Chapter III

Campaign in Northern Mississippi

The Regiment returned from Kentucky on parole, and rendezvoused at Indianapolis to await exchange, which was effected the 17th of November, on which day the following promotions were made. Lieutenant Colonel Williams, to Colonel, vice Link, deceased. Major Kempton, to Lieutenant Colonel, Captain Goodnow, of Company A, to Major, Lieutenant J. B. Conner, to Captain, Orderly Sergeant Robert W. Weatherinton, to First Lieutenant, Hospital Steward John A. Campfield, to Second Assistant Surgeon, and on the 21st, Sergeant Moses D. Gage, of Company B, 89th Indiana Volunteers, was commissioned as Chaplain of the Regiment. Orders were issued on the 20th, to be in readiness to take the field at once, and on the following day the Regiment was ordered to Memphis. Colonel Williams being absent, Lieutenant Colonel Kempton was in command, under whose direction we left Camp Morton on the afternoon of November 21st, en route for Cairo where we arrived on the (p30) night of the 22nd. The Regiment embarked on the stern-wheel transport, J. H. Done, already in a half-sinking condition, on which we made the passage in safety in two days, reaching Memphis on the 24th, disembarking and going into camp east of the city on the morning of the 25th.

Great activity prevailed at Memphis preparatory to the approaching campaign into Mississippi for the reduction of Vicksburg. Major General W. T. Sherman's Corps, consisting of three divisions, constituted the right wing of Grant's army, and the troops were already under marching orders on our arrival. The Regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade, Third Division, consisting of the Thirty-third Wisconsin, Twenty-seventh Iowa, and Twelfth Indiana, Colonel Moore, of the Thirty-third Wisconsin, commanding. The Division was under command of Brigadier General Lauman, Brigadier General Denver commanding the First Division, and Brigadier General M. L. Smith, the Second. The entire Corps numbered about 25,000 men, composed of old and new troops in about equal numbers. Most of the Western States were represented, and all hearts were stirred with a noble emulation to achieve distinction.

The Corps moved, by different roads, on the 26th of November. The progress of the army was delayed by the destruction of bridges along the route, rendering it necessary for the troops to pull the (p31) train up the steep bank of one of the creeks. This tedious and laborious process was continued for several hours, by detail of companies pulling at long ropes attached to the laded wagons. The woods responded till near midnight with the cheerful songs and shouts of the soldiers, to many of whom this was the first lesson of along series in the toils of the service. At last the task was accomplished, and the troops moved on, reaching camp at midnight. The next day the roads were unobstructed, and a rapid march of twenty miles brought us to the right plantation of General Miller, whose fences were consumed for fuel, while his cotton-gin and press, with most of his out-houses and a large quantity of corn, were burned during the night, as punishment for his treasonable conversation with the soldiers. The desolation thus begun continued during the march, the track of my column being distinctly marked by the smoke of burning buildings and fences.

On the third day's march we met a Union man, formerly from Indiana, who gave us his experience in Secessia, having been persecuted and threatened with the halter for his loyalty to the old flag. The people were subjected to the greatest tyranny the world ever saw, and had not a vestige of the rights they enjoyed under the Government of their fathers. They had sowed the wind and were reaping the whirlwind. In their helplessness they must (p32) endure all that a despotism, based on oppression and instituted for the perpetuation of African slavery, saw fit to inflict. To be loyal to the Union within the Confederate lines was more perilous to life and property than to be disloyal within our own lines. Thus it was throughout the great conflict. Greater liberty is compatible with free institutions than with the boasted freedom of an aristocracy like that which has so long prevailed in the South. Our cause has doubtless been hindered in its progress by the sufferance of disloyalty in our own midst. Yet we have outlived both overt and covert treason. But in the heart of the bogus Confederacy, a terrorism prevailed that closed the mouths of those who still loved the Union and desired the triumph of our arms. It was only by the forcible suppression of sentiments opposed to the Confederate cause that there could be unity and concentration of action and the best possible use of all the resources of the insurgents for the prosecution of the war. That a latent loyalty prevailed in many hearts in the South, that were not directly interested in the institution of slavery, and appreciated the freedom of the old Government, cannot be doubted. But while the cause of the rebellion inspired hope in those holding the reins of power, no advantage could be secured by a course of opposition, even were it safe to pursue such a policy. When both useless and dangerous (p33) to oppose, a quiet reserve was the only alternative to those to pursue who were in spirit loyal to the Union. Having all their property and interests in the South, they chose to remain and suffer the ills of their lot, rather than fly to others they knew not how to meet.

The enemy retired from Holly Springs across the Tallahatchie, and occupied a strong position on the south bank of that stream. The approach of Sherman's Corps from Memphis, upon his flank, compelled the evacuation of the lines of the Tallahatchie, and on the 30th of November, he retreated toward Grenada, via Oxford, followed by Grant, whose advance pressed his rear in close pursuit. Our forces rested one day on the Coldwater, and on the 30th moved forward to Chulahoma. The night of the enemy's retreat was a memorable one to us. The troops were camped in a large cornfield, when a violent storm of wind and rain arose, and our tents were blown down, while the furrows in which the soldiers had made their beds were filled with water, compelling them to stand exposed to the pitiless storm till morning. By a stringent order, issued at Memphis, the troops were limited to the use of shelter tents, which we were unable to obtain in consequence of the supply being exhausted. The men were therefore left without shelter, except as they were able to protect themselves from the storm with their oil-blankets. The (p34) cheerfulness that prevailed under these circumstances, indicated a noble spirit of endurance and a readiness to make the best of their misfortune. Morning broke upon numerous circles of the poor fellows, around blazing fires, drying their blankets and clothing, or putting their guns in condition for service. The day was occupied in repairing the damages of the night, only to be subjected to a repetition of the drenching the next day, on the march to Wyatt, on the Tallahatchie. At this point the troops were detained while a bridge was thrown across the river, when the Corps moved forward to College Hill, and encamped, while the railroad was in course of repair from Holly Springs to Oxford. In the meantime the enemy continued his retreat, followed by our cavalry to Coffeeville, where a brisk skirmish occurred to our serious disadvantage.

The Regiment remained at Wyatt, guarding the bridge. Supplies for the right wing were conveyed by wagon from Holly Springs to the front, crossing the river at this place. During our continuance here, supplies became very scarce, and the troops were compelled to subsist on forage almost exclusively. The country, in all directions, had been so thoroughly impoverished that it was exceedingly difficult to procure sufficient food. Quartermaster McClellan was untiring in his efforts to provide for the wants of the men. Day and night he labored (p35) in collecting corn and grinding it in a "horse-mill," when all other supplies had failed. It is probable that those living in the midst of abundance never know what hunger is. But the men who have endured the hardships of a soldier's life, know full well the gnawing sensation of hunger. When half famished for want of the most common food, and compelled to subsist on coarse meal alone, thoughts of the bounties of home, where all our wants were wont to be supplied, induced peculiar feelings, which one who has been in want can understand. The sacrifices of the soldier cannot be fully valued till the long list of his privations, toils, sufferings, and dangers has been recounted. But there is no better school for patience and experience to write their lasting influence upon the memory, than in the humble position of the common soldier, who grows wiser by every day's lesson, and treasures up the thoughts of years in his heart. If our brave men, returned to home and families, could but speak the language of their hearts, garnered up in the long years of their arduous service, how eloquent would be their utterances. But it cannot be spoken. In future years the recital of the scenes of camp and field will charm the children upon the knee, but none can read the deep lines written in memory by the events delineated. The past is replete with valuable lessons, if we will but heed them as we ought. (p36)

But the suffering was not confined to our soldiers. Greater privation was endured by the inhabitants, upon whose substance we relied for support, when our supplies failed us. The owner of eight hundred acres of land at Wyatt was reduced to the lowest condition of want. His horses, mules, cattle, hogs, and corn had been appropriated by the army; his fences and out-buildings were consumed for fuel, and his house stripped of everything except the bare furniture. We occupied his house, and fed him and his family during our stay, an object of charity in his own home, where he had lived in comfort for twenty years. As we left him he asked, with broken utterance, what he should do, a difficult question to answer. This is but one of many thousand cases of destitution produced by the ravages of war in the region of hostilities, whose armies have traversed the land for four long and fearful years of strife. If it be thus with the land-owners, how wretched must be the conditions of the poor, degraded whites. Many of this class came to us for aid, but we could afford them no relief.

The army was re-organized during the brief period of repose allowed us here. The army under Grant included the expeditionary force on the lower Mississippi, operating against Vicksburg, which consisted of the Thirteenth Corps, under General McClernand General Sherman was detached (p37) from his command and ordered to proceed, with the Fifteenth Corps, to join McClerand, and assume command of the entire force on the Mississippi. The Sixteenth Corps, under General Hamilton, and the Seventeenth, under General McPherson, were retained in Northern Mississippi, and General Sherman's previous command was distributed among the three Corps, the First Division being assigned to the Sixteenth, the Second to the Fifteenth, and the Third to the Seventeenth Corps. The Twelfth Indiana was detached from the Brigade, and assigned to guard duty at the Tallahatchie railroad bridge. Colonel Williams joined the Regiment on the 11th of December, and on the 12th, the command marched to Waterford, and thence to Tallahatchie on the 15th.

The plan of operations contemplated a diversion, by the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Corps, in favor of the force operating directly against Vicksburg under Sherman, Holly Springs being the base of supplies, to which point the Mississippi Central Railroad was already opened. A large quantity of stores had been accumulated there, and the railroad was about to be opened to Oxford, at which place General Grant had his head-quarters. Soon after we reached our assigned station the bridge was completed and communication was opened from Columbus to Oxford. At this juncture the rebel General Van Dorn succeeded in (p38) surprising the garrison at Holly Springs, early on the morning of the 19th of December, capturing the entire force, cutting our communications, and destroying the supplies. This event compelled the abandonment of the campaign, and the troops returned to Holly Springs, whence the Seventeenth Corps was ordered to Memphis and sent down the river to join the expeditionary force in front of Vicksburg. The Sixteenth Corps was retained in Western Tennessee, to hold the line of communication from Columbus to Corinth and Memphis.

Colonel Williams and Quartermaster McClellan were captured at Holly Springs, and paroled with the garrison. The command of the Regiment again devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Kempton. On the 27th of December, the Regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade of the First Division, Sixteenth Corps, Brigadier General Denver commanding Division. The Brigade consisted of the Sixth Iowa, Forty-sixth Ohio, Fortieth Illinois, Twelfth and One Hundredth Indiana, Colonel McDowell, of the Sixth Iowa, commanding. On the 28th the Regiment joined the Brigade, and on the 29th marched to Holly Springs. The troops remained in the vicinity for several days, and on the 6th of January, 1863, the First Division marched to Salem, thence to Spring Hill, and on the 9th, arrived at the assigned post of duty for the winter. (p39) The First Brigade was quartered at Grand Junction, fifty-two miles east of Memphis, at the crossing of the Memphis and Charleston and Mississippi Central Railroads. The other Brigades of the Division were stationed at La Grange, and other points toward Memphis. Thus terminated the campaign in Northern Mississippi, without the accomplishment of any important object. It was now too late to attempt further operations by land, and General Grant at once entered upon the work of reducing Vicksburg, by moving from some point on the Mississippi. (p40)

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