This letter was written by Robert M. Campbell (1839-1902), the son of Mungo Dick Campbell (1809-1894) and Mary Ann Mabon (1816-1894) of Monmouth, Warren County, Illinois. Robert enlisted in Co. F, 17th Illinois Infantry as a corporal in May 1861. He was with the regiment in the battles at Forts Henry and Donelson, at Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth. He was promoted to sergeant for meritorious service at Fort Donelson and was promoted again to Color Sergeant of the regiment in late March 1863.
In August 1863, he was recommended for appointment and commissioned Captain of Co. F, 8th Louisiana (African Descent) which was reorganized and made part of the 47th USCT in March 1864. He was wounded in the left foot in the Battle of Yazoo City in March 1864 and in the siege and capture of Fort Blakely in April 1865. After the cessation of hostilities, Campbell was Provost Marshal in Alexandria, Louisiana until mustered out January 5, 1866, after almost five years of continuous active service.
Following the war, Robert resided in Peoria, Illinois and was the Assistant Postmaster of that City for eighteen years. He was married to Miss Effie G. Babcock, 30 November 1871. Campbell was active in the GAR and died in Peoria in 1932.
Robert wrote the letter to his sister, Margaret Elizabeth Campbell (1846-1936. She never married and is buried in Little York, Warren County, Illinois. Robert’s older brother, James Shield Campbell (1836-1863), served in the Civil War also. He was mustered in as orderly sergeant of Co. C, 83rd Illinois Infantry in July 1862. While stationed at Fort Donelson in February 1863, nine companies of this regiment together with Company “C,” 2d Illinois Light Artillery, and one company of Cavalry, were attacked by the combined forces of Confederate General Forrest and Wheeler, numbering 5,000 men. The battle lasted from 1:00 P. M. to 8:00 P. M., when the enemy was compelled to retire with the loss of some 800 killed and wounded. Early in the engagement, Company “C” to which Campbell was First Sergeant, was ordered to support a piece of artillery and in changing position, Campbell was shot through the breast and killed instantly.
Camp 8th Louisiana Regt. of A. D. [African Descent]
Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana
October 11th 1863
Miss Maggie E. Campbell
I was agreeably surprised yesterday morning when Charles Emery, Lieut. commanding the artillery at this place came to my tent and handed me a letter telling me that a “Mr. Smith” from our town had handed it to him as the boat stopped the night before. I was very sorry he did not stop and stay awhile but Emery told me Mrs. Smith was with him and that Mr. Smith was going home on the next boat going up the river. I hope he will stop with me as he goes up. I have some little things I would like to send home with him but as only a few of the boats stop here and the landing is below our camp, do not expect to see him.
Your letter was the first I had received for some time. We are getting in a manner no mail at all but I must be careful about complaining about other people not writing when I have not written a letter for a week. But it was because I have been so busy for the last week. I could not get anytime to write letters. To give you a little idea of what we have been doing, I will commence and give you a few items of what we have done commencing with Monday 5th — Company drill in morning; Battalion drill in afternoon. Made out Returns of Deceased Soldiers for the last Quarter ending September 30th.
Tuesday 6th — Drew new tents for the men and took down the old tents, cleaned off, came and had to show the boys how to fix up their new tents. We drew “wedge tents” ( “Λ”) and had lumber enough to raise the tents two feet from the ground and board them up.
Wednesday 7th — Cleaned up quarters and had a review by Brig. Gen. Jas. L. Kiernan, commander of this post. ¹ Thursday 8th — Moved the officer’s tents and cleaned up camp in good shape, had inspection of arms at 4 P.M. I received an order for the Gen’l ordering me as one of a “Board of Survey” to examine certain boxes of clothing received from our quartermaster which had been opened and some of the articles stolen. We counted some of the boxes that evening.
Friday 9th — We met and examined the remainder of the goods and drew clothing for the men and issue it to them. Saturday — The Lieutenant’s both on duty and I not having time to drill the company, it did not go out at drill call. The Col. [Hiram Scofield] came round and gave me his compliments in language not contained in the English Grammar, and ordered the sergeants to take the men out and drill for two hours. I just let him blow till he got cool. Then he went off and the company went out and drilled. I have had such an awful bad cold and cough all week I could not drill anything. But still I am busy every day — have writing enough now to keep me all the spare time I get for two weeks.
Sabbath (today) had company inspection at 10, inspection of quarters at 2. The Col. [Scofield] complimented me for having the company and quarters in good shape, clean and neat. The mother of one of my company came in today and brought in a little White girl about 8 years of age. She wanted to come in to see me (I was at their house one day). She is a smart little girl. Her parents are poor and she has not had that treatment and learning little girls of the North receive. She was great company for us today. Several of the officers had her round buying candy &c. for her. She stayed and ate dinner with us.
Children of the North do not have any idea of the advantages they have over those of the South — especially the poor class. I have been around through all this section of country and have not saw a single school house in the parish except at Lake Providence. There is one old dilapidated house and save the three churches in Providence, have only saw one church and it is 4 miles west of “Bayou Macon” — about 25 miles from here and in the heart of a vast, wild, almost deserted country now and is open and [in] fact, going to ruin.
The rich planters either send all their children away some place North or to some town to school them or hire some Northern man or Northern school marm to teach them at home and the poor — for want of “common schools” — have to let their children grow up the same as the Negroes without an education, save what they can pick up. Such has been the custom for years in this great Southern country where cotton has been King for so long, but where U. S. Grant is now on the throne and the once downtrodden African now halts his subdued master and escorts him through to headquarters (when he wants to get protection for his little remaining property) with a file of bayonets. Mag, I think you could get a subject for an essay, but perhaps such a subject would offend some of your Southern Sympathizing students (not friends).
Well, now it is 10 P.M. and I am coughing so I can scarcely write so I will halt for tonight. Good night, — Bob
Monday morn. 6 A.M. before breakfast, Oct 12.
Well Al Crawford ² has got a commission has he. I think it is injurious to the Colored service to give civilians command of a company, for there is no man that has never been a soldier himself that can command a company as well as an old soldier for he has to learn himself, then learn the men. I know good soldiers could be procured to command all the Negroes in the U.S. and if a commission is valuable to anyone who in the name of common sense should be rewarded if not the soldiery. Now ain’t that so.
I had a long letter from Warry Runge a few days ago. Have not answered it yet but will soon. Breakfast ready.
You got the blue ribbon at the fair? Who made the quilt? Tell Libb I’ll answer her letter soon. Got the pen alright but have got used to steel pens now and use them. I think the young folks (don’t know as that is proper — to call them all young) are doing a good business marrying. I guess all my friends and acquaintances will be married when I get home. But it’s all right. I am happy I have no one waiting for me now.
Well, I must close this and go to work. Have plenty to do all week. Can’t John write? Excuse this huge sheet and poor writing and answer soon. My love to all the girls and compliments to everyone with much love for all.
I remain your affectionate brother, — Robt. M. Campbell, Capt. 8th U.S.Colored Regt. of Louisiana
P. S. I think my cough is some better today but it is pretty bad yet. — Bob
¹ James Lawler Kiernan (1837-1869) served as a surgeon with the 69th New York Militia at the Battle of First Bull Run, then Surgeon with the 6th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. He was severely wounded at the Battle at Port Gibson in Mississippi and left for dead in a swamp. He was captured but Confederate troops, but escaped. He was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers by President Abraham Lincoln on August 1, 1863 and put in charge of the post at Milliken’s Bend. but resigned on February 3, 1864 because of poor health. After the war he was appointed United States Consular to China.
² Albert Galloway Crawford (1835-18xx), the son of James Constance Crawford (1806-1895) and Esther Sloan (1810-1882), graduated from Monmouth College in 1861. He taught school after graduation but resigned to enter the army. After going to Cincinnati and taking the examination for a commission in the Volunteer Army, he was appointed Captain of Co. H, 4th USCT. He was wounded in the left thigh near Petersburg on 10 July 1864 and taken to a hospital at Annapolis, Md. He was furloughed and later given a disability discharge.
Oct. 23, 1865, he was married to Mary Burroughs of Monmouth. In the same year he was elected County Surveyor of Warren County, which position he resigned to go to Clinton, Missouri. He held several county offices at Clinton at different times, and also held a position as civil engineer various railroads. He died at his father’s home near Clinton, Missouri, June 14, 1878, at the age of 42 leaving besides his wife, two young daughters.