The dawn of another year found us encamped at this place, two hundred miles east of our position the preceding winter. During the interval great changes had taken place in our midst, one hundred and twenty-five of our number having died from various causes, chiefly of disease. These men had perished in the service of a noble cause, and in every State through which we had passed they were buried. The recollections of the past were to all suggestive of the uncertainty of the future.
While we had thus suffered, it was a source of untold satisfaction to know that the hour of our deepest darkness had passed. Our cause was again in the ascendant, and ultimate success could no longer be doubtful. The operations of our armies had been successful during the last six months of the year then closed, excepting the single engagement at Chickamauga, the results (p162) of which had been more than counterbalanced by our subsequent success at Chattanooga and Knoxville. East Tennessee was forever freed from the enemy's control, and the Mississippi was opened to the Gulf. In the East there was no cause for discouragement, while in the trans-Mississippi region no change had occurred.
The thanks of the nation were due to the noble armies that had turned the tide of battle, and rendered the year 1863 the period of our decisive achievements, in the suppression of rebellion. The year had not only been crowded with great events, but it had set forth conspicuously before the nation the efficient leaders who were destined to inspire a confidence before unknown. The class of Generals that had been brought forth in the first stage of the war were subsiding into obscurity or subordinate positions, and others--unknown to fame till their deeds presented them to the people as conquerors--were occupying their places. McClellan, Fremont and Buell had been overshadowed by Grant, Sherman and Thomas, whose merits were duly recognized, and rewarded by promotion to the highest rank in the army. To provide a suitable token of esteem and confidence for the former of these great men, the office of Lieutenant General was created by Congress, and the appointment of General Grant to that rank, but the President, was promptly confirmed by (p163) the Senate, thus for the second time establishing for the hero of Vicksburg and Chattanooga a special command, as a testimonial of gratitude for his distinguished services. This last and highest form of military honor placed him in command of all the armies of the United States, subordinate only to the President.
To fill the vacancy created in the list of Major Generals in the Regular Army, by the promotion of General Grant, General Sherman was advanced to that rank, and appointed to succeed Grant in command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, Major General McPherson succeeding to the command of the Department and Army of the Tennessee. These changes were made during the winter succeeding the memorable campaign in Middle and East Tennessee. In the meantime the busy notes of preparation were heard in every Department, in anticipation of an early and vigorous offensive campaign.
While the army in Tennessee was reposing in winter quarters, active operations continued in Mississippi. General Sherman had scarcely returned from the relief of Knoxville when he received instructions to proceed to Vicksburg, and renew the offensive from that point. Johnston had superseded Bragg, at Dalton, soon after the defeat of the latter at Chattanooga, leaving General Polk in command of the force at (p164) Meridian, Miss. The winter campaign from Vicksburg was chiefly designed to effect the destruction of communications and supplies in the rear of Mobile. The force engaged in the movement consisted of portions of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps, which had remained inactive in the vicinity of Vicksburg during the operations in Tennessee. The expedition moved in the early part of January, and swept over large and fertile districts of Eastern Mississippi--destroying immense quantities of supplies, and cutting important lines of communication--and threatened Selma, Ala., whence Polk had retired with his command. Great alarm prevailed in the South, in consequence of the progress of Sherman, unopposed, through the fertile region of the interior--the most productive portion of the Confederacy--and the insufficiency of the force under Polk to check his march necessitated reinforcements, which could only be furnished by the withdrawal of a portion of Johnston's army from Dalton.
To make a diversion in favor of the Meridian expedition--for the purpose of preventing such withdrawal of troops from Dalton to aid Polk--a considerable force, composed of detachments from the several Corps resting in camp in Alabama and Tennessee, was ordered to make a demonstration upon Dalton and other points, which proved successful. (p165)
A feint was first ordered from Huntsville, Ala., in the direction of Lebanon, which led the enemy to believe that a large force, under General Logan, was moving into the interior of Alabama for the support of General Sherman. The Regiment, with three others of the Division, participated in this movement, the detachment being under command of Colonel Williams. This force crossed the Tennessee, at Larkin's Ferry, and moved over Sand Mountain to Lebanon, a distance of forty miles. Having diverted the attention of the enemy at Dalton from the contemplated reinforcement of Polk, by drawing a considerable force from Johnston's command to watch and oppose our movements, the forces returned to camp on the 6th of February, after an absence of eight days, having marched eighty miles.
This reconnaissance was immediately succeeded by a demonstration against Dalton, from Chattanooga, via Cleveland; and detachments from the several Divisions of the Fifteenth Corps were placed under command of Brigadier General Matthias, and ordered to Chattanooga. Again the Regiment was designated for the service, together with the One Hundred and Third Illinois, Ninety-seventh and Ninety-ninth Indiana; Colonel Dickerman, of the One Hundred and Third Illinois, commanding the detachment. The forces thus designated marched on the 11th of (p166) February, and reached Chattanooga on the 14th. Major General Palmer assumed command of the entire force, which moved by different routes, attracting the attention of the enemy in such a manner as to indicate a movement of our entire army upon his position. The movement was purposely slow--to accomplish this object the more certainly--and not only the enemy but our own forces were deceived by the indications of a real purpose to engage the enemy in his defenses. And to this day many insist that this was the object in view, the incorrectness of which must appear when we take into consideration the small portion of our army employed in the demonstration, while Johnston retained almost his entire army within his defenses, awaiting attack. The additional disadvantage to ourselves--resulting from success in driving the enemy from his position--can also be seen in enabling Johnston to send a portion of his force to operate against Sherman, after evacuating Dalton, as it would have been impossible to pursue him at that season.
Whatever the design involved, the result was satisfactory. A portion of Johnston's force was already en route for Selma, to reinforce Polk, when our movement on the 23d of February, secured their speedy return to resist the supposed advance of our whole army. Brisk skirmishing marked our approach to Tunnel Hill, where the enemy (p167) held a strongly fortified position. The detachment of the Fifteenth Corps held a position on the left of our line, and advanced upon the outposts of the enemy on the 25th, remaining under a desultory fire during that day, from which a few were killed and wounded. The Regiment suffered no loss, though under fire a portion of the time. The demonstration had revealed the fact that the enemy was in force, and that the intended reinforcement for Selma had returned, on learning which the forces were withdrawn, and slowly returned to our line of communication. General Matthias reached Cleveland with his command on the 28th, from which point he had advanced on the 23d. Remaining one day, to muster for pay, the troops began the return march to their camps, in Alabama, on the 1st of March, which Colonel Dickerman's detachment reached on the 5th, after an absence of twenty-four days, and a march of two hundred and twenty-five miles. Thus the aggregate of service, in active operations in the field, since leaving Memphis, October 11th, 1863, was one hundred and eight days, during which the troops marched more than a thousand miles.
This brief record of events, occurring during the month of February, forms an important part of the history of the period intervening between the fall and spring campaigns under Sherman. The months of January, March, and April were (p168) spent in camp, with the usual monotony of life in winter quarters. Hence this period will occupy but little space in the present Chapter. A few incidents will serve to show the mode of life, and the scenes surrounding us during this period.
Soon after reaching Scottsboro, in December, the three years troops, enlisted in 1861, were offered the privilege of re-enlistment, with a bounty of $400 and thirty days' furlough. The readiness of acceptance of these terms, by the troops whose term of service would expire during the approaching summer, was highly gratifying and satisfactory, indicating an unshaken confidence in ultimate success on the part of the troops thus re-enlisting. The following regiments of the Fourth Division accepted the proposed terms, and left for their respective States during the month of January, viz.: the Sixth Iowa, Forty-sixth, Fifty-third, and Seventieth Ohio, Twenty-sixth, Fortieth, and Forty-eighth Illinois, and Fifteenth Michigan, leaving the following non-veteran regiments in camp, viz.: the Twelfth, Ninety-seventh, Ninety-ninth and One Hundredth Indiana, Ninetieth and One Hundred and Third Illinois. These were stationed as follows: the Ninetieth Illinois, at Mud Creek, midway between Scottsboro and Stevenson; the One Hundredth Indiana, at Bellefonte, and the remaining three at Scottsboro. The absence of Colonel Loomis with his (p169) regiment devolved the command of the Brigade on Colonel Williams, which he assumed on the 1st of January. Captain Nelson, of Company K, having previously been appointed Assistant Inspector General for the Brigade, discharged the duties of A. A. General during the absence of Captain Bloomfield, and Lieutenant Hazzard, of Company I, was appointed A. A. Q. M., vice First Lieutenant Spring, also absent with his Brigade. Lieutenant Colonel Goodnow commanded the Regiment during this period.
Brigadier General William Harrow relieved General Ewing, in command of the Division, on the 8th of February, and retained his connection with the organization during the remaining period of its history. The complete list of Division commanders, during the year closed, embraced Brigadier Generals Denver, Smith and Ewing. General Harrow was welcomed to his new command, and proved to be a brave officer.
Our camp was located on the south side of a rocky ledge, which constituted a sharp spur of the mountain and terminated a short distance toward the west. We were protected from the inclemency of the weather by the height above us, whose sides furnished materials for our chimneys and fuel for warming our quarters, as well as timber for the construction of the latter. The busy scene that was presented on the Sabbath succeeding our (p170) arrival, and for several subsequent days, was interesting to behold from the summit of the mountain. Hundreds of axes resounded through the camps below, and the sounds fell upon the ear like the hum of busy industry in days of peace. The weather was cold, and the day of rest was employed in securing protection against the exposure to which the troops had long been subjected. As if by magic, the comfortable cabins rose, where all was dense underbrush a few days before. A fairy tale cannot equal the reality spread out to view in the valley, where thousands of tents dotted the fields and nestled in the forests, bearing the appearance of busy villages where so late all was hushed in silence and solitude. This was the more pleasant aspect of war, and contrasted agreeably with the scenes through which we had passed.
Here, for three months, we remained, awaiting the renewal of the stern conflict for the suppression of rebellion and tyranny. As the springtime came on to dispel the dreary influence of winter, the far-off mountains beyond the Tennessee, which had presented their brown or snowy sides to our view, assumed the livery of beauty wrought by the gentle rain and the genial sunshine, till the heart beat back responsive to the voice of nature, speaking sweetly of peace. Our camps, too, kept pace with the progress of nature, (p171) by artificial adornment, and our humble abode became the most attractive object in the scope of our vision. Rows of cedars from the mountaintop were arranged in front of the several lines of tents, with bowers to shelter from the warmth of noonday. The line officers' tents were made objects of special interest, by the verdant arches erected in their front, with the several letters of the companies suspended from the centre of each arch, while in front of the Colonel's tent a larger arch, with the Masonic emblem, all in evergreen, formed the central point of beauty.
Various amusements were resorted to for whiling away the hours, as day by day rolled by. The most exciting and amusing of these was a sham battle, and yet not wholly a sham, in which the assailants gathered up the cast-off boots and shoes from the refuse of camp, and used the as weapons of violence, while the party assailed made a vigorous defense with the same means. These were thrown in showers by the combatants, in charge and counter-charge. An old garment, picked up from the rubbish without the camp, served as a flag, and a camp-kettle upon a stump was made to represent a battery, against which one party would rush with great impetuosity, while the opponents would rally in support of the object of attack. In the close contest that was waged for the mastery blows fell thick and fast, (p172) while yells of triumph rose as one or the other party gained the ground. Some were severely injured in the melee, which was conducted throughout in the best possible humor. In other pleasant pastimes officers and men would frequently mingle, the most popular of which was gymnastic exercises, in which the full vigor of the man was called into healthful employment.
But other sounds than those of merriment were heard in our camps. A rude chapel was constructed by the Regiment, for public and social religious services during the inclement season, but it was destroyed while the troops were absent at Dalton. On the return of spring large congregations assembled at the respective camps for evening services. These meetings continued several weeks, with beneficial results.
As in all our camps, death was a frequent visitor, and bore to the grave some of our noblest young men, in the prime of manhood. But the mortality during this period fell short of that at Grand Junction and Fort Loomis, during the corresponding period of the previous year. Fourteen died in camp, whose names appear in the following list:
January 7th -- Joseph Fisher, Company D.
January 12th -- Wesley Mitchell, Company F.
January 24th -- George W. Yager, Company I.
January 28th --James Barnard, Company G. (p173)
March 12th -- Lewis Brown, Company H.
March 17th -- Sergeant Oliver B. Glascock, Company D
March 21st -- George E. Worden, Company B.
March 28th -- Francis M. Reed, Company D.
April 3rd -- William H. Watson, Company F.
April 13th -- William R. Ranney, Company K.
April 20th -- Albert D. Scarlett, Company K.
April 23rd -- John N. Brooks, Company H.
April 25th -- Daniel W. Montil, Company I.
The following died during the same period, while absent from the Regiment:
January 25th -- Abraham D. Bannon, Company G, Alfont, Ind.
March 18th -- James F. French, Company D, Troy, Ohio
April 3rd -- William H. Ely, Company E, Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia.
April 7th -- Jacob M. Paulus, Company I, Louisville, Kentucky.
The following promotions were made during the same period:
1st Lieutenant William H. Harrison, Co. B, to Captain, vice Aveline, killed in action, February 1st, 1864.
2nd Lieutenant Alfred L. Stoney, Co. B, to 1st Lieutenant, vice Harrison, promoted, February 1st, 1864.
Sergeant James Strouse, Co. B, to 2nd Lieutenant, vice Stoney, promoted, March 12th, 1864.
Sergeant Major Marshall H. Parks, to Adjutant, vice Bond, resigned, March 11th, 1864.
Orderly Sergeant G. B. Hart, Co. H, to 1st Lieutenant, vice Hart, resigned, March 12th, 1864.
Sergeant Dick Jones, Co. H, to 2nd Lieutenant, vice Hart, promoted March 12th, 1864.
1st Lieutenant B. F. Price, Co. D, to Captain, vice Bowman, resigned, March 19th, 1864.
1st Lieutenant E. S. Lenfesty, Co. C, to Captain, vice Beeson, died of wounds, April 22nd, 1864.
2nd Lieutenant C. F. Mather, Co. C, to 1st Lieutenant, vice Lenfesty, promoted, April 22nd, 1864.
2nd Lieutenant E. H. Webster, Co. F, to Captain Co. A, vice Conner, resigned, April 29th, 1864.
Orderly Sergeant Ralph Copper, Co. G, to 2nd Lieutenant, vice Alfont, promoted, April 29th, 1864.
Quartermaster Sergeant John H. Waters, to 1st Lieutenant Co. A, vice Weatherinton, resigned, April 30th, 1864.
1st Lieutenant Robert R. Scott, Co. E, was detailed as A. R. Q. M. during this period.
On the 4th of March Colonel Loomis returned, with his regiment, and resumed command of the Brigade, when Colonel Williams again joined the Regiment, remaining in command during the continuance of the troops at Scottsboro. The veteran regiments returned with ranks filled with recruits, especially those reaching their respective States at (p175) an early period, and the strength of the Division was increased to nearly seven thousand men. General Logan reviewed the troops, on the 23rd of April, and all indications pointed to an early movement. General Sherman had returned from Vicksburg, in the latter part of March, and assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, while General Grant had gone to Washington, to direct the movement of the armies on the Rapidan, in the approaching campaign. Everything was ready for movement, on the 30th day of April, and the troops were under marching orders for the next day. New scenes of danger were before us, compared with which our previous experience now seems of little moment. (p176)