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31 The enthusiastic recruits from southwestern Michigan were spoiling for a fight,but their first battle pitted them against a ruthless enemy that offered no path to glory: disease. Ignorance and negligence of the need for sanitary living conditions were rampant in CivilWar armies,particularly early in the war,and triggered disastrous consequences. Units that hailed from lightly populated areas often suffered epidemics of diseases such as measles and smallpox early on—sometimes just after the soldiers deployed.Such was the miserable case of the 11th Michigan. James King would remember the long weeks at Bardstown as“one of the darkest spots in our soldier life,” grimly noting that“we received rations and coffins in the same wagon-load from the village.” Before they even met the enemy, the Wolverines faced death on a frightful scale.1 Just days after settling down at Camp Stoughton, the ailing regiment would be ordered into isolation at Camp Morton—a name that would soon become synonymous with disease and suffering. —————— Camp Stoughton, four miles south of Bardstown, Kentucky, January 2, 1862 Dearest Jenny, ’tis nearly midnight and I am seated in my captain’s tent watching by the cot of my second lieutenant,who is very sick with the measles.2 My thoughts wander tonight. I cannot keep them with me.All without is dark C h a p t e r 2 Rations and Coffins January –April 1862 R Rather would I fall on a battlefield than end my life in a hospital. 32 · Conspicuous Gallantry and dreary. The rain falls in torrents. The winds have a pitiful moan.’Tis such a night as will set one to thinking, if they ever had a thought in all their lives. My mind has wandered back to my early life,when I sported,a free and careless child.When all was sunshine,not even a passing cloud marred my childish joys. Those were halcyon days, never to be forgotten. But dear Jenny, the happiest day I ever saw was when you told me you loved me. Never shall I forget that. Your likeness now lies before me. Dear Jenny you cannot imagine the pleasure it has given to possess a thing so dear. Could I but see the original and clasp you in my arms as I did at our last parting.But dear Jenny it will be many long months, aye; perhaps years before that fond hope can be realized. But as long, dear Jenny, as there is a traitorous hand uplifted, I shall be found at my post.Oh,will it not be sweet,when war’s alarms are o’er,to return to home and friends. You said my letters were doubly dear to you. Just imagine Jenny how dear a missive is from you.There you are at home surrounded by friends.Here I am in the crowded tent without friends. I said without friends, no that is not so Jenny, all are my friends, [but] after all they are not the friends at home. I was pleased to hear that you were having fine times and enjoying your school. Also, that you and sister had attended the school at Three Rivers with uncle.3 I know you must have had a good time. I think after you get acquainted with him, you will like him very much. I suppose you are not quite as backward Rations and Coffins · 33 about going to father as you used to be. I hope you go often. I know you are a welcome visitor. It is very pleasant country round our camp, and no danger from secessionists. I am now acting as company clerk again, Holbrook having received the appointment of brigadier general’s clerk. I cannot write any more at present, so goodbye dear Jenny and remember me as ever yours. James. LetnooneelseseethisasIintendeditforonlyyou—therestof theboysarewell. Camp Morton, near Bardstown, Kentucky, January 12, 1862 Dear Jenny, ’Tis Sunday and I am seated in the capt.’s tent penning this epistle to you. I have written 2 or three times since I received any answer from you, and begin to wonder why you do not write. I am sure you have written before this time. Probably I write too often; though ’tis the same with those at home. I have had only one from home when I have written several. It is very discouraging to us soldiers to write five or six letters a week and only receive 1, or perhaps not any, in...


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