MEMOIRS OF A VOLUNTEER.
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CINCINNATI: WILSTACH, BALDWIN & CO., PUBLISHERS, NOS. 141 AND 143 RACE STREET. 1879.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1879, by
ELLEN B. HENDERSON,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
TO MY BROTHER,
MAJOR WILLIAM GURLEY BEATTY,
WHOSE GENEROUS SACRIFICE OF HIS OWN INCLINATION AT THE
COMMENCEMENT OF THE WAR, AND FAITHFUL DEVOTION
TO MY FAMILY AND BUSINESS,
ENABLED ME TO ENTER THE ARMY AND REMAIN THREE YEARS,
IS RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
In the lifetime of all who arrive at mature age, there comes a period when a strong desire is felt to know more of the past, especially to know more of those from whom we claim descent. Many find even their chief pleasure in searching among parish records and local histories for some knowledge of ancestors, who for a hundred or five hundred years have been sleeping in the grave. Long pilgrimages are made to the Old World for this purpose, and when the traveler discovers in the crowded church-yard a moss-covered, crumbling stone, which bears the name he seeks, he takes infinite pains to decipher the half-obliterated epitaph, and finds in this often what he regards as ample remuneration for all his trouble. How vastly greater would be his satisfaction if he could obtain even the simplest and briefest history of those in whom he takes so deep an interest. Who were they? How were their days spent, and amongst what surroundings? What were their thoughts, fears, hopes, acts? Who were their associates, and on which side of the great questions of the day did they stand? A full or even partial answer to these queries would possess for him an incalculable value.
So, sitting here to-night, in my little library, with wife and children near, and by God's great kindness all in life and health, I look forward one, two, five hundred years, and see in each succeeding century, and possibly in each generation, so long as the name shall last, a wonder-eyed boy, curious youth, or inquisitive old man, exploring closets and libraries for things of the old time, stumbling finally on this volume, which has, by the charity of the State Librarian, still been preserved; he discovers, with quickening pulse, that it bears his own name, and that it was written for him by one whose body has for centuries been dust. Dull and uninteresting as it may be to others, for him it will possess an inexpressible charm. It is his own blood speaking to him from the shadowy and almost forgotten past. The message may be poorly written, the matter in the main may be worthless, and the greater events recorded may be dwarfed by more recent and important ones, but the volume is nevertheless of absorbing interest to him, for by it he is enabled to look into the face and heart of one of his own kin, who lived when the Nation was young. In leaving this unpretentious record, therefore, I seek to do simply what I would have had my fathers do for me.
Kinsmen of the coming centuries, I bid you hail and godspeed!
COLUMBUS, December 16, 1878.
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The Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry served under two separate terms of enlistment—the one for three months, and the other for three years.
The regiment was organized April 21, 1861, and on April 27th it was mustered into the United States service, with the following field officers: Isaac H. Marrow, Colonel; John Beatty, Lieutenant Colonel, and J. Warren Keifer, Major.
The writer's record begins with the day on which his regiment entered Virginia, June 22, 1861, and ends on January 1, 1864. He does not undertake to present a history of the organizations with which he was connected, nor does he attempt to describe the operations of armies. His record consists merely of matters which came under his own observation, and of camp gossip, rumors, trifling incidents, idle speculations, and the numberless items, small and great, which, in one way and another, enter into and affect the life of a soldier. In short, he has sought simply to gather up the scraps which fell in his way, leaving to other and more competent hands the weightier matters of the great civil war.
Many errors of opinion and of fact he might now correct, and many items which appear unworthy of a paragraph he might now strike out, but he prefers to leave the record as it was written, when cyclopedias could not be consulted, nor time taken for thorough investigation.
Who can really know what an army is unless he mingles with the individuals who compose it, and learns how they live, think, talk, and act?
THE CITIZEN SOLDIER;
MEMOIRS OF A VOLUNTEER.
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22. Arrived at Bellaire at 3 P. M. There is trouble in the neighborhood of Grafton. Have been ordered to that place.
The Third is now on the Virginia side, and will in a few minutes take the cars.
23. Reached Grafton at 1 P. M. All avowed secessionists have run away; but there are, doubtless, many persons here still who sympathize with the enemy, and who secretly inform him of all our movements.
24. Colonel Marrow and I dined with Colonel Smith, member of the Virginia Legislature. He professes to be a Union man, but his sympathies are evidently with the South. He feels that the South is wrong, but does not relish the idea of Ohio troops coming upon Virginia soil to fight Virginians. The Union sentiment here is said to be strengthening daily.
26. Arrived at Clarksburg about midnight, and remained on the cars until morning. We are now encamped on a hillside, and for the first time my bed is made in my own tent.
Clarksburg has apparently stood still for fifty years. Most of the houses are old style, built by the fathers and grandfathers of the present occupants. Here, for the first time, we find slaves, each of the wealthier, or, rather, each of the well-to-do, families owning a few.
There are probably thirty-five hundred troops in this vicinity—the Third, Fourth, Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and part of the Twenty-second Ohio, one company of cavalry, and one of artillery. Rumors of skirmishes and small fights a few miles off; but as yet the only gunpowder we have smelled is our own.
28. At twelve o'clock to-day our battalion left Clarksburg, followed a stream called Elk creek for eight miles, and then encamped for the night. This is the first march on foot we have made. The country through which we passed is extremely hilly and broken, but apparently fertile. If the people of Western Virginia were united against us, it would be almost impossible for our army to advance. In many places the creek on one side, and the perpendicular banks on the other, leave a strip barely wide enough for a wagon road.
Buckhannon, twenty miles in advance of us, is said to be in the hands of the secession troops. To-morrow, or the day after, if they do not leave, a battle will take place. Our men appear eager for the fray, and I pray they may be as successful in the fight as they are anxious for one.
29. It is half-past eight o'clock, and we are still but eight miles from Clarksburg. We were informed this morning that the secession troops had left Buckhannon, and fallen back to their fortifications at Laurel Hill and Rich mountain. It is said General McClellan will be here to-morrow, and take command of the forces in person.
In enumerating the troops in this vicinity, I omitted to mention Colonel Robert McCook's Dutch regiment, which is in camp two miles from us. The Seventh Ohio Infantry is now at Clarksburg, and will, I think, move in this direction to-morrow.
Provisions outside of camp are very scarce. I took breakfast with a farmer this morning, and can say truly that I have eaten much better meals in my life. We had coffee without sugar, short-cake without butter, and a little salt pork, exceedingly fat. I asked him what the charge was, and he said "Ninepence," which means one shilling. I rejoiced his old soul by giving him two shillings.
The country people here have been grossly deceived by their political leaders. They have been made to believe that Lincoln was elected for the sole purpose of liberating the negro; that our army is marching into Virginia to free their slaves, destroy their property, and murder their families; that we, not they, have set the Constitution and laws at defiance, and that in resisting us they are simply defending their homes and fighting for their constitutional rights.
2. Reached Buckhannon at 5 P. M., and encamped beside the Fourth Ohio, in a meadow, one mile from town. The country through which we marched is exceedingly hilly; or, perhaps, I might say mountainous. The scenery is delightful. The road for miles is cut around great hills, and is just wide enough for a wagon. A step to the left would send one tumbling a hundred or two hundred feet below, and to the right the hills rise hundreds of feet above. The hills, half way to their summits, are covered with corn, wheat, or grass, while further up the forest is as dense as it could well have been a hundred years ago.
3. For the first time to-day, I saw men bringing tobacco to market in bags. One old man brought a bag of natural leaf into camp to sell to the soldiers, price ten cents per pound. He brought it to a poor market, however, for the men have been bankrupt for weeks, and could not buy tobacco at a dime a bagfull.
4. The Fourth has passed off quietly in the little town of Buckhannon and in camp.
At ten o'clock the Third and Fourth Regiments were reviewed by General McClellan. The day was excessively warm, and the men, buttoned up in their dress-coats, were much wearied when the parade was over.
In the court-house this evening, the soldiers had what they call a "stag dance." Camp life to a young man who has nothing specially to tie him to home has many attractions—abundance of company, continual excitement, and all the fun and frolic that a thousand light-hearted boys can devise.
To-night, in one tent, a dozen or more are singing "Dixie" at the top of their voices. In another "The Star-Spangled Banner" is being executed so horribly that even a secessionist ought to pity the poor tune. Stories, cards, wrestling, boxing, racing, all these and a thousand other things enter into a day in camp. The roving, uncertain life of a soldier has a tendency to harden and demoralize most men. The restraints of home, family, and society are not felt. The fact that a few hours may put them in battle, where their lives will not be worth a fig, is forgotten. They think a hundred times less of the perils by which they may be surrounded than their friends do at home. They encourage and strengthen each other to such an extent that, when exposed to danger, imminent though it be, they do not seem to realize it.
7. On the 5th instant a scouting party, under Captain Lawson, started for Middle Fork bridge, a point eighteen miles from camp. At eight o'clock last night, when I brought the battalion from the drill-ground, I found that a messenger had arrived with intelligence that Lawson had been surrounded by a force of probably four hundred, and that, in the engagement, one of his men had been killed and three wounded. The camp was alive with excitement. Each company of the Third had contributed five men to Captain Lawson's detachment, and each company, therefore, felt a special interest in it. The messenger stated that Captain Lawson was in great need of help, and General McClellan at once ordered four companies of infantry and twenty mounted men to move to his assistance. I had command of the detachment, and left camp about nine o'clock P. M., accompanied by a guide. The night was dark. My command moved on silently and rapidly. After proceeding about three miles, we left the turnpike and turned onto a narrow, broken, bad road, leading through the woods, which we followed about eight miles, when we met Captain Lawson's detachment on its way back. Here we removed the wounded from the farm wagon in which they had been conveyed thus far, to an ambulance brought with us for the purpose, countermarched, and reached our quarters about three o'clock this morning.
I will not undertake to give the details of Captain Lawson's skirmish. I may say, however, that the number of the enemy killed and wounded, lacerated and torn, by Corporal Casey, was beyond all computation. Had the rebels not succeeded in getting a covered bridge between themselves and the invincible Irishman, he would, if we may believe his own statement, have annihilated the whole force, and brought back the head of their commanding officer on the point of his bayonet.
8. This morning, at seven o'clock, our tents were struck, and, with General McClellan and staff in advance, we moved to Middle Fork bridge. It was here that Captain Lawson's skirmish on Saturday had occurred. The man killed had been buried by the Fourth Ohio before our arrival. Almost every house along the road is deserted by the men, the women sometimes remaining. The few Union men of this section have, for weeks past, been hiding away in the hills. Now the secessionists have taken to the woods. The utmost bitterness of feeling exists between the two. A man was found to-day, within a half mile of this camp, with his head cut off and entrails ripped out, probably a Union man who had been hounded down and killed. The Dutch regiment (McCook's), when it took possession of the bridge, had a slight skirmish with the enemy, and, I learn, killed two men. On the day after to-morrow I apprehend the first great battle will be fought in Western Virginia.
I ate breakfast in Buckhannon at six o'clock A. M., and now, at six o'clock P. M. am awaiting my second meal.
The boys, I ascertain, searched one secession house on the road, and found three guns and a small amount of ammunition. The guns were hunting pieces, all loaded. The woman of the house was very indignant, and spoke in disrespectful terms of the Union men of the neighborhood, whom she suspected of instigating the search. She said she "had come from a higher sphere than they, and would not lay down with dogs." She was an Eastern Virginia woman, and, although poor as a church mouse, thought herself superior to West Virginia people. As an indication of this lady's refinement and loyalty, it is only necessary to say that a day or two before she had displayed a secession flag made, as she very frankly told the soldiers, of the tail of an old shirt, with J. D. and S. C. on it, the letters standing for Jefferson Davis and the Southern Confederacy.
Four or five thousand men are encamped here, huddled together in a little circular valley, with high hills surrounding. A company of cavalry is just going by my tent on the road toward Beverly, probably to watch the front.
As we were leaving camp this morning, an officer of an Ohio regiment rode at break-neck speed along the line, inquiring for General McClellan, and yelling, as he passed, that four companies of the regiment to which he belongs had been surrounded at Glendale, by twelve hundred secessionists, under O. Jennings Wise. Our men, misapprehending the statement, thought Buckhannon had been attacked, and were in a great state of excitement.
The officers of General Schleich's staff were with me on to-day's march, and the younger members, Captains Hunter and Dubois, got off whatever poetry they had in them of a military cast. "On Linden when the sun was low," was recited to the hills of Western Virginia in a manner that must have touched even the stoniest of them. I could think of nothing but "There was a sound of revelry by night," and as this was not particularly applicable to the occasion, owing to the exceeding brightness of the sun, and the entire absence of all revelry, I thought best not to astonish my companions by exhibiting my knowledge of the poets.
West Virginia hogs are the longest, lankest, boniest animals in creation. I am reminded of this by that broth of an Irish lad, Conway, who says, in substance, and with a broad Celtic accent, that their noses have to be sharpened every morning to enable them to pick a living among the rocks.
Colonel Marrow informs me that an attack is apprehended to-night. We have sent out strong pickets. The cannon are so placed as to shoot up the road. Our regiment is to form on the left of the turnpike, and the Dutch regiment on the right, in case the secession forces should be bold enough to come down on us.
9. Moved from the Middle Fork of the Buckhannon river at seven o'clock this morning, and arrived at Roaring creek at four P. M. We came over the hills with all the pomp and circumstance of glorious war; infantry, cavalry, artillery, and hundreds of army wagons; the whole stretching along the mountain road for miles. The tops of the Alleghanies can now be seen plainly. We are at the foot of Rich mountain, encamped where our brothers of the secession order pitched their tents last night. Our advance guard gave them a few shots and they fled precipitately to the mountains, burning the bridge behind them. When our regiment arrived a few shots were heard, and the bayonets and bright barrels of the enemy's guns could be seen on the hills.
It clouded up shortly after, and before we had pitched our tents, the clouds came over Rich mountain, settling down upon and hiding its summit entirely. Heaven gave us a specimen of its artillery firing, and a heavy shower fell, drenching us all completely. As I write, the sound of a cannon comes booming over the mountain. There it goes again! Whether it is at Phillippi or Laurel Hill, I can not tell. Certain it is that the portion of our army advancing up the Valley river is in battle, somewhere, and not many miles away.
We do not know the strength of our opponents, nor the character and extent of their fortifications. These mountain passes must be ugly things to go through when in possession of an enemy; our boys look forward, however, to a day of battle as one of rare sport. I do not. I endeavor to picture to myself all its terrors, so that I may not be surprised and dumbfounded when the shock comes. Our army is probably now making one of the most interesting chapters of American history. God grant it may be a chapter our Northern people will not be ashamed to read!
I am not confident of a speedy termination of the war. These people are in the wrong, but have been made to believe they are in the right—that we are the invaders of their hearthstones, come to conquer and destroy. That they will fight with desperation, I have no doubt. Nature has fortified the country for them. He is foolishly oversanguine who predicts an easy victory over such a people, intrenched amidst mountains and hills. I believe the war will run into a war of emancipation, and when it ends African slavery will have ended also. It would not, perhaps, be politic to say so, but if I had the army in my own hands, I would take a short cut to what I am sure will be the end—commence the work of emancipation at once, and leave every foot of soil behind me free.
10. From the best information obtainable, we are led to believe the mountains and hills lying between this place and Beverly are strongly fortified and full of men. We can see a part of the enemy's fortifications very plainly from a hill west of camp. Our regiment was ordered to be in readiness to march, and was under arms two hours. During this time the Dutch regiment (McCook's), the Fourth Ohio, four pieces of artillery, one company of cavalry, with General McClellan, marched to the front, the Dutchmen in advance. They proceeded, say a mile, when they overhauled the enemy's pickets, and in the little skirmish which ensued one man of McCook's regiment was shot, and two of the enemy captured. By these prisoners it is affirmed that eight or nine thousand men are in the hills before us, well armed, with heavy artillery planted so as to command the road for miles. How true this is we can not tell. Enough, however, has been learned to satisfy McClellan that it is not advisable to attack to-day. What surprises me is that the General should know so little about the character of the country, the number of the enemy, and the extent of his fortifications.
During the day, Colonel Marrow, apparently under a high state of excitement, informed me that he had just had an interview with George (he usually speaks of General McClellan in this familiar way), that an attack was to be made, and the Third was to lead the column. He desired me, therefore, to get out my horse at once, take four men with me, and search the woods in our front for a practicable road to the enemy. I asked if General McClellan had given him any information that would aid me in this enterprise, such as the position of the rebels, the location of their outposts, their distance from us, and the character of the country between our camp and theirs. He replied that George had not. It occurred to me that four men were rather too few, if the work contemplated was a reconnoissance, and rather too many if the service required was simply that for which spies are usually employed. I therefore spoke distrustingly of the proposed expedition, and questioned the propriety of sending so small a force, so utterly without information, upon so hazardous an enterprise, and apparently so foolish a one. My language gave offense, and when I finally inquired what four men I should take, the Colonel told me, rather abruptly, to take whom I pleased, and look where I pleased. His manner, rather than his words, indicated a doubt of my courage, and I turned from him, mounted my horse, and started for the front, determined to obey the order to the best of my ability, but to risk the lives of no others on what was evidently a fool's errand. After proceeding some distance, I found that the wagon-master was at my heels, and, together, we traced every cow-path and mountain road we could find, and passed half a mile beyond the enemy's outposts, and over ground visited by his scouts almost hourly. When I returned to make my report, I was curtly informed that no report was desired, as the plan had been changed.
A little after midnight the Colonel returned from head-quarters with important information, which he desired to communicate to the regiment. The men were, therefore, ordered to turn out, and came hesitatingly and sleepily from their tents. They looked like shadows as they gathered in the darkness about their chieftain. It was the hour when graveyards are supposed to yawn, and the sheeted dead to walk abroad. The gallant Colonel, with a voice in perfect accord with the solemnity of the hour, and the funereal character of the scene, addressed us, in substance, as follows:
"Soldiers of the Third: The assault on the enemy's works will be made in the early morning. The Third will lead the column. The secessionists have ten thousand men and forty rifled cannon. They are strongly fortified. They have more men and more cannon than we have. They will cut us to pieces. Marching to attack such an enemy, so intrenched and so armed, is marching to a butcher-shop rather than to a battle. There is bloody work ahead. Many of you, boys, will go out who will never come back again."
As this speech progressed my hair began to stiffen at the roots, and a chilly sensation like that which might ensue from the unexpected and clammy touch of the dead, ran through me. It was hard to die so young and so far from home. Theological questions which before had attracted little or no attention, now came uppermost in our minds. We thought of mothers, wives, sweethearts—of opportunities lost, and of good advice disregarded. Some soldiers kicked together the expiring fragments of a camp-fire, and the little blaze which sprang up revealed scores of pallid faces. In short, we all wanted to go home.
When a boy I had read Plutarch, and knew something of the great warriors of the old time; but I could not, for the life of me, recall an instance wherein they had made such an address to their soldiers on the eve of battle. It was their habit, at such a time, to speak encouragingly and hopefully. With all due respect, therefore, for the superior rank and wisdom of the Colonel, I plucked him by the sleeve, took him one side, and modestly suggested that his speech had had rather a depressing effect on the regiment, and had taken that spirit out of the boys so necessary to enable them to do well in battle. I urged him to correct the mistake, and speak to them hopefully. He replied that what he had said was true, and they should know the truth.
The morning dawned; but instead of being called upon to lead the column, we were left to the inglorious duty of guarding the camp, while other regiments moved forward toward the enemy's line. In half an hour, in all probability, the work of destruction will commence. I began this memoranda on the evening of the 10th, and now close it on the morning of the 11th.
11. At 10 A. M. we were ordered to the front; passed quite a number of regiments on our way thither, and finally took position not far from the enemy's works. We were now at the head of the column. A small brook crossed the road at this point, and the thick woods concealed us from the enemy. A few rods further on, a bend in the road gave us a good view of the entire front of his fortifications. Major Keifer and a few other gentlemen, in their anxiety to get more definite information in regard to the position of the secessionists, and the extent of their works, went up the road, and were saluted by a shot from their battery. We expected every moment to receive an order to advance. After a time, however, we ascertained that Rosecrans, with a brigade, was seeking the enemy's rear by a mountain path, and we conjectured that, so soon as he had reached it, we would be ordered to make the assault in front. It was a dark, gloomy day, and the hours passed slowly.
Between two and three o'clock we heard shots in the rear of the fortifications; then volleys of musketry, and the roar of artillery. Every man sprang to his feet, assured that the moment for making the attack had arrived. General McClellan and staff came galloping up, and a thousand faces turned to hear the order to advance; but no order was given. The General halted a few paces from our line, and sat on his horse listening to the guns, apparently in doubt as to what to do; and as he sat there with indecision stamped on every line of his countenance, the battle grew fiercer in the enemy's rear. Every volley could be heard distinctly. There would occasionally be a lull for a moment, and then the uproar would break out again with increased violence. If the enemy is too strong for us to attack, what must be the fate of Rosecrans' four regiments, cut off from us, and struggling against such odds? Hours passed; and as the last straggling shots and final silence told us the battle had ended, gloom settled down on every soldier's heart, and the belief grew strong that Rosecrans had been defeated, and his brigade cut to pieces or captured. This belief grew to certain conviction soon after, when we heard shout after shout go up from the fortifications in our front.
Major Keifer with two companies had, early in the afternoon, climbed the hill on our right to look for a position from which artillery could be used effectively. The ground over which he moved was broken and covered with a dense growth of trees and underbrush; finally an elevation was discovered which commanded the enemy's camp, but before a road could be cut, and the artillery brought up, it was too late in the day to begin the attack.
Night came on. It was intensely dark. About nine o'clock we were ordered to withdraw our pickets quietly and return to our old quarters. On our way thither a rough voice cried: "Halt! Who comes there?" And a thousand shadowy forms sprang up before us. The challenge was from Colonel Robert McCook, and the regiment his. The scene reminded me of the one where
"That whistle garrisoned the glen At once with full five hundred men, As if the yawning hill to heaven A subterranean host had given."
12. We were rejoiced this morning to hear of Rosecrans' success, and, at the same time, not well pleased at the escape of the enemy under cover of night. We were ordered to move, and got under way at eight o'clock. On the road we met General Rosecrans and staff. He was jubilant, as well he might be, and as he rode by received the congratulations of the officers and cheers of the men.
Arriving on yesterday's battle-field, the regiment was allowed a half hour for rest. The dead had been gathered and placed in a long trench, which was still open. The wounded of both armies were in hospital, receiving the attention of the surgeons. There were a few prisoners, most of them too unwell to accompany their friends in retreat.
Soon after reaching the summit of Rich mountain, we caught glimpses of Tygart's valley, and of Cheat mountain beyond, and before nightfall reached Beverly and went into camp.
13. Six or eight hundred Southern troops sent in a flag of truce, and surrendered unconditionally. They are a portion of the force which fought Rosecrans at Rich mountain, and Morris at Laurel Hill.
We started up the Valley river at seven o'clock this morning, our regiment in the lead. Found most of the houses deserted. Both Union men and secessionists had fled. The Southern troops, retreating in this direction, had frightened the people greatly, by telling them that we shot men, ravished women, and destroyed property. When within three-quarters of a mile of Huttonville, we were informed that forty or fifty mounted secessionists were there. The order to double-quick was given, and the regiment entered the village on a run. As we made a turn in the road, we discovered a squad of cavalry retreating rapidly. The bridge over the river had been burned, and was still smoking. Our troops sent up a hurrah and quickened their pace, but they had already traveled eleven miles on a light breakfast, and were not in condition to run down cavalry. That we might not lose at least one shot at the enemy, I got an Enfield rifle from one of the men, galloped forward, and fired at the retreating squad. It was the best shot I could make, and I am forced to say it was a very poor one, for no one fell. On second thought, it occurred to me that it would have been criminal to have killed one of these men, for his death could have had no possible effect on the result of the war.
Huttonville is a very small place at the foot of Cheat mountain. We halted there perhaps one hour, to await the arrival of General McClellan; and when he came up, were ordered forward to secure a mountain pass. It is thought fifteen hundred secessionists are a few miles ahead, near the top of the mountain. Two Indiana regiments and one battery are with us. More troops are probably following.
The man who owns the farm on which we are encamped is, with his family, sleeping in the woods to-night, if, indeed, he sleeps at all.
14. The Ninth and Fourth Ohio, Fifteenth Indiana, and one company of cavalry, started up the mountain between seven and eight o'clock. The Colonel being unwell, I followed with the Third. Awful rumors were afloat of fortifications and rebels at the top; but we found no fortifications, and as for the rebels, they were scampering for Staunton as fast as their legs could carry them.
This mountain scenery is magnificent. As we climbed the Cheat the views were the grandest I ever looked upon. Nests of hills, appearing like eggs of the mountain; ravines so dark that one could not guess their depth; openings, the ends of which seemed lost in a blue mist; broken-backed mountains, long mountains, round mountains, mountains sloping gently to the summit; others so steep a squirrel could hardly climb them; fatherly mountains, with their children clustered about them, clothed in birch, pine, and cedar; mountain streams, sparkling now in the sunlight, then dashing down into apparently fathomless abysses.
It was a beautiful day, and the march was delightful. The road is crooked beyond description, but very solid and smooth.
The farmer on whose premises we are encamped has returned from the woods. He has discovered that we are not so bad as we were reported. Most of the negroes have been left at home. Many were in camp to-day with corn-bread, pies, and cakes to sell. Fox, my servant, went out this afternoon and bought a basket of bread. He brought in two chickens also, which he said were presented to him. I suspect Fox does not always tell the truth.
16. The Fourteenth Indiana and one company of cavalry went to the summit this morning to fortify.
The Colonel has gone to Beverly. The boys repeat his Rich mountain speech with slight variations: "Men, there are ten thousand secessionists in Rich mountain, with forty rifled cannon, well fortified. There's bloody work ahead. You are going to a butcher-shop rather than a battle. Ten thousand men and forty rifled cannon! Hostler, you d—d scoundrel, why don't you wipe Jerome's nose?" Jerome is the Colonel's horse, known in camp as the White Bull.
Conway, who has been detailed to attend to the Colonel's horses, is almost as good a speech-maker as the Colonel. This, in brief, is Conway's address to the White Bull:
"Stand still there, now, or I'll make yer stand still. Hold up yer head there, now, or I'll make yer hold it up. Keep quiet; what the h—ll yer 'bout there, now? D—n you! do you want me to hit you a lick over the snoot, now—do you? Are you a inviten' me to pound you over the head with a saw-log? D—n yer ugly pictures, whoa!"
18. This afternoon, when riding down to Huttonville, I met three or four hundred sorry-looking soldiers. They were without arms. On inquiry, I found they were a part of the secession army, who, finding no way of escape, had come into our lines and surrendered. They were badly dressed, and a hard, dissolute-looking lot of men. To use the language of one of the soldiers, they were "a milk-sickly set of fellows," and would have died off probably without any help from us if they had been kept in the mountains a little longer. They were on their way to Staunton. General McClellan had very generously provided them with provisions for three days, and wagons to carry the sick and wounded; and so, footsore, weary, and chopfallen, they go over the hills.
An unpleasant rumor is in camp to-night, to the effect that General Patterson has been defeated at Williamsport. This, if true, will counterbalance our successes in Western Virginia, and make the game an even one.
The Southern soldiers mentioned above are encamped for the night a little over a mile from here. About dusk I walked over to their camp. They were gathered around their fires preparing supper. Many of them say they were deceived, and entered the service because they were led to believe that the Northern army would confiscate their property, liberate their slaves, and play the devil generally. As they thought this was true, there was nothing left for them to do but to take up arms and defend themselves.
While we were at Buckhannon, an old farmer-looking man visited us daily, bringing tobacco, corn-bread, and cucumber pickles. This innocent old gentleman proves to have been a spy, and obtained his reward in the loss of a leg at Rich mountain.
19. To-day, eleven men belonging to a company of cavalry which accompanied the Fourteenth Indiana to the Summit, were sent out on a scouting expedition. When about ten miles from camp, on the opposite side of the mountain, they halted, and while watering their horses were fired upon. One man was killed and three wounded. The other seven fled. Colonel Kimball sent out a detachment to bring in the wounded; but whether it succeeded or not I have not heard.
A musician belonging to the Fourth Ohio, when six miles out of Beverly, on his way to Phillippi, was fired upon and instantly killed. So goes what little there is of war in Western Virginia.
20. The most interesting of all days in the mountains is one on which the sky is filled with floating clouds, not hiding it entirely, but leaving here and there patches of blue. Then the shadows shift from place to place, as the moving clouds either let in the sunshine or exclude it. Standing at my tent-door at eleven o'clock in the morning, with a stiff breeze going, and the clouds on the wing, we see a peak, now in the sunshine, then in the shadow, and the lights and shadows chasing each other from point to point over the mountains, presenting altogether a panorama most beautiful to look upon, and such an one as God only can present.
I can almost believe now that men become, to some extent, like the country in which they live. In the plain country the inhabitants learn to traffic, come to regard money-getting as the great object in life, and have but a dim perception of those higher emotions from which spring the noblest acts. In a mountain country God has made many things sublime, and some things very beautiful. The rugged, the smooth, the sunshine, and the shadow meet one at every turn. Here are peaks getting the earliest sunlight of the morning, and the latest of the evening; ravines so deep the light of day can never penetrate them; bold, rugged, perpendicular rocks, which have breasted the storms for ages; gentle slopes, swelling away until their summits seem to dip in the blue sky; streams, cold and clear, leaping from crag to crag, and rushing down nobody knows whither. Like the country, may we not look to find the people unpolished, rugged and uneven, capable of the noblest heroism or the most infernal villainy—their lives full of lights and shadows, elevations and depressions?
The mountains, rising one above another, suggest, forcibly enough, the infinite power of the Creator, and when the peaks come in contact with the clouds it requires but little imagination to make one feel that God, as at Sinai, has set His foot upon the earth, and that earth and heaven are really very near each other.
21. This morning, at two o'clock, I was rattled up by a sentinel, who had come to camp in hot haste to inform me that he had seen and fired upon a body of twenty-five or more men, probably the advance guard of the enemy. He desired me to send two companies to strengthen the outpost. I preferred, however, to go myself to the scene of the trouble; and, after investigation, concluded that the guard had been alarmed by a couple of cows.
Another lot of secession prisoners, some sixty in number, passed by this afternoon. They were highly pleased with the manner in which they had been treated by their captors.
The sound of a musket is just heard on the picket post, three-quarters of a mile away, and the shot is being repeated by our line of sentinels. * * * The whole camp has been in an uproar. Many men, half asleep, rushed from their tents and fired off their guns in their company grounds. Others, supposing the enemy near, became excited and discharged theirs also. The tents were struck, Loomis' First Michigan Battery manned, and we awaited the attack, but none was made. It was a false alarm. Some sentinel probably halted a stump and fired, thus rousing a thousand men from their warm beds. This is the first night alarm we have had.
22. We hear that General Cox has been beaten on the Kanawha; that our forces have been repulsed at Manassas Gap, and that our troops have been unsuccessful in Missouri. I trust the greater part, if not all, of this is untrue.
We have been expecting orders to march, but they have not come. The men are very anxious to be moving, and when moving, strange to say, always very anxious to stop.
23. Officers and men are low-spirited to-night. The news of yesterday has been confirmed. Our army has been beaten at Manassas with terrible loss. General McClellan has left Beverly for Washington. General Rosecrans will assume command in Western Virginia. We are informed that twenty miles from us, in the direction of Staunton, some three thousand secessionists are in camp. We shall probably move against them.
24. The news from Manassas Junction is a little more cheering, and all feel better to-day.
We have now a force of about four thousand men in this vicinity, and two or three thousand at Beverly. We shall be in telegraphic communication with the North to-morrow.
The moon is at its full to-night, and one of the most beautiful sights I have witnessed was its rising above the mountain. First the sky lighted up, then a halo appeared, then the edge of the moon, not bigger than a star, then the half-moon, not semi-circular, but blazing up like a great gaslight, and, finally, the full, round moon had climbed to the top, and seemed to stop a moment to rest and look down on the valley.
27. The Colonel left for Ohio to-day, to be gone two weeks.
I came from the quarters of Brigadier-General Schleich a few minutes ago. He is a three-months' brigadier, and a rampant demagogue. Schleich said that slaves who accompanied their masters to the field, when captured, should be sent to Cuba and sold to pay the expenses of the war. I suggested that it would be better to take them to Canada and liberate them, and that so soon as the Government began to sell negroes to pay the expenses of the war I would throw up my commission and go home. Schleich was a State Senator when the war began. He is what might be called a tremendous little man, swears terribly, and imagines that he thereby shows his snap. Snap, in his opinion, is indispensable to a military man. If snap is the only thing a soldier needs, and profanity is snap, Schleich is a second Napoleon. This General Snap will go home, at the expiration of his three-months' term, unregretted by officers and men. Major Hugh Ewing will return with him. Last night the Major became thoroughly elevated, and he is not quite sober yet. He thinks, when in his cups, that our generals are too careful of their men. "What are a th-thousand men," said he, "when (hic) principle is at stake? Men's lives (hic) shouldn't be thought of at such a time (hic). Amount to nothing (hic). Our generals are too d—d slow (hic)." The Major is a man of excellent natural capacity, the son of Hon. Thomas Ewing, of Lancaster, and brother-in-law of W. T. Sherman, now a colonel or brigadier-general in the army. W. T. Sherman is the brother of John Sherman.
The news from Manassas is very bad. The disgraceful flight of our troops will do us more injury, and is more to be regretted, than the loss of fifty thousand men. It will impart new life, courage, and confidence to our enemies. They will say to their troops: "You see how these scoundrels run when you stand up to them."
29. Was slightly unwell this morning; but about noon accompanied General Reynolds, Colonel Wagner, Colonel Heffron, and a squad of cavalry, up the valley, and returned somewhat tired, but quite well. Lieutenant-Colonel Owen was also of the party. He is fifty or fifty-five years old, a thin, spare man, of very ordinary personal appearance, but of fine scientific and literary attainments. For some years he was a professor in a Southern military school. He has held the position of State Geologist of Indiana, and is the son of the celebrated Robert J. Owen, who founded the Communist Society at New Harmony, Indiana. Every sprig, leaf, and stem on the route suggested to Colonel Owen something to talk about, and he proved to be a very entertaining companion.
General Reynolds is a graduate of West Point, and has the theory of war completely; but whether he has the broad, practical common sense, more important than book knowledge, time will determine. As yet he is an untried quantity, and, therefore, unknown.
30. About two o'clock P. M., for want of something better to do, I climbed the high mountain in front of our camp. The side is as steep as the roof of a gothic house. By taking hold of bushes and limbs of trees, after a half hour of very hard work, I managed to get to the top, completely exhausted. The outlook was magnificent. Tygart's valley, the river winding through it, and a boundless succession of mountains and ridges, all lay before me. My attention, however, was soon diverted from the landscape to the huckleberries. They were abundant; and now and then I stumbled on patches of delicious raspberries. I remained on the mountain, resting and picking berries, until half-past four. I must be in camp at six to post my pickets, but there was no occasion for haste. So, after a time, I started leisurely down, not the way I had come up, but, as I supposed, down the eastern slope, a way, apparently, not so steep and difficult as the one by which I had ascended. I traveled on, through vines and bushes, over fallen timber, and under great trees, from which I could scarcely obtain a glimpse of the sky, until finally I came to a mountain stream. I expected to find the road, not the stream, and began to be a little uncertain as to my whereabouts. After reflection, I concluded I would be most likely to reach camp by going up the stream, and so started. Trees in many places had fallen across the ravine, and my progress was neither easy nor rapid; but I pushed on as best I could. I never knew so well before what a mountain stream was. I scrambled over rocks and fallen trees, and through thickets of laurel, until I was completely worn out. Lying down on the rocks, which in high water formed part of the bed of the stream, I took a drink, looked at my watch, and found it was half-past five. My pickets were to be posted at six. Having but a half hour left, I started on. I could see no opening yet. The stream twisted and turned, keeping no one general direction for twenty rods, and hardly for twenty feet. It grew smaller, and as the ravine narrowed the way became more difficult. Six o'clock had now come. I could not see the sun, and only occasionally could get glimpses of the sky. I began to realize that I was lost; but concluded finally that I would climb the mountain again, and ascertain, if I could, in what direction the camp lay. I have had some hard tramps, and have done some hard work, but never labored half so hard in a whole week as I did for one hour in getting up that mountain, pushing through vines, climbing over logs, breaking through brush. Three or four times I lay down out of breath, utterly exhausted, and thought I would proceed no further until morning; but when I thought of my pickets, and reflected that General Reynolds would not excuse a trip so foolish and untimely, I made new efforts and pushed on. Finally I reached the summit of the mountain, but found it not the one from which I had descended. Still higher mountains were around me. The trees and bushes were so dense I could hardly see a rod before me. It was now seven o'clock, an hour after the time when I should have been in camp. I lay down, determined to remain all night; but my clothing was so thin that I soon became chilly, and so got up and started on again. Once I became entangled in a wilderness of grapevines and briers, and had much difficulty in getting through them. It was now half-past seven, and growing dark; but, fortunately, at this time, I heard a dog bark, a good way off to the right, and, turning in that direction, I came to a cow-path. Which end of it should I take? Either end, I concluded, would be better than to remain where I was; so I worked myself into a dog-trot, wound down around the side of the mountain, and reached the road, a mile and a half south of camp, and went to my quarters fast as my legs could carry me. I found my detail for picket duty waiting and wondering what could so detain the officer of the day.
31. The Fifteenth Indiana, Colonel Wagner, moved up the valley eight miles.
The sickly months are now on us. Considerable dysentery among the men, and many reported unfit for duty.
My limbs are stiff and sore from yesterday's exercise, but my adventure proves to have been a lucky one. The mountain path I stumbled on was unknown to us before, and we find, on inquiry, that it leads over the ridges. The enemy might, by taking this path, follow it up during the day, encamp almost within our picket lines without being discovered, and then, under cover of night, or in the early morning, come down upon us while we were in our beds. It will be picketed hereafter.
A private of Company E wrote home that he had killed two secessionists. A Zanesville paper published the letter. When the boys of his company read it they obtained spades, called on the soldier who had drawn so heavily on the credulity of his friends, and told him they had come to bury the dead. The poor fellow protested, apologized, and excused himself as best he could, but all to no purpose. He is never likely to hear the last of it.
I am reminded that when coming from Bellaire to Fetterman, a soldier doing guard duty on the railroad said that a few mornings before he had gone out, killed two secessionists who were just sitting down to breakfast, and then eaten the breakfast himself.
1. It is said the pickets of the Fourteenth Indiana and the enemy's cavalry came in collision to-day, and that three of the latter were killed.
It is now 9 P. M. Sergeants are calling the roll for the last time to-night. In half an hour taps will be sounded and the lights extinguished in every private's tent. The first call in the morning, reveille, is at five; breakfast call, six; surgeon's call, seven; drill, eight; recall, eleven; dinner, twelve; drill again at four; recall, five; guard-mounting, half-past five; first call for dress-parade, six; second call, half-past six; tattoo at nine, and taps at half-past. So the day goes round.
Hardee for a month or more was a book of impenetrable mysteries. The words conveyed no idea to my mind, and the movements described were utterly beyond my comprehension; but now the whole thing comes almost without study.
2. Jerrolaman went out this afternoon and picked nearly a peck of blackberries. Berries of various kinds are very abundant. The fox-grape is also found in great plenty, and as big as one's thumb.
The Indianians are great ramblers. Lieutenant Bell says they can be traced all over the country, for they not only eat all the berries, but nibble the thorns off the bushes.
General Reynolds told me, this evening, he thought it probable we would be attacked soon. Have been distributing ammunition, forty rounds to the man.
My black horse was missing this morning. Conway looked for him the greater part of the day, and finally found him in possession of an Indiana captain. It happened in this way: Captain Rupp, Thirteenth Indiana, told his men he would give forty dollars for a sesesh horse, and they took my horse out of the pasture, delivered it to him, and got the money. He rode the horse up the valley to Colonel Wagner's station, and when he returned bragged considerably over his good luck; but about dark Conway interviewed him on the subject, when a change came o'er the spirit of his dream. Colonel Sullivan tells me the officers now talk to Rupp about the fine points of his horse, ask to borrow him, and desire to know when he proposes to ride again.
A little group of soldiers are sitting around a camp-fire, not far away, entertaining each other with stories and otherwise. Just now one of them lifts up his voice, and in a melancholy strain sings:
Somebody —— "is weeping For gallant Andy Gay, Who now in death lies sleeping On the field of Monterey."
While I write he strikes into another air, and these are the words as I catch them:
"Come back, come back, my purty fair maid! Ten thousand of my jinture on you I will bestow If you'll consent to marry me; Oh, do not say me no."
But the maid is indifferent to jintures, and replies indignantly:
"Oh, hold your tongue, captain, your words are all in vain; I have a handsome sweetheart now across the main, And if I do not find him I'll mourn continuali."
More of this interesting dialogue between the captain and the pretty fair maid I can not catch.
The sky is clear, but the night very dark. I do not contemplate my ride to the picket posts with any great degree of pleasure. A cowardly sentinel is more likely to shoot at you than a brave one. The fears of the former do not give him time to consider whether the person advancing is friend or foe.
3. We hear of the enemy daily. Colonel Kimball, on the mountain, and Colonel Wagner, up the valley, are both in hourly expectation of an attack. The enemy, encouraged by his successes at Manassas, will probably attempt to retrieve his losses in Western Virginia.
4. At one o'clock P. M. General Reynolds sent for me. Two of Colonel Wagner's companies had been surrounded, and an attack on Wagner's position expected to-night. The enemy reported three thousand strong. He desired me to send half of my regiment and two of Loomis' guns to the support of Wagner. I took six companies and started up the valley. Reached Wagner's quarters at six o'clock. Brought neither tents nor provisions, and to-night will turn in with the Indianians.
It is true that the enemy number three thousand; the main body being ten or fifteen miles away. Their pickets and ours, however, are near each other; but General Reynolds was misinformed as to two of Wagner's companies. They had not been surrounded.
To-morrow Colonel Wagner and I will make a reconnoissance, and ascertain if the rebels are ready to fight. Wagner has six hundred and fifty men fit for duty, and I have four hundred. Besides these, we have three pieces of artillery. Altogether, we expect to be able to hoe them a pretty good row, if they should advance on us. Four of the enemy were captured to-day. A company of cavalry is approaching. "Halt! who comes there?" cries the sentinel. "Lieutenant Denny, without the countersign." "All right," shouts Colonel Wagner, "let him come." I write with at least four fleas hopping about on my legs.
5. To-day we felt our way up the valley eight miles, but did not reach the rebels.
To-night our pickets were sure they heard firing off in the direction of Kanawha. If so, Cox and Wise must be having a pleasant little interchange of lead.
The chaplain of the Thirteenth Indiana is the counterpart of Scott's Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst, or the fighting friar of the times of Robin Hood. In answer to some request he has just said that he will "go to thunder before doing it." The first time I saw this fighting parson was at the burnt bridge near Huttonville. He had two revolvers and a hatchet in his belt, and appeared more like a firebrand of war than a minister of peace. I now hear the rough voice of a braggadocio captain in the adjoining tent, who, if we may believe his own story, is the most formidable man alive. His hair-breadth escapes are innumerable, and his anxiety to get at the enemy is intense. Is it not ancient Pistol come again to astonish the world by deeds of reckless daring?
We have sent out a scouting party, and hope to learn something more of the rebels during the night. Wagner, Major Wood, Captain Abbott, and others are having a game of whist.
6. Our camp equipage came up to-day, so that we are now in our own tents.
Four of my companies are on picket, scattered up the valley for miles, and half of the other two are doing guard duty in the neighborhood of the camp. I do not, by any means, approve of throwing out such heavy pickets and scattering our men so much. We are in the presence of a force probably twice as large as our own, and should keep our troops well in hand.
Our scouts have been busy; but, although they have brought in a few prisoners, mostly farmers residing in the vicinity of the enemy's camp, we have obtained but little information respecting the rebels. I intend to send out a scouting party in the morning. Lieutenant Driscoll will command it. He is a brave, and, I think, prudent officer, and will leave camp at four o'clock, follow the road six miles, then take to the mountains, and endeavor to reach a point where he can overlook the enemy and estimate his strength.
7. The scouting party sent out this morning were conveyed by wagons six miles up the valley, and were to take to the mountains, half a mile beyond. I instructed Lieutenant Driscoll to exercise the utmost caution, and not take his men further than he thought reasonably safe. Of course perfect safety is not expected. Our object, however, is to get information, not to give it by losing the squad.
At eleven o'clock a courier came in hot haste from the front, to inform us that a flag of truce, borne by a Confederate major, with an escort of six dragoons, was on the way to camp. Colonel Wagner and I rode out to meet the party, and were introduced to Major Lee, the son, as I subsequently ascertained, of General Robert E. Lee, of Virginia. The Major informed us that his communication could only be imparted to our General, and a courier was at once dispatched to Huttonville.
At four o'clock General Reynolds arrived, accompanied by Colonel Sullivan and a company of cavalry. Wagner and I joined the General's party, and all galloped to the outpost, to interview the Confederate major. His letter contained a proposition to exchange prisoners captured by the rebels at Manassas for those taken at Rich mountain. The General appointed a day on which a definite answer should be returned, and Major Lee, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Owen and myself, rode to the outlying picket station, where his escort had been halted and detained.
Major Lee is near my own age, a heavy set, but well-proportioned man, somewhat inclined to boast, not overly profound, and thoroughly impregnated with the idea that he is a Virginian and a Lee withal. As I shook hands at parting with this scion of an illustrious house, he complimented me by saying that he hoped soon to have the honor of meeting me on the battle-field. I assured him that it would afford me pleasure, and I should make all reasonable efforts to gratify him in this regard. I did not desire to fight, of course, but I was bound not to be excelled in the matter of knightly courtesy.
8. Major Wood, Fifteenth Indiana, thought he heard chopping last night, and imagined that the enemy was engaged in cutting a road to our rear.
Lieutenant Driscoll and party returned to-day. They slept on the mountains last night; were inside the enemy's picket lines; heard reveille sounded this morning, but could not obtain a view of the camp.
Have just returned from a sixteen-mile ride, visiting picket posts. The latter half of the ride was after nightfall. Found officers and men vigilant and ready to meet an attack.
Obtained some fine huckleberries and blackberries on the mountain to-day. Had a blackberry pie and pudding for dinner. Rather too much happiness for one day; but then the crust of the pudding was tolerably tough. The grass is a foot high in parts of my tent, where it has not been trodden down, and the gentle grasshopper makes music all the day, and likewise all the night.
Our fortifications are progressing slowly. If the enemy intends to attack at all, he will probably do so before they are complete; and if he does not, the fortifications will be of no use to us. But this is the philosophy of a lazy man, and very similar to that of the Irishman who did not put roof on his cabin: when it rained he could not, and in fair weather he did not need it.
9. Pickets report firing, artillery and musketry, over the mountain, in the direction of Kimball.
The enemy's scouts were within three miles of our camp this afternoon, evidently looking for a path that would enable them to get to our rear. Fifty men have just been sent in pursuit; but owing to a little misunderstanding of instructions, I fear the expedition will be fruitless. Colonel Wagner neither thinks clearly nor talks with any degree of exactness. He has a loose, slip-shod, indefinite way with him, that tends to confusion and leads to misunderstandings and trouble.
I have been over the mountain on our left, hunting up the paths and familiarizing myself with the ground, so as to be ready to defeat any effort that may be made to turn our flank. Colonel Owen has been investigating the mountain on our right. The Colonel is a good thinker, an excellent conversationalist, and a very learned man. Geology is his darling, and he keeps one eye on the enemy, and the other on the rocks.
10. My tent is on the bank of the Valley river. The water, clear as crystal, as it hurries on over the rocks, keeps up a continuous murmur.
There will be a storm to-night. The sky is very dark, the wind rising, and every few minutes a vivid flash of lightning illuminates the valley, and the thunder rolls off among the mountains with a rumbling, echoing noise, like that which the gods might make in putting a hundred trains of celestial artillery in position.
11. Lieutenant Bowen, of topographical engineers, and myself, with ten men, carrying axes and guns, started up the mountain at seven o'clock this morning, followed a path to the crest, or dividing ridge, and felled trees to obstruct the way as much as possible. Returned to camp for dinner.
During the afternoon Lieutenant W. O. Merrill, Lieutenant Bowen, and I, ascended the mountain again by a new route. After reaching the crest, we endeavored to find the path which Lieutenant Bowen and I had traveled over in the morning, but were unable to do so. We continued our search until it became quite dark, when the two engineers, as well as myself, became utterly bewildered. Finally, Lieutenant Merrill took out his pocket compass, and said the camp was in that direction, pointing with his hand. I insisted he was wrong; that he would not reach camp by going that way. He insisted that he would, and must be governed by some general principles, and so started off on his own hook, leaving us to pursue our own course. Finally Bowen lost confidence in me, said I was not going in the right direction at all, and insisted that we should turn squarely around, and go the opposite way. At last I yielded with many misgivings, and allowed him to lead. After going down a thousand feet or more, we found ourselves in a ravine, through which a small stream of water flowed. Following this, we finally reached the valley. We knew now exactly where we were, and by wading the river reached the road, and so got to camp at nine o'clock at night.
Merrill, who was governed by general principles, failed to strike the camp directly, strayed three or four miles to the right of it, came down in Stewart's run valley, and did not reach camp until about midnight.
On our trip to-day, we found a bear trap, made of heavy logs, the lid arranged to fall when the bear entered and touched the bait.
12. This is the fourth day that Captain Cunard's company has been lying in the woods, three miles from camp, guarding an important road, although a very rough and rugged one. Companies upon duty like this, remain at their posts day and night, good weather and bad, without any shelter, except that afforded by the trees, or by little booths constructed of logs and branches. From the main station, where the captain remains, sub-pickets are sent out in charge of sergeants and corporals, and these often make little houses of logs, which they cover with cedar boughs or branches of laurel, and denominate forts. In the wilderness, to-day, I stumbled upon Fort Stiner, the head-quarters of a sub-picket commanded by Corporal William Stiner, of the Third. The Corporal and such of his men as were off duty, were sitting about a fire, heating coffee and roasting slices of fat pork, preparing thus the noonday meal.
13. At noon Colonel Marrow, Major Keifer, and I, took dinner with Esquire Stalnaker, an old-style man, born fifty years ago in the log house where he now lives. Two spinning-wheels were in the best room, and rattled away with a music which carried me back to the pioneer days of Ohio. A little girl of five or six years stole up to the wheel when the mother's back was turned, and tried her skill on a roll. How proud and delighted she was when she had spun the wool into a long, uneven thread, and secured it safely on the spindle. Surely, the child of the palace, reared in the lap of luxury and with her hands in the mother's jewel-box, could not have been happier or more triumphant in her bearing.
These West Virginians are uncultivated, uneducated and rough, and need the common school to civilize and modernize them. Many have never seen a railroad, and the telegraph is to them an incomprehensible mystery.
Governor Dennison has appointed a Mr. John G. Mitchell, of Columbus, adjutant of the Third.
14. Privates Vincent and Watson, sentinels of a sub-picket, under command of Corporal Stiner, discovered a man stealing through the woods, and halted him. He professed to be a farm hand; said his employer had a mountain farm not far away, where he pastured cattle. A two-year-old steer had strayed off, and he was looking for him. His clothes were fearfully torn by brush and briars. His hands and face were scratched by thorns. He had taken off his boots to relieve his swollen feet, and was carrying them in his hands. Imitating the language and manners of an uneducated West Virginian, he asked the sentinel if he "had seed anything of a red steer." The sentinel had not. After continuing the conversation for a time, he finally said: "Well, I must be a goin'; it is a gettin' late, and I am durned feared I won't git back to the farm afore night. Good day." "Hold on," said the sentinel; "better go and see the Captain." "O, no; don't want to trouble him; it is not likely he has seed the steer, and it's a gettin' late." "Come right along," replied the sentinel, bringing his gun down; "the Captain will not mind being troubled; in fact, I am instructed to take such men as you to him."
Captain Cunard questioned the prisoner closely, asked whom he worked for, how much he was getting a month for his services, and, finally, pointing to the long-legged military boots which he was still holding in his hands, asked how much they cost. "Fifteen dollars," replied the prisoner. "Fifteen dollars! Is not that rather more than a farm hand who gets but twelve dollars a month can afford to pay for boots?" inquired the Captain. "Well, the fact is, boots is a gettin' high since the war, as well as every thing else." But Captain Cunard was not satisfied. The prisoner was not well up in the character he had undertaken to play, and was told that he must go to head-quarters. Finding that he was caught, he at once threw off the mask, and confessed that he was Captain J. A. De Lagniel, formerly of the regular army, but now in the Confederate service. Wounded at the battle of Rich mountain, he had been secreted at a farm-house near Beverly until able to travel, and was now trying to get around our pickets and reach the rebel army. He had been in the mountains five days and four nights. The provisions with which he started, and which consisted of a little bag of biscuit, had become moldy. He thought, from the distance traveled, that he must be beyond our lines and out of danger.
De Lagniel is an educated man, and his wife and friends believe him to have been killed at Rich mountain. He speaks in high terms of Captain Cunard, and says, when the latter began to question him, he soon found it was useless to play Major Andre, for Paulding was before him, too sharp to be deceived and too honest to be bribed. When De Lagniel was brought into camp he was wet and shivering, weak, and thoroughly broken down by starvation, cold, exposure, and fatigue. The officers supplied him with the clothing necessary to make him comfortable.
15. I have a hundred axmen in my charge, felling timber on the mountain, and constructing rough breastworks to protect our left flank.
General Reynolds came up to-day to see De Lagniel. They are old acquaintances, were at West Point together, and know each other like brothers.
The irrepressible Corporal Casey, who, in fact, had nothing whatever to do with the capture of De Lagniel, is now surrounded by a little group of soldiers. He is talking to them about the prisoner, who, since it is known that he is an acquaintance of General Reynolds, has become a person of great importance in the camp. The Corporal speaks in the broadest Irish brogue, and is telling his hearers that he knew the fellow was a sesesh at once; that he leveled his musket at him and towld him to halt; that if he hadn't marched straight up to him he would have put a minnie ball through his heart; that he had his gun cocked and his finger on the trigger, and was a mind to shoot him anyway. Then he tells how he propounded this and that question, which confused the prisoner, and finally concludes by saying that De Lagniel might be d—d thankful indade that he escaped with his life.
The Corporal is the best-known man in the regiment. He prides himself greatly on the Middle Fork "skrimage." A day or two after that affair, and at a time when whisky was so scarce that it was worth its weight in gold, some officers called the Corporal up and asked him to give them an account of the "skrimage." Before he entered upon the subject, it was suggested that Captain Dubois, who had the little whisky there was in the party, should give him a taste to loosen his tongue. The Corporal, nothing loth, took the flask, and, raising it to his mouth, emptied it, to the utter dismay of the Captain and his friends. The dhrap had the effect desired. The Corporal described, with great particularity, his manner of going into action, dwelt with much emphasis on the hand-to-hand encounters, the thrusts, the parries, the final clubbing of the musket, and the utter discomfiture and mortal wounding of his antagonist. In fact by this time there were two of them; and finally, as the fight progressed, a dozen or more bounced down on him. It was lively! There was no time for the loading of guns. Whack, thump, crack! The head of one was broken, another lay dying of a bayonet thrust, and still another had perished under the sledge-hammer blow of his fist. The ground was covered now with the slain. He stood knee-deep in secesh blood; but a bugle sounded away off on the hills, and the d—d scoundrels who were able to get away ran off as fast as their legs could carry them. Had they stood up like men he would have destroyed the whole regiment; for, you see, he was just getting his hand in. "But, Corporal," inquired Captain Hunter, "what were the other soldiers of your company doing all this time?" "Bless your sowl, Captain, and do you think I had nothing to do but to watch the boys? Be jabers, it was a day when every man had to look after himself."
16. The opinion seems to be growing that the rebels do not intend to attack us. They have put it off too long.
A scouting party will start out in the morning, under the guidance of "old Leather Breeches," a primitive West Virginian, who has spent his life in the mountains. His right name is Bennett. He wears an antiquated pair of buckskin pantaloons, and has a cabin-home on the mountain, twelve miles away.
A tambourine is being played near by, and Fox, with a heart much lighter than his complexion, is indulging in a double shuffle.
There are many snakes in the mountains: rattlesnakes, copperheads, blacksnakes, and almost every other variety of the snake kind; in short, the boys have snake on the brain. To-day one of the choppers made a sudden grab for his trouser leg; a snake was crawling up. He held the loathsome reptile tightly by the head and body, and was fearfully agitated. A comrade slit down the leg of the pantaloon with a knife, when lo! an innocent little roll of red flannel was discovered.
The boys are very liberal in the bestowal of titles. Colonel Hogseye is indebted to them for his commission. The Colonel commands an ax just now. Ordinarily he carries a musket, sleeps and dines with his subordinates, and is not above traveling on foot.
Fox's real name, I ascertained lately, is William Washington. His brother, now in the service of the surgeon, is called Handsome, and Colonel Marrow's servant is known by the boys as the Bay Nigger.
17. Was awakened this morning at one o'clock, by a soldier in search of a surgeon. One of our pickets had been wounded. The post was on the river bank. The sentinel saw a man approaching on the opposite side of the river, challenged, and saw him level his gun. Both fired. The sentinel was wounded in the leg by a small squirrel bullet. The other man was evidently wounded, for after it became light enough he was traced half a mile by blood on the ground, weeds, and leaves. The surgeon is of the opinion that the ball struck his left arm. From information obtained this morning, it is believed this man is secreted not many miles away. A party of ten has been sent to look for him.
This is by far the pleasantest camp we have ever had. The river runs its whole length. The hospital and surgeons' tents are located on a very pretty little island, a quiet, retired spot, festooned with vines, in the shadow of great trees, and carpeted with moss soft and velvety as the best of Brussels.
18. The name of our camp is properly Elk Water, not Elk Fork. The little stream which comes down to the river, from which the camp derives its name, is called Elk Water, because tradition affirms that in early days the elk frequented the little valley through which it runs.
The fog has been going up from the mountains, and the rain coming down in the valley. The river roars a little louder than usual, and its water is a little less clear.
The party sent in pursuit of the bushwhacker has returned. Found no one.
Two men were seen this evening, armed with rifles, prowling among the bushes near the place where the affair of last night occurred. They were fired upon, but escaped.
An accident, which particularly interests my old company, occurred a few minutes ago. John Heskett, Jeff Long, and four or five other men, were detailed from Company I for picket duty. Heskett and Long are intimate friends, and were playing together, the one with a knife and the other with a pocket pistol. The pistol was discharged accidentally, and the ball struck Heskett in the neck, inflicting a serious wound, but whether fatal or not the surgeon can not yet tell. The affair has cast a shadow over the company. Young Heskett bears himself bravely. Long is inconsolable, and begs the boys to shoot him.
20. These mountain streams are unreliable. We had come to regard the one on which we are encamped as a quiet, orderly little river, that would be good enough to notify us when it proposed to swell out and overflow the adjacent country. In fact we had bragged about it, made all sorts of complimentary mention of it, put our tents on its margin, and allowed it to encircle our sick and wounded; but we have now lost all confidence in it. Yesterday, about noon, it began to rise. It had been raining, and we thought it natural enough that the waters should increase a little. At four o'clock it had swelled very considerably, but still kept within its bed of rock and gravel, and we admired it all the more for the energy displayed in hurrying along branches, logs, and sometimes whole trees. At six o'clock we found it was rising at the rate of one foot per hour, and that the water had now crept to within a few feet of the hospital tent, in which lay two wounded and a dozen or more of sick. Dr. McMeens became alarmed and called for help. Thirty or more boys stripped, swam to the island, and removed the hospital to higher ground—to the highest ground, in fact, which the island afforded. The boys returned, and we felt safe. At seven o'clock, however, we found the river still rising rapidly. It covered nearly the whole island. Logs, brush, green trees, and all manner of drift went sweeping by at tremendous speed, and the water rushed over land which had been dry half an hour before, with apparently as strong a current as that in the channel. We knew then that the sick and wounded were in danger. How to rescue them was now the question. A raft was suggested; but a raft could not be controlled in such a current, and if it went to pieces or was hurried away, the sick and wounded must drown. Fortunately a better way was suggested; getting into a wagon, I ordered the driver to go above some distance, so that we could move with the current, and then ford the stream. After many difficulties, occasioned mainly by floating logs and driftwood, and swimming the horses part of the way, we succeeded in getting over. I saw it was impossible to carry the sick back, and that there was but one way to render them secure. I had the horses unhitched, and told the driver to swim them back and bring over two or three more wagons. Two more finally reached me, and one team, in attempting to cross, was carried down stream and drowned. I had the three wagons placed on the highest point I could find, then chained together and staked securely to the ground. Over the boxes of two of these we rolled the hospital tent, and on this placed the sick and wounded, just as the water was creeping upon us. On the third wagon we put the hospital stores. It was now quite dark. Not more than four feet square of dry land remained of all our beautiful island; and the river was still rising. We watched the water with much anxiety. At ten o'clock it reached the wagon hubs, and covered every foot of the ground; but soon after we were pleased to see that it began to go down a little. Those of us who could not get into the wagons had climbed the trees. At one o'clock it commenced to rain again, when we managed to hoist a tent over the sick. At two o'clock the long-roll, the signal for battle, was beaten in camp, and we could just hear, above the roar of the water, the noise made by the men as they hurriedly turned out and fell into line.
It will not do, however, to conclude that this was altogether a night of terrors. It was, in fact, not so very disagreeable after all. There was a by-play going on much of the time, which served to illuminate the thick darkness, and divert our minds from the gloomier aspects of the scene. Smith, the teamster who brought me across, had returned to the mainland with the horses, and then swam back to the island. By midnight he had become very drunk. One of the hospital attendants was very far gone in his cups, also. These two gentlemen did not seem to get along amicably; in fact, they kept up a fusillade of words all night, and so kept us awake. The teamster insisted that the hospital attendant should address him as Mr. Smith. The Smith family, he argued, was of the highest respectability, and being an honored member of that family, he would permit no man under the rank of a Major-General to call him Jake. George McClellan sometimes addressed him by his christian name; but then George and he were Cincinnatians, old neighbors, and intimate personal friends, and, of course, took liberties with each other. This could not justify one who carried out pukes and slop-buckets from a field hospital in calling him Jake, or even Jacob.
Mr. Smith's allusions to the hospital attendant were not received by that gentleman in the most amiable spirit. He grew profane, and insisted that he was not only as good a man as Smith, but a much better one, and he dared the bloviating mule scrubber to get down off his perch and stand up before him like a man. But Jake's temper remained unruffled, and along toward morning, in a voice more remarkable for strength than melody, he favored us with a song:
"Ho! gif ghlass uf goodt lauger du me; Du mine fadter, mine modter, mine vife: Der day's vork vos done, undt we'll see Vot bleasures der vos un dis life,
Undt ve sit us aroundt mit der table, Undt ve speak uf der oldt, oldt time, Ven we lif un dot house mit der gable, Un der vine-cladt banks uf der Rhine;
Undt mine fadter, his voice vos a quiver, Undt mine modter, her eyes vos un tears, Ash da dthot uf dot home un der river, Undt kindt friendst uf earlier years;
Undt I saidt du mine fadter be cheerie, Du mine modter not longer lookt sadt, Here's a blace undt a rest for der weary, Und ledt us eat, drink, undt be gladt.
So idt ever vos cheerful mitin; Vot dtho' idt be stormy mitoudt, Vot care I vor der vorld undt idts din, Ven dose I luf best vos about;
So libft up your ghlass, mine modter, Undt libft up yours, Gretchen, my dear, Undt libft up your lauger, mine fadter, Undt drink du long life und good cheer."
21. Francis Union was shot and killed by one of our own sentinels last night, the ball entering just under the nose. This resulted from the cowardice of the soldier who fired. He was afraid to give the necessary challenge: four simple words: "Halt! who comes there?" would have saved a life. This illustrates the danger there is in visiting pickets at night. If the sentinel halts the man, the man may fire at the sentinel. The latter, if timid, therefore makes sure of the first shot, and does not challenge. We buried the dead soldier with all the honors due one of his rank, on a beautiful hill in the rear of our fortifications. He was with me on the mountain chopping, a few days ago, strong, healthy, vigorous, and young. No more hard work for him!
23. With Wagner, Merrill, and Bowen, I rode up the mountain on our left this afternoon. We had one field-glass and two spy-glasses, and obtained a magnificent view of the surrounding country. Here and there we could see a cultivated spot or grazing farm on the top of the mountain; but more frequently these were on the slopes. We descried one house with our glasses on the very tiptop of Rich, and so far away that it seemed no larger than a tent. How the man of the house gets up to his airy height and gets down again puzzles us. He has the first gush of the sunshine in the morning, and the latest gleam in the evening. Very often, indeed, he must look down upon the clouds, and, if he has a tender heart, pity the poor devils in the valley who are being rained on continually. Is it a pleasant home? Has he wife and children in that mountain nest? Is he a man of dogs and guns, who spends his years in the mountains and glens hunting for bear and deer? May it not be the baronial castle of "old Leather Breeches" himself?
Away off to the east a cloud, black and heavy, is resting on a peak of the Cheat. Around it the mountain is glowing in the summer sun, and appears soft and green. A gauze of shimmering blue mantles the crest, darkens in the coves, and becomes quite black in the gorges. The rugged rocks and scraggy trees, if there be any, are at this distance invisible, and nothing is seen but what delights the eye and quickens the imagination.
We see by the papers that Ohio is preparing to organize a grand Union party, with a platform on which both Republicans and Democrats can stand. I am glad of this. There should be but one party in the North, and that party willing to make all sacrifices for the Union.
24. Last night a sentinel on one of the picket posts halted a stump and demanded the countersign. No response being made, he fired. The entire Fifteenth Indiana sprang to arms; the cannoniers gathered about their guns, and a thousand eyes peered into the darkness to get a glimpse of the approaching enemy. But the stump, evidently intimidated by the first shot, did not advance, and so the Hoosiers returned again to their couches, to dream, doubtless, of the subject of a song very common now in camp, to wit:
"Old Governor Wise, With his goggle eyes."
25. The Twenty-third Ohio, Colonel Scammon, will be here to-morrow. Stanley Matthews is the lieutenant-colonel of this regiment, and my old friend, Rutherford B. Hayes, the major. The latter is an accomplished gentleman, graduate of Harvard Law School, and will, it is said, in all probability, succeed Gurley in Congress. Matthews has a fine reputation as a speaker and lawyer, and, I have been told, is the most promising young man in Ohio. Scammon is a West Pointer.
26. Five companies of the Twenty-third Ohio and five companies of the Ninth Ohio arrived to-day, and are encamped in a maple grove about a mile below us. A detachment of cavalry came up also, and is quartered near. Other regiments are coming. It is said the larger portion of the troops in West Virginia are tending in this direction; but on what particular point it is proposed to concentrate them rumor saith not.
General McClellan did not go far enough at first. After the defeat of Pegram, at Rich mountain, and Garnett, at Laurel Hill, the Southern army of this section was utterly demoralized. It scattered, and the men composing it, who were not captured, fled, terror stricken, to their homes. We could have marched to Staunton without opposition, and taken possession of the very strongholds the enemy is now fortifying against us. If in our advanced position supplies could not have been obtained from the North, the army might have subsisted off the country. Thus, by pushing vigorously forward, we could have divided the enemy's forces, and thus saved our army in the East from humiliating defeat. This is the way it looks to me; but, after all, there may have been a thousand good reasons for remaining here, of which I know nothing. One thing, however, is, I think, very evident: a successful army, elated with victory, and eager to advance, is not likely to be defeated by a dispirited opponent. One-fourth, at least, of the strength of this army disappeared when it heard of the rebel triumphs on the Potomac.
* * * * *
Latter part of August the writer was sent to Ohio for recruits for the regiment, and did not return to camp until the middle of September.
19. Reached camp yesterday at noon. My recruits arrived to-day.
The enemy was here in my absence in strength and majesty, and repeated, with a slight variation, the grand exploit of the King of France, by
"Marching up the hill with twenty thousand men, And straightway marching down again."
There was lively skirmishing for a few days, and hot work expected; but, for reasons unknown to us, the enemy retired precipitately.
On Sunday morning last fifty men of the Sixth Ohio, when on picket, were surprised and captured. My friend, Lieutenant Merrill, fell into the hands of the enemy, and is now probably on his way to Castle Pinckney. Further than this our rebellious friends did us no damage. Our men, at this point, killed Colonel Washington, wounded a few others, and further than this inflicted but little injury upon the enemy. The country people near whom the rebels encamped say they got to fighting among themselves. The North Carolinians were determined to go home, and regiments from other States claimed that their term of service had expired, and wanted to leave. I am glad they did, and trust they may go home, hang up their guns, and go to work like sensible people, for then I could do the same.
23. This afternoon I rode by a mountain path to a log cabin in which a half dozen wounded Tennesseeans are lying. One poor fellow had his leg amputated yesterday, and was very feeble. One had been struck by a ball on the head and a buckshot in the lungs. Two boys were but slightly wounded, and were in good spirits. To one of these—a jovial, pleasant boy—Dr. Seyes said, good-humoredly: "You need have no fears of dying from a gunshot; you are too big a devil, and were born to be hung." Colonel Marrow sought to question this same fellow in regard to the strength of the enemy, when the boy said: "Are you a commissioned officer?" "Yes," replied Marrow. "Then," returned he, "you ought to know that a private soldier don't know anything."
In returning to camp, we followed a path which led to a place where a regiment of the rebels had encamped one night. They had evidently become panic-stricken and left in hot haste. The woods were strewn with knapsacks, blankets, and canteens.
The ride was a pleasant one. The path, first wild and rugged, finally led to a charming little valley, through which Beckey's creek hurries down to the river. Leaving this, we traveled up the side of a ravine, through which a little stream fretted and fumed, and dashed into spray against slimy rocks, and then gathered itself up for another charge, and so pushed gallantly on toward the valley and the sunshine.