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Re: 38th Illinois Volunteers
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Thought I would share a letter. Near as I can tell, it's from a man named Preston Bailey who wrote this to his friend John Thompson.

Murfreesburo, Tennessee Jan.8,1863

Dear friend. I once more take my pen in hand to write to you in order to let you know that I am well at present, hoping these few lines may find you well.
Well John, I will give you a few of the particulars of our marches and battles since I last wrote you. We left our old camp near Nashville Dec. 20 and it was a very bad day and rained on us all day and about three oclock, we came to the rebel camp at Nolensville and they opened a sevier fire on us with their battery and our regiment was ordered to charge on it and we was all running down already but we fixed bayonets and raised the shout but could not raise the traitors but we advanced as fast as possible and took one piece of their cannon and run the rebels out of camp, so we camped there that night. The next morning, three regiments of calvary passed us and they took the other five pieces of the battery that morning. We only marched about four miles that day and camped and the 28th we laid in camp and the 29th we marched on for Murfreesburo and camped that night near the rebels lines. The 30th we marched out of camp in line of battle and we had not gone far till we came to the rebels lines. The 21st Illionis Regiment and the 15th Wisconsin Regiment was in the advance and they was in the fight all day and lost 150 men during the day killed and wounded. We was left to support a battery and had two men wounded that day by a 12 pound shell that passed thru our ranks. That night the 21st and 15th fell back and that left us in the advance. The 38th and 10th Ohio Regiment and we lay that night within 100 yds. of the rebel lines. Each party held the ground that they occupied at night so the morning of the 31st, we got up and went to fighting just as we stood, without eating a bite and we kept our front clear by dune fighting but General Johnson let the rebels surprise him on our right, while the men was watering their horses. The rebels made a charge on him and took about all his artillary and a part of his division prisoner. So that let the rebels thru on our right and the first thing that we knew, the rebels had flanked all around us almost and I seen that we had to retreat and I dreaded it for it was a open field for about a mile but sure a nuff the order came to retreat and here we was helter skelter through the field and the rebels after us. We fell back one mile and there we had reinforcements and they took the rebels as they came and we had a tremendous lot of artillary planted, ready for them as they came and they let in on them and the rebel advance was turned and our fellows mowed them down like grass and run them clear back and the rebels calvary had took all our train in the charge but our calvary came in and took it all back. I was with the train when the rebels took it. I was within 30 steps of the rebel flag and they had me a prisoner if they had a made it but I got away. The rebels had throwed their whole force on our right and the 31st a hot battle took place on the left. The rebels had throwed their whole force there and ours a happened to be there too and they gave the rebels a good whippin and run them across the river. Our division crossed the river that night and the next night a worse fight took place on the right of us. The rebels thought that they would break our lines, between 8 and 9 oclock. They took to come across at Sheridans division but they did not catch him asleep, he was a looking for it and he had his batteries planted and double charged with grape and cannister and he cut them all to pieces and drove them out of their rifle pits and advanced his division about a half a mile, so they could not play their rebel tricks anymore and they left. Our brigade was on the advance for 8 days and nights without fire, tents or blankets, and it rained every day and night. I never pulled off my cartridge band or any of my clothes for seven days and nights and I never washed my face nor hands in that time. So when the fight was over I shaved and washed and I felt like I was going out on a limb but I came very near getting shaved in the battle. Just as we were ordered to retreat, I got my napsack shot off my back. I think that was pretty close. We only had one officer with us and that was our First Lieutenant W.H.White. He never got tricked. On New Years morning when company B was called together, they was only 12 men in the company and 150 men in the regiment. Our Lieutenant cried like a child and said that he had lost all his boys. The boys had all straggled off and got lost from the regiment, what is not sick. I will now give you the names of the killed and wounded in our company.
Henry Smith-killed, Fredrick Hallls-killed, DavidHughes-mortaly wounded, Joseph Thompson-wounded in the shoulder, Jefferson Green-wounded in the thigh, Darell Martin-wounded in the shoulder and taken prisoner, Henry C. Henry-wounded in the side, John Johnson-wounded slightly by a shell on the shin and he is detailed as a cook at the hospital.
So I will come to a close. I want you to write, for I have not had a mail since Christmas. Direct by way of Nashville. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends and my love to the girls. Good By

Preston Bailey to John Thompson

How one man spent his Christmas in 1863..........

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