Corinth, Sept. 21st, 1862
My Dear Sister,
No doubt you have been forming all sorts of gloomy conjectures as to the cause of my long silence, but it is easily explained.
At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 17th we were roused by the notes of the Reville, and when our eyes were rubbed open we fell into line. “Make ready to march Boys with 3 days rations in your haversacks and 2 in the Baggage wagons.”
The “Boots and Saddles” was sounded immediately, and every man sprung to his duty, the drivers to harness and hitch up, and the cannoners to do up the tarpaulins and fill the Sponge Buckets, for it was well known to us that an action was imminent, as Price had been threatening our left flank, having taken Iuka the day before.
In the grey of the drizzly morning we left Camp and passed down through Corinth, preceded by the 16th Wis. and followed by the rest of our Division with its five Batteries.
Our handsome General, Mc. Arthur, led us out on the Iuka road, through the Rebel fortifications, and down into the great swamp that sweeps around the town on the North and East.
By this time it rained in torrents, the Infantry threw on their rubber ponchos and pressed bravely on through the mud, and we, having none, donned our overcoats and sat in silence on the ammunition chests, while the splattered horses plunged through the holes and over the rough corduroys of the narrow road.
After getting through the swamp we ascended to the level of the cotton and corn fields of last year, now a wilderness of weeds, with now and then a Cotton press or gin standing solitary and dilapidated by the side of the road. At noon we stopped to eat dinner at an old church 9 miles out of town, the rain still continuing unabated.
The country we had passed through was alternate swamp and high pine land with, here and there a clump of chestnut trees loaded with their green burrs. Scarcely a house had we seen since leaving Corinth and those we did see were of the rudest construction, built of rough pine logs with the chimney running up the end outside.
We bivouacked that evening a few miles further on, our cannon frowning down on the little hamlet of Glendale, our horses picketed in the woods and ourselves, wet to the skin, stretched around enormous fires of chestnut rails that evaporated the water as fast as it fell on us. The morning dawned cold and rainy, but by the time we resumed the march it cleared off and showed us the Sun once more. Our progress this day was slow, the citizen guide, whether purposely or not, led us on the wrong road and we had to counter march several miles to resume the right one. You never saw an army moving to Battle. “What a sight,” thought I, “this would be to the quiet people of Clyman,” as we would reach the summit of some hill and look back at the marching column of Cannons, Caissons and Infantry, the dark blue of the latter contrasting finely with the crimson facings of the mounted artillery men.
Anyone could see that an action was looked for, every Surgeon and ambulance was with us and marching in the ranks were men with white badges on their arms whose duty it would be to take care of the wounded.
We camped that night not far from the outposts of the enemy and in consequence the guards were doubled and the fires built in the hollows where they could not be seen from the front. By the neglect of our officers, our rations which were to have lasted 5 days were finished here and we had to depend on what we could get for the rest of the time till we got back to camp.
In the morning we pushed forward again, the outlying forces of the enemy flying before our skirmishers, untill [sic] about noon a high hill was reached that completely commanded the country in front for some distance. The enemy was reported in force a short distance ahead, our Right Section was ordered into battery here and we waited for some regiments of infantry to go in front and feel the way. Shortly afterwards our Section was marched down the hill and forward about quarter of a mile to another eminence.
“Action front,” is the command, and we come round into position like the crack of a whip, the guns are unlimbered, and brought to bear on the road ahead and the limbers and caissons take position in the rear. Axes are brought into requisition, and every tree and limb that would impede the sighting of the pieces is leveled to the ground. The cannoniers take their posts and we wait. Old Gen. Ord rides by and looks with grim satisfaction at our bronze bulldogs. A half hour passes and no enemy, not even a shot in front. Presently an orderly dashes up, “Limber to the front,” and we pass ahead followed by our Right Section which has come up. Another quarter mile, another hill, and again we take position. Here we stay untill [sic] evening, hearing brick cannonading to the right where Rosencrans is pushing them in. Is there nothing for us to do? Tomorrow will tell. We build our concealed fires and go to find something to eat, for we are absolutely starving. I set out with a half dozen others, and soon return with a dressed calf and a sack of sweet potatoes. Don't ask where we got them. Men on the eve of battle are not apt to make nice distinctions of Menu et Tuum when they are famished, and tuum means, belonging to Secesh. Another difficulty now presents itself, we have no cooking utensils with us. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The potatoes are rubbed clean on our pantaloons and nicely covered with ashes to roast, long forked sticks are cut on which we impale large slices of the raw meat and we all squat round the blaze “a la Indienne,” just wishing as Lieut. Clayton remarks, that some of the dear folks at home could see us. Suddenly something glides in between him and me, and, a young wild turkey stands inside the circle looking into the fire. We were so astonished that, for a moment, it was unmolested, but the desire of having a fine piece of roast soon overcame my surprise. Whack! went my roasting stick on the ground, close to the bird, who jumped clear over the fire and disappeared among the young pines. But what had become of my [illegible word]. I remembered once to have seen what we used to call a potatoe [sic] sling and concluded that it (the veal's) disappearance had been according to the same principle that gave us so much amusement when at school - Centrifugal force.
Next morning Price was gone, “skedaddled,” as he always
does, and we proceeded to Iuka without opposition, the road being strewn
with clothing thrown away by the Rebels. We stopped at the town about
an hour and then started back to Burnsville 9 miles this side. It was
late in the afternoon when we got under motion and we traveled the last
5 miles in the dark. Never shall I forget that night march. The soldiers,
infuriated at the escape of Price, fired every rebel house on the road
that was unoccupied, which was the case with nearly all. They were mostly
built of pitch pine and burned like so many matches.
The sight was sublime to one who, like me had never before seen any extensive conflagration. The immense red flames crackled and roared and threw their light far into the deep woods that surrounded them, the buildings fall with a crack sending up millions of sparks, and the heat was so intense that we had to drive by on the gallop on account of the caissons. We bivouacked on a hill that night and the fires of our 2 Divisions, the 2nd and 6th, made the air lurid for miles.
Pushing on today, we arrived here this afternoon and found a stack of letters awaiting us among which were 2 from Clyman for William and 1 from you to myself.
I am happy to see by it that you are well and happy and my only fear for you is, that in attending to the development of the mind you will neglect the proper care of your physical system.
Do not fall into this error, remember that the most splendid education will not remunerate you for the loss of bodily health, and that, while keeping one law you may be breaking a more important one.
I had almost forgotten to tell you that Clayton is acquainted in Fox Lake. He knows the Willards and a young man named Devin who attends College.
Clayton's brother was wounded in the retreat from the Rapidan. Write soon and remember me as you [sic] affectionate Brother.
T. D. Christie
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