Illinois Volunteers — Is it True!
A letter from Cairo to the St. Louis Republican has the following:
The treatment of the 18th regiment (the first from southern Illinois) is deserving of the strongest censure. They have received no uniforms, except some shirts and two pantaloons, few of them having even these; have been half fed, their commissariat department being an utter nuisance; poorly supplied with camp equipage of any kind; constantly put on the very hardest entrenchments and picket duty; compelled to lie out in the open air and in swampy places, with little, if any, protection; and the consequence is, that yesterday 265 of the regiment were reported as unable to do duty, from sickness. A number of them were brought over here yesterday, and they have been arriving daily. The diseases are mostly intermittent fevers and dysentery. The regiment is rapidly becoming demoralized, and I understand that it has been so reported to Gen. Fremont. Uniforms for them have been sent here, but have been refused as worthless. Some of them lay the fault of their bad condition upon their colonel, and some upon the government.
We would have taken the foregoing as one of the current grumbles of regimental correspondents, but a few hours before we read it we had a conversation with a gentleman from southern Illinois, who, but a few days ago, was at Bird's Point, and who depicted to us the condition of his friends and neighbors of the 18th regiment, as even worse than is described by the Republican's correspondent.
Why is this? Why should the men of Illinois who have volunteered, left home and all, for support of the country's flag, be thus treated? Our legislature made ample provision for the comfort of our troops. Large expenditures have been made for clothing and subsistence — so large that we venture to say, up to this hour, in proportion to population, no state has made larger; then why is it that our volunteers are in this woeful condition.
Up to now the state has spent a million and a half to put her troops properly in the field, and here we are told that one of her regiments have been rotting on the outposts, half clad, half fed, and being decimated by disease and want of necessaries which the patriotism and munificent liberality of the people, through the legislature, have voted the money for.
There is criminal, cruel, wrong somewhere. If Illinois is presenting this sort of front to the enemy, there can be little hope that she can render effective service.
Will our authorities ever learn that "fixing up" and officering our gallant volunteers is not the only end to be reached? They should be put in plight to reach and meet the enemy. In the report we quote above is evidence of the general condition of our volunteers, the state's money and labor, for months past, is but poorly spent.
If true, let the remedy be quickly applied. I not true, let the contradiction go forth, that the home friends of our volunteers may not be pained with doubts that their hardships are greater than are incident to the actual necessities of the service.