Letter of Henry Buck, Fifty-First Illinois Infantry
June 3, 1862

Boonville, Miss. June 3d 1862

My dear sister,

It has been nearly two weeks since I wrote you a short letter enclosing some money by express and about three weeks since I wrote a letter of any length. During all this time important events have transpired in rapid succession – and I have had no opportunity to write. You remember I wrote three weeks ago, after midnight, just as we had received orders to prepare two days rations and march at daybreak.

Well, about 7 a.m. we marched out a half mile or thereabouts, formed in line of battle, halted till nearly noon, and then marched back to camp, our general’s plans, whatever they were, apparently had been changed.

Right away after dinner our regt was ordered out on picket guard, to relieve the 10th Mich. Well, we went out beyond our battlefield of the 9th inst. and returned the next morning, nothing of importance having transpired.

Next day, Saturday, we all marched out to Farmington, reaching the place at dark, when we stacked arms, threw off our equipments, and worked till midnight throwing up breastworks, digging rifle pits, planting our siege guns, and then tearing down all the houses in the village to afford a clear range for our guns. We left standing an old log church directly in front of our regt, but a battery of artillery was planted in the adjacent burying ground.

Next morning we finished our breastworks (war knows no Sunday), prepared rations ahead, filled barrels with water and awaited an attack from the rebels had they chosen to make it. Our lines were now so far advanced that there was constant firing between the pickets and daily skirmishing between reconnoitering parties, in one of which the adjutant of the 10th Mich. was killed.

While at Farmington I was quite sick for three or fours days with dysentery, but I am better than ever now.

A week ago to-day we made another advance of over a mile bringing us within a mile of their outer works. We had considerable of a fight that day but succeeded in holding our position with a loss of ten or fifteen killed and several wounded. We know of sixty rebels being killed. Before dark we had driven their infantry away out of sight and thrown up our breastworks, the rebels in the meantime throwing an occasional shell at us from a redoubt near the railroad track, which went over our heads and burst far in the rear. Next day there was considerable skirmishing, but nothing of importance occurred beyond the taking of a few prisoners, and the reception of a batch of deserters from the rebel lines, large numbers of whom have come into our lines of late. In the evening we heard a train of cars come up in the neighborhood of the enemy opposite us, and then cheer upon cheer arose in the rebel lines. What was up? The supposition was that they had had received large reinforcements, but it turned out differently. Early next morning we noticed a cloud of thick black smoke arising a mile or so in front of us. Eagerly we watched it. Soon several heavy explosions greeted our ears, and we knew that Corinth was evacuated. Within an hour after our troops hoisted the “old flag” in the town, a lonely place of say 1500 inhabitants. A regiment of our brigade – the 42d Ills – was the first to enter it.

We were glad that we had forced them to abandon their strong position, but we were sorry that we had not captured them and thus ended the war. Now they have separated their forces and scattered in different directions. We must do likewise and perhaps follow them all summer. Our part of the army, the divisions of Gens Paine and Stanley, under the command of Gen. Rosecrans, late of Western Virginia, have reached this place, a small borough on the Mobile & Ohio R.R., bout 25 miles directly south of Corinth. The rebels have burned all the bridges as they have retreated, one across the Tuscumbia among others, retarding our progress as we have to rebuild the bridges for our artillery and baggage trains to cross.

We reached this place night before last. Yesterday a small portion of us followed them up ten miles south of here and then returned to camp. No move has been made today. I cannot surmise what we are going to do.

It is a much finer country here than about Corinth. We find ripe whortleberries, dewberries, wild plums, summer apples, and blackberries are nearly ripe. The farmers are already cutting wheat and oats. I don’t see any haystacks. Probably they have grass the year around.

The first two days of our march we were put on short rations – two crackers and a very small portion of bacon each. What do you think of that? Those who were fortunate enough to have silver bought cornbread and molasses -?- along our route.

We have plenty to eat now however. We haven’t seen our tents for a week. For the lst month I have slept under a tent but half a dozen nights altogether. My chum[?] has a rubber blanket, which is spread under us and which keeps us from the dampness of the ground, and my heavy woolen one makes our cover, a few leaves hastily gathered at the foot of a tree, make our bed, and a cartridge box, about as soft as a good brick, serves for a pillow. I enjoy it, am hale and hearty, can easily walk thirty miles a day, for a week if necessary, and expect to come out of the war a man of iron. I am as brown as a cocoa nut – endure the hot weather splendidly.

I am now acting as 1st Lieut of our company, and our 1st Lieut. [Otis Moody] as Captain. Our Captain [Rufus Rose] acts as Major of the regt. Our regimental quarter master has been appointed division quarter master, and our 2nd Lieut. [Albert Coe] regimental quarter master, leaving our 2nd Lieut’s place vacant. It is said the Major [Samuel Raymond] is about to resign and our Captain to be appointed to succeed him. The governor of Illinois is now here to commission officers to vacancies in the Ill. regts, and I confidently expect a promotion soon, to date from May 1st. Don’t mention it. Write soon. Write very often. I send a “Jeff Davis” postage stamp and a Memphis paper. Love to all.


Henry Buck Pension File, Records of the Veterans Administration, Record Group 15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.