The Things Of The Past...

My 3x Great Grandfather was not a prolific writer, but what he lacked in prose, he made up for in sentiment. He was a simple farmer from Southern Illinois; and in those days-in that area of the state, his loyalty could have swung in either direction. He chose, like many of his friends, to fight for the preservation of the Union and to put down the rebellion. What his thoughts on slavery were remain unclear because there are no indications of his views on the subject in his letters home. My Ancestor, Dexter Ware Mack, mustered into the 126th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment , Co. F. in 1862.
In my first blog, I will not go into detail of his regiment’s movements or battles engaged in. I only seek to introduce the reader to this simple soldier who remained a private throughout his term. He never had any aspirations to rise in rank - only to serve his county and go home with the country in tact - the way it once was, the way our forefathers inteneded it. But like many soldiers, he remained home-sick much of the time, and wrote frequently to cousins, sisters, and aunts. In one letter he proclaimed, candidly: “I tell you what it is Cousin This military life is not congenial to my natural inclination & tharefore it will not be in acordance with my natural tallonts”. But he, like his brothers in arms, did not fear his own death. To die in battle in those days, especially to die “the good death” with God in your heart, was to die a martyr. I will close my first blog, ironiclly, with his last letter written home - as it demonstrates his resolve and patriotism.

Saint Charles Ark. May 23rd 1865
Dear Cousin Justus I received yours of the 7 & 13 in due time Yes Cousin I am give some idea how one getting home soon of a home boy allways glad to get letters from you. I want to see you so bad it seams as though I not wait for the time to role around when we may return to our Friends once more. was you ever from home three years if you ever had you mightfeeales about this time on the subject when thare is some prospectsGoverment having no use for us eny longer but I expect that I am morethen many others but I cant help it I allways was so & nature must have its likes & dislikes I think from what I can learn & gather from the papers that it will not be more then three weeks to the outside before we will be on our rode home but we are liable to be mistaken so you nead Well Justus we are killing time the best way we can we do not have to do at this time but when to stop I must close for this time Give my best respects your famly & all This from your Aff Cousin
Dexter W Mack

To J. H. W.look for us till you see us comming then will be time enough to kill the Turkey & the fatted calf we may not get home till fall or till our time is out but hope for the best let com what mayset around in the shade & talk about being mustard out & going home & the news of the day we are expecting to go back to Mouth of river & thare fore I will leave it by saying I belive its all for the best for I firmley belive it will cause traitors be delt more serverley with He that ruleth the ?dallivey of mations doeth all then well tharefore it may be that by the death of our President traitors get their Just deserts The Southern Confedercy & the rebellion is numberd with the things of the past, every thing is working favorable rebles are coming in every day & taking the oath & acknoweledge they are whipt & that it is usless to fight eny more Well you must not forget to write thinking I shall be home soon–for I tell thare is nothing seartain about it so keep on I will tell youinquring Friends Good bye

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • HDJSvirginia: I believe a portion of this letter was previously posted and it gives a view of one man’s sincere view and his particular understanding of the war and the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination. All who believe in a cause and fight for it are to be respected.
    Lincoln’s death was a terrible loss to the nation. IMHO I believe Lincoln wanted the nation to heal from the terrible and catastrophic war. I think he would have mitigated the harshness of the reconstruction leveled against the South.
    Today having the advantage of history we can fully understand the war and its causes, its combative life, and aftermath is a subject of many complexities. Many noble person’s fought for the Union and the CSA. I believe Dexter Ware Mack was one of them.
    I would never condone what the assassins did, and believe the South paid dearly for the actions of these people. Many in the South saw this as a judgment on Lincoln. Yet when historically looking at this history and correspondence it is important to try and comprehend how such a terrible thing was even considered.
    Here is just one of many thousands of letters that were exchanged between CSA civilians in regards to the war.
    Augusta County: William White to Francis McFarland, July 6, 1864
    White sends McFarland church news and describes the recent raid of the Union Army in Lexington.
    July 6, 1864
    Lexington, Va.
    My Dear Brother
    I embrace the first opportunity of sending you the printed minutes of our Synod, approved by the Gen. ****.. The meeting was small but pleasant. You have doubtless seen the published proceedings.
    You are aware that we have had a visit from our Yankee Brethren. Our community has suffered greatly. Many were robbed of almost every mouthful of food and every peice of apparel. My house & its contents escaped, but they robbed me of 36 bushels of corn, a ton of Hay and my favorite riding horse. Besides this they destroyed my grass, a great deal of my ice, ruined my carriage harness, cut the curtains from my carriage & endeavored to steal the carriage. One of their Generals made his head quarters in my yard. This was some protection to me. On the whole they appeared to me like a great mob of robbers and house burners. They did immense damage to the college. They utterly destroyed or carryed off the college library & did the same to about half of the two society Libraries & destroyed or gave to the **** all the furniture of the two society Halls. They broke every peice of the philosophical apparatus & would have burned the buildings if it had not been for Capt. Moore. They burned the Institute, Mess Hall, two professors houses, sparing Smiths on account of the illness of his daughter [deleted: & all]
    From the way in which I am told many of their officers spoke of our "cruel treatment to Dr. Junkin," I have no doubt that didn’t lead to much of their cruelty here. It is curious, that his daughter, Mrs Col. Preston was the only lady here who was treated with personal rudeness. Of course the party who did it, did not know that she was his daughter. One of their officers stated that both he & Dr. Junkin were with Averill on his raid last fall.
    I am thankful to learn that they did not reach your house. May a kind providence shield us from their presence & deliver us from their power. I trust your health is comfortable. My wife joins me in kindest remembrances to you, Mrs McFarland & Mary.
    Yours truly & affy,
    Wm. J. White
    This letter is one of the mild examples of total war. Multiply this by many many times and even greater atrocious actions and you can comprehend a thinking were the leader of such forces could be considered and understood to be evil. We are not debating total war or its proficiencies or deficiencies, just looking at how one could actually view Lincoln in such a manner.
    Perspectives are above all things local. Dexter Ware Mack’s comments "I firmley belive it will cause traitors be delt more serverley with He that ruleth the ?dallivey of mations doeth all then well tharefore it may be that by the death of our President traitors get their Just deserts" are from his sincere perspective are just.
    William White if he had the chance to meet Dexter Ware Mack could have viewed the same history from his perspective and just as sincerely in a different manner. He could have asserted in light of his own experience "we have already had too many helpings of deserts."
  • 126th Illinois: HDJSVirginia, all great points. I did not realize that a portion of that letter had already been posted on this site. This particular blog is from another In many ways, we were all the same, no what side we were one. They had their passions and motives for the fight but at the same time they would have rather been back at their fire-side surrounded by the familiar people and things that made up their pre-war lives. That was a great and yet terrible letter you posted - an example as you said of the scorched earth policy, And total war. Of course my Ancestors knee-**** reaction to Lincoln’s death was common. I believe Grant, at first, wanted every confederate officer arrested. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
  • HDJSvirginia: I still can not believe those charged with the President’s security allowed this to happen. Talk about dereliction of duty.
  • Ajhall: His "guard", a Washington City Policeman, was drunk in the Hotel bar.
  • Mike D.: Lincoln also told his more trusted personnal guard to go home. He was very careless with his personnal safety thoughout the war. I think this was foolish on his part & was perhaps caused by the backlash he experienced in the media after the so called "Baltimore Plot". When he was accused of cowardice for slipping though a hostile Baltimore in the middle of the night on way to D.C.
    It’s a true shame... Lincoln was actually a fan of Booth’s acting & had seen many of his performances in D.C. This gave Booth easy access to the theater on the night of the murder.
    BTW~ This was a time when anyone could just walk into the White House & ask to speak to the president at will. Lincoln was truly a sitting duck....
  • Allison Mack: This relative of yours is also a relative of mine. He is my great-grandfather. My grandfather is Walter Herbert Mack and my father is Lloyd Elmer Mack. I have often wondered if my father was named for his uncle Elmer, who died young.
    I noticed that you have letters written by Dexter Mack to family and friends. Would you be willing to share those letters with me? I would love to add them to our family history.
    Thank you very much,
  • Taylor: Allison:
    I’m glad that you found your way to our Forum, but unfortunately "126th Illinois" has not posted for some time. I would suggest that you try sending him a PM as although 126th Illinois would be considered an "inactive member", he still might receive notification of a private message.

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