This letter was written by a member of the 74th Illinois Infantry from their camp near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The author signed the letter with the initials “J. H. M.” A review of the roster reveals only two soldiers with these initials, the most likely candidate being Joseph “Henry” Miller (b. @1844) of Rockford, Winnebago county, Illinois. Henry enlisted at the age of 18 on 11 August 1862 in Co. C, 74th Illinois Infantry and was discharged from the service on 27 February 1865.
Camp near Murfreesboro, Tenn.
May 28, 1863
Henry, I improve this opportunity to write a few lines to you to let you know how we are getting along down here in Secessia. We have just come in from outpost duty where we have been for the last week. We had a very pleasant time. Had the pleasure of seeing the venerable Vallandigham just through the lines. He looked rather foolish. The Rebs did not want to take him under the shadow of their wing but they finally consented. ¹ Government is sending them through the lines every day. I see a couple of ladies passed through the lines yesterday. They looked smiling as a basket of chips. I suppose they expected to see their husbands. Poor creatures—they have not seen them for nearly two years.
General Bragg sent a dispatch to General Rosy [Rosecrans] yesterday. I do not know what there was in it. The rebel pickets are in sight of where we were on [our] outpost. They come up to our lines almost every day and exchange papers. They seems to feel pretty well. I think we could charge them if Old Rosy would let us. We are under marching orders but it is impossible to tell when. We will move probably about midnight when I am dreaming about—about—oh never mind. If you knew, you would think I was rather a fanciful soldier.
A corps of cavalry went out this afternoon and I should not wonder if they had a skirmish before they come in. We have just come off from dress parade. Colonel [James Bremer] Kerr commands the regiment now. ² Bowels [possibly Maj. Gen. Buell?] appears to be laying around doing nothing and I hope he will continue to do so. The Old Nuisance is worse than useless.
Tell Jody that I shall have to withdraw my challenge about fighting that sheep of his for I have full as much fighting down here as I want. So he can declare himself the victor. I suppose, Henry, you are having grand times this summer. I can tell you one thing and that is that I had just as leave plow corn as to stand picket.
No more at present. Goodbye. Write soon.
From J. H. M. to his cousin H. M.
¹ This event is described in the book, “Society of the Seventy-Fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry: Reunion Proceedings & History of the Regiment” (1903) on page 19: “You will recall one gray dawn, May 25, 1863, when the 74th was picketing the Shelbyville pike, that an open wagon, drawn by two horses, came up to out outposts, in the back seat of which was sitting a grave, clerical-looking man in civilian’s clothes, who silently and curiously surveyed a scene in which he seemed to have no personal interest. This was Clement L. Vallandingham, about to be sent, under order of the President, into the rebel lines. After a short conference with the officer commanding the outposts, those having the prisoner in charge drove rapidly down the pike, past our videttes, and in a few moments delivered Mr. Vallandigham to the rebel pickets, who having been notified of his coming, were in waiting for the event.”
² Col. James B. Kerr returned to his regiment not long before this letter was written, having been exchanged as a prisoner of war.