Letter of Henry Buck, Fifty-First Illinois Infantry
August 17, 1862

Mallard Creek, Ala, Sunday, Aug 17, 1862

My dear Sister

The past week has been one of oppressive dullness. There has been no train from either way since Sunday last. Reason why – the rebels tore up the track, causing the only locomotive on this part of the road to make a “sudden change of direction” and slacken its speed to the great detriment of itself and consternation of those aboard its train. In the meantime we, of course, had no mail or papers. The only news we had was the meager and unreliable reports brought by the patrol from the adjacent posts on our right and left.

To our great joy a train from Corinth arrived to-day, and in the mail was a letter from you dated August 7th. I waited two or three days for an opportunity to mail the letters I wrote last Sunday, but in vain – when I trusted them to the patrol, hoping they would sometime reach their destination.

I am getting sick of this place. True we have an abundance of luxuries – nutmeg melons, for instance, as large as a water bucket, as luscious as they are large. Did you ever hear of the like?  But yet, I don’t feel well. The influence of the malaria is too plainly perceptible. They say people hereabouts live on quinine during the month of September, and I abhor quinine, and army surgeons, you know are all allopathists. Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur are remarkably healthy, but they are on much higher ground and are supplied with perfectly pure water. We are right in the woods and on low ground.

Our division commander, Gen. Paine, who has been absent sick since June 1st returned recently and resumed his command. Owing to his absence, Gen. Morgan, commander of the 2nd brigade of our division, commanded us—a man we all regarded as incompetent. Gen. Paine’s return was hailed with joy, for officers and men all have the utmost confidence in him as a leader, many of whom considered him an abler general than Pope even.

I should greatly regret to have Gen. Pope make a blunder in Virginia in these times, but I fear it. You in the North don’t know him as well as his soldiers. Bombast and most remarkable luck have given him his reputation. Had his army here experienced one tenth of the reverses McClellan has met with, it would have become demoralized, perhaps revolted. Gen. Rosecrans now commands our “corps d’armee.” Perhaps I have told you before he is a brave and skillful officer and has the entire confidence of his command.

Tell father I will assume the payment of that mortgage if he will use the land and pay the taxes on it. He can pay the next installment of interest from the money I have sent or will send home. I expect two, perhaps four months’ pay soon, but don’t know how to send it home. There is no express office nearer than Corinth.

Don’t fear that I shall be sick. I’ll take good care of myself.

Love to all.
Your loving brother,

P. S. Enclosed I send a handkerchief I have carried unused for three months because I couldn’t get it hemmed. Only a dollar for it! Please hem and return. Also send me a few stamps in your next . Don’t forget.

Direct to Decatur, Ala.

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