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October, 1862.

October, 3

At Taylorsville, Kentucky. Our first day's march out of Louisville was disagreeable beyond precedent. The boys had been full of whisky for three days, and fell out of the ranks by scores. The road for sixteen miles was lined with stragglers. The new men bore the march badly. Rain fell yesterday afternoon and during the night; I awoke at three o'clock this morning to find myself lying in a puddle of water. A soldier of Captain Rossman's company was wrestling with another, and being thrown, died almost instantly from the effect of the fall.

October, 4

At Bloomfield. Shelled the rebels out of the woods in which we are now bivouacking, and picked up a few prisoners. The greater part of the rebel army is, we are told, at Bardstown-twelve miles away.

October, 5

Still at Bloomfield, in readiness to move at a moment's notice.

October, 7

Moved to Maxville, and bivouacked for the night.


October, 8

Started in the early morning toward Perryville. [177] The occasional boom of guns at the front notified us that the enemy was not far distant. A little later the rattle of musketry mingled with the roar of artillery, and we knew the vanguard was having lively work. The boys marched well and were in high spirits; the long-looked for battle appeared really near, and that old notion that the Third was fated never to see a fight seemed now likely to be exploded. At ten o'clock we were hastened forward and placed in battle line on the left of the Maxville and Perryville road; the cavalry in our front appeared to be seriously engaged, and every eye peered eagerly through the woods to catch a glimpse of the enemy. But in a little while the firing ceased, and with a feeling of disappointment the boys lounged about on the ground and logs awaiting further orders.

They came very soon. At 11 A. M. the Third was directed to take the head of the column and move forward. We anticipated no danger, for Rousseau and his staff were in advance of us, followed by Lytle and his staff. The regiment was marching by the flank, and had proceeded to the brow of the hill overlooking a branch of the Chaplin river, and was about to descend into the valley, when the enemy's artillery opened in front with great fury. Rousseau and his staff wheeled suddenly out of the road to the left, accompanied by Lytle. After a moment spent by them in consultation, I was ordered to countermarch my regiment to the bottom of the hill we had just ascended, and file off to the right of the road.

Loomis' and Simonson's Batteries were soon put in [178] position, and began to reply to the enemy. A furious interchange of shell and solid shot occurred, but after a little while our batteries ceased firing, and we had comparative silence.

About 2 o'clock the rebel infantry was seen advancing across the valley, and I ordered the Third to ascend the hill and take position on the crest. The enemy's batteries now reopened with redoubled fury, and the air seemed filled with shot and exploding shells. Finding the rebels were still too far away to make our muskets effective, I ordered the boys to lie down and await their nearer approach. They advanced under cover of a house on the side hill, and having reached a point one hundred and fifty yards distant, deployed behind a stone fence which was hidden from us by standing corn. At this time the left of my regiment rested on the Maxville and Perryville road; the line extending along the crest of the hill, and the right passing somewhat behind a barn filled with hay. In this position, with the enemy's batteries pouring upon us a most destructive fire, the Third arose and delivered its first volley. For a time, I do not know how long thereafter, it seemed as if all hell had broken loose; the air was filled with hissing balls; shells were exploding continuously, and the noise of the guns was deafening; finally the barn on the right took fire, and the flames bursting from roof, windows, doors, and interstices between the logs, threw the right of the regiment into disorder; the confusion, however, was but temporary. The boys closed up to the left, steadied themselves on the colors, and stood bravely [179] to the work. Nearly two hundred of my five hundred men now lay dead and wounded on the little strip of ground over which we fought.

Colonel Curren Pope, of the Fifteenth Kentucky, whose regiment was being held in reserve at the bottom of the hill, had already twice requested me to retire my men and allow him to take the position. Finding now that our ammunition was exhausted, I sent him notice, and as his regiment marched to the crest the Third was withdrawn in as perfect order, I think, as it ever moved from the drill-ground. The Fifteenth made a gallant fight, and lost heavily both in officers and men; in fact, the Lieutenant-Colonel and Major fell mortally wounded while it was moving into position. Colonel Pope was also wounded, but not so seriously as to prevent his continuing in command. The enemy getting now upon its right and rear, the regiment was compelled to retire from the crest.

After consultation with Colonel Pope, it was determined to move our regiments to the left, and form line perpendicular to the one originally taken, and thus give protection to the rear and right of the troops on our left. The enemy observing this movement, and accepting it as an indication of withdrawal, advanced rapidly toward us, when I about faced my regiment, and ordered the men to fix bayonets and move forward to meet him; but before we had proceeded many yards, I was overtaken by Lientenant Grover, of Colonel Lytle's staff, with an order to retire.

Turning into a ravine a few rods distant, we found an ammunition wagon, and, under a dropping fire [180] from the enemy, refilled our empty cartridge boxes. Ascertaining while here that Colonel Lytle was certainly wounded, and probably killed, I reported at once for duty to Colonel Len. Harris, commanding Ninth Brigade of our division; but night soon thereafter put an end to the engagement.

We bivouacked in a corn-field. The regiment had grown suddenly small. It was a sorry night for us indeed. Every company had its long list of killed, wounded, and missing. Over two hundred were gone. Nearly two hundred, we felt quite sure, had fallen dead or disabled on the field. Many eyes were in tears, and many hearts were bleeding for lost comrades and dear friends. General Rousseau rides up in the darkness, and, as we gather around him, says, in a voice tremulous with emotion: “Boys of the Third, you stood in that withering fire like men of iron.” They did.

They are thirsty and hungry. Few, however, think either of food or water. Their thoughts are on the crest of that little hill, where Cunard, McDougal, St. John, Starr, and scores of others lie cold in death. They think of the wounded and suffering, and speak to each other of the terrible ordeal through which they have passed, with bated breath and in solemn tones, as if a laugh, or jest, or frivolous word, would be an insult to the slain.

They have long sought for a battle, and often been disappointed and sore because they failed to find one; but now, for the first time, they really realize what a battle is. They see it is to men what an arctic wind [181] is to autumn leaves, and are astonished to find that any have outlived the furious storm of deadly missiles.

The enemy is in the woods before us, and as the sentinels occasionally exchange shots, we can see the flash of their guns and hear the whistle of bullets above our heads. The two armies are too near to sleep comfortably, or even safely, so the boys cling to their muskets and keep ready for action. It is a long night, but it finally comes to an end.

October, 9

The enemy has disappeared, and we go to the hill where our fight occurred. Within the compass of a few rods we find a hundred men of the Third and Fifteenth lying stiff and cold. Beside these there are many wounded, whom we pick up tenderly, carry off and provide for. Men are already digging trenches, and in a little while the dead are gathered together for interment. We have looked upon such scenes before; but then the faces were strange to us. Now they are the familiar faces of intimate personal friends, to whom we are indebted for many kindly acts. We hear convulsive sobs, see eyes swollen and streaming with tears, and as our fallen comrades are deposited in their narrow grave, the lines of Wolfe recur to us:

No useless coffin inclosed his breast;
Not in sheet or in shroud we wound him,
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
With his martial cloak around him.

... [182]

Slowly and sadly we laid him down
From the field of his fame fresh and gory;
We carved not a line, we raised not a stone,
But left him alone with his glory.

October, 13

We are in a field near Harrodsburg. Moved yesterday from Perryville. We are without tents. Rain is falling, and the men uncomfortable.

Many, perhaps most, of the boys of the regiment disliked me thoroughly. They thought me too strict, too rigid in the enforcement of orders; but now they are, without exception, my fast friends. During the battle of Chaplin Hills, while the enemy's artillery was playing upon us with terrible effect, I ordered them to lie down. The shot, shell, and canister came thick as hail, hissing, exploding, and tearing up the ground around us. There was a universal cry from the boys that I should lie down also; but I continued to walk up and-down the line, watching the approaching enemy, and replied to their entreaties, “No; it is my time to stand guard now, and I will not lie down.”

Meeting Captain Loomis yesterday, he said: “Do you know you captured a regiment at Chaplin Hills?” “I do not.” “Yes, you captured the Third. You have not a man now who would n't die for you.”

I have been too much occupied of late to record even the most interesting and important events. I should like to preserve the names of the private soldiers who behaved like heroes in the battle; but I have only time to mention the fact that our colors [183] changed hands seven times during the engagement. Six of our color bearers were either killed or wounded, and as the sixth man was falling, a soldier of Company C, named David C. Walker, a boyish fellow, whose cheeks were ruddy as a girl's, and who had lost his hat in the fight, sprang forward, caught the falling flag, then stepping out in front of the regiment, waved it triumphantly, and carried it to the end of the battle.

On the next morning I made him color bearer, and undertook to thank him for his gallantry, but my eyes filled and voice choked, and I was unable to articulate a word. He understood me, doubtless.

If it had not been for McCook's foolish haste, it is more than probable that Bragg would have been most thoroughly whipped and utterly routed. As it was, two or three divisions had to contend for half a day with one of the largest and best disciplined of tile Confederate armies, and that, too, when our troops in force were lying but a few miles in the rear, ready and eager to be led into the engagement. The whole affair is a mystery to me. McCook is, doubtless, to blame for being hasty; but may not Buell be censurable for being slow? And may it not be true that this butchery of men has resulted from the petty jeolousies existing between the commanders of different army corps and divisions?

October, 19

Encamped in a broken, hilly field, five miles south of Crab Orchard. From Perryville to this place, there has been each day occasional cannonading; but this morning I have heard no guns. The [184] Cumberland mountains are in sight. We are pushing forward as fast probably as it is possible for a great army to move. Buell is here superintending the movement.

October, 24

In the woods near Lebanon, and still without tents. Bragg has left Kentucky, and is thought to be hastening toward Nashville. We shall follow him. Having now twice traveled the road, the march is likely to prove tedious and uninteresting. The army has been marching almost constantly for two months, and bivouacking at night with an insufficiency of clothing.

The troops are lying in an immense grave of large beech. We have had supper, and a very good one, by the way: pickled salmon, currant jelly, fried ham, butter, coffee, and crackers. It is now long after nightfall, and the forest is aglow with a thousand campfires. The hum of ten thousand voices strikes the ear like the roar of a distant sea. A band away off to the right is mingling its music with the noise, and a mule now and then breaks in with a voice not governed by any rules of melody known to man. [185]

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