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    [Civil War]. Archive of Letters related to the Wood family during the Civil War. Comprised of letters, newspaper clippings, postcards, Bible verses and a Psalter, and other related ephemera spanning the years 1860 through 1897. Of the sixty-one letters, most are addressed to Mollie Wood from her brother, Solomon F. Wood, or William H. Clayton, a friend from their hometown of Wood River, Illinois, as they are fighting on the front lines with the 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The remaining letters, most of which are also addressed to Mollie, are from various members of her family giving the mundane details of life at home during the war.

    Solomon F. Wood and William H. Clayton mustered into the 80th Illinois when the regiment was formed on August 25, 1862, at Centralia, Illinois. Five days after joining the Union Army, Wood wrote home saying: "You ask me what I want worst. I want the war ended worse than any thing else. I have no cause to complain. We are fully as well treated as I anticipated. And as regards getting homesick I do not expect to allow it to trouble me. A soldier must expect a certain amount of hard ship and I am prepared to take my share. Without grumbling." Within the week, the regiment marched off to war, being ordered to Louisville, Kentucky, to join the Army of the Ohio.

    The men of the 80th had their first taste of combat on October 8, 1862, at the Battle of Perryville. Following the battle, they set off in pursuit of John Hunt Morgan who was raiding all over Kentucky and Tennessee. They gave up the chase and headed for Murfreesboro, Tennessee. On March 20, 1863, Hunt and 5,000 Confederates attacked the 80th while they were out scouting. Hunt and his men were repelled and, in a letter to Mollie dated March 22, William H. Clayton, describes the battle: "The 18th a portion of the four Regts of our Brigade...and a portion of Capt. Blackburn's Co. of Cavalry started on a four day scout to Liberty [a few miles east of Murfreesboro]...About noon of the 19th...[we fought] about 40 Reb Cav killed one & took four prisoners. From them we learned that Morgan was at Liberty with with [sic] a large force...We then came back on the Pike to Auburn...Our advance fired on a squad of Rebs just before going into Auburn. Here we camped for the night. The Rebs were in sight of our pickets all night. March 20 just as we were falling in line our pickets fired on a squad of Rebs but the distance was too far to do any good." Battle between the two sides was joined on the 20th and Clayton relates the details: "We were out of town but a few minutes before Rebs commenced advancing in & we commenced shelling them...The first gun was fired about ten O clock. Half after ten Morgan's...Reg't the 10th K.Y. came through town and passed round our right...Our Regt was ordered to prevent this move. We started off in a run for half a mile...We then moved to the top of the hill took a position behind a couple of fences that formed a narrow lane...The fight had now commenced in earnest...The battle by this time was raging...The Rebs were making a desperate attempt to take our artillery...Two columns of Rebs were pouring a crossfire on the 101...when our reserve was called support...the Rebs commenced retreating so fast that our Regt only got to fire one or two rounds...We thought they would come back the next morning but they kept clean of us." Solomon writes two letters several days after the battle, one to his father and one to his sister, dated March 25: "We have bin [sic] in another battle which was about as hot as perryvill [sic]. We fought the Rebels at Milton from 9 o'clock until about 1 or to [sic] o'clock they had about 3 men to our one but we whipped them bad."

    Later that year, the regiment arrived at Tantallon Station, Tennessee, near the border of Alabama, and on October 11, 1863, Solomon writes Mollie of recent action: "All is quiet about hear [sic] now I believe but things has bin [sic] considerable of an uproar hear [sic] lately. Old Whealer [Joseph Wheeler]...has got in our rear and plaid [sic] old scratch. He has had several fights and cut the R. R. in several places. But they have succeeded in driving him from the railroad and have got it in operation again." They continue to skirmish with the enemy through the rest of the year, taking part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge and, by mid-1864, they joined General William T. Sherman on his Atlanta Campaign.

    On June 10, 1864, Solomon suffered a severe wound to his foot while using an axe and was laid up in the hospital for many months. William Clayton takes up the narrative and sent several letters to Mollie during the fight for Atlanta. One such letter, dated July 1, 1864, gives a descriptive account of the breastworks erected by the Federal Army around the town of Marietta, Georgia. On September 17, two weeks after the fall of Atlanta, Clayton writes again to Mollie, relating the particulars of the 80th's involvement in Sherman's "big raid": "Our Corps occupied the extreme left of the Army & lay east of the City. Just after dark we fell back...and marched around to the north of the City..." The army continued its maneuvering until battle was joined on August 31: "Quite an engagement took place that evening. The rebel loss was very heavy...Sept 1st we occupied Jonesboro and drove the Rebs into their fortifications...Heavy skirmishing was kept up until we left which occurred 8 P.M. of the 4th. We arrived at Atlanta about noon of the 8th...All seem to think that the campaign will commence again in a very short time. The sooner it is done the better..." He also takes the downtime to muse about rumors of a draft and the upcoming election: "I hear that Old Abe has put off the draft; he ought to have his neck broke for doing it...Most of the soldiers if they could would vote for Old Abe. I like McClellan...but I do not like the platform of the convention that nominated him."

    The 80th continued to battle the rebels until the end of the war. They were mustered out of service on June 10, 1865. Solomon Wood survived the war and left the army with the rank of sergeant. William H. Clayton was killed May 5, 1865. The remaining letters give the intimate details of camp life as well as daily life on the home front, including the postbellum lives of the Woods. This is but a small taste of the information packed into this fine archive.


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    December, 2012
    8th Saturday
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