The Regiment was transferred to the First Brigade --Colonel John Mason Loomis, of the Twenty-sixth Illinois, commanding--March 12th, and assigned to duty at Nevel's Station, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, twenty miles east of the former place. Four miles of the road were held by the Regiment, which was posted as follows: Six Companies at Nevel's Station-- Companies A, C, E, and H, being stationed at intervals, east and west, between Collierville and Germantown. These Companies were relieved by others during the following month, and these in May, by others still.
The Brigade consisted of the Twenty-sixth and Ninetieth Illinois, Twelfth and One Hundredth Indiana, with head-quarters at Collierville, four miles east, where the Twenty-sixth Illinois and a part of the One Hundredth Indiana were stationed, a detachment of the latter Regiment occupying a (p68) position farther east, while the Ninetieth Illinois held Lafayette. Brigadier General William Sooy Smith superseded General Denver in command of the Division, on the 28th of March.
Our stay at this place was in striking contrast with the period of suffering through which we had recently passed at Grand Junction. The influence of the pure air and good water revived the drooping spirits of those who were not hopelessly diseased--of which latter class a number died--and gave new vigor to those who had escaped from the contagious influences of our former situation. The camp was all that could be desired. Embowered in a beautiful grove of native oaks --which constituted the park of a large and valuable plantation, owned by a Mr. Bedford--we rejoined in the pure air and genial shade, almost forgetful that we were in an enemy's land. The pleasant scenes around us scarcely admitted the thought of war's rude shocks, but spoke sweetly of the peaceful days of the past. Our letters were no longer filled with gloomy forebodings, induced by an atmosphere of pestilence and death around us. Anxious care was banished from our own minds, and we sought to impress our friends at home with the idea of ambrosial pleasures in our new and lovely camp.
But one thing indicated that ours was not a mere pastime, and that danger lurked around this (p69) delightful spot. A strong stockade was in course of construction in our front, near the railroad, under the direction of Lieutenant Godown, of Company K. This was octagonal in form, with a diameter of fifty feet, enclosed with strong posts of oak--closely fitted and set in the earth to the depth of three feet--with port holes for musketry, and a deep moat without. The interior was intersected by a transverse line, similarly constructed, running diagonally with the front face, which was on a parallel with the line of the railroad. It was designed to afford protection against the enemy from whatever direction an attack might be made, but was never required for defense.
The wealthy planters had been deprived of all the means of carrying on their usual operations, including their slaves, who had left them to enjoy their newly acquired freedom. The inhabitants were chiefly disloyal, though some professed to entertain Union sentiments. Among these was Bedford, who owned three thousand acres in that vicinity, while his neighbor, Nevel made no secret of his alliance with the rebellion. His frankness entitled him to a degree of respect of which Bedford was not worthy, under the guise of loyalty, being utterly destitute of moral principle, and unquestionably a malignant rebel in the day of Confederate rule. During the operations of the spring campaigns, both East and West, the least (p70) tendency of the balanced scale in favor of the South was evidently received with increased gratification by the wealthier classes, the women venturing to speak boldly their true sentiments, and predicting disaster to our cause in the pending operations at Vicksburg, and that we could never reduce the place, nor occupy Richmond. A deep gloom was produced in their minds by the premature announcement, in May, of the occupation of the rebel Capital. The cheerfulness of the soldiers was in marked contrast with the despondency of the citizens. Captain Ira J. Bloomfield, A. A. General of the Brigade, addressed the Regiment in an ecstasy of delight, and all felt encouraged to look for an early triumph of our cause. The contradiction of the report which followed, and the intelligence of our reverse at Chancellorville had a depressing influence upon us, while the faces of the disloyal inhabitants were wreathed in smiles. Our deep chagrin over the unfortunate result to our arms and our premature rejoicing over supposed victory was not forgotten, and when, two years later, the news flashed over the land that Richmond had fallen those who had been deceived were distrustful.
Yet the confidence of the army was not essentially impaired. The temporary defeat of Sherman at Chickasaw Bayou, and the failure of the effort to divert the channel of the Mississippi (p71) through the celebrated canal did not deter General Grant from new and bolder plans for the attainment of his object. By running the batteries with transports, under the most fearful storm of iron hail, he secured the means of placing his army on the East bank of the river, below Vicksburg, and by a series of brilliant victories compelled the enemy to retire from Jackson into his defenses. These successes repaired the shock produced upon the public mind by the reverse in the East, and were speedily followed by still greater triumphs.
While Vicksburg was thus being enveloped by our army, and attracting the attention of the country to the theatre of a struggle for the key to the Confederacy, nothing was occurring in Western Tennessee. Rosecrans confronted the enemy at Tullahoma, while in the East, Lee was repeating his effort to flank Washington. The hour of decisive action was approaching, and re-inforcements were moving down the Mississippi to aid in the reduction of the rebel stronghold. The withdrawal of a portion of the Sixteenth Corps from Western Tennessee was ordered in the latter part of May, and a scene of activity followed. The First Division was designated for the required duty, and began the work of concentration preparatory to movement to the scene of hostilities.
Our pleasant summer quarters at Fort Loomis were abandoned, early on the morning of May (p72) 24th, after ten weeks of such enjoyment as seldom falls to the lot of troops in time of war. The memory of that period will ever be dear to many hearts. The health of the Regiment was fully restored and its efficiency greatly improved. Colonel Williams and Quartermaster McClellan, having been exchanged, returned on the 16th of May. Lieutenant Colonel Kempton having received leave of absence, on account of ill health, on the 5th day of May, Major Goodnow held command of the Regiment till the arrival of Colonel Williams.
The following promotions were made at Camp
Orderly Sergeant Allen S. Conner, Co. A, to 2nd Lieutenant, vice Wright, discharged, to date from February 3rd, 1863.
2nd Lieutenant Lemuel Hazzard, Co. I, to First Lieutenant, vice Kirkpatrick, deceased, April 7th, 1863.
Orderly Sergeant James H. Weaver, Co. I, to 2nd Lieutenant, vice Hazzard, promoted, April 7th, 1863
The number of deaths in hospital during the same period was fourteen, viz:
March 18th -- Corporal Albert Benson, Company B.
April 3rd -- James Greeson, Company E.
April 5th -- James Richardson, Company A.
April 7th -- Isaac Kirkpatrick, Company F. (p73)
April 10th -- David Thompson, Company E.
April 12th -- Peter Patram, Company E.
April 13th -- Albert G. Stanton, Company A.
April 16th -- Corporal Addison K. Bell, Company B.
April 16th -- Robert McClary, Company A.
April 25th -- Andrew J. Messersmith, Company F.
April 26th -- David Wallace, Company F
April 27th -- William H. Ferguson, Company A.
April 30th -- John G. Irelan, Company D.
May 10th -- John T. Butler, Company H. (p74)