Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland, the Letters and Diary of Major James A. Connolly

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland, the Letters and Diary of Major James A. Connolly

Article excerpt

Paul M. Angle, ed. Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland, The Letters and Diary of Major James A. Connolly. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959. Reprint, 1987, 1996. Other Editions: New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1969.

After walking over the battlefield of Fort Donelson in March 1862, twenty-year-old James Connolly of Charleston, Illinois, wrote his fiancée Mary Dunn. "You can form no conception of what a battlefield looks like. No pen and ink description can give you anything like a true idea of it." Connolly was a member of a Cole County committee sent to Cairo, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky, simply to inventory the needs of wounded Cole County soldiers. But Connolly did not content himself with a visit to the wounded. He felt oddly compelled to visit the battlefield. After all, he told his fiancée, "I should probably never have an opportunity again of seeing a fresh battleground."

Ironic words from a man who would raise a company five months later and enter the service as a captain in the newly organized 123rd Illinois Infantry. His decision to join the army came as a surprise both to himself and to his fiancée. "I did not write you that I intended to enter the army [because] on the eighth of August I had no more idea of doing so than you have tonight; on the morning of the ninth some gentlemen acting as a committee came to me and said 'You have done a great deal toward causing the young men of Cole County to enlist; another company must be raised and you can raise it'. . ..I felt the fore of this, and the implied reproach to me, and looking as it entirely as a matter of duty, I dropped my law books and on the fifteenth had a company organized as was elected captain. …

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