Will Fisher to his brother
In camp at Elk River, Tennessee
February 7th, 1864

My dear Bro,

You really don’t know how gratified I was day before yesterday to receive that inestimable letter from you. I was very thankful to get it but thought that “laziness” was rather a cool excuse to offer for such a long silence. Please don’t forget this lecture for upon a repetition of the offense you will get a more severe reprimand than you did this time. I would thank you too, for writing such a long one.
Well, on the first place I suppose I must tell you where we are. we are at Elk River or Estill Springs, so called from the fact that there are some mineral springs near by which are very strongly impregnated with sulphur. You can smell them ten rods distant. There is quite an extensive railroad bridge across the river which we have to guard. It is a splendid location and said to be very healthy. It is very much infested with guerrillas or bushwhackers as we call them. There was a man from Co. A shot a short time ago while out on scout. The guerrilla was concealed in an old shed near by in which the fellow was posted on picket for the night. The sneak had no way to escape only by the door where the sentinel stood and fearing to stay where he was he shot the fellow and ran for his life. He lost his hat and gun near by while crossing a ditch, which were recognized by the negroes who were acquainted with him. He was not caught and well it was for him that he escaped for if one had got our hands upon him he would long ere this have been food for some hungry vulture or turkey buzzard.
There is no safety in sauntering two or three miles from camp without being well armed for they will pounce upon him like a cat upon a mouse.
We are in the most comfortable circumstances we have ever been since we have in the service. We have the best of quarters, nice little shanties about ten feet long, eight wide and six feet high, with four and five men in a shanty. There was a large brick factory near which we tore down to make fire places and chimneys. We are just as comfortable as we could wish, to be sure there are innumerable little home comforts which we are deprived of. After the novelty of a soldiers life wears off, he is well satisfied with the accommodations we have here.
After the expiration of six months or at least a good hearty campaign, he is contented most anywhere, only those who came from some sense of duty are contented anywhere. Those who came to satisfy a mere curiosity or for any pecuniary benefit are soon discouraged and sick of it, and begin to work their way into the hospitals and berths which are “non combatant,” and finally get out of the service by some means. The strength of a regt. or troop in time of battle can never be relied upon until the “shysters” are all culled out.
In your letter you seemed to think we had a rather curious idea of conscripting, but I think my views are near right, but understand I don’t believe in forcing every one into the army by any means, but what I don’t like is the idea of a class of men at the North who are all the time fighting against any draft when it is necessary to fill the torn and thinned ranks of our army and who in fact are opposing every act of the administration. I am glad to know that in every state except New Jersey the supporters of the administration were in the majority and largely too.
I know war is not at all desirable, but if there is anything that I can despise it is the Copperheads and Peace Democrats who are all the time whining, picking and finding fault with everything that is done which has a tendency to close the war. I tell you John, it is not peace they want nor anything else which will be beneficial to the country. No sir, they are rank, low, unprincipled traitors who don’t care if the country to which they are indebted for all goes to rack and ruin or not, if they can only fill their cursed pockets. I don’t remember exactly what I did write about, but I think that it was such men as these that I spoke of.
I greatly prefer volunteering to conscripting, but if they will not do the former they must suffer the latter. You will, I think, admit that the worse error of the administration has been in the past in not bringing troops enough at one time to the field. It has been the policy thus far to call out a hand full at a time, and when they were used up to call more. Now the question arises, would the country at large suffer any greater inconvenience to furnish all at one time than the old way? Yet these eternal yelpers commence their usual cry that the president must be crazy, and what in the world can he be going to do with so many, even when he only calls for three hundred thousand, and in less than six months after the troops get into the field they will turn around “blow away” right the contrary.
I for one, wish that Mr. Lincoln would at once call out a million men and the resources of the country are such that we could provide for them – and with them I think we could just whip “John Reb” so next spring that he would never recover. I believe that that number could be raised at North without seriously discommoding affairs. I wish there could be some way of doing the business right and satisfying all, but I am aware that it cannot be done, so I hope it will be done as near right as possible.
Well John, I guess I have said enough on this subject, so that you can understand my views on the matter. I can’t hardly say whether we will go to the front in the spring or not. I think it not at all improbable that we will, and our places taken by colored troops.
It will be like tearing upon old sores to commence fighting and marching, but I suppose that we ought to be proud of a chance to win laurels that will never fade. I like the laurels very well but of course would much rather avoid the many hardships necessary to obtain them. I tell you when you come to lug a knapsack around on half rations (which is usually the case in this dept.) and suffering almost every hardship possible I say there is more prose than poetry about it.
This Tenn. is a great old state. I would not give our place at dear old Cambridge for the whole state. But I suppose I am rather prejudiced against it for there are some very fine sections. The soil is red looking, just like the red colored earth in railroad cuts of New Jersey.
The people here, as well as in all other war torn states are in a very deplorable condition. They are reduced to the lowest extremity. They are quite degraded. All use tobacco in every form. They even chew snuff. They are nearly starved for salt, coffee, and tobacco. There are not one out of ten but would sell her honor for a little of either of the above articles. Surely southern aristocracy is at a heavy discount.
Lem Skinner went to Nashville the 5th for examination before a board appointed to examine applicants for commissions in colored troops. He returned tonight. He does not know whether he succeeded or not. If he did he will be sent for as soon as they want him. I shall certainly feel lonely for awhile, for then all my particular friends will be gone: Ab, Jim and Lem. Ab Is a permanent cripple, he is at home now.
Well I saw John N. Culver awhile ago. He was going home to recruit in Ill. I see Charlie occasionally too. He is a capt. in the 105 Ill. and John is sergeant in the 10th. They say Jim Skinner has gone west to seek his fortune. Hope he will find it.
Have had some very interesting letters lately from Minnie L., Lib and others. I wrote to Uncle Taggart’s people a day or two since.
Alex Skellie I suppose carried off my Nancy Arnott, couldn’t wait for me.
Mother says that our dear Aunt is failing slowly, getting childish. Afraid I shall not see her again.
I am thinking it would be difficult getting a furlough at the season you speak of. About the same as I did when you were married.
But I must close as I intend enclosing something to Laurie. Now John, don’t wait so long another time.
Rev. Mr. Lawrence of Putnam is with us now. All of the Putnam boys are well. L. and all friends send respects. Give mine to Flora.

Your own brother,