1863-64: John Chenowith Brooks to Mrs. Amanda Catherine (Brooks) Lilley

I could not find an image of Brooks but here is a CDV of Benjamin Marot who also served in the 66th Illinois Infantry (Photo Sleuth)

The following letters were written by John Chenowith Brooks (1838-1915) to his sister, Amanda Catherine (Brooks) Lilley (1830-1887)—the wife of Mitchell Campbell Lilley of Columbus, Ohio. John and Amanda were the children of Thomas Martin Brooks (1803-1881) and Sarah B. Chenowith (1808-1865) of Paris, Edgar county, Illinois.

John enlisted in Co. E, 66th Illinois Regiment (Western Sharp Shooters) in October 1861. The 66th Illinois was a multi-state regiment—two companies were raised in Ohio, three in Illinois, one in Michigan, and four were organized at St Louis’ Benton Barracks of Missourians and detachments of volunteer candidates sent by recruiting officers from Iowa, Minnesota and other western states, thus forming a regiment that represented every state in the West, a pet scheme of General John C. Fremont. John rose in rank to sergeant and later as a 2nd Lieutenant. Late in the war he was attached to Co. G, 1st Alabama Cavalry (a predominantly white regiment composed of Southern Unionists). He mustered out of the service on 25 January 1865 and soon after attended the Indianapolis Dental College where he graduated and became a practicing dentist in Sullivan and Charleston, Illinois. He married Charlotte Blake (1844-1928) in 1864 and had at least two children.

Letter 1

Camp near Pulaski, Tennessee
November 19, 1863

Dear Sister,

It has been almost three weeks since I received your last letter. It has been cruelly neglected but I will assure you it has been from necessity. As you may see by the heading of my letter, we are in Middle Tennessee, about one hundred miles east of Corinth. We marched through [and] were near two weeks on the road, and have been scouting about almost all the time since we arrived here. Our Division of our Corps is here and distributed along this railroad which is being opened through from Nashville to Decatur. I understand that the other two Divisions are on the way here and the 17th Army Corps is to follow.

We have had but three mails since we left Corinth—two since we have been here and one when we got to the Tennessee river. We have but one or two chances of sending mail and then I had no chance to write. I will write this and have it ready. I hope you will accept this explanation as sufficient excuse for my long delay.

I suppose we will stay here or in this vicinity for awhile. So you will address to 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, via Nashville, Tenn. I hope our communication will be perfected soon so that we may get mail regular.

I am in good health and stood the march fine—better than I thought I would. Our troops are in fine condition. Not a man reports to the hospital from our company.

This is a beautiful country and has once been called rich in the world’s goods, but alas, the destroyer “War” has been here and left his mark. In the place of affluence and wealth is now found desolation and ruin. Out of fifty business houses in this town is not found one that can boast of an occupant.

I was on a scout the other day and seen find dwellings deserted—the finest of furniture left to the mercy of our soldiers. We brought some fine chairs in for the use of our hospital. Please excuse bad writing for I have to write on my knee.

There are a few citizens living here but they are either Union folks who feared not to stay, or those who were too poor to get away. Many of the citizens are coming in and taking the oath of allegiance. Gen. Dodge, commanding, has ordered the citizens to bring in provisions for the soldiers. The consequence is we are living very well just now. The railroad is finished down to Columbia from Nashville, within thirty miles of this place. I must close. Write soon to your brother, — J. C. Brooks

E Company, 66th Illinois Vols., W. S. S., 2nd Division, 16th Army Corps, via Nashville, Tenn.

Letter 2

Camp 1st Alabama Cavalry
near Rome, Georgia
July 10th 1864

Dear Sister,

I received a letter from you some time ago while in the field, but have forgotten whether I answered it or not. If I have you may thank me for an extra.

Our regiment is now stationed at Rome, Georgia. We left the army in the front about three weeks ago while they were hammering away at Kennesaw Mountains. I have heard but little news from there since. We have heard that Sherman had got into Atlanta and that is all. Our communication might just as well be cut off for all the good it does us in the way of news and mail. I have received but one mail since I have been here. There is a train runs down here every day or two but it hardly ever brings mail. I suppose our mail goes down the army and they neglect sending it back. I hope we may get a regular communication opened soon. If we don’t, I fear there will one boy have the blues some o’ these days. I have enough to do just now to keep me from getting the blues.

Please excuse that big letter on the other side. I guess I must have put more on it than it could dispose og on that side so I had to use both sides.

My health is good—never better. The health of the regiment is good—but very few cases of sickness in our hospital. I sent one of our boys to the hospital this morning for insanity. He had become quite dangerous around where there are so many firearms. He would get up at the dead hour of night and shoot his gun off at some of his imaginary objects.

I haven’t received a letter from home for Lo these many days, but one since I have been in this camp. We have a few alarms here about once per week. Some daring rebel will slip up to our picket post and try a shot at our pickets.

I have been quite busy for the past few days making out company papers, I have enough to keep me busy for some time to come. I have no news of importance so I will close. Write soon to your affectionate brother, — J. C. Brooks, “G” Company, 1st Alabama Cavalry Vols., Rome, Georgia, via Chattanooga, Tenn.

P. S. I have just received orders to have the company ready for a three days scout at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning. We are going over the Coosa river and we will perhaps have a little fight before we get back. if we go as far as is expected, thirty miles south of the river. — J. C. Brooks

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