part of a volume entitled Fifteen Years Ago: or the Patriotism of Will County by George H. Woodruff
Submitted by Merryann Palmer, email@example.com, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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As has been seen, after the two days battle at Chickamauga, our forces first fell back to Rossville, and next day to the defenses of Chattanooga. Here Rosegrans worked with energy in fortifying his position with three lines of breastworks, and in getting forward supplies. The flanks of his army lay on the Tennessee, above and below Chattanooga. But Bragg succeeded in cutting off his communications by Bridgeport on the south, compelling him to get his supplies by mule power - half-starved at that - some sixty miles over roads almost impassable. By a bold raid the enemy also damaged the railroad between Stephenson and Nashville, capturing the train of the 14th corps, and causing much delay in the supplies.
These operations put our forces at Chattanooga on short rations, and it became a serious question whether starvation would not effect for the rebels, what they had not been able to do by fighting - compel us to give up Chattanooga.
After the battle of Chickamauga, the 100th was transferred to Wagner's brigade, very much reduced, both in officers and men. Adjutant Rouse was placed upon Wagner's staff, and Sergeant Major Horne was promoted lieutenant of Co. K, and then adjutant.
After the 22d of September, the regiment remained in their position near Chattanooga, putting up quarters, working on entrenchments, doing picket duty, etc., etc. - the rebel lines being but a little distance from ours, and our forces being in daily expectation of an attack, which, however, did not come in the immediate front of our brigade. On the night of the 24th, there was heavy firing farther to the right, which was kept up until 12 o'clock, making a most splendid display of firing all along the line of Palmer's division. Rockets were also sent up which added to the display. We now quote from a diary of Sergeant Holmes. Under date of Oct. 1st, he writes:
"It rained nearly all night, we got up to stand at arms at 5 o'clock. The clouds have passed off, and the air is clear and pure. We can see the rebel camps quite plain, and we see a force marching to the right, for what purpose we do not know. I am detailed to go with a party to pile up brush in front of our breastworks to frustrate the enemy if they should attack us. We also stretch a wire along in front, so that they will be thrown down if they should come up in the dark. Several of our own men, myself included, forgetting about it, have got several falls from it.
"Oct. 3d, stood at arms from four to six. Orderly Sergeant Thomas Bleber and I got a pass to go down town and see the wounded boys. Found them in good spirits. L.L. Warren, by messmate, before the battle, was wounded in the leg near the ankle. He walks with crutches. John C. Batterman looks bad. He was wounded under the right arm, a ball passing through his body and coming out near the spine. Frank Lafayette was wounded in the arm, shattering the bone, but is in good spirits. We hear that a long train was burned by the rebs in Sequatchie Valley.
"Oct. 5th, some deserters came in today. The rebs began to throw shell about four o'clock, but they do not reach us. We send them some in reply, but cannot tell the effect, but hope they will be hard to digest. The cannonading is kept up slowly all day.
"Oct. 7th, here we are in sight of the rebels. The two armies lie within gun shot all the time. The pickets talk with each other and exchange papers. At night we look to the south, and there all along on what is called Mission Ridge, we see their camp fires. This ridge extends from Lookout Mountain around to the Tennessee, forming a kind of far off boundary to the city, I judge about four miles distant. The most of the rebel army are on the top. But there is a portion on this side, and their pickets extend down to within less than a mile from our camp, and about sixty rods of our picket line. This evening along comes Ord. Serg't Tom Bleber, and says: "Serg't Holmes, report to go to Stephenson right off, don't wait for anything." So I start for brigade headquarters, and there find 1st Lieut. Lines, who has charge of twelve men and three non coms. from our regiment. There is a similar detachment from each regiment in the division. Those from our brigade are in command of Captain Potter, of the 26th Ohio. The whole are in command of the lieutenant colonel of the 26th Ohio. We march down town and report ourselves. The colonel reports to corps headquarters, and then takes us over the river on a pontoon bridge, where we camp for the night.
"Thursday, Oct. 8th, get up at five and march at seven. We go about a mile, and then halt at the field hospital. I run over and look at the boys, and find them all snug and comfortable in good tents and beds. The wagons in our train take along all that are able to go to Stephenson. L.L. Warren goes along. After an hour's halt we go on, taking the road for Waldron's Ridge, by way of Anderson's Crossings. But the order is changed, and we take the river road. After a march of about seven miles we are fired upon by the rebels from across the river. They keep themselves concealed, so that we could get but few shots at them, while we are entirely exposed. They killed three and wounded seven of our men, and killed and wounded twenty mules. This was mostly done while we were going over a little bare hill where our drivers stopped to lock the wheels. They soon stopped that, and let the wheels take care of themselves, and drove down the hill at full speed. One driver got his wagon upset. A battalion of the pioneer brigade was in camp near. So we left our "casualties" with them and went on. After marching some time we took a road which leads up Waldron's Ridge, and with some difficulty reached the top and found ourselves on "Bob White's farm." We came to this same place when we made the expedition from the Sequatchie Valley, to capture the steamboat. Here we encamped for the night.
"Friday, Oct. 9th, started on this morning, road very uneven. We are out of rations, so I step out and run ahead down the mountain, and come to the house of a Mr. Knox, and ask them if they have anything cooked. The old lady goes to the table and breaks off a piece of corn bread. I also got my canteen filled with some milk, and pay the woman twenty cents. Went on a short distance, and as it was a hot day, I went upon a little hill and lay down to sleep. When I woke up the train had all gone by, so I hurry on and overtake them about four miles from Jasper. After resting a short time, start on for Jasper. Luckily, the sutler of the 185th Illinois overtakes me, and I ride with him to Jasper. Here I go to a bake shop, and buy two pies, and two loaves of bread, and eat them, and am still hungry. Going along a little further, I find Prince, our old sutler, who is here with a stock of goods. I get some cakes and maple sugar. By this time the train comes up and the boys empty every bake shop and every other eating establishment in town. I get into a forage wagon and ride to Battle Creek, where we camp for the night.
"Saturday, Oct. 10th, on the move again early, and go on to Stephenson, which is a small place on the railroad, with a tavern and a few dwelling houses. L.L. Warren and the rest of the wounded boys are deposited in a Sibley tent, expecting soon t go on to Nashville. Found our ex-chaplain and Lieut. Col. Waterman here. Col. W. says he expects to be back with the regiment soon. He is going on to Nashville to get furloughs for the boys. The 13th Wisconsin are guards at this post. Gen. Hooker is here with two corps, Slocum's and Howard's. Saw the old gent, a fine looking old man. His soldiers, especially the officers, look as though they had just come out of a band box, and they carry very heavy knapsacks loaded with extra clothing and blankets, purp tent, etc., enough to load a mule. We drew three days' rations - to last six.
"Sunday, Oct. 11th, the train loads up with hard-tack, sow belly, coffee, etc., etc., and a little after noon, takes the back track. Get to Jasper, about noon of the 12th. We press on, and the rain comes on, and we go into camp after dark.
"October 13th, on our weary way through rain and mud, and reach the foot of the mountain on the 14th, about a mile and a half further up than where we came over, and go into camp. Here we are detained by trains ahead of us. Here we see the remains of a train burned by the rebels. A brigade of the reserve corps are now in camp here, and the rebels keep their distance.
"Oct. 15th, after the rear train had got up we start on. After a while we have to stop for a mountain stream - swollen by the rain - to subside; so we build fires and camp for the night.
"Oct. 16th, the stream having run down, we go on to the edge of the mountain. Here the view is most splendid. Way down below us the trees look like shrubs; off in the distance is the Tennessee river with its many windings, a waving line of silver in the landscape; and there to the right is Old Lookout standing out in bold relief against the sky; farther to the left is the city of Chattanooga scattered on the opposite bank of the Tennessee. The road here goes down by the side of the peak, and turns short around it and down on the other side. The descent is very difficult. We had two wagons upset while going down. After getting down, the road is good and we hurry on. In time we get back to the hospital. Here we met Capt. Elwood who has resigned, and is going, as he says, to start for "God's land," (meaning Joliet!) in the morning. We reach the bank of the river and have to wait repairs on the pontoon bridge. Towards night we go over. It is not often you see a happier set of fellows than we are at getting home.
"Oct. 19th to 23d. Nothing new, rations getting very short, work more or less on breastworks. To-day we here that Rosecrans has been relieved and Gen. Thomas placed in command. We have lost one good general and got another.
"Oct 24th, drew rations of crackers, and we have got to come down more yet, for we are not to have a whole cracker at a meal - only about half.
"Sunday, Oct. 25th. About half past three we were calli dup, told to pack up and get ready for a march after a hurried breakfast, and a very short one. We marched out to the front and took Gen. Palmer's old position. He has gone to Shell Mound to attack the rebels, and we take their quarters. Draw half rations for two days.
"25th. Stand at arms this morning. I eat all my rations for two days at one meal, and now, so far as I can see, I have to go two days without anything more. But Providence will provide - I never starved yet. I am detailed with three men - John Mason, Co. G, Sam. Johnson, Co. B, and James Coplantz, Co. K. We draw a little beef to-day, and boil it with an ear of corn that Stage foraged somewhere, and this, with two biscuits from Lieut. Williams, helps us out.
"Oct. 27th. Good news this morning. Our folks have opened a new "cracker line". Last night an expedition floated down the river, which was covered with a dense fog, past the rebel pickets, without being observed. One of the boats struck against a tree, and the rebs took the alarm and fired into them. On this our boats rowed to the shore, and routed the rebs, while another body of our men gave them fits from another direction. We can cross our train now about six miles up the river, and have a good road to Bridgeport, and get supplies in much quicker time. But I suppose we shall be short of rations until trains can go there and back. Some cannonading over by Lookout. I make out to get along to-day with a little parched corn. This evening we draw nearly five crackers for two days! Lieut. Williams knows we are hard up, so he gives me something for supper, although he gets but two-thirds rations. These are the hardest times we have ever seen for rations, but I will 'trust in Providence and keep my powder dry.'
"Oct. 28th. Cannonading from Lookout nearly all day. Their guns are aimed on our right. We hear of no harm. Oct. 29th. Considerable fighting last night over by Lookout. I am sent down town by the major to be examined for a commission in a negro regiment. Drew two days' rations again, getting four hard tack, a little sugar, coffee, and a small piece of salt pork.
"Oct. 30th. Parched corn for breakfast, with coffee. Dinner, boiled corn and boiled corn fried. This p,m. drew some beef, and have beef and corn boiled together for supper.
"Sunday, Nov. 1st. The regiment on picket duty. We warm over the soup we had last night, saving the cracker and a half for dinner. The commissioned officers do not fare much better then we do in the matter of rations. After coming off picket duty, drew a half cracker about 6 p.m., and feeling so stomach empty, I concluded to go out and hunt for rations. We go up to Wood's headquarters, and one of the teamsters gave us a mess of corn, and when we got back to camp we find they have drawn rations, one day's to last two."And so matters seem to have continued, gradually improving now in the matter of rations, and nothing occurring of special interest until Nov. 23d. Deserters came in occasionally. On the 15th, the regiment had a visit from the paymaster, and lots of peddlers, who were after the boys' money.
Before going into the movement on Mission Ridge, we will pick up a few matters which we have passed over.
After the battle of Chickamauga, of course there were great numbers of wounded to be cared for. Many were left in the hands of the enemy, but by an arrangement with the rebel authorities, those severely wounded were sent into our lines as soon as they could be moved. Our county sent a delegation, consisting of Dr. Bowen, of Wilmington, and Elder Crews, of Joliet, to look after our own boys. They did not go as idlers or lookers-on. On arriving at Stephenson, and finding no conveyance, they cut them each a good stick, and charged over the mountain on foot, a distance of forty miles. On arriving at the camp of the 100th, they repaired to the hospital, took off their coats, and went to work, dressing the wounded, and doing everything in their power to help the boys who were suffering in our behalf. On account of the critical situation, and of the great scarcity of supplies, the wounded who could bear the journey were sent to the rear as fast as possible. This was a great undertaking, and entailed much suffering upon the poor wounded men. The transportation had to be by ambulances over the worst of all possible roads to Stephenson, over 50 miles, and no rations were issued to them except a limited supply of hardtack. Still, they were patient and uncomplaining.
The Christian and Sanitary Commissions had their nurses speedily at work, and their supplies were forwarded as fast as the means of transportation would allow.
Dr. Bowen, writing from Bridgeport, Oct. 6th, says:
"Our wounded in Sunday's fight were left on the field in the enemy's hands, and not brought in until Saturday. We left with them for Nashville on Sunday (all that could be moved) in 200 ambulances. They will join the railroad at Stephenson, where we expect to meet them."
At this time Hooker had arrived at Bridgeport with his army of reinforcements from the Potomac, and the army at Chattanooga no longer feared Gen. Bragg - but Gen. Hunger was still threatening them severely.
On October 19th, Rosecrans was relieved by Gen. Geo. H. Thomas, the man who had earned the soubriquet of the "Rock of Chickamauga," from the manner in which he had held the rebel army in check on the 20th, and saved our army from utter defeat. General had also been put in command of the division of the Mississippi, and he telegraphed Thomas to hold Chattanooga if he starved. Thomas replied that he would, and he did, although as we have seen, starvation for some days stared our brave boys in the face.
An incident is said to have occurred here while our boys were shut up in Chattanooga which relieved the tedium of the time, and which may relieve the tedium of our narrative. As a historian I do not vouch for it. I give it as a tradition. Indeed, I should not venture to record it at all, if I had not received it from so reliable a source.
I believe I have somewhere spoken of the innumerable kinds of insects and reptiles which our boys encountered in the sunny south. There was another kind of greyback, which gave them a great deal of trouble, besides the kind that carried muskets. They were very plenty, and infested their blankets and clothing, and it became regular exercise to skirmish for them before getting into their blankets at night. Besides these, there was a great variety of bugs, ticks, scorpions, and other insects, some of which were not only annoying, but dangerous. In our history of Barnett's battery, we give an account of a death of a Will county man, from the bite of a scorpion. But the "varmint" most dreaded was the rattle snake. Snakes abounded everywhere, and the boys were obliged to use great precautions against them. They had an ugly way of getting into the tents and houses, without a pass, and coiling themselves up in odd corners, and even creeping into beds.
Now, no one had a greater horror of the snake family than the senior surgeon of the 100th, (now acting as brigade surgeon). He was always on the lookout for them, and I believe he dreaded them even more than he did rebel shells. To prevent their getting into his bed, he had a way of tucking in the covers all around, and when he went to bed, he used to open the top, leaving the sides and foot undisturbed, and by a kind of corkscrew movement worm himself down into the bed, thus feeling secure against his dreaded foes. No there was at Chattanooga, the surgeon of an Indiana regiment of the name of Glick, and the two being thrown very much together in the hospitals, became great friends, and occupied the same room in one of the old houses at Chattanooga. Glick, - who, by the way, was a practical joker, - seeing our doctor's dread of snakes, and his manner of heading them off, thought he would have a little fun at his friend's expense. So in the doctor's absence one day, he stuck together a couple of spermaceti candles with which the officers were supplied, and opening the foot of our surgeon's bed, laid it in just about where his feet would hit it when he got well into bed, tucking it all up snug again. He told some of the other officers what he had done, and asked them to be around when the doctor went to bed and see the fun. Well, our surgeon came in at the usual hour of night, and being very tired, commenced at once to prepare for bed. Glick telegraphed in some way to the boys outside and they gathered round peeking into the cracks and windows to see the fun. Having disrobed and donned his night cap, our surgeon began in his usual way to worm himself down into bed; and just as he got well in and was stretching himself out with a grunt of satisfaction, his feet struck the extemporized snake! With a bound that would do credit to a first-class acrobat, our doctor leaped from bed, exclaiming "a snake! a snake! oh mine foote, Glick, a snake! a snake! kill him! kill him! Oh mine Foote! Glick, kill him! kill him!" Glick sprang to his assistance as earnestly as if he believed that it was a snake, and his co-conspirators outside rushed in eager to assist. The doctor caught his sword, and some one held the light, while Glick, the most courageous, carefully turned down the clothes, and presently the harmless candle was laid bare. Our doctor saw the "sell" in a moment, and the reaction was almost too much for his nerves, and altogether too much for his English. "Ah Glick, Glick! fun ish fun, and I likes fun, but ah! Glick, Glick, this ish too d--n bad!" It was a scene worthy of the burnin of Nast! It is said that the doctor trembles at the sight of a snake even to this day, while the glimpse of a candle throws him into fits of bad English!
There is another story on the surgeon that I have studied long upon, in order to devise some way in which to tell it, and not violate vested rights, but I have not been able to effect it, I will therefore only allude to it as the time when the doctor got bombarded. This is all that need to be said, to raise a grin of the face of every survivor of the 100th. If the reader has any curiosity to hear the story, let him ask Deacon Williams who has copy-righted it and knows how to tell it, and he will do it if you get him in the right kind of a crowd. Or you might ask the doctor himself, but you had better do it sometime when he is in his slippers.
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