Bivouac near Milledgeville, Kentucky
Sunday, May 3rd 1863
My dear Father and Mother,
We started at one o’clock yesterday afternoon and it was a powerful hot day. The 45th Pennsylvania Vols. led the brigade. Next came the 27th Michigan which we called the “gander” regiment. The came the 36th [Massachusetts]. Then the battery and the 100th [Pennsylvania] was in the rear. There seemed to be an understanding between the 36th, 100th & 45th as to how to treat the “ganders.” You see, we had the lads just where we wanted them. The 45th is the best marching regiment in our brigade and they traveled gay yesterday and the 27th had to scratch to keep anywhere near them. [Col. Henry] Bowman marched us easy for the first five miles and of course we fell behind gradually but Col. knew what he was about. It was his game. The ganders were mighty pleased to see us marching a few minutes after they rested and rather crowed over it. But after the second rest, [our] Col. rode down our column and asks if we could “stand a little crowding.” We all say “yes” so we marched on to their heels, beat the drums, sung and done everything to worry them, and come the last seven miles in this style without a single rest. Gracious, it was fun to see their Major and Surgeon (who always go in the rear of a regiment) wag on their men and try to keep them in the ranks. But in spite of all their exertions, they fell out thick and fast.
There are 13 ambulances for the 4 regiments and they filled ten and the rest came straggling in long after dark. We got our line formed as soon as they although they got into the field first. Their Colonel [Dorus Morton Fox] made the following speech to them. “Boys, I need not ask you to behave yourselves tonight or anything of that sort. You acted nobly last night. I’ve no scolding to do. You’re all right. I feel proud of you. Your’e all right.” Whereupon Col. Bowman, seeing that we were snickering, sung out, “Stead boys, you’re all right too.” (“Steady” is a great expression with him.) It was all we wanted. He said enough. And after he gave the bidder, “Rest for the night,” we made the mountains ring again with our cheers and yells. He gives us no stringent orders for he says he has got as good a regiment as there is in the field and he feels proud of them. They have not disappointed in any manner thus far. He places no guard over us but lets us go and come as we choose. If anyone misbehaves himself or commits any depredations where he has no business to, he punishes him and don’t throw the blame on the whole of us.
We marched twelve miles yesterday and have got to the end of the pike. We have now got to frog it over a rough dirt road until we get to Columbia—a town 35 miles distant. There’s where we are bound. It’s a mountainous country most of the way.
I do not think we shall march today for it rained hard all night and still continues. The roads will be heavy.
Tomorrow I shall be eighteen years old. I little thought a year ago that I should be in this State or, in fact, any other than Massachusetts a year from then. But I do believe that if I live to see my next birthday, it will be in Massachusetts and once more a free man. However, we won’t count on the chickens before they’re hatched.
But I must wind up for I guess my letter is getting tedious to you. Think I am writing most too often. Hoping this will find you well. I am as ever, — Charley