains are overpaid and not focused on the spiritual well-being of the men, while the officers are “unprincipled, profane” and “have no regard for God.” Bridge believes that if the war ends, it will be because of the prayers of citizens in spite of the “sin and iniquity” of the army. He worries that his regiment may be disbanded.
Benton, Barracks Jan 19
Dear Wife I received your letter of the 11 of Jan on Thursday last and to day being Sunday and a damp foggy day and (not) so much is going on as usual I thought I would write you afew lines to let you k[n]ow we are getting along well in the first plase as you are a good deale worr[i]ed on a count of my health I will try and releive your anxiety on that acount for the preasant for to day I feel as well as at any time since I have been here, although as I have written to you before I have not been entirely free from a cough since I came here some days quite bad and others about well I have not lost a meal on the acount of sickness since I enlisted one of the men that came back
from the hospital said he thought I had grown fleshy while he had been gone but I do not know how that is as I have not been weighed since I left Geneva you wanted to know how we lived here our living is about the same as in Geneva with the exception that the dirt is more plenty and I do not think quite as good as it was there you wish to know where the Chaplains in the army are now every Reg has a Chaplain and government pays them some $130, per month they weare a fine uniform have a horse and waiter if they like and rank next to the field officers in the army now that some of them are good God fearing men I have
no doubt and are doing much good. but with a greate many of them it is somthing as it is with myself now being a private I can take care of the sick and do some little good but if I had gone home with straps on my sholders which Grandfather Bruce discovered that I did not have on, I should have proberly got above my buissiness and not done as much good as now I think if our Chaplains was paid about the saim as the common soldier and had to wear plain cloths we should have those in the army that would labour faithfully for the temporal and spearitual good of the men but it is a hard matter for a Chaplain to exert much influence in the army for the officers from the hiest [highest] to the loust [lowest] with
a few exceptions are unprincipled profane men they have no regard for god nor some of them for man if this reb[e]llion is ever put down and our country saved it will be bcause there is riches praying peopple out side of the army and government enough to save it in spite of all the sin anickety [iniquity] that is committed in high places there is some prospect that our com[pany] ma[y] be disbanded but I harldy think it will at preasant if it should I do not think i should come home I think if our country ever has needed my servises it needs them yet I think now I should go to Kansas and join Jim Lanes expedition proberly you have seen an acount of it in the papers there was a Reg of Caval[r]y from Ohio just come in to the Camp that are going to join Lane’s forces I here that our Reg is on the road backe here again kiss the boys for me good by
Sereno Bridge, from Elgin, IL, enlisted as a private in Gilbert’s Company of Illinois Independent Cavalry on September 6, 1861. He was transferred out on February 17, 1862 to Company H, 12th IL Cavalry, then on December 25, 1862 to Company G, 15th IL Cavalry. He was mustered out of service on October 31, 1864.