1863: Green L. Wood to William Mastin Wills

This letter was written by Bvt. (or 3rd) Lt. Green L. (“G. L.”) Wood (1835-Aft1880) of Co. F, 38th Tennessee Infantry. Green was the son of George B. Wood (1806-1891) and Laurena Lay (1816-1892) of Jackson county, Georgia. He married Nancy A. T. Bennett (1837-1911) in February 1854. [Note, there was a Green Cicero Wood (1843-1904) that lived in the same vicinity as the Wills brothers in Jackson, Ga., but this Green Wood served in Cobb’s Legion during the Civil War.]

Green (“G. L.”) entered the 38th Tennessee Infantry as a sergeant in September 1861. He left the regiment due to illness near Glasgow, Kentucky, in September 1862, returning later that year. He was reported “absent sick” from the regiment in July & August 1863 (right after this letter was written) and by the end of August he was “relieved from duty for continued absence without leave.”

A letter (see below) signed by Lt. Col. A. D. Gwynne of the 38th Tennessee Infantry is included in Green’s military record stating: “I have the honor to ask that the position held by Lt. G. L. Wood, as 3rd Lieutenant, Co. F, 38th Regt. T. V. be declared vacant. The facts in his case are as follows. May 1863, Lt. G. L. Wood was ordered before an examining board as Incompetent and Inefficient. Shortly afterwards (sometime in June 1863), he was taken sick and sent to the hospital by order of the surgeon. Since that time (June 1863) he has failed to report either by letter, surgeon’s certificate, or in person. I beg leave to state that  I understand Lt. Wood failed to pass the examining board, but no notification to that effect has been received from the Secretary of War… His home is in Gwinnette county, Ga. His Post Office is Auburn, Ga.

It appears that Green returned to Georgia in 1863 and that he joined Co. H, 13th Georgia Cavalry as a private in 1864. In 1867, Green registered to vote in Gwinnett county, Georgia.

38th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 8th (Looney’s) Regiment, was organized at Camp Abington, Fayette County, Tennessee, in September, 1861. The men were recruited in the counties of Shelby, Madison, and Wilson. Members of Company G were from Alabama, and Company H, later F, contained men from Georgia. During December it was at Knoxville with 988 men but only 250 arms. As most of these were worthless, the General commanding the department did not allow the unit to participate in the Battle of Fishing Creek. Later it was involved in the conflicts at Shiloh and Perryville. It then was assigned to General M.J. Wright’s, Strahl’s, Palmer’s Brigade, Army of Tennessee. During the summer of 1863 the 22nd Tennessee Infantry Battalion merged into the regiment.

Green wrote the letter to his friends, Andrew Cicero Wills (1834-1864) and William Maston Wills (1841-1864) of Jackson county, Georgia. The Wills brothers were the son of Thomas Wills (1797-1854) and Sallie A. Kinney (1806-18xx) of Jackson county, Georgia. The Wills brothers served as privates in Co. E, 13th Georgia Battalion [Records are often found with the 13th Georgia Cavalry who merged with the 16th Georgia Cavalry Battalion in January 1865]. The 16th Cavalry Battalion was assembled in May 1862, at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was composed of six companies. It served in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and took part in the engagements at Blue Springs, Bean’s Station, Cloyd’s Mountain, and Marion. They were known to be stationed at Cumberland Gap from late August 1862 to late February 1863 and appear to have been at Zolicoffer, Tennessee in June 1863 with Co. C.

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Addressed to Mr. William M. Wills, Zolicoffer, Tennessee
In care of Capt. Marlow of (E) 16th Georgia [Cavalry] Battalion
Mail Direct

Shelbyville, Tennessee
June 1st 1863

Mr. Cicero Wills & W. M. Wills

Dear brother — I seat myself down this morning to inform you how I am getting along at this time. I am in better health than I was when you  heard from me and hope these lines will come safe to hand and find you enjoying the best of health. I received the note that you sent in [Lt.] R. J. Pentecost letter and I was glad to receive them from you & to hear that you and Cicero was well. I would have wrote to you before now if I had a known where to wrote. I haven’t wrote much since I came back. My health has been so bad that I haven’t written nowhere. I haven’t as much as wrote father any letter since I came back.

Mastin, [I] haven’t nothing of importance to write to you at this time that interesting. The war news has become an old thing with me so I don’t pay any attention to what I hear. It is in one ear and out the other so damn fast that I can’t catch any of it though we are giving them hell at Vicksburg. We have got a army in the town and the Yankees got them surrounded and shelling them like hell and they can’t find holes enough to crawl in to hide from them. The Yankees is fortifying in shelling distance of them. I can’t tell the result but my opinion is that hell will be to pay and no pitch hot. ¹ All that I have got to say about it is that the damn speculator will be sunk in the bottomless pits of hell. They are the very individuals that [are] keeping this war up. I hope and trust that I will be a free man again and if I do, I hope I will be able to stand my hand again.

Mat, our company is declining very fast. We only have 25 present at this time. We had four to runaway from us a few days ago and I believe the balance will take a fool notion and die and what at? — the hospital. I don’t expect to see them again for they will lie there till they take the mange and die. I haven’t much more to write to you at this time more than my present condition. My cousin Pentecost has preferred charges against me and they have thrown me out of my office but they haven’t notified me of the fact yet.

Mastin & Cicero, I want you to see your captain and see if he will receive me in his company. If he will, I want him to send me a shoing [?] so I can get to him. They have treated me worse than a dog and I am fearful they ain’t done with me yet. I think they intend to conscript me here and try to keep me in this portion of the army. If they do, I will show them the bottom of my foot for Dick [Pentecost] preferred damn lies and I can prove them so all things are right in war.

I hope I will live to see the end of this war. They outrank me now. They won’t outrank me when this war is settled, God damn their infernal souls — as Old Flannigan says, “If God will allow me to use such language.”

When last spring was a year ago, I done all I could for them [and] this is the thanks I get. God damn them in everlasting hell. This is about all I have to write at this time. I hope I will see you both soon. I haven’t heard from my case yet. I think it won’t be ling till there will something done. If Capt. Marlow will do what I requested him to do, I want you both to write to me as soon as you get this for I don’t expect to stay in infantry service any longer than I hear from my case and I had rather be with you as I haven’t nary brother in service. You both feel nearer to me than any connection that I have got in service and I am going to come there if I can get there. And if I can’t get there on fair terms, I can get there on rough ones.

All the news that I get from home is favorable as to wheat crops and they are as good here as I ever saw in my life. We have the driest May here that I ever saw. It hasn’t rained but one time enough to wet a man’s shirt but one time and that was yesterday. So no more at present but remain your affectionate brother until death, — Lt. G. L. Wood

To Wm. M. Wills & Cicero Wills

[on envelope — G. L. Wood, Co. F, 38th Tennessee Regt.]

¹ “Hell to pay and no pitch hot” was a popular phrase prior to the Civil War. It meant a “fouled-up situation” or bad predicament. It was originally a nautical term referring to a bad leak in a boat when there was no hot pitch to patch it with.


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