The following letter was written by Pvt. Garret Moore (1838-1865) of Co. C, 25th Illinois Infantry. Garret was the orphaned son of Garret Moore (18xx-1838) and Catherine Bailey (18xx-Bef1850) of Champaign county, Illinois. He had some older siblings but he was raised by others. In the 1850 US Census he was enumerated in the household of the Alexander Argo family. In the 1860 US Census, he was enumerated in the household of the James Swearingen family.
Garret enlisted on 4 August 1861 at Homer, Illinois, and was with his regiment in Rolla, Missouri, from mid-November 1861 until early February 1862 when they embarked on the campaign that would eventually lead to their first engagement—the Battle of Pea Ridge in northern Arkansas. Garret was seriously wounded at Kennesaw Mountain on 23 June 1864 and died of his wounds a week later at Chattanooga, Tennessee. His muster records indicate he stood 5′ 9″ tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes.
January 5, 1862
My old friend Achley,
I just received your most kind and welcome letter which I read with great pleasure. I was truly glad to hear from you. I wish you could be in camp with me awhile. I think we could have a good time although you seem to think that we have a pretty hard time. Well, it is partly true, but our berth is not as hard as you think it is. We have pretty good winter quarters and we drill two hours a day and the balance of the time we play poker and euchre and put the time in pretty well and we have plenty to eat—such as it is.
Perhaps you would like to know what we do here to eat. Well, we have plenty of fresh beef and flour and crackers and light bread and beans, rice, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, side meat shoulders and sometimes we get hams. We can buy eggs at twenty cents per dozen, butter 25 per pound, chickens 20 cents apiece, rot gut whiskey at one dollar per pint which is good enough for soldiers.
It is true [that] on a march, it is pretty hard on some of the boys but I have stood it pretty well until the 28th of December when I was taken sick with the intermittent fever and I was most down sick with the fever for five days and I got over that. Then I was taken with the m____ diarrhea and the doctor gave me turpentine. 1 I took a half pint of turpentine and I got so sick and weak that I could not hardly stand up so the Dr. wanted me to go to the hospital but I told him that I preferred staying in camp. Then I told him that his medicine was not doing me any good and he told me that he could not do me any good but he advised me to take turpentine so I made up my mind that he was a damned fool and I would not take any more of his medicine. Then I told him that the medicine that I had been taking would kill nine out of every ten men that took it so he thought I was a damn fool. He told some of the boys that I would die before one month. He told me I had better go to the hospital. I told him that I would not go to the hospital. Then the doctor left and I have not seen him since but I am not dead nor I am not a going to die for I am getting well as fast as a man can. I have been most down sick for twenty days but if the Lord is willing and no preventing Providence, I will be the best man in camp in one month. Our doctors hain’t worth a damn. There is a great deal of sickness in camp but I think the health in camp is better than it has been for the past two months.
We are under marching orders but I think that we will spend the winter here. There is four hundred men in this regiment that is fit for duty and that is all that can be got out on drill out of one thousand. no more on this subject now.
You said that you and Jack tried to get on a spree on New Years and Christmas and could not make it go off. Well, if I had of been there, we would of had some fun or I would of raised hell with the preachers. I would like to be at home awhile to see you and Jack and have some fun but I would not quit the service if I could, If you and Jack were with me, I would rather be here than at home for we have lots of fun. I think you and Jack had better come and go with us. We will have some fun when we get after them damned rebels.
Well, Jack, I have been looking for a letter from you for a long time but it has all been in vain and in your letter you offer an excuse for not writing to me sooner and oftener. Well, your excuse is a very poor one. You said that you was a poor hand to write. You write very well if you would think so. Now I am a poor hand to write but I can write so you can make it out. So can you, and I would be glad to receive a letter from you every week if I could. Now, Ach, you can spend one hour every week writing to me. It always does a soldier good to hear from his friends—at least it does me.
With these few remarks, I will close hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love and well wishes to all my friends, to Jack [ ] and by the grace of God you must keep a share of my well wishes for yourself. No more at present. Your ever affectionate friend, — G. W. Moore
— to J. A. Smith
1 Civil War soldiers often complained that the treatment surgeons prescribed for diseases was worse than the disease itself. Most soldiers, like Garret, refused to go to hospitals for fear they would never come out alive. Oil of turpentine was often prescribed by physicians for the treatment of typhoid fever during the Civil War. Turpentine oil-soaked rags were also used to wrap wounded to stop the spread of gangrene. It was used less commonly, I think, for the treatment of diarrhea as it only induced bloody vomiting, dehydrating the body further and compounding the problem. Large doses probably resulted in liver damage. [See Oil of Turpentine: Sheet Anchor of 19th Century Therapeutics by Vincent J. Cirillo, January 2021]