The war was assuming large proportions, and I began to see that the rebellion could not be put down without my help. George had served his time of enlistment, and was at home. Sam was only 18, and was needed at home, but for the fear that we might be drafted and sent to different parts of the country, our parents preferred that we all go together so we could all help each other. It was hard to leave them without help, but they could rent the place or hire some help. Hester was with them and was 9 years old, big enough to run on errands and be of some help at home.
On the 15th day of August, 1862, we, with a number of neighbor boys, among whom were your mother's brothers William and Andrew, went to Greenfield where the company was to meet, and took the train for Indianapolis.
We arrived at Indianapolis in the afternoon and were marched out to camp. Lumber was brought and we all went to work building a "shebang." Before night we had a board tent built, large enough to hold the 103 men of our company, and furnished with bunks on either side for sleeping. We were then furnished with a blanket and rubber apiece for sleeping. These contrasted sadly with the soft beds of home; and let me say here, that as long as I was at home I don't remember sleeping in an unmade-up bed. Then we were furnished each with a tin plate, tin cup, knife, fork, and spoon. After a while came the grub; hard tack, strong bacon, rice, beans, coffee, sugar, and salt. It looked like hard fare but further on we were mighty glad to get it. Tables were made by driving stakes and laying slats from one to another and laying rough boards on them. The company was divided into messes of 20 men each and cooks appointed who were excused from other duty. Late in the evening we were summoned to our first meal at Uncle Sam's table. It was rough, but some of us had had nothing since early breakfast, and it tasted pretty good. Night came on and we turned in but horror of horrors! A hundred and three men all crowded into one room, some of them drunk, some of them obscene, and nearly all of them noisy, and many of them vying with each other in profanity and obscene songs. They brayed, and howled, and crowed, and squalled, and spit all night long. The army is a good place to bring out a man's character.
Louisville and Memphis
After drilling about two months, we were provided with guns, knapsacks, canteens, and haversacks, and were ordered to Louisville, KY., which was threatened by the rebels under Gen. Bragg. We ran over the Jeffersonville railroad , crossed the Ohio on a pontoon or floating bridge, and went into camp in the suburbs of Louisville. We were assigned to the 99th regiment of Indiana Volunteers; our company was B.
After scaring Gen. Bragg away from Louisville, encountering the coldest weather I ever say in the month of October, and enduring a scourge of the mumps, we were ordered down the river to Memphis; Nov. 8, 1862. While passing the mouth of the Wabash River which divides Indiana from Illinois, it was remarked that we would never all see Indiana again.
We reached Memphis late on the evening of Nov. 16. After a scourge of measles we left Memphis on the 26th of Nov. and went on our first campaign, under Gen. Grant; the objective point being Vicksburg. He had sent Gen. Sherman down the river while he was to march with the main force by land, and meet at Vicksburg, but the plans didn't work. When we had gone a little south of Holly Springs the rebs made a dash on our rear and destroyed our supplies; so the campaign was abandoned. It takes too many men to guard a long line of railroad in an enemy's country, and the railroad was the only means Grant had of supplying his army. We spent the winter and spring guarding the railroad east of Memphis.
During the winter we lost a great many man with the typhoid fever, among them your uncle Andrew Curry. He was a noble good man. Everybody liked him; smart, cheerful, agreeable, and a fine singer. He was a fifer in the regimental band. Your uncle Billy was sick at the same time, and I think would have died if the friends at home had not sent a first class doctor down there to bring them through. The regimental doctor wouldn't leave this soft bed at night to see the sick boys. Dr. B. F. Duncan of Greenfield went down and stayed with them till all were recovered.
On A Raid
In the spring of 1863 we went on a raid of 170 miles into Mississippi, and Dr. Duncan went with us. We took the train for Holly Springs, but hadn't gone far before we plunged into a sandbank. Not being a big one, we shoveled it out of the way and went on, but soon plunged into another one. This one was a little too big for us so we got off the train and camped till daylight. The next morning we started on foot and hadn't gone but a little way when we came to a deep creek where the railroad bridge had been washed away; so, if we had gone just a little further on the train we might have plunged into something worse than a sandbank. Thanks to a kind Providence. We understood that a party had been sent out to inspect the road as far as Holly Springs and had reported it in good running order. We had not used the road since Grant had abandoned his campaign the winter before. It was plain that the road had not been inspected at all, else the inspectors had reported falsely. We never knew whether the inspectors were afraid to go over the road, and only guessed at its condition, or whether they were basely disloyal and gave a false report with a view to our destruction. We marched through Holly Springs but every door and window was closed, and nobody was to be seen. At night we were visited by a terrific Mississippi thunderstorm, and were most thoroughly drenched.
The next morning was cool and we suffered with cold. I was very sorry for our good Dr. Duncan as he stood shivering over the fire, wet as a muskrat. We marched with our clothes and blankets soaked with water. After catching a number of prisoners and horses we returned to camp. The object of the raid was to hold Gen. Chalmers in our vicinity while Gen. Grierson conducted another big raid further south.
Bad News From Home
On arriving at camp we found a big mail, when I learned of the death of my father. The news was unexpected, and I could hardly realize that I would never see him again in this world. In this hour of bereavement I had but two consolations, and they were strong ones. One was that I could go where I knew he had gone, and there see him again. The other consolation was that I had always been dutiful, and had never given him any trouble. I have had this testimony given me by both of my parents, and it is a great comfort to me when I look back at the long hard lives they lived; but I reproach myself yet that I didn't only give them no trouble, but that I didn't try harder to make their lives more cheerful, and to throw more sunshine on their pathway. Father died in the spring of 1863. He lived a live worthy of anyone's imitation, and I have no doubt but that he has gone to a rich reward. He was honest and upright in all his dealings with men, and charitable with the suffering. Mother wrote to me to select a verse of scripture to be put on his tombstone, and I selected that beautiful passage in the 23rd Psalm; "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." If we live right we die right.
On returning from the raid Dr. Duncan prepared to leave us for his home. We hated to see him go. He had the body of your Uncle Andrew Curry taken up and placed in a metallic coffin and took it home for burial. It was a great satisfaction to the friends at home to have him buried in the cemetery with his own relatives.
Grant and Sherman by a series of hard fought battles had succeeded in surrounding Vicksburg, in which was Gen. Pembarton with about 30,000 men, and we were ordered down the river to assist in the siege.
We broke camp on the 6th of June 1863, and marched to Memphis, where we got aboard the steamer Emerald and started for Vicksburg. When a boy I use to read about the great Mississippi River, but I never expected to ride on it, much less on a mission of destruction. I was third in our family to navigate it, and George and Sam would make five.
We were getting into the heart of Rebeldom and everything looked warlike. Bales of hay were lashed to each side of the pilot house for fear of sharpshooters on the shore, and where things looked suspicious on the shore a shell was sent out to inquire into matters.
Just above Vicksburg we turned up the Yazoo River and landed at a high bluff, where we camped and waited for orders.
We were ordered about four miles to the rear of Vicksburg to prevent Gen. Johnston from attacking the siegers from that quarter. We remained here till the evening of July 4, and suddenly the dull roaring of cannon at Vicksburg ceased and soon we received word that the city had surrendered. Grant was summoned to Washington, and Sherman took the army and went after Johnston. We had a spat with them at Big Black River, and then followed on to Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. We had quite a siege to get into the city, but we entered it on the 16th of July, 1863. After destroying some railroad, we took a look at Jackson, took a swim in the clear waters of the Pearl, and returned to Big Black River where we went into camp.
Home on Furlough
From this place a great many soldiers were allowed to go home on furlough. Mother had written for me to come and advise her some abut settling up the estate. I applied for a furlough, stating the case, and was granted one.
Two others of our company also attained leave and we started home together. We went to Vicksburg where we obtained passes up the river on the steamer Gen. Anderson. The government paid our way home and back, but deducted the amount from our pay. We arrived at Cairo, Illinois, where we took the train through Illinois and Indiana for Indianapolis and Greenfield.
Southern Illinois was grossly disloyal, and the conductor wanted to put us into a second class car by ourselves, but we couldn't see the necessity. We arrived at Greenfield after dark, and after supper we got liver horses for two (the other had relatives in town) and rode out about five miles to his father-in-law's. They were all in bed, but the women got up and spread a bed on the floor for us. In the morning we got a boy to take the horses back and we struck out on foot for home; he one way and I another. I surprised our folks by landing in from Vicksburg for breakfast.
A Vacant Chair
A breakfast prepared by my mother was a great contrast with our meals in the army. Mother, Het, and Johnny were all that was left of our large family. The table is the most enjoyable place for the family to meet, not on account of the luxuries of the table, but the pleasing conversation. Every member of the family is there, and they sit facing each other and all are in a more pleasant mood than at any other coming together. But the vacant places, and especially that at the head of the table so lately made vacant, well nigh destroyed our relish for food or conversation. But I indulged in a little justifiable hypooriay, ate a square meal, feigned cheerfulness, put off my uniform, put on some of my old clothes, and, against my mother's remonstrance, did a square day's work with the thrashing machine, which I found already set and waiting. The thrashing was finished and the machine then gone.
I washed the dust off of me and out of me and prepared to face another trial. Supper over, we gathered around the hearthstone; but we all felt the lack. Unless there was something unusual to prevent, father never failed to give out a hymn and lead the family in singing and then kneel and offer prayer, before lying down at night. A beautiful custom, and one we sadly missed that night. Such is life; but we have hope and a promise of a life where these distresses never come. Let us make sure of it.
I made the best arrangements I could for the comfort of the folks at home, for their winter wood, and other necessaries, visited the friends of some of the boys in camp and prepared to return to my regiment, but was taken with a sever attack of fever which delayed me beyond my time. Dr. Duncan cam to see me and soon brought me up again. An old friend, James Holland, came while I was sick and, besides waiting on me he filled the whole house with sunshine. He had an accordion, and was a good singer and player. He was a local preacher and a model Christian.
Camp of Big Black River
Having sufficiently recovered I set out for the land of magnolias. The other boys had gone and I made the long journey alone. When I reached the river I took the steamer Sultana, for Vicksburg, and arrived at Camp Sherman.
While there a man wanted me to go with him and some others to a graveyard across the river, where he though there was money buried. Negroes had reported that a rich planter had at two different times gone to the cemetery and buried, what appeared, from the size of the coffin, to be children, when they knew he had no children. I expect the Negroes were right in their judgment, but I didn't go. We had no business across Big Black River. Some of our boys went over there to get some peaches and didn't come back.
After the terrible battle of Chickamauga, we were ordered to Chattanooga to help Gen. Rosencrans. We broke camp on Big Black River about the first of October, 1863, and marched to Vicksburg. We had to wait awhile until Sherman could get enough boats to move up the river, and so we had a chance to look over the city. It stood on a high bluff, on a great bend of the Mississippi, and the big siege guns of the enemy thoroughly covered the approach by water from above and below. The inhabitants had dug for themselves caves in the hillsides to hide away from the shells of our big guns, during the siege. There was a whole field full of cannon and caisons which Grant had taken with the city.
Up the River to Memphis
After a short delay we were put aboard the big steamer Glassgow, and started up the river. The crew was not friendly to our cause and I believe they would have sent us to eternity if they could have done it without going with us. The boat was loaded from hull to hurricane deck and from bow to stern with men, horses, mules, cannon, caisons, ammunition, hay bales, and what not. A fire would have meant the destruction of everybody and everything on board. Our officers watched the crew closely, and placed guards in every part of the vessel. We arrived at Memphis after dark, Oct. 9, and slept on the rocky wharf. On the 11th, we started on a long march of 400 miles for Chattanooga.
March to Chattanooga
Rosencrans' army was well nigh surrounded in Chattanooga, and were suffering, so we lost not time on this march. We passed some of our old camping places, and near the place where we lost so many many the winter before. On the 3rd of November we were joined by five or six men who had been hiding away for months to avoid being conscripted into the rebel army. On the morning of November 5th, we came to a poor desolate woman who implored our protection. Her husband had been killed because he wouldn't join the rebel army; her mother had been shot for expressing her union sentiments, and she had only saved herself by instant flight, followed by a shower of rebel bullets. She was put in our ambulance and taken to Decherd, within our lines.
We struck the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, Alabama, where we drew clothing, rations, and a good supply of ammunition. We overhauled our guns ready for business, as we were nearing the enemy. Rosencrans' men who had been so roughly handled in the battle of Chickamauga, told us that the country swarmed with rebels, and that they would eat us up.
We crossed the Tennessee on a pontoon bridge and ascended Raccoon Mountain by a road which the rebs deemed impassable by an army. We crossed the mountain and descended by a similar road into Lockout Valley. Here we routed a small body of the enemy who were not expecting an enemy from that direction. They didn't know how we got there. We camped in this valley one night and demolished a big rebel machine shop. The next morning we started early and rounded the point of Lookout Mountain right under the guns of the rebel batteries on the summit, and marched up the Tennessee to the extreme left of the army, going into camp late at night, opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga.
On the morning of Nov. 24, we were roused up at 4 o'clock in the morning and moved down to the river. A few men crossed over in pontoon boats while the bridge was being built. We went to digging like groundhogs while the remainder of the army was crossing. The bridge was completed and our cannon all moved over. We were ready for business.
Battle of Missionary Ridge
Rosencrans had been removed and Grant was in command. Our regiment lead the division that day, and the regiment moved left in front, and I, being left guide, had the honor of leading the division in the opening of the battle of Missionary Ridge. Skirmishers were thrown out in advance, soon the crack of rifles was heard, and then the boom of rebel cannon. It was misting rain, and thick fog made it difficult to see any distance. We were facing the command of Gen. John C. Breckinridge of the extreme rebel right. We were advancing through thick timber up the extreme right of Missionary Ridge. The climb was too steep for our batteries, and the enemy's big guns were very destructive to our men. Our artillery men were on the ground however, and taking the exact range of the enemy's guns, they ordered a 24 pounder dragged up by hand. An artillery duel followed but it was short. The rebel battery never bothered us any more.
We fortified our position during the night, and having been in the front on the 24th, it was our day for the rear on the 25th, so we didn't have much to do.
Sherman's fierce attack on the rebel right caused the enemy to weaken his center to reinforce Breckinridge. Grant saw this and ordered the center under Gen. Granger to different divisions, and he from some cause unaccountable, delayed them for one hour, when Grant repeated the order. (See history of the 99th) During this delay, the battle was going hard with Sherman; and when the center charged, they didn't have much to do. Thus, Sherman's army, after a march of 400 miles and without a single day's rest, opened and bore the brunt of the Battle of Missionary Ridge. If Grant's order, given at 2 in the afternoon, had been promptly obeyed, we could have ruined Bragg's army; but delayed till 4, at that time of year, was only to dislodge him, and leave him to withdraw during the night. We pursued as far as Ringold, Georgia, tore up the railroad, and then started on a forced march of 100 miles and back to relieve Gen. Burnside at Knoxville, who was hardpressed by Gen. Longstreet.
There were troops who had been lying in Chattanooga doing nothing since the battle of Chickamauga in September. Gen. Grant ordered Gen. Granger to take 20,00 of these and go with all speed to the relief of Gen. Burnside; but Granger was so slow that Grant saw at once that it would be utterly vain to depend on him, so he ordered Sherman to head the expedition, with his men.
March to Knoxville
This was a very hard campaign. It was winter. We only took what clothes we had on, one blanket and rubber, and 100 rounds of ammunition to the man. We took a very scanty supply of provisions, having to hunt our living from the country, while marching 30 and 40 miles a day, and often tearing up railroad half the night. We had to keep up fires some nights and lie so close to them that many of the men had their blankets burned and spoiled, and some of them their clothing also. I have known men to march 30 or 40 miles and not have a bite to eat at night. One morning after having marched about 35 miles and tearing up railroad half the night, I was sick and couldn't march.
I had vomited everything from the stomach and knew I would feel better in a little while. The captain wanted the doctor to take me in the ambulance. "No, no, no room. He will have to be left behind." He had the ambulance full of his own old traps. The major let me ride his horse for a few hours, when I felt better I walked the rest of the day. Some neighbor boys in the 12th (Ind.) were left behind and when we came back that way they were hanging up to the trees.
When we got near Knoxville, Longstreet withdrew, and we returned more leisurely. A great many men were bare-footed, I among them. The ground would freeze hard at night and thaw to a cold mud during the day. You can imaging the comfort we took in marching under such conditions, and what a crop of rheumatic decrepitude we were sowing to be reaped in after life. After a while I found a pair of slippers which some old auntie had left in a deserted negro cabin, which I appropriated to my own use; and which with some old rags for stockings, answered a very good purpose until I got where I could get something better. Wen we got to Chattanooga we drew clothing and plenty of rations; and then we pursued our march on to Bridgeport, Stevenson, and Scottsboro, Alabama, which latter place we reached Jan 1, 1864. Here we built us comfortable quarters and had a much needed and well deserved rest.
Most of the citizens around Scottsboro were loyal, and would come into camp from across the Tennessee River to get our help in bringing their families out of Rebeldom; and an immense number of soldiers deserted the rebels and came to us. Quite a number of our boys married southern girls and sent them north. The rocky hills around Scottsboro were covered with cedar. The sap was almost snow-white, and the heart almost fiery red. The boys used to make all kinds of toys with the wood.
While here your grandpa Curry and one of his neighbors came down to see up and brought us a box of good things to eat. We made them as comfortable as possible while they were with us, but I expect they thought they had got to a poor hotel.
But their visit was cut short by an order for us to march. It looked hard for us to have to march and leave them when they had come so far to see us; but war is hard at best. We marched away on the 11th of Feb. not knowing where nor what for. They started for home.
A Winter Raid
We marched from Bridgeport to Chattanooga for the third time and went on a winter raid down into Georgia. The object of the raid, we learned, was to hold Johnston at Dalton while Sherman made a big raid from Vicksburg into eastern Mississippi. We went nearly to Dalton, GA., made lots of noise, (more than the ass did with the loin sent him into the woods to scar the game out) gave Johnston a big scare, got badly scared ourselves and came near getting captured; and then returned to Scottsboro, traveling the road between Chattanooga and Bridgeport for the fourth time.
Our stay at Scottsboro is the brightest spot in my military life; and immediately following it is the darkest.
The country now had able commanders in the field who were competent and loyal, and not too jealous of eachother to work together in harmony for the suppression of the rebellion; but the loyal element of the nation was nearly all in the army, leaving the disloyal element of the nation to raise cain and pandemonium at home. In many places soldiers were called from the front to go North and quell the rioters. This gave great encouragement to the rebellion, and no doubt prolonged the war. At one time, greenbacks were only worth 35 cents on the dollar.
This was the darkest year of the war, the darkest year of our country's history, and the darkest year of my life. I think of it yet with a shudder, and will not follow the bloody details of the Atlanta campaign in this memoir.
Our armies were recruited and equipped for what the country thought to be the great and final struggle. We were furnished with new and better guns; we were inspected and everything, not strictly needed in and was ordered sent home. Extra blankets, overcoats, watches, revolvers, photographs and other unnecessary things were boxed up and sent home, but they never got there.
On the first day of May, 1864, we broke camp at Scottsboro, traveled the road to Chattanooga for the fifth and last time. On the 6th of May we camped at Crawfish Spring, where the water comes boiling out of the ground cold and clear, and forms a river at once, larger than the North Fork of the Nehalem. This is the source of the Chickamauga. Here I was detailed, with two others of our company as guards of our division train. We had to guard the train that supplied our division with provisions, from rebel attack, and also help load and unload wagons, and assist them over bad roads.
We passed over the Chickamauga battle ground. Great pine trees, three feet through, were shot down by cannon. Little mounds of earth lay round where the dead had been covered up where they fell.
Battle of Dallas, GA.
At Dallas, Ga., on the 28th of May about half of Co. A were killed or wounded. George was wounded in the wrist and Sam in the leg and ankle. Sam was in the field hospital for several days not far from our train, where I visited him several times. He was cheerful and hopeful. He was not badly wounded and would have recovered if he had half taken care of him. The wounded were put on the train for home, and we moved forward and I saw Sam for the last time. I helped him in the ambulance when the hospital moved. He owed some little debts to the boys that he told me to pay for him out of money that others owed him. He died at Rome, Ga., Sept. 3 1864, and was after the war removed to the government cemetery at Marietta, Ga. I have a strong hope that Sam was saved, from what he wrote to me, and what I heard from others who were in the hospital with him. I always felt a great responsibility resting on me in regard to the spiritual welfare of those younger than myself, and I tried to do the best I could for them in precept and example, and I don't know where I have failed. Poor mother; Sam was the baby. George didn't join the regiment any more till the campaign was over.
The orderly sergeant of our company was wounded, and I, being the next ranking sergeant, was relieved from the train and went to the company. The regiment was camped in line of battle on the Chatahoochie River, very near the enemy, but Johnston fell back with his army, and McPherson, who commanded the Army of Tennessee, moved to the extreme left and advanced almost to Atlanta. The result of this movement was the battle of July 22, where McPherson was killed.
Battles of July 22 and 28
This was the hardest day's work of my life, I believe, and I don't believe the description of it would be of interest to you. The command devolved on Gen. Logan, our corps commander. We held the field. After a few days, the Army of the Tennessee moved to the extreme right where we got our foot into it again. Our division was in the rear and before we got into position two of the best army corps in the rebel service, Lee's and Hardee's, struck us on the wing. They made seven desperate charges and met with seven desperate repulses. The horrors of this day's work my be seen in the history of the 99th Ind., if anyone wants to see them.
At dark, Co. B was sent a little to the front as pickets where we were horrified with the groaning of our wounded enemies, and unable to help them. I can best describe it by a poem written some time ago:
Naught of the tumult now, nor of battle call;
O'er the ghastly dead night has spread his pall;
Bayonet returned, cooled the cannon's breath;
Where the contest burned all is still as death.
Hard has been the day, fierce the battle strife;
And the sad results fearful loss of life.
Though we're left victorious upon the field,
Little pleasure can such a triumph yield.
Many sleeping now in the distant home,
Fondly dream of days that will never come;
Days when friendly footsteps approach the door;
But alas! they'll ne'er cross the threshold more.
Wife for husband waits, mother for her boy;
And the lonely maid for her hope and joy;
How, alas! their hearts would faint and chill,
Could they see them here lying cold and still.
And those plaintive cries on the midnight air,
Come from wounded ones lying helpless there;
Water, Water, is their imploring cry;
And to give relief on resolves to try.
So a skillful sentry with a stealthy tread;
creeps beside and raising the feverish head;
Gives refreshing drink to his wounded foe;
Speaking words of cheer, but in whispers low.
Truly, war is hard, with its cruel deeds,
When the loved ones fall and the sad heart bleeds,
When life is robbed of its youth and prime,
And is left out to drift on the sea of time;
When the widow goes in the mourning garb;
And the orphan cries from misfortune's barb;
Haste the time of peace to our native shore,
When the sound of war shall be heard no more.
Battle of Jonesboro and Fall of Atlanta
About three o'clock in the morning July 29, the rebel bugles sounded, and soon we heard the sound of their wagons, moving to the rear. We gathered up their wounded and took them to our hospital and buried their dead. We advanced our lines and fortified and from this time, were continually under fire until August 26, when we withdrew and moved to the right, and struck the last railroad by which Hood supplied his army. Seeing the hopelessness of holding Atlanta, he blew up 81 car loads of ammunition and evacuated the city.
Johnston commanded the rebel army until about the middle of July. He was prudent, and spared his men; but when Hood was put in command, he rushed his men onto us in four pitched battles and well nigh ruined his army. We followed the rebs a few days after the last battle and then marched into the "Gale City." We were glad to take a rest, for we had been under a fire almost continuously for four months.
Up to this time our regiment had marched on foot 1,913 miles. We looked over the conquered city, fortified, cut chestnut trees and ate the nuts, and then started on another campaign after Hood who had swung around and was tearing up the railroad by which Sherman's army was supplied.
After Hood, March through Georgia
We broke camp on the 4th of October, 1864, and followed Hood past Kenesaw Mountain and Alatoona, where Sherman signaled to Gen. Corse to "Hold the Fort" (which gave rise to the song Hold the Fort), and almost back to Dalton, when Sherman left him to the care of Gens. Thomas and Schofield, and returned to Atlanta. On this campaign we marched about 307 miles, making 2,220 miles in all.
All the inhabitants had been sent out of Atlanta, the railroads leading to it destroyed, the rails heated red hot and twisted out of shape, the machine shops destroyed, and the place rendered unfit for a rebel stronghold in the near future. It was rumored in camp that Sherman was entering on some great scheme, but no one knew what or where, until one evening late we were ordered into line to hear an order from Sherman. Everything was expectation. I have condensed the contents of the order and the campaign that followed in the following poem:
'Twas a memorable day and the sun nearly down,
As we lay there encamped in the suburbs of town;
When the roll of the drum quickly called us in line,
And an order from Sherman made known his design.
Many hearts beat with joy, many other with dread,
In the silence profound while the adjutant read;
"You are chosen an army a great work to do,
As in former campaigns so in this one, be true.
We're to leave present base, smoldering ruins behind,
And by long dangerous marches a new one to find;
All the chances of war are provided for well,
Far as mere human foresight can possibly tell.
The department of war, also Grant knows the plan;
Let its certain success be the aim of each man.
Your command thus hopes to inflict such a blow,
As will cause the rebellion's complete overthrow.
You will forage the country, what's useful you'll take;
You'll appropriate horses, the railroad you'll break,
You'll destroy only that which may give rebels aid;
And abstain from all acts that would soldiers degrade."
'Twas November fifteenth when our march was begun,
When our bright weapons shone in the clear morning sun,
When our proud banners waved o'er our long moving lines,
And we stepped to the drums 'neath the towering pines.
And thus, day after day, over Georgian sands;
Over rivers and swamps through an enemy's land,
We were urging our way, though we knew not just where;
Sherman knew, 'twas enough; we would know when once there.
Rebel prisons we passed where our brave comrades slept;
Where they suffered intensely and died there unwept;
Who entreated for food and for drink, but in vain;
Who with hunger and thirst were inhumanly slain.
Many slaves wept with joy at the long looked for day,
When their children no more should be bartered away;
"We hab waited and waited, no de Lo'd let us see,
We beliebe dat he Come wid de great jubilee."
Rebels said it was in vain for our gunboats of nights,
To be sending up signals, those blue yankee lights.
Sherman's army was lost and would never be found,
In those great dismal swamps which in Georgia abound.
But we merged from those swamps to their utter dismay,
And in rear of Savannah we quietly lay;
Fort McAllister soon helpless lay at our feet;
And we marched through Savannah in triumph complete.
The people of Savannah were glad to see Sherman's army. They were tired of the war. We marched through the streets in column by company, with flags waving and bands playing, and the women and children didn't run and hide. We traded in the stores, and they were glad to get our greenbacks.
When Fort McAllister was taken our vessels from the Atlantic came streaming up the Ogeechee with provisions and clothing, and a big mail. Some of the boys from home got bad news but I got good news this time. Uncle Tom was on his way home to stay with Mother and Het. Wasn't I glad? Our friends at home had heard all manner of rumors about Sherman's army. The mischief-making stay at home had us all annihilated. They would have given their bottom dollar to make it so. On this campaign we marched 346 miles, making 2,566 miles in all. Sherman's army couldn't afford to rest long. We took a short ocean voyage to Beaufort, South Carolina, where we camped long enough to corduroy some swampy roads and then the Carolina Campaign was begun.
We broke camp on the 15th of January, 1865. This was a campaign of great exposure. We made no effort to keep dry. It was no use. We marched through rain and mud, and waded creeks, rivers, and swamps like so many cattle. On the 12th of February, we waded the overflown bottom of the North Edisto River, where the water was sometimes knee deep and sometimes waist deep. It was full of vines and brambles, and cyprus stools so that we often fell down and went clear under. We were floundering through there for just two hours, and the weather was freezing cold. The rebs held the road at the crossing, and we had to flank them.
We moved northward destroying all communication between the coast and the interior. Old Charleston, where was fired the first gun of the war, surrendered to the inevitable, then Columbia, the cradle of secession, succumbed, then Chesaw, Camdon, and Fayetteville. A vast amount of rebel ammunition went up in smoke at these places.
On the 21st of March we heard a terrific cannonading on our left and knew that someone was catching it. We marched nearly all that nighty, helping our trains and artillery over a big swamp, and reaching dry ground, dropped down for a little sleep when an order came for us to return and assist the 14th Corps which had suffered severely the day before. We had to recross the big swamp and march nearly all the next day, in a heavy rain before we arrived at our destination. At night we were placed on the front line where the bullets were whistling all around us. We expected to charge the enemy the next morning, but he was gone, and we were not angry.
A lot of Gen. Lee's men from Richmond, calling themselves Lee's bulldogs, had been sent down to oppose Sherman's progress. Lee told Jeff Davis that unless Sherman was stopped he could not hold Richmond. On the 23rd of March the weather cleared up. We pried our cannon out of the mud and went on our way rejoicing.
Goldsboro and Raleigh
On the 24th we reached Goldsboro, N. C., where we were again in communication with the world, and where we drew plenty of rations and clothing. Many of the boys were barefooted. We had been marching and wading for two months and a half and no chance to get clothing, except from the country. Sherman promised us a rest, and gave it to us. In the campaign we marched 454 miles. While at Goldsboro we heard the glorious news of the fall of Richmond.
On the 10th of April we again moved northward. We met with but little opposition. A few little spats with the Johnnies reminded us that the war was not quite over. On the 12th of April we were ordered to march, but the order was countermanded. Presently we heard away ahead of us a tremendous cheering. Then we heard it a little closer and louder; and then closer and still louder. Then we saw the air fairly black with flying hats. Then an officer came dashing up to us and announced officially from General Sherman that Lee had surrendered to General Grant. Hats flew high in the air, the drums beat, and men cheered themselves hoarse, and rolled on the ground like they were wild, and I guess they were. The year before marked the darkest period in our country's history; and I believe the surrender of Lee marked the brightest. The news seemed too good to be true, but it was.
We moved to Raleigh, and the people were glad to see Sherman's army. There were two daily papers in Raleigh, and our boys bought them and wrote articles for them. The people were tired of war.
While at Raleigh we received the intelligence of the assassination of Lincoln. The boys were very mad for a while, and talked of going for Johnston without mercy, but they soon got over it.
Close of the War, March for Home
We were ordered to march on the 15th of April, but before we got on the road, the order was countermanded. Camp was full of rumor of Johnston's surrender. There was evidently something going between Johnston and Sherman; and soon it was announced in the Raleigh papers by Sherman, that he had effected arrangements with Gen. Johnston which, if ratified by the authorities at Washington, would make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. He cautioned the men to sobriety, and soldierly conduct, and thought he would soon be able to conduct them to their homes. Could it be possible? Yes, even so. The surrender came, and with it the termination of the bloodiest year of war of modern times.
Gens. Grant and Sherman came down from Richmond and reviewed Sherman's army. We immediately began to get ready for our homeward march. Sherman indicated the order of march; there was to be no straggling, no enclosure entered unbidden.
On Saturday, the 29th of April, we started on our march for home. A national salute was fired at Raleigh as Sherman's army moved off for home. I was afraid I would wake up and find it all a dream. We rested over Sunday and Gen. Howard preached, but I was away, on guard, and didn't get to hear him.
On Monday morning we marched early. Every man kept his place in ranks. Occasionally the fifes and drums would give us a tune to step to. The people were all at home. At all the towns and crossroads, men, women, and children crowded out to see Sherman's army pass. The Negroes were the happiest of all. They would wave their hats and holler, "Hurrah for Billy Sherman." The men of Lee's army would come up and ask many questions about certain regiments in our army. I expect they had relatives they wanted to find.
On the 3rd of May, we reached the Roanoke River and camped on its banks while the pontooniers laid the bridge across its placid waters. It was a beautiful stream and the red buds which were in full bloom bent over the river and dropped their buds into the water. At night the whippoorwill had us a lively serenade. It might be well to describe a pontoon bridge.
We had what we called the pontoon corps, whose duty it was to bridge the streams for the army if the streams were too wide or deep for an ordinary bridge, or in any case where there was no bridge, and streams couldn't be forded. They hauled all them material with them. Coming to a river, they would take out their canvas and frames, put them together, and thus form boats. One of these was anchored about 12 feet from the shore, and the stringers laid, one end on the shore and the other end on the boat, and then the floor was laid. About 12 feet from the boat another boat was anchored, and the same process repeated till the other shore was reached. When all was over, the bridge was taken up and loaded onto the wagons. It took 29 boats to span the Roanoke. We crossed over the next morning and proceeded on our march.
Learning from spectators just where the Virginia line was, our band, on nearing it, struck up, "O Carry Me Back To Old Virginia." A great many of the boys were from Virginia, and many more had heard their parents tell about Virginia, till it seemed like home to them.
We camped on the night of May 10m near the James River in a big field which was literally full of wild onions, and we had a feast of something hot. On the 13th we passed through Richmond and almost rubbed against the walls of old Libby prison. On the 14th of May we camped in the Hanover Court house yard, where Patrick Henry made his celebrated tobacco speech. The house was made of brick and bore date of 1735. There was a hole in it where a Negro prisoner had "dug out," that in the jail attachment. On the 17th of May, we crossed the beautiful, wide, and historical Rapahannock, and passed Fredricksburg where Burnside met his defeat, and near where Washington played in his boyhood, and where his mother died.
On the 23rd of May, we camped at Alexandria, in sight of Washington. The dome of the capitol loomed up like some great Mohammedan Mosque. Then the 24th we crossed the Potomac and passed in the grand review. Men were there from all parts of the country, and the flowers suffered. Gen. Sherman was nearly covered with them. Great honor was paid to Sherman's army, which had waded, and dug, and climbed, and had accomplished so much in the far west and south, but had never been seen about Washington. We were allowed to go all through the capitol buildings and the patent office. The patent office is the most interesting thing in Washington, but the most interesting things in it are the relics. We saw Washington's mesa chest, plates, knives, forks, spoons, tent pole, buckskin vest, Franklin's printing press, the old liberty bell, the Declaration of Independence, and many other things almost sacred to an American.
But it would take months to see all the different kinds of machinery and inventions in the patent office; and we began to cast longing looks at our home. Our marching was over. Since leaving Goldsboro, we had marched 400 miles, making 3,420 miles in all.
On the 5th day of June, 1865, we were mustered out of service, and on the following day we took the train for Parkersburg on the Ohio. We ran over the Baltimore and Ohio road and passed through 22 tunnels. Our road ran up a stream for a good ways, called the Potapsco, on which there were a great many factories, and a great many pretty factory girls, and they waved us welcome as we passed.
We crossed three ranges of mountains. After crossing the Alleghenies I felt like jumping off the train and going to hunt the old homes of my parents, but we didn't pass anyways near the place where they lived.
We rolled into the depot at Parkersburg on the 8th of June, just after dark, during a terrific thunderstorm. Having no tents, we were allowed to remain all night in the depot.
Down the Ohio
On the morning of June 9, we went aboard a small stern wheel steamer called Nashville, and started down the Ohio. We passed the mouth of the Big Sandy where Grandfather Peter had built his flatboat, and somewhere passed the place where mother fell overboard. We passes Cincinnati on the 10th. I used to buy books there while teaching in Kentucky and the place looked natural, but it didn't look much like it did when mother saw it. Every town, house and person waved us welcome as we passed. The war was over and everybody was glad.
Late on the evening of the 10th we landed at Lawrenceburg, Indiana. This was only four miles from where Sarah lived. We were given a good meal at the soldiers home, then took the Indianapolis and Cincinnati road for Indianapolis. We started just at dark. I had been over this road half a dozen times, and ever station was familiar. For some cause the train stopped for a long time at a station called Morris, where my uncle Dave lived, of whom I thought so much, but he was no more. I wrote to him from the army, but got a letter from aunt Becca telling me of his death, another tie in heaven.
Early on the morning of June 11, we rolled into Indianapolis. It was Sunday. We were marched to the soldier's home for breakfast. So many soldiers returning made the home pretty throng, so we had to wait a good while. When he had broken the fast and were marching to camp, the organs were playing and the congregation singing in the church. Were we dreaming?
On the following day, Gov. Morton had all the new arrivals assemble in the state house where he and Gen. Hovey made us speeches of welcome (see history of the 99th Indiana) from a great rostrum which he had prepared. He invited all the commissioned officers on the stand with him and shook hands with them. Gov. Morton was called the "Great War Governor" and was the best friend the soldiers had. We were paid off and received our discharges. While waiting for the train, the boys gathered in a vacant lot and settled all their little debts with each other. Out of about 125 that went out there were but 30 present. "We will never all see Indiana again."
We took the train for Greenfield where we arrived at 1 p.m. Your grandpa and grandma Curry, and Bell were there with a wagon to meet us. When I cam to the place where I left them to go home, Bell asked here mother where I was going. When I told her I was going home she said, "Why, aint it our Marshall?" She thought that I belonged to their family. She was only three or four months old when we enlisted. When I got home I found that George had beaten me home. He was sick and left us at Goldsboro, and took shipping to New York, and was discharged before I was. So there were four of the original family together again. Uncle Tom had enlisted, and was guarding on the Baltimore and Ohio road when we passed. He was discharged and returned home soon after we did, and then there were three boys at home again, which was a great consolation to mother. But it was hard to see us come home without Sam. I enlisted as a private and was discharged as a First Lieutenant. It seemed so strange to be allowed to go and come as we pleased, without passes, that we hardly knew how to behave ourselves.
Note: by John Marshall Alley