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Military Reminiscences of the Civil War V2 by Jacob Dolson Cox

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during his candidacy. I did not hesitate to let it be known that
upon his doing so, the alternative in his sentence would be
enforced, and that he would be sent to Fort Warren for imprisonment.
Mr. Pugh, who had been induced to accept the nomination for
lieutenant-governor with him, made a visit to Windsor, in Canada
(opposite Detroit), where Vallandigham met him. The result of the
conference was that Vallandigham remained quietly in Canada till the
election was over, leaving it to his friends to make as much
political capital out of his exile as they could.

As evidence of the fierceness of the passions roused among his
partisans, a few significant facts may be mentioned. The
conscription law had led, as we have seen, [Footnote: Henry Reuben
Anderson was second lieutenant in the Forty-third Ohio Infantry,
captain in the Sixth U.S. Volunteer Infantry, and after the war was
transferred to the Fourth U.S. Artillery as first lieutenant.] to
wholesale frauds in the form of "bounty-jumping." It was of course
the duty of the military authorities to prevent this by arresting
deserters and holding them to military service and discipline under
their enlistment. A common form of fraud was for a well-grown young
man to offer himself as a recruit, take the oath that he was of
lawful age, receive the hundreds of dollars of bounty, and then
bring forward his parents to claim him as a minor enlisting without
their permission. We always recognized promptly the authority of a
writ of _habeas corpus_ from the Federal courts in such cases, and
the judges examined the recruit and his friends carefully, to detect
a fraudulent conspiracy if there was one. If the case appeared to be
free from collusion and the evidence of minority sufficient, an
order of release was made, conditioned on the repayment to the
government of the bounty received and the expenses of the
proceeding.

The depot of recruits for the army was on the south side of the
river in Kentucky; but in any case that was not palpably fraudulent
I directed the officers in charge to bring the recruit to
Cincinnati, where Judge Leavitt's writ could reach him, and to
submit the case to the United States District Court. The following
letter will illustrate this, being one addressed by me to General
Tillson, who commanded in Covington, which, with the region within a
radius of some fifteen miles, was part of my district:--

"HEADQUARTERS, DISTRICT OF OHIO, CINCINNATI,

9th September, 1863.

GENERAL,--Judge Leavitt of the United States District Court called
this morning with a Mr. Eckmann, who wishes to get his son, a minor,
out of the First Heavy Artillery. The boy is named Summerfield
Eckmann, and is in Company C. As you have stated to me that it is
practicable to fill up the place of minors and invalids as fast as
they can be got rid of, I would like to have the case looked into at
once, and unless some reason unknown to me exists, have him sent to
report to Colonel Boone at Kemper Barracks, where the writ from the
Federal Court may be served. By agreement with the father, if the
judge should discharge him, the bounty will be paid back, and you
will please send a statement of what amount was paid and how his
account with the government stands.

Very respectfully, your obed't serv't,
(Signed) J. D. Cox,
B. G. Commanding.

Brig. Gen. Davis Tillson,
Com'g, etc., Covington, Ky."

All honest and deserving cases could be satisfactorily disposed of
in this way. But the fraudulent "bounty-jumpers" wanted nothing so
little as a full investigation before the United States Courts.
These cases, therefore, if they appeared in court at all, would be
brought before local judges supposed to be prejudiced against the
government and who would not require restitution. To prevent this,
the War Department issued instructions based on the decision of the
United States Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth, in which Chief
Justice Taney had delivered the opinion. These instructions directed
that in cases arising under the conscription and recruiting laws,
the writ of habeas corpus should be obeyed only when issued by
United States courts. With full knowledge of these instructions and
of the Supreme Court decision which had been a party shibboleth in
the fugitive-slave cases before the war, the Probate judge of the
county seemed bent on provoking a collision with the National
authorities. His court was, among courts of record, that of inferior
jurisdiction in the county, and the higher courts gave us no
trouble. A letter which I wrote to Governor Tod at the close of
August so fully gives the details of the matter and of the view I
then took of it, that I prefer to let it stand as my statement of
it, rather than any paraphrase I could now make. I said:--

"I have the honour to call your attention to a persistent effort on
the part of the Probate Judge of the county to produce a collision
between the sheriff and posse of the vicinity and the United States
government.

"You have probably noticed the newspaper accounts of a habeas corpus
case before Judge ------ some time since, in which the writ was
issued to Lieutenant-Colonel Boone, One Hundred and Fifteenth Ohio
Volunteer Infantry, commanding at Kemper barracks in this city,
directing him to bring before the court one Hicks, held as a
deserter from the army.

"In accordance with instructions from the War Department, based upon
the decision of Chief Justice Taney in the case of Ableman v. Booth,
Lieutenant-Colonel Boone answered in writing, stating that the man
was held by the authority of the United States as a deserter, and
that, without intending any disrespect to the court, it was
impossible for him to deliver the prisoner to the officers of a
State court. Lieutenant-Colonel Boone further attached to his answer
and made part of it the instructions from Washington and the order
of Major-General Burnside promulgating the same, and it was thus
made matter of record in the court that the case was one directly
affecting the government of the United States. The judge was also
notified by counsel that it was the purpose of the Federal officers
to take the case to the courts of last resort should his decision be
in accordance with that which he had rendered in other cases, and
that the matter would thus, without doubt, be ultimately determined
by the judicial decision of the highest courts having cognizance,
and that there could be no occasion for collision between himself
and the military authorities.

"The judge issued an attachment against Lieutenant-Colonel Boone for
contempt, and directed Major-General Burnside to be made party to
the record. General Burnside answered in a similar manner to Colonel
Boone. The court made no personal order in General B.'s case, but
directed the sheriff of the county to arrest Lieutenant-Colonel
Boone and bring him before the court. The sheriff went to Colonel
Boone's quarters and was there informed that the writ could not be
executed, as, under orders received, the military authorities would
not permit it. The sheriff so made return to the court, and has, as
he informs me this morning, been again directed peremptorily by the
judge to execute the writ at every hazard.

"The sheriff came to me to know what would be our course if he
should raise the posse comitatus in obedience to the writ. My answer
was that the United States forces would use no aggression, but that
I wished him and the judge to understand distinctly that the writ
could only be executed by overpowering the United States troops in
open fight, and that it became all concerned to consider well before
they became overt traitors by levying war against the Federal
government; that I should regard them as public enemies at the first
overt act and use the utmost vigor against them; and that after
suppressing any disturbance they might create, my first duty would
be to arrest the judge and himself and hand them over to the United
States courts to be tried for treason. I likewise expressed my
surprise that in a matter which was avowedly an undisguised attempt
to bring the State authorities into open conflict with the National
government, he had not appealed to the governor of the State, its
chief executive (he being himself but a subordinate), for
instructions. As he professed embarrassment as to his duty, I told
him I would state what in my opinion a loyal sheriff should do in
such a case; and that was to make a written return upon the writ
saying that it could not be obeyed without levying open war against
the United States, and was therefore returned unexecuted.... In view
of the circumstances, I have thought best to lay the matter before
you, that you may, if you see proper, direct the sheriff to take no
steps calculated to bring the State and National authorities into
collision, without full communication with and instruction from
yourself as chief executive. I have no concern as to the success of
any forcible attempt upon Colonel Boone, but regard it as very
desirable that no such attempt should be made, and especially that
it should not be precipitated, without your knowledge, by the action
of the Probate Court of this county in overruling a decision of the
Supreme Court of the United States.

"I shall forward a copy of this letter to the Secretary of War for
his information, and have the honor to remain," etc.

There were some amusing incidents connected with the sheriff's
embarrassment which could not properly appear in my letter to the
governor. Both he and the Probate judge were candidates for
re-election, and it seemed certain that the aggressive Vallandigham
faction in the party would control the nominations in the party
convention. In such excited times extreme men are almost sure to
take the lead. The sheriff saw very clearly that there was nothing
profitable to him in a forcible attack upon the United States troops
in barracks, and knew that a call upon the _posse_ would be
responded to by nobody but ruffians of the criminal class who might
like an opportunity to gather as a mob with a pretext of lawful
authority. He complained to me with a comical distress that the
judge had taken advantage of him to gain with the extremists of his
party the credit for bold defiance of the government, whilst he, the
sheriff, was left to bear the brunt of the real danger. I had told
him in an earlier interview that if he called out the _posse_ it
would be his duty to lead it in person, and had intimated that I
should direct the soldiers to save bloodshed by carefully marking
the leaders in an attack. I now suggested that if he should inform
the judge that he should summon him first as one of the _posse_ and
require him to march beside him, he would probably find the zeal for
a collision diminished.

Whatever were the reasons which controlled, there was no _posse_
summoned, and I heard no more of the arrest of Colonel Boone. Both
judge and sheriff lived to look back upon the episode in their lives
with other feelings than those which excited them nearly to
desperation in that singular political campaign. It was not always
easy to draw a satisfactory line in dealing practically with such
powdery elements and social conditions as those of 1863, but the
best results seemed to come from carefulness not to provoke
unnecessary collision with political prejudices and not to interfere
with personal liberty more than was necessary, whilst showing
inexorable firmness in carrying out such measures as we had to
adopt. Two cases which arose in Dayton made it necessary to
distinguish between two possible courses, and though there was a
good deal of difference in judgment among loyal men I thought the
event fully justified us in that which we pursued.

The arrest of Vallandigham had left a certain class of people in
Dayton on the verge of violent outbreak. A mob had wrecked the
publishing office of the Union party paper, and we had kept a small
garrison at the city to preserve the peace, The "roughs" of the
place were insolent to the soldiers and their officers, and it
required firm discipline to keep our men as patient as we wished
them to be. One day a wrangle began, and one of the city "rowdies"
pulled a pistol and fired upon a soldier. We arrested the criminal,
but whilst we held him, an indictment was found against him in the
local court, and he was demanded by the civil authorities for trial.
We knew very well that in any jury of that county enough partisans
of Vallandigham would be found to prevent a conviction, but I
ordered the man to be delivered up. This was pretty sharply
criticised by the more ardent Union men, but I answered that it was
necessary to find out whether justice could be administered by the
civil authorities before applying military rule.

The delivery of the man was no doubt looked upon as an act of
timidity, and it was not long before we had a repetition of the
offence. I had taken pains to have the garrison at Dayton carefully
instructed that they must be patient and cool, avoiding every
provocation, but if attacked, the aggressor must be punished on the
spot. In the second case, the man who drew his weapon was instantly
shot down. There was now a demand for the soldier to be tried by the
local civil court; but I said that the boot was on the other foot.
The charge against the soldier was for an act performed in the line
of his military duty, and of this our military courts had
cognizance. The case was investigated by a military tribunal and the
man justified. The result was every way satisfactory. Assaulting
soldiers lost its attractiveness to town bullies, and the case in
which the civilian had been left to the action of the civil courts
was a standing proof of the inefficiency of those tribunals in
matters where partisan passions entered, and where the unanimity of
a jury was consequently impossible.

The State election occurred in October, and although there had been
great fears of rioting and bloodshed, these fears were happily
disappointed. There had been enough of the preliminary education as
to the relations of the military authorities to the preservation of
the peace, to make it generally understood that disturbances would
be dangerous. The soldiers were, however, kept carefully out of
sight except as they exercised their personal right to vote. They
were under arms at their barracks, and no leaves of absence were
given. These precautions were all that was needed. In Cincinnati the
election was said to be one of the quietest and most orderly ever
known. The people seemed to appreciate the gravity of the situation
and to realize that it must be soberly and thoughtfully met. Hosts
of men who would willingly have been in opposition to the
administration party on questions of economy or of details in the
conduct of the war declined to vote for Vallandigham, whose
utterances had been the great matter of debate during the canvass,
and whose disloyalty being thus brought home to the voters in every
neighborhood, had repelled all but the most passionate of his party
friends. John Brough, the Union party candidate, himself a "war
democrat," was elected governor by an unprecedented majority of over
a hundred thousand. The soldiers' vote had helped to swell this
majority, and as returns had to be made from polling-places opened
for each Ohio regiment in the field, there was considerable delay
before the extent of the political victory was fully known. The home
vote was enough for every practical purpose, and it, of course, was
known at once. The returns from the army vote kept adding to the
majority, and gave, day by day, a new stimulus to political
interest, one party rejoicing over the unanimity of the country's
defenders, and the other affecting to see dangers of military
despotism. For this reason it was fortunate that the soldiers' vote
was not necessary to decide the election, and that without it
Brough's triumph went beyond any ordinary measure of party success.

The remarkable result of the election was felt throughout the
country as an indication of renewed determination of the people that
the war must be fought out to the complete crushing of the Rebellion
and the restoration of the Union. There was a noticeable
crystallization of public opinion after it. Reasonable men in the
defeated party found it easy to accept conclusions which were backed
up by so great majorities. Agitation was quieted, and there was an
evident disposition to acquiesce in what was so evidently the
popular current.

My aversion for the anomalous position of a military commandant out
of the actual field of war had not been lessened by my experiences
of the summer, and both directly and indirectly I renewed my
requests for a field command. I had been told that the Secretary of
War awaited only an opening which would permit him to assign me to
duty with the advanced grade which had been given me after Antietam,
and I had been advised, in a way that seemed authoritative, to wait
patiently for this. It became evident in the autumn that such
waiting was likely to be profitless as well as wearisome. A regular
army officer had a backing in the _esprit de corps_ at the
departments, and Halleck was watchful to give the full weight of his
official influence in favor of such a one. It was, perhaps
naturally, assumed that a volunteer would be assisted by political
friends, and if he did not make use of such influence he would fall
between two stools. After my first appointment I was never aware of
receiving any help from these personal influences, and had gotten
whatever recognition I had from my immediate commanders in the
field. Burnside had intimated that if Hartsuff's ill health should
make that officer retire from the command of the Twenty-third Corps,
he would assign me to it in the expectation that the corresponding
rank would then be conferred by the President. If I have any regret
respecting my own action in seeking active duty, it is that I did
not ask for the command of one of the divisions in the corps on the
movement into East Tennessee. It was Burnside's wish that I should
remain in Cincinnati and I acquiesced; but I have had a lingering
belief that my influence with him would have helped decide him to
remain in the West had I been with him in Knoxville in October and
November. Be that as it may, I was fully determined after the Ohio
election was over to cease looking for anything more than a field
command, according to my present rank, and to be urgent till I
obtained it.

In this year the first volume of Kinglake's "History of the Crimean
War" was published, and reading it in the intervals of other duty in
Cincinnati, I found in it lessons of hope and confidence in our
armies that were to me both stimulating and encouraging. It would
not be strange if an English soldier should feel that Kinglake was
quite too frank in his revelation of the mistakes and
discouragements which attended England's first military operations
after the "forty years' peace." But it was precisely this
photographic realism and unreserve which gave the book its peculiar
value. I found Lord Raglan and his subordinates intelligent men,
feeling their way through doubts and mistakes to a new experimental
knowledge of their task. I compared them and their work with what I
had seen in our own service when a great army had to be organized
and put in the field and everything had to be created anew. I saw
that we had been no worse off than our neighbors, and that our
tuition in the school of experience had gone on quite as rapidly as
theirs. I thanked Kinglake in my heart for telling us that Raglan
tested what he was doing by asking himself how "the Duke" would have
done had he been there. It was only another way of applying the
lessons of past experience to the present duty; but it seemed
peculiarly human that the English general in the perplexities of his
troublesome problem in the Crimea should summon up the shade of
Wellington and ask how the practical soldier of the Spanish
Peninsular War would act were he deciding for his old staff officer
what he must do at the Alma or in front of Sebastopol.

The student of military history sees that the weak points in the
British army on the peace establishment had been that systematic and
continuous preparation for active war had not been insisted on. It
needed the organizing genius of Roon and Moltke in the Prussian army
to make such a mobilization as that of 1866 and that of 1870, and to
show what is possible in preparing an armed host to take the field.
Preparation for war has had a totally different meaning since those
campaigns, and the start of a day or two in reaching the field was
shown to involve the winning and losing a great campaign. As matters
stood in 1854, however, the great military powers of Europe should
be considered as having only the raw material of armies as they had
depots of military stores, and true organization in every department
had to be effected after a declaration of war. Studying it in 1863,
it seemed to me that the only advantage England or France would have
had over us at the outbreak of the Rebellion would have been in the
greater number of men partly drilled and the greater quantities of
arms and ammunition in store. Kinglake taught us that others would
have had to go through most of the discouragements we had
experienced, and that our aptitude in learning had been perhaps
greater than theirs would have been. His unreserved disclosure of
the errors and the miseries of the siege of Sebastopol was
infinitely more instructive than any history which hid the
humiliating facts and covered all with the glamour and glory of the
final success. His faithful dealing was in the line of true
discipline, though the reading of his story must have been a sore
chastisement of spirit for many an English soldier and statesman. It
was more effective than the comments of any "war correspondent,"
however capable; for it was free from every suspicion of
unfriendliness, and was written with the fullest access to official
evidence. I cannot help believing that the book was no small factor
in the general movement in Europe toward a much more scientific
comprehension and a much better practical mastery of the elements of
army organization and administration in times of peace.

But what I am quite sure of is that its perusal was a source of
great comfort and encouragement to me in the midst of our own
struggle; because it assured me, as I compared Raglan's experience
with ours, that we had not gone so far astray in learning our
lesson, and were not so completely on the dunces' bench, as I had
been disposed to fear. We had plenty of blunders to confess, and
there was no room for over-confidence; but the book prompted every
earnest soldier among us to believe that we could make still better
use of our experience, and to feel bolder in relying on his own
judgment and courage in drawing new expedients from our peculiar
circumstances and in developing new adaptations of military science
to our own campaigns. Staff schools cannot turn out great generals
to order, and the man who leads will continue to be more important
than any other element of an army; but no leader can work well with
dull and antiquated tools, and the present generation can hardly see
a great war begun with so little adequate preparation for it as was
common before our great civil strife.

On the 9th of November the humdrum routine at my district
headquarters was interrupted by a dispatch from the officer
commanding at Detroit, Michigan, giving warning of what was more
explicitly reported in one of the 10th, saying that he was
positively informed that within forty-eight hours two armed steamers
would attack Johnson's Island and release the prisoners held there.
[Footnote: Official Records, series ii. vol. vi. pp. 491, 495, 635.]

The military prison at Johnson's Island was built for the
confinement of Confederate officers who had been captured in battle,
and their number was so large that to release them would be an
enterprise of no little importance, if successful. The island lay in
Sandusky Bay, within a few hours' sail of several Canadian ports.
Its garrison consisted of a single regiment which had all the
employment it needed to furnish the ordinary prison guards, and
would be entirely too weak to oppose any considerable force
attacking from without, especially as it would be prudent to assume
that such an attack would be accompanied by an outbreak of the
prisoners within.

I immediately communicated with Governor Tod and with the Commissary
of Prisoners at Washington, Colonel Hoffman, and on the same day
sent a battery of three-inch rifled cannon and 500 newly raised
recruits to Sandusky. I telegraphed the Hon. Joshua R. Giddings, our
consul-general at Montreal, asking what he could learn in Canada as
to the threatened expedition. He thought it was the mere "bombast"
of Confederate emissaries and refugees in the Canadian provinces,
and made light of it. On the 12th, however, the Secretary of War
telegraphed me that Lord Lyons, the British ambassador, confirmed
the report, and directed me to take energetic action to defeat the
expected raid. The dispatch reached me at nine o'clock in the
morning, and as it would be necessary to consult with the governor
and get him to call out a force of State militia, I telegraphed him
that I would go to Columbus on the half-past-ten train from
Cincinnati, and asked him to be ready to call out the militia as
soon as I could see him. I then sent messages to the commandants of
militia regiments near the railway line, requesting them to call out
their men at once in anticipation of an order from the governor to
proceed to Sandusky. I also communicated with my subordinates in
command at Detroit, Sandusky, and Columbus, giving a hint of my
purposes. Finding I was likely to be late at the railway station, I
sent a message to Mr. Woodward, the superintendent of the Little
Miami Railroad, asking him to hold the train for me. The train had
gone when the message reached him, but he ordered out an extra
locomotive, and when I reached the station it was under orders to
overtake the regular train. With an aide-de-camp I mounted the
locomotive, and we were off at speed. The train was overtaken at
Xenia, half-way to Columbus, and I was able to keep my appointment
with the governor.

It happened that there was at this time a plot also to take the camp
of military prisoners at Columbus, indicating a wide-spread scheme
among the Confederate prisoners in Ohio, and General Mason, who
commanded there, did not think it would be safe to reduce his
garrison. The governor acted at once upon my suggestion, and ordered
out the militia regiments which I had warned before leaving
Cincinnati. My regular train had gone on, but Mr. Woodward had
provided for a special one from Columbus, and we were soon speeding
on in the hope of making the connection with a train going West on
the Lake Shore Railway. The connection was made, though it became
necessary to make what was then regarded as extraordinary speed to
do it. Over one stretch of the road we ran twenty miles in eighteen
minutes by the watch, and our average rate was high enough to make
it a noteworthy journey. I reached Sandusky at midnight, and found
reports of the militia regiments already on the way, and that the
hostile expedition had not yet left Canada.

There is always a considerable amount of business labor connected
with the sudden assembly of new troops in a city like Sandusky.
Provision must be made for quarters and for their subsistence. The
militia were not like troops accustomed to take the field, and were
not provided with tents. The autumn was well advanced, and severe
winter weather was likely to come at any time. Competent officers
had to be selected to take responsible charge of each of the supply
departments, including arms and ammunition. A battery of
Parrott-rifled cannon was ordered to report to me as well as some
heavy coast artillery. The first organization of means to look after
the coming troops and the artillery being made, the next duty was a
personal reconnoissance of my field of operations. A gentleman put
at my disposal a small sailing yacht of light draught, and with a
good crew and a fresh breeze the principal points of the lower bay
were visited, including Johnson's Island.

Sandusky Bay is the largest land-locked body of water connected with
Lake Erie. It is some twenty miles long by three or four wide, its
length running east and west, and narrow tongues of land separating
it from the lake. The mouth of the bay is about a mile wide, but the
water is quite shallow except in the narrow channel, which is
sinuous and runs very close to Cedar Point, the extremity of the
long, low sandy cape which separates the eastern part of the bay
from the open water. A lighthouse on the point and range lights near
it give direction to vessels approaching, which run from the
northwest, head on, till they seem almost ashore at the foot of the
lighthouse tower, when they turn sharply to the southwest, the
channel being zigzag up to the city, which lies on the southeast
shore. It did not need a second glance to determine that Cedar Point
was the place to fortify, and that batteries there would rake any
vessel approaching the harbor, as well as on its way in, if it
should succeed in passing the point.

Johnson's Island lies a mile or two inside the entrance to the bay
on the western side. A narrow channel separates it from the land on
that side, which is a high rocky peninsula called Marblehead. The
island had been cultivated as a farm, containing a hundred acres or
more, with some pleasant groves amid the fields, and with a gently
undulating surface which gave it an agreeable variety and a
picturesque appearance. The landing at the island was on the bay
side, three or four miles from the city wharves. If a hostile force
should land on the peninsula at Marblehead, it could not reach the
island by reason of the channel which separates it from the land on
the west. The only chance of success for such a raid was to make a
surprise of it before Cedar Point could be fortified, to enter the
bay and land a force sufficient to overpower the prison garrison
before it should be reinforced.

Under the terms of the treaty with Great Britain, our navy was
represented by a single vessel of war on Lake Erie, the steamer
"Michigan," which carried a battery of eight or ten guns. She was
ordered to Sandusky to co-operate with me at the same time that I
was directed to go there. She was commanded by Captain John Carter,
a bluff and hearty seaman of the old school, whom I found cordially
ready to work with me in the most perfect harmony and mutual
understanding. I lost no time in transporting my two rifled
batteries to Cedar Point, and throwing up hasty earthworks to cover
them. From the moment they were in position it was certain that no
unarmed steamboat could enter the harbor. A part of my infantry was
encamped in rear of the batteries, covered by a grove of evergreen
trees, near enough to support the guns if an effort were made to
land there. The rest of the infantry was assigned to increase the
garrison on Johnson's Island itself. The news had spread that there
was a concentration of our forces at Sandusky, and by the time we
were ready for an attack the raiders were well aware that their
plans had failed.

Their project had not been a hopeless one if they could have kept it
secret, but that was almost impossible. The leaders in it were
commonly reported to have been some of Morgan's men who had made
their way to Canada when he was captured. By the aid of Confederate
agents they had procured the means to organize a considerable band
of adventurers, and had chartered two steamboats which were to meet
them at the mouth of the Detroit River. The assembly of such a body
of men attracted the attention of the Canadian authorities, and
information was sent to Lord Lyons at Washington. Our officers at
Detroit also got wind of it, and employed the police and detectives
to ferret out the facts. The raiders had assembled, and the boats
were ready, when, on the 14th of November, they learned that their
plans were exposed and the chance to succeed was lost. The less
eager ones were quick to abandon the enterprise, and the bolder
spirits found themselves reduced to a handful. So they scattered,
threatening to try it again at some more convenient time.

As soon as the work of preparation at Cedar Point was well under
way, I accepted the invitation of Captain Carter to make a
reconnoissance in the "Michigan." We sailed out of the harbor and
made the tour of the beautiful group of islands known as the Bass
Islands, in the midst of which is the little harbor of Put-in-Bay.
We were on the classic ground where Perry had won his naval victory
in the War of 1812, and although we found no trace of the threatened
raid, the circumstances which took us there added to the interest
with which we examined the scene of Perry's glory. On my return I
reported to the Secretary of War that all present danger had passed,
and asked to be allowed to send the militia home. The weather had
become stormy, and the State troops naturally became impatient when
the need of their continued exposure seemed to be at an end. They
were soon allowed to go, but it was wisely determined to put the
heavy guns in a fortification on the island, where they could
command the entrance to the bay and yet be so connected with the
permanent garrison as to avoid the establishment of two camps with
the necessary increase of expense as well as numbers.

This delayed me a fortnight at Sandusky, and the delay was quite as
unwelcome to me as to the militia. I had been away from Cincinnati
but a few days when I received a dispatch from General Burnside,
saying that if I was still minded to accept a field command he
thought he could give me one of his corps. As this was exactly what
I had been wishing for, it will be easily believed that I chafed at
the circumstances which seemed to tie me to the shore of Lake Erie
when I longed to be on my way to East Tennessee. I laid the matter
before the War Department by telegraph, and begged to be allowed to
go. Mr. Stanton answered on the 22d that I could not yet leave
Sandusky. I hurried the work to be done there with all possible
energy, so as to remove the cause of delay, and on the 3d of
December was gratified to learn that the order had been issued
directing me to report in person to the general in command at
Knoxville. I was not informed that I should not find Burnside there
when I should arrive, and assumed that my work at Sandusky was the
only cause of delay in my orders to go; but I was soon to learn of
other changes which I did not anticipate.

My stay at Sandusky gave me the opportunity to make an inspection of
the military prison at Johnson's Island, and I availed myself of it.
As only officers were confined there, the high average intelligence
and character of these would of course show itself in their personal
habits and in their methods of employing the time, which hung heavy
on their hands. In all such situations the energy and hopefulness of
the individual are the best guaranty for continued good health,
whilst ennui, listlessness, and idleness are the pretty sure
forerunners of melancholy and homesickness, which lead to serious
maladies. It would be hard to find a more salubrious site for a camp
than Johnson's Island. Naturally well drained, diversified with
grove and meadow, open to the breeze from every quarter, washed by
the pure waters of Lake Erie, it is to-day, as it was then, a
beautiful and attractive spot. The winter there is not usually
severe. The vast body of water comprising the Great Lakes modifies
the climate and tempers it so that the autumn is generally prolonged
and pleasant. Winter begins late, but is apt to be changeable and
disagreeable, and a raw and backward spring, with chilling winds off
the frozen waters, is the part of the year most to be dreaded.
Native Ohioans insist that there is no climate more wholesome and
pleasant than this lake-shore belt, which is now the land of
continuous vineyards and peach orchards. A native of the Gulf States
would, however, find its winter and spring severe and trying, more
from sudden changes than from any extremely low temperature. Taking
it all in all, it is probable that no place for a prison camp could
be found in the Northern States which would be liable to fewer
objections.

The prison itself was constructed in the manner which seemed
simplest and cheapest. A large square on the sloping hillsides was
surrounded with a high wooden fence. On the outside of this, near
the top, was a gallery or balcony supported on brackets.

This was the walk for the sentinels, and from it they had a
commanding view of the interior of the enclosure. Sentry-boxes,
looking like turrets, were at the corners and at intervals on the
sides. Within, the barracks for the prisoners were on the west or
northwest side, leaving the larger space open in front for exercise.
The buildings were of pine boards, roughly but well constructed, so
that they were dry and tight. Rows of bunks ran along the sides,
filled with beds of straw. The shelter and accommodation was
decidedly better than that which we made for our own troops at Camp
Dennison, our first camp of instruction. Through most of the year
there was no ground for complaint. In winter, and especially on
winter nights, it would be impossible to keep up anything like a
steady temperature, and the thin shell of the building would soon
chill through in a nipping and frosty air. We had to meet this
difficulty in all winter quarters for troops, and there seemed to be
no way to remove it. If one could be heavily clad, it was generally
more healthful to endure a steady low temperature, than to meet the
alternations of heat and cold which came of the replenishing and
dying out of the fires in stoves during the long winter night. As
many men have many minds, it was almost impossible to secure
anything like system in a long shed-like building occupied by a
little democracy of hundreds of persons.

The food was plain but good in quality, similar to the army ration,
and at the time of my visit was abundant. I took occasion to go
through the barracks unattended by the officers of the garrison, and
encouraged the prisoners to make known any complaints. There were
practically none that were not necessarily incident to the position
of a prisoner of war in actual confinement. The loss of liberty, the
weary pacing of the enclosure in front of their barracks, the lack
of interesting occupation, home-sickness, and general
discomfort,--these were the ills of which they spoke. Among the
prisoners was General Jeff. Thompson, of Missouri,--the ranking
officer among them, as I recollect,--and I sought an introduction to
him and talked with him in regard to the prison life. He was
depressed and ailing, though not consenting to go into hospital, and
spoke feelingly of the discouraging monotony and ennui of their
existence, but made no complaint of the administration of the prison
in any way. To be exchanged was the burden of their wishes and
prayers, and in this every one with ordinary human sympathies must
feel with them. Games of chess, draughts, dominoes, and cards were
their indoor amusements, and some of the more energetic kept up an
attempt at regular out-door exercise.

It happened that the chief surgeon of the camp was an old neighbor
of mine, Dr. M. C. Woodworth, and I questioned him closely as to the
medical and sanitary condition. He was a man of the highest
character in his profession and as a citizen. I had absolute
confidence in his uprightness as well as his ability. His statements
fully corroborated the conclusions I drew from my own observation. I
was fully satisfied that the garrison administration was honest and
humane, and that the prisoners suffered only such evils as were
necessarily incident to confinement in a narrow space, and to life
in temporary barracks of the kind used in all military camps.

I learned that those prisoners who had means of their own were
permitted to open private accounts with merchants and bankers in the
city of Sandusky, and had little difficulty in increasing their
physical comforts in many ways. Since the war I have conversed with
business men of that town who personally knew of these arrangements,
and who have given me details of remittances and credits furnished
to prisoners, and of some considerable investments made for them. A
certain surveillance was necessary in such cases to give assurance
that no unlawful advantage was taken of such opportunities, but
there was very little if any reason to believe such leniency was
abused.

CHAPTER XXX

A WINTER RIDE ON THE CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS

Ordered to East Tennessee--Preparation for a long ride--A small
party of officers--Rendezvous at Lexington, Ky.--Changes in my
staff--The escort-A small train--A gay cavalcade--The blue-grass
country--War-time roads--Valley of the Rockcastle--Quarters for the
night--London--Choice of routes--Longstreet in the way--A turn
southward--Williamsburg--Meeting Burnside--Fording the
Cumberland--Pine Mountain--A hard pull--Teamsters' chorus--Big Creek
Gap--First view of East Tennessee--Jacksboro--A forty-mile
trot--Escape from unwelcome duty--In command of Twenty-third
Corps--The army-supply problem--Siege bread--Starved
beef--Burnside's dinner to Sherman.

The order of the War Department directing me to report in person to
the general commanding in East Tennessee was issued on the 2nd of
December. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. p. 314.]
It was to take effect when I should have completed my duties at
Sandusky, but as I had pressed all my work forward to completion
some days before, in the expectation of the order, I was prepared to
leave at once. A copy of the order was telegraphed to me on the 3rd,
and I left for Cincinnati the same evening. On reaching the district
and department headquarters, I learned that Burnside was relieved,
and that General Foster had passed through the city, going on toward
East Tennessee to assume command of the department. Longstreet
raised the siege of Knoxville the very day I reached Cincinnati, but
this was not yet known, and several days passed before we had
authentic information that the way to Knoxville was open. There was
work to do in closing up the business of the district, packing
papers and books pertaining to my headquarters, and providing for
their safe-keeping. A number of officers belonging to Burnside's
command were waiting an opportunity to rejoin the army, and I
arranged a rendezvous for these at Lexington, Ky., where I would
join them. A small troop of cavalry was detailed to act as our
escort, and the quartermaster's department promised wagons for our
baggage and supplies. On the 8th the news of Longstreet's retreat
indicated that the road through Cumberland Gap to Knoxville was
probably open, and sending our horses and baggage to Lexington by
railroad, I left Cincinnati with my staff on Wednesday, the 9th, for
the same place. Reaching there at evening, the next day was spent in
packing our wagons and organizing our little party, and the
cavalcade marched out of the pretty town of Lexington early on the
11th.

My staff was not altogether the same as it was in my Virginia
campaigns. I had lost my friend, Surgeon Holmes, by death. He had
been assigned to duty with me in Cincinnati, but his lungs had
become diseased through exposure in the field, and he had died of
consumption a few weeks before. My aide Captain Christie was
similarly affected, and resigned to prolong his life. He ultimately
died of the illness thus contracted. My aide Lieutenant Conine was
appointed colonel of one of the new colored regiments, and went with
it to Virginia. Major Bascom, my adjutant-general, Major Treat, my
commissary, and Lieutenant Theodore Cox, my aide-de-camp, were
ordered to accompany me, and were all that remained of my old staff.
In the place of Conine I secured the detail of Captain E. D.
Saunders, assistant-adjutant-general, who had served temporarily on
my staff during the preceding season. He was the son of an old
resident of Cincinnati, an excellent officer in his department as
well as a gallant soldier, and he remained with me in closest
relations till he fell by my side in the Atlanta campaign in the
following year. His assignment as aide-de-camp was out of the usual
course, but it was allowed in view of the contingency that Major
Bascom could not remain with me if I should not continue in command
of an army corps. In this case Saunders would become my
adjutant-general, and this was what in fact occurred a little later.

At Lexington I found a group of ten or a dozen officers who were
eager to join my party in the ride over the mountains. The one of
highest rank was Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Strong of General Foster's
staff, who had been allowed a short leave of absence when his chief
started for the West, and was now hastening back to duty. I found a
ground for pleasant acquaintance with him in his relationship to
Bishop Bedell of Ohio, a venerated friend of mine as long as he
lived. Colonel Strong was a brother of Mrs. Bedell, and was a
refined and cultivated gentleman. Lieutenant-Colonel James T.
Sterling of the One Hundred and Third Ohio Infantry was also on his
way to join his regiment at Knoxville. He had been a captain in the
Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and served with me in my first
campaign in West Virginia, where I had become attached to him for
his military as well as his personal character. He became my
inspector-general in the field. Captain D. W. H. Day, assistant
quartermaster, was also en route to the Twenty-third Corps in the
field, and was directed to take charge of our little train. His
unbounded energy and his power to surmount obstacles so impressed me
that on our reaching Knoxville I had him also assigned to permanent
duty with me in his department. The others passed out of the circle
of permanent acquaintances when the journey was over, but they were
all pleasant travelling companions, and one or two of them would
have been remarkable anywhere for their wit and cheerfulness. It was
as happy and jolly a party as one need wish for in a rough ride of a
couple of hundred miles over the mountains.

Our escort turned out to be only twenty horsemen instead of a full
troop, but these were enough for protection against mere marauders,
and we had to take the chance of meeting organized bodies of the
enemy. Four army wagons were furnished us. One of these was loaded
with oats for our horses, and carried the personal baggage of the
cavalry troop. Another was loaded with ordinary army rations. A
third was devoted to mess supplies of the officers of the party, and
as we were going into a country wasted by war and almost
famine-stricken, we each tried to carry with us a small stock of
choice provisions which might eke out a little comfort to the mess.
The fourth wagon carried our personal baggage. Captain Day had
carefully selected strong and serviceable horses for the teams, and
the wagons were minutely inspected to see that they were fit for the
mountain work in a wilderness where wheelwrights could not be found.
It was our purpose to get both forage and provisions on the road if
we could buy them, and to save the stock in our wagons for a time of
necessity or to carry as much as possible into Knoxville.

I had telegraphed to Burnside as soon as I reached Cincinnati,
formally reporting myself as under his orders for duty in the field
by permission of the Secretary of War. I expressed my regret to hear
of his leaving the command, and urged my assignment to duty before
he laid down his authority. No answer to my dispatch was received,
and the fact was that full communication with Burnside by the
Cumberland Gap route was not opened till the 9th of December, so
that my letter was among the correspondence received by Burnside the
day he turned over the command to Foster. Another cause of
uneasiness to me was the change of department boundaries made in the
order assigning General Foster to command. The States north of the
Ohio were separated from the department, and I was apprehensive that
other changes might occur which would make me fall between two
stools. That there was danger of just such disappointments turned
out to be very true. My anxious determination to get forward to
Knoxville with the least possible delay was justified, and I had
reason to congratulate myself on acting promptly upon it.

Our cavalcade presented a gay appearance as we marched out of
Lexington on Friday morning. There were twelve or fifteen officers,
all well mounted and followed by a group of servants riding and
leading our extra horses. Part of the cavalry troop led the way, the
guidons fluttering in the van. Behind us came an ambulance and the
army wagons with clean white canvas covers and well-groomed teams of
four horses each, driven in army fashion by a driver astride of the
near wheel-horse, a mounted wagon-master superintending the whole.
The little column was closed by a squad of the cavalry acting as
rear-guard. There had not been any severe winter weather as yet, and
though the road was sloppy, the sun was bright overhead, and its
beams flashed from our side-arms and equipments. Our first day's
ride was to take us to Richmond, a thriving town twenty-five miles
away, the county-seat of Madison County, and a good turnpike road
made this an easy day's journey. We were in the rich blue-grass
region, and though all of central Kentucky showed the marks of war's
ravages, this region was comparatively unscathed, and the beautiful
rolling country was neither abandoned nor untilled. Horses and
cattle were noticeably few, for raids like Morgan's had been
frequent enough to teach the peril of having flocks and herds to
tempt the enemy. Farmers gave more attention than before to
agriculture proper and the raising of crops which would directly
support the family. There was nothing dispiriting in the view of the
country on this first day's ride, and though a winter landscape can
hardly be exhilarating when it is leafless and bare, gray, and a
little sombre in color, we found ourselves under no stress of
sympathy with misfortune or want, as is so often the case with the
soldier.

On leaving Richmond our really rough work began. The roads would
have been bad enough at any time, but the hard use by army trains in
bad weather and the entire lack of repair had made them execrable.
All the ordinary methods of keeping highways in order by local
administration were suspended by the war, and the only work done
upon them was what each wagon-master could do with his drivers to
mend the worst places so that his train could get through. As we
could not be sure of finding food for man or beast on the road, it
was necessary to gauge our speed by the distance our wagons could
make, so that we should not be separated from them. About twenty
miles a day was the maximum, and though we sometimes got a little
further, there were days when our journey was much less. South of
Richmond and on the border between Madison and Rockcastle counties,
we crossed Big Hill, the first of the outlying ranges of the
Cumberland Mountains. These great ridges are nearly parallel to each
other, and even the "gaps" in them are so high that there is always
a long and hard pull for wagon teams in surmounting them. Over the
summit we came down into the valleys tributary to the Rockcastle
River. Twenty or twenty-five miles away another summit marks the
boundary between this valley and the principal depression in which
the Cumberland River finds its devious course to the south and west.
The rocks are sandstone through which the Rockcastle River has cut
deep gorges and chasms, and the weathering of the cliffs has left
the strata and crevices exposed with so much of the regularity of
layers of masonry as to tell at once the story of the impression
made on the early explorers of the region, and the suggestion by
Nature herself of a name for the beautiful stream that dashes along
to join the Cumberland many miles below.

Our second day's journey ended far from any village or tavern, in
this romantic valley. A pouring rain had begun about noon, and we
plodded and splashed along till we reached a large log house which
seemed a convenient halting-place as far advanced as our wagons
could be brought. The house belonged to a thrifty widow. Half of it
was simply furnished, and in this part she and her children lived.
The other half was a large unfurnished room with the walls of hewn
logs and a great fireplace of stone in the middle of the long side
of the room. Out of this opened a little bedroom, a mere closet, in
which the spare bed for guests was placed. The widow put these two
rooms at our disposal. A roaring fire was soon burning on the
hearth, our saddles and horse trappings were arranged on the sides
of the room to serve as pillows, and blankets were brought in from
the ambulance. Supper was got, partly from our own stores, cooked
with the help of the family, and we were early ready for bed. The
guest chamber was assigned to me, but it was so small that for the
sake of ventilation the door was kept open, and the ruddy firelight
flashed upon as picturesque and as merry a group as one could wish
to see. A weary day in the saddle made all of us ready for sleep,
and quips and jokes soon died out as one after another seemed to
drop off into forgetfulness. The physical fatigue of the day made
one of the party develop a phenomenal capacity for snoring in his
heavy sleep, and in the quiet his nasal trumpeting grew more
pronounced. It proceeded by phrases, as it were, each effort
stronger than the preceding, till a fortissimo passage came and
ended with a snort which echoed through the room and was followed by
perfect silence. From the corner of the room came a drawling voice
with a sigh as of deep relief, "Thank God _he's_ dead." The shout of
laughter which followed showed that nearly all had roused themselves
for the _finale_, and the badgered performer of the music lost much
of the real comfort of his night's rest by his fear of committing
himself to a complete oblivion which might subject him to another
chaffing bout from his companions.

Another wet and uncomfortable day's ride brought us to London, an
unattractive village at the parting of the ways, the principal road
leading on to Cumberland Gap, and another on the right going to a
ford of the Cumberland River at Williamsburg, where there would be
again a choice of routes up the Elk Fork of the Cumberland between
the ridges known as Jellico Mountain and Pine Mountain. The left
wing of Burnside's column had taken this route in October, and after
crossing the Cumberland had climbed Jellico Mountain on their right
hand, and reached the headwaters of Emory River, a tributary of the
Tennessee which breaks through the mountains at Emory Gap, the
easiest route into East Tennessee. Another road kept in the valley
of Elk Fork till a place was reached where Pine Mountain, on the
left, could be scaled, and once over its summit a hard road led to
Big Creek Gap in the Cumberland Mountains, and thence by way of
Jacksboro to Knoxville.

At London we were met with news from East Tennessee which made me
reconsider the question of our route. We heard from Cumberland Gap
that after General Foster had joined Burnside at Knoxville,
Longstreet had moved in force to Rutledge, where he intercepted this
line of communication, and that Knoxville could not be reached by
that road for some time to come. This seemed to make it necessary to
turn off to the south. As between the road to Emory Gap over Jellico
Mountain and that to Big Creek Gap over Pine Mountain, the best
evidence seemed to indicate the latter as the easier, but with the
qualification which travellers in so wild a region have often to
face, that whichever way you go you will wish you had gone the
other. The name of Williamsburg on the Cumberland sounded as if it
might be a considerable town, but the man who gave us the route
warned us that we should find "it's not much of a 'burg neither when
you git thar." Our ride into London had been on Sunday, and was
surely a work of necessity if not of mercy. Captain B. had found his
horse a little shaky in coming down the steep hills, and at one
little stream the jaded beast came down on his knees in the water.
The captain with affected seriousness argued that it was a
punishment for travelling on the day of rest, but was effectually
silenced by the wag of the party, who humorously remarked, "Ah! if
your horse is so weak on Sunday what would have become of him and
you on a week day?" London did not afford us any lodgings that
tempted us indoors, and we wrapped ourselves in our blankets and
slept on the open veranda of a dilapidated house, building a
camp-fire in the yard in front. The rain had ceased, and we
preferred the frosty air to the narrow and stuffy quarters we should
otherwise have had to take.

The evening of the 14th of December brought us to the Cumberland
River, and as it was rising from the heavy rain of the preceding
week, we should have been glad to get over at once, but the wagons
could not overtake us till night, and we stopped at a country-house
on the north side where we were made quite comfortable. About one
o'clock in the morning, however, I was awakened by voices in the
room below me, and recognized that of Captain French of Burnside's
staff, who was asking the farmer to light a fire and prepare to
receive the general and his party, who were a little behind, wet and
nearly frozen. I got up and dressed myself, went downstairs to greet
the captain, who was soon joined by the rest of the party. The
general had come by the route I was taking, but his wagons had
broken down on the mountain-side, and he had been obliged to abandon
them. The party had picked up somewhere an old-fashioned stage-coach
on thorough braces, and this was drawn by ten mules. They had packed
on the backs of other mules such of their personal effects and
stores as they could, and had left the rest by the roadside. They
had halted for the night on the south side of the river, but at
midnight had been roused by the news that the river was rising, and
that they must pass the ford at once if they expected to get over.
In the darkness of the night it had been both difficult and
perilous, for the ford was diagonal to the course of the stream, and
there was great danger of getting into deep water. They were all
soaking wet and chilled, covered with mud, and as forlorn and
unkempt a set of men as was ever seen. They warmed and partly dried
themselves by the fire, and pushed on as soon as day began to break,
for the general was impatient to get forward. Colonel Goodrich,
Colonel Richmond, Major Van Buren, and the personal staff were with
him, and as my own staff had been well acquainted with them, it was
an interesting rencounter with all the events of the Knoxville
campaign to discuss. The general had sent his proposal to me to join
him, the very day Longstreet reached the Holston River at Loudon,
and when it had become evident that the Confederates were committed
to an active campaign in East Tennessee. General Hartsuff had found
that he could not endure the work, and had decided to leave before
Knoxville should be invested. My regret that I could not start at
once was diminished by the fact that the investment was complete
before I could possibly have reached Knoxville, so that no time had
been lost. But all the circumstances showed that Burnside had
regarded his request to be relieved as indefinitely postponed, and
the appointment of General Foster to succeed him was unexpected. He
had not heard that I was on my way, but after meeting me sent a
dispatch to Foster as soon as he reached the telegraph line. He had
informed Foster at Knoxville of his purpose in having me join him,
and sent this message in a friendly wish to promote my interests.

As soon as the general and his party were off, we began our
preparation to cross the river. Their experience had shown that the
increase of difficulty in keeping the ford at night was more than
would probably come from the rise of the water. I therefore ordered
everything to be ready as soon as it was broad daylight. We had
eaten our breakfast and were in the saddle as soon as we could see
clearly. Captain Day carefully examined the ford with a few of the
cavalrymen, and fixed the landmarks which would guide us to the
shallowest places. With these precautions and by carefully following
directions we got over without mishap. The water did not quite reach
the bodies of the wagons, and by lifting our feet out of our
stirrups we got over dryshod. The stream was swift, and the only way
to keep one's direction safely was to look ahead and not downward.
Had we tried it in the night, we should no doubt have fared as badly
as our friends who had preceded us.

A day's hard journey for the wagon teams brought us to the foot of
Pine Mountain at the point where the road leaves the bed of Elk Fork
to climb the steep ascent. We were now only nineteen miles from
Jacksboro, in the valley of the Clinch, but the distance was
multiplied by the cumulating difficulties of the way. We were not
far from Cross Mountain, a ridge which, as its name indicates,
connects the long parallel ranges of Jellico, Pine, and Cumberland
mountains. We must climb Pine Mountain to its crest, descend along
the shoulders of Cross Mountain near the head of the valley, then
scale the side of Cumberland Mountain to reach Big Creek Gap, from
which the valley of East Tennessee would open before us. We camped
for the night and prepared for an early start in the morning. The
teams were well fed and groomed, and the whole equipment was
carefully inspected to see that everything was ready for the strain
of the rough work of the morrow.

The morning of the 16th was fair and frosty, and we were astir
early. Pine Mountain loomed before us like the steep roof of some
vast gothic cathedral. The ridge seemed as straight as a house
ridge, and we could not see that any natural depression made the
ascent much easier in one place than another. Our road ran up a spur
of the mountain till the regular slope was reached, then turning to
the right it gradually mounted the steep incline by a diagonal
course on a long shelf cut in the hillside, with here and there a
level spot on which the teams could breathe. From where we stood in
the valley the mountain face looked precipitous, and the road a mere
line gradually rising along its front. It would have been bad enough
if it had been a metalled road in good order; but it was only a
rough track alternating in mud and rock, that had never been good
even in mid-summer, and it was now next to impassable. Under the
direction of Captain Day and the wagonmaster the teams were doubled,
two of the wagons being left in the valley till the others should
reach the summit, when the teams were to be brought back. When they
came to the long and hard pull, the drivers gave us a good sample of
army wagoning, their yelling and cracking of whips keeping up a
continual chorus, and at specially hard points the quartermaster and
wagon-master joined in the music like the baying of a pack of
hounds, while the horses seemed to be stimulated to almost frantic
action. This could not be kept up long, and when one of the level
breathing-places was reached all subsided into quiet, while the
steaming and puffing horses regained their wind for another effort.

Five miles of advance was the utmost we could make on that day, but
this was fifteen for the teams, as they had to be brought down the
mountain over the same road and drag up the wagons which had been
left at the foot. Our party of cavaliers waited lazily in the valley
till the first of the wagons were near the summit, and then rode on
to overtake them on the other side of the ridge. It was an easy and
picturesque ride for us who were well mounted, but a wearing labor
and strain for the teamsters and their animals. We congratulated
ourselves on the care with which the "outfit" had been selected at
Lexington, for we came through without accident on a road where
wrecks were plentier than milestones.

We had sweet slumber that night in the keen air of the mountain top,
and were ready for the last day of mountain work. We were fourteen
miles from Jacksboro, and were resolved to reach the little town
before night. The road was unlike the long inclined plane cut in the
side of Pine Mountain. We were in the midst of a mass of irregular
stony hills, all of them part of the highlands between the summits
of the two ranges. It was hard and rough work, but we were not
obliged to double the teams again. The last ascent of the Cumberland
Mountains toward Big Creek Gap was over bare rock much of the way,
the sandstone strata lying horizontal, and the road being a gigantic
staircase in which the steps were sometimes a foot each, but oftener
more, with an occasional rise of fully four feet in the edge of the
rocky outcrop. In the road the sharp edges of these stairs had been
rounded off, partly by wear and a little by mechanical means, but
they distinctly retained the stair-like character and looked
absolutely impracticable. At the worst places the teamsters would
halt and throw together stones or branches of trees to fill the
angle in the rock, then mounting, a whoop and a crack of the whip
was the signal for the team to dash at the obstacle. The horses'
shoes would strike fire from the level rock of the long "treader"
above, the wagon would be bounced up the step, when a little bit of
level would bring them to another rise in the staircase. We
zigzagged along as the road sought the easiest places among the
rocks, and perseverance at last had its reward when we crowned the
summit and looked down into the broad and beautiful valleys of the
Clinch and the Holston, the lovely tributaries which form the
Tennessee River.

Our first look into Big Creek Gap was a startling and pleasurable
surprise which has remained indelibly fixed in memory. Clouds had
been hanging about the top of the mountain, and as we ascended the
last slope and reached the crest, they hung so low over us that we
could almost touch them. It was not like going into a fog, as is
usually the case in climbing mountains, but these seemed smooth as
silk on the under surface and hung over us as well defined as the
covering of a tent. This gave to the prospect an accidental and very
peculiar effect that one might not see again in crossing the pass a
hundred times. As we looked eastward from the depression in the
crest in which our roadway ran, a great circling amphitheatre lay
before us, almost perfect in the symmetry of its curves. The ridge
on right and left which formed its outer margin was higher than the
spot on which we stood, and the silky clouds over our heads rested
on it as on the walls of a natural coliseum, like the _velum_ of
canvas of the ancient gigantic structure in Rome, except that here,
nature outdoing all art, spread the lovely awning over the whole
vast and cavernous auditorium a mile or more across. The gloom of
the interior threw the retreating slopes into a mysterious shadow in
which it were easy to imagine them peopled with ranks of ghostly
auditors gazing upon the stage. It was there, full in our faces,
that the most startling and almost incredible effect was visible.
The circle of the mountains was there broken by an opening flanked
on either side by stupendous perpendicular cliffs, and we looked
through it upon a charming landscape bathed in glorious sunshine. A
blue stream dashed foaming through the great gap and wandered off to
join the river beyond. The broad and undulating valley fifty miles
across was backed by another mountain wall which towered opposite to
that from whose battlements we were gazing, not a long and level
ridge like so many of those in the Alleghanies, but a picturesque
Alpine mountain scene, with peaks snow-clad and dazzling in the
sunlight,--the Great Smokies, the noblest of all the mountain groups
of the Appalachian chain. The gloom and shadow of our vast
amphitheatre held us in awe, while the brilliancy of the scene
beyond the great stage opening seemed to draw us to it as to a
promised land. We sat upon our horses, spellbound, gazing upon what
seemed at once too grand and too beautiful to be real. Had we been
superstitious like soldiers of an ancient time, we might have seen a
miraculous portent in it; and even as it was, such sentiment as may
be permitted in the sceptical spirit of our own day could find a
happy omen in the scene. We were entering upon a new chapter in our
military lives, and it was cheering to us, in entering East
Tennessee, through the great gate that opened before us, to have so
charming a picture to lure us on. We wound down the mountain side,
happy but quiet. There was no one among us so lacking in earnest
character as to be unmoved. We had left the wagons far behind, and
the clinking of our horses' shoes upon the rocks was the only sound
which broke the silence till the roaring and laughing brook that
gives a name to the pass met us and rollicked beside us, as we went
out between the giant cliffs into the broad and cheerful valley.

At Jacksboro we entered the theatre of active warlike operations,
and found ourselves in the usual atmosphere of rumors. It was of
course known that Longstreet had retreated to the northeast after
raising the siege, but some insisted that he was moving down the
valley again, and that Foster was to be shut up in Knoxville as
Burnside had been. It was evident that there was no definite
information on which any of these local opinions were based, and I
was satisfied that our road was open and safe. The only risk was
from some raiding column of cavalry, and we must take our chances as
to that. After a good night's rest, I decided on the morning of the
18th to take with me Colonel Strong of General Foster's staff and
Colonel Sterling, and leaving the wagons behind, to make the forty
miles to Knoxville in a single day's ride. What we had heard of the
destitution in the city made it seem best that most of the party
should remain with the wagons and the supplies, and so avoid the
risk of throwing too many guests upon the hospitality of
headquarters. We took a few of the cavalry as an escort, and both
horses and men were in such good condition and so hardened to the
road that we scarcely broke from a trot in the whole distance,
except to stop for resting and feeding our nags at noon.

We reached Knoxville in the afternoon, and Colonel Strong was warmly
welcomed by those of the staff who were present, but the general was
absent at the front. He was expected back the next night, however,
and comfortable quarters were provided for us meanwhile. My
instinctive fears of complications in regard to my own assignment to
duty proved to be true. The very day I left Lexington General Foster
had issued an order assigning me to command the District of
Kentucky, and it had passed me on the road. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. pp. 383, 394.] My determination to obey
literally the order from the War Department to report in person, and
the haste with which I had started, proved my salvation from the
kind of duty at the rear which I was bent on escaping. The District
of Kentucky would have been even worse than that of Ohio, for the
strife between political factions embroiled every one who commanded
there, and the order to me had been issued because the officer in
command was obnoxious to one of these factions.

General Foster returned on the 19th, and on my reporting to him I
found at once the benefit of General Burnside's representations in
regard to me. Colonel Strong was also well aware of my earnest wish
for field service, and the friendship which had grown up on the
road, no doubt, made him an influential advocate with his chief. The
general received me very kindly, and said that his action had been
based on the supposition that I would prefer duty in Kentucky during
the winter rather than make the rough journey over the mountains at
that season. On my assuring him that my coming without waiting to
communicate with him was because of my earnest request to the War
Department for service in the field, he was evidently pleased and
immediately revoked the orders already made, and assigned me to the
Twenty-third Corps, to command it as the senior general officer
present. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii, p. 457.]

I had been eight days on the road from Lexington, and the rest of
the party who remained with the wagons were a day longer in reaching
Knoxville. It had given me a vivid appreciation of the impossibility
of supplying an army in East Tennessee by wagon trains over the
mountains. The roads by Cumberland Gap or by Emory Gap were less
precipitous, but they were more muddy. The forage was exhausted
along all the routes, and till grass should grow large trains of
supplies were not to be thought of. The effort to force trains
through in the autumn had been most destructive to the teams.
Noticing how the way was lined by the carcasses of dead horses and
mules, we kept an accurate count one day of the number of these. In
the twenty miles of that day's journey we counted a hundred and
fifty dead draught animals. The movement of wagon-trains had, of
course, been suspended when Longstreet advanced upon Knoxville, and
bad weather had hardly begun then. Beef cattle could be driven in
herds, but the country was so stripped of forage that the danger of
starvation by the way made this mode of supply nearly as hopeless as
the other.

The only permanent solution of the subsistence problem was to be
found in enlarging the facilities for railway communication at
Chattanooga so that that town might become a great depot from which
the East Tennessee troops could draw as soon as the railroad to
Knoxville should be repaired, or light steamboats be brought to the
upper Tennessee and Holston rivers. They showed us at Knoxville
samples of the bread issued to the garrison during the siege. It was
made of a mixture of all the breadstuffs which were in store or
could be procured, but the chief ingredient was Indian corn ground
up cob and all. It was not an attractive loaf, but it would support
life, though the bulk was out of proportion to the nutriment. The
cattle had been kept in corral till they were too thin and weak to
be fit for food, but there was no other, and the commissaries killed
the weakest and issued them as rations because these would otherwise
die a natural death. Sherman and his staff had expressed their
astonishment that an appetizing dinner had been spread for them at
Burnside's headquarters; [Footnote: Sherman's Memoirs, vol. i. p.
368.] but they would have wondered more if they had known of the way
in which the town and vicinity had been ransacked to do honor to the
welcome guests who had relieved the beleaguered army. General Poe
vividly describes the straits they were in, and the heroic sort of
hospitality which had hunted far and wide for something fit to set
before the leader of the column which had raised the siege.
[Footnote: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. iii. p. 745.]
There had been no danger of actual starvation, but only the coarsest
of bread and the poorest of beef could be distributed. Eating, in
such circumstances, was not a pleasure, and the pangs of real hunger
were necessary to make the ration at all palatable. The withdrawal
of the enemy relieved the situation somewhat, for it opened the
country to foraging parties, and every kind of produce which money
could tempt the people to part with was bought and brought into the
camps. It was little enough at best, and three months of pinching
want were to be endured before anything like regular supplies could
be furnished to the army. It was to such a house of destitution we
had come, but we had come voluntarily to share the labors and the
triumphs of our comrades in the field and we had no regrets.

CHAPTER XXXI

WINTER BIVOUACS IN EAST TENNESSEE

Blain's Cross-roads--Hanson's headquarters--A hearty
welcome--Establishing field quarters--Tents and houses--A good
quartermaster--Headquarters' business--Soldiers' camps--Want of
clothing and shoes--The rations--Running the country
mills--Condition of horses and mules--Visit to Opdycke's camp--A
Christmas dinner--Veteran enlistments--Patriotic spirit--Detachment
at Strawberry Plains--Concentration of corps there--Camp on a
knoll-A night scene-Climate of the valley--Affair at Mossy
Creek--New Year's blizzard--Pitiful condition of the
troops--Patience and courage--Zero weather.

The Twenty-third Corps was encamped at Blain's Cross-roads,
seventeen miles northeast of Knoxville, on the road to Rutledge,
where Longstreet was supposed to be. The Fourth Corps, under General
Granger, and the Ninth, under General Parke, were in the same
neighborhood. The cavalry corps covered the front and flanks on both
sides of Holston River. A concentration of the Army of the Ohio and
its reinforcements had been made there to meet a rumored return of
the Confederates toward Knoxville after an affair at Rutledge in
which Longstreet had captured a wagon-train loaded with supplies for
us. I left Knoxville on the morning of the 21st of December,
accompanied by my staff officers, and rode to Blain's Cross-roads. I
found the corps under temporary command of Brigadier-General Mahlon
D. Manson, of Indiana, who had commanded one of the divisions in the
preceding campaign. Manson occupied an old log house too small for
himself and staff. There was but one bed in it, and at night the
general occupied this, whilst his staff slept in their blankets on
the floor. We had travelled leisurely, as I wished to study the
country between Knoxville and the camp, and we reached the corps too
late to make any arrangement for the night, and had to cast
ourselves on our comrades' hospitality. I was most heartily welcomed
by General Manson, who did the best he could for me by offering me
the half of his own bed, whilst the staff took similar lodgings with
his officers in a shed veranda at the back of the house lying snugly
together, wrapped in their blankets. Manson was a burly,
whole-souled man, brave and loyally unselfish, and turned over the
command to me with a sincerity of subordination which won my
confidence at once. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii.
pp. 462, 463.] It was not a comfortable night in the overcrowded log
house for either hosts or guests, but it was made cheery by the
hearty soldiers' welcome we received, and we sat late around the
crackling fire in the stone chimney after we had eaten with a
relish, known only in camp, the best supper which the meagre rations
of the army could furnish.

Our first occupation next day was to establish my own headquarters,
for a military man does not feel at home until his little camp is
set in some decent nook with the regularity and order which shows
good system, and with the sentinel pacing before the entrance. I
have always found it most comfortable and most healthful to live
under canvas, even in winter, in the sparsely settled parts of the
country. It might be different in Europe or in the more densely
peopled States at the East, but in the West and South a house cannot
always be found in proper proximity to the line, and changing from
house to tent and back again is much more dangerous to health than
adherence to what seems the more exposed kind of life. There is also
a question of discipline and _morale_ involved, and the effect of
example at headquarters is felt through the whole command. With no
little difficulty we found four old tents without flies, but these
were carefully pitched in a clean place accessible to all parts of
the corps, and when we were installed in them we had a real
satisfaction in being at home and ready for business. Our difficulty
in procuring four poor tents was simply an index of the scarcity of
all supplies and equipments. The depots at Cincinnati and Nashville
were packed with everything we wanted, but there had been no time to
get them forward when the siege began, and now the impassable
mountain roads cut us off as completely as a circle of hostile
camps. We especially felt the lack of the flies for the tents in
roughing it. This extra roof makes as great a difference in keeping
a tent habitable in wet weather, as an extra cape or a poncho does
in keeping the rain off one's person, or in civil life the
omnipresent umbrella. Our overcoats and ponchos kept out the wet in
the longest march, but without a fly the tent roof and walls would
drip with moisture. In Captain Day, however, I had a quartermaster
whose indomitable energy would not be long baffled, and in his
journeys to and fro in charge of the supply trains of the corps he
kept a sharp eye out for whatever would make our headquarters outfit
more efficient. The warehouses at Knoxville were searched, and a
better tent found in one place and a fly in another gradually
brought our little camp into what soldiers regard as a home-like
condition. The clerical work and the official correspondence of the
command could then go on; for the headquarters of an army corps in
the field is as busy a place as a bank or counting-house in a city.
It is the business centre for a military population of 12,000 or
15,000 men, where local government is carried on, and where their
feeding, clothing, arming, and equipping are organized and directed,
to say nothing of the military conduct in regard to the enemy, or of
the administration of affairs relating to the neighboring
inhabitants.

The troops were in bivouac, generally in the woods about us, where
shelter could be made in ways well known to lumbermen and hunters.
The most common form was a lean-to, made by setting a couple of
crotched posts in the ground with a long pole for a ridge. Against
this were laid other poles and branches of trees sloping to the
ground on the windward side. The roof was roughly thatched with
evergreen branches laid so that rain would be shed outward. A bed of
small evergreen twigs within made a comfortable couch, and unlimited
firewood from the forest made a camp fire in front that kept
everybody toasting warm in ordinary weather. The regimental and
company officers had similar quarters, improved sometimes by a roof
of canvas or tarpaulin beneath the evergreen thatch. There were but
few days in the East Tennessee winters when such shelter was not a
sufficient protection for men young and accustomed to hardship. It
was in fact more comfortable than life in tents at division and
corps headquarters, but with us tents were a necessity on account of
the clerical business which I have mentioned.

The want most felt was that of clothing and shoes. The supply of
these had run very low by the time Burnside had marched through
Kentucky and Tennessee to Knoxville, and almost none had been
received since. Many of the soldiers were literally in rags, and
none were prepared for winter when Longstreet interrupted all
communication with the base of supplies. Their shoes were worn out,
and this, even more than their raggedness, made winter marching out
of the question. The barefooted men had to be left behind, and of
those who started the more poorly shod would straggle, no matter how
good their own will was or how carefully the officers tried to
enforce discipline and keep their men together.

The food question was in a very unsatisfactory way, but had improved
a good deal after the siege of Knoxville was raised. Some herds had
been brought part of the way, and had been kept together, so that
they were driven in as soon as the road was open. Some were captured
and some were lost, but enough arrived so that the meat ration was
pretty regularly issued in full weight. A large amount of pork had
been salted and packed at Knoxville, and was issued as an occasional
change from the ordinary ration of fresh beef. The "small rations"
of coffee, sugar, salt, etc., were almost wholly wanting, and our
soldiers had been so accustomed to a regular issue of these that the
deprivation was a very serious matter. As to breadstuffs, none could
be got from our depots and we were wholly dependent upon the
country. We put all the mills within our lines under military
supervision, and systematized the grinding so that the supply of
meal and flour should be equitably distributed to the army and to
the inhabitants. As the people were loyal, there was no wish on the
part of the military authorities to take corn or other grain without
payment, and the people brought in freely or sold to us on their
farms all that they could spare. Still the supply was short, and was
soon exhausted in the vicinity of the army, so that we had to send
forage trains to great distances and with very unsatisfactory
results. During the whole winter we rarely succeeded in obtaining
half rations of bread, and oftentimes the fraction was so small as
to be hardly worth estimating. In such a situation corn could not be
taken for horse-feed, and as the long forage in our vicinity was
exhausted, the animals were in pitiful condition. In many instances
artillery horses dropped dead of starvation at the picket rope.

The Fourth Corps was no better off than ourselves. Granger had left
the Army of the Cumberland immediately after the battle of
Missionary Ridge, and although the situation at Chattanooga had been
a good deal mitigated, no considerable supplies of clothing had then
arrived. The distress was therefore universal in our East Tennessee
army. Learning that Sheridan's division was encamped not far from us
at Blain's Cross-roads, I rode over to find Colonel Emerson Opdycke
of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Ohio, who was in that division.
He was a townsman of mine, and our families were intimate, and other
neighbors and friends were with him. I could give them later news
from home than any of them had, for until the end of the year the
newspapers I brought from Cincinnati were the latest in camp. I
found Opdycke's camp like our own. He was in the woods, under a
lean-to shelter such as I have described, with a camp-fire of great
logs in front of it. He was just opening the first letters he had
got from home since the battle of Chickamauga in September, and
these had been a long time on the way, for they had gone to
Chattanooga and had come by casual conveyance from there. His
statements fully agreed with the reports I had got from the
Twenty-third Corps officers in regard to the condition of the
troops. It was the same with all. They would not suffer greatly if
they could remain in the forest encampments till shoes and clothing
could come to us, but any active campaigning must produce
intolerable suffering.

Our mess wished to celebrate Christmas by a dinner at which a few of
our comrades might share the luxury of some canned vegetables and
other stores we had brought from Ohio, and we sent a man with a
foraging party that was going twenty miles away for hay and corn.
After a diligent search he succeeded in getting a turkey and a pair
of fowls, and we kept the festival in what seemed luxurious style to
our friends who had been through the campaign. The spirit of
officers and men was all that could be wished, for they thoroughly
understood the causes of their privation, and knew that it was
unavoidable. Their patriotism and their moral tone were
magnificently shown in the re-enlistments which were at this time
going on. The troops of the original enlistment of 1861 were now
near the end of their term of three years, and it was the wise
policy of the government to let the question of a new term be
settled now while the winter was interrupting active operations.
Regiments whose term of service would expire in the spring or summer
of 1864 were offered a month's furlough at home and the title of
"veterans" if they would re-enlist. The furlough was to be enjoyed
before the opening of the next campaign, and the regiments were to
be sent off as fast as circumstances would permit. We knew that the
home visit would be a strong inducement to many, but we were
astonished and awed at the noble unanimity of the popular spirit of
the men. Almost to a man they were determined to "see it out," as
they said. The re-enlistment was accepted by companies, but there
was great pride in preserving the regimental organization as well.
The closing week of the year was devoted to this business, other
duty being suspended as far as circumstances would permit. When a
company had "veteranized" by the re-enlistment of a majority, they
announced it by parading on the company street and giving three
rousing cheers. These cheers were the news of the day, and the
company letter and the number of the regiment passed eagerly from
mouth to mouth as the signal of a new veteran company was heard.
Some companies re-enlisted without an exception. In one regiment
there were only 15 men in the ten companies who did not sign the new
rolls. In fact only the physically disabled with here and there a
discontented man were omitted in the veteran enlistment. It was a
remarkable incident in the history of the war and a speaking one. It
illustrates better than anything, except the original outburst of
patriotism in 1861, the character of the men who formed our rank and
file. Could we only have had then an efficient system of filling up
these veteran regiments by new recruits, the whole would have made
an incomparable army; but, alas, we were to see them reduced to a
handful while new regiments were organized, only (as it looked to us
in the field) to give the "patronage" of the appointments to
politicians, or to reward successful recruiting instead of soldierly
ability tested in action.

Soon after General Foster was assigned to the department he reissued
an order which Burnside had made earlier but had revoked, by which
Brigadier-General Samuel D. Sturgis was appointed to the command of
the cavalry corps. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii,
p. 394.] Sturgis had commanded a division of the Ninth Corps in
Maryland and Virginia, and was one of those whose dismissal Burnside
had demanded for the insubordination which followed the battle of
Fredericksburg. Good policy would have dictated that he should be
sent to some other command; but he was ordered to report to
Burnside, and had no active employment until Foster arrived. The
cavalry corps had had several lively engagements with the
Confederate horse, and was now concentrated near Mossy Creek, where
it was supported by a brigade of infantry from the second division
of the Twenty-third Corps, in command of Colonel Mott of the One
Hundred and Eighteenth Ohio. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 488, 489, 562.]
Our information showed that Longstreet's forces were now
concentrated about Morristown, and that nothing larger than scouting
parties came across to the west side of the Holston. It became
prudent, therefore, to transfer part of our forces from the Rutledge
road over to that which runs from Knoxville along the line of the
railroad to Morristown. Both the railroad and the wagon-road cross
the Holston at Strawberry Plains and go up the valley on the east
side of the river by way of New Market and Mossy Creek. On the 24th
and 25th I was directed to send two more brigades to Strawberry
Plains, [Footnote: _Id_., p. 490.]one of which was put over the
river to cover the reconstruction of the railway bridge which was
going on. This was the long trestle which had been burned by Sanders
in the preceding summer, and had since been repaired and destroyed
by the opposing armies alternately. On the 27th I was ordered to
move the other division of the corps to Strawberry Plains, thus
concentrating my command in that vicinity. Our distance from
Knoxville would be about the same as at Blain's Cross-roads, but the
divergence of the roads made our march some six or eight miles
across the country.

It was a great hardship to the men to abandon the huts they had made
with a good deal of labor, and which were the more necessary for
them by reason of the destitution which I have described. Nor was it
pleasant for us at headquarters, for we had got our own
establishment into a condition of tolerable comfort. Some brick had
been got from a ruined and abandoned house, and with them a chimney
with an open fireplace had been built at the back of one of our
tents, which thus made a cheerful sitting-room for our mess. It is a
soldier's proverb that comfortable quarters are sure to bring
marching orders, and we were only illustrating the rule. The march
was made in the afternoon through rain and mud, and we reached
Strawberry Plains just before nightfall in the short midwinter day.
The Plains were a nearly level space in a curve of the river, though
the village of the name was on some rough hills on the other bank at
the end of the long trestle bridge. The level lands had been for
some time occupied by the cavalry, and were so cut into mud-holes
and defiled in every way as to be unfit for an infantry camp. A
little on one side, however, was an isolated gently rounded hill
covered with a mixed forest of oak and pine. With a little crowding
this would make a clean and well-drained camp for the division I had
brought with me. The brigades were placed so that they encircled the
hill on the lower slopes with openings between leading to the top,
on which I placed my headquarters. The little quadrangle of tents on
the top, the forest-covered slopes, the busy soldiery below making
new camps for themselves, made a romantic picture despite the
discomforts. I cannot better show the impression made at the moment
than by quoting from a letter written home the next day: "When we
arrived, the rain was pouring in torrents, the dead leaves, wet and
deep, soaked our boots and made it slow work to kindle a fire, and
as we stood about in our overcoats heavy with water, we were not
especially impressed with the romance of the scene; but when we had
found a few old pine-knots to start the fire with, and the heavy
smoke of the damp leaves changed to a bright flame,--when the tents
were pitched, a cup of hot coffee made, and we sat about the fire
watching the flashing light on the deep green of the pines and the
beautiful russet of the oak leaves with the white of the tents
beneath, the few square yards about us were made as lovely as a
fairy scene shut in by the impenetrable gloom beyond. The old
witchery of camp life now came over us, we forgot rain and cold,
singing and chatting as merrily as if care were dead, till finally
rolling in our blankets under our tents, we went to sleep as sweetly
and soundly as children."

A day or two of bright mild weather followed, and the troops got
themselves fairly well sheltered again. The cutting of trees for
huts and for firewood thinned out the forest, and the elevation of
the camp above the surrounding country exposed us to the wind, as we
soon learned to our cost. Whilst the fair days lasted, we had a
favorable example of an East Tennessee winter, as is shown by the
further quotation from the home letter just cited. "I am sitting in
the open air," I said, "before the camp-fire of great logs, writing
upon my atlas on my knee, which is more comfortable than doing it in
the chilly shade of the tent. I wish you could have seen our camp
last night. We were grouped around the fire, some sitting and
lolling on the logs drawn up for fuel, some in camp chairs. The
smoke from the camps about us made the whole air hazy. Over the
tents through a vista of pine-trees the moon was rising red through
the thickened air, while overhead the stars were shining. The
wonderful perspective the firelight makes in the forest, here
brought out and deepened the mass of color of the evergreens, there
made the bare trunk and limbs of a leafless oak stand like a chalk
drawing against the black background, and again it gave rich velvety
warmth to the brown of the dead leaves which hung thick on some
trees, while the gloom beyond and the snug enclosure of our little
quadrangle of tents shut us in with a sense of shelter, and
completed a picture that would have made Rembrandt die of envy." We
were hardened by our continuous exposure so that we felt no
discomfort in sitting thus in the open air till late in the evening,
though we woke in the morning to find the dead leaves which made our
carpet stiff and crisp with the frost. Still, it was much milder
than the Christmas weather of northern Ohio, or we could not have
taken it so easily.

On the 29th the cavalry had a lively affair with the enemy at Mossy
Creek, some twenty miles above us. General Sturgis was making a
reconnoissance of the country between the French Broad and the
Holston rivers, sending the cavalry partly toward Dandridge on the
former stream, under command of Colonel Foster, and partly toward
Morristown, under Brigadier-General W. L. Elliott of the Cumberland
army. Elliott was supported by Mott's brigade of infantry, part of
which acted under his orders. Foster found no enemy, but Elliott had
advanced about three miles beyond Mossy Creek when he encountered
the cavalry corps of the Confederates, advancing, apparently, with a
purpose similar to ours. The infantry were posted by Sturgis upon a
ridge half a mile beyond the railway bridge at Mossy Creek, and the
cavalry with the artillery were ordered to retire slowly to the same
position. The enemy under Major-General William T. Martin consisted
of two divisions of horsemen and two batteries of artillery. They
closely followed our retiring troops, who made cool resistance and
drew back slowly and in order. When the position of the infantry was
reached, the whole force was halted to receive the Confederate
attack. Sturgis had two batteries of artillery with his corps, but
had sent a section of each with Colonel Foster, and Elliott now
placed the remaining sections on right and left of the road, each
supported by infantry. Martin boldly attacked till he found himself
confronted by Mott's infantry, which opened upon him with a
withering fire. The artillery also fired canister upon the advancing
enemy, and our horsemen, dismounting, extended the line and did good
execution with their carbines. The first assault being repulsed,
Martin was unwilling to give it up so, and bringing his artillery
into better position renewed the fight. A sharp skirmishing combat
was kept up for several hours, when the enemy retreated. Darkness
came on soon after, and the pursuit was not pushed far. Our losses
had been 17 killed and 87 wounded. That of the enemy was reported to
be much more severe. The result of the engagement was to repress the
enterprise of the Confederates, so that Mossy Creek remained for
some time our undisturbed outpost in the valley. [Footnote: Official
Records, vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 625-641.]

On New Year's eve we had a change of weather which rudely broke in
upon our dream of a steady and mild winter. It had been raining
nearly all day, and we had just turned in about ten o'clock in the
evening when a sudden gale sprung up from the northward. The
water-soaked ground did not hold the tent pins very well, and the
rattling of canvas warned us to look after the fastenings. The staff
were all quickly at work, the servants being, as usual, slow in
answering a call in the night. The front of our mess tent blew in,
and the roof and sides were bellying out and flapping like a ship's
sail half clewed up. I caught the door-flaps and held them down to
the pole with all my strength, shouting to the black boys to turn
out before the whole should fly away. Then we had a lively time for
an hour, going from tent to tent to drive the pins tighter and make
things secure. We had just got them snug, as we thought, and began
to listen to the roaring of the wind with something like defiance,
when a "stick-and-clay" chimney, which Colonel Sterling and my
brother had at the back of their tent, took fire and was near
setting the whole encampment in a blaze. This made another shout and
rush, till the chimney was torn away from the canvas and the fire
extinguished. The gale was so fierce that the sparks from the
camp-fires rolled along the ground instead of rising, and we should
have burned up had not the rain kept the tents soaking wet. It grew
cold so fast that by the time we had made the encampment safe, the
wet canvas froze stiff. It must be confessed that we did not sleep
well that night, and we got up in the morning aching with cold. It
still blew a gale, though the sky was clear and the thermometer had
fallen to zero. It was a typical cyclone coming as a cold wave from
the North, and, as we afterward learned, was exceptional in its
suddenness and bitterness along the whole line from Minnesota to
northern Georgia.

The soldiers in the camps had slept but little, for they were
obliged to keep awake and near the fires to escape freezing. No one
who has not lived in tents or in bivouac in such a time can
understand what real suffering from cold is. Exposure by day is easy
to bear compared with the chill by night when camp-fires burn low
and men lie shivering, their teeth chattering, while extreme
drowsiness makes exertion painful and there is danger of going off
into the sleep that knows no waking. On New Year's day morning the
ground was frozen solid. All huddled about the fires, but the gale
was so fierce that on the windward side there seemed to be no
radiation of heat, so completely was the fire blown away from that
side of the logs. On the leeward side the smoke suffocated and the
sparks burned one, and men passed from one side to the other
doubting which was the more tolerable.

I spent a good part of the morning going through the regimental
camps and giving such encouragement and cheer as I could. The
patience and courage of the troops were marvellous, though many of
the men were in a pitiable condition as to clothing. They were
tatterdemalions in appearance, but heroes at heart. Some had nothing
but drawers upon their legs, their trousers being utterly worn to
rags. Some had no coats and drew their tattered blankets about them,
sitting upon their haunches, like Indians, about the camp-fires. I
do not recall a single querulous or ill-natured complaint. It was
heart-breaking work to see their misery, but they were so
intelligent that they knew as well as I did that it had grown out of
the inevitable fortunes of war, in spite of the utmost efforts of
their commanders to get supplies forward as soon as the siege of
Knoxville had been raised. I estimated that fully one-third of the
command had lost and worn out some material portion of their
clothing, so as to be suffering for lack of it. A little thing which
added greatly to the discomfort of the men was that in some whole
brigades they had been without soap for two months. This made
cleanliness impossible, and clustering about the fires as they were
forced to do, they became so begrimed that a liberal supply of soap
would have been necessary to restore their color and show to what
race they belonged. Yet, hungry, cold, ragged, and dirty, they
responded cheerily to my New-Year's greetings, and at this very time
the "veteranizing" was going on without a check until nearly every
one of the old regiments re-enlisted for another term.

At our headquarters on the hill-top we realized that our picturesque
situation had its disadvantages, for we were doubly exposed to the
force of the wind. We were on a high dome, as it were, with nothing
whatever to make a lee or break the power of the icy gale. In one or
two of the tents, furnaces or stoves of stone had been made, on the
pattern of those we had used in West Virginia in 1861. The trench in
the ground with flat stone covering level with the tent floor and
connected with an opening on the outside, proved the most successful
device. We collected in these, and used every manner of pastime to
kill the tedious hours till the subsidence of the wind made our
usual outdoor life and activity possible again. Our efforts at meals
were a woeful sort of failure. Cooking under such difficulties was
more a name than a fact, and we left the mess tent shivering and
hardly less hungry than we entered it. But all things have an end,
however tedious they seem in passing, and the 2d of January seemed
pleasant in the comparison, for the "blizzard" was over, and the
weather was calm though cold.

CHAPTER XXXII

GRANT'S VISIT--THE DANDRIDGE AFFAIR

Grant at Knoxville--Comes to Strawberry Plains--A gathering at
Parke's quarters--Grant's quiet manner--No conversational
discussion--Contrast with Sherman--Talk of cadet days--Grant's
riding-school story--No council of war--Qualities of his
dispatches--Returns by Cumberland Gap--Longstreet's
situation--Destitution of both armies--Railroad repairs and improved
service--Light-draught steamboats--Bridges--Cattle herds on the
way--Results of Grant's inspection tour--Foster's movement to
Dandridge on the French Broad--Sheridan--His qualities--August
Willich--Hazen--His disagreement with Sheridan--Its causes and
consequences--Combat at Dandridge--A mutual surprise--Sheridan's
bridge--An amusing blunder--A consultation in Dandridge--Sturgis's
toddy--Retreat to Strawberry Plains--A hard night march--A rough
day--An uncomfortable bivouac--Concentration toward
Knoxville--Rumors of reinforcement of Longstreet--Expectation of
another siege--The rumors untrue.

In the midst of the severest suffering of the army from cold and
want, General Grant came in person to inspect the condition of
affairs in East Tennessee. He reached Knoxville on the 30th of
December, and after spending two or three days with General Foster,
came up to Strawberry Plains. The first intensity of the cold wave
had passed by, but it was still "zero weather" when he came: indeed
he had waited in Knoxville for a little moderating of the
temperature, but finding that it continued very cold, his desire to
complete the inspection hurried him on. The corps and division
commanders accompanied him in a ride through the camps that he might
see the destitution of the army, and the necessity for sparing the
troops all unnecessary exposure. The great trestle bridge across the
Holston was examined, and the features of the topography which made
Strawberry Plains an important point in military operations covering
Knoxville and the line of communication with Cumberland Gap.

At the end of the ride we gathered in General Parke's quarters for
what I supposed would be a discussion of the situation and a
comparison of views as to our future work. It was my first meeting
with Grant, and I was full of interest in observing him. On the ride
he had been quietly attentive, making no show of curiosity, asking
few questions, carrying himself in an unpretentious business-like
way. In the social meeting at General Parke's I was disappointed
that the conversation did not take the direction of a military
discussion. Grant did not seem to desire further information, but
was satisfied with what he had seen. He took no lead in
conversation, and it was evident that he almost wholly lacked
facility in that way. What he said was kindly; there was nothing
like surliness in his manner; but he seemed to be without the
faculty of drawing other people out and putting himself in easy
accord with them. No doubt his interviews with General Foster had
contained all that was necessary for making up his mind as to our
situation except the personal inspection he was now engaged in; but
had he been Sherman, he would have gone over the phases of the
matter which could properly be made the subject of general
discussion, would have emphasized whatever could be made
encouraging, and exhorted to patience and courage in doing the
present duty. Grant did nothing of the kind. He smoked and listened,
and did not accept any of the openings which others made for
conversation upon the campaign.

A majority of the officers in the group were West Point men, and
college life is always a resource for small-talk when other subjects
fail. The experiences of the military school, the characteristics of
friends and classmates there, the qualities of the officers and
professors, escapades and larks at Benny Havens' were found to have
perennial freshness and interest. Grant evidently enjoyed this, and
began to talk more freely. One could see that he did not lack the
sense of humor, and he told an anecdote simply but without failing
to make its points tell. His voice lacked volume, and seemed thin
and rather high-keyed. It was half-deprecatory in tone, with an air
of shyness, and he had a way of glancing quickly from one to
another, as if looking for signs of response to his venture into
talk. As he went on, this wore off to some extent, and he laughed
quietly over the reminiscences he was telling. He told very well a
story of his experience in the riding-school, where the
riding-master in his time was an amusing sort of tyrant. Grant's
strong point was horsemanship, and the riding-master, whether
seriously or as a joke, determined to "take down" the young cadet.
At the exercise Grant was mounted on a powerful but vicious brute
that the cadets fought shy of, and was put at leaping the bar. The
bar was raised higher and higher as he came round the ring, till it
passed the "record." The stubborn rider would not say enough, but
the stubborn horse was disposed to shy and refuse to leap. Grant
gritted his teeth and spurred at it, but just as the horse gathered
for the spring, his swelling body burst the girth and rider and
saddle tumbled into the ring. Half stunned, he gathered himself up
from the dust only to hear the strident, cynical voice of the
riding-master calling out, "Cadet Grant, six demerits for
dismounting without leave!"

I believe Grant's story is the only memory I brought away from what
I had imagined would be a council of war presided over by the most
prominent figure in our armies, soon to command them all. As a
council of war it certainly did not fill the ideal of an eager and
earnest young officer; but if we supplement it by a reading of the
daily and hourly dispatches in which the clear practical judgment,
the unswerving faith in final success, the unbending will, the
restless energy and industry, the power to master numberless
details, and a consciousness of capacity to command, all plainly
stand forth as traits of Grant's character, we can see that a
judgment based only on the incidents of the meeting around the
fireplace in the shabby house at Strawberry Plains after our ride on
that bitter winter's day would be very misleading.

Grant's visit had plainly shown him that the great problem with us
was the clothing and subsistence of the troops, and that our very
existence depended on it. He therefore determined to ride over the
mountains by way of Cumberland Gap, and form his own judgment as to
the truth of the reports of the impassable condition of the roads.
The weather had hardly moderated at all when he left us on the 4th
of January, and this long and severe journey was proof of his
forgetfulness of personal comfort in his devotion to duty. Before
following him further in his investigation, it may be profitable to
go back and note some of the circumstances which brought him to
Knoxville.

When Longstreet raised the siege of Knoxville, he took position near
Rogersville, where he would be in reach of the unbroken part of the
railway connecting him with Virginia, which now became his base. His
force continued unchanged, and was not materially increased or
diminished until the winter was nearly over, when the cavalry which
belonged to the Army of Tennessee was ordered back into Georgia.
Like Foster, he was reduced to inaction for lack of clothing and
supplies. Forage had become very scarce in every part of Tennessee,
and it was with great difficulty that the horses were kept alive in
either army. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. pp.
817, 819.] To go into cantonments, sheltering the men as well as
possible, to send all extra horses to the rear and wait for the
springing of the grass and the settling of the roads when winter
should be over, was the dictate of common-sense, as was clearly seen
by everybody on the ground. It was not pleasant to leave the loyal
men of the upper counties of the valley to suffer under the
Confederate occupation; but nothing short of a continuous and
reliable line of supplies would enable Foster to occupy the country
up to the Virginia line. There was no gate to be shut behind
Longstreet if he were driven out. He could come back as soon as our
troops withdrew. Marching and countermarching would destroy the
nearly naked and barefoot troops without accomplishing any permanent
good.

The authorities at Washington were beset by the well-grounded
complaints of the loyal representatives of the upper valley, and had
become blind by habit to the difficulties of supplying and moving
troops among the mountains in winter. From the first week after
Foster relieved Burnside, Halleck complained that Longstreet was not
driven beyond the Virginia line and kept there. These complaints
were repeated to Grant, and the latter promised, in dispatches of
the 23d and 24th of December, to go to Knoxville in person.
[Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. iii. pp. 472, 479.] In
the last of these he said, "If Longstreet is not driven from
Tennessee, it shall not be my fault." He came, and saw that it was
not Foster's fault, and that no more than Foster could he make a
winter campaign with men in such a state of destitution. As I have
already said, droves of beef, cattle, and hogs could be brought "on
the hoof," in poor condition it is true, but fit to be eaten. Yet
soldiers could not campaign on fresh beef and pork only, and bread
stuffs and all vegetable food were practically not to be had; so of
coffee, sugar, salt, and the small rations generally. This, however,
was the least part of the trouble, for the condition of the army as
to clothing and shoes was simply appalling. When many had not even
rags to cover their nakedness, and none were clad as civilized men
should be to face the winter's snows and rains, it was nonsense to
talk of campaigning. Grant saw this at a glance when he reached our
camps. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 19, 43.]
We have not the whole situation when even this is told. Wagons and
teams, artillery with their horses, cavalry with theirs, are as
necessary as infantry; and when foraging trains could hardly collect
forage enough to feed the animals seeking it, those that were left
at the picket rope had to die there. To talk, then, of hauling
supplies for man and beast in a marching column was preposterous.

It was quite proper to ask whether the impracticability of bringing
wagon trains over the mountains was as complete as we reported, and
Grant's horseback journey back into Kentucky when the thermometer
was at zero is sufficient proof that he found it imperatively
necessary to settle that question also with his own eyes and without
delay. We shall see presently what he reported. He knew before he
left Chattanooga that the railroad from Nashville was hardly
supplying Thomas's army. To Foster's appeals for at least some
clothing and shoes by that route, General Meigs, who was there,
replied that it could only be done "at the cost of starvation to our
animals or short rations to our men" in the Army of the Cumberland.
[Footnote: _Id_., vol. xxxi. pt. iii. p. 476.] He said that the
railroad must be "not only repaired, but rebuilt," before it could
do more than supply the troops already dependent on it. General
McCallum, the superintendent of military railroads, had gone west,
and was inspecting the Nashville and Chattanooga Road, and carefully
studying the problem of its possible capacity. [Footnote: _Id_., pp.
422, 444.] In consequence of this a change was made in the local
superintendence, and Mr. Adna Anderson was put in charge of
operating the line, while Mr. W. W. Wright was made constructing
engineer. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xxxii. pt. ii. pp. 371, 372.] Under
their energy and ability it was repaired and operated so that East
Tennessee as well as Sherman's army in Georgia were abundantly
supplied during the Atlanta campaign; but this is part of the
history of the next spring and summer. To reduce the number of
mouths to feed at Chattanooga, Grant sent portions of the Army of
the Tennessee into northern Alabama, where they could be supplied by
boats coming up the Tennessee River. [Footnote: Official Records,
vol. xxxi. pt. iii. pp. 429, 496, 502.] The same considerations
influenced him in assenting to Sherman's plan of the Meridian
Expedition, where the troops engaged in it could live partly at
least on a country not yet ravaged by armies, whilst they would make
a diversion in favor of the weakened army left with Thomas. It is
safe to say that no such division of efforts would have occurred if
the railroad had been ready to supply the concentrated army on an
advance into Georgia. Sherman understood it to be an interlude, and
expected to be back and join the main army by the time the railroad
should be repaired and supplies accumulated. [Footnote: _Id_., p.
498.] As auxiliary to the line of supplies, the railroad from
Bridgeport to Decatur was also to be repaired, so as to connect with
steamboats at the latter place.

In Foster's department the same energy was directed toward improving
the communication with Chattanooga. The hull of the light-draught
steamboat which Colonel Byrd had found under construction at
Kingston was taken as a model, and two more were put on the stocks.
[Footnote: _Ante_, vol. i. p.523. Official Records vol. xxxi. pt.
iii. p. 483.] Pontoon bridges were prepared for use at different
points on the river. Lumber was cut to rebuild the great railway
bridge at Loudon and the long trestle at Strawberry Plains. The
little train of "twenty-odd cars" which Burnside had captured was
carefully guarded and kept running on the only bit of railroad in
East Tennessee that was now open, viz., that from Loudon through
Knoxville to Strawberry Plains. Herds of cattle were threading
mountain paths to avoid the deep mud of the wagon roads from
Kentucky, and on those roads desperate but too often fruitless
efforts were making to push forward some wagon-loads of shoes and
clothing.

In the consultations at Knoxville Foster had plainly stated his own
conviction that the only wise course was to abandon the thought of
aggressive warfare until spring; to station the troops so as to
cover Knoxville, but to select their positions chiefly with
reference to collecting forage and breadstuffs; to send all
unnecessary animals to the rear and in every way to simplify to the
utmost the problem of carrying the army through the winter,
preserving it for active use when the change of season and the
improvement of the railway line should make regular supplies
possible. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 281 _et
seq_.] Grant listened and suspended his judgment till he had
examined the situation for himself. An accident to General Foster
had increased the complication of affairs. He was occasionally
suffering from lameness resulting from an old wound in the leg, and
had found on his first journey over the mountains that he was in
danger of being disabled by it. Within a fortnight after he reached
Knoxville, his horse fell with him in passing over some slippery
rocks, and caught the wounded leg under him. [Footnote: _Id_., pt.
iii. p. 502.] This completely disabled the general for active field
service, and on the advice of his surgeon he asked to be relieved.
This request was forwarded on the 26th of December, and Grant had
been notified of it on the same day. It could not be acted on at
once, and during the few weeks that Foster remained at the head of
the department, he was obliged to remain in Knoxville, entrusting to
General Parke, as senior officer, the active command of combined
movements in the field.

When General Grant reached Nashville, he reported to the War
Department the results of his visit to us. [Footnote: _Id_., vol.
xxxii. pt. ii. p. 99.] He said that he found the troops so destitute
of clothing and shoes that not more than two-thirds of them could
march; that the difficulty of supplying them even with food was so
great that it was not advisable to send reinforcements; consequently
that the policy advised by Foster must be followed and active
operations suspended. Of his own journey he said, "From the personal
inspection made, I am satisfied that no portion of our supplies can
be hauled by teams from Camp Nelson [Ky.]." He proposed, on the
first rise of the Cumberland River, to send supplies by steamboat up
the Cumberland to the mouth of the Big South Fork, in the hope that
as this was a new route some forage for the teams could be got along

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