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    Civil War Letters of Charles Augustus Hill, Company F, 8th Illinois Cavalry. An archive comprised of 57 letters by Hill to his wife Lydia Hill, various sizes and lengths (mostly 5" x 8" bifolia) and from various locations, dating from January 22, 1860 to September 19, 1863. Also includes 18 canceled postal covers (five with stamps missing and two without stamps). A photograph of Hill, 5.5" x 7.75" albumen print on a 7.5" x 10.25" mount, taken at F. Gutekunst, Philadelphia, in January 1863; and cabinet card photograph of Florence M. Hill (probably a daughter), 4" x 5.5" albumen print on 5.25" x 7" mount; taken at the Hughes Studio, Joliet, Illinois, 1895, are also part of the archive.

    Hill joined the 8th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Cavalry in August of 1862 and moved with his regiment to Washington, DC later that month. In an August 17 letter to his wife Lydia, he wrote that "The country is doing its duty-now if we have the ability to use them the country is safe-without the right kind of leaders we may yet fail-God grant us a Cromwell or Napoleon. The Capitol is in sight, its huge dome piercing the sky, but we boys can't get near it today...we are in the hands of God and it the cause of our country." Two days later, he was in Alexandria, Virginia, and he wrote home that he had a chance to see some of the nation's capital, including the White House and the Capitol building. "I went to see where old Abe lives. It is more of a 'White House' than I expected to see. I always supposed that it was rather plain. But it is quite the reverse-well worthy of being the residence of the Head of this nation." As for the Capitol, Hill wrote, "I cannot describe it to you in one letter....Magnificent, princely, grand, are the only adjectives that belong to it."

    Many of Hill's letter to his wife reported on life in camp, the weather, his health, missing home, and military news. Hill and his company participated in the bloody Battle of Antietam, which he described in a September 20, 1862 letter: "At last my dreams have been realized-I have been a real Battle, and came out safe and well. We pushed the enemy and he fought us a few miles north of here-just beyond Sharpsburg....I took the Battle field and the dead Secesh lying unburied upon it-the first of either I ever saw-I am perfectly astonished that we ever drove them from it....The Rebels had got the range of the Road we were on and shelled us good-especially as we crossed the Bridge over Antietam Creek. There the shells whizzed and rained-one hit the bank a few feet from us...another whizzed so near my ear as to move the air on my face....Over the Bridge we turned into a cornfield at the left and stood there with drawn sabers and carbines unslung, ready to repel any charge the enemy might make....I doubt not more than 500 shells whizzed over our heads and burst in the air over our heads. The boys all called it the hottest place they were ever in....After the Battle we were on Patrol half the night. Next day nothing was done-much to my disap't....Friday we started on after the Rebs they had retreated and crossed the river." After Antietam, President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which Hill addressed in an October 10 letter. "I have no doubt of his right to issue it-to emancipate the slaves of every Rebel if he sees fit. With me it is only a question of expediency-I have no doubt of its being Constitutional....He has the same right to confiscate the slaves that he has to confiscate horses & cattle of the Rebels....I doubted its expediency myself but I deem it a duty of every loyal man to bow to the Presidents decision and support the Gov't....The Army takes the thing coolly as far as I am able to see."

    In an October 30, 1862 letter, Hill wrote of being sick and under nursing care for fever in a Union hospital in Frederick, Maryland. He describes some of his fellow patients. On one side of him was "a fine boy with a wound on the back-top of his head made by a Ball or piece of Shell....A piece of the skull 2 inches or so long and 1 wide has been taken out and a piece of Brain with it. Still he is sound in health....Next is a small pale boy with a bullet in his body just next to his hip-bullet not out. Next come 2 Secesh, one with both eyes shot plumb out by a bullet-the other with one eye out and the sight of the other destroyed by a Ball passing in at one and out back of the other." Hill was later sent to a hospital in Philadelphia, where, when he recovered enough to walk, visited historic sites in the city, including Independence Hall. He remained in the Philadelphia hospital until late January 1863, when, returned to full strength, he rejoined his company.

    In an April 8, 1863 letter, Hill describes a review of the troops by President Lincoln and General Joseph Hooker, in which he described as a "magnificent sight...Old Abe with a brilliant escort of Officers from Hooker down rode along the lines with hat in hand and then took position while the Regts marched by him by Company....It was the 'pomp and circumstance of glorious war.' I cannot describe it to you now. Gen'l Hooker is tall (6 ft or over), well proportioned, smooth, full and rather red faced, blue eyes (I tho't), and lightish hair....Old Abe looks rather pale-sort of 'citified.'" On June 13 Hill wrote of the June 9 Battle of Brandy Station, including a hand drawn map of the battlefield with positions of the 8th Illinois Cavalry indicated. When describing the battle, he referred to the Confederate yells when charging. "They always charge with loud yells of 'yik' & 'yik, yik'-not a shout or hurrah or anything but simply 'yik yik' that can be heard a long way and sometimes they succeed in frightening the green and scary." Hill's company also participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. July 4, 1863, the day after the battle ended, he wrote to his wife "I am still alive & well." When his cavalry division approached Gettysburg, they "were welcomed with shouts & cheers & waving handkerchiefs & Banners and patriotic songs. Camped on the other side of town and the next day the Rebs attacked us and for 3 days the battle has raged. The 1st day they got the better of us and drove us from our position to this side of Town. Now it is said we have whipped them. But it has been at an awful cost."

    The last letter in the archive is dated September 19, 1863, days before he resigned from his company to accept a commission as first lieutenant in the 1st Regiment, United State Colored Troops Infantry.

    Charles Augustus Hill (1833-1902) was born in Truxton, Cortland County, New York, and attended common schools and a select school in the area. He taught school in Hamburg, Erie County, New York, and in Will County, Illinois for a while before attending Bell's Commercial College in Chicago. Hill later studied law and was admitted to the bar in Indianapolis, Indiana, after which time he returned to Will County, Illinois in 1860 and set up a legal practice. In August 1862, Hill enlisted as a private in Company F, 8th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. He resigned on September 22, 1863 to accept a commission from President Abraham Lincoln as first lieutenant in the 1st Regiment, United States Colored Troops Infantry. Hill was appointed commanding officer of Company C on June 20, 1864, and was promoted to the rank of captain on May 22, 1865. After the war, he returned to Will County, Illinois, and resumed the practice of law in Joliet. Hill was elected prosecuting attorney in 1868 for the counties of Will and Grundy and served four years, and was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-first U.S. Congress (March 4, 1889-March 3, 1891). After serving one term, Hill resumed the practice of law in Joliet, and later served as assistant attorney general of Illinois (1897-1900). In 1860, he married Lydia Wood and together they had seven children. Hill died in Joliet, Illinois.

    All of the letters in the archive are accompanied by typed transcriptions. In addition, there are photocopies of material relating to Hill's military career.

    Condition: The letters and photographs are in good condition.


    More Information:

    The 8th Illinois Cavalry was organized at St. Charles, Illinois, in September 1861 was mustered in September 18, 1861. In October, the Regiment moved to Washington, DC, and camped at Meridian Hill. In December, it moved to camp near Alexandria, Virginia. On March 10, 1862, the Regiment joined the general advance on Manassas. The regiment was encamped at Alexandria and at Shipping Point, Virginia in April and May, and then moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. The regiment was later participated in the Union advance up the Peninsula. The 8th saw action at Mechanicsville, Gain's Hill, Dispatch Station, and Malvern Hill. On August 30, 1862, embarked at Yorktown, and landed at Alexandria, on September 1st, and moved immediately to the front. The regiment was engaged at the battle of Antietam. During 1863, the regiment participated in several engagements, including Gettysburg. The 8th was mustered out of service at Benton Barracks, Missouri, on July 17, 1865, and ordered to Chicago, Illinois, where it was discharged.



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