This letter was written by Francis (“Frank”) James Russell (1836-1900), the son of John Russell, Jr. (1793-1863) and Laura Ann Spencer (1797-1890) of Bluffdale, Greene county, Illinois. In the letter, Frank mentions his brother, Spencer (Spence”) Gideon Russell (1828-1906). Frank was married to Sarah Ann (“Sallie”) Burkholder (1842-1902) on 28 January 1862 in Hancock county, Illinois.
Frank enlisted in Co. D, 16th Illinois Infantry on 24 May 1861. On 1 January 1864 he was mustered out of the 16th Illinois and placed on detached service as a clerk on the staff of Major General James Dada Morgan, commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, of the XIV Army Corps headquartered near Rossville, Georgia, where they remained until early May 1864. The XIV Army Corps included the 10th, 16th, and 60th Illinois Regiments as well as the 10th and 14th Michigan Regiments during the Atlanta Campaign.
Headquarters 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 14th A. C. ¹
Camp near Rossville, Georgia
February 1, 1864
Your letter of January 18th has been received—a regular downright lecture for not having written. Why girl, I have written every week for the last ever so long. If my letters do not reach you, blame [Uncle] Samuel’s mail boys whom I more than half expect have been playing truant.
I really don’t know a thing to write you that I have not written twenty times over. I have heard nothing more said about the General’s going to Illinois, but think he will go unless something should turn up to prevent. Whether he will take Headquarters—his clerk especially, is another question.
When the 60th becomes veteranized, which will be shortly, what will be done with those who do not re-enlist—us transferred boys included—is “just what is the matter” and with us is at present, the richest theme for speculation. The general impression seems to be that we will be sent to the rear to do guard duty at some town or post.
Murfreesboro is the place currently reported and some are visionary enough to think Nashville will be the lucky place. To me it makes no difference where we go. If I should not remain with the General, I can get on “Detached [Service]” at a half dozen places by asking it, or I can remain with the boys of the old company. It would be glorious to get back to Nashville. It would be fun to carry a musket there—no long marches, no long rolls, no short rations, and in a place where we could enjoy the privileges of society. “Glorious,” I said, but mean it only in its civil signification for the word glorious according to “Revised Army Regulations” and “existing orders” means something vastly different, and at the mention of which, your thoughts turn to the ceaseless roar and din, similar to the noise of a thousand axes in a forest. But this last kind of glory we boys of the Old 16th [Illinois] have never had much acquaintance with. What the veterans may have in store, we must wait and see.
The second anniversary of our marriage has past and life the first, I was unable to attend, the causes of which then prevented not having yet been removed. And I am therefore again under the necessity of asking you to overlook the delinquency trusting that similar occasions in future will find me differently situated. It has also been two years since we met. But the past let us not recall, but look forward to the future which still possesses the same bright prospects of happiness as when we started on life’s journey two years ago. Our willing hands can yet build the same home that our expectations planned and wherever it may be situated or however rough its external appearance, it will possess a wealth denied to many a princely mansion—contentment and happiness.
I have thought that I had no desire for a heaven happier than I could make earth, and were I positive my earthly home would be a type of the eternal, with a heart full of gratitude for the assurance, I would ask no joys surpassing it, but willingly exclaim, “as my home is happy here, so may it be with one hereafter.” If God spares our lives, such a home is within our reach—will be ours. It is no idle fancy, no visionary dream, but a truth I feel sure will be fully realized. Wait until we get our log cabin with its huge fireplace and sparkling fire shining out upon the old musket and time-worn clock against the wall, the spinning wheel and loom in the corner, the host of cats and great watch dog sleeping lazily and friendly upon the hearthstone, the rough walls neatly covered over with “Quincy Heralds” and “Richardson Speeches” (fit for nothing else), the bookcase well filled, and files of loyal papers carefully preserved, the old family bible—to us doubly sacred as it recalls loved voices now silent that read from it the promises of mercy and commended us to the care of God—and I will show the world a home where feelings less holy than love enters not, and words less gentle than those of affection are never spoken.
Your letter of the 18th was the last I have received. I received one from Carrie of the 14th which I answered immediately, enclosing as per her request and order for the party holding brother’s will to deliver the same to Esq. Cushman. ² I received two numbers of the “Christian Times” by the mail of this evening.
Give love to all. Write all the news that is going on. Everything from Bluffdale [Greene county] or Hamilton and vicinity is interesting. Carrie wrote me that Spence called on Col. Todd. How is he? What is he doing &c.
Will write home again in a week at longest. Affectionately, — Frank
¹ Brig. General James Dada Morgan (1810-1896) commanded the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, of the 14th Army Corps during the Chattanooga Campaign and the early part of the Atlanta Campaign. He was originally the Colonel of the 10th Illinois. He was from Quincy, Illinois.
² Frank’s older brother, William Augustus J. Russell (1819-1863), served as captain of Co. C, 10th Missouri Infantry. He was killed in the fighting at Missionary Ridge on 25 November 1863. The 10th Missouri was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, or the XVII Army Corps in that battle. William was married to Mary Carolyn (“Carrie”) Pegram in 1845.