Letter of Henry Howland, Fifty-First Illinois Infantry

Steamer D. G. Taylor, Mississippi River
Thursday April 17th 1862

My dearest Mother,

With the exception of a letter you wrote to Eliza, I have not heard a word from home since we left Chicago early in Feby although if I mistake not I have written two or three times. I was quite unwell while we lay in camp at New Madrid and for three weeks was able to sit up but a small part of the time, but for the past ten days have been gaining very fast, and am now almost as well as ever. I think I wrote Francis we were in Gen Paine's Division and would now add that it was our Division that captured the 5000 Rebels near Tiptonville a week since. Gen. Paine is a most excellent man and a very fine officer. Our Division has the right of Gen. Pope's Army. We all embarked on Steamboats at New Madrid on Saturday evening last. There is in our fleet thirteen Gunboats & Mortars and some thirty Steamboats with some 25,000 men. We were getting along very finely till last evening we received orders from Gen. Halleck for Gen Pope to return with his entire Army with the exception of the Gunboats and Mortars and proceed up the Tennessee to aid our troops at Pittsburg. We cannot however hope to reach there before Sunday or Monday, and then we expect one of the hardest fought battles that has yet been fought. Many of us of course will fall, but who God only knows. I only know as regards myself that I shall endeavor to do my full duty, and if I fall, you may have the assurance that I fall in the discharge of my duty. I have no fears for the future, but put my trust wholly and entirely in the good God who has hitherto so kindly preserved me knowing that He will order all things for the best, and I would feel just as safe upon a field of battle as at home with my family. Speaking of the loved ones at home, I must write you some of Allie's expressions. Eliza writes that of late he has been greatly exercised about the Rebels and he came to her a few days since and asked, "Mama what did God make Rebels for?" and then a few days later, some one was telling him how God sent Bears to eat up wicked children, and Eliza writes that at his evening prayer she was quite astonished to hear him say "Please God send some big Bears to eat the Rebels up" and again the following evening, when asking God to bless our Soldiers, he added, "but please God don't bless the rebels." He is a dear good boy and the hardest thing about this war is the separation of families. It is very hard to leave the dear ones for such an indefinite period. I could not get a furlough were I to ask for one and cannot hope therefore, should my life be spared, to see any of my loved ones till the war ends, and that time in my opinion is much farther off than we could hope and desire.

Please remember me with much love to all at home, and should we live to see the end of this war I will hope to see you once again, but if I am doomed to fall, may we not hope to meet, an unbroken family in Heaven?

Ever affectionately

Direct letters to me "Quartermaster 51st Regt Ills. Vols. Cairo Ill"

Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, (Ms91-016).