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[469] perfectly understood, too, that the rebels had accumulated upon this road neatly all the rolling stock of all the railroads from Bowling Green southward, besides what legitimately belonged to the road itself; and that they could therefore, with the utmost facility, concentrate at any threatened point, whatever forces they had at command. We did not know but that the rebel army of the Potomac, concluding to abandon Virginia and escaping from the grasp of McClellan, would be pouring in overwhelming force down the East-Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, at the very time when we should be advancing upon Huntsville. We could not tell but that our main army in the neighborhood of Corinth, would suffer some serious reverse, in which case we were inevitably lost.

But, in case we should be successful — in case we should break the enemy's famous line, we knew how important would be the consequences. There was no time for hesitation, and General Mitchel is not the man to hesitate, even if there were.

The order to march from Fayetteville was received with pleasure — a pleasure which was slightly alloyed with regret, that we had not destroyed the town. It is a miserable little secession hole, and the shameful insult that had been offered to our flag of truce, combined with the threatening and scowling looks of the inhabitants whenever they showed themselves at the windows of their houses, to which General Mitchel had ordered them, had pretty thoroughly angered us against them, and nothing would have pleased our boys better than to have given the rascals a lesson which would never have departed from their memory, provided that after the administration of said lesson they had any memory left.

Col. Turchin's brigade and Simonson's battery started from Fayetteville at six o'clock A. M., on Thursday, and marched diligently until nine P. M., which brought them to within eleven miles of Huntsville. Colonel Sill's brigade, with Loomis's famous battery, followed closely, the other brigades at a greater distance.

The weather was cool, and beautiful for marching, on Thursday, but we had no turnpike, and in places the road was very bad. This was especially the case about six miles from Fayetteville. A series of swamps and mud-holes was succeeded by a long, precipitous and rocky hill. The tired animals could not take the wagons up, and it was found necessary to hitch the horses or mules of two or three teams to a single wagon, and thus laboriously take them to the top, one at a time.

A mile further on, our way was obstructed by another muddy tract, worse than the former: a number of wagons upset, some broke down, and some stuck fast; but the troops moved steadily on.

It was worth the looking to see Capt. Loomis's battery move over these roads. Neither mud, nor rocks, nor hills delayed them, but calmly, smoothly, majestically, they moved forward, a real impersonation of power. I was convinced, by observing them, of how much can be accomplished by foresight and care. The horses for this battery were selected mainly by Loomis himself, with great discrimination, and not one was admitted which was in the slightest degree weak or unsound. He has lost but two or three horses during the entire war.

The roads improved after this, and were quite tolerable the remainder of the way.

A strong Union feeling was manifested after we entered the State of Alabama, but it was mingled with many false notions concerning State sovereignty, and the duty of submission thereto One old gentleman, a planter with an extensive estate, expressed the views of the majority of the people of Madison County. “It seemed like tearing out my heart,” said he, “to give up the old Union, but when Alabama voted to separate, I thought it my duty to sustain her.” “But,” I reminded him, “Alabama, in attempting to break up the nation, did what she had no right to do.” “Ah!” said the old gentleman, “passion and prejudice blinded our eyes to that truth.” “Are you then willing,” I asked, “to see the authority of the National Government restored?” “Yes,” he replied, “and to pray from this time forth that all her people may be willing to return to their allegiance.” I did not think proper to press the matter further, but it seemed to me that even his final answer indicated his resolution to abide by the action of his State, whether the majority of her people became loyal or remained treasonable. The pestiferous and fatal doctrine that the majority of the inhabitants of a single State can sanctify the crime of treason, must be forever rooted out by this war.

The negroes that we saw were kind and friendly, and generous and benevolent, even when their masters were most strongly “secesh.”

The face of the country, and the vegetable productions of the southern part of Lincoln County, closely resemble those of portions of the Northern States ; but after we reached the State of Alabama, the vast cotton plantations, the grand country mansions, with their little villages of negro huts, besides trees and shrubs and flowers, with which only the well-versed botanists in our army were acquainted — all reminded us that we were far from home.

Shortly after entering the State, we passed the vast plantation of the secession General L. P. Walker, extending along the road for miles. The mansion was utterly deserted, and all the furniture removed. A perfect host of negroes came down to see and to welcome us. They laughed, they sang, they danced in their glee. I stopped a moment to converse with them. “By golly,” said a fine-looking, honest young negro, “Ise a great notion to go along with dis crowd. What do you say, massa?” “My poor friend,” I replied, “if you did, you will probably be turned out of our lines the first place we encamp. Somebody who claims you will come and take you back; and then, besides being severely punished for running away, you will in every respect be ”

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Oscar M. Loomis (3)
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