part of a volume entitled Fifteen Years Ago: or the Patriotism of Will County by George H. Woodruff
Submitted by Merryann Palmer, firstname.lastname@example.org, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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This was one of the most fatiguing marches ever made by the 100th. The encounter with Longstreet's corps was unexpected. It was not supposed that he was so near. But his forces were driven through the day, and our army would probably have held the advance, but for the discovery made, that for some reason or other, through somebody's neglect, the ammunition train had not come along, and that on inspection they were found with an average of less than twenty rounds, and an immediate retreat was ordered. But there is a comical side to the affair, for it was afterward ascertained that Longstreet was also retreating just as hastily in an opposite direction, so when the sun of the 19th rose on Dandridge, it found the vicinity free from the presence of both armies, except a detail of our boys that had been put to work grinding corn in the vicinity. These were quite surprised to find themselves in possession of the country, and they made their way leisurely back to the army without molestation. After various marches the regiment went to Louden, the 25th of January.
While encamped at Louden the veteran fever broke out in the brigade, and four regiments being eligible went home. Those who were left fixed themselves up as comfortably as they could, build good brick chimneys to their tents, and remained here until the 16th of March, passing the time as best they could. Part of the 51st Ind. (the non-veterans) were temporarily attached to the 100th. When they left to join their old regiment again they passed resolutions of thanks for their courteous treatment. While at Louden they heard from some of the boys taken prisoners at Chickamauga. A man from the 6th Ohio, made his escape from the Danville prison, where he saw and knew the two Noble boys who were confined there, and he reported them well. The man had made his escape from prison, and after getting outside passed himself off as one of Morgan's men, getting passes, rations and transportation to Longstreet's front, and when Longstreet fell back he straggled out and got into our lines.
The sojourn of the regiment in East Tennessee during the winter of 1863 and 1864 was a tedious one. It was hard work to make the time pass profitably and pleasantly. The weather was much of the time cold and rainy; the men were deficient in clothing and often the rations were poor and scanty. And although they had to forage, and to cut and haul their wood, and to gather and grind their corn, yet much of the time they were idle. It would be strange then if some of them did not find the words of good old Dr. Watts true,and if while having a rest from the assaults of the rebels, they were not subjected to the attacks of the father of the rebellion - the chief of rebels. For whether with Milton we dignify this personage as -
"The Prince, the chief of many throned power,
That led the embattled Seraphims to war,"
or, with Burns, call him
"Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie,"
of his existence there is little room to doubt, since he leaves the evidences of his personality and malicious activity everywhere and all along the track of human history.
I think I find evidences of his presence in East Tennessee at this time in the journal of one of the boys where I find frequently such entries as these, "Read 'Black Hawk' or the 'Hunter's Scalp;' Read the 'Black Knight' or the 'Wandering Bohemian;' Read 'Sweeney Tod' or the 'Ruffian Barber,'"etc., and so on, through a list of similar titles of blood and thunder novels of the Sylvanus Cobb school - to the number of forty or fifty. I know the Christian Commission had their colporteurs at work trying to get better reading into the hands of our soldiers, but I am afraid they did not penetrate into East Tennessee, or that the devil's colporteurs got ahead of them. It is a nice question in casuistry whether the reading of such trash was better or worse than idleness or card playing.
One of the great comforts of the soldier while in winter quarters, as well as when on his campaigns, was his coffee. If the boys could get plenty of bacon and hardtack, and rail fences to make their fires, and water to make their coffee, they wold never grumble or sigh for the luxuries of civilized life.
And then the pipe! Far be it from me to encourage the use of tobacco, but if George Trask, himself, could have seen the comfort which the soldier derived from his pipe, I don't believe he could have found it in his heart to deprive him of it - at least not until the war was over. Surely the army, if anywhere, was just the place for tobacco. The active out door life of the soldier would go far to neutralize the subtle nicotine. Mother earth would absorb his foul expectorations s kindly as she would his blood, and quickly cover up the stain, and utter no reproof. And then he was in no company but that of men as dirty as himself. No clean, sweet woman, whether mother, sister, wife or sweetheart, was there to take offense at his stained mouth, or feel disgusted at his tainted breath.
And I am not sure that I would not be willing now to make this compromise with his satanic majesty, viz; that if he would keep whisky and its congeners out of this world, he might do his worst with tobacco, nasty as it is!
But better times are in store for the 100th, for on the 16th of March it was ordered to Athens, Tennessee.
The one and a half months sojourn of the regiment at Athens, Tenn., is regarded by both officers and privates, as the brightest period in their army life. Sandwiched between the tedious winter at Strawberry Plains and Louden, where cold and wet, hunger and sickness, tried their patience and endurance, and the summer's Atlanta campaign, in which they were almost without intermission, under fire; it was like the oasis in the desert - the one green spot in their military experience, which still remains a pleasant memory. There were many things which combined to render their stay here very agreeable. Athens is one of the prettiest towns in East Tennessee, beautifully located on the Knoxville and Chattanooga Railroad; a county seat of considerable educational advantages and culture. The inhabitants moreover were generally loyal, and did not turn their backs upon the "boys in blue;" but, on the contrary, opened to them their hearts and homes. The boys found here that there was a meaning in the term "Southern hospitality," of which they had begun to doubt. Here they fixed up a nice camp, built a redoubt guarding the railroad, on which they mounted two six pound James rifled guns. They had quite a miniature army, for they had cavalry, half a dozen butternut clad scouts, not snowy, but true blue, despite the butternut. The trains from Chattanooga to Knoxville, stopped half an hour for diner, which gave an opportunity to see a great many celebrities, civil and military. Among the rest, was Governor Andy Johnson, who made a speech to the boys, although not at that time, "swinging around the circle." Gen. Sherman stopped on one occasion and inspected the camp, pronouncing it the best kept camp he had ever seen. The lamented Major Brown writing home from Athens at that time, playfully says:
"We are living as well as anybody need. Rations are plenty. Butter and eggs from the country abundant. We board at a first class hotel, have a husk mattress to sleep on, and a shingle roof over our heads. Is not this gay soldiering? Our mess consists of Col. Waterman, eminent for executive ability; Major Hammond, eminent for poetical and musical ability; Dr. Woodruff, the most eminent practitioner attached to the 100th Illinois, and Adjutant Horne, eminent for subdued and gentlemanly deportment in presence of the ladies, all men of acknowledged valor and coolness in battle, and great proficiency in military science."
Maj. Bowen also describes a wedding party to which the mess was invited.
The influence of the place and its society was soon manifest in the appearance of the regiment. All, the officers and privates, began to "slick up," as boys, old or young, will, when there are pretty girls about. Boots were blacked, clothes were brushed, heads were groomed, paper collars sported, etc., things which the boys had almost forgotten how to do. When not on duty they were permitted to go down town and form the acquaintance of the inhabitants, among whom, as more than one soldier's letter testifies, were many pretty girls. These letters show also that these Athenian damsels found the tender spot in many a soldier's heart. Several parties were given to which many wee invited, and I have no doubt that it became apparent to the Athenians that the 100th, not only knew how to mount their "barbed steeds to fight the souls of fearful adversaries," but that they could also, "caper nimbly in a lady's chamber, To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.:
I have heard it said that more than one of the boys came near losing his heart, and forgetting the girl he had left behind him. Indeed, one member of the regiment was married here. This was Charles Styles, of Manhattan, who, though he never surrendered to a rebel, struck his colors to a pretty Athenian widow. Poor fellow, as we shall see, his wife was soon a widow again!
The feeling of good will seems to have been mutual. The citizens used to come up to witness the Sunday afternoon dress parades, and were so well pleased with the regiment that when a forward movement began to be talked of, they presented a petition to the department commander, asking that the 100th regiment might be left as a permanent guard. I don't know whether the girls signed this petition or not, but I have no doubt they prayed for its success. The journal of one of the boys, a non-commissioned officer, has these and similar entries very often about these days: "Went down to see the C...girls,: and "called on the B... girls, ...good union girls!" He also speaks of many "sad and tender partings, and even tears," at leaving. I have no doubt that there is even yet in many a woman's heart in Athens, though now married, and surrounded with children perhaps, a tender memory for some boy in blue, whose name was then on the roster or muster roll of the 100th. However this may be, the boys of the 100th have not forgotten those pleasant days, and still speak of them with gusto. It is said that Byron's - "Maid of Athens! ere we part, Give, oh give me back my heart," etc., etc. was a favorite morsel of poetry with them at the time, and was often rendered, with slight variations.
One incident which occurred at one of the Sunday dress parades of which I have spoken, I must not omit to record. Officers and privates were making their best appearance. The acting adjutant, for reasons which I guess were not purely military, was especially well got up. A stranger, struck with his distingue air, enquired of a street gamin, "Who is that fine looking officer with the white gloves?" To which the boy replied with great enthusiasm, "oh, that's the feller what hugs our handsome school-marm."
April 10th, the corps experienced a change of commanders, Gen. Granger taking leave and Gen. Howard assuming command. Passing through Athens, Gen. Howard expressed his satisfaction with the way things looked. While at Athens the regiment received a new stand of colors from the U.S. to replace the one carried from Louisville, and which had become so demoralized by shot and shell, that it could no longer be unfurled. The old colors were sent home to Joliet with an eloquent letter, by the lieutenant colonel. The new colors were presented at dress parade with appropriate remarks.
Living a few miles from Athens, outside our army lines, was a wealthy and influential man of the name of Sullens. He was a Presbyterian minister, but a bitter rebel. He showed his faith in the Confederacy by his works. He has become notorious for his agency in getting union men arrested, and for conveying information to the rebel authorities. He had several brothers in the rebel service, one of whom was a major general. Several attempts had been made by the union authorities to arrest him, but hitherto he had managed to escape. Col. Waterman, now in command of the 100th, was called upon to procure, if possible, his arrest. He was wanted as a hostage, in order to procure the release of some union men held in durance vile by the rebel authorities.
Co. Waterman selected for this purpose Sergt. (afterwards lieutenant) Henry M. Smith, of Co. B, telling him to select his own detail, and as many as he wanted. Sergeant Smith accordingly selected five men to assist him, and after getting posted as well as he could, respecting the location, roads, etc., he started out with the determination to have the Rev. gentleman if he was at home. When within about one mile of the plantation, Smith separated his men, sending them out to the right and left, and giving them such instructions as would bring them near the house from all directions at the same time. After allowing time for the movement Smith approached the house, and with his Henry rifle loaded and capped, he knocked at the door of the Sullen mansion and enquired for his Reverence. Mrs. Sullens had come to the door and said that he was at home. He soon made his appearance, evidently entirely unsuspicious of the errand on which his caller had come. The sergeant soon made his errand known, and told him that he must consider himself under arrest, and also assured him that any attempt to escape would be both useless and dangerous, as his orders were to bring him dead or alive. He would, of course, prefer to take him without any fuss, but go he must. Sullens and his wife both expressed great surprise at this announcement, and informed Smith that he was a Presbyterian minister! But this did not strike the sergeant with the awe which they expected. Smith had seen a presbyterian minister before, and was himself born a Scotch Irish Presbyterian. He was told that he must get ready to go to Knoxville, and if he wanted to take along any clothing Mrs. Sullens had better get it ready at once. Finding the sergeant inexorable Mrs. Sullens poured out upon his head, and on the Yankee officers in general, the vials of her indignation at such cruel treatment. Mr. Sullens declared his inability to walk to the railroad. Smith told him he would call one of his horses that he saw plowing in the field. Various pretexts were resorted to in order to gain time, until Smith gave them five minutes to get ready. Mrs. Sullens asked that her husband might retire to change his clothes, but the sergeant could not allow him to leave the room, whatever changes he made must be done in his presence. This called forth fresh torrents of indignation. At length finding the sergeant inflexible, and a horse having been brought up, his reverence took his departure between two Yankee soldiers, with others in front and rear, all armed. In bidding Mrs. Sullens good-bye, the sergeant assured her that he would take good care of her husband, and would bring back any letter he might wish to send from Knoxville. And so Rev. Mr. Sullens was conducted to the railroad, put aboard a freight train, and in due time delivered over to the provost marshal of Knoxville, who was very happy to make his acquaintance. He was held in custody for some time, until the release of several prominent union men was procured in exchange.
On Smith's return he took back a letter to Mrs. S., and acted as the medium of communication between Mr. Sullens and wife for some little time. This, with the kind manner in which her husband was treated by the authorities at Knoxville, caused Mrs. Sullens to modify somewhat her opinion of Yankee officers, and while the regiment stayed at Athens, Smith was freely supplied with butter and eggs from the Sullen's plantation. When the regiment left, it passed by the house; Smith ran in to bid Mrs. S. good bye, when she thanked him most warmly, and gave him a parting embrace as hearty as his own mother could have given, and which he well remembers.
On the 25th of April, the 100th regiment was relieved by an Indian one, and it was ordered to bid good-bye to Athens, and join the corps at Cleveland, and with many a tender farewell the boys obeyed. A Gen. Blizzard, in behalf of the Athenians, made the boys a farewell speech. He had previously made a party in honor of the regiment.
At Cleveland, everything was found to indicate the speedy opening of the summer campaign, and the next four or five days were spent in preparing for it. Extra baggage was packed and sent to Chattanooga, and soon after noon of May 3d, the bugle sounded, and the army was again on the move in search of the armed enemies of the Union, and Athens and all its pleasant associations was left behind, but not soon forgotten.
Nothing could have been more delightful than the beautiful May season, in which the army entered upon the Atlanta campaign: nothing more beautiful than the region through which they were to pass. Such a delightful combination of mountain and valley, of forest and meadow, of wild and picturesque scenery, and cultivated plantations; of rocky and precipitous bluffs, and brightly flowing streams, and murmuring mountain brooks and sparkling springs; of bold and inaccessible peaks, and gentle slopes and intervals, with hamlets and towns, nestling among the hills, can hardly be found elsewhere. The woods were redolent with the odor of the Gelseminum, and wild honey suckle, and bright with the bloom of the Laurel and Azalea, and the trees festooned with the muscadine and the woodbine. Field and wood were in their fullest leaf and richest green; wild flowers filled all the ravines, and clothed the rocky slopes; while the choicest exotics adorned the gardens and lawns of the planter; and the hum of insect life, and the songs of birds added the charm of music to the scene. Had their errand been a peaceful one, - had they been artists searching for studies to adorn the canvas; or naturalists seeking for specimens for the cabinet or herbarium, their errand would have been in harmony with the season and the scenery. But alas! far otherwise is their errand. This delightful region is now to feel the tread of armed men, who can scarcely spare a thought or a look upon all its beauty. All this picturesque loveliness is to be blighted by the devastating march of army trains, and blasted by the missiles of war. For alas! as in the eden of the long ago, rebellion has here lifted its hydra-head, - unholy ambition has listened to the tempter, and of all the charms of the region it may be said:
"The trail of the serpent is over them all."
"Our corps started out on the line of the Cleveland and Dalton Railroad, marching about fourteen miles to Red Clay, when we again entered Georgia. Next day we left the railroad, marched eight miles, halted a couple of hours, then moved half a mile further and went into camp. Soon orders came to move again, which we did, starting about dark and leaving the main road, and traveling over fields and through woods where the underbrush was very dense. After going two or three miles, we halted again, stacked arms, and slept until four next morning. All these movements made us mistrust that we were not far from the enemy. In the morning we found ourselves about three-fourths of a mile from Catoosa Springs. This place before the war had been one of considerable resort, the Saratoga of the south. It is three and a half miles from Ringgold. It was a spot of great natural beauty, enhanced by art. There were great numbers (said to be fifty-two) of mineral springs, differing from each other in their properties, but all medicinal, and each having its peculiar name, which was placed beside it on a little signboard. There was a large hotel, many bathing houses, and summer residences, and artificial lakes. In peaceful times it must have been a charming place. All was now in a deserted and dilapidated condition. Our brigade camped on a high hill about a mile from the springs.
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