by William Samuel Craig
February the 21st, 1864
Well my dear, I have nothing to amuse myself only to write you another letter. I just sent one to Frank today. I have nothing of importance to write at present but I may before I close. This is Sunday and I may get a letter from you tomorrow. I hope so.
At any rate the weather is nice, the frogs is singing and the soaring birds is singing their sweet songs and it seems like I ought to be plowing but no or now I must soldier awhile longer. I have seen but little farming since I left home. It goes very strong for me not to farm. I expect I will be so lazy when I come home that you will kill me. When we have nothing to do, we get very lazy and when we have soldiering to do it lasts day and night. Yesterday was Washington’s birthday. We give a big salute. The battery from the lines and we formed ours and shot 40 rounds apiece. We shot blank cartridges.
The troops has all left here nearly so I think we will stay here a long time. We just have commenced to build fortifications. It is supposed that the rebels is drawing their forces all at one place. Our men is still moving toward them. I think that they will stand one more fight and the thing will close and if they stand a fight it will be a bloody one or they won’t be any. And I think it will come off about July or it will be entirely surrender. Jeff Davis has made some proposition about this war that I think is good perhaps your father has heard it. It is in the Missouri papers.
The weather is warm and nice. I must wash tomorrow, dear. Dear, I wish that you could wash my shirts then it would be done good. Ma, is my girl pretty? When she gets big she can wash my clothes and, ma, too. Oh, Ma, I want to see my girl the worst way and Jimmy too, but you worse than anyone in this world. Ma, does my boy carry your chips and bring your shoes of a morning? Tell him I want him to sleep at your feet and hug then in his arms. Tell Jimmy to kiss little sister for me and then kiss you, Ma. Oh, I would love to see my dear little family. Still, dear, I am satisfied under the circumstances.
I have got only two letters from you in this month and this is the 24 of the month that shows like you wrote in January the 13 all of those letters came in the month that they was wrote but dear I reckon you do the best that you can. This is Tuesday night and the boys is fiddling and dancing and playing cards and I am in my [–unreadable–] but enjoying myself. My [–unreadable–] mate is gone to bed but I won’t sleep with a man. I have always slept to myself. I had just as leave sleep with a dog as to sleep with a soldier so my dear I will close my letter.
W. cr. to my dear wife and inquiring friends if there be any.
March the 22, 1864
My dear beloved wife it is once more that I have this glorious privilege of writing to you again and my health is good. I received a letter yesterday from you dated March the 6 and I was on [–unreadable–] duty. I could not answer it till today.
Dear I am glad that you and the 2 little babies has such good health. I think there is a better day for us coming. Providence seems to bless us both in everything while being absent from each other. Dear, you seem to think that I think a heap of my dear little family if you think that you think right because it is all that keeps me alive. I will live in hopes if I die in despair. Dear don’t trouble yourself how I have to sleep because I can lie on a rock and my head on another one I have done that a many a time I could tell you worse then that but you would not believe it. You might be like Papa was by the milk. You know that he said it was a big tale to tell but I think if I could be there today and get some of old Lill’s milk I could drink a bucket full in one day. I wish that I could get some of that good butter and cornbread that you used to make. Uncle Sam’s living is sow belly and hard crackers and coffee. I often get tired of it but then I get rested again. It is hopes that keep the soldier alive.
Dear I shall not do anything about them notes. You are the one to have them collected or else you can wait till I come home. It is but little I think about money matters from the fact my mind is with you too much to do such business. Still the money I get here in the army I feel it is my duty to save it for you and I think I am doing it I have spent 3 dollars in the last 4 months. There is no one that can that in this company, so dear, I shall not write to them about them notes. You can do as you choose. I understand the place you have bought. I think used will be hard to find. Hardly you seem to be well pleased about it. If it is worth eight hundred dollars you had better sell.
Miss Grub is dead it has been very cold here for the last 10 days and it commenced snowing last night. There’s now about 21 inches deep and still continue snowing. It is the deepest snow that I ever saw in my life. What little sleep I got last night it was under the snow but wasn’t the first time.
I do not know what to write that would interest you. The war subject is become old and familiar to both men women still I live in hopes that the glad tidings of this cruel war will say peace, peace and more in our land. I often sing “Oh, this cruel war is over how happy I would be.” I will sing it dear for you when I come home. Dear I will come home and see you if I can get a furlough. It is only for 5 days. I can’t stand it to stay away so long. If we stay here this summer I am coming to see you if I can get a furlough and I know that I can. I could get one now but I don’t want to come at this season of the year.
The smallpox is very bad on the river. I guess at this time of year the smallpox is very bad in Illinois I have learned but it is not where Mother lives. Our Colonel is dead. He went home sick an died there. I want you to mind that you don’t take any disease. There is a good chance to catch disease from the fact there is so many soldiers going home on furloughs. I rather you would stick at home pretty close. Dear you said that you was worth five times as much to me now then you was before the war. I value higher than that. You are my fortune. Every foot of land that you step on is worth one hundred dollars more then it ever was before. That is the way I estimate you. I don’t want you to work hard while I am gone. I am saving money to keep you from hard work. If it was not for you I would spend many a dollar to where I don’t. I want you to look nice like you used to be for my part I am homelier then I ever was in my life. My beard is so long that I am afraid you will disown me when I come home but you can’t keep me from loving you. I have to kiss your picture every day.
One of our trains were captured the other day and I guess if you sent me any more letters besides this they are in the rebels hands. Our lieutenant’s wife was on the train so she is gone to visit Richmond. Her name was Ridges. Rigs is on his head about it I say it is no matter. She ought to stay at home this is no place for women I would not have you to come here for the world.
Dear always before I get a letter from you I dream of you. You said in your other letter that you dreamt of me and dreamt of me laying at your feet. Well I hope that will come to pass. Tell my boy I want him to sleep at his Ma’s feet till I come home and to kiss his pretty Ma for me. Dear do you read your letter to everybody? I have to read mine to the boys. They say that in the next battle they will kill me and then they will go and marry you. They often come to my bunk and want to see your likeness so now my dear I will have to close and I don’t want to. This is the happiest time I see when I am waiting a letter from you still my mind is with you both night and day. Oh, that I may be permitted to meet you my dear and more on earth and never to part until death parts us. It is 10 o’clock and is still snowing but is not cold. Dear don’t let such news grieve you. I am used to hard living and hardships. I have fattened on it.
William Craig to my dear beloved wife and babies.
Send me some stamps, dear.
March the 27, 1864
My dear wife, I must write to you again as I am so lonesome this Sabbath day. There is nothing will amuse me only to write you a letter. That is all the pleasure I take in this cruel war. I do not know what to write that would interest you but I may think of something before I get through. I have received one letter from you this month and now this is the 27 of March. It seems like I ought to get more then that in a month but I can account for that in this month from the fact that our train captured a few weeks ago. So the rebels got to read my letter.
The weather has been very disagreeable for the last 10 days but is pleasant overhead today. The snow was 24 inches deep before it quit snowing. It has been a long time since I got a letter from Mother and the girls. I have also wrote to Jane and Frank since I have been in this place, but I have never received any answer. Those was my friends when I lived at home but since I have been in the army it seems as though they had forsaken me. Such has been the case such friends will not do in this our day and if God spares me to get home, I shall remember such ones. This is the time to know who is your friend and I have found some since I have been in the army. I neither buy or beg friendship in time of war or in time of peace but my dear, I think I can count one that was proved true to me since I have been a United States soldier and that is you. When all fails you still show that you have a good feeling towards me. Well, that is enough. Still those that seem to be my friends at home should think of my condition while I am fighting for one of the best governments that the whole world can produce whilst they are sitting around their fireside with their beloved families. Those at home don’t have any idea about the soldier life.
I have been in the service for nearly 20 months and I have forgot as much as I know but I want to forget more yet. But my dear, I don’t play cards or gamble in any way or drink whiskey. I have become an enemy in drinking whiskey. I don’t handle the Creator in any way. The whole company was drunk yesterday and all last night but me and 3 others. They wanted me to drink with them. I told them I have more love and respect for you then that. I told them I should always respect my family if I never get to [–unreadable–] the most of those that was drunk had families at home and some of those that was drunk their families needed all the money that they could get in way of support. It will cost a man five dollars here to get drunk and the same to get sober.
General Sherman and General Logan visited our camp today. It has been a long time since we seen General Sherman. We gave him three loud cheers and he give us all the glory. I still hear good news about this war but whether to believe it I can’t say. Well it can’t last always. I am aware of that. This cruel war has brought women and children to suffer. It is a sight to see how they have to live. Still the poor class had to live like heathens before this war commenced. There was a very nice girl asked me for a chew of tobacco the other day. I told her if my wife chewed tobacco I would leave her. She said the women used it as much as men.
My dear, I have dreamt of you now for the last three nights and I surely will hear from you tomorrow. Oh, to God that I was with you this Sabbath day. I do love you as I love myself. Dear, take good care of yourself and write often. So I will close. Tell Jimmy to sleep at Ma’s feet and keep them warm and to kiss his little sister. Dear don’t let them get spoiled. Raise them to your own notion. You know how I hate a spoiled child and the way we are living, they can be spoiled might quick. Dear, I must close for the present hoping this will find you enjoying the best of health as it leaves me. My health can’t be no better than it is at this time. So farewell my dear darling companion.
To you I call from William Craig to one of the best and prettiest women in the whole world Levica Craig.
[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]