The 139th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry was among scores of regiments that were raised in the summer of 1864 as Hundred Days Men, an effort to augment existing manpower for an all-out push to end the war within 100 days. The 139th was mustered into Federal service on June 1, 1864. It departed for St. Louis by steamboat on June 8, arriving there on the 10th. From there, it moved to Columbus, KY, and on to Cairo, IL, where it performed garrison duty. The regiment was directed by Gen. payne, commanding the Department of Northern Kentucky, to raid several nearby farms owned by Confederate sympathizers, to seize horses and cattle to make up for livestock stolen by guerillas. The raid was successful, resulting also in the capture of two of the raiders. Once its original term of service had expired, President Lincoln asked the regiment to assist Federal efforts against Gen. Sterling Price during his raid into Missouri. When the men agreed, Lincoln sent them a letter thanking them for their patriotism.
4 pp, 5 x 8, from Private Mortimer Shephard of the 139th, Co. B, at Cairo, to his friend Orelius in Fonddaloe, Wis., July 10th, 1864.
“...I have written several letters to different persons and have never received any answer to them. I have not heard from any one up there in about four years or more.
“I am now working for Uncle Sam. This is the second time I have been hired out to him.
“Although it is a pretty hard place to work, I get along with it very well. I first enlisted in the eastern department in the so called Marine Artillery. I presume you have heard of it before this as there was Boys from Wisconsin in it.
“It was an alleged swindle and we were left in it about nine months, and then our Governor went to Washington and got our discharges. Therefore the President [Lincoln] issued an order for our Disbandment.
“I am now in the one hundred days service. I enlisted the first of June in the 139 Ills Vol and was stationed at Cairo, Ill. My health has been very good since I have been in the service. When I am at home I live at Chillicothe Peoria Co. Ill. I am working at the Harness Trade. I have been a great many places since I was up there. I would like very much to come and see my old friends, perhaps I will save time but I presume there is not many left that I used to know.
“There is one very important thing I would not forget to tell you and that is I am trying to live in that same way which I started in the school house on the common, and I intend to live in that same course as long as I live. I have made very crooked paths but I know and feel that there is one above who is able and willing to forgive all those who trust in him. I have been living in some pretty hard places, but I thank my maker that I am still found on sure footing. I would like to be up with you and enjoy one or two Sabbaths with you. I have not been inside of a Church since I left home. I have not had an opportunity. I am very busy as I am cooking and do not get any time to leave but I shall soon have a chance again
“I do not hardly expect you will get this but providing you do I would like to hear from all the Boys and Girls that used to go to school as far as you know and also from all the rest of the folks that I used to know. I am alone as regards relations....I presume all of the Boys have enlisted. Let me know how many and who they are. I would like to hear from any of them.
Nice clean letter and cover with postage remaining. A fine example of the 139th, which Lincoln considered a very patriotic regiment.
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