Chapter VI

Winter Quarters at Grand Junction

On our arrival at this place we were ordered into camp in a corn-field north of the town, a miserable situation for the season. Here the Regiment remained from the 9th of January to the 12th of March. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad was soon re-opened, and communication with Corinth and Memphis, via Jackson, was maintained. All our supplies reached us from the latter place, on account of the destruction of a large amount of trestle-work on the Mississippi Central Railroad, north of Jackson. Memphis, and the line of communication thence to Corinth, were held by the Sixteenth Corps, Major General Hurlbut succeeding General Hamilton in command. The duty of the troops consisted chiefly in guard and picket, which, under more favorable circumstances might have been pleasant. But the location, and inclemency of the season, with poor water and previous exposure, produced disease, of (p56) which about forty men died during the period of our stay at this place. The record of the two months spent at Grand Junction presents scarcely a redeeming feature, and will ever be remembered with feelings of sadness by the surviving members of the Regiment.

The troops were forbidden to make use of unoccupied buildings and fences to render their quarters comfortable and healthy, the result of which was that many of the men slept for months on the damp ground, under cover of their bell tents, into which they were crowded and compelled to spend most of their time, especially during the rainy season. A rude chimney at one end, opposite the entrance, rendered these winter habitations barely endurable. Yet, while blessed with heath, contentment was a constant guest of the soldier's quarters. But when disease began to prevail, it was not strange that thoughts of home should induce home-sickness. To while away the long winter evenings various plans were resorted to. Some discussed questions of science or the prospects of the war. Others dwelt on the scenes of their brief but eventful period of service, while many indulged in merriment or games of skill or chance. The use of cards, and even gambling, was not unusual, for in a regiment of men collected from all ranks of society a multiplicity of characters will be found. On the contrary, a (p57) select few would occasionally meet in one of the tents to spend an evening in prayer and religious conversation, and many happy hours were thus occupied. All found a common interest in writing letters to absent friends, and the correspondence of these men during this period must have been peculiarly interesting to friends at home; for the soldier's letter is a miniature of his own experience and observation, which was at this time one of trial and affliction.

During the months of January, February, and the former part of March, more than forty of the Regiment died of disease. In all the new regiment of the Division a great mortality prevailed during the winter, while comparatively few of the old soldiers died. This was no doubt attributable to their acquired power of endurance, which enabled them to bear the exposure of the recent campaign and the inclemency of the winter season. It is always observable that during the first year a new regiment suffers more from disease than in all the latter period of the service. Still it is not a little remarkable that many of those who died of sickness were among the most rugged men of the Regiment.

Sun after reaching Grand Junction, Dr. Lomax joined the Regiment from detached service, and the three surgeons were present with the command, Dr. Lomax taking quarters at the Regimental (p58) Hospital in town, and Drs. Taylor and Campfield remaining with the Regiment at camp, visiting the patients in (the) hospital every morning and evening. The Union Hotel was occupied jointly by the Twelfth and One Hundredth Indiana Volunteers for hospital purposes, excepting a few lower rooms which were previously held by the Medical Department of the Fifteenth Michigan, then on provost duty at the place. In February, Dr. Campfield was detached from the Regiment, and ordered to report to Millikin's Bend, La., for duty in General Hospital, where he remained till July following.

The record of mortality begins with the death of David P. Gilpin, of Co. K, January 6th, while the Regiment was en route to Grand Junction from Holly Springs. This young man died at the latter place, on his way to General Hospital. His brother, belonging to the same Company, knew nothing of the event till he was buried. Sergeant Milford D. Jones, of Co. C, and Cyrus Hart, of Co. F, were also left at Holly Springs, and subsequently died at La Grange, Tennessee. The first death at Grand Junction was that of George Craig, of Co. C, January 18th. Professor Adolph Genning, leader of the Band, though not a member of the Regiment, fell dead, of apoplexy, the same day, after eating a hearty breakfast. They were both (p59) buried in the same grave, with the usual ceremonies which are observed on funeral occasions in the army. The procession moves to the grave in the following order: the Band, playing a funeral march; the corpse, in ambulance, with the pall-bearers marching abreast; the escort, with arms reversed; the Company, in reverse order, without arms, led by the Chaplain. On reaching the grave the escort is formed in two files, on one side of the open vault, presenting arms while the coffin is born to the grave and placed in position for lowering into the earth. The funeral services are performed, which, with us, consisted of reading Scripture, a few practical remarks, and prayer, at the close of which the coffin is deposited in its place, the escort again presenting arms. The military honors are paid by the escort firing three volleys of blank cartridge over the grave, when the procession returns in the same order in which it came, the grave being filled by those who remain. Usually large numbers attend the funerals, and exhibit a sincere respect for their departed comrades in arms. The contrast between a burial scene, as thus described, and a funeral occasion in civil life is so marked as to deeply impress the mind of one who for the first time witnesses the solemn scene. There are no weeping friends, though the absence of tears does not prove the absence of grief, and especially no mother, wife, (p60) or sister, to rouse our sympathy and call forth the manly tear of sorrow. The plain coffin, or rude box, containing the uniformed soldier, wrapped in his blanket, is in striking contrast with the ornamented shrine in which we are accustomed to deposit the sacred dust of those who are borne from our homes to the rest of the grave. All these combine to render the first burial scene in the army one of the most impressive in the records of memory.

The following is a full list of those who died from the date of our first burial to the 20th of March, at which time the patients were removed from Grand Junction, to join the Regiment at Camp Loomis, near Collierville:

January 17th -- John B. Tirey, Company H
January 22d -- Corporal Isaac E. Jones, Company D
January 28th -- John Alter, Company F
January 30th -- John H. Darr, Company F
January 31st -- Sergeant Edwin Robinson, Company H
February 5th -- William Olvy, Company H
February 7th -- Abel A. Wheeler, Company F
February 10th -- Peter B. Lennen, Company G
February 14th -- George W. Davis, Company D
February 14th -- Joseph Fawcett, Company H
February 15th -- John Thompson, Company E
February 17th -- Silas Dern, Company D
February 19th -- Washington Custer, Company D
February 20th -- Henry Noll, Company K
February 21st -- Sergeant Major Larrey D. McFarlane
February 21st -- Henry Hall, Company H
February 22d -- Frank Seman, Company B
February 22d -- Robert W. McCallister, Company K
February 23d --Lewis Michael, Company G
February 24th -- Sergeant Thomas L. Huston, Company G
February 24th -- Eli Bray, Company E
February 25th -- Thorton R. Turner, Company H
March 2d -- Franklin Eldridge, Company D
March 3d -- Hampton D. Johnson, Company D
March 4th -- George W. Colvin, Company D
March 5th -- John McVey, Company G
March 6th -- Lewis Allen, Company C
March 6th -- Levi Allen, company C
March 7th -- Sampson Strock, Company A
March 7th -- Henry Cuffle, Company I
March 8th -- Second Lieut. Wm. C. Kirkpatrick, Company I
March 10th -- David H. Davidson, Company H
March 12th -- Isaac Pontious, Company I
March 13th -- John C. Carrell, Company H
March 14th -- Corporal Jonathan Magner, Company F
March 18th -- William A. Schooler, Company C
March 20th -- John Dunn, Company C

It was a painful task to communicate to the friends of these noble men the sad intelligence of their death, as one by one they passed away. A thousand incidents connected with the illness and dying hour of the persons named in the preceding list rise to view on the page of memory. A few of these will be noted.  Fourteen of the number left families to mourn their loss, the remaining twenty-four, with the three previously mentioned, being young men, in the very prime of manhood,(p62) most of whom possessed vigorous constitutions, and struggled long with disease for the mastery.  The wonderful tenacity of life exhibited by John H. Darr is worthy of special mention.  This young man was one of the strongest in the Regiment, and in his long conflict he never once became discouraged, or allowed a doubt of his recovery to enter his mind, and to the very last moment retained the full determination to conquer the disease which had assailed his vital energies.  In a moment the heart of the resolute man was stilled in death.  The silver cord was loosed, the golden bowl was broken, and the spirit had returned to God who gave it.

One of these had been a man of intemperate habits, and the withdrawal of the accustomed stimulant roused to fiercer action the thirst for drink.  Enfeebled by disease, he would suddenly become pulseless and rigid as a corpse, presenting every appearance of death.  After a short time a faint indication of life, accompanied with a moan scarcely audible, could be detected by the pulse.  From this condition he would gradually rouse to almost superhuman strength, requiring great effort to keep him in subjection, the moan meantime swelling and rising to the most fearful screams, which resounded far and wide, in the solemn stillness of the night.  Several of these terrible scenes occurred, when at last death supervened, and the (p63) unfortunate man had met his fate, a solemn warning to those who are the slaves of appetite.

A far different scene was presented at the death-bed of Franklin Eldridge, who felt that the sands of life were almost run, and spent his last moments in commending his soul to God.  Being asked what message he had to leave for his widowed mother, he opened his eyes, when he had ceased his silent prayer for divine strength, while a glow of unearthly beauty spread over and lighted up his features, and calmly replied, "Tell her I am happier than she or any one else can be in this world." The reflected light of the upper world, from the countenance of the dying youth, fell upon the hearts of all who witnessed the scene, and Lieut. Kirkpatrick, who lay by his side, and who also soon died, caught the sacred influence and shouted "Glory to God." It was there we realized that "the chamber where the good man meets his fate is far beyond the common walks of life, quite on the verge of heaven.

The death of Larrey D. McFarlane involved all who knew him in sorrow.  His cheerfulness and assiduity in the performance of duty, added to his noble moral character, rendered him dear to all.  To those who knew him intimately and observed the inner promptings of his life, he could not but be a object of tender solicitude and affection. The unparalleled devotion of this young man to (p64) his mother excluded all base motives and inspired him with lofty desires and purposes.  From careful study of his rare affection, combined with a good native intellect, well cultivated for one of his years, we could not look upon his familiar features, cold in the embrace of death, without deep feelings of sadness at the loss of so true a friend, which enabled us to sympathize with the afflicted mother, who immediately hastened to him, on hearing of his dangerous illness.  But he had been laid to rest several days previous to her arrival, and she bore his remains with her to the scenes of his childhood, sharing the warm sympathies of the Regiment.

The remains of Sergeant Robinson and John B. Tirey were disinterred and taken home. The father of the former, while at Memphis, on his return with the precious dust, also died very mysteriously, being found dead in his bed, with no visible marks of violence upon his body, and he was borne to his doubly afflicted family, to share with his son the grave he had purchased with this own life.  Joseph Fawcett, Silas Dern, Sergeant Huston, Eli Bray, Franklin Eldridge, Levi Creviston, Lieutenant Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Magner were also taken home for burial. 

This sad chapter in the volume of experience, written in the memories of all who shared in the trials of that period, closed with the removal of (p65) the Regimental Hospital to the pleasant and healthy position to which the Regiment preceded us on the 13th day of March.  The number of patients in hospital at the date of removal, March 20th, was about thirty, seven of whom remained, under care of Dr. Taylor, till the 26th.  Among those was John Dunn, of Company C, who died of small-pox, on the 20th.  Most of those who died at Camp Loomis were the victims of disease induced at Grand Junction, and others were unfitted for service in consequence of protracted illness, during the winter.  The prevailing disease was typhoid fever, in its most malignant form, often succeeded by chronic derangement of the digestive organs, from which secondary cause a number died.  The effective strength of the Regiment was reduced nearly one hundred men during the first six months of our service in Mississippi and Tennessee, from disease alone.

The following promotions were made during this period.
1st Lieut. Hezekiah Beeson, Co. C, to Captain vice Cubberly, resigned, March 1st, 1963.
2d Lieut. E. S. Lenfesty, Co. C, to  1st Lieutenant, vice Beeson, promoted, March 1st, 1863.
Orderly Sergeant C. F. Mather, Co. C, to 2d Lieutenant, vice Lenfesty, promoted, March 1st, 1863.
1st Lieut. Thos. N. Peoples, to Captain, vice Rooker, resigned, March 1st, 1863.
Orderly Sergt. Robt. R. Scott, Co. E, to  2d Lieutenant, vice Day, killed in action, to date from Nov. 22d, 1862, and to  1st Lieut., vice Peoples, promoted, March 1st, 1863.
Sergeant Samuel Shenafelt, Co. E, to  2d Lieutenant, vice Scott, promoted, March 1st, 1863.
2d Lieut. Thomas J. Anderson, Co. I, to Captain, vice Wells, resigned, Dec. 24th, 1862.
Orderly Sergt. Wm. C. Kirkpatrick, Co. I, to  1st Lieutenant, vice Wescott, killed in action, Dec. 24th, 1862.
Sergeant Lemuel Hazzard, Co. I, to  2d Lieutenant, vice Anderson, promoted,  Dec. 24th, 1862.
1st Lieut, Robt. W. Weatherinton, Co. A, was detailed as A. R. Q. M., on the capture of Quartermaster McClellan, and continued to fill the position during his absence.

 Back to YesterYear in Print

 Table of Contents

Next:  Chapter VII