Saturday, January 4, 2014

November 26, 1863

November 26, 1863

---John C. West, of the 4th Texas Infantry, campaigning with Longstreet in East Tennessee, writes home to his wife about the Yankees’ retreat into Knoxville, and Longstreet’s advance, which captured a winter encampment built by the Federals.  West marvels at the efficiency of the camp layout, and at the plunder the Rebels take:

Longstreet pressed on to this place so rapidly that the Yanks had no time to destroy their stores. We captured sixty wagons besides large quantities of ammunition and medical stores. They had fixed themselves in winter quarters, and had built 500 or 600 cabins, nicer and more neatly arranged than most of the cabins on the prairies in Texas, reminding me very much of a well fixed plantation. They are all laid off into streets, with the regularity and precision of a city, with fire places, mantel pieces, bunks and stools, and the scoundrels have taken nearly all the sash out of the windows in the neighborhood, as well as cooking and parlor stoves, omitting nothing which would contribute to their comfort or convenience. Our quartermaster took possession of one of the largest and most comfortable.

The greatest curiosity which I have seen is a medical wagon, which is as complete as a drug store, having drawers, compartments and every conceivable size and shape of bottles, with little springs for each vial to rest upon to prevent concussion. There was also a regular cooking stove with utensils in the back part of the wagon; indeed everything which a sick man or a surgeon could want was there. I found a considerable quantity of coffee thrown out on the ground, and have picked up enough to last me some days. I drank a pint this morning, and wished you were here to share it with me. It excites me almost as much as whiskey. Billy Dunklin has found an India rubber ball and given it to me to take home to Stark. The road is strewn with shells and ammunition from here to Knoxville, and there are signs of burning everywhere. Longstreet has Knoxville surrounded and I trust we will capture the entire force.

---The Mine Run Campaign:  Gen. George G. Meade puts his 84,000-man on the road in central Virginia.  He assigns Gen. William French and the III Corps to lead the way, but French takes all day to cross the Rapidan, and the rest of Meade’s army are not yet in position to be able to cross.  Meade’s timetable is already one day behind. 

---Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment writes in his memoirs of the Confederate retreat from Chattanooga, his brigade serving as the rearguard, as they passed Chickamauga Station, the army’s principal supply base---and revealing the prevailing feelings of the soldiers against Gen. Bragg:

When we arrived at Chickamauga Station, our brigade and General Lucius E. Polk's brigade, of Cleburne's division, were left to set fire to the town and to burn up and destroy all those immense piles of army stores and provisions which had been accumulated there to starve the Yankees out of Chattanooga. Great piles of corn in sacks, and bacon, and crackers, and molasses, and sugar, and coffee, and rice, and potatoes, and onions, and peas, and flour by the hundreds of barrels, all now to be given to the flames, while for months the Rebel soldiers had been stinted and starved for the want of these same provisions. It was enough to make the bravest and most patriotic soul that ever fired a gun in defense of any cause on earth, think of rebelling against the authorities as they then were. Every private soldier knew these stores were there, and for the want of them we lost our cause.

Pvt. Sam Watkins, Co. H, 1st Tennessee Inf. Reg.

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