7 March 1862: “A great many bodies have been taken up and still the woods are thick with groups of graves with rudely carved boards for tombstones to show where their last remains repose.”

Item description: Letter, 7 March 1862, from Robert Stuart Finley to his fiancee, Mary A. Cabeen. Finley was a member of the 30th Illinois Infantry, a Union regiment engaged in the siege and taking of Fort Donelson on the 13th, 14th and 15th February 1862.

[Transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From the Robert Stuart Finley papers #3685-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

[Miss M.A. Cabeen
Sunbeam, Illinois]

Fort Donelson Tenn.
March 7th 1862,

Friend Mollie,

Your kind letter came to hand a few days ago and found us up here in quiet occupation of this strong hold which cost so much toil and bloodshed for our troops to obtain.

I arrived here from Cairo in charge of the Quartermasters stores soon after the battle and we are here yet.

I have visited the battle grounds and it is a sight well worth visiting. But while we rejoice over the grand victory it is sad to think that it cost the lives of many of our best soldiers, alas that my dear friend N. R. Kirkpatrick should be counted in the number. But so it was – he fell while at his post leading the Regt. against an attack of the rebels and in defence of the glorious flag of our national Union. Surely the ways of Providence are mysterious, but it is He who doeth all things well and we must not murmur at these strange dispensations. He was we have good reason to believe a sincere Christian, and as such we have hope in his death. Blessed be the Holy religion of Jesus which affords us such strong consolation in the death of our friends. Many of our boys have been sick but they are generally getting better.

Robt [?] came out of the Hospital yesterday. Wilson Dryden was very sick yesterday but is better to day.

It has been very rough weather here for several days until to day it is warm and pleasant and I think we will all feel the better of it. There have been plenty of visitors here from every part of the country. There were some here yesterday from Pittsburg Pa.

Every thing that can be picked up on the battle ground is carried off as a precious relic.

Most of the soldiers have left here for other points and I expect we may leave in a week or two. I suppose you have seen ere this our brave boys who were wounded in the fight. I saw the Rev Nash at Cairo. Kirkpatricks friends were here from Bloomington and have taken his body home with them. A great many bodies have been taken up and still the woods are thick with groups of graves with rudely carved boards for tombstones to show where their last remains repose. “Peace to their ashes.” & may the clamor of war & the clash of opposing arms never again disturb their repose. They died in a glorious cause and I trust they may meet with and enjoy a glorious reward.

People come in here from the country every day look round a while then go to the General take the oath and get a pass out of the lines to return home.

Some of them come in on wagons 30 & 40 miles & bring corn meal & butter and eggs which they trade for coffee with the soldiers. One wagon even had a barrel of sour-krout and sold it out briskly at 10cts a plate full. Eggs are 25cts pr doz and butter 30cts a pound. Pretty dear for the “sunny South.”

But I must close. We don’t get mail here more than twice a week and don’t hear much news from home. I heard the other day that you were going to get married but I didn’t believe it. If you do let me know so that I will not be writing to Miss Mollie when it is Mrs. Somebody.

Please write soon as your letters are always acceptable and give me the news from Pope Creek &c Directo to Cairo as that will be our post office for a while yet.

& believe me Yours Truly
R.S. Finley
30th Regt. Ills. Vols.

Mary Ann Cabeen

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