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The first Kentucky regiment.

Hardship undergone by them during the campaign — a Change of officers — going into winter quarters.

[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

Camp near Centerville, Va., December 16, 1861.
I read an interesting letter, a few days since, in your valuable paper, from a member of the 1st Virginia regiment. Having a leisure hour I have concluded to write you an ‘"epistolary production,"’ in reference to the 1st Kentucky regiment, to which your correspondent belongs. This regiment has suffered many hardships in the last eight months. Six of the ten companies under the command of Col. Duncan were among the first Confederate troops (if not the first) that rushed to the assistance of Virginia. We were sent to Harper's Ferry, and stationed upon the Maryland Heights, which was then considered the post of honor, exposed to all kind of inclement weather, performing the heaviest guard duty in the army, guarding every pass, night and day, without a murmur.

We fell back with Johnston to Winchester, and was with him in his marches to and from Darksville. Here Col. Duncan resigned the command of the battalion, and we were placed temporarily under the command of Captain Claiborne, an old officer of the U. S. A. In the memorable march from Winchester to Piedmont, our boys never tired or broke down, but was the sixth regiment that reached that place. Well do I recollect the words of the lamented Bartow, to whose brigade we belonged; as he passed along our lines, he remarked ‘"These Kentuckians could go to Manassas without stopping, they march so elegantly."’ Owing to the railroad accident, we did not participate in the battle of the 21st, which was a great disappointment to the men, who were burning for an opportunity to meet the enemy.

At Manassas we remained for more than a month in a state of inaction. Considerable discontent had sprung up in the battalion, on account of the bad treatment we had received. A large majority of the battalion were the pick and flower of the young men of their respective counties. They had enlisted from the highest motives of patriotism.--Farmers, doctors, lawyers, and a fair sprinkling of editors, had left their homes in a far off State, and shouldered their muskets in defence of the South, and from a lofty sense of duty were fighting in the ranks. They asked the privilege which had been granted to almost every other regiment in the service — that of electing their field officers. In our case it was denied, for an illiberal prejudice and an unfounded impression had been created at headquarters against us, that we were a mutinous, disorganized crew, ‘"fit only for treason, stratagem, and spoils."’ Four mouths had elapsed, and yet not a tent had been given us. Night after night have we been exposed to the peltings of a ‘"pitiless storm, that would have brought tears from the eyes of old Lear himself,"’ with the earth for a bed, and the blue heavens for a covering. Whose fail, it was I leave you to guess. We had been treated as ‘"mere cattle,"’ and ‘"slashed about"’ without tents, and commanded by officers who had no sympathy in common with us, until we had grown soured. We could not forget that while we were soldiers, still we were gentlemen, and were unwilling to submit to the petty tyranny and the iron rule that is applied to regulars.

It was tauntingly told us that we must be commanded by just such officers as the department saw fit to place over us, or we would be marched to the rear and disbanded. But fortune, as if tired of persecuting us, favored us with a streak of good luck. Capt. Tom Taylor, of the C. S. A., was appointed our Lieut. Col. and placed in command over us; this hushed up all discontent and proved the ‘"balm of Gilead"’ for all of our troubles. Many of the men had known him personally in Kentucky. His kindness and geniality as a man, his skill and gallantry as a soldier, were known to all, and another fact he was a native born Kentuckian. He brought with him four companies from Richmond, and uniting them with the six we already had, formed a regiment of eight or nine hundred men. He also brought us tents, clothing, and many other things we needed. Since then we have got along ‘"swimmingly;"’ all discontent has given away for cheerfulness, and a blither or gayer set cannot be found in the army.

Under the excellent tuition of Col. Taylor, we made rapid progress in battalion drill; and now we elicit compliments from the Commanding Generals for the ease and rapidity of our movements. Colonel Taylor has shown himself the ‘"right man for the right place."’ He found us as scattered and disorganized as the ‘"children of the Mist;"’ and, by his unremitting exertions, he has perfected us both in drill and discipline. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor was promoted to Colonel, and William Preston Johnston, son of General Albert S. Johnston, who was our Major, was made Lieutenant Colonel. He is one of the best of men; and, I think, with time and experience, will make one of the best officers in the army. He is a high-souled conscientious man with the strictest sense of honor and justice, and gains the admiration and esteem of all with whom he comes in contact by his courteous manner. Captain Desha was appointed as his successor, but declined the appointment, as his company, who were much attached to him, and who, like himself, being from Northern Kentucky, were exiles from home by Yankee oppression Captain Crossland was then appointed Major, which has turned out to be an exceedingly popular appointment. Major Crossland was one of the leading Secessionists of Southern Kentucky; and by his eloquent appeals, he fired the hearts of a great many Southerners to take up the ‘"gauge of battle"’ and leave their homes in defence of the South. Every body loves him for the kindness and purity of his nature, and for his open-handed generosity that is ever ready to give aid and comfort to all who need assistance. He has done much for the cause of Southern Rights in Kentucky.

Col. Tom Taylor is justly very proud of his regiment, and takes great pains in drilling them, and in the health of the men. We have lost very few by sickness, while the exposure we have undergone would have reduced the most of regiments to a mere skeleton; even now we can muster seven hundred as brave men as ever trod a battle-field, and who are panting for an opportunity to meet the enemy, and prove by the valor of their acts that they are not unworthy descendants of the ‘"dark and bloody ground."’

It has been rumored that we were to be sent back to Kentucky; but, for my part, I am willing to remain in Virginia, or anywhere else where I can best serve the ‘"good cause."’ A large majority of the regiment will re-enlist for two more years, but their hearts yearn for an opportunity to strike a blow for their native State. A great many companies are exiled from their homes, and can receive no assistance from their friends. Concerts have been given and subscription books have been opened for the benefit of other regiments — but none for the first Kentucky. Yet we do not complain, for we need nothing; for we have that haughty self-reliance which is the birthright of every true Kentuckian, who neither asks anything by way of charity, unless driven to it by dire necessity. It is true we have never been engaged in a battle, but if we had then history would have given the lie to the slanders of those who have sought to defame and blacken our characters.

It is reported that we will go into winter quarters in a few days. ‘"So mote it be."’--We have plenty of blankets, good overcoats, and clothes, and in our snug cabins we can laugh at the howling blasts of winter, and be ready with the first flower of spring to meet the barbarians of the North. Hickman.

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Tom Taylor (5)
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