Tuesday, November 12, 2013

October 9, 1863

October 9, 1863

---Virginia: Bristoe Station Campaign. From  Clark’s Mountain near the south bank of the Rapidan River, Gen. Lee sends Gen. A.P. Hill and the Third Corps of his army on  a quick march, crossing the Rapidan west of Orange Court House, and turning north.  Hill marches quickly, at some distance west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad line, heading toward Centreville.  At first, only the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac gives chase, under Gen. G.K. Warren.
---Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs writes to Washington with more details of the Army of the Cumberland’s plight and their desperate lack of supplies, particularly forage for the horses and draft animals, which would hamper the army’s ability to move:

Chattanooga, Tenn., October 9, 1863.

Secretary of War:

Communication has been interrupted. I have not written since the 5th. Forage grows scarce. Many horses are unserviceable and some have died. Foragers must go far, and require heavy guards. I have advised sending for supplies all teams except the artillery and ammunition; to let these do the work of the post. Forage should be pushed forward from Nashville, where there is ample supply in depot. A little interchange of artillery fire yesterday afternoon’ ineffective on both sides. Hooker has orders to forage below Stevenson. Rosecrans thinks he will thus obtain much. Forage from Nashville appears to me more important than men just now, as without it what we have may be unable to follow the enemy should he cross the river above in force. If the artillery and ammunition horses give out the army cannot move. A few days’ rations for itself it could carry without wagons, and once on the march with these animals it could find forage. Chief quartermaster, Colonel Hodges, is at Nashville, fitting out trains for Hooker’s troops. I have not lately been able to communicate with him.


—John Camden West, Jr., a Confederate soldier serving in the 4th Texas Infantry Regiment with Lee’s army, writes home to his wife, and reveals much about the suffering of the soldiers on campaign:

Letter No. XIX.

Camp Near Chattanooga,
October 9th, 1863.

My Precious Wife:

Your letters of 16th and 26th of July, enclosing one from Mrs. Carter, reached me three days ago, but I was sent out on picket, immediately on receiving it and had to use spade and pick all day yesterday on a redan, which prevented me from answering sooner. . . .

Tell Stark that I cannot love him if he does not say his lessons and obey you and tell little blue eyes she must be smart and beat her brother reading. I am glad you were thinking of me in those hot July days, for from the 15th of June until the 27th of July was one constant march or manouver, while we were parched with thirst, pinched with hunger, foot-sore and weary. . . . I hope you have received all these letters, and I regret to see you so desponding about our cause. The loss of Port Hudson and Vicksburg are small affairs, and did not cause me a night’s uneasiness except as cutting off communications from you, which has all the time been so doubtful that I do not consider the coming of letters as a matter of course, but only as delightful luxuries to be enjoyed "few and far between." I have had only two in six months, in which you speak of others which have never come. You must not despond about me—what if I do suffer a little—better men have died in a worse cause. I have passed through trials of endurance and of my courage to which I thought myself uneqaul, but the hollow of an Almighty hand has been over me, and the trials of yesterday I can smile at to-day. Suppose we did pass seven days and nights soaking wet, marching, eating no meat and having bread without salt? What if we marched for days through briar fields, with worn-out low-quartered shoes until our ankles were a mass of blood? What difference is it now that we frowned and groaned with pain, when the soles of our feet were one great bruise? What boots all this if we returned from the campaign stronger and in better health than we ever were before? Now, when God brings us safely through all these difficulties and saves us amid a shower of bullets, when inside the Yankee line stricken down amid the dead and wounded of the foe, exposed to a torrent of shell and grape which literally tore up the earth about us, shall we not take courage and be grateful?

We have eaten corn-bread half done, made with unsifted meal, accompanied with bacon raw or broiled on a stick, for three weeks at a time—yet I am well, perfectly well. Verily I believe that God has guarded and preserved me every hour. I firmly believe that he will save me harmless through this dread day of our country’s danger, or He will answer my constant prayer that I may be taken, if die I must, in the very midst of my country’s foes, and that my spirit may ascend amid the smoke of battles, a fit offering to liberty and truth, and my body rest among the brave where the dead lie thickest, and here let me emphasize what I have said before, you must not cherish a hope of recovering my body if I am lost in battle. It will be the merest accident if you do so. You must not be troubled in mind continually. I can excuse some uneasiness when you hear of a battle, but do not be worried all the time. Of course there is great danger every time we go into battle. It seems to me it must be the utmost stretch of divine power to save one in the thickest of a fight. The rescue of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego was no more a miracle than the preservation of some of us on the afternoon of Saturday, the nineteenth of September, at Chickamauga. Don’t have the blues. Study your Latin, your music and your children, and leave the result to God. Kisses for the children, and love to Mrs. Carter.

Your husband, faithfully ever,
John C. West.

No comments:

Post a Comment