One hundred fifty years ago, on August 21, 1863, Capt. Thomas Stevens of the 28th Wisconsin Infantry shared sad news with the folks at home:
Aug. 21. 5 A.M. Good morning, dearest. We have our baggage all aboard the wagons ready for moving, except our blankets, so that we shall cross the river today, probably. I went down town again last night to see the boys. I found Serg’t Plympton much worse. The Chill fever & diarrhea is reducing him very fast. He is so weak that he can hardly get about. I’m really afraid he is not going to get well. I would give anything if I could get him home. He is too good a soldier – too good a man to be left to die here. He does not wish his wife to know how bad he is, & did not wish me to write to her but I think I shall, for she would rather know just how he is than have him die here & she be ignorant of his illness. It seems to me I never saw a man run down so fast as he did yesterday. He is always very quiet & unobtrusive, doing everything & anything for all of us; giving every attention to the sick which he possibly could—if we lost him we shall miss him very much—no one knows how much.
It is thought Col. Lewis will go home again. Some of us think he had better resign, though it does not seem likely that he will. He isn’t the man to do that when getting good pay. He says he feels no regret at leaving his regiment, as he leaves it in command of an excellent officer (Maj. White!) I say “good officer!” He can’t handle a regiment at all. Every one to his taste. White has no command over the regiment scarcely. But very few respect him.
I’m sorry I do not hear from you before leaving. Well, the letters will be good & welcome when they do come. Haven’t I “done well for a boy” since we have been here. Have written every day I think—though I’m sure the letters can’t amount to much; but them my “handwrite” may do good, even if I write but little sense & much nonsense. I know you will be glad to get them, though I expect you’ll get 3 or 4 at a time. It may be several days,–perhaps weeks before I can write you again—so don’t worry if you don’t hear from me right away, for I am perfectly well & able to do my regular duty.
21st 10 P.M. I have been up again to see the sick men. Serg’t Plympton appears a little better this morning. He did not wish me to write to his wife, but I thought I ought to do so. You can read it, & if you think she should have it please forward it to her. He said he would try & write today. I don’t think we will cross the river before night.
I have heard that Col. Lewis can only get leave of absence to go to Memphis, but if he gets that far he will go home I think. Our reg’t leaves 106 here sick, I believe—a very large number. A great part of them will probably be able to join us in a week or two. Some ought to go north & I hope they will….
3 ½ P.M. The drum has beat for us to fall in, so we are off. Presume we will have to wait on the bank of the river 3 or 4 hours. Ludingdon, L.C. Evenson & Briggs, will, I think, have to be left here—making 12 of C. Co.
Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission ·