1863-4: William McAdams to Harriet (Blood) McAdams

These three letters were written by William McAdams (1836-1922) of Co. H, 59th Illinois Infantry. William was the son of Richard McAdams (1808-1894) and Elizabeth Godfrey (1817-1854) of Zanesville, Muskingum county, Ohio.

In 1858, William married Harriet Blood (1838-1905) in Edgar county, Illinois. William was a 25 year-old farmer in Kansas, Edgar county, Illinois, when he entered the service in August 1861. He initially held the rank of sergeant in his company but was promoted to First Sergeant in January 1863 and later accepted a commission as a 2d Lieutenant. He remained with the regiment until they were mustered out of the service in January 1865. His enlistment records indicate that he stood 6 feet tall, and had light hair and blue eyes.



Winchester, Franklin County, Tennessee
July 17th 1863

Dear Harriet,

Thinking that you would like to hear from me often since we left Murfreesboro on another campaign knowing that you are ever anxious to know whether I am safe. This is why I write to you tonight although I have not much of interest to write. I am enjoying good health and the members of the company are generally well.

I have written twice to you since we arrived at this place — viz. the 4th & 8th. I think mine of the 8th was in answer to yours of June 29th.

We have a fine time now gathering black berries of which there is an abundance all over the country. A squad of from 40 to 60 men go out each day from each regiment in charge of a commissioned officer to gather berries. They generally go from 2 to 4 miles beyond the picket lines and almost invariably return with their vessels full. I have sometimes almost wished for some good rich cream to pour on the berries knowing that it would be nice and palatable but for the present I will have to eat the berries minus the cream but I can add just a little more sugar.

The news from every quarter of late has been very cheering. Success has crowned the Union Arms nearly everywhere. Bragg very hastily left these parts and his whereabouts is not known. Our cavalry have scoured the country for miles around but fail to find any of the enemy. The enemy are doubtless beyond the Tennessee River. There is no prospect of a battle in this quarter soon. I come on duty about every third or fourth day.

On last Sabbath, I had charge of a detail of thirty men to go back to Elk River Bridge with several teams from the division to get rations. The distance is about 8 miles. The cars run to the bridge and it will not be long before the bridge will be completed and then the cars will run to this place. We got back to camp at 4 P.M. and I went at candle light to hear the chaplain of the 75th Illinois preach. His text was the three last verses of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Next Sabbath if I am not on duty and there is no providential hindrance, I intend to go to town to church. The chaplain of the 75th Illinois ¹ I believe to be a zealous, earnest, good man possessing considerable ability. This regiment is always camped adjoining ours.

I send my move and respects to the family and to friends. Your affectionate husband, — William McAdams

P.S. I wrote to Bro. Minick today. On the back of my last letter I wrote that I stood in need of stamps. I am entirely out and cannot buy any here now. Yours, — W. M. A.

¹ The chaplain of the 75th Illinois Regiment at that time was William H. Smith (b. 1819) of Fulton, Illinois. He held positions as supervisor, town clerk, trustee, and justice of the peace in Fulton.


Camp 5 miles north of Dallas, Georgia
May 29, 1864

Dear Harriet,

I wrote to you the 21st near Cassville. We left there the 23rd and have been moving very leisurely along, resting sometimes for a few hours, then would hitch up and move on. We have been in this place since the 27th about noon and during that time our forces have been fighting the enemy near Dallas. We can hear the cannonading quite plain and early in the morning when the air is clear and quietness prevails, we can hear the musketry. There has been no general battle but skirmishing has been going on all the time since the afternoon of the 25th. The regiment is about 4½ miles from where our teams are parked and I hear from it each day. There was 6 wounded in our regiment yesterday and one of them belonged to our company but as yet I have been unable to ascertain who it is but I am told that his wound is not serious.

Our regiment has suffered but little loss so far and I hope it will be equally as fortunate the balance of the campaign. It appears that the enemy has taken a strong position among the Altona Mountains and it seems difficult to dislodge him. The timber is very heavy here and it is difficult to see the enemy any great distance and I am told that he is strongly entrenched and has received reinforcements — so General Sherman will have to proceed cautiously.

I have not see brother Johnnie since leaving Cassville. The 16th Army Corps occupies the extreme right of our lines; consequently are some distance from the 4th Army Corps.

We have not received mail for several days and have had no chance to send letters away for over a week and I am unable to say when we will have a chance to send letters again but I intend to write this and will send it the very first chance I get.

I am in the enjoyment of good health but have been sorely troubled for 10 days with a sore mouth and lips. Many others are troubled in the same way and it is supposed to be occasioned by eating pickle pork from which all the salt petre has not been extracted. My sore mouth seriously interferes with my eating and smoking and besides, I can’t enjoy a hearty laugh and I could make but little headway kissing my friends if I should happen to meet any. But I hope it will soon be well again.

Oh yes, Harriet, I neglected in my last letter to acknowledge the receipt of one dozen goose quills. I used up the last tooth pick I had one evening and received the quills you sent me the next morning so they came just in time.

I have not received a letter from Minick yet but I expect to the next mail we receive and I hope we will receive one soon.

The weather has been tolerably warm part of the time lately but generally favorable for military operations. There was much wheat sown in this country and it is headed out and is quite an item in the way of forage. Quantities of it is fed to the mules and horses.

I gathered a pint cup of green huckleberries today and stewed them and after mixing in quite a quantity of sugar I ate them for dinner. To look at them reminded me of stewed currants but the taste was quite different. They were quite good but like currants require a great quantity of sugar to make them eat well. Huckleberries grow in great quantities in the country and it requires but a short time to gather a mess. Blackberries will be plenty here this year. So will peaches. I saw Dock Campbell the 17th at Resaca. He was driving an ambulance team and was well.

As near as I can judge, we have drove the enemy within 35 miles of Atlanta and we are expecting reinforcements today or tomorrow and if we have good luck, our forces will soon be besieging them at Atlanta. We have heard nothing from Grant for several days but hope he is doing well. I think Sherman has been doing well in this department. We understand that Butler had a terrible battle near Richmond but have not yet learned the particulars.

May success attend our arms until not an armed Rebel will be left to attempt the severing of the Union and may the grace of God be sufficient for us in every trying hour in the prayer of your affectionate husband, — Wm. McAdams


Q. M. Office 59th Regt. Illinois Vols.
Near Atlanta, Ga.
September 25, 1864

Dear Harriet,

I wrote to you the 19th and now take the opportunity to drop you a few more lines. I am in the enjoyment of good health again since the weather has become cool and healthy. Nothing of much importance has happened since the 19th, consequently I will not have much to write that will interest.

We have had some hard rains of late and the weather is quite cool this morning and many complain of sleeping cold last night. Capt. Henry [Wiley] and Lt. Fred. N. [Boyer] are enjoying good health and the members present of the company are enjoying good health except Samuel H. Smith and a fellow by the name of John R. Johnson. They are not seriously “sick.”

The Army has been comparatively quiet since it stopped here and the enemy has not troubled us in our present situation. I read in extracts from Rebel papers that the Rebel army under General Hood is stationed at Lovejoy Station and Jonesboro. Hardee is with that part stationed at Jonesboro and his pickets extend six miles around the place.

Sherman has ordered all the citizens out of Atlanta and they make grievous complaints about the injustices of the order, but his purpose is fixed and he will not revoke or modify his order for he has determined to make a military post out of Atlanta and will have no Rebel spies amongst us if he can avoid it.

We have not been paid yet but will be in all probability soon, and I do not know whether we will be paid for six or eight months. It is now ten o’clock and this has turned out to be a beautiful day of rest — a day set apart for public and private worship and praise to the Almighty. The Sanctuary privileges we have here are rather limited but we occasionally hear a sermon and there are prayer and experience meetings held occasionally of an evening.

haleThere will be preaching in the 59th at one o’clock this afternoon by a private soldier from Bridge’s Battery of Illinois Artillery. He is trying to get the position of Chaplain of our regiment but our Lieut.-Col. [Clayton Hale] who is now in command of the regiment is decidedly opposed to having a Chaplain in the regiment and I doubt about our getting one soon. But the trouble is there are but few Chaplains who do much good. They generally play out in a short time, but there is occasionally one who is particularly adapted and suited to get along with the soldiers and they do a great amount of good.

The religious feeling in the 59th is even greater than I at first supposed it was and there are a few who have sought and found pardon since coming into the Army and are endeavoring to live Christian and exemplary lives. Captain Hamilton W. Hall who came out first as Second Lieut. of our company has resigned and starts for his home at Mattoon, Illinois, this morning. There is several officers in our regiment who would resign if they could and I might say here that I am one of that number. When I first entered the service, I had no idea of remaining more than three years and the situation of my affairs at home ought to be reasonable excuse enough for me to resign. I have no particular ambition to seek for promotion and if an officer is promoted under present orders, it is for three years from the time he accepts such promotion and I do not propose to accept promotion under circumstances like these. I would not accept a 1st Lieutenancy or a Captaincy under present orders. I would accept nothing less than a position of staff officer and there is no such chance in our regiment at present except the Office of Regimental Quartermaster and that vacancy will no doubt be filled by the Quartermaster Sergeant [James M. Elledge] — a responsible and highly capable individual — a man who is well qualified to fill that position. What do you think about my resigning? Do you think it would be best under present circumstances? I think any time between now and Christmas would do.

[end of letter missing]

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Griff says:

    Comment left by BJC:

    William and Harriet (Blood) McAdams were my great great grandparents. I have copies of many of his letters written to her during the Civil War. The originals of these letters are in the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle PA.

    Thanks for sharing this letter that I did not have.

    Barbara Joy Cooley, Sanibel, FL


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