Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Aden Cavins of the 97th Indiana Volunteer Infantry to his wife.
Dec. 30, 1863
MY DEAR TILLA:
All your letters express dread of harm to me in the battles around Chattanooga. You no doubt before this time have heard that I am still a breathing, moving corporal being.
We left Stevenson at the time I wrote you. We arrived here on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, a distance of twenty-seven miles over the worst roads for a level country I ever saw.
The weather grew warmer soon after I wrote you and it rained almost incessantly for four days. Our wagons only arrived here last evening, nearly worn out. We have our tents put up now and have dried ourselves and feel quite comfortable. It is expected that we will remain here for two weeks and then move farther along the road so as to be able to get forage for our teams…
A majority of the southern people whose homes are now within the federal lines are sick of the war and want peace on any terms. Texas and Louisiana have already deserted their confederates and their soldiers have made their way to their homes. Thousands of others are only waiting an opportunity to do the same thing. Northern Alabama is full of deserters from the rebel army. It is said that there are at least five hundred in this country. But when you get a man from south of our lines, he speaks as hopefully as Jeff Davis, and says that they would rather die than have any left to witness their subjugation.
I, a few months ago, spoke to those who are now leaving them at every opportunity. But when they were shut out from their homes, their friends, and the dear ones that aforetime smiled happily around their firesides, they were subdued–not by federal bayonets or the fierce rattle of our dreadful musketry, but by sentiments deeply established in the constitution of man: love of home, wife, father, mother or children. There is a point beyond which few can go. One may endure any physical hardship, to gratify a feeling, a prejudice or a whim, or suffer death rather than a real or supposed dishonor. But most men are subdued when the ties of early life are sundered and all the joyous memories of “home, sweet home” are trampled under foot.
When, therefore, the rebels are driven from their homes and their places become occupied by our soldiers; when they are separated from their families by long and tedious days, they will give up the contest. However, they are now driven into so few of their pretended states that want may soon begin to wear on them. But misguided people will never consult their best interests until disasters, dreadful and ruinous, will overtake them.
I believe during the next summer and fall campaign most of their country will be overrun, and after that nothing but lawless bands of guerrillas will prevent the soldiers from returning home. Texas will be mostly conquered this winter; Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are almost subjugated; their once fair fields are nothing but wastes–fences and barns and houses destroyed and all their substance and stock destroyed. Alabama and Georgia will have to yield in the next movement.
The rebels have a very large army and will have months to recruit it and gather up their scattered forces. What jealousies and discords may happen among them no one can guess, but unless something supervenes to thwart the intentions of the rebel leaders, there will be at least one more year of fierce savage war, and then I think the struggle will be over. I hope that dissensions, brawls and discord may creep into their ranks, so as to hurry up the time when all can join those they love so well and whose absence they so much regret. It will most truly be a day of rejoicing when the war-worn soldier returns to the side of his dear ones, where he can view them affectionately by day and rest sweetly with them by night.
I am glad Charley is reading Plutarch’s Lives. There is so much of the noble, generous and heroic acts in the narratives that it cannot fail making a lasting impression on his mind. You must see that he pronounces the proper names correctly. See Classical Dictionary.
My love to all. Write often.
Source: Tapert, Annette (ed.), The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Press, 1988), p. 184-86