Nashville, TN, January 4, 1864
“We have a new year and the cruel war is not ended. We now class ourselves as old soldiers, although we have not taken part in any battles but that is no fault of ours—we obey orders as all good soldiers should and do the things which we are ordered to do.” (Congleton Papers, Library of Congress).
Thus wrote James Congleton of the 105th Illinois in his diary 150 years ago today. As the entry indicates, Congleton’s regiment, the 105th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, had been in the army since 1862 but had yet to see combat in a major battle of the war. They had been engaged mostly in garrison duty, missing out on battles such as Stones River and Chickamauga. In 1864, however, the 105th Illinois was to plunge deep into the heart of the Confederacy with the rest of Sherman’s army, encountering enemy soldiers at places such as Kennesaw Mountain and Peachtree Creek, fighting in some of the most desperate battles of the war. His words remind us that, even for those who had not seen the worst of the combat thus far in the war, there was still a desire to see an end to this nation’s deadliest conflict. And yet, for soldiers such as James Congleton, the deadliest and bloodiest year of the Civil War was only just beginning 150 years ago.