THE MICHIGAN THIRTEENTH – NARRATIVE OF THE OCCUPATION, FORTIFICATION, ATTACK UPON, DEFENSE OF, AND RETREAT FROM STEVENSON, ALABAMA, IN 1862, BY THE THIRTEENTH REGIMENT OF MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY UNDER COMMAND OF COLONEL MICHAEL SHOEMAKER
The 20th brigade, of which the 13th regiment was a part, commanded by Col. Charles G. Harker, of the 3d division; Brig. Gen. Thos. John Wood, of the Army of the Cumberland; commanded by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, arrived at Stevenson, Alabama, on Saturday, July 19th, 1862, and went into camp on the hill side east of and immediately adjacent to the town.
In our rear was a vacant house, of which I took possession and made it the headquarters of the field and staff officers of the regiment.
The other regiments of the brigade were immediately north and west of us.
Picket lines were established, and guards and sentinels posted in every direction from our camp.
The night after our arrival was very unpleasant, rain falling most of the time.
LETTERS EXPLAINING MOVEMENTS AND SITUATION.
(Extracts from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.)
“In camp near Stevenson, Alabama,
“Sunday, July 20, 1862.
“My Dear Wife:
I, yesterday, while on my way here, received your letter of July 4th.
On Thursday I marched my regiment to Decatur, and then almost immediately on arrival was notified that the brigade was to take the cars the next day for this place, and marched back again, making one of the hardest day’s work we have done since leaving Kalamazoo, in consequence of the frequent heavy showers and extreme heat.
On our return we were ordered to have reveille beat at 2 A. M., Friday, and march to the railroad.
We arrived there about sunrise, and remained there twenty-four hours waiting for the cars, they arriving about 2 A. M. Saturday.
We had to wait for another regiment, but finally got off about sunrise and arrived here last night, or rather in the afternoon, in time to get into camp by night.
I don’t know how long we shall be here, but probably until there is something done on one side or the other.
It looks now as though the Confederates would give us enough to do without waiting for us to make an attempt to take Chattanooga.
I never write much about our movements or what has been done, for you to learn all that from our newspapers much sooner than you can hear from my letters.
Tell Fred to send me a New York paper as often as twice a week.
We do not yet know much of the particulars of the battles before Richmond.
We never get papers here unless sent directly to us, and seldom at that.
Note.—In this article from the ready pen of Col. Shoemaker, we have a record not only of much personal interest, but an addition of great value, to the history of the war.
He takes us behind the scenes, “and shows how correct were our criticisms at the time, of the dilatory commanders whom we accused of trying how not to do it.”
He takes the reader along with him: we see the dreary bivouac, we follow with the weary march, we almost hear the roar and see the rush of battle, share the indignation of his men as they saw the half-hearted attempt of Gen. Buell to put down the rebellion by acting merely on the defensive, and we admire the skill with which Col. S. sustained his command at Stevenson, and made its hasty retreat by Buel’s orders— (see telegram No. 23) of nearly a hundred miles over the mountains to Nashville with the exultant foe at his heels.
The survivors of “the 13th” will thank their honored colonel for this record of their labors and trials: and, vivid as are the pen pictures he gives us, they only, no doubt, can fully appreciate the thrilling history.
On the 21st and 22d all of the command were occupied in policing our camp, making sanitary arrangements, procuring and distributing rations, and apparently making ready for a prolonged stay at this point.
I commenced to drill my regiment on the 23rd, and continued to do so every day when the weather would permit, until we moved into the fort, except such days as we were employed on fatigue duty or in the building the stockades or fort.
The brigade formed line of battle on the 24th at 3 o’clock A. M., and remained in line until after daylight.
In the afternoon I drilled my regiment.
At 9 P. M., there was an alarm sounded, and the entire brigade turned out and formed in line of battle; but the alarm was without cause, as no attack followed.
After an hour more of excitement the men were dismissed to their quarters and all became quiet.
Extract from letter dated July 22, 1862, to Mrs. Shoemaker.
“I have not seen a paper of any kind since a week ago last Sunday.
You can judge how little we know of what has taken place elsewhere, when I tell you that we learned last night that Gen. Duffleld was wounded at Murfreesboro, when it was taken, though that was near two weeks ago, and in our army.
Even this may not be so.
I mention it to show our want of opportunity to learn what is done.
“I am very well, and bear the life I lead much better than I would believe possible, for it is very, very severe in every respect.
Nothing but the cause in which we are engaged would keep me here a day, and I hope for a speedy termination of all our troubles, so that I may be released and return to my home and family.
I must confess, however, that with the limited intelligence I have of affairs elsewhere, and with my opinion of the management of our armies.
I do not see that we are any nearer a settlement than when I left home.
Tell Fred, he must send me papers.
I can get none here.
I am daily expecting Kidder and Lieut. Slayton, and shall then get some news.
“This is a miserable country, the commencement (or tail) of the mountainous country of East Tennessee; but few farms and little cultivation.
The inhabitants have nearly all left, and it is very difficult to get anything to live upon.
We have no butter, or potatoes, or vegetables of any kind.
The troops have been on half rations for some time, and it is hard living.
Pork, hard bread, and coffee are our principal articles of food.
Everything in the regiment is moving off very quietly and well, but the officers are terribly disappointed that they cannot get furloughs, and some of them will resign.
“The service is a hard one, quite a number are sick of it, and would rather leave than remain.
I do not know where the other Michigan regiments are.
I have seen none but the Mechanics and Engineers since we left Corinth.
Randall and part of the horses came with the artillery and transportation on the wagon road, and they have not yet come up.
We expect them to-day.”
LETTER ON MILITARY SITUATION.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
“July 23, 1862.
“My Dear Wife.—
No mail yet; no letters, no nothing.
This is a miserable God-forsaken country, mean and despicable in every respect, and the people not only partake of the character of the country, but are meaner and more to be despised than it is.
Cowardly hounds, lying around home day times and at night meeting with their neighbors, and making a raid as guerrillas, if they can do so with perfect safety.
“My respect for the southern character generally is much lessened.
They are none of them willing to fight unless they have every advantage of numbers, time and opportunity, and there are few of them but will murder our men by shooting them from the bushes whenever they find them straggling, singly or in small numbers, at a distance from the camp, or column, if on the march.
Men are every day killed in this way.
They will not sell us anything if they can help it, and if they do they charge three prices for it.
We are now getting as a favor, one quart of milk a day for fifteen cents.
Buttermilk the same, and butter not to be had at all.
Yet these men are all protected by orders of our army and division generals.
No soldier is allowed to go into a house, or in any way have anything to do with the in habitants, and all officers are under much the same restrictions as the soldiers.
Secessionists are much better off in this country than either union men or soldiers.
The former are protected by both parties, while the rebels are perfectly relentless to all enemies, and even to all who do not support them.
All this, and more, which I cannot give in a letter, places the union army at a great disadvantage, and is much felt by us all, but it cannot get expression as it ought, as no inferior has a right to publicly criticize the actions of his superiors.
There is great dissatisfaction in the army, both as to its inactivity and its management.
We had before Corinth, a splendid army of one hundred thousand men.
Nearly two months have elapsed since its evacuation, and it has done literally nothing or worse.
This we know, and it, together with other facts not stated, but of the same nature, has taken from the army, so far as I can judge, all confidence in Generals Buell and Wood.
The latter is a fool.
I could fill a volume if necessary, to sustain what I have said, but enough for the present.
It is not usual to comment so freely to any upon the conduct of general officers.
They may be praised, but not blamed with impunity; and this letter, though every word and more is true, would cause me to be cashiered if it was known I had written it, consequently you will be very careful to whom you show it, or what you do with it.
Don’t burn it, but put it away under lock and key, for it may someday be of service for good instead of harm.
I would as soon Governor Blair would know its contents as not, but he must not speak to any one of the facts as coming from me.
He ought to know them, and the whole country ought to know them, for a different policy must be pursued or we can never crush this rebellion.
Remember me to all friends. Kiss the babies.
“Affectionately your husband,
“July 24, 1862.
“My Darling Wife,—
What time do you think it is?
I don’t know, for I have no watch, the one I bought of Brown never having kept good time.
I put it away in my trunk.
Speaking of that watch reminds me that I want you to tell Fred, not to pay Brown for it, as it is not as he represented it to be.
‘Says he, Riah!
Says I, what?’—
I will now, not to be as bad as the widow, go back to the time of morning.
It is daylight, but not yet sunrise, say between four and five o’clock.
We get up at three A. M., form line of battle, and remain in that position until broad daylight, when the battalion is dismissed to attend reveille roll-call.
This early forming of line battle is to prevent the possibility of surprise, as the enemy are all around us, and vigilant.
They are on every side of us, and perhaps above and below us.
If I in chief command most of them would be in the latter position soon.
I can just see the sun; the upper disc is just visible up the valley of the Tennessee, and his beams are beautifully reflected by the forest that covers the mountains which rise here quite majestically on both sides of the river.
We are out from the town, which is no town at all (about like Leoni, or perhaps Grass Lake) less than a mile, in a beautiful grove of little oaks, and have as pleasant a camp as any heretofore occupied.
“Yesterday I went to town in my white hat and blouse, without vest, in fact in the rough, as we have to be most of the time while down here.
While there I went into an old tumble-down tavern, more like a barn than a house, had my ambrotype (early picture usually in a frame) taken, and that is the gift I am to-day sending you by mail.
I have received no letters since date of 4th, and it is said that all communication with the North is cut off, and that no mails are now received at all.
If no mails are received, then I suppose none can be sent.
I shall however, continue to write, and hope you will do the same.
“Twenty-fifth Brigade formed line of battle at 4 A.M., remained in line until sunrise.
In the afternoon I had a thorough regimental drill.
The same order was observed on the 26th by both brigade and regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel Worden applied for absence on sick leave, which was granted, and he left the regiment, not joining it again until after our arrival at Nashville with the rear part of General Buell’s army.
In the afternoon, Major Culver and myself rode out to Bolivar, a small village about four miles east of Stevenson, where we dined with Mr. Beals, who was formerly cashier of a bank (in Goshen, I think), in the State of New York.
A package of bank bills purporting to contain $1,000.00 was sent from his bank to a bank in Detroit, which when opened, was found to contain slips of newspaper cut into the size of bank bills.
It may be set down as a remarkable coincidence that I was in the bank at Detroit when this package was opened, and now met Mr. Beals, who in consequence of that transaction lost his situation in Alabama.
Quartermaster Kidder returned from Michigan, bringing letters and supplies from Mrs. Shoemaker and others.”
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
“In Camp near Stevenson, Alabama,)
“Sunday July 27, 1862. J
“My Dear Wife:—
Yesterday a mail was received, and by it I received a letter from Jackson, of the 11th inst.
After the mail Kidder came in and brought your letters of the 12th to 16th.
The communications are now so much interrupted that the mails are very irregular and some perhaps entirely lost.
I have written you every day when I could do so, which has been frequently this month.
By reference to my diary I find that I wrote you on the 4th. 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 23d, 24th, 25th, and to-day is the 27th.
That is sixteen letters in twenty-three days, and perhaps one or two more that I made no note of.
Now, you exacting woman, what more than this would you have of a man, particularly of a husband?
Why, most lovers don’t do as well as that before marriage.
“I have not had as many annoyances as I expected.
I entered upon the duties of my command determined to conquer its difficulties, and have done so.
Governor Blair says he has had less trouble with this regiment than any in the service; and if he will follow my recommendations concerning it I will be answerable that it will continue so.
I am now drilling the regiment every day, and am as capable of doing so as many colonels who have been in the service a year.
Those who ought to know, say I do it better than any other officer in this brigade.
I write this because I think you will be pleased to know it.
I don’t write so to anyone else.”
INEFICIENCY OF THE OPERATIONS OF OUR ARMIES.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker, with criticisms on army operations.]
“In Camp Stevenson, Alabama,
“Before sunrise, July 28, 1862.
“My Dear Wife:—
I have just dismissed my men to their quarters.
We turn out before the first appearance of light, and form line of battle, and remain in position until reveille.
This is to guard against surprise.
We do not intend to be caught napping if we can prevent it.
We have four regiments of infantry, a battery, and a few cavalry here.
Our army is so scattered that I fear it will be all cut off in detail.
We had a splendid army when Corinth was evacuated by the confederates, one that was irresistible, both from its force and discipline, against any force the south had in the field.
If then Buell’s army had marched at once to Chattanooga, and the other moved down the rail road either towards New Orleans or Mobile, great results would have followed.
We might and ought to have Chattanooga and all East Tennessee.
As it is, that great army is so scattered and idle that it is only a terror to its friends, where it happens to be located in detachments.
It is attacked and being cut off in detail every day or two at some bridge, or town, which is guarded by a small force, but which would need none if a vigorous course had been pursued.
We cannot now take any place, much less Chattanooga, unless we are largely reinforced, and are more likely to be driven back to Nashville than to take Chattanooga.
Our communications are constantly interrupted, and our supplies cut off.
We have now been on half rations for two weeks, and it looks as though they might get to be even less, if not cut off entirely.
We are now in a very poor country, or short rations would not affect us.
We are now, even to make up half-rations, collecting and killing all the beef cattle, or rather all the cattle of every kind, we can find, and they are hard to find.
The farmers hide them in the woods and mountains, and we have to go eight and ten miles to find as many cattle.
Potatoes are worth two and three dollars a bushel, onions fifty cents a dozen, milk fifteen cents a quart, and butter not to be had.
“From all this you must not think that we are suffering, for we are not, but are all getting along very smoothly and well.
“I regret to see our armies so mismanaged, and think there must be a change of men and measures before the rebellion can be crushed out.
We must make war on our enemies, and not protect them in their persons or property if we wish to subdue them.
We have recently lost a force of near one hundred men at Courtland, between Decatur and Tuscumbia, and it is said that many of the assailants were recognized as men whose property our army had guarded.
“To show you the irregularity of the mails: I yesterday received your letter of the 9th, and also by the same mail one from Gov. Blair of the 21st.
Major Worden is quite sick and has applied for leave of absence, and will, I think, go home.
Are you not thankful that I am well, or do you wish me to be sick and come home?
Affectionately your husband,
The brigade formed line of battle at 4 A. M. When the command formed line of battle, either here or elsewhere, in the morning, it was always at either 3 or 4 o’clock, and the troops forming the line remained in that position under arms until after broad daylight.
In the afternoon I drilled my regiment for several hours.
The Sixty-fifth Ohio, V.I., Col. Furguson, were sent towards Chattanooga in a fifth Ohio, V. I., Col. Ferguson, were sent towards Chattanooga in an expedition and to procure provisions for the brigade, particularly fresh meat and vegetables, of which there was none in our commissary stores.
The command were on short rations most of the time.
The brigade was at Stevenson, and all of the time short of many articles of food.
Fresh meat and vegetables were always scarce, and most of the time could not be procured at all.
We occasionally received onions from the north for a few rations, and the effect produced by them was so noticeable that it became at once the subject of remark.
No other vegetable produced so immediate and beneficial a change.
The inhabitants of the town and country adjoining were universally hostile, and would furnish nothing unless obliged to do so.
Every day men off duty were granted leave to go in squads and forage among the surrounding plantations for the purpose of buying any provisions they could find for sale.
This was always on their own responsibility, and all purchases were at their own expense.
THE SOLDIERS’ MODE OF PROCURING SUPPLIES.
When the planters refused to sell their beef, pork, or mutton, all kinds of artifices were resorted to in order to obtain them; and in case of complaint at headquarters, it was very difficult, and generally impossible, to detect the culprits; for they always reported themselves to the planters as belonging to any regiment but their own; and a search of the camp, which was sometimes ordered by Colonel Harker commanding the brigade, never resulted in the discovery of the depredators or the fresh meat they had appropriated.
I will give one instance which occurred within my own knowledge.
A planter came into the came from some two miles distant and complained at brigade headquarters, that going out of his house the day previous, Sunday, he found some soldiers skinning one of his bullocks (Bull).
When he spoke to them, he said they were very pleasant and polite, they gave him the name and number of the regiment to which they said they belonged, and informed him that they were acting in strict obedience to orders from headquarters.
The planter then said to them that he would go to the camp and see about getting pay for his animal, but on attempting to leave his premises he found them surrounded by a cordon of sentinels, each marching his beat, fully armed and equipped, none of whom would allow him to pass without orders from the officer in command.
He then inquired for the officer commanding the detachment, who was at once pointed out to him.
He complained that his property was being taken from him, and that his grounds were guarded so that he could not leave them.
He said he wanted to go to camp and see the officer commanding the brigade.
The officer heard all he had to say, and then in a stern and rather threatening manner informed him that he need not feel anxious because he could not go, but rather because he would be obliged to go, as he had orders not only to procure the beef, but also to bring him, the planter, into camp, and that he must be in readiness to go with them when they were ready to leave, at the same time intimating that the planter would find some serious charges against him.
The planter became alarmed, and asked permission to go into his house to make some necessary preparation and inform his family where he was to be taken, so that they would understand the cause of his absence.
The favor was granted most graciously, the planter went into his house, spent some little time in consultation with his family, and rather prolonged the time, as he did not like the idea of being taken from his home under arrest; for the times were such that there was no foreseeing the consequences.
He might, however innocent, be kept from home for a long time, as some of those arrested were sent to Nashville.
When he did muster up courage to go out, he did not find the sentinels posted as they had been when he left the officer, and he soon discovered that all, officers, soldiers, and beef, had suddenly, silently, and mysteriously disappeared.
In doubt as to what was proper or best to do, he remained at home until the next day, Monday, when he came into camp and made his case known at brigade headquarters.
He then found that he had been victimized by some of the soldiers of our brigade, who were not only acting without orders, but in direct violation of them.
An investigation was ordered, but nothing came of it; except that it proved that the soldiers were not of the regiment they claimed to belong to, and that no officer was with the detachment committing the depredation.
The men undoubtedly went out in small squads and united for action after leaving the camp, and were probably from more than one regiment.
The regimental officers all sympathized with the men, and we always protected them from exposure when possible to do so.
GUERRILLAS, AND THEIR ACTIONS.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
“July 29, 1862.
“My Dear Wife:—
The birds are singing in the grove on every side of me, as they do every morning, and everything appears to be peaceable and quiet, but this is all deceptive.
Under the surface there is trouble, deadly hostility, and enmity.
Yesterday an escort of cavalry to a foraging train sent out to purchase beef cattle, so that we might have even half rations, was fired upon from the bushes, two men killed and three wounded.
The cavalry force was small, and fled as usual.
Within a few days the railroad from Decatur west to Cortland was retaken by the rebels, and from 80 to 100 of our men killed or taken prisoners.
At two or three places our men repulsed them after hard fighting against four to one, and in all these cases, the dead left on the ground by the rebels are found to be citizens who had been living at home with passes and protections, and whose houses and property had in many cases been guarded by our soldiers, whom they were attempting to surprise and butcher.
“When Cortland was attacked there was a brigade at Decatur; its commander, Gen. Schorf, telegraphed to Gen. Buell at Huntsville, but could get no answer, and did not dare to go to its relief without orders, so we lost the town, the railroad, and one hundred men.
When we had a force within protecting distance, which might not only have protected the road, the town, and the men, but also have inflicted summary punishment upon a band of assassins who were allowed to carry out their acts of double treason and murder with impunity.
I am fearful that Gen. Buell’s inactivity, or sympathy for traitors, to use a mild expression, will prevent the army from accomplishing anything towards crushing the rebellion, if it maintains its ground, which is becoming doubtful.
When we left Corinth we had a splendid army, and now where is it?
Scattered over the country, divided unnecessarily into detachments, and if employed at all it is in guarding the property of rebels.
If, after Corinth, we had proceeded immediately to Chattanooga, we could have taken it and East Tennessee I think, without a blow, and be now acting on the offensive.
As it is, we are being cut off in detail while in the act of doing nothing.
These are the feelings of the army so far as I can judge them, and unless there is a change of policy and men, the north will find that their three hundred thousand men they are now raising will be of little value.
My candid opinion is, and there are more reasons for it than I can give in a letter, that if the officers who are and
have been in the regular army are allowed to govern the army as they are now doing, we might as well recognize the Southern Confederacy first as last; for under their auspices we shall never put down the rebellion.
I came into the army a ‘West Point man’ but I cannot resist the evidence of my senses, and the stake is too great to admit of, or justify, silence.
The people here were afraid of Gen. Mitchel, and he kept them quiet.
I don’t know him and have never seen him, but I do know that it is the opinion of Gen. Buell’s officers, and army, that Gen. Mitchel is the most effective man of the two, and that he has done more for the cause with his division than Gen. Buell with his entire army.
There are many evidences of all these things which I see and hear which I cannot give in a letter, but you may be sure that the rebellion will never be crushed until the armies are commanded in the field by other men than such as Generals Buell, Wood, or even Halleck.
Pope is a good officer, and was an active one here.
If you have an opportunity you may show this letter to Gov. Blair, and I would prefer that he should see it, but to no one else at all, and neither you nor he must speak of these things as coming from me.
If it was known I had written such a letter it would cause me trouble.
“Affectionately your husband,
The brigade formed line of battle at 3 A. M., and, excepting the detail for fatigue duty, were kept all day under arms in readiness for an apparently expected attack from the Confederate forces.
Colonel Ferguson returned without having seen any opposing force, and without having procured any supplies.
The fatigue parties today commenced to fortify the town by the erection of a redoubt, by building stockades on the line of the railroad for the protection of the depot, and by protecting and fortifying the depot buildings in such manner as to make them capable of respectable resistance.
These, when finished, were all occupied by details of soldiers.
One hundred and twenty men of my regiment were on this detail, and worked all day on the fortifications.
In the night there was a heavy fall of rain.
Injury by fall of horse.
While superintending the labors of my men at different points, I attempted to cross the track of the railroad, and my horse became frightened at an engine which was standing near.
In checking him, he fell flat upon his side, with one of my legs under him, injuring it badly.
I succeeded in getting from under the horse, and in getting both him and myself out of the way of the locomotive engine, but had a very narrow escape from serious injury, if not loss of life.
This accident became finally the cause of some of the most remarkable events of my army life; as from the serious and painful result of the injury to my leg I was obliged to give up riding on horseback, after reaching Nashville obtain leave of absence from my regiment, which led to my capture by the confederate guerrillas, my adventures while on my way to Richmond, and confinement in Libby Prison.
All of my men fit for duty were to-day working on the redoubt and stockades.
Orders were issued from brigade headquarters to impress contrabands to assist in building fortifications.
Rain fell all the afternoon and most of the night.
Rain in A. M.
In compliance with the order of yesterday I sent Captain A. Balch with a detachment from company G. into the country to impress contrabands (negro slaves’) to assist in the work of fortification.
Received notice of resignation of Captain Vosburgh, and Lieutenant Phelps, both of whom remained in Nashville without authority from me to do so, when the regiment left there for Savannah and Shiloh in March.
Work commenced to-day under my command on the redoubt, or fort, on the hill south of the town.
One hundred and twenty of my own men on fatigue duty on this work.
I made the following extracts from a letter of this date written to my wife:
“July 31, 1862.
“My Dear Wife,—
I had a very lucky fall yesterday.
As I was crossing the railroad track on a plank-crossing there was an engine standing within a few feet of the road, and as my horse came opposite he leaned from it and started a little.
There had been rain in the night, and many teams over the road, so that it was somewhat muddy, and the mud here is more like grease than anything else.
As my horse started his feet all slipped from under him and we both came flat on the plank, one of my legs under the horse.
I extricated my other foot from the stirrup, the horse immediately sprang up, and so did I.
We were both covered with mud, but otherwise there was not much damage done, though it is a wonder how I escaped without breaking some bones.
My leg was somewhat bruised and is a little lame to-day, but not so much as to prevent me from being around all the time.
(Col. Shoemaker’s graphic account of his capture and imprisonment will be found in volume 3)
I bathed it freely with liniment as soon as I got back to camp.
We are now all busy erecting fortifications, and to-day have parties out after Negroes from the plantations to come in and help do the work.
They are rather scarce about here.
This is the first time we have been allowed to use anything belonging to the rebels, and I am glad to see a commencement in the right direction.
If followed up as it should be, it will relieve our soldiers of much hard labor and drudgery, and add vastly to the efficiency of the army.
I have had no letter from you since I last wrote.
In fact we have had no mail.
I was much amused at your letter about ‘glory.’
Your reasoning is as good as Falstaff’s on ‘honor.’
You would never love or respect a ninny of a man, who had no spirit, and those who have no feeling for their country are too selfish to love anything but themselves, and if I had been such an one you would never have loved me.
It may do for a woman to place her family before everything else, but even you did not and would not do that.
When I thought it necessary to go into the army, you consented, regretting, as I did, the necessity, but what would the world become if men were not willing to give up all in times like these, that their children and those who do survive may have a government?
I must close now.
“Affectionately your husband,
Out with my entire regiment and work on fort all day and until 12 o’clock P. M., with the ground very slippery and the night very dark.
The “powers that be” seem very anxious to forward the work on the fortifications, and our actions would now foreshadow a defensive rather than an offensive campaign.
I have to-day sent out another detachment to impress negroes, mules, and carts to work on the fort.
We had rain in the afternoon and night.
Work on fortifications with one hundred and twenty of my men. Detailed one company to act as provost guard, and two companies on the picket lines.
I again sent out three detachments, to impress negroes, mules, and carts to work in the intrenchments, all of which were procured in sufficient numbers for present purposes.
PLACED IN CHARGE OP FORTIFICATIONS.
Sunday, August 3.
I to-day received orders, with “carte blanche” from Colonel Harker, commanding brigade, to build fort and stockades, and make such defenses for the protection of Stevenson as in my judgment I deemed best.
Stevenson is at the junction of the Charleston & Memphis, and the Nashville & Chattanooga railroads, and was at this time made a depot for the supplies of the army, and also for the convalescent soldiers from the direction of both Huntsville and Chattanooga.
I now directed two buildings, standing in what would probably be a line of fire if we were attacked, to be torn down.
I also had the passenger depot and the platform of the freight depot barricaded, and detailed three companies to occupy the depot and platform during nights.
The following is an extract of a letter written today to Mrs. S.:
“I am awful tired, and can’t write much of a letter.
How do we spend the Sabbath in Dixie?
I will tell you.
Up at 3 A.M.; form line of battle at 3:30, and remain in that formation until reveille, say about 4:30 o’clock.
At six A.M. the whole regiment turns out and work all day on the redoubt, stockades, and intrenchments.
This includes barricading of buildings and other temporary works.
We have here a large amount of rations and army stores, with more arriving, and from all directions.
We intend to protect them and do not mean to be taken by surprise.
We are working day and night on our defensive works.
I was out Friday night in the rain, but do not appear to have caught any cold.
The regiment worked from 6 till 12 P. M. with pick and shovel.
I send this by William A. Ewing, a son of Surgeon Ewing, who has been here a few days, and can tell you much of the particulars of our situation.
You must excuse this scrawl, particularly the substance of it, for I do not know what it is, I am so tired and sleepy.
Don’t fret, be of good courage, and above all things, keep in good spirits.
I do, though suffering hardships and privations greater than you have any idea of.
“Affectionately your husband,
On the 4th of August there was a very heavy fog.
Wm. A. Ewing left for home.
His father was getting somewhat uneasy about our situation.
He thought the action we were taking in fortifying our position signified that it was more probable that we would be attacked than that we would act on the offensive, and as his son was not connected with the army, he very properly concluded that he had better return home while our communications were uninterrupted.
I continued work on the fortifications with my regiment and the contrabands.
Foggy and very hot.
Lieut. Col. Worden left for home on sick leave.
Formed line of battle 3:30 A. M.
WORK ON FORT.
August 6, 7, 8, 9.
Formed line of battle each day at 3:30 A. M., and work with entire regiment on fortifications at various points about the town, and on the line of the railroad.
On the 7th I wrote Mrs. Shoemaker as follows:
“Stevenson, Alabama, August 7, 1862.
“My Dear Wife:—
The sun is now just rising.
I was out at 3:30 o’clock with my regiment in line of battle to guard against surprise.
What with building stockades, breastworks, and other military duties, we are having a laborious time, particularly as the weather is not only warm, but very hot.
I have but little leisure time.
Major Worden went home sick yesterday.
He will come and see you.
He had but short notice before he left, and I had no time to write to you, as every spare moment was taken in writing to Governor Blair on official business.
When Major Worden returns I shall come home and make you a visit, or if we are stationed here, as we may be, I will send for you, though you will have to rough it if you come.
How would you like to sleep in a tent?
If ever there were any decent people here, I think they have left, for I have seen or heard of none; but I have been in but one house since I came, and got out of that as soon as I could do my business.
Most of the inhabitants of the town and country have left their homes, their houses being unoccupied in our arrival here, but from the appearance of these deserted habitations I think it never was much of a town.
We have torn down a part of it in making room for our guns to have good range.
Lieut. Woodruff will remain in Michigan some time on recruiting service.
Worden is now Lieutenant-Colonel.
On the night of the 8th Colonel Ferguson, of the Sixty-fourth Ohio, and Captain Stoughten and a very interesting meeting, at which they held such high revel that as a consequence.
Company “I,” which was acting as provost guard, was ordered into camp to prevent a recurrence of what might prove of serious injury to the discipline of the regiment, and to impress upon the officers the necessity of sobriety and strict attention to their duties, now more than ever necessary.
The order was revoked at the request of Captain Stoughten, and upon his promise that no such cause for complaint should again arise.
Captain Stoughten was a good officer, a very intelligent man, and as good as his word.
The afternoon of the 9th was spent in preparing the regiment for inspection.
On Sunday, the 10th, the regiment formed line of battle at 3:30 A.M. and worked on the stockades and redoubt in the afternoon.
As there were rumors of Confederate forces or of guerrilla bands being in our vicinity.
I sent a detachment of twenty men towards Dechard to reconnoiter.
They returned without having discovered signs of any armed force.
The following is an extract from a letter to Mrs. Shoemaker, dated August 10, 1862:
“The sun is just rising this bright, beautiful Sabbath morning, and I thought I could not better occupy my time until breakfast than by writing to you.
I was out with my regiment at 3:30 o’clock this morning; we came in at reveille, just before sunrise, and to that good habit of early rising you are indebted for this letter.
There is so much applying for leave to go home by officers that it is difficult to get away, and not desirable unless necessary.
It is hardly honorable at this time for an officer to be away from his post if he is able to do his duty.
If you come down here I may not be at home for some time, and am anxious to be kept informed about my business.
Fred, must write me once a week.”
On the 11th, I placed Company B, Captain McLaughlin, in the redoubt building on the hill south of the railroad, to remain day and night to act as a guard.
The working force of the regiment to-day finished the stockades on the railroad above the turn-table, and worked on the redoubt and barricades.
On the 12th formed line of battle at 3:30 A.M.
Regiment built lower stockades, and barricaded the brick depot and magazine.
Charley Ward, our cook, returned from Michigan.
Received and gave to Captain Jones, of Company “H,” his commission as captain.
On the 13th and 14th the regiment worked on stockades and barricades.
The stockades were all on the line of the railroads, at the bridges, and most exposed points.
The depot buildings and certain houses were barricaded, so as to be used for the defense of the station if necessary.
The work was thoroughly done, and all places fortified were occupied by detachments from my regiment or by convalescents sent here from other points on the railroad, and placed under my command.
These were at times quite numerous, frequently exceeding one thousand men and probably averaging that number from the time they commenced coming.
REDOUBT OR FORT OCCUPIED.
On the 15th I moved my regiment into the redoubt, or fort as we called it, which we were building on the hill south of Stevenson, pitched my tent and took up my headquarters there, but still continued to work at, and have charge of all the stockades and fortifications in the town and on its approaches.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
August 16, 1862.
“My Dear Wife:
I have had no letter for several days, but as some railroad bridges are burned in Kentucky, that, I suppose is the reason.
I am now more busy than ever.
Yesterday I moved my regiment to the redoubt, and am now occupying it and the stockades.
I have for the present, command of this post, and may remain here for some time.
The present command is only temporary.
The permanent appointment will be made by Gen. Buell.
I shall be recommended by the brigade commander, and will, I think, be appointed.
It is a very honorable, but very laborious and important position, involving great care and trust.
If I am left here I do not mean to be surprised, or taken without a good, big fight.
The place is strong, and capable of resisting a large force.
If I remain here, I shall have my own regiment, a battery and a squadron of cavalry, besides other details and all convalescents sent here.
When it is decided, and it will be soon, I will let you know, and if I stay, will have you come and make me a visit.
You would not wish to remain long; there is nothing in camp life but what, to say the least of it, is uninviting to any lady.
We have never yet had one in our camp.
In most towns there are comfortable places in the houses of residents, but here there is not one.
All is military here.
No resident of the country is allowed to come within our lines unless he has a written pass, and the country itself is very poor, and almost depopulated.
We have now the hardest kind of living.
No potatoes or butter.
In fact, we have no vegetables but onions, of which we bought a barrel a few days since.
If you could put up a small jar of butter, and seal it, you might have an opportunity to send it.
We are now having very warm, dry weather.
My health is tolerably good, but I am getting very thin.
We shall finish the works here next week, and I shall then know what I am going to do.
I suppose you have seen Surgeon Ewing’s son, Will., and Lieut. Col. Worden.
It is said the latter is to be married; he looked rather yellow for that when he left here.
“Affectionately your husband,
Supplies from home.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
“Lieut. Slayton came in last night and brought your letter, and all the nice little supplies you so thoughtfully sent me.
They were all very welcome.
Col. Harker, Surgeon Ewing, and Adjutant Culver were present when I opened them.
I said, see what it is to have a good, thoughtful, loving little wife.
I gave Surgeons Ewing and Pratt the collars, and we had a good laugh over them.
Dr. Ewing is wearing his today.
One bottle of the whisky got broken in Lieut. Slayton’s trunk, so there was but one left.
Some of the corn was spoiled, but the cake, sugar, salt, pepper, and two jars of preserves were in good condition.
I am now very busy, but hope in a few days to have moor leisure.
Those collars just fit me and I have one of them on.
The handkerchiefs are being washed; they got stained with the whisky, or something else.”
This extract goes to show, though only in a slight degree, the extent to which we were obliged to depend upon our friends in our distant homes for many of what are considered the necessaries of life, or get along as we could without them.
Captain Palmer and his company “C” were on the 16th detailed to occupy the stockade at the railroad bridge across Crow Creek, west from Stevenson; an exposed and important post.
As it was outside our picket lines the greatest vigilance was necessary to prevent the men from being cut off, or the post surprised by the guerrillas.
On the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th, work was continued on the redoubt and other fortifications by a large force of negroes, mules, carts, and all of my regiment, except such as were detailed for guard and picket duty.
All the stockades and barricades were finished, leaving only the redoubt, upon which the whole force was concentrated.
[Extract from letter to Mrs. Shoemaker.]
“Sunday, Aug. 16, 1862.
“I have just read for the third time your letter of last Sunday, and although it is “awful” hot, I thought I would write you, as I shall be busy with military matters in the cool of the evening.
It seems quite pleasant to receive a letter from you in the same week that it is written, as that has of late been unusual.
There was a steam saw-mill captured from us by the guerrillas last night within half a mile of our picket-line.
It was a saw-mill used by a detail from the Mechanics and Engineers to get out lumber for a pontoon bridge which General Buell, when acting on the offensive proposed to use in crossing the Tennessee River.
The engineer, three soldiers of that regiment, and four Negros were taken and carried away.
We are surrounded by rebels.
The bushwhackers and guerrillas are all around us, and the confederate army is above (on the river) east and south of us.
One of our men was shot in the hand on Wednesday last when returning from a spring within eighty rods of our picket lines.
Our men are shot down from the roadside whenever there is an opportunity to do so with impunity.
Our camp, the town, and country are full of spies and informers, and the rebels know all about our forces, and our weak points when we have any such.
They are generally cowardly, and don’t want to fight when the numbers and chances are even, but when they can have four or five to one, or when they can shoot from the bushes, then they are “eager for the fray.”
This war promises to become a murderous one, and if the rebels keep up their present system, the country will be desolated wherever our army goes.
“I shall send this letter by Quartermaster Kidder, who goes home.
He has intelligence that his wife is very sick, and probably will not recover.
He has resigned.
He expects to come back to the regiment.
Who is going to be Colonel of the Jackson regiment?
What position does Livermore expect to have?
Tell me all about this regiment, and who of the Jackson folks are in it.
Kiss the babies.
Remember me to your mother, Fred., and all friends.
“Affectionately your husband,
On the 20th I received an order from brigade headquarters to get my regiment in readiness to march with the brigade on the 21st.
This order was issued by mistake, and was countermanded, and an order issued appointing me to the command of the post of Stevenson, Alabama.
There was placed under my command, besides my own regiment, the 5th Indiana Battery, Captain Simonson; four companies of the Michigan Mechanics and Engineers, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Hunton; one company of the 29th Indiana V. I., Captain Casey, and all convalescents at, or to come to the Post able to do military duty.
“Colonel Harker with the other regiments of his brigade, the 64th Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel Young, 65th Ohio, Colonel Ferguson, and 51st Indiana, Colonel Straght, left early in the morning of the 21st of August, 1862 for Bridgeport, and I saw no more of them until the 7th of September, when I rejoined them at Nashville, Tennessee.
IN COMMAND AT STEVENSON.
I appointed Lieutenant Eaton as Provost Marshal of the Post, and Lieutenant James R. Slayton as Assistant Provost Marshal.
Strict orders were issued to all detachments occupying stockades, guarding bridges, on picket lines, or stationed at any point outside the redoubt to observe the greatest vigilance, and to hold themselves in readiness for action at any moment.
General Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Army of the Cumberland, came in on the railroad on the 21st, from Huntsville.
There came also over one hundred convalescent soldiers from the divisions of Generals Chrittenden and McCook, to remain here in my charge, to be taken care of, and made useful as far as possible.
On the morning of the 22nd, in company with Lieutenant Colonel Hunton, I visited and inspected the entire picket line (which was several miles in extent and completely surrounded Stevenson), the redoubt, stockades, and all points where detachments of troops were stationed, except some at railroad bridges, which were outside the lines.
We found the picket posts all properly placed, and the guards prompt and watchful in the discharge of their duty.
Captains Balch and Sunderlin with the companies under their command were relieved from duty in the stockades and stationed in the redoubt, their places in the stockades being filled from those of the convalescents sent to the post who were able to bear arms.
Captain Simonson was also ordered to place his battery in position in the redoubt so as to be ready for action at any and all times, which was done.
The work on the redoubt and stockades was pressed towards completion as rapidly as possible with the force at my command, mules and carts, which had been impressed in the surrounding country, the troops being now all required for military purposes.
General Buell on being informed of what had been, and what was being done, expressed himself pleased and satisfied with my dispositions, and enjoined the necessity of great care and watchfulness, as the post was liable to be at any time attacked.
The necessity of preserving railroad communication with Huntsville was particularly impressed upon me.
He left with his staff on the 22nd by railroad for Dechard.
On the 23rd we continued to strengthen the fortifications.
While thus engaged I received the following telegram:
No. 1. “Dechabd, August 23, 1862.
“Colonel Shoemaker Commanding: —
Expedite shipment of stores from Stevenson in every possible way, and be ready to evacuate the place at a moment’s notice.
Let Engineers and Mechanics prepare pontoons for burning, and when you leave destroy everything that cannot be brought away. Confidential.
Operator at Stevenson will not let it be known.
“J. B. FRY,
“Colonel and Chief of Staff.”
The situation of officers occupying positions like myself in the Army of the Cumberland was peculiar in this.
Being always confronted by the Confederates, we had no opportunity to obtain information of what was taking place outside of our own immediate command.
We could learn nothing from those with whom we associated, for they were as ignorant as ourselves, and we never saw a northern newspaper less than from a week to ten or twenty days old.
People at home, reading the daily papers, knew infinitely more of the general movements of our army, to say nothing of the others, than did any of the brigade or regimental officers composing it.
As we had been all summer rebuilding burned bridges and repairing railroads torn up by the Confederates, and building fortifications, I had supposed that we were to act on the offensive and advance still further into the Confederacy.
It was, therefore, a great surprise to me when I received the above telegram.
I had no knowledge of the movements of the army of which we formed a part except what I actually saw, and none whatever of those of the Confederate army of Gen. Bragg to which were opposed.
This telegram, therefore, was the first intimation to me of what proved to be the incursion of Gen. Bragg into Kentucky, or that there was any other intention on the part of Gen. Buell than to hold this post, and make it a depot of supplies, as it was situated at the junction of the railroads from Memphis and from Nashville to Chattanooga, Atlanta and Charleston.
I was confirmed in my belief of the permanency of our occupation, by the fact that up to this time there had been large shipments of all kinds of supplies to Stevenson from Nashville and the north, evidently intended for distribution to the forces in the field beyond this point.
Of these there was a large amount that must now be re-shipped or destroyed.
I had under my command at this time over one thousand men, the battery, the companies of the Mechanics and Engineers, besides over a thousand convalescents, most of whom were unable to do military duty.
On the receipt of this telegram (No. 1) I immediately commenced to make arrangements for shipping all the stores and the soldiers who were too sick to be made useful.
On the 24th I dispatched by railroad a large amount of stores and all the convalescent soldiers that were unable to bear arms or unfit for other duty.
Of these there were several hundred.
I continued to work the negroes, mules, and carts in strengthening my position in the redoubt and around the railroad depot.
ON THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR.
The following extracts from a letter written to my wife will give the opinion of the situation which I at that time entertained, and which, viewed in the light of subsequent events, proves the correctness of the views I then held.
There never was a more bungling, ill-advised campaign, or one showing such evident want of military ability, and absence of strategical design, or intent, or knowledge, than that dating first from the surprise of our army at Shiloh, and again from the capture of Corinth.
After the battle of Shiloh, if the army had been moved directly forward it could have gone into Corinth without further fighting; for, when finally there, we had the evidence of its citizens that the Confederate army came there completely disorganized, with the exception of one division.
If any effort on our part was made to ascertain the actual state of things it must have been unsuccessful, or our commanders were stunned by the magnitude of the battle which had been forced upon them.
All the indications seemed to show that we had gained a great victory; all the orders under which we acted made it apparent that those in command were still apprehensive of being again attacked, and our movements were those of an army acting on the defensive rather than the offensive; of one that had fought a drawn rather than a victorious battle.
After the capture of Corinth, the Federal army was in sufficient force to have marched through the confederacy in any direction.
All the armies of the west were concentrated there, and formed one grand whole.
It could have marched through the confederacy to any point on the gulf or ocean, and then have swept around to Virginia with greater ease and less opposition than did Sherman before fighting the battles which preceded the capture of Atlanta, some years later.
Instead of moving in a body, the different armies composing the whole (all west of the Alleghenies) , were separated and dispatched in different directions, and the campaign of 1862 in the west came to naught, or worse.
These are not ideas born of subsequent events, but those held at the time, and expressed in letters to Gov. Blair, Mrs. Shoemaker, and others, as the following letter clearly proves:
The Army of the Cumberland spent the summer in the Valley of the Tennessee west of Chattanooga, building bridges, repairing railroads, guarding plantations, protecting cotton stored thereon (of which there was enough when we passed up from Corinth to Stevenson to have paid a good share of the National debt at the close of the war), trying General Turchin by court-martial for making war, and finally in September, ignominiously retreated to Louisville, by forced marches, in order to reach there before it could be occupied by Gen. Bragg and the confederate army, which had been recruiting its strength while our army had been engaged in labor and pursuits that all eventuated to the use and benefit of our enemies.
The bridges, the railroads, the cotton, and the corn, was all, or mostly all, used or destroyed by the confederates after our army, without fighting a battle, was forced to leave the country, and before its return.
“My Dear Wife :—
The troops have all left here, and are leaving, except my regiment, which is in charge of the post.
There is much uncertainty about our future movements, but you will know from the papers what has been done sooner than by my letters.
Communication is now very uncertain, as is everything else.
It looks now as though we were to abandon this country.
We are now one of the extreme outposts, and may see some fighting before we leave.
I will write you as often as I can, but every moment of my time is now taken up by duties.
I have now about one thousand men and four pieces of artillery to garrison this place.
The enemy are said to be in large force in our immediate vicinity.
I have no letter from you for some time; the last date was two weeks today.
Don’t say anything of what I write about military matters.
Sunday night, 25th August, 1862.
They are all in confusion here, and I fear will be worse.
I am writing in the depot.
The army is retreating; Huntsville and that line is abandoned.
Gen. Buell went through here yesterday, and has his headquarters now at Dechard.
“We want good generalship, or our lives if given, will do no good, but only be a useless sacrifice to the cause.
We ought now to be acting on the offensive instead of the defensive.
I hope there will soon be a change of policy, if not of commanders.
“Kiss the children.
I send my love, and think of you every minute.
Will write again as soon as I can.
“Yours in love,
HOLD THE FORT.
On the 25th, I received the following telegram (No. 2) from Gen. Buell:
“Dechard, August 25, 1862.
Do not let it appear there is any intention of abandoning your post, but be prepared to do so in -case of necessity.
It is desirous to hold your post as long as possible, and it is the intention to do so.
J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I continued to strengthen my position in every possible manner, both at the redoubt and in and about the town, keeping several hundred negroes and a large number of mules and carts constantly at work.
I allowed no one to know or have cause to suspect that there was any intention of abandoning Stevenson.
From the nature of the work carried on both day and night on the defenses of the place, both citizens and soldiers were led to believe that we meant to “hold the fort.”
Detachments from my command were every day scouring the country to procure supplies, and particularly forage for our animals for which we required a large supply.
We had one hundred and thirty-one horses with Simonson’s battery, and thirteen army wagons with four mules to each, with my regiment making one hundred and eighty-three animals, besides the horses of the officers of which there was between twenty and thirty, giving over two hundred horses and mules to feed.
COMMENTS ON THE SITUATION.
I today caused water to be hauled into the fort so that we might have a supply in case of emergency.
During the day trains came in from Huntsville, and passed directly through towards Nashville as soon as they could be transferred to the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad.
With them came Judge Lane, Gen. Rosseau, and a large number of others who were evidently leaving the country, including military officers, civilians from the loyal States connected with the army, loyal southern men, and refugees from the Confederate States.
This exodus, taken in connection with the orders I was receiving, forced me to conclude that our labor in the valley of the Tennessee and at Stevenson was all to be not only worthless to our cause, but was to accrue directly to the benefit of the Confederates; and all because the Army of the Cumberland, under Gen. Buell, had spent the summer in repairing railroads, building bridges, and fortifications instead of making real, actual war upon the enemy.
The plantations, the cotton, and the corn of the southern people, however hostile they might have been, had been guarded by Federal troops; and attempts, which I am happy to state were always fruitless, were made under the immediate command of Gen. Buell, to return “fugitive slaves” that had escaped from their masters and sought refuge in our army.
This was the manner in which the gallant Army of the Cumberland was employed, instead of seeking out and dispersing the Confederate forces wherever there was an attempt to concentrate them.
If the campaign of 1862 in the valley of the Tennessee, in the States of Alabama and Georgia, was not intended to give “aid and comfort” to the Confederates, by giving them time and opportunity to recover from the defeat, and disasters of Shiloh and Corinth, it most certainly had that result; for it enabled them to recruit and gather up their forces to such an extent, that at this time they were strong enough to resume the offensive so effectually as to whirl the Federal Army back across the States of Tennessee and Kentucky to Louisville on the Ohio river, and force it to abandon and leave for the use and benefit of the Confederacy all the fruits of its labor since leaving Corinth.
During the day I received from Gen. Buell telegram No. 3 as follows:
“Dechard, August 25, 1862, on the cars.
Send one (1) of your companies to Bridgeport to escort the section of artillery at that place in its march to Stevenson.
The artillery will come up as soon as stores are removed, probably to-morrow.
J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I now became satisfied that the large quantity of stores in my charge must be removed or they would have to be destroyed, or left for the benefit of the Confederates; and I therefore caused all supplies, stores, and material not necessary for the defense of Stevenson to be shipped as fast as the facilities on the railroad would permit.
The prisoners were sent North under charge of Captain McLaughlin.
Late in the day, I received from General Buell Telegram No. 4, as follows:
“Dechard, August 25, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker: —
Continue to strengthen your defenses, and be prepared for an obstinate defense.
J. B. PRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I caused a further supply of water to be hauled into the fort, and determined to impress more negroes to work on the fortifications.
Those we had were kept at work in relief squads both day and night.
On the 26th of August, I sent four wagons for forage with an escort, with orders to bring in air the negroes they could find, with mules, carts, and tools.
Company E, Captain Webb, formed the escort and guard, and as the day and night passed with Captain Webb absent and no intelligence of his movements, I became quite anxious about the safety of his command.
I knew the country was swarming with guerrillas, but heretofore they had never ventured to attack any of our command sent out for forage or any other purpose; but any soldier wandering from his command, or for any cause found alone, was certain to be cut off, and in almost every instance his fate was unknown to us, but there was almost an absolute certainty that he was foully murdered, and those reported on the rolls as “missing” were seldom if ever again heard of among men.
As the country was undoubtedly by this time well aware of the retrograde movement of General Buell, I feared the guerrillas might have become emboldened, and have gathered in force and ventured to attack Captain Webb, or obstruct his operations.
I had every confidence in the courage and capacity of Captain Webb, which the result justified, for he came in on the 27th with a large supply of forage, mules, carts, and Negroes with “working tools” for all of them.
In compliance with the telegraphic order of General Buell I sent Captain Balch with his Company G to act as escort and guard for two howitzers (section of battery) from Bridgeport to Stevenson.
In marching back, when just east of Bolivar, towards evening, one of the company, not feeling well, fell out of the ranks.
His brother, also a soldier in the company, learning of this, also left the ranks to remain with and look after his brother.
This was all wrong, and ought not to have been allowed, as it was an almost certain sacrifice of the two men.
The sick man, if unable to march, should have been placed on one of the gun carriages and brought in with his company.
There was no danger that the force of Captain Balch, would be attacked, and no necessity for undue haste.
When these facts were reported to me I was highly indignant that these men should have been left under circumstances that most certainly would subject them to the tender mercies of the guerrillas, who were known to be perfectly inhumane in their treatment of stragglers from our ranks, and I determined to send in the early morning a force to bring them in or learn their fate.
I accordingly detailed companies K and I, with one howitzer, under command of Captain Chadwick for this duty.
The captain on his return reported that at the place where the first man left the ranks he found the brother, who last fell out of the ranks, lying on the ground, wounded, where he had been left the day previous, after being stripped of his gun, accoutrements, and most of his clothing.
This man stated that when he came in sight of his brother he was surrounded by guerillas, who fired upon, wounded, and then robbed him, and left, taking his brother with them, after having stripped him also.
The fate of the latter I never ascertained.
He is one of the great army of the “missing.”
The following orders by telegram were received the 26th:
No. 5.] “Dechard, August 26, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker, Commanding: —
Two (2) trains are to go to Huntsville at daylight.
One of them has three companies of 10th Wisconsin on board.
Distribute these men so as to guard both trains as far as Huntsville.
These companies are to be sent back to Larkinville.
Order them positively to go through to Huntsville with trains.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
The orders were given and the trains dispatched as directed, though it was evident there was apprehension of danger.
Also the following:
“Dechard, August 26, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker: —
How many animals will you have to feed?
You must get in at once all the forage you can.
Cut the green corn for fodder.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I replied by telegram that I had 107 horses and 78 mules, and that I could and would procure full supplies of forage.
CONFEDERATE FORCES NEAR.
On the 27th, for the first time, the enemy began to show themselves openly in the vicinity of the fort, and two of the garrison were fired upon by a squad of mounted men within two miles of the town.
One company sent below Widow’s Creek bridge for wood reported the railroad track torn up.
The signs, and they manifested themselves in all quarters, indicated that the confederates were about to commence offensive movements in this quarter, and probably “all along the line,” as a response to the masterly inactivity of our summer campaign.
In the afternoon there came into our lines several fugitive soldiers from Bridgeport, with very conflicting reports, some of them stating that there had been heavy fighting, and that our forces had been defeated.
Others said that the Federal troops had, after gallantly defending their position against superior forces, abandoned the place and retreated across the mountain.
All agreed that Stevenson was now the outpost, and that there were no federal troops between this place and Chattanooga.
These fugitives were all very positive we were soon to be attacked by a large force.
I now thought it unsafe to leave a guard at Widow’s Creek Bridge, as it was in such an exposed position, and so far from support.
Captain Jones, who was, with his company, acting as guard at that stockade and doing picket duty near there, was ordered into camp and stationed inside the fort.
The two howitzers were placed in position on the fortifications inside the fort.
The following telegram was received:
“Dechard, August 27, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker: —
Direct Col. Hunton (of Mechanics and Engineers to leave one company of Mechanics and Engineers under a good captain, at Stevenson, to do such work as may be required, and give him instructions then to march tomorrow for this place, by the road along the railroad; bring his empty wagons.
The baggage to be left in charge of the company which remains, and to come up by rail when ordered.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I replied to this by sending a telegram to Gen. Buell, asking him to allow me to keep with my command Col. Hunton and two companies of Mechanics and Engineers, in answer to which I received the following telegram:
“Dechard, August 27, 1862.
Let two companies Engineers remain instead of one, and send one of them with train to repair.
How many convalescent and sick at Stevenson?
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
The answer to this dispatch I did not preserve or have mislaid, but the company of Mechanics and Engineers were sent as directed, and the number of sick and convalescent, over one thousand, given.
Lieutenant Colonel Hunton with two companies of Mechanics and Engineers remained under my command.
AM CONFIDENT THAT I CAN HOLD THE FORT.
I also received the following telegram
“Dechard. August 27, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker: —
A brigade cannot dislodge you.
Hold the place.
The property must be got away.
Let Col. Hunton remain with you.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I replied to this that “I could and would hold the place against any force that could probably be brought against me.”
I had no doubt of my ability to do so, for I was convinced that the main army of Gen. Bragg was not moving in this direction at all, and I did not believe that any considerable force would be taken from his army (if, as appeared to be the case, he was assuming the offensive) for the purpose of attacking Stevenson.
I did not fear an irregular force, as I felt confident we could hold our own against any of that character which the Confederates could send against us.
The result proved that I was correct.
I had now the fort in an efficient state for defense, with the artillery (Captain Simonson’s Fifth Indiana battery) in position in it, held in constant readiness for use.
The railroad depot buildings and all the houses commanding the approaches to the town had been converted into fortifications.
Stockades had been built on the railroad on both sides of the town.
All these I had been able to fully man by placing in them, with part of my own regiment, the convalescents able to bear arms, which had been sent to me from both up and down the line of the M. & E. railroad.
I now received telegram (No. 10) in the afternoon:
“Dechard. August 27, 1862.
“Col. Shoemaker: —
Take in your guards between Bridgeport and Stevenson, and prepare to defend the latter.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col and Chief of Staff.”
Also the following telegram
“Dechard. August 27, 18G2.
If there is no special reason to the contrary, let a guard of one company go out carefully on the train in the morning with telegraph repairer to put up line to Huntsville.
See Mr. Chittenden, chief operator.
What news from Bridgeport?
Answer. “J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
I replied that several straggling soldiers had come into Stevenson, bringing conflicting reports.
All agreed that Bridgeport had been at tacked by a large force of Confederates, and most of them claimed that the post bad been abandoned, but what became of the garrison none of them knew.
During the day water and provisions were hauled into the fort.
In the evening Captain Webb and his command returned with a good supply of forage, negroes, mules, and carts.
He had extended his trip farther than was expected when he started, and this had caused him to take more time.
He had neither seen nor heard of any opposing force; had not been molested, but reported that the expression of hostility by the inhabitants was universal.
In compliance with order by telegram (No. 10) I ordered Captain Jones with Company H in from Widow’s creek bridge, and stationed them in the fort.
I did not apprehend that there was any “special reason to the contrary” and therefore sent a company as guard with the cars and telegraph repairers towards Huntsville to put up the line where it had been broken by the guerrillas.
This duty was performed without molestation.
Two of the four companies of Mechanics and Engineers which had remained with me up to this time started this morning, with the transportation of the regiment, but without their baggage or loads of any kind in their wagons.
They went by the wagon road towards Dechard.
In order to ascertain if there was any danger of an immediate attack upon this post, I sent a scouting party composed of two companies towards Battle Creek, who made a reconnaissance to within four miles of Bridgeport, but saw no Confederate forces.
Soldiers from the hospitals, convalescents and sick, had been coming in to my charge by almost every train since the post had been placed under my command, and to-day, again, all those not able to bear arms were sent to Nashville on the railroad, as was also the baggage of General McCook’s division, which had been sent here some time before.
Large quantities of stores and supplies were also shipped to Nashville,—all that could be carried by the cars furnished for that purpose.
In order that I might be prepared as perfectly as possible for any emergency which might arise, I now reorganized my forces.
Captain Palmer and his company (C) were stationed in two stockades on the Huntsville railroad west of the town, the two companies of Mechanics and Engineers in two stockades and a barricaded building on the east side of the town; the convalescents capable of bearing arms were stationed in the depot and other buildings in the town.
To Colonel Hunton, I gave command of the Mechanics and Engineers and convalescents.
My own regiment, and two companies of the 29th Indiana V. I., which had joined my command, were given in charge the picket lines, the fort, and such duty outside the lines as might become necessary.
I also changed the picket lines, drawing them in so that if attacked they could be more readily supported.
I received the following telegram
“Dechard, August 28th, 1862.
“Colonel Shoemaker, Commanding: —
Send back all train guards at the earliest practicable moment.
“WM. SOAG SMITH.
“Brig. Gen. Commanding Post.”
I was engaged on the picket lines and with other duties until quite late, and lay down for the night without taking off my clothes; and from this time until I arrived in Nashville, Tenn., on the 6th of September, my clothes were never once taken off, and this not as a matter of choice, but of necessity.
BURNING OF BOLIVAR.
I this morning sent two companies under command of Captain Chadwick east on the line of the railroad leading to Chattanooga to reconnoiter.
I was determined not to be taken by surprise, and I knew I could prevent it by keeping parties of observation beyond the picket lines on the route by which any force of the enemy must approach our position.
Late in the afternoon we observed from the fort a heavy cloud of smoke rising evidently in the vicinity of Bolivar, a small place east of us and on the line of march taken by Captain Chadwick.
This I learned was caused by the burning of several houses in that hamlet.
These houses, five or six of them, were, I have no doubt, burned by some of the men of the scouting party that went out in the morning under command of Captain Chadwick, although they all, so far as I could ascertain, denied committing the act, and if done by them, was against my positive order.
I was very particular in charging all officers and soldiers sent into the country, for any purpose whatever, to carefully abstain from interfering with, or in any manner injuring the inhabitants, either in person or property, any further than was absolutely necessary to carry out the orders under which the expedition was acting.
Commands sent for forage, Negroes, or any other supplies were instructed to use such force as was necessary to procure them, but to carefully abstain from all outrage, or any unnecessary violence; and this was the only instance in which my orders were disobeyed.
I have no doubt but Bolivar was burned by soldiers of Captain Chadwick’s command, and I think with his knowledge if not consent.
My entire command had for some time been satisfied that its inhabitants were not only acting as spies, but also as guerrillas, and to them, I believe correctly, was ascribed the outrage committed on the 26th on the two brothers of Captain Batch’s command.
It was to avenge the treatment of these men, in all probability that caused their comrades to fire the houses of those they believed to be guilty of that cowardly and inhuman act.
Captain Chadwick, and the other officers who were out with him, would never admit that any of his command fired the houses, but some of them must have done so, for there were no other parties who could have done it.
Captain Chadwick and his command returned late in the afternoon.
The captain reported that he had seen no confederate force, nor any sign of any.
He went to within four miles of Bridgeport.
All of the commissary stores, and what was remaining at Stevenson of the baggage of Gen. McCook’s division, was to-day shipped by railroad to Nashville.
Negroes and whites of the country.
I still kept the Negroes and carts at work on the fort and stockades.
The Negroes worked willingly and faithfully.
If there was any one thing which they appeared to fear more than all else, it was that the Federal forces would leave the country, and that they would be remanded to the tender mercies of their masters.
The Negroes were not only industrious and faithful workmen, but were also most useful, and in fact, our only trustworthy spies.
The information obtained from them, when they were where they dare speak freely, could almost always be depended upon.
That obtained from the whites was always intended to deceive or mislead, when they thought by giving it they could lead the Federal troops into danger or make them trouble of any kind.
Each and every one of them would travel fast and far to carry information to the Confederate forces when they thought advantage could be taken of it.
So well convinced was I of this that, after the 23rd of August.
I refused to permit any person living in Stevenson to pass outside the picket lines, or anyone outside to come within, without a written permit signed by the provost marshal or myself, and this liberty was given in but few instances, and only where we were satisfied that no advantage could be taken of it.
NOTES SOUNDING OF RETREAT.
The following telegram was received from General Buell who still had his headquarters at Dechard (No. 13):
“Dechard, August 29, 1862.
Trains will go to Huntsville to-morrow to bring over the last stores from that place.
When they arrive at Stevenson tomorrow night have Simonson’s Battery loaded on the cars, and also all the baggage there is at Stevenson, and send all the trains up together.
The horses with harness of Simonson’s Battery and your regiment must come here by land, and you should start if possible, before daylight on the morning of the 31st.
“Direct Major Hall, 37th Indiana, to prepare a note for each of his detachments on the line, telling them to march to the North along the road, and let these notes be delivered by the last train.
Be particular on this point, as the guards must not leave until the last train passes, and that train should take the baggage of the guards.
Old tents should be destroyed.
If Major Hall is not at Stevenson some other officer must see to this.
It is the intention to evacuate the place and leave nothing to fall into the enemy’s hands which would be useful.
The pontoons should be fired just before you start.
No locomotives or cars should be allowed to fall into their hands.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
Major Hall was at Stevenson, and I gave him a copy of as much of this message as related to his command.
I had supposed until I received this telegram, that it was the intention of General Buell to hold Stevenson, as it was at the junction of the Memphis and Charleston, and Nashville & Chattanooga Railroads, and we had built here a fort, an earthwork of considerable strength.
I knew the army was moving north, but did not think the country was to be entirely abandoned.
In order that I might be better prepared to act under these orders I visited the picket lines and again changed them, bringing them nearer the town and fort, after which I received the following telegram (No. 14):
“Decharn. August 29th, 1862.
Guards of one company for each train must be sent with the trains which go to Huntsville.
Use Mechanics and Engineers for that purpose.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
REFUGEE WHITES IN THE SOUTH.
There came into our lines to-day a gentleman about 35 or 40 years of age, who asked to be taken to the officer in command.
He was taken to the Provost Marshal, Lieut. Eaton, of whom he asked to see me as the commanding officer, at the same time refusing, or rather declining to answer any questions.
I saw him, when he requested to be sent with as little delay as possible to the headquarters of Gen. Buell; and he professed to have important information which he could only impart to him (Gen. Buell).
He declined to give his name, was much agitated, and evidently laboring under considerable apprehension of danger from some quarter.
When he first saw our flag (the stars and stripes) he shed tears, and said it was the first time his eyes rested upon it for eighteen long, weary months.
He was evidently a gentleman of culture and standing.
Although I doubted his sincerity, I decided to comply with his request, and he was sent at once in charge of an officer to the headquarters of Gen. Buell, wherever that might be.
Who he was or what important information he communicated I have never learned; but if he was a sincere Union man, he was, in my belief, the only southern man I ever saw in southern Tennessee, Mississippi, or Alabama while I was in the service that was sincere in his profession of loyalty.
There were but few that made any such profession, and those we had uniformly found to be spies or informers.
The feeling of loyalty to the Confederacy, and not only disloyalty to, but hatred for the Union, was simply universal; and towards our army there was with the entire population, men, women, and children, a feeling of deadly hostility.
This was shown whenever there was an opportunity to cut off a single man or a small detachment.
While on the march we were constantly watched, and any man falling out of the rank from fatigue or any other cause, if left behind, was certain to be cut off.
My opportunities of judging of the temper and disposition of the people were exceptionally good, as my command was most of the summer of 1862 detached from the main line of the army, so that I was brought into direct communication with the inhabitants, particularly at Iuka, Bear Creek, Town Creek, and Stevenson.
We were also at Tuscumbia, Decatur, and Mooresville, and in fact, I may say that my facilities for obtaining information were good from Corinth to Chattanooga.
As a source of satisfaction to myself I felt deeply interested in learning as correctly as possible, the feelings and sentiments of the southern people, and I never lost an opportunity for obtaining information either from men, women, or Negroes.
I visited houses near all our encampments, and as far as possible took great care to make, the acquaintance of the residents in the vicinity of those stations where we remained any number of days.
The convictions to which I give expression are the result of mature deliberation.
I do not think it at all discreditable to our southern brethren that they should believe according to the light in which they were educated, but in common with all in our army, I detested the spirit which led to murder and guerrilla warfare.
From the time we left Salt river, in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, I found that Confederate money was taken in preference to greenbacks, and in southern and eastern Tennessee and in Mississippi, the money of the Federal States would not be received at all in payment.
This was almost universally the case after we left Nashville on our march to Shiloh.
In Mississippi and Alabama there were no exceptions.
The inhabitants would not sell us anything at all, for any kind of money, if they could avoid doing so, but if they felt compelled to do so they invariably asked two or three prices, and would then only take Confederate money in payment.
There could be no more certain indication of, not only the feelings of the people, but also of their belief in the ultimate success of the Confederate cause than their preference for Confederate, and their absolute refusal to take the national currency.
It was useless to point out to them that if the Confederacy should succeed in becoming a separate nation, yet still the greenbacks would be good as against the loyal States.
No, they would have none of them.
They did not want any “yankee money,” and that the Confederate States would succeed in the war, and of the value of the Confederate money they never, at this time, allowed themselves to doubt.
Until after our arrival at Stevenson all supplies taken in the country for the army were paid for and at all times, before and after, the officers paid for all such supplies as they procured in the country.
Dr. Mandeville was stationed at Stevenson to assist in taking care of the sick and convalescent.
There were many of both classes at Steven son all of the time, although we were sending all able to be transported, and not able to bear arms, to Nashville as fast as we could get cars.
They were also coming to us every day by every train.
Dr. Mandeville had been ordered away, and I requested of General Buell, by telegram, that he might be allowed to remain with me and received the following answer (“So. 15):
“Dechard, August 29, 1862.
“Colonel Shoemaker: Dr. Mandeville can remain until further orders.
“Surgeon U.R.A. Med. Div.”
I also received this important dispatch from General Buell (No. 16):
“Dechard, August 29th, 1862.
Send all baggage wagons of your command here by the road along the railroad, starting at daylight tomorrow, and be ready to move with the troops at a moment’s notice.
Send Engineer companies as escort for wagons, or if they are not with you, send two of your companies.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
To obey this order would cause me to divide and weaken my force, and endanger both divisions if attacked, I therefore decided to ask General Buell to rescind this order, and sent him the following telegram:
August 29th, 1862.
“Colonel J. B. Fry. A. A. Gen. and Chief of Staff:
Our teams are constantly employed.
Captain Simonson says he will need four, and can send but two.
I must use five.
That would leave, including ambulances, less than half to go, and would weaken my force two companies.
I think I can feed all the animals by stripping green corn, and would prefer to keep my force together.
Can I do so?
“Col. Commanding Post.”
To this I received the following answer (No. 18):
“Dechard, August 29, 1862.
If you think best, keep all your wagons and bring them with the regiment.
They must come empty or with light loads.
“J. B. FRY,
“Col. and Chief of Staff.”
By a determined effort on my part, and much extra work of my helpers I succeeded in shipping today to Nashville all the commissary stores remaining at Stevenson and the baggage of McCook’s division.
The picket lines were disturbed at several different points the past night by the approach of scouting parties of the Confederates and spies who were evidently attempting to ascertain the number and location of our forces.
The picket guard wounded a Confederate captain, who succeeded in making his escape, but the guard captured his body servant, a remarkably bright, intelligent, good looking mulatto.
He declared that he knew nothing of any force of the enemy in our immediate vicinity.
The events of the morrow proved his fidelity to his master, as he was undoubtedly endeavoring to deceive us.
In the morning I visited the picket lines quite early, and charged the officers in command to act with great care and caution, to observe and report the appearance of any force, or of single individuals in the neighborhood of the lines.
On my return we commenced to move the provisions and ammunition out of the fort, preparatory to its abandonment.
I made such disposition of the means at my command that it enabled me to send away everything of value.
ORDERS FROM GENERAL BUELL.
Received from General Buell the following telegram:
“Dechard, August 30th, 1862.
You will put caissons on the cars, and start them in the morning, but retain the guns to march with you.
The gun chests should be filled with shells, not solid shot.
In case the trains should not get through from Huntsville tomorrow, you will hold your position until night, and then march with your whole force, unless you know by delay you can cover their movement, and if opposed force your way through.
“Colonel Chapin will be Instructed to wait until ten o’clock tomorrow for the train, and then force his way to you with what detachments he can pick up on the road.
“You may not have any trouble, but prudence and resolution will carry you through in any event.
Put your baggage on the cars, so as to move light.
Keep the horses and harnesses of the caissons to help your guns over the mountains.
“I will send two battalions of cavalry down tomorrow to meet you.
Colonel Chapin’s regiment will march with you, and the train must take up the bridge guards this side of Stevenson.
D. C. Buell,
“Major General Commanding.”
On Sunday morning, August 30, 1862, I caused all the baggage, commissary stores, sick and convalescent soldiers remaining at Stevenson to be loaded on the cars, and started on the railroad towards Nashville, Tennessee.
The caissons were also sent at the same time, and the only ammunition kept with us was the shells the artillery could store in the chests of the guns of the battery, and what the soldiers could carry in their cartridge boxes.
We had quite a number of prisoners, part of whom were regarded as military and part as civilians.
These were all sent to Gen. Buell by railroad in charge of Captain McLaughlin and Lieut. Dunbar.
The civilians were mostly residents of the vicinity whom I had caused to be arrested from time to time for acting as spies, and being in secret communication with the Confederate military authorities, to whom they made known our strength and all our movements.
Some of the prisoners complained bitterly at being sent from their homes and families.
To these Captain Eaton, Provost Marshal, most pertinently replied that their action and that of others like them had taken us from our homes and families, and brought us over a thousand miles and yet, with so much more cause, we did not complain.
CONFEDERATE FORCES CHECKED.
About 8 o’clock A.M. and before the arrival of any trains from Huntsville, I was informed by some of our scouts that there was a force of Confederate cavalry making a demonstration on the Bolivar and Bridgeport road.
I immediately sent out Captain Slayton with Company I, and Captain Simonson with two pieces of artillery to reconnoiter, with directions to check an advance on that road, if any was attempted, and ascertain the number of the forces of the enemy as nearly as possible.
Captains Slayton and Simonson were both on horseback, and were accompanied, besides their command, by some twenty or more mounted men, volunteers, of whom fourteen were of Simonsons’ battery on artillery horses, and the others, except Lieutenant-Colonel Hunton, officers of my regiment.
A short distance outside of our picket line and about one mile east of the town, they saw a force of cavalry in a small grove of woods directly on the road.
Captain Simonson immediately opened fire on them with his two pieces of artillery.
A few shells exploding among them caused their retreat without offering any resistance.
They were immediately pursued by our volunteer cavalry, who, charging at full speed through the woods, found that their hot haste almost precipitated them on to a brigade of Confederate infantry, supported by a battery of artillery and a troop of cavalry, drawn up in order of battle on the open ground and crossing the road.
They were in such close proximity that our volunteers were in imminent danger of being surrounded and their retreat cut off; but they promptly took in the situation, and before the enemy had time to act, after seeing how small was the force which was so bravely rushing through the woods, our impromptu cavalry turned, retreated and were saved from capture by the speed of their horses.
They all succeeded in reaching the ground occupied by our artillery, which again opened fire on the advancing foe, and checked the pursuit.
All this was immediately reported to me, and I dispatched another company of infantry, with orders to hold the position as long as possible, to advise me if more support was necessary, and I would send it to them at once.
The road on which they were stationed and defending was that leading directly to the depot, and if the Confederates succeeded in advancing upon it they would prevent the transfer of trains from Huntsville to the Nashville railroad.
After a lively cannonade of an hour the enemy ceased firing, drew off their forces to the left or south, and we had accomplished our object in forcing them to take a position, in making any further attack upon us, most favorable for the accomplishment of the objects we had in view.
THE CONFEDERATES ATTACK THE FORT AT STEVENSON.
The Confederates now approached the fort from the southwest, planting their battery and displaying their forces in the cleared field in that direction, opened quite a lively fire with their artillery on both the fort, and the town.
The two companies of infantry, and two pieces of artillery, were now ordered to return, and placed inside the fort.
They had acted with great gallantry, and rendered service of the utmost value by the tenacity with which they held their position in the face of a force so greatly superior.
They had caused the enemy to abandon the direct road to Stevenson, and swerve to the left or south, thereby not only preserving our railroad connections from immediate danger, but also protecting our line of retreat, which would have been greatly endangered, if not cut off, had the Confederates made good their advance directly upon the town, which, with the number and composition of their forces, they ought to and might have done.
The commander of the enemy did not bring his forces within range of our muskets, but Captain Simonson kept up a continuous fire on them from his battery in the fort with good effect.
They changed the position of their battery several times, and there was at intervals a good deal of confusion apparent in their ranks.
This artillery engagement was general and active from ten A.M. until about four P.M., without any loss on our side, as their balls and shells generally passed over the fort.
They had our range correctly, but did not well calculate the distance.
I do not know what loss the enemy suffered from the guns of Captain Simonson, but judge it must have been quite considerable, or they would not have been so wary or so dilatory in their movements.
The manner in which the Confederate gunners handled their artillery reflected anything but credit upon them, as it would hardly seem possible for a full battery to pound away steadily for six hours and inflict so little damage as we suffered.
There was not one man killed or wounded, no gun dismounted, and our stockades and other fortifications were not injured.
Some damage was done to several houses in Stevenson, into which they threw a portion of their shells, probably with the intention of destroying our railroad communications, but they failed in this, and “nobody was hurt.”
Soon after three o’clock the trains came in on the railroad from Huntsville with the Tenth Wisconsin Infantry, some refugees and others fleeing to the North.
EVACUATION OP STEVENSON.
I now sent a telegram to Brigadier General Soay Smith, giving him the state of affairs and telling him that I had no doubt of my ability to hold the place against the force operating against me, if such was the wish of General Buell.
The following telegram (No. 22) :
“Dechard, August 31, 1862.
Withdraw in good order, keep your artillery in advance preceded by skirmishers.
Use your artillery whenever you can, if the enemy pursues.
No cavalry has been sent.
“WM. S. SMITH,
In obedience to this order I now commenced to withdraw from the fort and town.
The trains on the railroad, four of them, after those from Huntsville were transferred to the Nashville railroad, were sent off with all the remaining stores, baggage, caissons, the convalescent and weak men – all those not able to make a forced march.
The latter were placed in charge of Dr. Foster Pratt, Assistant Surgeon, who went with them to Nashville, Surgeon Alexander Ewing remaining with me.
On the retreat, the Tenth Wisconsin took the advance, the place of safety, and the easiest on the march, and kept it until we rejoined the rest of our forces at Tallahoma, although at Tantallan it should have taken the rear.
This Col. Chapin declined to do, claiming priority of rank and the right to do as he pleased; and from that point to Tallahoma he pressed his regiment through without paying the slightest attention to those in his rear.
He acted as if very apprehensive of an attack, and as desirous of avoiding one if made.
His course in dividing the command would have placed the artillery and my regiment at great disadvantage if we had been attacked in crossing the mountain between Cowan and Tallahoma.
I was so indignant at his conduct that I thought seriously of preferring charges against him.
Next in line of march on the retreat I placed our wagons, all being without loading of any kind.
The artillery came next, and the better to conceal our movements, one gun of the battery was discharged, then taken from its position in the fort and placed in the line of march, when another was discharged and treated in the same manner, and in this way the fire on the Confederates was kept up until everything was in readiness for the march, when the last gun was fired, taken from the fort, and the march began about 5 o’clock P. M., the 13th Regiment, Michigan V. I., bringing up the rear and being the last regiment of Gen. Buell’s army to leave Alabama.
In the meanwhile the enemy had not ventured within musket shot, and had been easily kept in check by our artillery.
RETREAT FROM STEVENSON, ALABAMA.
Had the Confederate force which made this feeble attack upon Stevenson, instead of so doing, occupied the railroad at any point between that place and Tantallan, it would have placed us in a very critical position, being as we were, in a hostile country, and it is doubtful if we could have forced our way through, as it would have involved the necessity of our attacking them in a position of their own selection, for we could only cross the mountains by a certain road, and to have reached this we would have to fight with superior numbers with the advantages all in their favor.
The Confederates could also, by tearing up a portion of the track of the railroad, have captured at least four trains of cars loaded with valuable stores, which left Stevenson not more than two hours before we marched out of the fort.
Instead, however, of opposing our retreat, the Confederates by their action appeared to be desirous to facilitate our departure from the country.
The road from Stevenson, north, runs around the foot of a high mountain in the immediate vicinity of the town.
Soon after we had passed around the end of this mountain the cavalry of the enemy appeared in force in our rear in pursuit.
In order to check any further attempt to molest our retreat I determined to give them a reception so warm that it would probably free us from further molestation.
I accordingly placed Company B in ambush on the side of the mountain, among the bushes, a few rods from the road, with orders to wait until the rear rank of the enemy was opposite them, and then open on them with a fire as rapid and fatal as possible.
I also ordered Captain Slayton, who commanded the rear guard to attack them as soon as the company in ambush should commence to fire, and informed him that he would be supported by my entire command if necessary.
As the Confederates advanced, and before they were fully abreast of Company B, one of the men fired without orders, and prematurely, which was followed by a volley from the whole company, when a number of the enemy, reported at eleven, were seen to fall from their saddles, and their entire force, estimated at two hundred, wheeled about, and retreated with the utmost precipitation.
We were no more troubled by them, or their support, and saw no other Confederate force under arms on our retreat to Tallahoma, Murfreesboro, and Nashville.
We destroyed the first bridge we crossed and continued our march until about three o’clock A. M., when we reached Anderson’s Station, on the railroad, where we bivouacked with the other forces.
In this skirmish at Stevenson we succeeded by skillful management, rather than by hard fighting, in accomplishing all we desired; for notwithstanding the attack of a large force, estimated at four times our numbers, we held them at bay for nine hours, during which time there was a heavy and continuous cannonade, and finally retreated from the fort and town, after the transfer and dispatch of all the railroad trains, without the loss of a man, animal, wagon, or any of the large amount of commissary stores which had been entrusted to my charge while in command at Stevenson.
On the march to Anderson Station we lost a four-horse ambulance, which, the night being intensely dark, got out of the road, and rolled down the mountain, on the steep side of which we were marching.
From this, the nature of the road on which we were making our retreat may be judged.
We were accompanied on our march from Stevenson by the entire negro force which had been working for us on and about the fortifications, and by all others who had come into the town while occupied by our forces.
There were among them as many women and children as men, and some of the most unpleasant scenes of the war were in witnessing the painful but determined efforts and struggles of some very old negroes, or of some mother with a whole brood of children, to keep with us on the march, and avail themselves of the protection of our troops, hoping thereby to attain their freedom.
How fruitless were their sufferings will presently appear.
There must have been with us at this time more, than one thousand negroes, of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
Anderson’s Station, and on the march.
In the morning at Anderson’s Station we found that the engine of the last train had run off the track the previous evening, and was still in that condition, thereby blocking two trains, and rendering them liable to capture.
The want of proper tools made the task of replacing the engine on the track a difficult one.
The 10th Wisconsin were immediately at work at it, and continued their efforts without success until noon.
I then proposed to have Lieut. Col. Hunton with his Mechanics and Engineers take sole charge of it.
This was done, and they soon had the engine on the rails, and about two o’clock P. M. both trains started for Nashville.
In the morning, when I found that we were to be detained for some time.
I ordered Captain Slayton to march towards Stevenson and reconnoiter, to see if any force was following us.
On his return at noon Captain Slayton reported having seen some troops advancing, who on seeing his company moving towards them, turned and retreated rapidly.
While at Anderson’s Station I received the following telegram;
“Dechard, 1st Sept., 1862.
Hurry your march with all diligence, night and day.
Bring everything with you if possible.
“W. S. SMITH,
As soon as the trains on the railroad moved off we resumed our march, and proceeded about twelve miles to Tantallan, at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, near the southern end of the tunnel on the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad, where we bivouacked.
Here one of my legs that was injured by being pressed between my horse and that of another officer, but neither that nor the one injured at Stevenson by the falling of my horse caused me much pain or inconvenience until after this time.
CROSSING CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS.
On the morning of the 2nd of September we commenced our march up the Cumberland Mountains, with six pieces of artillery and all our transportation (wagons and ambulances), over a road which, as we were told, had not been traversed by a wagon for eight years, or since the completion of the tunnel.
The ascent was steep, and in places not only difficult but perilous for our artillery and wagons, and not at all pleasant for officers on horseback or soldiers on foot.
The soil in the road, what little there had been, was all washed out, and it was not unusual to find a perpendicular rise of two feet in the rock crossing the road, and from this down to a bed of boulders, but after a toilsome march we arrived at the summit without accident or loss of any kind, except the breaking of the tongue of one of our wagons, and the loss of time in replacing it with a sapling cut by the roadside, by which we saved the wagon.
We found this wagon to be back in great service before morning.
At the summit we struck a traveled road, and the descent was made with comparative ease.
The distance is about ten miles, and we arrived at Cowan, at the foot of the mountains on the north side, at 2 P.M.
In crossing the mountain the line of march of the command became very much stretched out or lengthened, as all will understand who have ever marched any distance with troops; every obstruction, detention, or halt serving to throw the rear command still further behind.
My regiment brought up the rear, and as the 10th Wisconsin and Simonson’s battery did not halt for the whole command to close up, as they should have done, either at the brow or foot of the mountains, or at Dechard, we were left a long way behind.
When we reached Cowan, both the 10th Wisconsin and Simonson’s battery were out of sight.
I sent an orderly forward to them, requesting them to halt, and wait until we could close up, but they returned for answer that Gen. Smith had left Dechard, and given orders for them to march without delay, day and night, until they joined him, and that they should not wait for us, Captain Simonson adding that “self-preservation was the first law of nature.”
I was satisfied that they were unnecessarily alarmed, and if they were justified in fearing an attack, I was indignant at their pusillanimity in thus dividing the forces, and abandoning my regiment.
I did not believe there was any danger, but I knew that if the Confederates should place any force on our line of march it would be much safer for our forces to remain united than to march a detachment at a time, and that too, with the battery entirely unsupported and unprotected, except by the few men attached to it.
Judging from their hot haste it would appear that they were badly scared, if not panic struck, and that without cause; for we had seen no force of the enemy since the day we left Stevenson, and there was no evidence of any being in our vicinity.
My regiment, officers and men, were free in expressing their indignation at what they considered an unmanly desertion, and had I complied with their wishes I would have brought the conduct of Col. Chapin and Captain Simonson to the notice of Gen. Buell, but I gave it no further attention.
NIGHT MARCH FROM COWAN TO TALLAHOMA.
At Cowan I determined to halt, and refresh my men, and put them in better order for whatever we had to encounter, but I was fully satisfied in my own mind that it was nothing more than a long and fatiguing march.
I now ordered my wagons, which were in advance, to halt and wait until we joined them, which we did about two miles south of Dechard, in a pleasant grove, where we remained until our men were all in, and had partaken of such rations as we could command.
When we were ready to resume the march, I placed a wagon in charge of the captain of each company with orders that as the men became too weary to march they were to be placed in the wagons to ride, but that all such were to resume the march again as soon as sufficiently rested, so as to allow others to take their places in the wagons, and charged them to see to it that this was done in such manner that none should be left behind who should be unable to keep with their command on the march.
Many of the officers were quite active in impressing, and appropriating to the service of the government, all the horses, mules, and jacks on the route, so that when we arrived at Tullahoma most of them were mounted.
After completing my arrangements and giving my men a good rest, we started, and were enabled to continue our march to Tullahoma without making another halt.
I not only brought in all my own men, but also picked up a number of the 10th Wisconsin that had dropped out of their line from fatigue.
TULLAHOMA, MURFREESRORO, NASHVILLE.
We reached Tullahoma after midnight, having marched from Tantallan in twenty hours, a distance of thirty-six miles, which included the crossing of the Cumberland Mountains; of itself a full and most difficult day’s march.
At Tullahoma I found Brig. Gen. Wm. Soay Smith with his division, to whom I immediately reported my arrival.
He said he had given us up as captured, and expressed himself as being greatly pleased with my conduct and management, by which I had not only saved my own command but also all of the valuable property at Stevenson, which had been in store for the army.
The first words of Gen. Smith on my entering his quarters were, “My God! Shoemaker, is that you?
I never expected to see you again; I feared you and your regiment had been captured.”
The effect of this march was important, if not serious to me, as the long continuance on horseback, with the injuries my legs had received, the one at Stevenson, and the other at Tantallan, and having now worn my boots without drawing them off for several days and nights, caused my legs to swell so as to fill my large military boots, and they became at the same time painful almost beyond endurance, feeling as though they were being pierced by thousands of needles.
After leaving Gen. Smith, I met Major Fox of the Mechanics and Engineers, who took me to his tent, where I drew my boots for the first time since the 28th of August, and got what rest I could without removing any other portion of my attire.
JUSTICE TO THE THIRTEENTH MICHIGAN V. I.
The action of my command at Stevenson, and in rejoining the army, did not attract the attention it deserved, or otherwise would have done, from the fact that we were in the rear of the retreating army of Gen. Buell, and was unknown except to our superior officers, to whom we made our official reports.
Gen. Buell gave us full credit for our good conduct, but he was soon after removed from the command of the Army of the Cumberland, so that he had no opportunity to do us justice.
The retreat of Gen. Buell, and the advance of Gen. Bragg, endangering as it did, our supremacy in Tennessee and Kentucky, absorbed the interest of the public, and caused all minor actions to be overlooked, when not in the immediate front, and where no special effort was made to bring them before the public.
The number, frequency, and matter of the telegrams sent me by Gen. Buell, prove not only the importance of our position, but also the service we rendered in holding the town and fort until all the trains, persons, and property were removed.
We were left at Stevenson not only to secure the property and railroad connection, but also to mask his movements with the main army, and continued there until we were looked upon as a sort of forlorn hope.
That we did not share the usual fate of one was simply because we met circumstances as they arose with a determination to maintain ourselves wherever we were until we could get out without loss.
We continued with Gen. Smith and left Tullahoma the following morning, the 3rd of September.
THE NEGROES ABANDONED.
In leaving Tullahoma, all the negroes were, by command of Gen. Smith, turned outside our lines, and refused the further protection of our army.
This action of Gen. Smith I thought as unjust as it was unnecessary; for they asked for no help, but simply to march under our protection.
Many of them had done us good service at Stevenson; they relied, as they had good reason to do, upon us to give them a chance for freedom and liberty, and I was very sorry to see them deprived of it; but I do not know that Gen. Smith should be held responsible for this action, as he was simply carrying out the policy of Gen. Buell (his commander), while in command of the Army of the Cumberland.
Gen. Buell not only refused to protect fugitive slaves, but frequently ordered the camp to be searched for them for delivery to their owners.
I think Gen. Buell was one of our most able military commanders, but he either failed to understand the magnitude of the contest, or else was too much in sympathy with the Confederates.
Whatever the cause, he was too much of a “tender-foot” for the occasion and the times, and was very properly relieved of all command in the Federal armies.
Had all the commanders of all of our armies been allowed to treat the slaves as General Fremont proposed to do in Missouri, and the southwest, the rebellion would have been crushed in a year, and hundreds of thousands of lives, and an untold amount of suffering saved on both sides.
If the slaves coming to our lines, or rendering us service, had been protected, and advanced their freedom, the good result would soon have been apparent in such an exodus, and demonstration in our favor, as would have rendered the Confederacy powerless for resistance.
By turning them from our lines we taught them to mistrust us, and this induced them to remain contented on the plantations when almost the entire white male population of the south was in the armies of the Confederacy.
When finally we did offer them their freedom, which early in the war they would have earned for themselves if they had been permitted to do so, they feared to act, as our previous action justified them in doing, and failed to render as efficient service as they would have done had they been treated differently the first years of the war.
Here, with us, were men, women, and children, who had been working faithfully for us at Stevenson, asking nothing but to be allowed to follow us, protected from molestation, and this was mercilessly refused; when to have extended it would have required no action on our part.
All that was necessary was to let it be understood that we would not allow them to be seized and carried away.
These people were in a more pitiable condition than they would have been had they rendered us no service, for they would now be more cruelly treated by their masters or others who seized them than they would have been had they not been laboring for us at Stevenson.
THE MARCH RESUMED.—NASHVILLE.
After leaving Tullahoma on the morning of the 3d of September, we marched until 1 o’clock A.M. on the 4th, when we halted for two hours for rations and rest; then resuming our march and continuing until 2 o’clock A.M. on the 5th, when we reached Murfreesboro, where we joined another part of the army.
Here we were allowed to rest until noon, when the army was again put in motion on the line of march for Nashville, where we arrived on Saturday, the 6th of September, 1862, at two A. M.
I now, with my regiment, joined the division of Gen. Wood, from which we separated at Mooresville, Alabama, on the 18th of July.
I made a brief report in writing of our action at Stevenson, and sent it to Gen. Buell, as I was then acting directly under his command.
As an evidence of the incessant manner in which we were occupied, and of the fatigue we underwent, I would state that up to the time of our arrival at Nashville I had not once taken off my clothes since the Thursday of the week previous; that is, from the 28th of August to the 5th of September, and every night after Sunday, the day we left Stevenson, for the few hours’ rest we could take we lay down wherever we bivouacked, without tents or covering of any kind.
Most of the time we were without provisions, and we supplied ourselves in such manner as we best could.
After leaving Tantallan my legs commenced swelling, and every day would swell until they filled my large military boots so that it was difficult to draw them; and an impression made in the swelling, as a dent with the finger, would remain for an hour or more.
The swelling would subside when I was in a recumbent position, but as soon as I mounted my horse would again commence, and was always accompanied with a prickling sensation over the entire surface, which made the pain almost intolerable; but from which on this march there was no escape, and no opportunity to apply any remedy.
I have never suffered as much, physically, as during the march from Tantallan to Nashville.
Surgeon Ewing expressed himself as quite apprehensive of the effect of the condition of my limbs, and said that if I continued to ride on horseback there was great danger that from dropsy, or erysipelas, my legs would become permanently diseased, and perhaps endanger my life; when, with rest and prompt medical treatment I would soon recover, and be as well as ever.
He insisted on presenting my situation to General Buell and did so in person.
General Buell granted me leave of absence for thirty days, and I left Nashville Sunday night, of the day of my arrival, by stage for Franklin, Kentucky, for home; which, however, I was only destined to reach after a series of adventures and by way of Richmond, Virginia, and Libby Prison.
Near Tyree Springs the stage was surrounded by guerrillas, I was captured and taken to the headquarters of Generals Bragg, and Hardee, near Carthage, on the Cumberland River, from there to Knoxville, Richmond, and home after a short sojourn in Libby Prison.