This letter was written by Lester Bishop Filley (1829-1887), the son of Lester Filley (1791-1859) and Corinthia Twinning (1793-1838) of Massachusetts. In the 1860 U.S. Census, Lester and his wife Hila A. Corey (1837-1911) are enumerated as residents of Macoupin County, Illinois. Lester and Hila were married on 26 March 1854 in Jerseyville, Illinois. Their children (in 1860) were Cora (b. 1855) and Dora (b. 1859). By June 1862, when this letter was written, another daughter — named Elizabeth (“Libbie”) — had been born.
At age 33, Lester enlisted in Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry on 22 March 1863. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as standing 5’4″ tall, with dark hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion. His occupation was recorded as “merchant.” Lester served with the 61st Illinois from 5 February 1862 until he was discharged for disability on 22 March 1863 (another source says 2 May 1864).
To read Filley’s account of the Battle of Shiloh, see Lester B. Filley.
June 13, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I am better now. I was sick, very sick, when I last wrote you. I was then on Owl Creek. Last Sunday I was brought here on a bed in an ambulance. I have gained slowly till yesterday I had a set back — puking & purging run – run me down. I was crazy for a few hours but Capt. [John Henry] Reddish — who has done for me all he could — put [a] mustard plaster on my bowels and brought me out. I am better now but weak. Can not sit up long at a time or walk.
The regiment has just received orders to take 4 days rations in their haversacks and march tomorrow. we don’t know where. I shall go if they can take me in the ambulance. If not, shall remain here till they send for me. I will not go into a army hospital but will follow the regiment or they must send me home. It is supposed we are going to Jackson, Tennessee to summer. If so, I shall ask for a furlough as soon as I think I can get one.
I have not had a letter from you since the one about Wick Post. When shall I get another? Write often. Direct thus: L. B. Filley, 61st Ills. Vol, in the field, Tennesee. I will write as often as I can but as long as I am as weak as I have been for the last week, it will not be often.
We have very pleasant weather — very cold nights. I sleep under two blankets and have suffered some nights at that. The days are hot but I have seen no very hot days yet likeIllinois hot. If I was well and could get out & visit the Secesh friends here, get some milk, bread, & fish a little, I could enjoy myself. But I have to stay in quarters now for over two weeks.
How comes on the baby? Write all about her. Also Baby No. 2 — Dora. I suppose I must not call her baby now. What would I give to see her. Tell her Pa loves her down in Tennessee. And Cora, how much pleasure it will give me when I come home to have sit by my side and read to me. I hope she has got so she can read anything by this time. I know she goes to school every day. I hope she learns fast, minds her teacher, and is a good girl.
Now wife, how are you getting along? Hard enough, I suppose. Oh that we could once more be happy. Will that day ever come? I have the blues often even in this far off land.
Did you get the $60 I sent by Express to John T. Williams. I have not received the balance that is due me yet and no prospect of do so at present. I will send more as fast as I get it. Now write. Write often and long.
Kiss the girls for me. Accept a big one for yourself. I am too weak to write more. Goodbye, — Lester