This letter was written by Pvt. William Gibson (1833-1902) of Co. F, 103rd Illinois Infantry. William was the son of William Gibson (1800-1863) and Hopey Miller (1800-1895) of Beaver county, Pennsylvania. He was married in 1854 to Rebecca Douglass (1829-1915) and resided in Canton, Fulton county, Illinois, where he settled in 1856 and earned a living as a carpenter and a farmer.
William was mustered into the 103rd Illinois on 2 October 1862 and remained with the regiment until they were mustered out at Nashville in June 1865. When William wrote this letter to his wife in October 1863, the regiment had just traveled from Vicksburg to Memphis and were about to go overland to Chattanooga where they would later in the year participate in the attack on Goat Hill at the north end of Missionary Ridge. After wintering in Cleveland, Tennessee, they joined Sherman in his march to the sea.
Addressed to Mrs. Rebecca Gibson, Canton, Fulton county, Illinois
Postmarked Memphis, Tennessee
October 10th 1863
It is now 9 o’clock at night and I will try and write you a few lines. We left our old camp at Black river the 28th of September and arrived at Vicksburg the next day about noon and commenced loading onto the boat and by next morning, all was ready to start — and by 9 o’clock we were steaming up the Mississippi river — and by the next day we landed at Griffin’s Landing [Humphreys county, Mississippi] 100 and fifty miles above Vicksburg. Here we stopped 4 or 5 days hauling wood to the river for the fleet and we done some foraging. We had plenty of fresh meat and sweet potatoes. The boat we were on did not run at night.
When we got to Helena [Arkansas], the water was too shallow on the bar for our boat to get over. We stopped at Helena 2 days and got another boat and put part of the load on it and the men all got ashore and walked around the bar and the boat finally got over and this evening at 4 o’clock we landed at Memphis and the order is that we start for Corinth tomorrow morning. We will go by railroad. We will go no further than Corinth or such is the talk.
We have had quite a tedious time coming up the river. We were ten days on the boat but the men stood it first rate. Some that were quite sick when we left Vicksburg have got well. There was one man died on the boat — he was a member ¹ of Co. I of our regiment. And one man in the 40th Illinois died the same evening. ² They were both buried at Helena. The 103rd and 40th Illinois Regiments were both on the boat and it was very much crowded.
My health is very good. When I will get home is more than I can tell at present. The furloughs will be stopped until we are settled again. I have not had a letter from you for some time or from anyone else and I feel anxious to hear from you. We got a large mail this evening after we came here but there was no letter for me. I will close for the present and as soon as we stop, I will write and give you the particulars.
I remain your affectionate husband, — William Gibson
¹ Pvt. Andrew Patterson of Co. I, 103rd Illinois Infantry died on 7 October 1863. He was from Pleasant, Illinois.
² Pvt. Marcus Johnson of Co. A, 40th Illinois Infantry, died on 8 October 1863 at Helena, Arkansas.