Civil War Love Letters: August 25–September 4, 1862
From August 18 to September 4, 1862, the men of the 8th Kansas Infantry regiment, which was part of a large force of Union troops going after Confederate General Braxton Bragg, marched over 240 miles from Eastport, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, with very few rations, hardly any blankets or tents, and barely any time to rest. This letter, which James started on August 25th and finished on September 4th, not only provides information on the activities of the regiment, but also serves as a travelogue, as James describes most of the towns along the march.
On the march
August 25th 1862
My Dear Molly
Here we are at the prettiest town in Alabama, so reputed, & I have no doubt it is worthy, as it is a very pretty place. We marched from Waterloo on Saturday morning through a fine country & over a dusty road. Made only twelve miles on account of bad roads & weightily loaded wagons. Camped at Gravelly Springs. I was on picket all night & captured only [illegible] three nights in succession & in a very bad humor, inclined to get sick out of spite, but didn't however Ive got two large boils on my haunch instead that interfere with my locomotion very much & I will have to ride tomorrow. On Sunday we started early & passed through the garden of Alabama, a well improved delightful country, had a good time as I was not on duty with the company. Dined with a very pleasant young lady & had some interesting arguments & conversation. On arriving at Cypress Mills we found the whole population turned out to see us & some to welcome us. They consisted in large part of young girls - it being a large factory village. This county Lauderdale has 23 factories in it - a great many for Ala. Got to Florence in good time (4 o’clock) to see it & camped in the city on some fine lawns overlooking the river (Tennessee) which is wide shallow here & crossed by a very long rail road & wagon bridge - of which at present but the stone piers remain - as General Mitchell burned it when he made a descent here before "Corinth" was evacuated. I had a swim in the river, & felt much better for it, as we were just loaded with dust. We made only 14 miles, & expected a large force from "Buells" Army to join us, but there has none crossed the river neither can we hear of them.
I rambled around Florence on Monday a little (to day) as I am quite lame & was much pleased. The streets are very wide, & well shaded with old Trees, houses very Luxurious on large lots set far back, & garden or greenery's in front, flowers & fruits in profusion. It is quite old for a western town. I found old graves in a family enclosure of Judge McKinley (U. S. Supreme) 50 years back - very interesting as historical & family mementoes they were. The enclosure is a late erection surrounding older ones & a vault. His wife died I believe in 1812. He died lately.
Mount Pleasant Tenn.
August 28th 1862
Got so far all safe anyhow but the guerrillas pitched into our train this evening and were quietly making off with at least a dozen wagons when the rear guard came up unexpectedly to them & chased them good, killing some, capturing two & recovering all our property & some of theirs. Such is life in the Army - mighty uncertain. He that sows dont always reap, but to return to Florence. We got up to start for “Nashville” over 110 miles next morning at 3 o’clock but shortly after came fresh orders for a forced march & to turn in all our Tents & extra baggage at once to Tuscumbia, a railroad station 5 miles across the river. We did so & consumed half a day. Still our reinforcements & provisions did not come. At 4 o’clock came our stores & then it was decided to wait for midnight & if nobody came, start soon after. We did so at 3 o’clock & made 20 miles to Blue Creek, where we camped again after a days horrid dust & heat. I in the ambulance crippled with a couple of boils - came cool & safe. On Wednesday we started same time & passed over a rough mountain rocky country, plenty of poor white trash. I rode half the time or more made 20 miles to Lawrenceburgh got in late, our wagons later. Camped by the creek in town with little to eat up early in the morning again & off when we had the hottest & dustiest march yet - country still rough - & when passing a long rocky ravine steep down hill - the guerrillas got us - as I said. When we got in camp, some men (seven) from the 22d Indiana went out foraging & came not back again. The wild Gorillas picked them up so we heard - that is all we know. The country is alive & Union men have to keep very quiet, & soldier are not safe out of camp. Still they go - on folly or business.
Started at dawn this morning & passed over a fine Turnpike road all day. Lawrenceburgh is a fair sized county town but in an alarming state of dilapidation. A general shiftlessness, as Harriet Beecher would call it prevails. There is a fine obelisk monument in the public square in memory of a large number of citizens of the county & state that died &c in the Mexican War at Monterey & in California. It looked mournful & rebellious all together & we left without regret and passed through the garden of Tennessee. Very aristocratic it was all the way to Columbia, each side the road fine residences & lawns - with a very superior style of Architecture - cottage & otherwise set along way back from the road, & porticos, terraces &c all covered with blooming beauties - fine old walnut trees, poplar, oaks & cedars scattered over the beautiful blue grass of Kentucky. Much surprised & gratified we were all day. The change was so pleased from the bleak hills & ravines & poor white trash to all the beauties of an almost English landscape - ornamental trees & all more like that than anything else I’ve seen since. We made a very quick march into Columbia 15 miles & found General Negley in command, reported to him but found he intended to stay a while & judged it better for us to go on. So we go again in the morning over 40 miles yet & General Bragg somewhere around.
I saw a late paper today 25th six days later than we’ve had before. I see they are making a desperate struggle ere our new Vol. can get into the field. It says Buell has evacuated Huntsville & Tuscambia. I don’t believe it, as we left them all there. I have no doubt however but they intend getting into Corinth as quick as possible and now the fight is about to become general, both East & West. After a few more strategic moves look out for hot times. We found Columbia a large & bustling business town with good stores, good houses, & Aristocratic residences. A large river runs through named the Duck River. This we passed and are in camp one mile this side. I eat to day the first really fine large ripe peaches & apples I’ve seen in the Southern Confed. If we get safe to Nashville, & it is possible to send anything, I will send some valuable enclosures along with this to you & William. If anything happens to me, I reckon they will come anyhow - as Capt Herd or Lieut Babcock will attend to it for me.
I am not fully prepared yet, but will be I hope by tomorrow night & God willing I will try to worry through, so far my presentiments are all of the happiest. There is no secesh ball cast yet for me. I’m not so predestined or if I am so be it. God wills. Taint my fault, but a thousand kisses when we met in happier times.
My dearly loved girl goodnight
Camp near Franklin Tenn
August 30th 62
My Dearest Molly
I closed writing last night at 9 o’clock & jumped up this morning as fresh as a squirrel anticipating a long days march but alas for presentiments, I was no sooner up than I fell down again & an iron spike ran in my back. I was stunned & fainted, but they bundled me into the ambulance & marched along. I suffered some from the shaking of the Wagon, but feel quite fresh now after some hours rest. We got into camp about noon, & rested again under fresh orders. We find considerable Union sentiment around and the Planters brought in delicacies for the hospital. News more cheering. Buell is after Bragg with a sharp stick & General Rosseau at Nashville says he is no danger now. We make a short march again tomorrow (Sunday) & then a review & muster in the Evening. We are only 25 miles from Nashville now having made 17m to day. I see communication is open with Louisville again by stagecoaches. Unless inflammation sets in tomorrow or next day, I hope to send you a clean bill of health on arrival at town. Our march today was through a fine agricultural & planting country. The cotton is in blossom & looks pretty with its flowers some lilac, pink or purple & some white much like morning glory. Some of the bolls are already open & picking will begin next month & continue all through. We have seen much of it growing in Alabama since wherever the ground was not too rough, & now Au revoir take good care of yourself. I am good for marches of 25 miles a day yet.
Started early this morning riding as before & soon reached Franklin - found the prettiest little town we have passed yet, not so aristocratic as Columbia, no marble palaces, but pretty clean cottage houses set far back with trim front gardens full of flowers & shrubs & walks made with white & black gravel & shells on the borders, quite a little gem of a town. I understand however it is not singular in Tennessee. At Franklin fresh orders. Murfreesboro is again in danger & so we turned off toward that bone of contention over such a miserable rough rocky road up & down hill as the Rocky Mountains or the Highlands of Scotland would be ashamed to show. Made 17 miles to camp.
Had several alarms from Cavalry during the night, nobody hurt on either side, but seven of our men were taken prisoners while eating supper at a farm house about dark. Men were up mostly all the night but we made an early start as usual & found the road much the same, so our wagon train got along slowly & we had to halt & march slow while it came up as the guerrillas cavalry was in sight all day. We sent a few shell after them once & they skedaddled at the Double Quick. The day was cool & showery & we got in to Murfreesboro before dark. 19 miles
Murfreesboro is a fine town, much like Franklin in parts, but is getting quite dilapidated from the curse of an army - now Union, now Secesh. Many of the inhabitants have left & many of the stores are closed. Those that are open sell nothing but whisky bread & Shoes. This morning after cleaning clothes & arms we had a review & muster & looked very fierce after our Trip. There are about 15,000 Troops in town, 7000 of which came with us & belong to our Division. Some of the others came in after us from different points & more are coming. We do not stop, as our secesh friends have run already & we may be sent after them or else to Nashville. Bragg is 70 miles off yet. Gen'l Buell has arrived with his staff but his troops are pretty near the same places maneuvering daily as the enemy changes its position. General Rosseau is in command at Nashville & we are in his district, having left the Dept of the Mississippi when we left Florence, or rather when we got to Florence as that is in Buell's Dept. of the Ohio. Our men are all washing their clothes & preparing for the future. I have been busy all day seeing the Muster Rolls made out, notwithstanding my stiff back. Consequently I have had no time to post this or make up my packets for express
Occupied much as yesterday, very busy, expect to march somewhere tonight or tomorrow morning . I am feeling quite well today after resting in camp yesterday. Everybody is in good spirits & think that some hard fighting this fall & winter must finish the war. I will mail this & put in a P.S. ere I leave stating all I know & so I finish this journal now. It has interested me in the writing & I hope it may not bore you in the reading. It would be impossible to write any other form of letter under the prevailing fatigue & excitement.
So with Love to you, Sallie & all I am dear Eliza
James E. Love
My Dear Molly -
Half an hour after writing last night, we were on the march, not for the south nor after Bragg, but to Nashville. I could not even add a P.S. nor post this. We moved so suddenly & now we are camped by the Capital & find the Enemy still North of us in Kentucky. Probably we will go there tomorrow, but I am determined to mail this in town, whether I can send anything else or not. We marched most all night halting from 3 to 5 A.M. to get Breakfast. Our Regt. had none to get, so we went without until after we reached here at one o’clock. It was near 5 o.c. when our wagons came up & we got supper cooked. We thus made 35 miles in 19 hours, including over 4 hours we rested by different springs. We came over a good pike & through a fine country. All our Division is along safe.
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