A Union soldier, and writer of the
William S. Craig did not mind life in the 116th Illinois Infantry regiments, but, he wrote his wife, he didn't like what it was doing to many of his fellow soldiers. It was thoughts of his family kept him from following their path:
"This rebellion will be the ruination of thousands of men. They have become hardened to everything. Neither cares for God nor man and I among the rest but I still feel for my fellow man. I have not forgotten the kind words and sweet invitation that has been offered to me even from my loving wife. Still I have become hardened more than ever I did in my life. Still I am a believer of everything that is good."
The writer of the letters, William Samuel Craig, was born in Nicholas County, Kentucky on January 8, 1832. He is my great-grandfather. His family moved to McLean County, Illinois when he was around 15 years old. After 1852, he went to the state of Missouri where he married Levica Payne on July 11, 1858. They raised a family of three children.
During an economical panic soon after his marriage, William Samuel Craig was said to have done farm labor four miles from his home for $10 a month which supported he and his wife, but only by strict budgeting.
He enrolled in the Illinois Infantry Volunteers on August 11, 1862 at Cheny's Grove and was mustered in on September 6, 1862 at Decatur, Illinois as a private in Captain Bishop's Company, 116 Reg't Ill.Inf. which subsequently became Co. F, 116 Reg't Ill.Inf. From the original records received from the National Archives Trust Fund in Washington, D.C., I was able to track William Samuel Craig's military facts. For instance, on the Company Muster Roll for October 31, 1862 he was reported absent and "sick and on furlough seven days." Again on the Muster Roll for September and October, 1864, he was "absent on furlough of 30 days from East Point, GA." There were many others, of course, but one of the most interesting to me was the one which said he was mustered out in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 1865 which ties in with the last letter he wrote to his wife.
There was also a Company Descriptive Book which gave this personal information on him: He was 5' 6" tall, dark complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, born Nickolas (sic) Co., Ky., and was a farmer by occupation.
On June 19, 1880, he applied for "Original Invalid Pension" and further states that while in the service and "in the line of duty at Vicksburg, Mississippi on or about the tenth day of June 1863" he received two gunshot wounds, one in his right leg 4" below the knee joint, and the other in the right hip. On or about the 28th day of July 1864, he was again wounded in the Battle at Atlanta, Georgia with gunshot wounds in his left shoulder, the bullet striking him in front and passing over his shoulder cutting some of his [unreadable part of record]. He was wounded the third time on August 18, 1864 by a gunshot wound into his right eye at Atlanta, Georgia.
On November 29, 1909, he was in the National Military Home in Leavenworth County, Kansas. On March 13, 1913, William Samuel Craig died in Norborne, Missouri. He was laid to rest beside his wife in the "Old Stemple Cemetery" and on April 13 dropped from pension records.
As I read through the letters from the earliest date to the latest, I came to know about a young man very much in love with his young wife, and that leaving her and his infant son had been heart-wrenching.
He tells her he doesn't join in the activities of the other soldiers during their free times, and how heart-broken he feels as he witnesses the massacres of war. The tone of his letters begin to change as the war rages on and the hardening of his attitude becomes most obvious when in one of the letters he speaks of the creek flowing with blood and how he now seems to enjoy killing the enemy.
A fact kept hidden for many years by his sons and his daughter is that their once very religious father at some point became an alcoholic in his attempts to flush the horrors from his mind. Many years later, he did "take the cure" and never, so I was told, took another drop of any alcoholic beverage.