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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623
[Somewhere in the vicinity of Murfreesboro, Tenn;
between March 30th and April 12th, 1862
Dear [TORN PAGE]
There is little going on in camp at this time, and I hardly know what to write, that would be likely to interest you. The R.R. Bridge at this place is completed, and I believe the one situated 5 miles from this point, upon the same stream is about, if not quite finished. I am of the opinion that we are to move on in a few days, as I...
...all leafing out, and present a fine appearance, and no doubt for one to come from the North, to this point at the present time, he would be quite surprised to see the forwardness of vegetation. The Planters are having their land plowed and some of them have had their corn planted for nearly two weeks. We are quite anxious to hurry on and bring this fuss to a final settlement as soon as possible, we are afraid of the hot weather. This part of the State, that is, that portion lying immediately in the vicinity of Murfreesboro is quite heavily timbered. The timber consists of Oak, White ash, Hickory, and some Walnut. There is a Grist, and Sawmill (Steam) close by the comp, so close that we can hear the exhaust quite plain from our tents. Most of the Sawmills are circular mills. I don't think much of their land around here, it is to gravelly There is considerable cotten raised around here, but I have been told by those capable of judging, that the cotten is very poor, it appears to have suffered very much from drouth, and has a stunted appearance. I don't see any cotten being planted, and I understand the Planters have been advised to plant corn and sow wheat instead as they begin to find out that cotten is not quite King yet. In company with Lieut Wood I attended church in the town last Sunday, and listened to quite an able sermon[.] The minister undertook to impress upon the minds of the Congregation that this war was brought upon them as a judgement, and that if they did not repent, and humble themselves, they were soon to be stripped of all their property, &c &c . The meeting was closed by prayer from one of the Brothers who prayed, that the time might soon come, when the foot of the invader would no longer press their soil and he also prayed for their sons and brothers that were on the field of battle. I admired the old fellows grit, even if I could not endorse his sentiments, there are few union men in this vicinity. Love to all
Huntsville, Alabama Apr 12th 1862
You will see by the heading of this letter that we are at last on the last tier of States and consequently in one of the Gulf States. Hurah! For our side, who would have thought that our Division could possibly have marched through two belligerent States, without so much as seeing a fight, but such has proved to be a fact. Bowling Green, Nashville, and several other important points have fallen into our hands, but where are those tremendous resources of the Rebels that were to be brought to be against us with such telling effect, where are all those numerous and well equipped armies with which they were going to impede our march and put our forces to flight, echo answers, where I can tell you where look at Fort Donelson, that was the wedge that wrought destruction among them, it split their forces asunder and scattered them to the four winds, and they have been pursued so constantly, and untiringly for the last month, that they are at a loss, which way to turn, and I am going to tell you how close we were upon their heels, at this point. I wrote to you from Shelbyville and told you that we were expected to march in the morning for Corinth but was mistaken in regard to our destination, we left Shelbyville the following morning and arrived at Fayetville that afternoon at (3:40) making in all something over 25 miles marched that day, a pretty good march for us as we carried knapsacks, and everything that we had we remained in camp all night and until noon on the following day, and then started for this place[.] After marching about 10 miles, we camped, and slept in the open air, as our teams failed to arrive until midnight. Gen Mitchel, in the meantime had gone one with another Brigade, and was at that time about 10 miles in the advance. Gen Mitchel sent back an order for our Brigade to march at 2 oclock in the morning, but we were delayed some and did not get on the way until 3.30 after marching a short distance we distinctly heard cannonading in the direction, and concluded that something was being done, (we crossed the state line at sunrise) we hurried on and arrived at within about 1 ½ miles of town, at a little after noon having made about 18 miles since morning, and that over the worst kind of roads, in one place we came to a creek where there was no bridge and we were obliged to climb across upon logs, it took an hour to cross. after arriving here we found out the cause of the cannonading, our advance arriving found the enemy still here, and engaged in running off Army Stores, and Simondsons Battery opened on one of the trains and succeeded in stopping, and capturing it, as they also did with some 15 other Locomotives 17 locomotives and 40 cars with some 200 prisoners were taken. most of the locomotives are new and in the best condition. at first we heard that the number of locomotives captured was 15, but the facts are that we took 17. It appears that the Rebels were taken completely by surprise. You are doubtless aware that this is the Memphis & Charleston R.R. and what might be called the Jugular vein of the Confederate States. They have always had complete control of the R.R. and it has proved of incalculable benefit to them. If we had arrived 12 hours sooner we should have intercepted 6000 of the rascals, who were passing through by R. Road for the purpose, it is supposed of reinforcing the Rebel army in the direction of Corinth. Mitchel has been very active since we arrived he has several of the Locomotives in constant use, he places a cannon upon a platform car, with the Locomotive shoving it and with a train of soldiers in the rear of the Locomotive and in that manner is scouring the road in both directions, day and night. He is expecting an attack every hour and I am writing with my cartridge box on, and my rifle stacked in front of the tent, as is all the rifles of the Regiment every man is ready to fall into line at a moments warning. There has been an expedition sent out for the purpose of burning bridges and tearing up track and if it fails to accomplish its purpose, it is expected we will see some fun. well let them come The train carrying the men and cannon going on the expedition, passed our camp a few hours ago. The cannon was in front and the soldiers on the train behind the Locomotive. I believe it consisted of one Regiment. Three companys of our Regt. A.F. and C. went on a secret expedition shortly after arriving they have not yet returned and I dont know the result of the expedition. I have not yet been into the town but it is in sight from our camp and I can see several large buildings and conclude that it is a town of considerable importance. We hear several reports from Corinth one is that a battle has been fought in which we (lost?) in captured 6000 men and several pieces of cannon, our forces then fell back to the river, under cover of our gunboats, and the Rebels were forced to fall back in turn, I dont know what is to believe, and am afraid that we have met with a disaster in that direction. I don't know how this matter is going to terminate, there is only one other Brigade here beside that of ours, but Gen Mitchel has sent a courier back to hasten on another Brigade to reinforce us. I have no means of knowing where Genls McCook, Thomas , and Nelsons Divisions are but they should be somewhere in this vicinity at least in supporting distance It is almost impossible to compute the importance of this last move as it places us in position to control this R. Road running from Memphis to some point in the east, some say Richmond but I dont know where it terminates in that direction. I received a letter from William while a Shelbyville he was well, and expected to make a march inland in the direction of Corinth, it was dated March 23rd. I am very anxious to hear something definite in regard to the Corinth affair.
Huntsville, you will perceive by examining the map is within about 15 miles of the Tennessee River, and doubtless our supplies will reach us from that direction comeing up the river by steamboat. Since comeing into this State I have seen some of the finest country I have yet passed through, it even surpasses Tennessee, The trees are all in leaf There is not much heavy timber, There are some very high hills. We passed quite a lot of cotten, in bales, so you see the Rebels have not yet decided on burning their Staple. There is any amount of wheat raised in this vicinity. Love to all from Robert Caldwell
Huntsville Alabama Apr 13th /62
My dear Sister
Thinking you might possible feel anxious in regard to my welfare I seat myself to let you know that, although we have been for some time past doing some pretty tall marching yet I am happy to inform you that I am still in the land of the living, not yet having run my legs off, in pursuit of the fleeting rascals
If you will consult a map of the Southern States you will see Murfreesboro is situated upon the R. Road about 30 miles south of Nashville. That was the first town at which we arrived, after leaving Nashville. We lay there something more than a week and then started for Shelbyville, where we arrived after marching 30 miles. We made that march during a portion of two days, we lay at that town 3 days, and then moved on Fayetteville distant 25 miles where we arrived that same afternoon at 3.30 which I consider to be a pretty good march considering we carried knapsacks and all our accoutrements. The next day we left camp at noon en route for Huntsville Alabama, distant 30 miles. We marched 10 miles that afternoon, and slept without tents, on account of our teams not arriving with our baggage. Next morning we received a dispatch from Gen Mitchel, directing us to hurry on and consequently we broke up camp at 3.30 and marched to reinforce him. We arrived at this place a short time after 12 oclock and found that our advanced Brigade had succeeded in captureing 17 Locomotives and 40 cars. Also some 250 prisoners[.] The enemy were engaged in running off provisions not expecting our forces on so soon. Simondsons Battery opened out on one of the trains that contained several hundred Southern Soldiers, but failed to hit it and the train escaped. Shortly after arriving a strong force was sent up the R. Road in both directions on cars, with a cannon on each train. The one that went east proceeded some 60 miles in the direction of Chatanooga and captured 3 Locomotives and 20 cars, and as we were only about 8000 strong at this point, with no other troops within supporting distance, and fearing an overwhelming force might be precipitated upon us at any moment from the East by R.R. our General was obliged to destroy one bridge to break the connection between this point and Richmond or some other point in that direction from which the might send an army. The expedition that went down the track in the direction of Corinth met the enemy 2000 strong at Decatur and drove them from the town. You are aware that we are now located on the Memphis & Charleston R.R. running from Memphis to Richmond, there are several branches intersecting this road from the South and it is one of the most important Roads in the Southern States. W have been expecting an attack ever since we arrived and yesterday we had orders to keep our Cartridge boxes on and guns ready to fall in at a moments warning Yesterday we received the news of the Battle of Corinth. I was glad to hear of the defeat of the enemy, but am almost afraid to receive the particulars for fear that some of my friends may have fallen. The (72nd) was in the Battle I understand and possibly Wm may have been wounded.
Give my respects to all my friends
I read your letter
Camp Taylor. Huntsville Alabama Apr 14th/62
My dear Parents
As I have some spare time I propose to improve it by writing to the dear ones at home. I wrote day before yesterday and gave you an account of our late march and arrival at this place. Those expeditions that I spoke of in my letter effected considerable. The expedition that went east proceeded some 60 miles and captured 5 locomotives and 20 cars and returned safely to camp. That one going west proceeded as far as Decatur 20 miles from this point and drove 2000 of the enemy from town they having set fire to the town before leaving it, our forces (beat?) the flames out for the citizens.
We have received the news (since I write last) that Corinth has fallen into our hands and that the Rebels have been whipped out completely with great loss of life on their side, it is also stated that our loss was very severe, I have heard that the Lieutenant Colonel of the 72nd was killed[.] I am afraid that when we receive the particulars, we will hear of the death of some of our friends. I heartily hope that such may not prove to be the case. Oh that our Regt. Could have been in that fight, it must have been glorious. We no longer apprehend an attack at this point, since receiving the late news
We also heard of the surrender of Island 10 and of the capture of 6000 prisoners and a large number of Siege Guns. We have also heard of the capture of Richmond, but I don't credit the report, that would be too good. I cant say how long we may lay at this place, there are all sorts of rumors in regard to our moving and one hardly knows what to believe. The prisoners at this place are daily taking the oath of allegiance, and returning home. I saw 3 men of that persuasion that were wounded at Corinth on the first and second day of the Battle, they were sent up here to the Hospital and of course fell into our hands.
The last time I received a letter from home was while we were lying at Murfreesboro, and I am quite anxious to hear from home. I received a letter from William, while lying at Shelbyville, it was dated the 23rd I believe. We are expecting letters every day by the Division Train. I don't know when you will receive this but I am bound to write often, as I know how much good letters must do you, I judge by my own feelings as there is nothing in the world does me so much good as a letter from home. This country is quite mountainous there are some hills near camp that in the morning and evenings extend into the clouds, I don't mean that the hills are higher at one time of day than another, but the clouds are lower at certain times than others, and they look grand indeed as they [roll] down the sides of the mountains, it is the first time I ever witnessed such a scene[.] This is a very fine Country indeed and I should enjoy living here if it was not for the accursed institution of Slavery. I declare I am actually tired of seeing their black countenances but I must quit as paper has given out. I wrote to Juliet yesterday. Give my love to Aunt Marie and Willie
Huntsville Ala. Southern Confederacy Apr 17th 1862
My dear Parents
I have not yet received any word from home since leaving Murfreesboro, and am getting quite anxious to hear from home, of course the fault lies in the Mail arrangements not yet having been completed as I know full well that you write regularly, and I don't know whether or not you receive my letters, but I endeavor to keep you posted in regard to our movements[.] We are now getting to be quite a long distance from home but every march we make brings us still nearer the end and that thought cheers us up, and nerves us to endure the fatigue of long marches, and exposure of all descriptions The Town of Huntsville has been placed under Martial Law and Col Norton is Provost Marshal, and of course our Regt is used as Provost Guards, that is they act in the capacity of Policemen, and constantly patroll the Streets picking up all unruly persons, who are then brought before Col Norton to be examined, and if found guilty of any misdemeanor, punished accordingly[.] Genl Mitchel hearing that a force was collecting at Florence for the purpose of surprising us at this point took it into his head to turn the Surprise in a different direction, and consequently he sent a force by R.Road consisting of 4 Regts of Infantry and 3 Batteries of Artillery[.] The 2nd Ohio went from our Brigade. The plan was to go within 15 miles of Florence by R.Road and make the remaining 15 miles on foot by daylight. The expedition started night before last and consequently if the plan worked well, our forces engaged them yesterday morning at daylight. We have received rumors of a fight, but no particulars. We have not yet received the particulars in regard to the fight at Corinth, but at last accounts our forces were, a little ahead[.] This morning we moved our things to a new camping ground, situated just on the outer edge of the city[.] Our forming camping ground was on an island in the creek that runs out of the city. The boys called it Island 10, and this morning, witnessed its evacuation.
You will not have to strain your imagination much to believe that we are in a Secesh community, when I tell you that five different Churches in the city gave up their Bells to the Southern Confederacy for the purpose of having them cast into cannon, and hereafter I suppose they will, (after they have been transformed) give a much louder and sharper sound. It was said that they would furnish a sufficient amount of metal to cast two Batteries of cannon. They were sent to Richmond for the purpose of being transformed into Shooting irons[.] They must be getting short of material in the South. A few more such affairs as Island 10 has proved, will set the rascals to running up their Car wheels into cannon well let them work, the more they manufacture, the more we will capture. There was several cannon manufactured in this city, at the machine shop of the Memphis & Charleston R.R. I saw several today that had not yet been mounted. The Shop formerly furnished employment for some 200 hand, but since our arrival business is rather dull in that line. The enemy was taken completely by surprise as they said we would never trust ourselves in this direction but the result speaks for itself. I wish I could hear from William. I am anxious to know how fighting agrees with him. We expect our mail tomorrow and I am looking for a good time, reading mine. I am in the best of health
Love to all
April 21st /62
Camp Taylor, Huntsville Confederated States of America
My Dear Mother
At last I received a letter from home it came to hand yesterday, dated apr 6th. You can imagine how much good it did me as I had not heard from home for more than two weeks. You stated that you received five letters from me that week I thought they would arrive at some time or other. I have been informed that we have only a weekly mail, although the mail leaves the Regt every morning, yet it goes no farther than town until the Division mail leaves. I have written several letters since arriving at this place. I wrote to William yesterday. I have heard that the 72nd was among the first to receive the fire of the enemy, I am anxious to hear from Wm. I also received that letter of Wms enclosed in yours. He is kept busy enough to judge from his letter. I do wish I could meet with the 72nd and I think such a thing is possible, as a portion of our Division now occupies Florence, and we are on the R. Road running to Corinth. I wish by some means or other that we could be placed in the same Division, but I am afraid no such good fortune will ever befall us. Ours is a marching Division or at least it possesses that name, as it has never had the good fortune to get a ride since leaving Louisville until we arrived at this point, and I sincerely hope on the event of our being discharged that we will be called upon to march home. Last evening as the Pickets of the 3rd Ohio were returning to camp on the cars they were fired into from the side of the road and a Capt and a private both received a heavy load of shot, in their shoulders, they both fell from the cars, and the train stopped in time to pick them up, and capture one of the rascals, The wounded men are both doing well at last accounts.
Today (Sunday) is easter if I am not mistaken. It is a wet, rainy, day, and it may be that you are having snow, as we generally have a snow storm upon easter. Eggs are an expensive luxury just at this time, as I have seen them sell at 30. and some of the boys have even paid as high as 60 cents per dozen, so anxious were they to obtain them, that they were willing to pay even 5 cents apiece. I suppose Willy is just about killing himself eating eggs today, I am of the opinion that Government will not discharge any of her volunteers until the close of the war, as the Government is in as much need of Soldiers at present as at any other time, and a volunteer is equivalent to a Regular in my eye, so far as fighting is concerned. The Rogues are not all in the Army it appears, as John Ryder can testify.
From late accounts I am brought to believe that Genl McClellan has already taken dinner in Richmond, as I hear that city is in his possession. You spoke of a natural well, in the vicinity of Nashville, I did not see it, but head some of the boys speak of a natural well that they had seen. We were kept so close to camp that it is almost impossible to visit any of the curiosities in the vicinity. This side of Bowling Green about 6 miles I saw quite a large stream, that emptied into a large cave and disappeared in the darkness, I went into the cave as far as I could with safety. There was the ruins of a Grist mill in the cave, the Cave serving as a roof over the machinery. It was the greatest curiosity I ever witnessed. I was glad to hear that Father had at last got clear of Nellis, and nearly out of debt so far as others are concerned
Love to all
Camp Taylor Huntsville Ala Apr 26th/62
To day being a rainy day, I concluded to improve the time by writing to the dear ones at home. And now for Ideas wherewith to make a letter interesting. A few days ago (as I wrote in a former letter) a Capt and Private were fired at and wounded, by a concealed Rebel, at a place about 30 miles to the east of camp and that one man was taken prisoner and that another escaped, Yesterday Co. I. was ordered to take the cars and proceed to the place and institute a search in the neighborhood and if possible effect the capture of the rascal.
In due time we arrived at the place, and switched off at the town of Woodville, (The boys declareing it was a shame that they could not be allowed to visit home, when within four miles of it) A squad of men was detailed as Scouts to scour the country, and while they were out the remainder of the Co loaded some cedar Telegraph poles[.] After the poles were loaded we waited for the train to arrive on which we were to be taken to camp[.] In the mean time the Scouts returned without having effected anything of importance, and while we were waiting for the cars, several of the boys ransacked some old Groceries that had been deserted by the owners, not many valuables were found however and the cars arriving we all piled in once more and were soon whirling in the direction of camp, I say whirling because we did go whirling on account of the numerous short curves in the Road. We passed through several deep cuts excavated through the solid rock. also crossed several large Bridges that the Rebels in their haste had neglected to burn.
The Road ran through the Mountains, or rather through the valleys, and through some of the finest country it was ever my fortune to travel through. There is any amount of wheat raised in this vicinity, and some fields that I saw were already headed out, The cotton crop will be rather short this year, as the Planters sow wheat, and plant corn instead. The Planters hold quite a large amount of old Cotton I have seen several large piles of it stored in sheds and some lying out in the weather, which does not appear to spoil it. This is a poorly timbered country, and of course a poor place for Saw mill. I suppose you have heard of the promotion of Genl Mitchel he having received the appointment of Major General as the papers say, for gallant services in Ala so much for us, good for our Division it shows that our Services are being appreciated. Oh that I had a dollar for every weary step that I have taken since our Regt was assigned to his Division[.] I could then buy off these Southern Leaders, that still agitate the thing, and will continue to do so so long as they can make it a paying institution[.] It is my opinion that if our leaders had to take it afoot, and be subject to all the hardships that we undergo the war would very soon be brought to a glorious close. This dallying with the South dont suit me, instead of gaining a glorious victory at Corinth as we should have done, our Generals allowed themselves to be surprised, and after all barely sustained themselves, Genl Mitchel has scouted the country for 70 miles in almost every direction this may seem almost impossible but never the less it is true, he goes a part of the distance by R. Road and then the Cavalry take to their horses and Scout the country for milesin every direction[.] I will risk the enemy ever surprising Genl Mitchel enclosed please find one of His orders
I am in the best of health and Spirits
Huntsville Ala Apr 28th /62
The mail arrived yesterday, but I did not receive a letter, I was very much disappointed, as I was almost certain that the arrival of the mail would bring me at least one letter. I have received but one since leaving Murfreesboro and you may judge that the present finds me quite anxious to hear from home. However there was not a very large mail this time, and it is probable that mine has been detained in some way, or possibly captured. I heard (by some of the letters that were received) of the death of Franky Luckey[.] I cannot tell what my feelings were on that occasion[.] It seemed to me as though we have all met with a great loss, as Frank was universally known and beloved, and it was so sudden, but the Scarlet Fever is no respecter of persons, It is my opinion that Frank, had he been spared, would have been an ornament to society.
He will be missed very much in Elmore.
In my last letter I informed you of the promotion of General Mitchel, I understand he is to be placed in command of two Divisions, and assigned an independent command, that is to use his own judgement in regard to his movements, and be subject to the orders of no other General with the exception of the Secretary of War. It is rumored that he will soon move in the direction of Chatanooga, if so, I suppose we may at once get well shod preparatory to climbing the Cumberland Mountains once more, after the style of Eastern Kentucky, but who cares, or what would it avail us to care, Genl Mitchell is bound to make another strike in some direction, but he Lord only knows where it will be or how soon it is to take place if we once turn our faces in that direction, that land of Hills, Mountains Burned Bridges, Secessionists, and rascals of every known description and color. But I have almost any amount of confidence in our Commanding Genl.
Genl Mitchel in now concentrating his forces at this point preparatory to moveing upon Chatanooga. We expect Genl Wood's Division to day, who is to join us and be subject to the orders of Genl Mitchel
Dumonts Brigade has had a little Skirmish in the direction of Tuscumbia, but is now comeing in this direction. He succeeded in capturing one Parrot Gun at Tuscumbia a 10 pounder it is now laying in camp adjoining ours, Capt Somonson captured it, and it is now attached to his battery.
You would be surprised to see what expedients the Southerners resort to, to make change, Each Business house, or in fact any person that posses capitol enough can issue tickets of any small denomination subject to be redeemed by the person issueing them, when a person will present a sufficient number of them to amount to one dollar and upward That was the only kind of change in circulation in Huntsville upon our arrival, But since our advent silver has become quite plentiful, I saw a Citizen in camp a few days ago, endeavoring to exchange Southern money for U.S. Script, they seem to think a great deal of the Green Backs, notwithstanding it comes from what they term the Abolition Government. They are gradually acknowledgeing their Greater and confessing their sins, Well as Dow says, So more it be
Give my love to Aunt Mary and all the rest and tell her I would like to have her answer my letter that I wrote to her some time ago
Huntsville Ala Apr 28th /62
My dear Parents
Since sending my letter that I wrote today, to the office, I noticed a piece in a Cincinnati recommending that those wishing to send letters to any Regt in Mitchells Division, to direct in this style.
Co. I . 21st Ohio
Genl Mitchels Division
To be forwarded
We have just received orders to cook rations and be ready to take the cars at 7 oclock tomorrow morning, we go in the direction of Chatanooga The Division that we were expecting to arrive today did not make its appearance..
Gen Mitchel has built a floating bridge of (Cotton?) across one of the rivers in our route, but it is so dark I must close,
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