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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Oct. 2s, the brigade was on the march. Nothing worthy of note occurred, except seeing a wounded rebel being taken to the rear, which suggested that there was shooting going on somewhere. Went into camp just at dark, a short distance southeast of Washington. Were in line again at an early hour on the 3d, the 100th having the place of rear regiment of the column. A trifling incident occurred, showing the distrust with which fresh regiments were regarded. Col. Buell, of the 58th Indiana, was in command of the rear guard. Presuming that the 100th would be disposed to "straggle," he ordered in a loud voice - evidently in order that the 100th should hear it - that the rear guard should "fix bayonets." Major Hammond, who was riding in the rear of the regiment, heard the order, and being considerably nettled thereat, as an offset, he ordered the rear company of the 100th to "cap their guns." Fortunately, however, these two orders did not bring about any collision. Colonel Buell, too, grew very amiable and friendly, after a little, perhaps desiring to make amends, or perhaps mollified by the site of a certain, curious-looking black bottle, just then in the custody of the assistant hospital steward, (sometimes known as "Mit.") The colonel spied the bottle, and not suspecting that it was part of the "hospital stores," intimated to Mit that he would accept an invitation to "smile." 'Mit', always generous with hospital stores, and very Handy in taking care of or dispensing them, passed up the bottle, and the colonel took a moderate taste. Now, it happened that the colonel was in the habit of taking his 'straight,' and 'Mit's' was about one-half capsicum. The colonel quickly relinquished his hold upon the bottle, and the quantity he had taken into his mouth as well, and the smile was changed to tears!
The column moved slowly along, having occasionally slight artillery duels with the rear guard of the rebels. About six in the evening it came to a stream upon the banks of which there were some mills, and an elevation of ground upon which the rebels had planted some cannon, which occasioned some annoyance and delay.
Strict orders had been given by the division commander against pillaging. But it happened at night, just as the regiment were camping, that a stray Kentucky pig somehow got into the way of some of the boys of Co. G, and they thoughtlessly knocked him over, and proceeded to dress it, anticipating an agreeable addition to their supper. Some old soldiers in the brigade happened to discover the operation, and thinking that they could perhaps profit by the verdancy of the 100th, tried to convince the boys that by all rules of military etiquette, the old soldiers of the brigade were entitled to all such estrays. This claim was, of course resisted and resented by Co. G, and quite a noisy dispute arose. Capt. Munger, hearing the noise, came up and inquired into the matter. The captain was quite indignant at this attempt to impose upon his men, and declared somewhat emphatically that he "would not allow any old soldiers, or any old officers, to rob his men." Another officer had meanwhile come on the stage, who asked of the captain: "Who are you, sir, and what is your command?" Reply - "I am Capt. - , adjutant general of this brigade, and you will report yourself at once to your colonel, under arrest." Here was a pretty "kettle of fish!" The captain, crestfallen, went as ordered to Col. Bartleson, and surrendered his sword. The Col. had a good laugh over it, and told the captain to go to his quarters, and he would get the arrest removed in the morning - which was done.
Perhaps the curious reader may like to know what became of the pig. I am happy to be able to satisfy this laudable curiosity. The boys, who had been guilty of procuring his untimely death, were ordered to carry him suspended on a pole upon their shoulders for some hours, up and down the camp. While undergoing their punishment, others of the boys would run up and carve a slice from Mr. Pig, which process was repeated so often, that in a little while the load was reduced merely to the hind legs, by which it had been suspended. This was not the only instance in which these old regiments tried to impose upon the green 100th. Along about this time the boys lost a good many of their new hats, while many in the old regiments were supplied with new ones, which it would have puzzled them to account for.
Oct. 4th, the army was on the move. Marched about twenty five miles. When about three miles from Bardstown, the brigade was formed in line of battle. It was supposed that the rebels, whose skirmish line was in sight of our advance, were going to make a stand here. The 100th was placed in front, and two companies were deployed as skirmishers. General Haskell, who, by the way, was from Ohio, and a most excellent officer, was a little afraid of his new regiment, and was so inconsiderate as to express his fears in very imprudent, not to say impudent, language. "Soldiers of the 100th," said he, "you are about to go into battle. The 26th Ohio is placed behind you, with orders to shoot down any man of your regiment that attempts to run." This speech greatly exasperated the boys of the 100th, and the colonel most of all, who indignantly told the general that he need have no fears for the 100th, they were not from Ohio, but from the state of Illinois - they were "Illini" - men!
Co. A, Captain Bowen, and Co. B, Captain Elwood were on the skirmish line under command of Major Hammond, and when they got sight of the rebel skirmishers they broke and run for them so fast that the major who was mounted had hard work to keep up with them. The rest lit out when they saw the boys coming, and there was no further chance to make good the colonel's boast, but it came in time, and Gen. Haskell afterwards made the amende honorable, when he found at Stone River that the greatest trouble was to hold the boys back. But the speech always rankled in their minds, and though they afterwards became good friends with the 26th Ohio, they never forgot the speech of General Haskell, and on one or two occasions subsequently they let him know that they remembered it.
Bardstown was found evacuated by the rebels, when our force reached it. On the 5th and 6th the army moved on to Springfield, and camped on the fair grounds. On the 7th the force had a very tedious march, lasting until nearly morning. The day was excessively hot, the dust very deep, and no water could be obtained until they reached the "Rolling Fork," upon which they encamped. The 100th kept up pretty well until dark, when many fell out, and when it arrived at the stream, and went into camp, the ranks were badly thinned. The regiment remained in this camp until 2 p.m., next day, when it moved on to within two miles of Perryville, where the firing could be heard very plainly, and the boys expected to be in it.
But the "battle of Perryville" had been fought and won, when the 100th reached the field, and the enemy was fast disappearing from our front. Here the 100th had the first view of a battle field. The dead of both sides were still unburied, and the wounded were being gathered up, and the men saw what war meant. The next day the regiment moved a short distance to the east of Perryville, and here in an old frame building a little way from the battlefield, their venerable and beloved chaplain, preached his first sermon as a chaplain. No reporter was resent to transmit to us a resume of his discourse, but one can easily imagine what train of thought would be presented by the surroundings.
Next day, (the 10th), the brigade was again on the move, and at night went into camp in a place which was named Walnut Grove, remaining here until the morning of the 12th. Here the regiment had a slight foretaste of its future experience - a partial initiation into the business into which they had entered.
The notorious raider, John Morgan, was said to be in the vicinity, and the boys were warned to keep a sharp lookout. The picket line was established not far from camp, and in the edge of the timber, a rail fence running along in front, beyond which was an open field, and still beyond that, a hollow or ravine. The 100th being called upon for a detail to go upon the line, detachments from different companies in charge of Captain Elwood were sent out, and were on duty until midnight, when they were relieved by another detail (Co. H), in charge of Lieut. Nelson. Nothing of note occurred until in the gray of the morning, when an officer, who was supposed to be the inspector of the line, rode up to the left of the line, and asked for the officer in charge. Lieut. Nelson responded. The officer then gave his orders to the lieutenant to keep a sharp lookout, as there were rebels about, and they might be attacked about daylight. He also told the lieutenant that "we" had some cavalry in front, and if they would be driven it, they must be careful and not fire at our own men. The officer then rode down the line and disappeared. The men were immediately notified to be on the alert, and if attacked to rally to the center of the line, and make as good a fight as they could until reinforced. Very soon from over the hill came the sound of officers giving commands, as if troops were forming, and in a few minutes a company of cavalry came dashing up in front of the picket line, and formed in handsome style only a few rods off. They presented a handsome appearance, riding splendid horses, well accoutered, the men all wearing U.S. overcoats and hats. As soon as they had formed their line, they advanced toward the fence, and an officer dismounted and commenced laying down the fence. One of our boys caught a glimpse of some "butternut" under the U.S. overcoat, and sang out "rebels! rebels!" But the officer still laying down the rails, cried out, "don't fire, don't fire, we are friends." Some one fired a gun to arouse the camp, and the pickets rallied to the center, and fell back under orders toward the main line, and met Captain Goddard coming up, who being the ranking officer took command. Believing them to be Union cavalry he ordered the men not to fire. Several of our men however believed them to be rebels and jumped behind the trees to be ready for them. One, Johnny Sarver, who saw the butternut and was determined not to be fooled, drew a bead on the officer and fired, wounding him and killing his horse, a beautiful bay. The rebels, for such they were, no longer attempted to conceal their character, but fired a volley from their carbines at our men and turned to run, taking the wounded men along. Our boys opened on them, and several saddles were emptied. The camp was now all alive, and a battery also opened upon them.
They proved to be a company of Morgan's cavalry, and the man shot by Sarver (and who it was found next day had died) was one of Morgan's Majors. One man of our regiment, James S. Connor, of Co. H, was slightly wounded. Here then was the first blood drawn from the enemy by the 100th, and also the first blood shed by the regiment in the good cause. The last was not very much, but enough to say blood!
This Johnny Sarver, who has the credit of bringing the first rebel to grief, was the youngest man in the regiment, in fact a mere boy of fifteen, and could only get into the service as a musician. But after he got to Louisville, he laid down his fife and took a musket, and as we have seen, knew how to use it; and he carried it as bravely as the oldest, up to the terrific charge on Kenesaw, June 27th, 1864, in which he was killed. Harry Clay King was another brave boy, only a little older, and being about the same size, and standing in the ranks beside Sarver, the two received the sobriquet of "the pony team," and by this were known in the regiment. James S. Connor, who had the honor of shedding the first blood of the 100th, went through the service afterwards unscathed.
The army advanced slowly, part of the time in line of battle, with skirmishing going on in front, and passing through Danville, Stamford and Crab Orchard, camped on the night of the 15th, about five miles beyond the last named place. Here part of the brigade, mostly convalescents, were left in camp, while the rest of the command continued on to Wild Cat. These continued for four or five days up in the wild, mountainous region. The command ran short of rations and forage, and the regiment was sent on the 16th to forage. On the 18th, they went beyond Wild Cat a few miles. Rations still short. Some of the boys tried the experiment of making hulled corn, but they were not very successful. The product did not seem to be healthy, or at least it occasioned a call on the doctor for remedies. For a few days, the boys were a little more hungry than was agreeable. Indeed one soldier writing home at the time, says he got so hungry that he stole the corn from the mules to stay his own stomach! We shall find in the course of this history that they had resort to this trick again. On the 20th, fortunately, the trains came up with rations. On the 22d - Bragg having made his escape through Cumberland Gap - the army started back through Mt. Vernon, Crab Orchard, and Stamford. At Crab Orchard on the 25th, occurred the first death with the regiment, Robert A. Hughes, Co. A. He was from Wilmington.
At Stamford, the enemy took a new route southwest, through Weathersfield and Liberty, camping on the night of the 25th at Columbia, having marched at the rate of twenty-two miles a day. The day's march, which terminated at Columbia, was a terrible one. The 100th was rear guard, following all the wagons. The weather was cold and damp, and about 3 p.m. it began to snow, making the marching just horrible. The colonel was put under arrest for his leniency in allowing the men to straggle and ride in the wagons. The four days' severe marching made many in the old regiments give out, and told heavily upon the 100th. Many got sick, and all footsore. The boys, no doubt, thought of the comfortable homes they had left, and felt a little blue. A division hospital was established in the town, and 12 sent from the 100th, while 171 reported at surgeon's call. Remained here until the 30th.
On the 24th, when the boys had gone into camp about half a mile from Green River, occurred a little incident, which might be characterized as painfully ludicrous. The men were all very tired. Chaplain Crews, who messed with the officers of Co. K, told the boys that if they would build a fire, he would go to the river and bring the water. Accordingly, he threw off his fine new overcoat, and tucking it safely away under a pile of rails, started on his kind errand. Meanwhile the boys set themselves to work to build the fire, and, by a strange fatality, built it against the pile of rails where the chaplain had hid his coat; and when he got back with the water he "smelt woolen," and investigating the matter, found his new coat about half consumed! Philosophy, stoicism, even patriotism, could not have sustained a man at such a time! Nothing but grace, and a good deal of it - which, fortunately, the good chaplain had - could have kept a man under such circumstances from "slinging words" not found in Webster's unabridged!
On the 30th, five of the sick were sent to Lebanon, and five returned to the regiment, and one, Jerry Harper, of Co. C, was left in charge of a resident physician. He died a few days after, Oct. 30th.
Nov. 1st, they reached Glasgow, camping on the fair grounds. Here the regiment received a mail, and learned of the capture of the gallant sutlers, Caswell and Bush, who had started from Louisville with a load of goods, boxes, and mail, for the regiment. But John Morgan gathered them in, and the boys had to mourn the loss of their letters and good things from home. Here, also, they learned that Rosecrans had superseded Buell, which gave general satisfaction. The force staid at this place until Nov. 4th. Sixteen more of the regiment were sent to the hospital at Cave City. On the 4th they marched seven miles to Scottsville, crossing two streams, where the bridges had been burned by the rebels the year previous. One, the Big Barrow, was the largest stream that had been met since leaving the Ohio. Here quite a number of the regiment that had been left on the way came up. After another day's rest, and a march of twenty-two miles, they passed from the neutral state of Kentucky into the rebel state of Tennessee. No great change was perceptible in the physical or moral atmosphere.
A granite obelisk, on which are the names of Gov. Harris and his secretary, and of the engineers, marks the spot. The boys hurrahed for Dixie on crossing the line.
While passing over the sacred soil of Kentucky, the orders of the commander, Buell, had been very strict against foraging, and the boys found it very hard work, when tired and hungry, to keep their hands off the fruit, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. One time the regiment was passing a fine orchard of fruit, and one of the boys of Co. A, a fine soldier, started from the ranks and jumped over a fence, bound for the apples. The colonel saw him, and ordered Jeff. back. Now, Jeff. was a good soldier, and did not mean to be insubordinate, but he did want the apples bad, and he did not halt very fast. The colonel drew his revolver, and repeated his order, "Take you place in the ranks." it was a solemn moment; Jeff. looked back over his shoulder to see if the colonel was in earnest, and, to use his own words, "saw shoot" plainly in the eyes of the colonel, and the result was, he did not want the apples any more.
Almost immediately upon the entrance of the regiment upon the sacred soil of Kentucky, they had made the acquaintance of two classes of vertebrates, which played an important part in the war of the rebellion. I mean the mule, and the contraband. I wish it distinctly understood that I mean no disrespect to either, in thus classing them together. I do so simply because in the experience of the 100th, they came together, and because, although each deserves a separate chapter in our history, yet the necessities of brevity forbid.
Occasional specimens of both had been seen here at the north before the war. Now and then a man had ventured to ride a mule, or to drive a span through the streets. And we had had frequent glimpses of the contraband, as the naughty abolitionists transported them through on the underground railroad; while, as permanent specimens, there was "Uncle John," who lived so long in his elegant mansion alongside of banker Woodruff's. We also had "Bogus," (sometimes called Levi), of the National Hotel 'bus, to show us how even black will fade under certain circumstances. But these were fragmentary specimens. In Kentucky, both were to be seen in their glory. Kentucky had long been celebrated for raising mules and politicians, sending now and then one of them to congress. She had also rivaled Virginia in the traffic in "slaves and souls of men," rearing them for the cotton states. One of the first lessons it became necessary for the boys to learn was how to subsist, and how to manage a mule team, and how to keep the mules from chewing up at night the wagon and its contents, which they had so patiently drawn through the day. Another lesson on which they studied long and hard, but which I do not suppose this or any other regiment ever learned perfectly, was how to tell when a mule was going to kick; but they never found any difficulty in telling when a mule had kicked! Without the mule, I do not see how the war could ever have been conducted, as no other animal could have endured the labor and deprivation incident to the transporting of the impedimenta of an army through a country that had already felt the devastating effects of war. Many rich experiences, no doubt, could be related in respect to the mule, but we cannot give them now. We turn our attention to the contraband, between whom and the mule there were many points of resemblance. Neither had any rights which a white man is bound to respect. Both had from time immemorial been the subjects of prejudice and abuse, and both have exhibited the most wonderful patience under such abuse, and both have exhibited the most wonderful patience under such abuse, although both have occasionally been known to kick. Both have a wonderful capacity for music, and delight in exhibiting their powers "oft in the stilly night." Both came to be recognized at last as important instrumentalities to be employed in the service of the Union, although I fear that there are many still left, even here at the north, who are not willing that the contraband should have a fair chance to prove his claims to manhood. Some, I suspect, are afraid of being outstripped in the race, if the negro is permitted to enter the lists on an equal footing. When the 100th entered the service, the question of what to do with the contraband, had not begun to be solved. It was the most perplexing of all the questions of the war. Perhaps Gen. Butler never served the country better than when he gave it a partial solution, and fixed upon the race a name which is a most happy one, inasmuch as it avoids on the one hand the mean and contemptible epithet of "nigger," and on the other does not bring him "between the wind and our nobility," and outrage our delicate feelings by recognizing him as a man and a brother. It was a master stroke, and perhaps the shrewd general had in his mind the saying of some old abolitionist, that no man could ever again be president who spelled negro with two "g's."
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