My feet wore out on this trip. For days I had to trudge along when I could actually feel the blood in my shoes at each step. One morning the captain was hurrying us to get started. Some were a little tardy about getting ready. Tom Richerson, among the tardy list, had exhausted the captain's patience. He railed out at Tom to hurry up. Tom said "Captain, I can't go, some d-d rascal has stole my socks." This quaint expression sent the boys off into roars of laughter. Tom was placed on an old contraband mule, with probably forty blankets under him. He and the old mule, covered from ears to tail with blankets, presented an appearance grotesque in the extreme, and furnished amusement for the boys the remainder of the trip.
One more incident of this trip: One morning we were passing through a large plantation. Marching by the residence of the overseer, or negro driver, some of the boys discovered a patch of early onions. All were hungry and the onions looked exceedingly tempting. Some one made a break into them. Like sheep the rest followed. The onions were soon gone. The woman of the house, standing in the door began to curse them, and the boys to teasing and tantalizing her, asking first one question then another. Where is your husband one said. "He's out here with Chalmers and I hope he will kill the last one of you." The boys kept teasing her until she got herself into a terrible rage and said things that would not look well in print. She reminded me of the saying that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
We finally arrived at LaGrange footsore and weary, remaining two or three weeks. During our stay here I received word from home that mother was very sick and not expected to recover. I tried to get a furlough so that I could go home and see her, but found it impossible to do so. I thought very seriously of taking what was called a "French", that is going without leave. But upon more sober reflection abandoned the idea as such a course would have inevitably involved me in trouble and probably severe punishment in the end. Again, I was so far from home that it would have been very difficult to have gotten through without proper authority in my possession. I would probably have been arrested and returned to the command. Soon after I received news of mother's death, which occurred before I could possibly have gotten home. This in a measure reconciled me to my failure in getting to start.
By this time Grant had his grip around the throttle of Vicksburg,
gradually choking the life out of it. General Joseph F. Johnson,
of the Confederate army was hovering around threatening his rear,
so we were ordered to that place. Leaving LaGrange, we marched
to Memphis, took a steamer and went down the river to the Yazoo,
up that stream first to Snyders and then to Haines Bluff in the
rear of Vicksburg, keeping watch on the movements of General Johnson.
On our great National birth day, July 4, 1863, Vicksburg with
its entire garrison and war paraphernalia was surrendered to General
Grant. Simultaneously therewith we started out after Johnson and
chased him to his stronghold at Jackson, capital city of Mississippi,
After some considerable maneuvering, skirmishing and fighting
General Johnson pulled out his army and left, not allowing himself
to be shut up in Jackson like a rat in a trap, as Pemberton did
at Vickburg. Here on July 16th, in an engagement, I became overheated
to unconsciousness. In a day or two, however, I felt as well about
as ever. After a few days here destroying railroads, bridges,
etc., we marched back towards Vicksburg, halting and going into
camp at Black River, twelve miles from Vicksburg, remaining here
until about the 1st of November. We had a nice shady, healthy,
camp, and for three months enjoyed ourselves splendidly. We had
great sport here swimming and bathing in Black River. The current
of this stream was so swift that a good swimmer could go downstream
about as fast as one could run, then would have to walk back as
it was utterly impossible to swim up stream.
Our stay here terminated about the 1st of November. We went to Vicksburg and took a steamer for Memphis. This was a tedious trip. Our boat the "Diana" was very large and the river very low, so we had some trouble avoiding sand bars. On the way up one of our company, Marcus Johnson, paid his "last full measure of devotion" to his country. We stopped at Helena, Arkansas and I was one of a detail to bury him. These duties constitute some of the sad obligations of a soldier's life. It seemed that full share of it fell to my lot. Marcus left a young wife at home to mourn over his untimely loss. A little more than a month subsequent to this time the mutations of providence decreed that I should see Mrs. Johnson at her home in Franklin County, Illinois. Her wan, sad, pale face clearly depicted that sorrow was making deep inroads in her heart. She asked so many questions and her grief was so bitter that I almost wished that I had not seen her. We now proceeded on our way, arriving at Memphis we learned that our destination was Chatanooga, Tennessee, where Bragg had Rosecrans army cooped up and starving. Making a rapid march across the state of Tennessee, without anything of special note occurring in which I was personally concerned.
Arriving at Stephenson, Alabama, we crossed the Tennessee River on a pontoon bridge, the Johnnies having burned the railroad bridge. We now ascended raccoon mountain and went down into the valley between it and Lookout Mountain. We were now in the immediate vicinity of, and in plain view of the enemy's observing videts. Stringent orders had been issued prohibiting firing guns unless in actual contact with the enemy. But some of the boys, Uncle Perry Kelley among the others, found some sheep. Their desire for mutton was so strong they could not resist the temptation. Unable to capture them by ordinary peaceable ways they determined to have a sheep anyhow, took their chances and blazed away. The guards were soon after them. They were captured and each sent to his commanding officer for punishment. Uncle Perry was brought in and turned over to Major Hall. Perry being one of the best of soldiers the Major made his punishment as light as possible, ordered him to stand on a large stump for one hour. The boys would pass around and bleat like a sheep, bah, bah. It was funny to them. Perry laughed it off very complacently. He knew, as we all did that it was only a question of time when he would have the laugh back on some of them.
We now went up onto a gap in Lookout Mountain in the rear of the rebel army, built fires, whooped and yelled, and had the bands play as if reinforcements were continually coming up. This was on the night of November 21, 1867, and was done to create a diversion in favor of Hooker who was to assault and take Lookout Mountain. On the 24th this movement of Hooker was handsomely and brilliantly executed and constitutes the famous battle "above the clouds". I was on picket guard duty that night. It rained as if the very windows of the heavens were opened. My associate that night was comrade William Cook of our company. As we stood there in the pitchy darkness, the rain mercilessly pouring down, we talked of almost every thing. Comrade Cook rather saddened me by declaring that he believed we were going to get into battle shortly, that if we did he felt he was going to be killed. By every argument of which I was master I tried to disabuse his mind of this idea, but all to no purpose. The premonition that he was to be killed was so deeply and firmly implanted in his mind that no argument that I could think of could remove it.
Next morning, still raining, we started on our back track down Lookout Valley. Keep in mind that it rained all night, and that it rained all next day. A small stream hardly large enough to bear the dignity of the name creek, zigzagged from one mountainside to the other with wearisome regularity. In this day's march it was said by someone who claimed to have kept tally, that we crossed this stream thirteen times. In depth it was all the way from the knees to the waist as we plunged in and waded through. Our pants were as completely plastered from above the knees down with that sticky, gummy clay as though it had been done with a mason's trowel. We kept on our weary, dark and muddy way until about 10 o'clock in the night. O! My! How dark it was! But few of us ecaped a fall that night. Many of the expressions made that night, especially about the time some fellow would hit the ground were more inelegant than poetical. When we finally halted for the night I learned somehow, probably from that element of instinct characteristic of our kinship to the animal creation, that a pond of water was nearby. Darkly, instinctively, but true as a compass, I went straight to it, waded in and washed off most of that plastered mud. I then went up to where the boys had made a fire of the "top rails" of a fence. By this time it was snowing about as hard as I ever saw it snow, even in Illinois. For awhile I tried standing around the fire and drying my clothing, but it soon began to get muddy and sloppy around the fire. I drew back a few yards, spread down my poncho, lay down on one half and drew the other half over me and with my cartridge box for a pillow was asleep in a few moments. The reader may think at first that it was strange, exceedingly strange that anyone could compose himself and sleep soundly amid the surroundings just described. But when you remember that we had been on the tramp for twenty days, had no sleep or rest the preceding night, were up all night in the rain marched all day in the rain, wading a creek thirteen times, water-soaked to the skin, then astonishment will yield to wonder that we did not even go to sleep while walking along. I have seen this happen in at least one instance. When I awoke it was clear, the sun shining warm, bright and beautiful, not a vestige of snow to be seen.
This day we had charge of a large wagon train conveying rations and forage to the starving army of General Thomas, who had succeeded Rosecrans in command of the army of the Cumberland. We trudged and labored along with the train all day and until about midnight, prying and lifting them out of mudholes. About midnight Major Hall, former captain of our company, now in command of the regiment, received a message informing him that the great fight would come off on the morrow, that if he desired to participate he must drop everything and join the brigade at once. Accordingly he took possession of the boat that was ferrying the wagons over, crossed the regiment over the river and joined the brigade about 3 o'clock the morning of the 24th. Getting a bite of breakfast we were set across the river again in pontoon boats. This placed us on the same side of the river as Chattanooga and the Federal as well as the Confederate army. During this misty, cloudy day we could partly see and hear the famous "battle above the clouds", Hooker taking Lookout Mountain. We could hear the cannons fire and often see the flash of the guns through the clouds. We maneuvered around considerably during the day and late in the evening captured an advanced line from the enemy on a spur of Tunnel Hill, or Missionary Ridge. We passed the night here. What a night it was! We could not stay on top of the spur as there we would be in plain view of the enemy and in range of their guns. The side of the hill was so steep that it was almost impossible to sleep without rolling or scooting down the hill, a very steep declivity. I scooted down the hill once so far that when I awoke I was completely lost from my company. When I found them again I lay down astride a bush which held pretty well in place. It cleared off during the night and next morning the sun arose and greeted us in all its beauty and splendor. It was destined, however, that day to look down on a scene of terrible carnage and slaughter among human beings.
At this time five companies of our regiment were away on detached mounted duty. The five companies present for duty had a numerical strength of about 130 men. Early in the morning we were deployed in line and sent forward to feel and develop the enemy. Crossing the intervening hollow we ascended Tunnel Hill, capturing their advanced line of breast works. Had our support come up at that time, as they should have done, there is no question in my mind but that we would have gone over their principal line of works as easily as we had their first line, thus doubling back their right wing and have terminated the battle in the morning instead of in the evening as was done. For some inscrutable reason our support failed to appear, the enemy finding there were but few of us came out of their works and we had to withdraw a short distance, covering and protecting ourselves as we best could in the timber. Facing about we made it so hot for them they were glad to crawl back into their works. In this first engagement two men of our company were killed John Miller and Robert J. Atwood. The latter being killed inside the rebel works. Neither of them had ever been under fire before and consequently did not know how to properly protect themselves. In this preliminary bout I had a very close call. When we reached the works I was almost out of breath from climbing the mountain side. I squatted behind the works to get my breathing machine going properly. I could hear the boys spatting away, and I thought I would peep over and see what they were shooting at. A "sun of a gun" of a rebel was lying behind a log fifteen or twenty feet distant, and when I raised my head above the logs he blazed away at me. He shot a little quick. However good his intentions, his aim was faulty. He hit the log right under my face, filling my eyes and face with bark and dust. If you ask, "did I dodge?" I answer, verily, I surely did! I scratched the bark and dust out of my face and eyes as quickly as I could, intent on looking after the future welfare of that Johnnie, but alas! Someone had already got him. After shooting at me he had jumped up and started to run when Jasper Darnell, or Wm. C. Moore, one or the other, maybe both, terminated his earthly existence and relieving me of any further trouble with him.
While we were waiting for our supports to come up the rebels were busy strengthening their lines in our front, no doubt strongly impressed with the idea that our movements portended a turning of their right flank. This weakening of their center to strengthen their right gave General Thomas his opportunity to strike their center. I distinctly saw from ten to fifteen battle flags, representing an equal number of regiments march up to our front. We knew this meant obstinate, hard bloody work for us when we should be thrown against them again. After what seemed an interminable delay our support came up in view. General Corse, who afterwards became famous for his defense of Altoona, Georgia, and from which circumstance (General Sherman signaling him to hold the Fort, he was coming) originated the popular song "Hold the Fort for I am coming", came to us and director Major Hall to select twenty or thirty of his best shots and send them forward as sharp shooters, himself personally requesting us to make it particularly hot for the cannoneers. I was among the number selected. We worked our way carefully forward directing our fire mostly at the cannons, which were so situated as to enfilade our line. The bugler sounded the charge and here came our regiment followed by the support further behind. Reaching the line we had taken in the morning, the fire of the enemy seemed to be too hot for them and the supporting column stopped. Our boys by this time were well up to the enemy's works and were meeting a perfect "hell of fire", the boys dropping here, there and everywhere. I remember standing sidewise to a little black jack sapling, loading and firing like a Trojan. One cannon was sending compliments to us in the form of "Grape and Canister" as fast as it could be worked, notwithstanding we were pouring in a galling, withering fire into the men operating it. When one was disabled another supplied his place. One discharge from that gun hit the ground just in front of me. The next just behind me. I momentarily expected the middle to be knocked out and me with it. Fortunately for me they did not hit the man in the middle.
The fighting now was terrific. It seemed to me that every limb, twig and even the small stones and gravel were in a perfect commotion. It was no matter of wonder that so many were being shot down. What excited my curiosity was how any could escape unscathed. I was among those unfortunates who received wounds, being shot in the left wrist and put out of the fight. I gave my gun to a comrade who had gotten his choked. Major Hall, observing I was wounded signaled me to go to the rear. The signal was used because nothing could be heard in the din and roar of battle. Firing was so intensely hot at this time that it was almost equivalent to death to expose one's self. I waited for the firing to slacken a bit and when it did so I made a dash for the rear. I confess to going with considerable celerity. It was too dangerous to go otherwise. Down a steep grade I went at a two forty clip. I came across our surgeon, Dr. Graham, who examined my wound, gave me a drink of brandy and told me how to reach the field hospital. Reaching the place what a sight met my eyes. Men were there shot and mangled in every conceivable manner. I wish I could describe that scene so you could see it as I saw it that day. I know I cannot and therefore shall not attempt it. My wound began to pain me, the pain apparently going to my heart, was almost agonizing. I saw it would be impossible to conceal my suffering. Many others were much worse wounded than myself and uncomplaining, so to avoid making a public spectacle of myself I walked off where I could be alone, and there I remained until the intensity of my pain wore off.
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