Memories of War Times

Personal Reminiscences of Happenings That Took Place From 1861 to the Grand Review

by Reub Williams

The sketch of last week closed by getting the regiment to which the writer was attached on the way to the defense of Washington. Up to that time its members had been so busily engaged in being transported from Evansville to Indianapolis, and in transferring their allegiance from the State to the national government, and in receiving clothing, arms, etc., that they had no time to observe how wildly the country was excited over that first battle of the war--a struggle that, compared with some that were to follow, amounted to nothing more than an ordinary lively skirmish. The killed and wounded in all only amounted to something over four hundred, and the fight itself might be classed as a "stand-off." It was however much nearer to Washington than to Richmond--the respective capitals of each side--and while it is a fact that the stragglers of both sides--and a big fight always had its full quota of this class of soldiers--found themselves either in Richmond or Washington, and it is said that on Monday evening there were stragglers from a Zouave regiment back at their homes in New York City.

At any rate there was no little fear for Washington City, and in looking back at the situation today, had the army under Beauregard have been older troops and free from the excitement that prevails in all first battles, the city might have been captured by a forward movement on the mart of the rebel leader. While it was really a drawn battle the confederates held the ground and made the most of it. Maps of the struggle were lithographed and sent broadcast all over the Southern States and the struggle was hailed as a certain indication of future success and the establishment of the "Southern Confederacy." On the side of the South the first Bull Run had the effect to crush out the strong Union sentiment that was visible at many points, particularly in Western North Carolina and in Eastern Tennessee as well as in smaller numbers at many localities in almost all the Southern States.

In the North the effect was to arouse the people to the immensity the struggle was to assume. The orators who announced that the suppression of the rebellion would be a mere breakfast sport took a new view of the situation. The first battle showed that the South was terribly in earnest and plainly showed that the Confederacy at the start was better prepared for war than was the North, consequently a deep and determined feeling took hold of every patriot in the land, who felt that the government of "The Fathers" must be preserved, and as a consequence the news of the battle of Bull Run awakened the people of the North to a degree that nothing else could be done.

Hence the passage of the Twelfth Indiana through the country on its way to the defense of Washington City was a continued ovation from the passing of the first small village to the east of Indianapolis, on through Richmond, Ind., Columbus, Ohio, and on into Pittsburgh, and the State capital and the smaller towns of Pennsylvania, the regiment was greeted by one and all with wild acclaim. Even along the line of the railroads in the country, the people had assembled at the crossroads to greet, to welcome and to cheer the Hoosiers. At Richmond great stacks of sandwiches, coffee, ice water, cakes, cigars, etc., were donated to the soldiers, and if anything not in sight was wanted, all that was needed was to make the want known and it was or would be supplied. At Columbus, Ohio, perhaps two thousand young ladies had assembled in a body to cheer the oncoming regiment and when the train slowly entered the depot, these young ladies broke forth in a patriotic song prepared for the purpose.

And so it continued clear through to Baltimore. At Pittsburgh, Pa., the ladies had prepared a regular meal where the entire regiment could be seated while it devoured a portion of the plenteous food that was so patriotically and generously provided, and it was at Pittsburgh that the ladies organized an association, the intention of which was to provide a full meal for any and every soldier that might pass through that place during all of the protracted struggle, and I well remember seeing over the great dining hall these patriotic women had fitted up for the purpose, even several years after the war the statement over the door the precise number of meals that had been provided for all passing soldiers in letters of gold just as they should have been. I cannot remember the exact number, but it was large beyond two million. Think of that! Instead of a "breakfast spell," as at first thought would be all that was required, it afterward required many a dinner and supper and even an odd lunch thrown in for good measurement in the four years that followed.

At Baltimore came orders to send the regiment to Harper's Ferry, Va., where General N. P. Banks of Massachusetts was assembling a large force to checkmate the advance of a rebel army into Maryland--a State that had been held fast to the Union side through the efforts of its loyal Governor Hicks, and therefore we derailed outside of the town that had already mobbed a Federal regiment on its way to the defense of Washington. At that time, and in fact clear through the war, fully a mile and a half intervened without a railroad connection and it was necessary then to march all troops through the city as well as to transfer all freight, arms and supplies of very kind by wagon. The city was tunneled after the war, and now passengers can go to Washington without even seeing Baltimore, by passing under its streets and houses.

As the regiment had to march through the streets, and in view of the fact that there were still many of its citizens who sympathized with the Confederate cause, our Colonel, John M. Wallace ordered the soldiers to load their muskets in the suburbs of the city, but of course not to fire under any circumstances without orders. While it was a very natural thing to do, yet owing to the lack of discipline in the ranks at that time, I have many times thought what a fortunate thing it was that no soldier allowed his musket to go off by accident during that passage; for everybody who passed through the war now knows that if a single gun had been fired fully a dozen more would have followed, and hence there would have been trouble! Gen. Ben Butler had taken command of the city at that time and the regiment was not even scoffed at in any way, but on the contrary, the Union sentiment had become so strong that at several points along the line the soldiers were lustily cheered; quite a different reception than the Massachusetts regiment received a few weeks earlier.

The soldiers that were assembling under Gen. Banks at Harper's Ferry were of the first call for 300,000 three-year troops, and consequently their ranks were full each one of the ten companies containing its 101 members, with the field and staff additional. In consequence of their full numbers, compared with our own little light-weight regiment of 700, an Eastern regiment looked like a full brigade beside it. Besides, the Twelfth, as were all the first Indiana troops, were clothed in a uniform of Kentucky-jeans, consisting of a round-about and pants with a hat that the boys soon nicknamed "camp kettles," vastly inferior to the full United States uniform with which the Eastern army was equipped.

Soon after arriving at Harper's Ferry, John M. Wallace resigned his position. this advanced Lieut-Colonel William H. Link to the place vacated; George Humphreys became Lieut-Colonel and Captain Henry Hubler was appointed Major. This made a vacancy in the Warsaw company to which the writer was selected, jumping over Patrick Galagher, the First Lieutenant, as Captain. This also allowed Andrew S. Milice to become Second Lieutenant, who, after serving the allotted time in the Twelfth, became captain in the Seventy-fourth Indiana Infantry, following the promotion of the late C. W. Chapman as Colonel of the regiment. Captain Milice was severely wounded at Chickamauga and was compelled to resign in consequence.

When Link assumed the command of the regiment new life was infused into it at once. He, too, grieved over the disparity of the number of men in his regiment as compared with the full regiments with which his own was associated, and this grew on him to such a degree, as did also the ill-looking, ill-fitting and rather gawky uniforms of the Twelfth that he secured an order to send a recruiting party back to Indiana to procure enough men to fill the regiment up to the maximum of 1,040; to procure new uniforms and also to secure a band. All of the regiments with which the Twelfth was associated had full bands of twenty-six instruments. The recruiting party was to consist of a sergeant and one private soldier from each company with a commissioned officer in command of all of them. The writer of these sketches was placed at the head of this party, and immediately left Harper's Ferry for Indianapolis.

On arriving at the State capital and reporting to Adjutant-General Laz. Noble--one of the most competent assistants to Governor Morton, any man ever had--gave us all possible assistance, and as the regiment had been made up from the State at large, the recruiting party had the whole State to draw from. The term of enlistment was for the uncompleted term of one year, and as the regiment had served for about five months, the call I made was for seven months. As all other recruiting was for three years it can be seen quite readily that the term offered by my party for seven months became quite popular and it was only a brief time after the party got to work that the list showed an enlistment of considerably over two hundred. I also had the good fortune to secure through its leader, a man by the name of Lasher, a full band, instruments and all. Its home was at Peru and after it was mustered, in I took back to the regiment very nearly three hundred men.

This large body of recruits was furnished transportation for Washington, where it was expected to join its command. Like the original regiment it was also head off at Baltimore, the regiment having been ordered during my absence to Sharpsburg, that a year later became the central point of the battle of Antietam. The recruits were received with great rejoicing. Nearly every one of them had personal friends in the regiment, who of course cheered them greatly in introducing them to soldier life. Among these recruits was a young fellow about seventeen years old, with whom the writer had a rather pleasant episode before leaving the State for our destination. His mother could scarcely be induced to give her consent to let the boy go at all, and after she heard that I had promised to appoint him as a musician after we got to the regiment and let him learn to blow a fife or bugle, or beat a drum, the reader can perceive how surprised I was to receive a note from the mother of this boy on the evening of the day that the detachment was to leave for the East at 2 o'clock a.m.

In this note she said: "Captain Williams, I jest heard yiste'day that my boy was to be made a musician of some kind. Do you think I want a son of mine to go about in the army blowin' a fife or a bugle, or poundin' on the leather head of a drum? I did not like to let him go at all, but having consented, I want him to be a soldier and carry a gun, and to learn to use it to a good advantage, too. Jest you consent to let him carry a gun, else I'll come and take him home with me on the return train." Of course I consented, and I only mention this incident to show the true patriotism that not only prevailed everywhere, but dominated the women to a wonderful degree. This woman was anxious to have the war over and as she afterwards stated, that her idea of war was to give every man a gun and make him use it too. Drums, fifes and bugles, she said, were good enough in their place, but neither one would count much in a fight. There were thousands of just such women whose hearts were as tender as those of the gentlest, but she reasoned that a son of hers must do something to help suppress the rebellion; end the war, and thus get home all the sooner, if their lives were spared to come home at all. All of these incidents occurred before any of the great battles of the war were fought and it had not assumed the form that it did afterward to affect in some way every home in the land whether cottage or palace in either the North or the South.

Warsaw Daily Times January 10, 1903

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