Civil War Love Letters: October 17–24, 1862
James started this letter on October 17, while enjoying a few days of rest in camp near Mount Vernon, Kentucky. His regiment, part of a much larger force, left camp on October 20, marched back through Lancaster and arrived in Lebanon, Kentucky, on October 22, traveling almost 60 miles in three days. James mentions John Hunt Morgan and E. Kirby Smith, two Confederate officers who, in addition to Bragg, were trying to bring the state of Kentucky into the Confederacy. Morgan, colonel of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry regiment, led several raids into Kentucky, including a raid in October 1862.
Camp near Mount Vernon
Oct 17th 1862
My Dear Molly
I got an unexpected chance to send off my letter yesterday by Gen'l Anderson & so it went out - that ending the introduction. I wish to commence now where I left off, but I suppose this must assume the form of a journal, & be continued daily - as there is no regular mail from here & no mail at all comes here. I have got but two letters from you and one from Alexander since the 12th of August but I know that they must be awaiting me somewhere, so I am just as well satisfied that they are not in my haversack if I get them when this chase is over - so my dear girl, I hope you are in good health & spirits. Keep up a good heart, for as I said before that secesh bullet aint run yet, and as to my depending on your prayers I still think I ought to, only as an additional help to my own however I hope for jesting aside I do pray occasionally - not so often as I ought I know, but more lately than usual - even on the battlefield - it may be from fear of a hereafter - but I hope not altogether so. I felt calmer & clearer in mind after, lost sight of danger altogether & only thought of doing my own duty according to orders, for the best interest of the success of the cause, & seeing that all the men in my charge did the same. Some Officers were excused not half so sick as I was. I would not take an excuse while there was danger else my conscience would have accused me, if other men had not - but of that enough. I am alive and well thank Godfor it, save a very slight cold in my head.
Well we got to this camp & found that Crittenden had come in by another road at Crab Orchard ahead of us & after a brisk little fight drove Braggs main army out of it.
The news of this was what had turned Kirby & Morgan out of our road, so we had nothing to do but go in camp. We sent all the rations we had after the advancing army & waited here ourselves (J.E. Mitchells Division) until more would come up. This gave us yesterday a much needed rest which we improved washing & getting a change of clothes from our trunks which came up last evening - so the day passed quickly & lazily & now today we are quiescent yet. Our rations came up this morning & what detains us I now know not.
It is said General Mitchell goes to Kansas tomorrow & that if Bragg runs into East Tennessee that we will go back to Kansas also. In that case I can get leave of absence - but of this hereafter. The rumor is from good authority or I should not mention it.
I have not seen a late paper, but it is also rumored that there are changes among our commanders & that "Halleck" has come back to us. I hope so, for I am tired of Buell, his confounded orders has prevented us once more from capturing Bragg. He wants the war to last!! We do not!!! Neither does many of the best Generals under him - but whenever we have overtaken our enemies and there is a good chance for a fight, Buell has prevented to the intense disgust of all those who were in earnest & those who wished to make a reputation & a name.
There is no doubt but that he is a traitor & that thus the services of 200,000 men are lost to the country, that an immense unnecessary expense is incurred in marching us over the country & that thousands of valuable lives are lost through fatigue, privation & poor & scanty diet, all contrary to the laws & regulations of the United States. We could have taken Bragg at Perryville & since, but He would not let us
With much Love
My Dear Girl
Camp near Lebanon Kentucky
Oct 24th 1862
My Dear Molly
I commence again after a weeks interval and a march of 60 miles within 3 days to this place very much fatigued again. We are of course, besides being dirty, dusty, dry & tired for again this time without reason we have been put on short rations, in order I suppose to line the better the pockets of some knavish contractor or commissary, for of course Uncle Sam generously finds us every thing we require & worse than all pays cash for it too, as we shall find out if ever this war ends in our time.
Need I say that I am well and with a mind pretty easy & free from care and that I fervently pray that when our mail comes in if it ever does that I shall hear of your continued health & strength, and enjoyment of all the blessings that can be expected during these dark days of our beloved though distracted adopted country - long may it wave & long may peace of mind & comfort bless its adopted or native citizens & especially yourself and humble servants.
Well I need not bore you with the dry details of how we lay in camp at Crab Orchard near Mount Vernon, how we went on picket & got a glimpse of the mountains nearly 50 miles off, & it is said were as near the Gap for all practical purposes as if within a mile of it (this I dont believe for Bragg was between us & the Gap, & Morgan too & if we had went too near we might have caught them. Now they are both safe, & Morgan has already followed us here & stole 500 of our Mules & 81 of our wagons).
Neither need I describe how fine & hazy & foggy the days are & were, how cold & frosty the nights, (for those who like us sleep out of doors on the prairies or under a tree) how we proceeded the afternoon before we left to build shelter sheds, expecting to remain at least a week - but to our surprise we were waked before daylight in the morning, with orders to march in an hour on Lebanon with three days rations (rations that we could find nobody to issue, but we had to march all the same) & fast, buy, or steal, all of which we done, even in the loyal state of Kentucky. Yes time & again have we been compelled to steal both on this march & the last from Nashville, & why it is said, because it is wished by Buell to disgust the Kentuckians & force them to turn secesh or at least go against Old Abe's government certain it is. Buell never allowed such things in Tennessee or Alabama, but bought & paid the highest prices for every thing the soldiers did or did not want.
Neither need I say how pretty the little & great hills with mountains in the distance looked all clothed in living green, yellow & golden fading in heavenly blue as distance lent enchantment to them but I will come down to mention simply the facts that we found good Union people in plenty along all our road - that they suffered much from both our army & the secesh, but that they generally grudged us nothing unless it was taken in too forcible or insulting a manner, or they had nothing else to live upon.
Of the prisoners we took most of whom were disgusted with the secesh army and its Officers - and also that Morgan had got behind us even to Bardstown & threatened to cut off our supplies as he did one of our empty wagon train, & so as I said on the morning of the 20th 50 or 60,000 men marched back again through Lancaster & Danville to this point, leaving more than as many more as an army of observation at that point still.
We made 16 miles slowly the first day without any adventures - on the 21st we made 23 miles to water on this side of Danville, here I treated myself to a half pound of good oolong tea. I have been so much poisoned by drinking strong coffee for the last month or two that it has injured my health, so I am now drinking strong Tea instead & feel quite rehabilitated already, however on the 22d late at night we made this point which is on the Rolling Fork of Green river 6 miles south of Lebanon. We had to come here for water as there has been no rain in this country since Spring and as a consequence all the creeks & springs are dried up. We are now on the line of the Louisville & Nashville railroad - that is to say Lebanon is, & so we are very near where we marched up - but there is still no rain & such a dusty God forsaken looking country, you would not wish to see - even before it was plagued with the horrors of War.
I sent some letters by our Brigade Quartermaster from Crab Orchard to post at Louisville & the report is that he is captured along with all his train & letters of course. I hope not as he had at least one for you.
It is a very hilly, slaty, but still a beautiful country here reminds me much of some parts of Antrim, Derry, or Down but better looking as there is an abundance of rich foliage & an absence of the omnipresent bogs. There are many good residences, thick settlements & expensive improvements with the usual splendid Kentucky Turnpikes - equalled only by English or Irish ones but all looks cursed for want of the needful rain & the presence of unholy war.
Lt. Col Martin has gone to Louisville today by way of Lebanon & the railroad. There was Lt. Washer & 20 men with him & they took over 100 secesh prisoners along. They will bring all our Tents, Camp & Garrison outfit for the winter back with them, so I suppose for a little while my address will be as per the heading of this letter.
I saw a letter today that left St. Louis on the 21st and I am getting very anxious indeed to know whether you ever get these epistles of James or not - and how it is I cant get yours.
I was so disappointed even today, a large mail came in & none for me. I feel inclined to run away for a week or two, & I believe I will whenever we go in Winter Quarters, if not sooner certainly at Christmas. Remember me at Auld Halloween, & the other fete days that used to was of the coming winter.
Love to Sallie, your Mother, Aunt &c &c & especially yourself My Dear Dear Girl
With a thousand caresses & the hope of happy days to come
I am as ever
James E. Love
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