by William Samuel Craig
April the 15, 1864
After almost losing the presence of mind and dreaming about you and waiting last night till the mail train came in this morning at 1 o’clock I was so fortunate as to receive 2 letters from them sweet hands of yours which has released my mind in the highest degree. I received them about 2 o’clock this morning. I lit my candle and commenced to write in my weak way and manner. Your letters was dated April the 4 and April the 6. Your letters has found me in the veriest best of health and in the presence of mind again. I was so glad to hear that you was well. I do not know what to do hardly. I would like to write you a interesting letter but I don’t believe I can. My mind is with you so much that I can’t keep it on this paper enough to make it interesting to you but I will do the best I can.
The war news seems to be dull at this time and I think it is becoming like a cow’s tail. It is going down hill. I do think it will play out this fall. I think the head leaders had made all the money that they want and when they do that I think the war will close.
You stated in your letter that James came home on a furlough. Tell me what [–unreadable–] he belongs to and the regiment and where is his camp. You have never told me what regiment he was in or where he was stationed at. Tell James I would like to see him very much and thank him for his compliments and I return the same to him. Tell James I would not mind to soldier if I could get furloughs like him and Dock, but I don’t begrudge any enjoyment that they can get while living a soldier. It is a hard life to live to make the very best of it. I hope the boys may live to see this cruel rebellion put down. I know I have seen enough of it. I have left a dear loving wife and two little babies to fight for one of the best governments that ever was erected by mortal man and today the Stars and Stripes is waving over the Southern Confederacy with the exception of a few lite holes and I trust we will be in possession of them soon. I have done my duty in trying to put this rebellion down. If I never get home I want to be a honor to my dear wife and children. I never will disgrace them. I rather die than to do the like as some. I have put myself up as a target for the rebels but thank God they have never reached me yet and I sometimes think among the number that is living I will be one that will get home. I crave the sight of seeing you my dear and those little babies that God will permit me to do so.
I shall have to write a little more to Jim. He has esteemed me very highly in his own estimation in regard of fighting for our country. Well, it is fight or die and if it was not for you, dear, I believe I had as leave die. Still I love my relatives and those that I know is true to me. I have forgot all about Margret House. Is it Thomas House’s wife? Oh, dear, I have just made out the name. It is Marge Hase. Well tell poor Marge and William that through the hardships of a soldier life I still remain and would like to see them and talk of old times. Tell Marge I thank her for such kind words. Kind words never shall die with me whilst living on earth. Tell Marge and William to write to me and all that desires.
Trust in my welfare, dear, the boys call me their chaplain of our regiment. I would like to be such if I was good enough. I believe I told you I got a letter from Mary Gillmore. Dear you must not think hard of me getting letters from those two girls. They came very unexpected and you must not think hard. There is a good deal of sickness in the state of Illinois. I heard the smallpox was in Bloomington very bad. Dear I want to be very careful. Stick close to Papa and Mother. There is so much trailing now by the soldiers that there is a great chance to catch all kinds of disease so one inch in time will save 9.
Tell my James and your Frank that must not think hard of me not writing to them because I am on duty every third day and I must write to you if the war continues or if the plow stops. I understand that you was going into the tobacco business again. Well, dear, I want you to stop it. You have enough to do without doing such work. You have 2 babies to take care of and yourself and that is enough.
We have been at this place three months and the probability is that we will stay three months more. When we first landed here we took a little scout of about 30 miles in all. We first marched to the Tennessee River and there through our pontoons bridge across and routed the rebels on the other side and went out about 20 miles and burned everything and took all of the provisions that we could get and came back. The pontoons bridge is still there and it is left for all that wants to desert the rebel army and citizens to cross and if you believe me they average 100 hundred a day for a month and the average is now 50 a day. It is a sight to see them still this is nothing to what I have seen. I will tell you another cute trick that we done. It is merely a sketch.
When we first started out last fall at one place on the Tennessee River I don’t recollect the name now, but perhaps you have read of it where we marched to the river and laid all day and about dark the order came for us to run the blockade with our pontoons [–unreadable–] at 12 o’clock that night. Well the rebels was on the other side of the river and us on this side. The rebels had three batteries planted along the riverside in full view of us. You may know the feeling of the boys some swore that they would not go. Anyhow 2 o’clock came and we fell into line and marched to a certain place to the river. We crawled to our boats and started down the river and 4 miles then started across on the rebel side. We passed all of the batteries and they never knew it. They could have killed everyone of us if they had known it. I took 15 prisoners that night myself and the most of them was asleep, but some of them was wide awake. The next day the way they fought us on Mission Ridge but they could not stand to smell [–unreadable–] what I have wrote is nothing to what I could tell you.
Dear it is 11 o’clock and I must close. I have been reading your letters and writing this ever since 2 o’clock this morning and if the sheet was large enough I would write on so I will close on another piece.
Dear I often sing your favorite song. My favorite song is this: Through cold and rain I often went through sorrow and distress. It is the one Frank used to sing. I could enjoy myself under the circumstance if I could hear of those at home living in peace. So dear I will have to close. I have to go and picket tonight. Write often as you can and I will do the same. Take good care of yourself and the babies. Raise them as near right as you can dear and if I never should meet you, my dear beloved wife and sweet children any more on this earth, I will try to meet you in that land of rest.
Dear Mother remember me in your prayers when it goes will with you and you my dear wife the same. I also ask this favor of Sister Jane. So farewell my dear for the present.
August the 16, 1864
Camped near to Atlanta, Georgia
My dear, I just received your kind and welcome letter dated August the 6 and I was glad to hear from you. I also received one a few days ago and have answered it and sent you ten dollars in it. I have nothing of importance to write, still I could make it interesting to you. My mind is at home too much to write a interesting letter. I merely write to let you know how I am getting along. Dear, my health never was so good in all the days of my life. The boys in my company is all sick nearly but the harder times I see it seems the better health I enjoy. God has blessed me in every respect. Ma, I feel thankful for His goodness and kindness and tender mercies that He has shown towards me in almost you might say in the very joys of death.
Dear, I am very sorry to hear of Papa and John and Frank having to leave home. Poor Pa it seems there is no comfort for him any more he is getting old. Him and Mother and now have to leave his dear little family and sweet home. It is too bad dear. It grieves my heart to hear of such news. Such news makes me feel like deserting the army and coming to you but, dear, as I said in the other letter, I will advise you to go back to Illinois if you can go with [–unreadable–] but Mother is with you her mind is always right. Dear, I am uneasy and I can’t help it. There is you poor distressed women at home exposed to the trouble in the north by the low life devils. I wish we had all such in our front. I can shoot such with better grace then I could eat if I was hungry and I have made a great of the devils kiss the ground in the last three months.
Dear, I am so glad you have such a nice patch of cotton. Well, I am glad dear if I was at home with you what nice comforts we could have but maybe I will have that pleasure in a few months more. Dear you said Mother was spinning cotton to make your own [–unreadable–]. Well I am afraid you and mother will work too hard as Papa is gone but I guess he is at home every once and awhile. You stated that crops was short with the exception of wheat. Well save everything it may be scarce.
Dear tell me where Dock and James is. Give the boys my well wishes. Dear I have had the chance to write oftener since I have been at this place than any other time on this campaign and the probability is that we will remain here some time. We are laying in full view of the Johnnys. Our rifle points is about 2 hundred yards apart and the Johnnys is coming into our lines every day. Sometimes 20 and 50 and just as they can get away.
Dear you sent a big letter but not much reading. I have got a good supply of paper and envelopes. You can send me a few stamps at a time. I got one that you sent so my dear I will bring my letter to a close hoping this will find you enjoying the best of health. As it leaves me give Mother and Net and Jane and all of my inquiring friends my respect.
I would give the world to be with you and more enjoy the pleasure of this life as we once enjoyed. May God add His blessing and save you, my dear, and those who have put their trust in Him. Dear, I often get to singing and the boys will gather around me and me to sing for hours at a time. They call me their chaplain. I have my testament in my pocket. I read a chapter every day. I read the Good Book and think of you yet I am a sinner in the sight of God. I will finish on another piece of paper.
Editor’s note: No other part of this letter was found
December the 24, 1854
My dear beloved companion, through many well directed changes of providence I once more have this glorious privilege of writing to you once more to let you know that I am still in the land of the living and blessed with good health. It has been a long time since I have heard a word from you. The last letter I received from you was dated September the 2 and one August the 21. I have those two letters yet I often read those 2 letters to remembrance of you. I still have your likeness reading your letters and looking at your likeness is all the comfort I have in the last five months. Oh, my dear, I want to hear from you the worst way. I sometimes think I never will get to hear from you again still I should live in hopes if I die in despair. The visit to Illinois done me a heap of good but not half as much as if I had got to seen you and my little babies. I want to see my mother of one more than anyone on earth except you. I want to see Papa, too.
I never shall forget their kindness that they have shown towards me whilst in their presence and whilst absent from them. I never can pay the debt I owe to them whilst here I am in the sunny South trying to help to put this cruel rebellion down there taking care of my little family. I should love them as father and mother and do thank God I have a respectful father and mother yet they have never written me a line since I have been in the Army but as they are old I can look over them. I reckon Papa and Mother thinks they have enough to do to take care of you, dear, and our little children. Well, I reckon that is the case. I do not hear much more news.
General Thurman [–could be Sherman–] is still moving on having great success without much fighting. The most fighting I hear is with the bush whackers. They seem to be doing all the fighting at this time. There was two men killed last night 2 miles from this city by the bush whackers. They was citizens that was killed.
My dear, I want you to give me all the news that you can when you get this letter I am afraid to hear from you all. Afraid that your father’s house is burnt and you all destroyed. I want you and Papa to send me word whether it will be safe for me to come there when my time is out, but that will be some months yet. My time will be out the 6 day of August and that will be nearly 8 months and then I will soldier with you the rest of my days. That is what is the matter. I do not know when I can get to my regiment but I rather think it will be some time. Therefore, I shall not be able to draw any money until I can get to the regiment. My dear I am very sorry that I can’t send you some money but I will have to do without myself. But, dear, let us do the best we can and wish for the better. As for my part I can do without any money but I want you to have it but what I can’t make up to you now, I can after awhile.
I went out about 15 miles this week a foraging. I got 12 chickens and 2 hogs so I shall live pretty well as long as they last. The weather has been very disagreeable here this winter. So far a lot of rain and some snow. It is raining today. Now I must write a letter for my children.
My dear if you have sent me letters to the regiment I will not get them until I go to my command. And if you have sent me your likeness I will not get it either so you must tell me in your next letter if you have sent those. I would write to my captain to send my letters to me that you sent to the regiment if you have sent any but there is never communications to Thurman [–Sherman?–] at all. I sent you a letter yesterday. Today is Sunday and I have been waiting all day. I would have got letters from you before this time but Old [–unreadable–] was on the railroad between Chattanooga and Nashville but the 15 of this month he got routed with a heavy loss so none of my letters I guess will go to you now.
My dear I wish I could enjoy Christmas with you all but can’t this year but if I and you should live to see next Christmas we will be together I trust. My dear I often think of the happy hours and days that we used to spend together and Oh to God that day may come again. I often think when we was once so happy and free but now I am banished from the presence of a kind and loving companion. It grieves me still I must be contented and live in hopes if I die in despair I want to see all of my friends and relatives. I want to see my sweet little babies but above all I want to see you my dear beloved Levica the best and goodness. I love you better than the things of this world. I would sacrifice everything in this war for your comfort and happiness and if it was your request I would sacrifice my life if it would make you happy.
A few words for my little babies and I will close. Tell little Jimmy to kiss his Ma for me and little Hattie for me and Grandpa and Grandmother. Tell little Jimmy to sleep at Ma’s feet and hug them in his arms and keep them warm this cold winter and I will bring him a little pair of boots and a nice little knife and hat. Tell my sweet little girl Ma I will bring her a nice little cloak and a hood and some nice beads and a pair of little shoes. And now, Ma, I want you to kiss little James and Hattie in remembrance of me and I’ll bring you several of the nicest presents that can be had. Among them will be a silk dress so dear I reckon I have written enough at this time. Give my love and respect to all inquiring friends if there should be any and my best love and respect to you dear. I have plenty of paper you need not send me any. I can get all I want.
Dear, I commenced this letter several days ago and this is Christmas Eve. I must tell you a little more and then I will close. The 20 of this month there was a man hung for murdering. He was a bush whacker. I saw him hang. It was a hard scene. I have seen men die. Every man but that was the hardest.
The boys is all at a party and I am alone. There was a very nice young lady call to my office this evening and invited me to a dance but politely thanked the lady for her kindness. I asked her if she did not think I was a married man and the reply she said perhaps your wife is dead. I told her I would not take her word for it. Dear I will finish the story in the next letter and I will write tomorrow for my Christmas feast.
[Editor’s Note: I am the great-granddaughter of William Samuel Craig. These letters from the Civil War were in the possession of his grandson, Jerry Craig, and they were loaned to me during a visit to his home in Norborne, Missouri. All of these letters were difficult to “translate” from the decorative script-writing; some have areas of blanks which were impossible to decipher. Each letter retains some of its original spelling and grammar; some punctuation has been added for clarity; paragraphs have been created for easier reading. Where a word or phrase could not be read, “[–unreadable–]” is inserted; some words, such as places and names, may have “[Sherman]” immediately following. If you’d like to read more about my experience discovering William Samuel Craig, be sure to read the Go Inside Magazine article, Civil War Ancestors, in our History section. — Joyce Kohl]