September 30th 1863
My dear Mother,
There is a prospect of our staying here a few days and I may have no better opportunity for writing to you than now so I will send you a copy of my diary which will tell you what I have been about for the last month and you at once see the reason why I have neglected writing to you. On the other hand, I have received no letters from friends or relations all the while.
September 2nd—copied diary and sent home with a map.
3rd—Weather lousy. Nothing unusual happened.
4th—Looks like rain in forenoon but all fair and pleasant in afternoon.
5th—Inspected by the Inspector General.
6th—Regimental Inspection. A number of convalescents join the regiment. Orderly Sergeant Cooper of Co. G reduced to the ranks.
7th—Orders come to start for Knoxville, Tennessee, tomorrow. Drills as usual. Sent letters to Father, Mother, and F. T. Sawyer. A report that the 36th is not going to Knoxville but to Camp Nelson (not much credited).
8th—Have not moved as yet and there are no signs of so doing. Received two letters. One from Father, one from Mother dates August 31st. Finished working (of my own accord) for Capt. Bailey this evening.
9th—Commenced duty in ranks. Very sore hand. Orders to move at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. Drew a new haversack—my old one having worn out in one year’s service.
10th—Struck tents and left camp at Crab Orchard at 8 A. M. with 196 men. A great deal of dust and the heat intense. After a march of 11 miles we halted for the night near “Mount Vernon.” Nearly sun struck and fell out after marching six miles. Eight days rations were dealt out before starting.
11th—Started at half past six and after the most tedious march that I have yet experienced, being over knobs nearly all the way, we halted after marching sixteen miles. In the course of the march, we crossed the Rockcastle river and passed Wildcat—a place where some of the first Union troops were formed in Kentucky and where General Zollicoffer had a fight with the federals.
12th—Started at 5 A. M. and marched till nine, a distance of eight miles. No springs to be found on the way. Camped about three miles northwest of London. A small run fed by springs is on the south side of the camp and the men are allaying their thirst from which they have suffered so much within the last 48 hours. At six o’clock P. M. rain began to fall in torrents and as we had no spades with which to ditch our tents, we were flooded and slept in about three inches of water.
13th—Very cloudy and looks like rain. We have found several fine springs which will furnish the brigade with water as long as we stay. Fresh beef was dealt out this morning and it was quite a treat for though we were ordered to take eight days rations. It’s impossible to carry more than three in our haversacks. Heavy fog at night.
14th—Reveille at 3½. Started at 5. Marched 9 miles in four hours and rested half an hour. All out of rations and hungry as a bear and there are yet four days before we draw more. After starting from our rest, we passed a large body of Cumberland Gap prisoners (2300 I believe)—mostly South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia troops. Some were very good natured and laughed and joked with us but some were surly and cross, would swear and curse at us if we undertook to converse with them. Called us Burnside’s thieves and damned Yankee sons of bitches, and that they would soon meet us again in Virginia and let us know (what?). After a march of 14 miles we halted. Water is very scarce and tastes of minerals.
15th—A squad of men are detailed to go to Massachusetts for conscripts. Started at 5 A. M. Made a tedious march of 12 miles (se we are told but it seemed like fifteen) and encamped ½ mile outside Barboursville on the banks of the Cumberland where after cooling off, we wash and swim in the river. Two days rations were dealt out last night and all but three kettles for a company are left behind as the mules are playing out. If men get tired from carrying big loads, it’s of no account. But a mule must be saved if possible for it costs money.
We are now within 30 miles of Cumberland Gap and I for one wish I was there for more tedious marches we have never experienced, the road being over mountains (knobs) all the way.
16th—Took up the line of march early in the morning and finally reached Flat Lick in the Valley where we halted for the night after a march of 9 miles. Cumberland river runs near our encampment and dirty clothes are now getting cleansed.
17th—We are having a day of rest so far as marching is concerned. Three days rations are dealt out. The paymaster whom we have been expecting for nearly a week will probably pay us this afternoon. Money is what we want although there is but a poor chance to spend it around here for the natives are nearly destitute of everything. Evening, we have been paid off and I after settling all accounts find that I have not a great amount of greenbacks left. Sold watch to George F. Haven who pays me eight dollars and gives me note for seven dollars to be paid when the regiment is next paid off. A heavy shower came upon us and continued all night giving us all a good ducking which would have been more comfortable in warmer weather.
18th—In consequence of the severe rain, we did not take up the march. The poor fellows who have the shakes are suffering severely. Lotteries are all the rage and dozens of watches, rings, &c. have changed owners. I have come into possession of a brass Hunting Case Watch and a fine ring. This camp is known at “Lottery Hill.”
19th—Started at six and marched till eleven—a distance of 11 miles. From the beginning to the end, we had but three rests yet we do not feel as tired as on some shorter marches as the weather was quite cool. We forded the Cumberland river near its head and crossed one of a chain called the Log Mountains. I am told that we have two more to cross before we reach the Cumberlands. Quite cold in evening and we build an old heater of a fire to sit around and spin yarns.
20th—It was so cold last night that we could not sleep and at the early hour of “two,” large fires could be seen on the camp with sleepy soldiers sitting around them. At five minutes to seven we started and immediately commenced ascending the second of the Log Mountains. After crossing third “Log” we descended into the valley and there we found quite a different atmosphere. On the mountain we found one large cold cloud but in the valley it was warm and pleasant. About 4 o’clock we reached the foot of the Cumberlands and commenced climbing. From the base to the gap, the distance (Ky. side) is one and a half miles and the grade about 400 feet to the mile. The sun poured down on us and it was melting work. However, we reached the gap and commenced our descent. The distance from the gap to the Tennessee base is ¾ of a mile and grade 600 feet to the mile. Marched three miles and encamped. Whole distance marched 12 miles.
The capture of Cumberland Gap was a big thing and shows good generalship on the part of its captor for had the enemy had plenty of rations, no force could be brought against it sufficient to take the place. Every road leading to the place was covered by rifle pits and can be raked for some distance by many batteries. On the Tennessee side there are three lines of earthworks. In the lower line there are four or five bomb-proof forts with from 4 to 6 guns each. In the upper lines there are parapets—not bombproof—there being no need of any as none of the enemy’s guns could be brought to bear upon them save from the neighboring hills and the roads leading there are covered by rifle pits.
The Kentucky side is also well defended but Burnside surrounded the place, thus cutting off their supplies and our cavalry made a dash and burned a mill within fifty rods of their largest fort and poor “Johnny Reb” surrendered. Camp is known as Bivouac near Patterson’s House.
21st—Started early and immediately found ourselves in a dense cloud of fog. Crossed Powell’s river on a bridge. About 11 o’clock reached Tazewell, once a pretty town but was burned by rebels in the early part of the war. Marched through the town but instead of taking the Knoxville road, we took the one leading to Morristown and filed into a field. All expected this to be the camp for the night for we had then come 13 miles. But after a rest of two hours, we again started and marched six miles more making in all 19 miles.
Contrary to the expectations of all, we do not go to Knoxville but to Morristown—a town situated on the Eats Tennessee & Virginia Railroad as a force of rebels are expected to be making for the same place (I understand it is Longstreet’s Division).
22nd—I was on guard last night and did not feel like marching. We started early and after marching 3½ miles we forded the Clinch river—water very clear and cold, ad over knee deep—river about 400 feet broad. Soon after crossing we commenced climbing the Clinch Mountain and went through the gap which puts Cumberland Gap in the shade as height and grade. A most splendid view of the surrounding country could be obtained from the gap. When within six miles of Morristown, we forded the Holston river which is broader and deeper than the Clinch. Water very clear and cold and the bottom very stoney. It was a novel sight to behold the men with pants rolled above their knees wallowing in the swift current and doing their best to keep in their “pins.” It was tedious work. About two miles from the river we crossed another steep knob and finally camped on the outskirts of Morristown after a march of 23 miles.
Morristown [is] a place of about 250 inhabitants & situated on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad at it junction with another railroad (not yet completed) which runs through North Carolina. Before the war it was a thriving settlement and was rapidly increasing in size and population, but since it has decreased in population as many are conscripted into the Confederate army and many have run away and joined the Union army. Until Burnside’s army came into the town about three weeks ago, not a union soldier had been seen there since the war began. Uncle Samuel’s postage currency and greenbacks were curiosities.
23rd—Lay in camp until 4 P. M. when the 36th were ordered to guard baggage train to Jonesboro. The rest of the troops are expecting to go on the cars. Dust in ankle deep but we marched through Russellville and encamped near Whitesboro after a march of ten miles. Company G ordered on “picket.” In the night cars came back from Greenville with troops they had carried there during the day and we were told that the telegraph operator had made a mistake. That the 9th Corps should have been sent to Knoxville instead of Greenville.
The natives are a fine set of people and will do anything for the soldier. Greenbacks are curiosities.
24th—Started for Morristown very early and reached there in less than three hours. Marched 10 miles. Formed camp on hill and expect to stay a day or two. Saw the rest of brigade start for Knoxville in a cloud of dust. This is the fifteenth day since we left Crab Orchard and we have rested but three. We need rest and must have it. Regiment now numbers 130 effective men.
25th—No move made today. Dined with the judge of the county who lives in a pretty brick building in the east part of he town. Fare—roast beef, sweet and Irish potatoes, cabbage, biscuit, molasses and butter.
26th—No move made today. A part of the 2nd Division, 9th Corps pass through town. Also a large force of cavalry and mounted infantry of the 23rd Corps on their way to Knoxville. A report that Rosecrans had made an advance from Chattanooga and been driven back. Not much credited. After writing the above, I “turned in,” My “partner” was by the fire playing euchre when suddenly the bugle sounded “strike tents” and in a few moments the camp was no more. After waiting till eleven o’clock, we took cars on E. T. & Va. Railroad. For the first time in my life I was afraid to ride on top of cars but I had good reasons. About twenty of us were put on the car which was so old that it would scarcely stand and when the engine was moving at full speed, it would lurch to and fro which caused ever hair on my head to stand erect and I do not doubt but that each one would balance a saucer. However, we reached Knoxville early in the morning all safe and sound after a ride of 42 miles. It was a very cold night and that, with smoke and cinders, came near finishing us all.
27th—Marched nearly two miles and formed camp. Received letter from Mother dated September 7th. 1st Mail for a long time. Orders came to move in the morning.
28th—Orders are countermanded and we lay in camp all day. 3 days of hard tack and one of soft bread delivered to us.
29th—Nothing of importance happened until evening when Gen. Burnside rode around among the regiments who lustily cheered him. The old fellow grinned, bowed and looked exactly as he did when we last saw him at Fredericksburg.
30th—General policing of camp. Company inspection of arms.
You will see that we marched a distance of 1555 miles in 15 days, three of which we rested making an average of about 12 miles a day for 12 days. The shortest day’s march was eight miles and the longest twenty-three. The boys stood it well and after a short rest will willingly march as far again if it will only help close this accursed rebellion of which we are getting tired.
My hand is getting somewhat weary from writing but I must give you a few “notes” which I find in the “back part” of my diary. I call them pretty rich.
When at Middleburg, Ky., a soldier visited a citizen for the purpose of buying vegetables. At length after making his purchases, he asked the man if he had a privy. “Sal,” says the old man, “hev we got a privy?” “Well I reckon not,” says she. “We planted a right smart seed but they hain’t comed up.”
A member of Co. G carried some dirty clothing to a lady in Morristown to have them washed. Upon overhauling them the lady found a pair of U. S. drawers. Holding them up, she exclaimed to her sister, “Why these here are like whats we wears.”
When in Morristown, I chanced to be conversing with a fine-looking young lady who had a “tolerable: education considering the scarcity of schools in the place. I was suddenly surprised at seeing her “squirt” from her mouth (man fashion) a considerable large quantity of tobacco juice. The sight was ludicrous but the habit is a very common one among women in this part of the country.
When Gen. Burnside reached Knoxville with his troops, he walked to a fire which was burning near the depot, took from his haversack a piece of pork, toasted it, and ate it with a hard tack as ravenously as if he had been “short of rations” for some time.
As I have occupied so much time in writing to you, I shall have to neglect writing to Father and you must write to him and tell him how I have been getting along. I should rather have you keep this than send it to him for it might get lost and I want it saved. When he visits you, he can see it. The next letter O write shall be to him. It’s too bad to neglect him so.
Hoping these few lines will find you well and happy. Also the little fellows. I remain yours affectionately, — Charley
We are to get a mail once a week.