Will Fisher to his mother
Elk River, Tennessee
Friday, January 29, 1864

My own dear Mother,

It seems but last night that I was writing to you, but upon second thought, I find that two or three days have elapsed and during that time I have been blessed with the most fruitful mails, receiving a most dear good letter from you, of the 13th and 15th insts. Also one from Libbie Sherman which done me much good to receive. Two sheets well filled and one from my old and bosom friend Shiland. It does me much good to hear from him, he has always seemed to be such a true friend. He is decidedly my favorite of all the young acquaintances I ever formed and we are as free with each other to tell one another our faults as if we were nearer than we are.
He writes me that one of his New Year’s resolutions was that during the year ’64 not a drop of spirits shall pass his lips as a beverage. I was pained, some time ago, to hear a rumor that he was making quite a free use of the same, so I took him to do about it, telling him that it was reported here in camp that he not only got drunk but remained thus for three and four days at one time, prudently keeping the name from him. He replied that to the charge he is “not guilty” and to the specification of the charge, “not guilty” and challenges him or her to produce their proof. I think the source of it was Peter Ketchum wrote to John. One thing is certain, it did not, nor can anything else lessen that warm love and respect which the company has for him. Jim Sherman, Albert, Lem and I came out as particular friends. Now A. is gone, Jim is gone, and Lem with a prospect of going and I, the youngest, and to everybody seemingly the most likely to first quit the good race, and most durable soldier of the quartet.
While I think of it I mean to say that I appreciate your gifts of paper, but prefer to use the foolscap. You can easily see what such sheets as that last one would amount to in writing such a letter as this and besides I can’t bear to write on a sheet of paper that has been doubled up in an envelope. In writing a common letter to anyone where I wish to appear stylish I write on commercial note, to anyone else foolscap.
Well, Mother, it is rather lonesome here today. There is only three companies. Cos. A., B., E., F., G., H., K. are all gone. Co. B. and F. are doing duty on the other side of the river. The other five companies have gone off into Lincoln Co. to forage and hunt after a band of guerrillas.
It seems that there has been four soldiers murdered and the general has ordered that the county be taxed $40,000 and $10,000 paid to each deceased’s widow or parents. As they can’t get any money from them, they have to go into their country and take property to that amount such as sheep, cattle, horses, mules, hogs, and grain. They also have ordered to burn the house of every citizen known to harbor, or in any way aid, Rebels and guerrillas. This is a glorious good thing. There is nothing too severe for these fiendish mendicants.
It seems a good deal like the folks were all gone from home and I was there alone as in old times. Capt. Hall is in command of the three companies and the picket line has been drawn in and we are just running the concern now.
In your letter you asked me if I still wanted the soda, well I do. I had to get a half pound, had to pay 25 ct.
I didn’t exactly understand about the things you sent in Trip’s box. Did you say a box of Herricks Pills and a Waverley? I understood it so. His box has not arrived yet.
I want to tell you one thing about postage. You can send anything you want to by mail and five cents will pay on anything weighing less than four ounces and two cents extra for all over this.
I have seen several New Year’s Waverleys. I intend sending the first one I get hold of, with the favorite pieces marked out. There is certainly some of the best writing in it I have ever seen in any paper published in America. I liked the Rural New Yorker very well, but I don’t have any particular use for agriculture here.
I tell you what, I think you had not better get any paper until I get some money to send home. I have seen in the papers, some time ago, that the money had been remitted to pay Grant’s army, but perhaps we won’t be payed till March and then get four months pay.
I was on guard yesterday, did not get any sleep, had to be very strict, hold the men all in readiness to fall into the rifle pits all the time, if any alarm is given on the picket line. Gen. Slocum went by here today in the cars. The boys saw him coming as he was in the side door of a freight car and commenced cheering him and he, as he always does, took off his hat and bowed.
Col. Ross commanding our brigade, at present, was here today with his lady. She looked real good. I have not seen a lady before, from the North, since I came to this part of the country. It appeared to me that she was rather vain. Col. Ross is from the 20th Conn. Vols., one of the regts of our brigade. One of the companies of that regt. were badly whipped, a short time ago, in the mountains, by a band of guerrillas. Our boys intend getting the same band.
The other day, or night rather, there were a couple of ladies rode up to the picket line about 1 o’clock AM and inquired of the sentinel if he had seen anything of their cows. The sentinel, suspecting some game, did not dare to half them for fear they would blow his brains out before they would submit to arrest, that is, if they were rascals, they would do something desperate to get away, well knowing their doom if they were caught. The sentinel received a reprimand the next day for it when he reported to the Col. and a loyal women came in and reported that two men came to her house on that night and got their women’s disguise. So then it was known what the game was. This is rather dangerous business as they would have been hung as spies if they had been arrested.
Do you think I have improved any in writing since I came out? You may think that it is flattery but I am looked upon as having the best education of anyone in the company. I am “Webster’s Unabridged” in regard to spelling. You know I was a poor speller at home, but I think, if I set out, I can spell very well now. I have to write all the letters for some eight or nine men and some of those that can write get me to write letters for them and then they copy them when they want to write to strangers. I am surprised to see what spelling the mass of the folks make, and those that pretend to have considerable education too.
I think I will write to Aunt Taggart tonight although I have nearly forgotten the address but I guess it is 806 Race St., at least I shall let it go at that. I am afraid many will think I have nearly forgotten them. But I can’t write much in the summer and I have neglected it this winter till now.
Tell Henry Culver to keep the measure that he made those boots from for if ever I get another pair I want them exactly like them.
But I must close. My very best respects to all friends.
L. has had the diarrhea some lately but I believe he has got it stopped by the use of a tea made of the bark of the sweet gum tree. He sends love to Aunt Sarah and yourself and so do I, you very well know. Write very soon to your own dear boy.

Will G. Fisher