This letter was written by James Leamon Waller (1837-1933) , the son Elisha Waller (1798-1848) and Jane Leaman (1801-1865) of Marshall, Clark county, Illinois. James enlisted on 25 June 1861 to serve three years in Co. A, 40th Illinois Volunteers. He was discharged from the service on 17 September 1862.
Datelined on 27 March 1862 from “Pittsburg Landing,” this location as yet held little meaning to the folks back home who waited for news of a battle expected to occur at or near the Confederate stronghold at Corinth in the days ahead. James wrote his family that he was “fat and saucy & every inch a soldier” and confidently reassured them that “certain victory” would be the result of any march and battle. “The Boys all make a joke of it & say that they are going to see the Monkey dance, or see the Elephant, or something of the kind,” he added.
Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee
March 27th 1862
Dear Mother & Sisters,
I take this opportunity of informing you of my whereabouts. I myself individually am here, fat & saucy & every inch a soldier. I promised you before I left home that I would tell you the truth as I found it & I will do the best I can towards it.
We are about fifteen miles from Corinth & you have heard mention of that in the papers & perhaps know more about it than I do. Report places their force at from thirty to 160,000 but there is so many reports afloat that I can tell you nothing definite concerning it but they are there.
As to our own part, we are here & we are 160,000 strong—infantry, cavalry, & artillery all together, or at least that is what our Major reported to us when we landed here & they are coming in daily so that we are getting stronger as we get older & I hear it reported that General Buell is marching on to join us with his army of fifty or sixty thousand men so that we will be two hundred thousand strong rank & file, besides those that are stationed within call if needed. And we are expecting every day to receive orders to march—or prepare for marching rather—for we will be ordered to pack knapsacks & prepare perhaps one days or perhaps three days provisions in our haversacks.
And also, how much we will be allowed to pack with us which will be about one pair pants, one or two shirts, one pair drawers, & one or two pair socks & our blankets & overcoat. There will be more than two hundred dollars worth of clothes that has not a break in them destroyed in our regiment alone. I will have to throw nearly a whole suit away that looks almost as good as new just because I can’t pack them. We will only have one team to the company & that can haul but little more than feed for the team & five days provisions for us.
But when we will start or where we will go is alike unknown to us & the 40th [Illinois] may be left here but it is not likely. We are in Gen. McDowell’s Brigade which is the First Brigade & in the First Division so that if we go into battle, we will be either on the right wing, or in the center. We are in Sherman’s Division. But if we march, we march only to certain victory. And furthermore, as to my feelings, as near as I can tell you, I feel more like I was going to a shooting match than to a funeral. The Boys all make a joke of it & say that they are going to see the Monkey dance, or see the Elephant, or something of the kind. And after what I have passed through, I feel like a fight would only be a good joke. But we have no assurance of being going to have any fight.
We hear that Island No. 10 is taken & if it is, there will be no fight at Corinth, we don’t think. This is as near the way with us & Company stands as I can put it up.
I have met with John here & he tells me he has saw Will & he is well. We—neither Captain nor private—can get out of our brigade so that I have not got to spend any time with them. A Secesh undertook to steal in through our guards last night, was hailed & ordered to advance & broke to run & was shot dead.
I got another letter from Mary since I landed here. Her & her father’s folks has moved to Charleston. I write to Naomi tonight & will write to you again in a few days. For the present, farewell. — James L. Waller
to Waller’s folks