I don’t want to be in the Illinois Infantry

Once again, this is a double letter. Gideon writes a longer message while Chester adds a short note at the end. It is dated January 6, 1862.

Gideon is unhappy about the plan to convert the mechanics and fusiliers regiment into an Illinois infantry unit. A cause of his unhappiness, however, seems to be the rate of pay. He notes that he enlisted for a monthly salary of $13 and 50₵ per day. Does the infantry get paid less?

He then goes on to complain that the men, whom he had said were the cream of the army, are of low moral character – swearing, smoking, playing cards, laying about – but he doesn’t engage in that behavior.

He is sorry that George is sick but he wishes Leslie much joy. Is this the same Leslie he previously called a coward and unpatriotic? Probably, because Chester adds doodling to the margin of his letter, in which he draws a heart and wishes L. Salisbury much joy.

In the rest of his note, Chester seems somewhat less upset about what is going to happen to the unit. He talks about being sent to Kansas although he does feel they were “humbugged,” that is, deceived into enlisting by the promised salary. He reports on the health of the unit but is otherwise seemingly less unhappy than Gideon.


                                                                                                                                                Harriet Lewis
                                                                                                                                                Camp Douglas Jan the 6 62

Dear Sister

I have just received your kind letter and was glad to hear that you was well and in good health  I am well and in good health alsoe[sic] but have the blues once in a while and it is enough to give any one the blues the way that we have been used here. When I enlisted I enlisted for 13 dollars and per month and 50 cts per day each and every day and now they are trying to get us in as Ill infantry and we are trying to get out of it but I dont know as we will succeed or not, there is so much confustion[sic] here that I cant hardly[sic] write but I will do the best I can I will give you a detail of what is agoing on here there is some playing cards and some smoking and some a swearing and some reading and some writing and some laying in their bunks, but as for playing cards and swearing and smoking thank God and a stealy I have not particpeted[sic] in any of them yet, oh it is horrible[sic] to see young men throw away all morrals[sic] and self respect as soon as they leave the family circle. you said that you would like to have me to come out there it is imposible[sic] for me to come I would like to very much but cant. tell Leslie that I wish him much joy but I am sory[sic] to hear that george is sick but hope he will come home to make you happy. I would like to have you tell me how Ed is getting along now and how Fiddle is and where she is, I cant think of any more at pressent[sic] to write but when you direct me to do it in this way

                                                                Gideon E. Portman
                                                                Camp Douglas
                                                                Chiggo Illinois
                                                                Mech. Fusilers
                                                                in care of Capt. Lawson


No more at pressent[sic] write soon
from your affectionate
G.E. Portman


Doodle by Chester Beebe “I will wish L Salsibury much joy”

A second letter on the same paper:

Camp Douglas Jan the 6 62
Chicago Ill


Dear Sister

 I received a line from you and was glad to hear you were well and doing well I was very sorry to hear that George was sick I was glad to hear you thought he was getting better  there is a great deal of sickness in our camp at present I have just got back from dress parade and we have got marching order so they say but I guess it is false or a mistake I dont know which we are a  going down in Kansas we will be guarded by the US States army we will try to do the best we can for uncle Sam, although we have been humbugged[sic] in to this regt we enlisted for the sum of $13 per month 50 cts for each and every day and we cant get it I dont suppose we can at least there has been on death in one company since I have been here his name was Harry Buron there is 3 more sick write to me

                                                                                Chester Beebe

                                                                                                Harriet Lewis


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