Civil War Love Letters: September 9–11, 1862
James spends much of this letter discussing Union major general Don Carlos Buell. At this time many people, including Buell’s superiors and the soldiers in his army, had serious doubts about Buell’s actions during military campaigns in Tennessee. They believed that the Union would lose the war in Tennessee because of Buell’s slow movements and his failure to beat Confederate general Braxton Bragg. Some people, including Andrew Johnson, who was the military governor of Tennessee in 1862, thought that Buell favored the Confederates, and called him a traitor. James also mentions that he was under arrest. Buell had ordered that no one enter the city of Nashville. Unaware of the order, James and 27 other officers went into the city for breakfast, and were arrested when they returned to camp.
Camp near Nashville
Sept 9th 1862
My Dear Molly
I hear just now that the mail going North was captured, if so I fear my last extracts from my journal was captured with it. Well I wont risk going into detail again, but we had a hard march from Eastport Miss to Florence Ala - thence to Lawrenceburgh Tenn. & so thro' Columbia Franklin & Murfreesboro to Nashville. Near Nashville we lay 3 or 4 days expecting a fight but finding none. On Sunday I went to town to see it, the churches, the Ladies, the Capitol & monuments &c &c & to get something to eat. I saw all & was pleased with the location of the city & the Capitol. The Capitol is a real gem of beauty but the city proper is a poor narrow, dirty-place - up & down hill - with fine residences around however. The city & Capitol looks well at a distance.
We passed through it yesterday & crossed the Cumberland on the Railroad Bridge, expecting to go on a forced march again to Bowling Green or Louisville but not so. There is some misunderstanding between Buell & Andy Johnson, so we went into camp one mile this side the river. It has taken over three days to cross all our army & baggage & they are crossing still without halt, & would seem to do so indefinitely. It is an immense host now for all Buell's Army is at last here, & some of Grant’s. Where we go we know not, but the enemy in small squads is all around, so we cant go far wrong to find them.
Rumor says Buell is a traitor, reasons given – numerous ones too - Why does he abandon Tennessee cry indignant loyalists, Andrew Johnson at their head - that he & Buell have quarreled is certain - & so we are almost like sheep without a Shepherd - and even now the rumor is that 8,000 rebels are near by - but I write to you in a new capacity. I am under arrest. I was placed so yesterday morning because I had been in town the day previous. I have got 27 companions in misery all officers, & all the rest pretty much were in town before or since, so I am easy in conscience of any misdemeanor, or if I am guilty, all are or were.
As I said, I went to get something to eat & wear. Gen'l Buell issued an order day before that none should come to the city & published it in Sundays paper. None of us saw the paper. None of us were arrested in town but a circular letter was sent to all the Colonels to enquire if any of their officers were in town & their names - names were given of some – mine with the rest.
I have had a good lazy time. I am not confined & I have no duties to perform. I can do as I please except go out the camp line without permission. The lines extend miles around, so I can ramble & bathe & loll under a tree & so I do so & write to you under one.
We have no tents, & so we live in the woods & have a continual picnic. All very fine, pleasant and romantic - until it rains. Then the romance fades into a muddy reality. Sleeping out in the moonlight is also very pleasant when it dont shine in your eyes - then it is worse than the sun. But the leaves are falling and September is at hand and rain will come occasionally - & soon the winter of our discontent will be at hand again.
I have recovered from my wound altogether. I am a convalescent & a prisoner at large. I wish I was certain of our mails & telegrams. It is such an ungracious task to write after all when you dont know whether it will reach or not.
I hope you are in good health & spirits. I have just reread for the ____ time yours of the 15th ult. I have no doubt but you have written since but I doubt whether I will ever receive them - pray write on receipt of this & let me know about my last posted at Nashville along with one to Wm. For all these favors receive ten thousand thanks.
Give my love to Sallie, your Mother, Aunt, yourself &c &c &c.
You tell me to return thanks to U. Sam for moving me around so. I would & do - when the roads are so I can breathe but Oh, dear when an army passes you cant recognize your next neighbor & then the sun beams down while you march & sweat & burn - until it seems unendurable & you fling your body every chance for a moment under any passing shelter or crawl into any muddy spot for coolness, regardless of after consequences. Towards the end of your march you only stagger along because everybody else does & when you get to camp generally it is two or three hours before you have energy enough to return to the duties of washing yourself & looking after your supper & bed. Your day is divided with the exception of luncheon at Springs when you are so fortunate as to have secured it to carry into getting up before daylight to Breakfast marching all day eating supper & sleep.
I hope Sallie is quite recovered lang syne, & that John got his color back ere he left. That Mrs. Rogers is as active as ever in well doing & that they have drafted all our secesh friends, Irish & American, especially those who used to be a little better than anybody else because they had been so long here - pretended when in strange company to be American born - but are now only British subjects.
No mail has went out for two days. We have been detailed to defend Nashville, 4 Divisions, 10,000 men or more. The rest have gone North towards Bowling Green. Bragg is North of us. Buell is yet here. We are so glad to be out of his immediate command. He is a traitor & has tried to sell us all to the Confed. As soon as proofs of which there are volumes can go to Washington he will be arrested or superseded if he dont get shot by his own soldiers first - numbers of Generals even are crazy to do it.
None here can arrest him or speak in his presence even. He has arrested a Brigadier because he told him if he obeyed a certain order his Brigade w'd be captured or starved for water & provisions – grass. It was so as his brigade was sent & came back in two days at an expense of $50,000.00 to the government in Dead Horses. Mr. Brigadier had to be released, the facts were too strong even for the Traitor to cover it, from the dullest soldier.
He is a Traitor. It is spoken of openly in the streets, by his own staff & by all the secesh fools that they are.
We will never give up Nashville if our generals are only plucky enough. Such a state of facts has made every soldier a general in his own Ideas - on whom the country salvation depends & especially the State of Tennessee. It is too bad - long lines of wagons containing refugees. Ladies in satin & lace on their knees begging us not to desert them to the damd guerillas.
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