Memories of War Times

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

by Reub Williams

I heard the ringing bugle call, the drums that loudly beat,
And country-folk were gathering in throngs on every street.
In thoughtful mood, the farmers with comely country dame,
The joyous lads and lasses, from far and near they came;
While portico and balcony, house-top and window-bars
Were decked with loyal mottoes, with waving stripes and stars.
I asked a passing soldier--young, fair, erect and strong--
The meaning of the muster, and all that loyal throng;
He gracefully saluted, then proudly he did say
"Why the Twelfth Indiana are off to the war today!"
--Anonymous

How many of those who still remain of the regiment alluded to by the poet, will thrillingly remember the day on which they were finally and fully equipped in the State House lawn in Indianapolis on that August day of 1862, and were hastened to the train provided to bear them down into Kentucky in the hope of checking the northward march of General Kirby Smith who with a force of from thirty to forty thousand, had burst through what is known as "Pound Gap" on the southeastern border of that state in the hope of not only invading Kentucky, but whose expectations were to greatly enlarge the numerical strength of the Confederate army in its northward march by securing recruits as that army anticipated doing all through the sate of Kentucky --the "dark and bloody ground" of pioneer days. Having served a full year in the army of the Potomac and was again reorganized for "three years or during the war," the Twelfth Indiana regiment again took the field for a like service, already performed during the first year of the war. It was on this occasion that the lines placed at the head of this article were written and I feel sure will be kindly appreciated by every survivor of the command alluded to, under whose eye the quotation may fall. However, it is only fair to say that the extract will equally apply to every other Indiana regiment that at that period in the history of the country were being hastened to "the front," and similar expressions were very common at that time, though they have grown into dessuetude with the lapse of years. The author of the lines above, perhaps little reckoned that he would be present to accord a welcome on the identical ground he celebrated in verse, after the war was over; but such was the fact, and the writer of these "war time memories" met him in the same State House square after the regiment, whose departure he celebrated in rhyme, had come back-- what remained to them --to be mustered out on the same spot!

In my last "memory" I left myself and regiment in camp at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, awaiting the coming of the train that was to bear all that remained of the Twelfth Indiana Infantry to the capital of the state for final muster out, and afterwards the liberty to wend their way to their respective homes. The command did not have long to stay at the old Ohio river town, the train not being over two or three hours behind time. The citizens of Indianapolis through a regular committee appointed to receive all the returning veterans of whatever regiments, and this was done on the State House lawn, our beloved Governor Morton, whose interest, in the welfare of the soldiers from Indiana as well as from every other state, had won him the sobriquet of "The Old War Governor," whose untiring labors for the welfare of all the Indiana troops in the field never slackened for a moment, and of whom it will be remembered that on the morning following the battle of Shiloh --the first great battle of the war--by the coming daylight had a special train filled with all the necessities required on such an occasion, and having on board eighty volunteer surgeons to help care for the sick and wounded that had crowded the hospital tents in the closing hours of that terrible man-to-man contest, with orders to extend their services as well as their supplies to all soldiers in need whether they hailed from Indiana or not and which had made Governor Morton intensely popular throughout all the loyal North, and who, in a most eloquent address, welcomed home the remnants of the regiments and batteries he but a few years before, with fatherly advice and tender regard had sent them forth fully equipped to "battle for the eternal right." It was a grand reception, and is still remembered by the survivors of the various regiments who heard his glowing words of patriotism and the excellent advice he gave to the heroes of many a battlefield for their government in the civil walks of life, and in my mind's eye I often look back to that scene in front of the old State House square, where the speeches were delivered to the returning soldiers, and listened to by the thousands of their friends who had gathered there to welcome home fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers who listened to the touching words of the Governor as he alluded to the valiant services they had performed and so feelingly spoke of those absent ones that never again would receive a welcome from mortal hands, they having laid down their lives for the country they loved on many a "foughten field".

After the time given over to the reception extended to the troops and which was such a joyous welcome, coupled as it was with sadness and lamentation for those who would return no more, all the attention of the officers was given to the final muster-out rolls; a no small matter, it must be understood, for four copies had to be made out, one for the Adjutant-General of the State, two for the War Department at Washington, and one for the officer in charge of each of the various companies that were to receive their final discharge. It should be remembered, too, that in the muster-out of a regiment the name of every man who had ever belonged to it from first to last had to be taken up and accounted for in the marginal notes; so that when it is remembered that the whole number of the Twelfth was well up into its fourteenth hundred, when a full regiment was one thousand and forty, it can readily be seen that the clerical work for each company was no light piece of work. All this had to be done, however, before a cent of pay could be drawn by officers or men. If I remember correctly, it required about four days after the reception to complete the lists, and when these were all examined and found correct, the paymasters were on hand to turn over to officer and men every dollar that was due them, after receiving which, both hastened to the bosom of their family in all cases where they had one, after bidding the comrades with whom they had shared the hardships of war --bivouac and battle, march and skirmish, advance and rear-guard duties, and all that goes to make up the life of a soldier in war-time a touching good-bye. The "good-byes" spoken brought tears to many eyes. Attachments had been formed during the period the regiment had been together that could only be severed by the hand of the "grim-reaper" and many farewells and hand-clasps were made from the last time, for many of those who had been together for all those years were never more to meet again on earth.

It is no doubt easy for the reader of these sketches to perceive that they are about to close --that the author has taken all those who have perused them from the breaking out of the war, brought on by the firing on Fort Sumter on that April morning in 1861, clear through to the final close of the war celebrated in Washington by that grandest of all reviews of which history gives any account so far as I have been able to ascertain. Those who have perused these scribblings from week to week will probably be surprised that they have numbered seventy-eight weeks without a break, enough reading matter to make in book-form two large-sized volumes. That I have been pleased with the reception they have met "goes without saying", for I really did not expect that I could interest the reader with a story so often repeated from mouth to mouth for the past forty years, and it was with the greatest reluctance that I entered upon the labor of producing an article each week for these columns, and I have now only to add that previous to the final disbanding of the Twelfth Indiana Regiment at Indianapolis, I issued a farewell address to the men I had commanded from the date of the battle of Richmond, Kentucky, in 1862 to the final muster-out in Indianapolis on June 19, 1865. This "farewell order" I have printed in a form suitable for framing and each surviving member was given a copy before he left for his home and therefore I reproduce it here in my own sketch of the series as a fitting ending of the articles that have appeared in the columns of "The Northern Indianian" from week to week for more than a year and a half. The farewell address is as follows:

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind, June 19, 1865
Officers and Soldiers:
Your commanding officer addresses you for the last time as an organization. In a few more hours the Twelfth Indiana will live in history alone. Its members, the heroes of many a hard fought field, will soon have separated, to gladden by their presence, the firesides of the homes from which they have been so long absent. Your commander embraces the opportunity, before we separate to pay tribute to the devotion with which you have served your country during the long and bloody struggle from which we have just emerged. Your conduct upon many bloody fields attests the high regard you have borne the "starry banner" --the emblem of our nationality. You return to your State with Richmond, Ky., Vicksburg, Jackson, Miss., Mission (Missionary) Ridge, Resaca, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Nickajack Creek, Atlanta, 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 28th July, Jonesboro; Savannah, Griswoldville, Columbia, and Charleston, S. C., Bentonville and Raleigh inscribed upon your colors. The blood of six hundred of your comrades defines the manner in which the Twelfth regiment conducted itself upon these fields. For more than four years your Regiment has had an existence. Many of you have been present during the entire period, and all of you have fought under the same battle-scarred colors for three long years. You have numbered over thirteen hundred men in all, who have marched with you to battle. Nine hundred of your number today do not answer to the call of the roll. The bones of three hundred of these may be found in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, the two Carolinas, and Virginia. Your feet have pressed the soil of every Southern State save two (Texas and Florida). You have fought upwards of twenty distinct and bloody engagements; and have in the same time, with knapsacks upon your backs and guns upon your shoulders, marched upwards of six thousand miles. Your first bloody act in the great rebellion was the part sustained by you in the battle of Richmond, Ky. You went into the field at early morn; throughout the entire day you were engaged. No soldiers ever fought better than you did. Thirty killed and one hundred and forty-three wounded speaks for the gallantry with which your services were rendered on that memorable day. It was there you lost your lamented commander, Colonel William H. Link, who fell gloriously in the heat of battle. From this ill-fated field, you visited the valley of Mississippi, and were attached to the grand old army of the Southwest. With it you did your duty at Vicksburg and Jackson, Miss. At a later day you hurried with Sherman to the relief of the beleaguered army at Chattanooga. You arrived there hungry, tired, ragged and barefoot. No rest was allowed you. The battle of Missionary Ridge was fought and won, and the army of General Bragg, driven in rout from that stronghold, though mother earth drank blood from more than a hundred of your comrades. Then followed the long and toilsome mid-winter campaign to Knoxville, which you accomplished without rations, sufficient clothing, and scores of your number barefoot. Your commander recollects well of many of your number encasing their bleeding feet in strips of raw hide to protect them from the snow and ice and sharp pointed rocks that met you at every step. Again with the Fifteenth Corps, under the glorious Logan, you participated in the great Atlanta campaign. You opened the ball at Resaca, being the first regiment engaged, losing fifty-eight in killed and wounded. From this time until the fall of Atlanta you were scarcely ever out of reach of the enemy's fire. Your losses during the campaign numbered two hundred and forty killed and wounded. Soon again you were on the war path, accompanying General Sherman in his "March to the Sea," participating in the battle of Griswoldville, and were frequently under fire during the march and upon the occupation of Savannah. The grand triumphal march of this army from Savannah to Columbia, S.C., from thence to Raleigh and Washington City is so well known as to render comment useless. While at Washington you had the honor of leading General Sherman's great army in the grandest review ever held upon this continent where, by your soldierly appearance, you elicited the praise of thousands and tens of thousands of spectators who had crowded thither from every part of our country to welcome your arrival. Many of your gallant officers are numbered with the dead. The memory of Colonel W. H. Link, Captains Avaline, Beeson, Peoples, Anderson, and Huston, and Lieutenants Day, Wescott, Waters, Weaver, and Kirkpatrick, who have given their lives to their country, will ever be revered. I would gladly mention the names of every man of your number who has fallen in this harvest of death, had I the statistics at hand. My sympathies shall ever be enlisted in behalf of the gallant officers and men who have been disabled from wounds received in action. Among those of this class are Chaplain Gage, Quartermaster McClellan, Adjutant Bond, Captains Price and Bowman, and Lieutenants Blackwell and O'Shaughnessy, all of whom have received severe and dangerous wounds while in the line of duty. During these years of service you have, by your strict observance of the duties of a soldier, acquired a reputation second to no regiment from our state. The State of Indiana, its officials, your friends and relatives have much reason to be proud of you. The cordial and hearty support that both officials and men have given me at all times and places has been most satisfactory. I shall, in after years, look back with real pleasure to the three years that I was connected with this regiment, as its commanding officer. Hoping that you all may prove as good citizens as you have heretofore been brave and faithful soldiers, and that peace and prosperity will ever be your lot, I am, your obedient servant,
REUB WILLIAMS,
Brevt. Brig. Gen. U.S.A.
Official: MARSH H. PARKS
Act. Asst. Adj. Gen.

Northern Indianian July 21, 1904

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