Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 15, 1863

September 15, 1863

—Gen. Halleck writes to Gen. Grant, warning him of Confederate coordination in the West. He asks Grant to send troops to cover Rosecrans’ right as he advances, and also warns of what is clear to everyone: that Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee have sent several divisions to reinforce Bragg. Halleck likewise warns that the Confederates have violated the rules of war by calling back troops that were paroled (set free to return home) without being exchanged (each one traded for a Union soldier delivered from prison):
The rebel Government has announced that some 16,000 of the prisoners paroled by you at Vicksburg are released from their paroles and will return to duty. None of them have been exchanged. It is also understood that they intend to put in the ranks against Rosecrans, without exchange, all the prisoners paroled by you and General Banks. Such outrageous conduct must cause very serious difficulties. After violating the cartel in every possible way, they now violate the plainest laws of war and principles of humanity.

—On this date, Pres. Lincoln suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus, especially for cases of prisoners of war, draftees, and desertion from the army.

—Walt Whitman, a poet and sometime journalist, currently serving as a volunteer hospital aid in Washington, writes home to his mother about the loyalty of Union men from Southern states:
I have known Tennessee Union men here in hospital, and I understand it, therefore—the region where Knoxville is is mainly Union, but the Southerners could not exist without it, as it is in their midst, so they determined to pound and kill and crush out the Unionists—all the savage and monstrous things printed in the papers about their treatment are true, at least that kind of thing is, as bad as the Irish in the mob treated the poor niggers in New York. We North don’t understand some things about Southerners; it is very strange, the contrast—if I should pick out the most genuine Union men and real patriots I have ever met in all my experience, I should pick out two or three Tennessee and Virginia Unionists I have met in the hospitals, wounded or sick. One young man I guess I have mentioned to you in my letters, John Barker, 2nd Tennessee Vol. (Union), was a long while a prisoner in Secesh prisons in Georgia, and in Richmond—three times the devils hung him up by the heels to make him promise to give up his Unionism; once he was cut down for dead. He is a young married man with one child. His little property destroyed, his wife and child turned out—he hunted and tormented—and any moment he could have had anything if he would join the Confederacy—but he was firm as a rock; he would not even take an oath to not fight for either side. They held him about eight months—then he was very sick, scurvy, and they exchanged him and he came up from Richmond here to hospital; here I got acquainted with him. . . . His whole thought was to get back and fight; he was not fit to go, but he has gone back to Tennessee. He spent two days with his wife and young one there, and then to his regiment—he writes to me frequently and I to him; he is not fit to soldier, for the Rebels have destroyed his health and strength (though he is only 23 or 4), but nothing will keep him from his regiment, and fighting—he is uneducated, but as sensible a young man as I ever met, and understands the whole question. Well, mother, Jack Barker is the most genuine Union man I have ever yet met. . . .

—William Dudley Gale, a Confederate soldier in Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, writes home to his wife Kate as skirmishing and deployment of troops fills the Chickamauga Valley between Lafayette and Ringgold in northern Georgia, the results of the two armies brushing up against each other. He makes reference to the Battle of Davis Cross Roads of Sept. 10 and 11:

Lafayette Ga
Sept 15th 1863

My dear wife,

We all got back here last night and had a good wash and feel clean once more. We that is Polk Corps, with the Division of Genl Walker, left here with 3 days cook rations to go & fight Crittenden Corps and the forces between us and Ringold. We had an awful march thro such dust as I never dreamed of before about 9 miles and stopped at the position selected for battle [?] the Genl & staff arrived. We expected to be engaged any minute. Chatham had formed his line of battle and all night long, the Genl was busy making his arrangements to recive them in the morning as he con-fidently expected an attack. Sometime during the night Genl Hindman’s Division came up and was sent forward at once to form [hits?] line of battle and I was sent to guide him & place him in position. His new men had about 2 hours rest .

In the meantime, we could hear occasional shots fired by the pickets in front which died away about 11 am at 12:30 pm. A brick artillery fire was heard in front of our left where Genl Stahl was with his brigade, about 40 rounds were fired and all was still. We thought all the time that the fight was near. But not so far after coming a few more the army retired leaving us grivously disappointed. We had nothing to do but to re-turn to this place. A few days before, we had a glorious opportunity to destroy Thomas Corps, had Genl Hindman obeyed orders. Thomas was surrounded, by Hill & Cleburne at one end of a gap in the high ridge, and Hindmand & Buckner at the other, Hindman ranks Buckner, and was ordered to make the attack at daylight but did not do so. Both armies lay on their arms all day, Thomas afraid to move & Hindmand afraid to attack until night when the Yankees slipt off and left us in the lurch. I hear Genl Bragg is in high recruitment at [Ox?]. We hear that we will have large reinforcements soon when I expect we will go back to Chattanooga and drive them out. This will be bloody work as it was fortified by us & strengthened by them.

Capt Blake arrived yesterday with the bundle, thanks dear wife. The shoes do finely, so do Harry’s. I have suffered very much from boils but am getting better.

Blake is waiting to take this to Rome to mail,

Kiss my dear little ones. God bless & preserve you my darling wife

Your const. ally,
Wm. D. Gale
from The Civil War Day by Day, Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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