Will Fisher to his cousin Julia
Elk River, aka Estill Springs, Tennessee
January 17, 1864

Cousin Julia,

Your very welcome favor of the second of Jan. was received three days since, and owing to the fact that you follow my example so persistently, I shall give you one which I shall be pleased to have you follow.
It is Sunday night, but you nor no one else could detect anything to apprise you of the fact, nor has there been anything throughout the whole day to make anyone aware of the fact, and I am ashamed to tell it, but I helped to make a lot of fried cakes this morning before I was conscious of it. We have made a good many of them lately and this morning as there was none on hand, we made some.
The only way that I keep posted on the day of the week is by my writing so much, and if from any cause I omit a day or two I soon loose the day of the week and month. I will venture to say that one-half of the men in the army do not hardly realize the day of the month or week.
But you may like to know how I make my fried cakes or “cookies," if so, I will give you my recipe. 1st take about ten lb of bacon that is so greasy that a lump of it as big as a hen’s egg will fry out as much grease as will fill a two gill cup. Well, take your bacon and fry out enough grease to fry the cakes in and then mix the dough with cold water, sweeten with sugar, and shorten with this same grease and fry them as usual. They are excellent. I wish you could try them. I have also gone so far too, since we began to get flour rations, as to make biscuit and pies too, out of dried apples. Our rations at present are very good and we know how to appreciate a little season of good living for we have had experience in all kinds.
I support you are aware that we have moved our camp since I last wrote. I tell you we had a splendid time while at old Bridgeport and we have so far here. It seemed like leaving home when we left there, but I guess we will get attached to this place too, have, in fact, already.
This is a splendid place and is said to be very healthy. The railroad bridge crosses Elk River at this place and this is what we have to guard. There has to be troops at every bridge and station on the whole line of the railroad. If there was not the bushwhackers would destroy them as fast as they could build them.
The guerrillas are quite annoying in this section. One of our men was shot by one of these sneaking whelps the other day while out on scouting expedition. The villain was in an old shed at a place called Winchester Springs some eight miles from here. The party were stopping there for the night and this man with two two or three others were posted for pickets like, and this one was posted in an old shed and it happened that the fellow was secreted in the same building. Well the man that was shot took a seat upon the sill of the only door there was to the building and the guerrilla saw that he could not get out till morning and would be seen when it became light so he crept up behind him and shot him through the heart killing him instantly, and then ran for dear life. This gave the alarm & of course it was soon seen what was done and let me tell you that in those fifty faces was depicted fearful revenge. The Lieut. Col. who is the pet of the regt. and was in command of the party said if they could catch him they might do with him as they pleased, and if he had not escaped his cowardly remains would at this moment be dangling from the oak trees in the rear of our camp or lying unburied with the fatal effects of a volley of musketry plainly visible upon his bared breast, fit food for the hungry vultures or turkey buzzards. A warning to all guerrillas not to rouse the revenge of the old 123rd. The man’s name was Nathan Lamsshier of Co. A (the Greenwich).
We have arrested all the male citizens for some distance around and they have been tried but nothing can be proved against them for they are all farmers by day and warriors by night and no punishment can be put upon them without punishing them all and then the innocent have to suffer with guilty.
The man who shot this fellow lost his hat and gun nearby so that they have identified him. His father lives near here and has a splendid place and owns a mill near it. I understand they have decided to confiscate his property and give $10,000 to his folks and burn his house and everything belonging to him. Very severe punishment indeed but none too much.
But I will stop till tomorrow night and perhaps I can think of something more interesting to you.
Monday Jan 18th
I will again resume this epistle.
It is not such a day as yesterday was. Cold, stormy, kind of a drizzling rain falling which makes it very unpleasant for those obliged to be out but it is kind of pleasant for me to be sitting here by the fire, but who knows but what the next time I go on duty it will be just as pleasant as it is for those who now are suffering. It is all chance. We have to go on just when we are detailed rain or shine.
Our regt. has received some addition to its numbers recently from the 145 NY Vols. That regt. has been consolidated and two companies put into this regt. We have none in our company, though. The regt. was raised in New York City and was a pretty hard regt. Although I believe they have performed pretty well in time of battle. In fact there is not so much difference in troops about fighting as persons are apt to think. Americans are all good fighters and where there is any misconduct in such times, it is owing to the officers as much as anything else.
There is no one but what fears in time of battle, but the consolation of doing his duty over balances that fear and he goes in coolly. And again, there are men who seem not to be able to overcome this fear and such cases I think it is certainly cruel to force them into action. I have seen men who, when the skirmishers got to cracking pretty sharp and when we begin to advance to the attack would actually faint away and become insensible. I suppose I have always been as scared as anyone, but I am thankful that I have always been able to overcome that fear which is so strong with some.
Oh, I shall never forget that fearful day at Gettysburg on the third of July and, in fact, the first and second too. But the third was the most impressive of all. On the second when we are all waiting in breathless anxiety for the dread work to commence, but nothing happened till about four o’clock and we were beginning to think that another sunset was ours at least, but ere long the skirmishers began to crack quite fiercely and dense masses of gleaming bayonets were seen massing upon our left centre and soon on they came across the open space which intervened and as they came on you could hear them say it was the “green militia” behind that stone wall. But as our skirmishers gave away and finally were called in entirely, then nothing remained but to wait till they were within effective range before firing. The entire Corps of Longstreet & A. P. Hill were hurled upon this point of our lines. Our men lay behind kind of a wreck of what was once a stone wall and some fifty or sixty pieces of artillery were in position charged nearly to their muzzles with grape shot, canister shrapnel, spherical case, and solid shot. But the enemy at least gets up near enough and instantaneously comes a crash that fairly rends the heavens and at least one thousand human beings are before their Maker, and from one end of the line to the other runs the cry “My God it is the weather beaten faces of the Army of the Potomac!” And then for two long hours the continuous peals of musketry and artillery rolled the whole length of the line like the loudest peels of thunder.
But I’m longer than I meant to be. Answer soon and in my next I will describe the third day fight and the different kinds of shot used at the present time. You don’t know how much I would like to make a visit among you. I want very much to see those youngsters you have there. Tell Johnny he must not forget me. I am afraid I shall be forgotten by all my little acquaintances before I get home. I think I could get home this winter if I should try hard, but I don’t think I shall. Give my love to Aunt M. & Uncle N. & all the rest, while I am as ever your loving cousin.

Will Fisher

I wish to thank Uncle N. very kindly for his present to me in those paper & envelopes. And will you excuse this very badly written and dirtied sheet.