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    Freeman S. Dunklee of the 36th Illinois Infantry Archive of Letters. A group of 24 letters, including 19 war-dated letters by Dunklee, circa 1861 to 1864. The additional five letters are dated post-war and are written by various other correspondents. Dunklee enlisted at the age of 21 on August 8, 1681 and was mustered into Company A of the 36th Illinois Infantry. In 1864, he was mustered into the Veteran Reserve Corps and was later discharged. An articulate and thoughtful soldier, Dunklee excellent great details of his life as a soldier and of the battles he participated in. He pens three letters recounting the Battle of Murfreesboro, where he was wounded and taken prisoner, and where his regiment lost nearly 100 in killed and wounded.

    Dunklee's letters throughout 1862 include one diary-style letter spanning several days and contains interesting anecdotes. In a July 22, 1862 letter, he describes an interesting encounter with guerrillas, "...We very often hear of the work of the gorillies [sic]. Night before last our cavalry pickets in one direction were cut off & last week Capt. Pierce of Co. D sent his wife with a corporal & driver in an ambulance into the country to procure vegetables. After an absence of nearly 2 days she returned on horseback They were taken captives, but as they could not benefit themselves with her, they sent her back & kept the boys & team..." On September 12, 1862, he writes of the 88th Illinois, "...The 88th Ill. reg't came in last night. I had the pleasure of seeing John Cowdin, A. Devolve, & your boy Corbin this morning...While I have been writing, a gun was accidentally discharged in our reg't & shot a man; he was seriously wounded; he was the Col. teamster..."

    Just before Murfreesboro, on December 14, 1862 from "Camp near Nashville" Dunklee writes, "...We are living close neighbors to the enemy & have strict orders against wandering far from camp. The pickets have an occasional skirmish & the forage trains find some opposition in gathering forage outside the pickets...It is the mind of many that we shall have a battle not far from this place as soon as we attempt to go south. We heard cannonading on the picket lines the other day & were ordered into rank in great haste & marched out to the scene of action but found the enemy gone. They had been shelling the reserve picket but had not the cheek to stand when the whole brigade appeared against them..."

    Dated the last day of the Battle of Murfreesboro, on January 2, 1863, Dunklee describes to his parents the battle and being shot down. His letter reads in part: "...you will have heard of the battle of Murfreesboro and undoubtedly suffering under a terrible suspense...But I will rehearse my experience in the battle. The 30th of Dec. we met the pickets of the enemy & skirmished in the P.M. - 2 of our Co. were killed & Hilton wounded, not badly. We slept in line of battle that night & our Co. were sent out as skirmishers the next morning and exchanged bullets with the enemies skirmishers for 1/2 an hour, when the enemy appeared in solid rank, we fell back to the regt, who opened a deadly fire which was answered by the enemy. The 24th Wis. on our right fled like cowards leaving our regt. to be flanked, yet the 36th stood & fought like tigers. I fired 5 or 6 times & had the satisfaction of seeing at least 2 of the enemy fall before my gun when a ball struck my left leg half way above my knee & I left the show, seeking the hospital. While I was retiring the bullets played a perfect tune & one went into the blanket on my back. Soon after I reached the hospital the enemy had possession of it, and I with many others was taken prisoner. I walked (by the help of a Confederate soldier) to town a distance of 3 miles. We are quartered in a deserted store, a very comfortable building. They have issued rations to us, & our surgeons who are prisoners with the help of some of the Confederate doctors have dressed all our wounds. I had the ball cut out of my leg yesterday morning & it is getting along finely. We have all taken the oath of parole & shall be sent to Vicksburg as soon as we are able. Now Mother...I feel well & contented & as happy as a cupid in the rose...I know nothing of our Co. except that some were wounded, others killed & others taken prisoner among whom is our 1st Lt..."

    A few days later, on January 5, 1863, Dunklee continues in a letter: "...The rebels left this town Saturday night & our forces came in this morning & I will send this at the first opportunity. We have been paroled & left here to await the arrival of our forces...My wound is getting along finely. I can walk a little. I have not seen any of our co. but have seen a Sergt. of the reg't. He says the reg't draws rations for 271 men while before the battle the number was 650. Our co. numbers 28 before it was some 75..." Dunklee provides further details on men of his company in a letter written on January 8 to his brother: "...I enclose a copy of the 'Constitution of the Confederate States'. After you have read it, please let Uncle Daniel & Father see it. I found it in a desk in the old store in which we were quartered. There has been about 150 wounded soldiers in this building, but they are removing them & I hope the 36th boys will be removed today. I tell you they say a great deal up north about prisoners in the hands of the secesh being ill used; but for my part I prefer their care to the treatment we have had since our forces came to town. But I trust relief is close at hand. My wound is getting along finely. I can walk by the help of a cane. I expect to be sent to Nashville soon...out of 60 men that went into the battle 27 came out unhurt; some 5 killed but none you know. Ed. Nute is unharmed; Milton wounded but not severe..."

    After his injury, we are privy to Dunklee's very interesting thoughts on southern culture and slavery, where he's both generous and damning in his opinions. Of the southern women who took care of him in the hospital, he wrote on March 13, 1864: "...we have ladies here to distribute properly everything you send and even more. They go to the bedside of the sick and feed him. They also go the kitchen and prepare things suitable for the taste of a sick man. May Heaven bless their never-tiring energies. Oh! I would fall in love with some one of them if I could tell which one is best, so I must be content with loving all of them...''

    In one of his later letters, Dunklee recounts an incident of a Negro soldier killing a civilian who wouldn't obey orders, seguing into his thoughts on slavery. The lengthy August 3, 1864 letter reads in part: "...a Negro soldier on guard ordered a citizen to not cross his beat and was told that a 'southern gentleman was not to be imposed upon by a 'nigger' if he was a soldier', whereupon the soldier obeyed his instructions and shot the citizen. There was a loud fuss raised of course, and the Negro arrested and taken to Gen. Milroy, who released him, saying he liked to see a soldier do his duty, whether black or white; and if they did not, he would punish them. This is very different to what it was here a few short years ago. One can hardly believe that so great an evolution could take place in so short a time, but it is even so, and I hope it will continue until slavery is entirely wiped out. Most of the interior duty of Nashville is done by the black soldiers, and they make good soldiers and can be brought up to the regulations in discipline. I have seen them in almost every sphere, and that becomes them best. Their ambition will carry them just far enough. I listened to a speech the other evening that just suited me every way. It was proven conclusively that slavery was a damage to the South itself, and many of the large planters with 40 or 50 slaves on their hands will admit it and say if it had not been so popular, they would have broken up the institution years ago. A certain man of this city who was considered wealthy and has been judge of the County Court...has five hundred acres of land and generally had fifty in his family, 40 or 45 of which were slaves working his plantation, has been heard to say that not a year passed without the necessity of his taking from this own salary to make up the deficiency of his family expenses that could not be met by the proceeds of the farms. This is not an isolated case but a sample of the whole South. This is not the only way in which the institution has been sapping the South; for it has ruined its morals, encouraged ignorance, overthrew its politics and in short degraded the whole population in every way...[I] stand ready to welcome the day when slavery shall be wiped out..."

    An excellent lot of letters by an educated farmer from Illinois, with full transcriptions. As mentioned, the group includes several post-war letters as well. Many of the letters have also retained their postal covers.

    Condition: Varying degrees of wear, toning and soiling. All with flattened mail folds. Nicely preserved with good penmanship.


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