30th Illinois soldier letter, Jan 21, 1863

Camp of the 30th Ill.Infty Memphis

Jan 21st / 63

Dear Sisters,

Your very kind and welcome letter of the 11th inst came to hand yesterday evening and I now take my seat to pen a few lines in reply . Since my last to you which was on the 8th of the present month we have again been on the move. Early on the morning of the 9th we recd orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at a moments warning and about 11 oclock A.M. recd’ orders to move.

Our stay at Davis ‘ Mill was not of as long duration, as most of us supposed it would be when we stopped there. However I guess all were satisfied to leave. We passed through La Grange that day about 2 oclock . From there we took the Memphis & Charleston Railroad toward Memphis. Shortly after leaving La Grange it commenced raining and continued until long after night when we had travelled about five miles along the railroad .

We stopped in an open field as we thought to camp for the night-but which we soon found out was merely to get supper. The Boys as soon as we stopped busied themselves in getting up rails for our fires and in gathering grass to sleep on so that when the order came for us to start very few had had anything to eat . It was now getting near night , the rain was falling fast and we were still full seven miles from where we were ordered to go that night.Happily for us however about dark the weather became so very bad that Col. Leggett Comdg our Brigade thought he would take the responsibility upon himself to stop for the night and march in in the morning.

Accordingly we stopped in a nice piece of timber , built good rail fires , set up our tents and were soon quite comfortable. Was up next morning about half past four oclock and by half past six were on our way to Moscow, a small village on the R.R. which for the present was to be our stopping place.

Arrived at the town about 8 A.M. and after waiting a short time for the officers to select a camp gropund , marched about 1/2 mile west of town and pitched our tents on the ground formerly occupied by the 18th Wisconsin Regt. Lt. David and Sergt. McCreight returned to the company as we were passing through La Grange .

I must confess I feel a heavy weight taken off me since he assumed command of the company.When I was in command of the company I did not have any peace of mind at all.Not that the company was hard to govern or that they did not obey me promptly, but there was so much responsibility resting upon me that I could not but think of it.

The commander of a company occupies the same position toward the company that a teacher does toward his scholers only that he is often placed in much more embarrassing circumstances . Lt. David has been appointed Capt., I 1st Lieut. and Samuel McCreight 2nd Lieut., I am well satisfied with the appointment except 2nd Lt..  I think another man was entitled to the position .However it dont matter to me .  I think I have the nicest position in the company or at least the one that suits me best.

Since they have returned I have been taking things decidedly easy as far as any company duty is concerned and I intend to continue in the same way for sometime to come . But enough of this for the present more anon. We remained at Moscow until the Morning of the 12th when we again took up our line of march. That day we marched to LaFayette,a distance of ten miles arriving about 2 oclock P.M.

During our stay at this place we were the recipients of one of the largest snow storms that had been known in that country since March 1843. Nearly 20 years.  It rained nearly 24 hours before the snow commenced falling, so that a large amount of it melted as it fell. But it remained to the depth of 8 inches in level places notwithstanding the melting. I happened to be one of the poor unfortunates who was compelled to be out in this storm.

I will not pretend to give you anything near a perfect description of my situation for that would require a much abler pen than mine, however I will give you a few extracts from my diary of that date which may not prove uninteresting to you.

By the way let me ask you first how you like my extracts and whether they prove interesting or not?

Jan.14th 1863 Commenced raining last night about 11 oclk and is raining still this morning , without any cessation whatever . Had breakfast about 8 a,m, and had just finished eating dinner about 3 P.M. when in came a detail for picket with my name on it. This was by no means good news but it had to be did, so I got ready as soon as possible.

Reported at Brigade Hd.Qrts. about 4 p.m. and was started in charge of 40 men to a post abpout a mile off on the R.R. Arrived at the Post at 5 oclk P.M. after crossing numerous streams ,getting our feet and legs wet, as well as the upper man. Found Capt. Martin of our Regt. in charge of the place and a sorry place it was. They were on the R.R. Track and were surrounded on all sides by water differing in depth from six inches to six feet.

After placing the guards I found a small Island that I thought was large enough for us to stay on so we moved our quarters . The guards were placed on like camp guard (ground?) and the men going out to relieve the others had to wade through mud and water knee deep. To add to the pleasure of the place , the rain which I have spoken of before has continued unceaseingly all day and to night there is no prospect of it ceasing. I am standing by a fire taking the rain as best I can an thinking that I have at least one advantage that is I cannot get any wetter.

About nine oclock I lay down under a few rails the boys had lain up for shelter covered with my blankets and tried to sleep , but no sleep would come to my eyes . I spent the night in this place getting up frequently and warming myself. The rain changed into snow about 11 oclock that night . I let it snow on top of my blankets which closed up the crevices and made me quite a warm covering.

Next morning when I lifted my blankets preparatory to getting up ,the first thing I was introduced to was a flake of snow about 6 inches square,and it right in my face .I thought this pretty hard but on making an effort to turn over I found the snow closing in on all sides and I was compelled to get up double quick or be buried in snow. This day passed off very roughly. It snowed all day.

We were relieved about 5 oclock on the evening of the 15th , made our way to camp , found supper waiting on me. After eating a hearty supper and getting right warm I went to bed , and was soon contemplating in dreams the scenes of the past day. We remained at LaFayette until the morning of the 18th when we took up our line of march for the long talked of (by us) Memphis , where we arrived on the evening of the 19th about 2 oclock.

The night of the 18th it raiined and melted off a good deal of snow which made it very muddy.Just the day before we left La Fayette I got a pair of new boots and starting to march before they got set to my feet they hurt them and the march got me down worse than anyone since I have been in the service.  I expect a more tired boy never came into Memphis than I was the day we got here. We marched 31 miles in a day and a half.

I have not been down in the city yet but those that have say business of all kinds is very brisk. What I have seen of the place is very nice and the country adjoining it is beautiful. Gen. McArthers Division left here yesterday for down the river. It is reported that the troops that go down are all landing at Napolean.

I have no idea how long we will remain here . I think our course will be down the river . I expect we will be paid off tommorrow or next day for the months of July and August. We have now over six months pay due us but are only going to get two months . I dont care much still . I would like to have it sent home. I am going to keep a good supply for myself this time for fear we dont get anymore for another six months.

You appear to have some fears about us going to Vicksburg and indeed prospects look very favorable for us being there should there be another battle at that place but I dont think Gen.Grant will fight them there.  I think he will make some move that will force them to evacuate it or will draw them out some place else to fight. This is merely my opinion. But I am not dreading Vicksburg very much. If they do have a battle there and call on us, all I want is to be able to do our duty as well as we have in times past .

In yours of January 4th which was recd’ a few days since , you wished me to answer an inquiry which you made in a previous letter concerning my relations with a certain person. When I read your letter I never took a second thought about that. I had heard so much on that subject and from so many sources that I had quit paying any attention to it whatever but being as you desire some information on a subject that has attracted the attention of so many and will not be put off without an answer .

I suppose I will have to give you the required information. There are no relations existing between the person you alluded to and myself other than there are between any two common friends. Are you satisfied? We drew soft bread again this evening .This is the first time since we left LaGrange going south nearly two months. In your last you said Mr. Haus wanted a good contraband. You can tell him good contrabands here (for cooking ) are like good girls in Lawrence Co. Skace (scarce?) . I have one I think would suit him but I cannot spare him while I am in the Army.

Things are pretty high in these quarters. I sent one of the boys down to town yesterday to get me some eatables . He had to pay 45 cents a piece for chickens ,30 cents per day for eggs,and other things in accordance . The weather has been quite cool for the last ten days. Well I believe I have written enough for the present.Give my respects to any enquireing friend.

Your brother,David W.Poak

P.S. I noticed by the journal that Lawyer Johnston has been appointed Day Master and Ben Cunningham is assistant. Bully for Ben….

Adjutant and Lt. David W. Poak of the 30th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was at Forts Henry and Donaldson,Corinth,Vicksburg,Atlanta Campaign ,March to the Sea, and the Carolina Campaign.

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