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December, 1863.

I will not undertake to give a detailed account of our march to Knoxville, for the relief of Burnside, and the return to Chattanooga. We were gone three weeks, and during that time had no change of clothing, and were compelled to obtain our food from the corncribs, hen-roosts, sleep-pens, and smoke-houses on the way. The incidents of this trip, through the valleys of East Tennessee, where the waters of the Hiawassee, and the Chetowa, and the Ocoee, and the Estonola ripple through corn-fields and meadows, and beneath shadows of evergreen ridges, will be laid aside for a more convenient season. I append simply a letter of General Sherman:

Headquarters Department of the Tennessee, Chattanooga, December 18, 1863.
General Jeff. C. Davis, Chattanooga.
Dear General-In our recent short but most useful campaign it was my good fortune to have attached to me the corps of General Howard, and the division commanded by yourself. I now desire to thank you personally and officially for the handsome manner in which you and your command have borne [361] themselves throughout. You led in the pursuit of Bragg's army on the route designated for my command, and I admired the skill with which you handled the division at Chickamauga, and more especially in the short and sharp encounter, at night-fall, near Graysville.

When General Grant called on us, unexpectedly and without due preparation, to march to Knoxville for the relief of General Burnside, you and your officers devoted yourselves to the work like soldiers and patriots, marching through cold and mud without a murmur, trusting to accidents for shelter and subsistence.

During the whole march, whenever I encountered your command, I found all the officers at their proper places and the men in admirable order. This is the true test, and I pronounce your division one of the best ordered in the service. I wish you all honor and success in your career, and shall deem myself most fortunate if the incidents of war bring us together again.

Be kind enough to say to General Morgan, General Beatty, and Colonel McCook, your brigade commanders, that I have publicly and privately commended their brigades, and that I stand prepared, at all times, to assist them in whatever way lies in my power.

I again thank you personally, and beg to subscribe myself,

Your sincere friend, W. T. Sherman, Major-General.


Colonel Van Vleck, Seventy-eight Illinois, was kind enough in his report to say:

In behalf of the entire regiment I tender to the general commanding the brigade, my sincere thanks for his uniform kindness, and for his solicitude for the men during all their hardships and suffering, as well as for his undaunted courage, self-possession, and military skill in time of danger.

November, 26

Moved to McAffee's Springs, six miles from Chattanooga, and two miles from the battle-field of Chickamauga. My quarters are in the State of Tennessee, those of my troops in Georgia. The line between the states is about forty yards from where I sit. On our way hither, we saw many things to remind us of the Confederate army-villages of log huts, chimneys, old clothing, and miles of rifle pits.

November, 27

Just a moment ago I asked Wilson the day of the week, and he astonished me by saying it was Sunday. It is the first time I ever passed a Sabbath, from daylight to dark, without knowing it.

Wilson lies on his cot to-night a disappointed man. His application for a leave was disapproved.

I am quartered in a log hut; a blanket over the doorway excludes the damp air and the cold blasts. The immense chinks, or rather lack of immense chinks, in various parts of the edifice, leave abundance of room for the admission of light. There are no windows, but this is fortunate, for if there were, they, like the door, would need covering, and blankets are scarce. The fire-place, however, is grand, and would be creditable to a castle. [363]

The forest in which we are encamped, was, in former times, a rendezvous for the blacklegs, thieves, murderers, and outlaws, generally of two States, Tennessee and Georgia. An old inhabitant informs me he has seen hundreds of these persecuted and proscribed gentry encamped about this spring. When an officer of Tennessee came with a writ to arrest them, they would step a few yards into the State of Georgia and laugh at him. So, when Georgia sought to lay its official clutches on an offending Georgian, the latter would walk over into Tennessee and argue the case across the line. It was a very convenient spot for law-breakers. To reach across this imaginary line, and draw a man from Tennessee, would be kidnapping, an insult to a sovereign State, and in a States'-rights country such a procedure could not be tolerated. Requisitions from the governors of Tennessee and Georgia might, of course, be procured, but this would take time, and in this time the offender could walk leisurely into Alabama or North Carolina, neither of which States is very far away. In fact, the presence of large numbers of these desperados, in this locality, at all seasons of the year, has prevented its settlement by good men, and, in consequence, there are thousands of acres on which there has scarcely been a field cleared, or even a tree cut.

The somber forest, with its peculiar history, suggests to our minds the green woods of old England, where Robin Hood and his merry men were wont to pass their idle time; or the Black Forest of Germany, [364] where thieves and highwaymen found concealment in days of old.

What a country for the romancer! Here is the dense wilderness, the Tennessee and Chickamauga, the precipitous Lookout with his foot-hills, spurs, coves, and water-falls. Here are cosy little valleys from which the world, with its noise, bustle, confusions, and cares, is excluded. Here have congregated the bloody villains and sneaking thieves; the plumed knights, dashing horsemen, and stubborn infantry. Here are the two great battle-fields of Chickamauga and Mission Ridge. Here neighbors have divided, and families separated to fight on questions of National policy. Here, in short, every thing is supplied to the poet but the invention to construct the plot of his tale, and the genius to breathe life into the characters.

It may be possible, however, that the country is yet too young, and its incidents too new, to make it a fertile field for the novelist. The imagination works best amid scenes half known and half forgotten. When time shall have thrown its shadows over the events of the last century, and the real and unreal become so intermingled in the minds of men as to become indistinguishable, imaginary Robin Hoods will find hiding places in the caves; innocent men, in deadly peril, will seek safety in the mountain fastnesses until the danger be past; conspirators will meet in the shadowy recesses to concoct their hellish plots, over which truth, courage, and honesty will finally triumph. Here the blue and the gray will meet to fight, and to be reconciled; and there will [365] not be wanting the Helen McGregors and Die Vernons to give color and interest to the scene.

November, 27

Our horses are on quarter feed.

Some benevolent gentleman should suggest a sanitary fair for the benefit of the disabled horses and mules of the Federal army. There is no suffering so intense as theirs. They are driven, with whip and spur, on half and quarter food, until they drop from exhaustion, and then abandoned to die in the mudhole where they fall. At Parker's Gap, on our return from Tennessee, I saw a poor white horse that had been rolled down the hill to get it out of the road. It had lodged against a fallen tree, feet uppermost; to get up the hill was impossible, and to roll down certain destruction. So the poor brute lay there, looking pitiful enough, his big frame trembling with fright, his great eyes looking anxiously, imploringly for help. A man can give vent to his sufferings, he can ask for assistance, he can find some relief either in crying, praying, or cursing; but for the poor exhausted and abandoned beast there is no help, no relief, no hope.

To day we picked up, on the battle-field of Chickamauga, the skull of a man who had been shot in the head. It was smooth, white, and glossy. A little over three months ago this skull was full of life, hope, and ambition. He who carried it into battle had, doubtless, mother, sisters, friends, whose happiness was, to some extent, dependent upon him. They mourn for him now, unless, possibly, they hope still to hear that he is safe and well. Vain hope. Sun, rain, and crows have united in the work of stripping the flesh from [366] his bones, and while the greater part of these lay whitening where they fell, the skull has been rolling about the field the sport and plaything, of the winds. This is war, and amid such scenes we are supposed to think of the amount of our salary, and of what the newspapers may say of us.

November, 28

One of my orderlies approached me on my weak side to-day, by presenting me four cigars. Cigars are now rarely seen in camp. Sutlers have not been permitted to come further south than Bridgeport; and had it not been for the trip into East Tennessee the brigade would have been utterly destitute of tobacco.

While bivouacking on the Hiawasse, a citizen named Trotter, came into camp. He was an old, man, and professed to be loyal. I interrogated him on the tobacco question. He replied, “The crap has been mitey poor fur a year or two. I do n't use terbacker myself, but my wife used to chaw it; but the frost has been a nippen of it fur a year or two, and it is so poor she has quit chawen ontirely.”

When returning from Knoxville, we passed a farm house which stood near the roadside. Three young women were standing at the gate, and appeared to be in excellent spirits. Captain Wager inquired if they had heard from Knoxville. “O yes,” they answered, “General Longstreet has captured Knoxville and all of General Burnside's men.” “Indeed,” said the Captain; “what about Chattanooga?” “Well, we heard that Bragg had moved back to Dalton.” “You have not heard, then, that Bragg was whipped; lost [367] sixty pieces of artillery and many thousand men?” “O no!” “You have not heard that Longstreet was defeated at Knoxville, and compelled to fall back with heavy loss?” “No, no; we don't believe a word of it. A man, who came from Knoxville and knows all about it, says that you uns are retreating now as fast as you can. You can't whip our fellers.” “Well, ladies,” said the Captain, “I am glad to see you feeling so well under adverse circumstances. Good-by.”

The girls were evidently determined that the Yank should not deceive them.

At another place quite a number of women and children were standing by the roadside. As the column approached, said one of the women to a soldier: “Is these uns Yankees?” “Yes, madam,” replied the boy, “regular blue-bellied Yankees.” “We never seed any you uns before.” “Well, keep a sharp lookout and you'll see they all have horns on.”

One day, while I was at Davis' quarters, near Columbus, a preacher came in and said he wanted to sell all the property he could to the army and get greenbacks, as he desired to move to Illinois, where his brother-in-law resided, and his Confederate notes would not be worth a dime there. “How is that, Parson,” said Davis, affecting to misunderstand him; “not worth a damn there?” “No, sir, no, sir; not worth a dime, sir. You misunderstood me, sir. I said not worth a dime there.” “I beg your pardon, Parson,” responded Davis; “I thought you said not worth a damn there, and was surprised to hear you say so.” [368]

While we were encamped on the banks of the Hiawasse, a Union man, near seventy years old, was murdered by guerrillas. Not long before, a young lady, the daughter of a Methodist minister, was robbed and murdered near the same place. Murders and robberies are as common occurrences in that portion of Tennessee as marriages in Ohio, and excite about as little attention. Horse stealing is not considered an offense.

November, 29

Nothing of interest has transpired to-day. Bugles, drums, drills, parades — the old story over and over again; the usual number of corn-cakes eaten, of pipes smoked, of papers respectfully forwarded, of how-do-ye-do's to colonels, captains, lieutenants, and soldiers. You put on your hat and take a short wall. It does you no good. Returning you lie down on the cot, and undertake to sleep; but you have already slept too much, and you get up and smoke again, look over an old paper, yawn, throw the paper down, and conclude it is confoundedly dull. Jack brings in dinner. You see somebody passing; it is Captain Clayson, the Judge-Advocate, and you cry out: “Hold on, Captain; come in and have a bite of dinner.” He concludes to do so. Being a judge-advocate he talks law, and impresses you with the idea that every other judge-advocate has in some respects been faulty; but he has taken pains to master his duties perfectly, and makes no mistakes. Pretty soon Major Shane drops in, and you ask him to dine; but he has just been to dinner, and thanks you. Observing Captain Clayson, he asks how the business of the courtmartial [369] progresses, and says: “By the way, Captain, the sentence in that quarter-master's case was disapproved because the record was defective.” The Captain blushes. He made up the record, and it strikes him the Major's remark is very untimely.

It is dull!

November, 30

Took a ten-mile ride this afternoon. Two miles from camp I met Lieutenant Platt, one of my aids. He had asked permission in the morning to go into the country to secure a lady for a dance, which is to take place a night or two hence. I asked: “Where have you been, Lieutenant?” “At Mrs. Calisspe's, the house on the left, yonder.” I did not, of course, ask if he had been successful in his mission; but as I approached the little frame in which Mrs. Calisspe resided, I thought I would drop in and see what sort of a woman had drawn the Lieutenant so far from camp. Knocking at the door, a feminine voice said “Come in,” and I entered. There were three females. The elder I took to be Mrs. Calisspe. A handsome, neatly-dressed young lady I concluded was the one the Lieutenant sought. A heavy and rather dull woman, who stood leaning against the wall, I set down as a dependent or servant in the family. “Beg pardon, madam, is this the direct road to Shallow Ford?” “Yes, sir, the straight road. Won't you take a seat?” “Thank you, no. Good evening.” Trotting along over the road which Mrs. Calisspe said was straight, but which, in fact, was exceedingly crooked, we came finally to the camp of [370] the Thirteenth Michigan, a regiment which General Thomas supposes to be engaged in cutting saw-logs, when, in truth, its principal business is strolling about the country stealing chickens. It is, however, known as the saw-log regiment.

On our return from Shallow Ford, as we approached Mrs. Calisspe's, we saw her handsome daughter on the porch inspecting a side-saddle, and concluded from this that the gallant Lieutenant's application had been successful, and that she proposed to accompany him to the ball on horseback. As we galloped by the house, a little flaxen-haired, chubby boy, who had climbed the fence, extended his head over the top rail and jabbered at us at the top of his voice; but the handsome young lady (lid not favor us with even a glance.

November, 31

It is late. Hours ago the bugles notified the boys that it was time to retire to their dens. I have been reading Thackeray's “Lovell, the Widower,” and as I sat alone in the silence of the middle night, the scenes depicted grew distinct and lifelike; the characters encompassed me about real living men and women; the drawing-rooms, dininghalls, parlors, opened out before me; the streets, walks, drives, were all visible, and I became a spectator instead of a reader. Suddenly a low, unearthly wail broke the stillness, and my hair stiffened somewhat at the roots, as the fancy struck me that I heard the voice of the defunct Mrs. Lovell. A moment's reflection, however, dispelled this disagreeable [371] thought. Looking toward the corner of the cabin whence the ghostly sound emanated, I discovered a strange cat. My long-legged boots followed each other in quick succession toward the unhappy kitten, and I yelled “scat” in a very vindictive way. [372]

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