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Capt. John Stotts

of the the 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry

Writes his love back home

Contributed by By Mary Rogers

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The following letter was written by Captain Wilfred Stotts of the 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry to his love, Josephine Thompson. Josephine lived back in his hometown of Edinburgh, Indiana.

The letter shows little of the military goings-on, but does show the pangs of separation common to almost all military men.

Incidentally, Stotts and Josephine Thompson did not marry. She married Charles Pruitt in 1910.

The Letter:

Envelope postmark: Savannah November 1 1898

Address:  Miss Josephine Thompson
               Edinburgh, Indiana

Back on envelope postmark: Edinburgh November 3 1898  ? AM

"My Dear Josie:-

In the first place I want to beg your pardon for not answering your kind letter written several weeks ago-in fact I could write a whole stack of letters that would be entirely pleas for forgiveness. But that is my style you know-do something and then have to be sorry afterwards. I think that in that line I am a great offender. Not that I am so conceited as to think people lay awake nights thinking how terrible I behave- but I myself have these experiences.   Sometimes I fairly blush-it's the truth - to think how awful I have done at this time or the other.  Of late however I have not been doing much blushing, for two reasons - I have been so busy that I have hardly had time to eat and then I have such a heavy coat (sic) of tan that I hardly believe my own mother would claim me.  But please forgive my sins of omission and also of commission, Oh Goddess. Let's start all over again where we left off that evening when I was invited [Stott puts in a circled question mark] to that party and we kept house on your front stoop. Won't you please Josie? I am really more sorry than you know for it all but I really did have more to do than you can think.  Now affairs are getting more settled and I am getting to  feel that I halfway know something of that which is going to happen next. I am by no means certain about it yet. But if you could see the stacks of reports I must go through and the books I must have kept up and the pay rolls I must sign and the muster rolls that must be prepared and the doctoring accounts of the men and the Lord knows what all besides looking after a hundred men you would think I was just a little busy. So please think that it was no wonder if I lost my head at first for I believe I did. But I like you, can I? A lot? Better than anybody? Of course you know though that I always did - even if I do get crazy. You know that in prayer meetings some churches the dear sinners get up and go through a whole song of stuff and generally wind up with some such remark as "I hope you will pray for me that I may be better in the future than I have been in the past and that I may finally meet you in Heaven."  Now I don't want to meet you in Heaven that is not for awhile but I really will be lots better Josie if you will begin at the first again.  That is the most apology I ever wrote in all my life.  But I don't half feel that I have done full justice to the crime. But I will be real good if you will let me. Just think of the influence you can exert. Now if you don't I may do something awful like smoke a whole box of cigarettes or maybe taking three fingers three times or even saying damn so please save me.

Taps-9:30 o'clock P.M. has just blown. I always get homesick just a little about this time. Away off here in the winter army in just a tent is enough I think. Not that I would give up my place for anything in the world for after four months of this life I have decided that I like it better every day. If I can get a commission in the regular army I shall accept it in a minute - and it has been promised. I do want to get it.  And I think I will. Would you be in favor of it? Really I shall think that I am lucky. There are some things I would not like about it but after all it is hard to find any work that would suit me. I ought to have had a rich uncle or aunt or something that would have died about ten years ago and left me a million. I don't know anyone who would have enjoyed turning it loose better. But if wishes were horses I would have a grand string I promise you.  I don't think it does any hurt to dream a little once in a while.

We are camped  two miles southeast of Savannah. The city lies on lower ground than ours and the electric lights seem very close at night. The camp is well located as regards drainage and water - two important things. Around is the entire Seventh Army Corps - more than 15,000 men - a sentinel just passed in the rear of my quarters and called the hour. "[“No?” or  “So?”] 5 ,10 o'clock and all's well"  I thank my stars that  I don't  have to exchange places as yet they seem happy and contented. My quarters are opposite the tents of my company. You know several of the my men are from  Edinburgh.  Charles Downs and Elmer Pruitt are both sick in the hospital at Panama Park, Florida.  Pruitt is a shirk and has been trying to get a discharge. Downs is a good soldier. Robert Oaks, also of Edinburgh is another good soldier. He has been sick too. Almost all have had the malarial fever - nothing serious but  very nasty. I was down two weeks. But you ought to see me now - weigh 165 and gaining every minute. My clothes won't fit me in another week. I had asked for 10 days, but we are going to Cuba so soon now that I know it will not be granted.  If it should be, can I come down one evening?  I really don't believe much of this latest report that we shall go to Cuba in a few days. But we still may. Quite swell don't you think - to spend the winter in Cuba? It is after 10 o'clock and I must go to sleep. Please remember me to your mother and sisters and brothers.   And Josie please forgive me -

with much love



Near Savannah,Georgia  October thirty first Eighteen Ninety Eight"

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