25, An Alabamians Opinion of East Tennessee
Extract from a Letter of a Volunteer in East Tennessee to a Friend in Mobile.
Russellville, August 25, 1861.
You see from the date of my letter that we have moved east. We are near Cumberland Gap, and right in a nest of Unionists and abolitionists. We have had no fighting yet, but from present prospects I think we will have some work very soon. This is the poorest, meanest country I ever stopped in, and the people are poorer and meaner than the country. I have been scouting a good many miles from the camp, and find that the further I go the worse they get. The women are large, healthy, strong, ugly and stupid; they wear only one garment, and that sets as close to them as a pair of pantaloons. The men are entirely worthy of the women. How they live here is a mystery to me. I see but a few patches of corn, and that will all be made into whisky. An immense crowd of the nation visits our camp every day, bringing from a quart to a half gallon of buttermilk (from ten miles sometimes), and a dozen or so Irish potatoes, which they sell at famine prices or barter for bacon.
We find the latter article a better circulating medium than the Tennessee bills, with which we were paid off at Union City. There is not enough silver in this country to break a ten dollar note. We get rid of our money, however, among ourselves, with the aid of "set back" and "draw poker." Card playing is almost the only amusement we have at present. There has been so much rain lately, that, except when on duty, we are obliged to stick in our tents and play, to prevent death from ennui.
To-day is Sunday, and in the distance I hear some psalm singing, and presume from that fact that the chaplain is on duty. That gentleman up to this time has found his office a sinecure. The first two or three times he held forth, quite a crowd went to hear him, but at present, to use the language of a flush messmate of mine, "the thing's played out." . . .
Item.-Two women have just passed through the camp--best I have seen yet--low neck, short sleeve, short frock, (latter too much so by twenty inches.) The weather has cleared up and the sun is coming down at the rate of 99 Fahrenheit. I stopped writing to make a chicken trade with the females I mentioned above. I got ten chickens from the biggest footed one for two dollars and "nine pence." That is the best trade that has been made since we got here. I flatter myself that exterior had a good deal to do with it. I also contracted with her for one gallon of buttermilk and five pounds of butter to be delivered to-morrow at the rate of 50 cents per gallon of milk and 20 cents per pound of butter, (a tip-top contract.) I'd like to have you dine with me to-morrow. At all the places where we have camped the ladies have come in crowds to see us. Many of them have been very kind and have tried to make themselves useful, particularly about the sick, but it's no go. I was a little sick while at Corinth and was visited by some seven or eight, armed with soup, tea, arrow root and other fixings, together with advice, consolation, &c. I can say, from experience, that they did no good on my case. I could not help feeling very much bothered while they were talking to me and of course was too polite to refuse taking anything they offered, and always thanked them profusely.
The result is my system is still thoroughly saturated with arrowroot, &c., and I have almost lost all taste for mustard, pepper, salt, &c., from having suffered a great quantity of the former condiment to be extensively used in my case, at the earnest request of some ladies who were treating me. I would not have used any of the stuff, but they promised to call again and I was afraid they would catch me.
Mobile Register And Advertiser, September 1, 1861.
 As cited in: http://www.uttyl.edu/vbetts.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214
(615)-770-1090 ext. 123456