This letter was written by Pvt. Albert L. Platt of Bloomington, Illinois, who served in Co. B, 145th Illinois Infantry for 100 days during the summer of 1864. The 145th Illinois departed for St. Louis on 12 June. After detaching companies A & F in St. Louis, the remainder of the unit traveled to Rolla. There the regiment established Camp Lackey (named after their commanding officer, Col. George W. Lackey) on a ridge a quarter mile from town. The 145th Illinois spent its time at Rolla performing guard duty and cutting logs for the construction of Fort Dette. The regiment moved to Alton, Illinois, in August, and was mustered out at Camp Butler on 23 September 1864.
A letter appearing in the Pantograph [Bloomington Newspaper] from a member of the 145th Illinois written in Rolla discusses differences between blacks and white refugees they have observed there: “There are now about 2,500 refugees here–women and children–drawing their supplies from the Government. Of course, their story is ‘We are from Arkansas, and were always for the Union.’ Some of them are doubtless sincere, but some I believe to be the worst of rebels. They are as a general thing very ignorant and helpless. But few negroes are here, most of them having entered the ranks of the Union army, or gone North. Lieutenant Collins, mustering officer at this post, told me yesterday that as a general thing the negroes far surpassed the ‘white refugees’ in point of intelligence and industry. A rather inferior class of people inhabit this country anyway, and I don’t wonder, for case your eyes where you will, and naught but rocks, hills, and woods of barren growth and log huts meet your gaze. Was this not a strategic point, I would say it was foolishness to hold it. The probabilities are we shall remain here this summer…”
I have not researched the recipient of this letter whom Albert addressed as Molly. We learn from the letter that she has a brother named John and my hunch is that he served in either Co. A or F of the 145th Illinois. He was probably also from Bloomington, Illinois.
July 21, 1864
As I was writing today, I got under the impression that I must write to you as well as the rest. I have written eight letters today. The adjutant (John [W.] Morris) will be up home by tomorrow if nothing happens. I received a letter from your brother John the other day. He was alright then. But they have had very hard times there to what we are. They are most all gone. I am sorry he enlisted when he did. He would have been with us now if he hadn’t, but I hope he will get through it all right.
I have now been enlisted about three months and our time is not half out yet. We received an order to move to Chicago last week and was all glad and ready when the order was countermanded. You better bet we was mad but it is all over now and I guess we are settled down for the summer in among the rocks and bushes after all. We have some good times. We have dance most every night and there is a standing concert here. There was a ball last night at Rolly for the officers and we privates had to stay at home.
Well Molly, when you write (for I want you to be sure and write), tell me how you and Polney R is getting along. Tell him to write if he wants to.
I suppose you had some gay times the 4th [of July]. I would like to have been there just that day. We had a big dance on our Parade Ground at night.
I was very sorry to hear of Anny Ronoake’s death. I heard of it at Benton Barracks, St. Louis. I did not get to see anybody when I was up home the last time. I thought I saw you in the ____ as we passed there. Well Molly, I have told you all the news of any note so you must excuse this scratching for I am writing under many difficulties and you must be sure and write soon. It is most dress parade time and I must close.
From your friend, — A. L. Platt, Company B, 145th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry