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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623
Bacon creek, Feb 2nd 62
I wrote to Juliet day before yesterday and promised to write to you today, and here I am endeavoring to fulfill my promise, but what shall I write, that would be likely to interest you, I declare I hardly know what. Oh that I had a patent letter writer and then I should not be obliged to send so many prosy and stale letters home, but as I have not such an article I am willing to do the best I can believing that you are ready to give me full credit for all that I do be it ever so little.
The weather to day is cool and bracing and the everlasting mud has had to dry up for once during the last month, I hear by the different letters that I receive that you have been for some time having good sleighing, and Father stated in his last letter that he was waiting for the frost to leave the timber, when he was going to commence sawing. I seems so curious to hear you tell of sleighing and frozen timber, when for the last month we have had nothing but rain instead of snow, and sunshine in lieu of frost, and indeed when you were enjoying a fine sleighride, the boys of the 21st were in some cases, running round barefoot, and very comfortably too at that. Thus you see the difference of climate between the two places. We accasionally have thunder showers, when it will thunder and lighten equal to any april shower in Ohio.
I have never yet written anything in regard to the inhabitants of this section of country, and I will endeavor to describe them the best I can, but I am afraid that by reading the description alone, you will be unable to form a correct opinion of them.
In the first place, they are as a general thing very ignorant as the free school system is not very well patronized in this vicinity and since the war has broken out, the schools have been discontinued entirely. Perhaps, you may have read, that the poorer clap of the South on account of being brought up in company with the slaves, have adopted their brogue and in common conversation talk very much like to the colored population, well that is just the case, with the inhabitants of this district[.] They all, both high and low, dress in K.y jeans which gives them a very rough appearance. The boys say that the men all look alike, as they generally wear a straw hat during summer and winter, The men in going round the country, as a general thing are mounted, and I must say that they have some splendid horses. If you should go into one of their houses and ask the occupant the distance to a certain place you would in nine cases out of ten receive the answer, w-e-l-l, it's a right smart peace down thar I reckon. or if you were to ask the size of a certain town you would receive the answer, w-e-l-l it's a right smart town, I reckon, and thus you see, they never appear to be sure of a thing, but always reckon. But a I wish to write a few lines to Father, I will close. from Robert
I received your letter of the 26th which you sent at the time Juliet last wrote. and since that time we have been having some stirring times in Co I. Capt? Gibbs left for home yesterday afternoon, without so much as bidding us goodbye, I at least expected to see him and speak to him before he left, but he did not so much as say bad luck to you. I had intended to send word home by him, and left my dinner for that purpose, and the first that I saw of him he was least 20 rods from our quarters going almost on double quick to the cars, and when the train left, we were out drilling and he stood on the the platform of the car and saluted us, which was returned by myself and a few others, I was a little vexed, as he had almost an hour to spare before the train left. After drill we held an election of commissioned officers, and the result stood, for Capt Charles Vantine, unanimous first Lieut A E Wood unanimous then came the tug of war, Bumpus was to run for 2nd Lieut and some of the boys were determined to defeat him if possible, and consequently Mack Reynolds was put up in opposition, and after a due amount of canvassing on both sides the election came off, and the result was that Bumpus received 46 votes and Reynolds 25, which of cours gave Bumpus a majority of 21 votes, which was sufficient to elect him over anything his opponents could do, and Bumpus was declared elected 2nd Lieut, and then the place of the Orderly being vacant the 2nd sergeant was promoted to fill his place and so the different non commissioned officers were all raised a notch Corporals as well as sergeants and a corpl was elected by the Co to fill the place of 8th Corpl and resulted in the election of a man by the name of Brett. Ezekiel rice being first Corpl of course became 5th sergeant and I being 3rd became 2nd corpl. I am in hopes that we will have no more trouble with our officers in the future. George Claghorn received a telegram last Friday evening announceing that his wife was very ill an desiring him to come home immediately, and consequently after getting a furlough of 48 hours, from Gen Mitchel, which was the greatest length of time that Mitchel could give him one for without the consent of Gen Buell he started for Louisville to get the furlough extended if possible and as we have not yet heard from him, I cannot tell whether he obtained it or not, but as dinner is ready, I must bring this letter to a close, from Robert[.]
Bacon creek, Feb 5th __62
I write to let you know that I received a letter from home to day, in which you stated that William had come home, with the intention of going into the service, and that he intended to leave for Camp Chase upon the following monday, and consequently he must have arrived at camp before this. Doubtless it caused quite a sacrifice of feeling on the part of you all, to have William enter the service also, as without doubt it will be quite lonesome after Mr Vetter leaves, but I think it was about the best thing he could do, considering the circumstances under which he was placed, as he will now have the practice as well as theory. In your letter you did not state where the destination of the 72nd would be but I suppose, as a general thing, that the Ohio troops now at Camp Chase and those that will in future be sent to that place are to be sent to Western Va.
The opinion is gaining ground that we will soon be ordered forward, and I judge from the workmanlike manner in which our new Secretary of War has taken hold that something will soon be done on the side of the Union forces, both upon the Potomac and in this State also, that will tell with killing effect upon rebellion. The late call of the Secretary to the Governors of the eastern States to know how many 30 days men they can furnish to man the forts, in and around Washington, for the purpose of allowing the present forces in that quarter to move upon Cecessia, looks like business and we now have something to hope for in that direction. I am in hopes that the forces in this State may make a speedy movement and close the campaign at once before warm weather is upon us, which is more to be dreaded than secession bullets, for if the present warm weather is a correct specimen of the southern climate, it must be scorching indeed, during the summer months. The weather to day was a good specimen of a very fine Spring day in Ohio the sun was shining so warmly, that it was quite uncomfortable for one to wear a coat.
I received a letter from Juliet yesterday. I wrote to Juliet a few days ago in which I stated that I had sent my Blouse, a pair of drawers, and a shirt, home in Lieut Woods trunk, which was correct, with the exception of the trunk not being sent, as Wood agreed to do, and I will keep them until I get an opportunity to send them.
I wrote to you last sunday and gave you the result of the election in Co I. which in one respect did not result as I anticipated, that is in unfairness about appointing non commissioned officers, it was all fairly and honorably done and no person I believe has reason to complain of partiality on the part of Capt Vantine. I intend to do my duty in all respects and endeavor to merit promotion if I fail to receive it, Capt Vantine and myself are on the best of terms contrary to my expectations. I will pay attention to your instructions that you gave me in regard to taking advantage of circumstances &c, &c, &c
I should like to hear from Mr Vetter.
love to all, Robert
Bacon creek, Feb 8th 1862
Dear folks at home
Feeling in pretty good humor, to night I concluded to improve a few moments by writing to all the folks at home at the present time. Matters and things, go on in about the same ration as ever, Roll call early in the morning, then breakfast, after that comes Guard mounting, Drill, then dinner, then dinner, a little more drill, then Dress Parade, and so on day after day, with no excitement whatever if I except a camp rumor now and then of an impending battle between the Such and such forces, and that we are to be immediately ordered forward &c. but a large Camp without an occasional rumor of that description is almost a moral impossibility. Speaking of drilling, puts me in mind of the fact, that Major Strong 21st O.V has undertaken the task of making a model Co of Co I. and to that effect, he is taxing all his energies to perfect us in the drill, and I may say that he is meeting with pretty good success. I don't wish to boast, but Gens Sill and Mitchel, both declare that the 21st has no superior in his Division, which is saying a good deal, as the 10th Ohio is in his Div. In a former letter, I spoke of the Battery of 10 pound Parrot guns that was attached to our Div[.] Well a few days ago they were out practicing throwing shells at a target a distance of upwards of ¾ of a mile, and out of a number of shots fired, five penetrated through the bulls eye, a spot of about two feet in diameter, now what do you think of that don't you think that they will do well to depend upon? Such firing as that cant be beat by Buckners artillery every day, I opine. We are daily expecting the Paymaster along this way, and I think it about time he was making his appearance, as we have already something over three months pay due us. When I look back, I can hardly realize, that I have been in the service almost six months, but such is a fact, but time appears to pass much faster in the service than elsewhere, I received a letter from A. H. Rice, written from camp Chase, he says the mud is some in that camp, which doubtless is very true. I will write to William on sunday, Wm had not arrived when he wrote but Al said he was daily expecting him. St Valentine's day is close at hand if one might judge by the large number of Charicatures and pictures of gilt winged Cupids that are being sold in camp both by the Sutler and new boys. I wish some one of you would tell Mose Willson I am waiting for an answer to that letter I wrote him some time ago. I received a letter from Washington Boggs, and also one from E. Haynes from Camp Dennison a few days ago. W. Boggs said that in all probability their Regt would be disbanded Why don't Mr Vetter write to me any more, I am anxious to receive a letter from him. Tell Willie to write to me This letter is to all, in fact is to be considered a family letter
Camp Jefferson, Bacon creek K.Y. Feb 9th__62
I have just received a letter from you, and as you say, a good letter from home is a sure preventive against the blues. Yesterday I received a letter from Mother, and you also wrote in the same letter, which was very gratefully received, and taken in place of blue pill, Yesterday I went up to Division Headquarters (Genl Mitchels) on business for Capt Vantine, for the purpose of procuring a discharge for Andrew Harrison who is to be sent home shortly on account of disability for duty.
While there I had the pleasure of seeing a dog, that was brought from The Arctic regions by the celebrated Dr Kane, the dog is owned by Dr Swift, Div Surgeon of our Division[.] he was recently offered, (it is said) $300,000 in gold for the animal and refused to sell it for that amount[.] It was without an exception the finest animal of the canine species that I ever saw, the hair was about five or six inches in length, and of a black and white color. He had a very intelligent look and in fact, was just such a dog as I should like to have, and he looked as though he was capable of drawing a very heavy load.
In your yesterday letter you spoke of a certain young man by the name of Kelly, that ahd lately made his appearance in E. by the description that you gave of him, I should judge that Keightsly had better keep his eye open or fall behind.
I was sory to hear that old Sols fierce rays had cheated the young folks of E out of that contemplated sleighride, but never mind winter is not yet over, and there may yet be a plenty of chances for pleasure trips ere the spring arrives. George Claghorn was just now in our tent taking the names of those who were in need of knapsacks, canteens, &c I ordered a canteen as I lost mine while at Prestonburg and shall need one on the march. Col Norton says that the bad condition of the road is the only thing now that delays our march, and as soon as the roads will permit, will pull up stakes and march for Dixie.
Yesterday we recd the news of the fall of Fort Henry and of the capture of two rebel Generals, good news. Tell Father that Johny is now out on picket and will not be home before tomorrow, when I will see him and find out about that bill from Frohnes and write immediately. I will also write to mother at the same time, As I must write to William this afternoon I will stop (PS) I listened to a very able sermon this forenoon preached by Capt Gaddis, Chaplain of the 2nd Ohio. It was the best sermon I ever listened to.
Give my love to all. When you write direct to AL direct Lieut Rice Co F 72 o.v
The Advance Divisions of Buells army
Camp in the woods one mile in advance of Green river and Munfordsvill K.y.
Feb 10th 1862.
Last night just after having gone to bed, and as I was lying on my back, talking to some of the boys, We heard tremendous cheering in the upper end of our Division and while we were wondering what could be the matter, the cheer was caught up by the neighboring Regts and as the sound was borne along on the breeze, it extended to the 4th Ohio Cavalry as well as both of the Artillery Batteries, and it appeared to be contagious as, the next moment, the 21st broke out into one long, loud, hearty, ringing cheer, by this time I had grown quite curious to know what was up, and got up for the purpose of ascertaining, when in rushed one of the boys, explaining, boys have you heard the news? Marching orders for Mitchels Div. be ready to strike tents at 7 oclock tomorrow morning, so there at last the cause of the commotion was explained, now perhaps there was not some stirring about, rations were to be cooked and all things put in order for an early start in the morning. Morning at last came and we marched out of camp, the 2nd Ohio leading and the 21st immediately behind the 2nd and the remainder of the Div bringing up the rear, We arrived at Munfordville at about 12oclock and after stopping about half an hour or so we started to cross the river[.] We crossed upon the top of the R.R. Bridge which had been crossed over with plank. the Cavalry crossed over on it, as well as the teams and wagon. There is a low rail of of about two feet in height up both which prevent on accident by falling over the edge, which would prove a very dear fall for a person, as the track is about 125 feet above the water. How shall I describe that bridge, I am aware that I cannot do justice to it and therefore will not attempt a description of it, but will merely say, that the bridge is mainly constructed of cast iron, but when it was rebuilt, the new portion was constructed of wood. The main part of the bridge is 1100 feet in length and I believe there are three piers and two abutments, built the whole way up. I should say there was about250 or 300 feet rebuilt, the new portion of it, looks rather slim, in comparison with that portion that is constituted of iron, but I suppose it is strong enough for all practical purposes. After crossing the river we marched about one mile and a half and camped in a very fine spot in the woods. We are about one mile from the river. The pickets of one of Gen McCooks regt are stationed but a few rods from our camp, but I think after this they will be pushed a little farther as we are now encamped upon the ground lately occupied by them. It is said that one of the pickets was shot dead about forty rods from our camp, a week ago last Sunday, and since that time the pickets have been doubled. I saw the place where the soldiers of the german regiment were buried, that were killed about (four?) weeks ago during their engagement with the Texan Rangers, there were ten graves, and there was a nice picket fence built round their graves. We passed over the ground where the fight took place. The U.S. troops have thrown up fortifications on this side of the river for the about a half mile in length, for what purpose [I] know not, as I don't believe Gen Buell intends to move before he is ready and I don't think he intends to make a backward movement either after starting. I don't know how soon we are to be called away from here it may be tomorrow, or it may not be fore a week or month, but I think in all probability we shall start southward before long, as every thing at present is tending that way. Munfordville is a small town of about 200 or 300 inhabitants I should say, and does not possess a very prepossessing look, but I must close
Love to all I will write to mother next time I would write to night but it is almost time to turn in and after 1/2 past eight we are not allowed to have lights burning. Direct to Munfordville camp,care Capt Vantine &c
Camp Madison, Green river Feb 12th 
We have just received marching orders once more, awe are to leave in the morning, I suppose it is to be an advance upon Bowling green at last. God grant it may result prosperously to our forces, but of one thing you may rest assured, our entire Army will, I believe to a man do its duty in the hour of trial came when it may, and now for once since entering the service we are in a position to strike a blow for the defence of God and our Country, I think I may truly say. Oh hasten the time when we can say the Cause of the good old Stars and Stripes have at last been vindicated and we can prove to Jealous Nations and England especially, that a Republican Government can sustain itself successfully against the machination of all the Devils, in human shape that can be brought to bear against it. But as great preparation are to be mad between this and morning and two days rations drawn and cooked I will close by saying that our Div is top take the advance, as Gen Mitchel said that in case he was not awarded that honor, he would immediately resign, ours is to be the second Regt in the advance the 2nd Ohio leading. You will hear from me on the first opportunity. Give my love all my friends and tell them I hope they will never be called upon to blush at the mention of my name, as I am determined by the help of God to do my duty to my Country if I perish in the attempt.
Bowling Green Feb 16th 62
As a train of wagons is to leave for Bacon creek in a few minutes I seize this opportunity to let you know that we are at present on the banks of the barren river, directly opposite Bowling Green, We arrived here last night after having made forced march of 42 miles in two days. Yesterday afternoon we made a march of 16 miles in 4 hours without stopping once to rest, it was the hardest march I ever made. Our advance occupied the town yesterday aft at 2 oclock and the town was shelled by (Loomis'?) battery of Parrot guns, the citizens fired about 12 houses and they were burned to the ground. I will write tomorrow and give you the particulars as I will have to close.
Bowling Green, Feb 16th 1862 [17th?]
I wrote you a short note yesterday and on account of not having sufficient time I was obliged to cut it short, but I now propose to give you an account of what has taken place since we left Green River. We left Green River last Thursday morning and marched 19 miles that day, We found the road obstructed in many places with fallen trees and all manner of obstructions, and the road for miles had been plowed up, for the purpose of delaying our Artillery and wagons, but it was of no use, the Yankees would not be balked, we had a corps of Sappers and Miners in advance all the time clearing the way for us. But now I must tell you of one act of the Devils that surpassed all others in point of meanness. The road led past several ponds of water situated, at from one to two miles apart, and to cut us off from using the water, the rascals, had driven in mules and stock of all description and deliberately shot them down, for the purpose of poisoning the water, which as a matter of course made the water exceedingly scarce, and we had to suffer accordingly, but what of that we were after them with a good prospect of overtaking them in a short time, when their chastisement was to be meted out to them in proportions to their mean actions and to judge by the conversation of the boys, it was to be terrible indeed. We arrived at Bells tavern in the evening after having marched 19 miles and encamped in a field at that place. The Station had been fired by a company of Texan Rangers the day before, and was still burning, which was another exhibition of meanness on their part. In the morning we were up early and off after them, expecting to come up with them during the day, the distance from camp to B. Green being 28 miles, and after having gone about 7 miles, we could see smoke rising in dense clouds, in the direction of the city and concluded that our advance must have arrived and engaged the enemy, (but here let me say, that I wrote from Green River, that our Brigade was to lead the Division, I was misinformed, as there was two Brigades ahead of us both belonging to our Division as, ours was the only Div that left Green River,) we were then at a distance of 16 miles from the enemy, and a Courier was sent back to hurry up the Batteries, and then the Brigade ahead of us started upon double quick for the scene of the fight, and we started on a quick time, and kept it up for 16 miles without once stopping to rest, we carried all our effects upon our back knapsacks and all it was the hardest march I was ever called upon to make. We arrived at the river at dark and pitched tents for the night, and their fount out what had been done. Loomis's Battery had arrived at the rivers bank opposite the city, in time to see it being evacuated by the enemy, there was about 20,000 Rebel troops in the place when He commenced shelling it He threw about 150 shells amongst them and he saw a large number of them at the Depot engaged at loading provisions, they had the train about loaded and steam up ready to start, when he sent a shell amongst them hitting and disabling the locomotive attached to the train which of course put a stop to their operations in that quarter, the rascals then set fire to several other Locomotives, and also fired a lot of cars and the Depot, besides a lot of houses in the town and then left altogether. But I had forgotten to state that before our army arrived, the enemy had burned the wagon bridge, and destroyed the R.R. Bridge so that we could not get at them. The city was indeed well fortified, they had seven different fortifications, several of them were very strong, one or two in particular, the one on the side of the rover opposite the city being one of them, and one upon College Hill, the walls are bout 12 feet in thickness and including the sides of the ditch about 15 in height. That one upon College hill is principally composed of hewn stone, but doubtless you will have the dimensions &c of them in the papers. The rebels burned about 20,000 stand of arms, besides destroying a large amount of corned beef and sugar. We captured several hundred barrels of beef, flour, and sugar &c&c. There was but one rebel killed, the engineer of the locomotive, that was disabled he was killed by the shell that struck the locomotive. We are now encamped within the limits of the city upon the cite of a rebel camp, there are several of the houses in this part of the city that have marks of shells upon them. The second shell that was fired struck within 10 rods of the quarters of Genl Hardee. The ground in the vicinity of our camp is torn up in all directions by the shells of Loomises battery. A portion of our Division is still upon the other side of river, but our Brigade is now (as I said before) camped close to the city we crossed yesterday. To sum up the whole thing one Division of U.S. troops has at last occupied the far famed , and strongly fortified city of Bowling green.
You spoke of Capt Gibbs having arrived at home &c.&c. well I must not omit saying that Co I. Has of late been rapidly comeing up, in point of strength and discipline and Col Norton now rates our Co as second to none in the Regt. About a month ago to do our best, we could not get out more than 35 to 40 men on drill or parade when we now are able to turn out from 60 to 70, quite a change is it not, in the short space of four weeks. The boys all declare that it is all owing to having a commander that possesses their confidence. I understand by some of the letters that have been received by our boys that Cat Gibbs has been misrepresenting Co I most woefully, if such is the case or not the boys are all well satisfied with the change that has been wrought in it. I have just received three letters by mail one from home, and one from Wm and Lieut Rice from Columbus but I will write again in a few days and give you the rest of the news. We are to start for Nashville in a few days
Camp J.L. Adams near Bowling Green Feb 20th 
Doubtless, long before this letter reaches you you will have heard of the capture of the famous Bowling Green,. We, had long been expecting a hard fight at the above place, but it has been captured without a struggle on the part of its defenders, To judge by the number of its fortifications and of their strength I should have supposed that they would have made a stand, but confound them I believe that they are afraid of the irrepressible Yankee. I have no doubt you will read in the papers the particulars in regard to the capture of the city and of the large amount of stores that have fallen into our hands. The importance of this capture can hardly be over estimated, as it opens the whole of this portion of Kentucky to our forces, This district of the state is very rich indeed, there is a large amount of wheat raised, and in fact, I never saw finer land in any part of K.y Bowling Green is situated in Warren County B. Green being the County seat, it is a town of perhaps 4000 inhabitants and in general is well built, the houses are principally built of brick and there are some very fine ones in the city. Before leaving, the Rebels set fire to the Depot, a very extensive building, it covers at least 2 acres of ground, The building at the time of being burned contained locomotives, they were all partially destroyed, but a part of them are capable of being repaired. We captured one piece of cannon, a six pounder, and all its appertainance. The R.R. over Big Barren river, was principally constructed of iron, and just before our forces arrived, was blown down by the rascals. They also burned the wagon bridge, which impeded our progress very much, We are expecting a bridge every day, it is to be framed and sent from Louisville, we expected it to day, but it did not arrive. Yesterday afternoon we broke up camp, and moved down to this place, situated at a distance of 7 miles south of the city directly on the L.& N. R.R. The pike at this place, runs directly under the R.R. and there is a small bridge over the pike, which the Rebels burned, on their retreat from B. Green. The Mechanics are busily at work reconstructing it, and it will be completed by tomorrow evening. Last night our Cavalry captured a small town on the Memphis R.R. besides killing 6 of the enemy and captureing 2 locomotives, which will be very useful in our next forward movement, which will take place in a few days. Yesterday Gen Mitchel brought the news, that Fort McDonald, in connection with 15000 prisoners and Genls Buckner, Johnson, & Pillon had been captured. You should have heard the cheers with which the announcement was received I am in hope the report will prove true, as it will lend in a great measure, to shorten the rebellion, Oh! What a happy time it will be, when the war shall close, and we be permitted to return home once more. I cannot help thinking of that happy time, and the thoughts of it, tend to cheer me up, and encourage me to do my duty, hoping that the time will soon roll round when I shall be enabled to behold the faces of all the dear ones at home, and you all have the pleasure of shaking the hand of
Father, I wish you could send me a few postage stamps as I am out and there are none to be had in this part of the country
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