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Military History of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry
To give the history of a regiment on active duty during our late civil war as it should be given, is a task to which only the genius of a Bancroft or a Prescott is equal, and the writer of this sketch is aware, even more painfully than will be those who read it, of his inability to convey to the public any adequate idea of the grand, heroic services rendered the country by the Eighth Kansas Veteran Volunteer Infantry. Even if his pen was competent to do this work, the brief space allotted to the annals of a regiment in this report precludes any possibility of recording in it the detailed history of a service extending through four years and a half, and crowded so thick with events that its experience is equal to a century of ordinary peaceful life. He had hoped to be able to compress this sketch within yet narrower limits than it occupies, but the important campaigns in which the regiment took part were so numerous, and the incidents attending them so multifarious, the country in which it operated so vast, and its service so varied, exciting, and oftentimes so terrible, that justice to the heroic and devoted men, who on so many red fields of battle, shed luster on the State that sent them forth, demand something more than a mere skeleton analysis of the number of engagements in which it participated, the miles marched, and the men killed or wounded, or died of wounds or disease; and he finds it impossible to convey a clear understanding of the dangers, privations and toils they braved, suffered and endured, without embracing many circumstances that are of minor importance. As it is, much had to be omitted, that, if narrated, would give a better idea of the sacrifices and services of the soldiers of the Eighth, and of the glorious recklessness, and still more glorious faith, with which they marched, and suffered, and fought, through danger, disease and death, in the fields and camps they made historic and immortal.
The organization of the Eighth Kansas Infantry was commenced in August, 1861, and the first company (A) was mustered into the service on the 28th of that month. The regiment was originally intended, and was recruited, for service in the State and along the border, as, at that period of our great national struggle, with hostile savages on our western and southern frontiers and Missouri overrun with rebel hordes, an invasion of Kansas was supposed to be inevitable. As was the case with many other Kansas regiments, the Eighth was also a mixed organization, intended to have eight companies of infantry, and two of cavalry, such a disposition, as it was supposed, being better adapted for service against marauding bands, and for the defense of the border.
The order for raising the Eighth was received late in July by Governor Charles Robinson, and recruiting officers were at once appointed. Kansas had already sent six regiments to the field, and another (The Seventh) was recruiting at the same time; but the young State, though sadly taxed to fill these calls, responded with enthusiasm and alacrity to this fresh demand. In September six full companies were mustered in, and in October two others were added.
The Governor had appointed, as Colonel of the regiment, Major Henry W Wessels, Sixth United States Infantry, an old and experienced officer, a graduate of the West Point Military Academy, and a soldier who had seen service in the Florida and Mexican wars, and for many years on the Plains.
Early in October he assumed command, and under his personal supervision the organization was completed. To his watchful care and intelligent instruction, during the time he remained with the regiment, much of the high reputation it afterwards won for discipline, drill and efficiency, is due.
In October the headquarters of the regiment were established at Lawrence, but, owing to the exigencies of the service, it was found impossible to secure a general concentration at that point. Companies A, D, H and G, were stationed there; and others were scattered, at different points, over the State.
In November the organization of the regiment was as follows:
FIELD AND STAFF
Colonel Henry W. Wessels, Major Sixth U.S. Infantry
Lieutenant Colonel John A. Martin, mustered in at Fort Leavenworth, October 27th, 1861
Major Ed. F. Schneider, mustered in at Fort Leavenworth, September 5th, 1861
Surgeon J.B. Woodward, mustered in October 4th, 1861
Assistant Surgeon George W. Hogeboom, mustered in October 22d, 1861
Adjutant S.C. Russell, mustered in October 23d, 1861
Quartermaster E.P. Bancroft, mustered in October 22d, 1862
Sergeant-Major Sol. R. Washer, mustered in November 14th, 1861
Quartermaster-Sergeant Wm. Rosenthal, mustered in November 14th, 1861
Commissary-Sergeant V.S. Fisk, mustered in November 11th, 1861
Hospital Steward Jas. J. Phillips, mustered in September 12th, 1861
Company A. Jas. L. Abernathy, Captain; Samuel Laighton, First Lieutenant; John Conover, Second Lieutenant. Organized August 28th, 1861. Aggregate strength of company, ninety-nine. Stationed at Lawrence.
Company B. David Block, Captain; Charles Alten, First Lieutenant; Martin Manerlian, Second Lieutenant. Organized September 3d. Aggregate strength of company, seventy-eight. Stationed at Fort Leavenworth.
Company C. Jas. M. Graham, Captain; John G. Bechtold, First Lieutenant; Richard R. Bridgeland, Second Lieutenant. Organized September 19th. Aggregate strength of company, ninety. Station at Fort Riley.
Company D (Cavalry). George F. Earle, Captain; A.J. Pike, First Lieutenant; A.D. Scarle, Second Lieutenant. Organized September 13th. Aggregate strength of company, eighty one. Stationed at Lawrence.
Company E. John Greelish, Captain, Milton Rose, First Lieutenant; Daniel R. Rooks, Second Lieutenant. Organized September 16th. Aggregate strength of company, eighty-three. Stationed at Olathe.
Company F. A.W. Williams, Captain; S.B. Todd, First Lieutenant; John L. Graham, Second Lieutenant. Organized September 28th. Aggregate strength of company, ninety-one. Stationed at Iowa Point.
Company G. N. Harrington, Captain; Robert Flickinger, First Lieutenant; Jos. Randolph, Second Lieutenant. Organized October 2d. Aggregate strength of company, seventy-one. Stationed at Lawrence.
Company H (Cavalry). Asaph Allen, Captain; L.T. Heritage, First Lieutenant; Robert Madden, Second Lieutenant. Organized October 12th. Aggregate strength of company, eighty-five. Stationed at Lawrence.
Aggregate strength of the regiment November 30th, 1861, six hundred and seventy-eight.
On the morning of the 16th of December, companies A and G, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Martin, struck tents at Lawrence and marched to West Point, Missouri, where they arrived on the afternoon of the 19th, having traveled seventy miles. Colonel Wessels, with companies D and H, started for the same place on the 22d, and reached there on the 25th.
During this month the different companies of the regiment added a number of recruits to their rolls, and Second Lieutenant John Conover, having received authority, undertook the organization of another company (I). By the 12th he had recruited forty-four men, and was mustered in as First Lieutenant. On the 13th of December the Eighth numbered in the aggregate, seven hundred and forty officers and men. Seven men died during the years, and one was discharged for disability.
Early in January, 1862, a detachment of forty-six men, under Captain A.W. J. Brown, was transferred to the Eighth from the Sixth Kansas, and became company K. Its other officers were, First Lieutenant Wm. S. Newberry, and Second Lieutenant W.J. Larrimer.
On the 7th of February, much to the regret of the officers and men, Colonel Wessels received an order to proceed to Washington, and assume command of his regiment in the Regular Army. He started the next day, turning over the command of the Eighth to Lieutenant Colonel Martin. On the 15th of the same month, companies A, F and G were ordered to Fort Kearney, Nebraska, and started for that post next morning. On the 22d, the headquarters of the regiment, with companies D, H and K were removed to Osawatomie, Kansas.
The winter spent upon the border was a very trying one. The cold was intense, and although the duties were light, the men, unused to the exposure incident to camp life, suffered severely from the inclement weather. A number of scouts were sent into Missouri, but no engagements occurred, and the monotony of the camp, unbroken by a single incident of exciting interest, became exceedingly irksome.
On the 28th of February the detachments known as companies I and K were, by order of Major General Hunter, commanding the department, consolidated as company I. Lieutenant Conover was promoted to the Captaincy. Captain Brown and Lieutenant Larrimer were mustered out. First Lieutenant Newberry retained his position, and First Lieutenant J. Milton Hadley was made Second Lieutenant.
On the same day General Hunter issued an order reorganizing a number of the Kansas regiments. Under its terms the Eighth was consolidated with a battalion raised for service in New Mexico, and Colonel R.H. Graham, of the latter, was assigned to the command. This order was received at Osawatomie on the 11th of March, and the next day the companies stationed there, in accordance with instructions, broke camp and started for Fort Leavenworth. Important changes were made in the organization of the regiment by this consolidation. Companies D and H (cavalry) were transferred to the Ninth Kansas. Companies F and I changed their lettering, so that the former became company D and the latter company F; and three companies of Colonel Grahams battalion, afterwards known as companies H, I and K, were added to the Eighth. Surgeon Woodward and Quartermaster Bancroft were transferred to the Ninth, and O. Chamberlain appointed Surgeon, and A. Robinson Quartermaster, in their stead. Quartermaster Sergeant Rosenthal was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the Ninth, and John R. Corker took his place. Hospital Steward Phillips was transferred to the Ninth, and Edwin J. Talcott appointed in his stead. The three companies added to the regiment were as follows:
Company H. Edgar P. Thrego, Captain; Frank Curtis, First Lieutenant; H.C. Blackman, Second Lieutenant. Aggregate strength of company, ninety-one.
Company I. Henry C. Austin, Captain; Marion Brooks, First lieutenant; A. Graham, Second Lieutenant. Aggregate strength of company, seventy-seven.
Company K. Wm. E. Hurd Captain; James E. Love, First Lieutenant; Wm. H. Babcock, Second Lieutenant. Aggregate strength of company, seventy-one.
Aggregate strength of the regiment after the consolidation, eight hundred and sixty-two.
The regiment was then distributed as follows; Companies A, D and G were stationed at Fort Kearney, Nebraska; companies B and F at Fort Leavenworth; company C at Fort Riley, (Captain Graham commanding post); companies E and K at Aubrey, Kansas, (Major Schneider commanding); and companies H and I at Leavenworth city, on provost duty. Colonel Graham was detailed as Provost Marshal General of the State by Major General Hunter, and Lieutenant Colonel Martin as Provost Marshal of Leavenworth city.
No changes were made until the latter part of April, when company B relieved company H in the city, and company H was ordered to Fort Riley to relieve company C, the latter company being ordered to Fort Leavenworth.
Late in May orders were received to send all troops that could be spared to Corinth, Mississippi, against which place the armies under General Halleck were operating. The expedition which had started to New Mexico, under command of General Robert B. Mitchell, was suddenly recalled, and most of the regiments comprising it were ordered to the south. On the 25th of May, at the earnest solicitation of General Mitchell, an order was issued by General Blunt (who had meantime assumed command of the department) directing the Eighth Kansas to go to Corinth, the companies then within reach to go at once; the others to follow as soon as possible. Companies E, H. and K were immediately ordered in, and by forced marches reached Leavenworth on the 27th. After a review of troops on the 28th, five companies of the Eighth, B, E, H, I and K, with a battalion of the Seventh Kansas, were embarked on board the steamer Emma and at daylight next morning started down the Missouri. The partings had been said: wives, mothers, sweethearts, fathers, and all the dear friends at home, were left behind. Perhaps never more were many of these men to grasp their hands, and look into the eyes that followed them, brimming with tears. They were launching into a future dark with peril and terrible with its weight of suffering of privations and of tolls; but they rejoiced that at last the languor of restrain was to be lifted from them and welcomed the call which summoned them to hold, over the green dominion of treason, the flag which symbolized the nations unity and empire. The glad picture of a country saved was imprinted upon their hearts, and lighted up their future imagination; the old, heroic blood, inherited from a glorious ancestry of soldiers, started from its arterial center, inspiring them with the fervor of patriotic self-sacrifice, and they gloried in the opportunity to interpose their hearts between the bullet of the traitor and the fair form of the Republic.
On the trip down the river, two men, Private Kech, company B, and Wrigley, company I, fell overboard and were drowned. With these exceptions, the passage was marked by no incidents, and was a very pleasant one. At daylight on the 31st the boat arrived at St. Louis, where she remained until the evening of the 1st of June. It had been expected that the troops would be sent up the Tennessee river, but at St. Louis news of the evacuation of Corinth was received, and on reaching Cairo they were ordered to proceed to Columbus, Ky., and thence, along the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad, to Corinth. On the 2d, at about noon Columbus was reached and the troops disembarked, going into camp just outside of the abandoned rebel fortifications, on a high, steep bluff, overlooking the river.
Colonel Graham was taken sick at St. Louis, and left the regiment at that place, turning over the command to Lieutenant Colonel Martin. He never afterwards rejoined it, as he continued sick until his death, which occurred in October of the same year.
The troops comprising General Mitchells command, consisting of the First, Eighth and Seventh Kansas, and Second Kansas Battery: the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fifteenth Wisconsin, Infantry, and a battalion of the Twenty-second Missouri Infantry were concentrated at Columbus within a few days, and on the 8th moved southward. The Second Kansas Battery was attached to the Eight Kansas, by order of the General commanding. After a march of three days, passing through Clinton and Moscow, Ky., we reached Union City, Tenn. Here we remained until the morning of the 16th, when we again marched; but on the following day pitched our tents to await the arrival of our commissary train. Late in the night, however, news was received of an anticipated attack by the rebels on Trenton, Tenn., garrisoned by only a small force of cavalry, and Lieutenant Colonel Martin was directed to proceed to that place as rapidly as possible with the battalion of the Eighth and the Second Battery. At daylight the command was off, and at 3 p.m. reached Trenton, having marched twenty-four miles, ferrying across two branches of the Ohio river en route. The rebels did not make the attack, but the troops at Trenton were greatly relieved by the timely arrival of reinforcements.
The Eighth remained at this place until the 25th, when the First Kansas took its place, and it marched to Humboldt, Tenn., arriving there the same day. Here it remained until the afternoon of the 2d of July, when it took the cars for Corinth, reaching that place at noon on the 3d. Reporting to General Halleck, it was assigned to General Jeff. C. Davis Division, Army of the Mississippi, and directed to report to Major General Rosecrans, on Clear Creek, for further instructions. By that officer it was temporarily attached to Colonel Fullers brigade to await the arrival of General Mitchells troops, and on the evening of the 3d, for the first time since its organization, the Eighth Kansas pitched its tents with, and formed part of, one of the Grand Armies of the Nation.
The regiment had to pass through a rigid ordeal at Corinth. The General-in-Chief had not yet learned that the war meant the destruction of slavery and as the Kansas troops, in passing through Kentucky and Tennessee, had not evinced any respect for the "peculiar institution", but had both stolen and harbored slaves, General Quinby, a pro-slavery officer in command of the district through which we passed, reported the Seventh and Eighth as mutinous, undisciplined and demoralized. At one time he issued an order threatening to muster them out in case they interfered with slave property and his partial reports preceded us, prejudicing the commanding General against the two regiments. General Rosecrans, to his honor be it said, refused to believe the reports that we were "mutinous and demoralized," but resolved to investigate and learn the truth for himself. Accordingly the day after our arrival, his Inspector General, Colonel Kenneth, arrived in the camp of the Eighth to inspect it. Entirely unexpected as this was, in ten minutes the command was ready. A very rigid examination, not only of the arms, clothing and accoutrements of the regiment, but of its personnel was made, and when through, Colonel K., in the most complimentary terms, expressed his satisfaction and pleasure at the result of his observations. The next day General Rosecrans personally complimented Lieutenant Colonel Martin upon the "discipline and drill of the men, and the perfect order in which the arms, accoutrements and clothing were kept." "No volunteer regiment in the army," he said, "had received so favorable a report from his Inspector." The Eighth was never afterwards charged with a lack of discipline or unsoldierly conduct, and in General Rosecrans, from that day forward, it always found an earnest friend.
General Mitchell reached Corinth on the afternoon of the 5th, and the other troops of his brigade arrived a few days later. A beautiful camp ground was selected, and we were soon very comfortable situated. To the Eighth the stay at this place was of great advantage. The regiment was exercised in company movements in the morning and in battalion drill every afternoon. It was associated with older troops, and profited by their experience, acquiring their splendid confidence and self-reliance without losing any of its own splendid discipline; it was familiarized with the duties of outpost-guards and pickets, and thus its morale, as well as its efficiency, was greatly improved.
At 3 oclock on the morning of the 22d of July the Eighth left Corinth and proceeded to Jacinto, twelve miles south, where it was attached to the First Brigade, Ninth Division, Army of the Mississippi, General Davis commanding the Division and General Mitchell the Brigade. It remained here twelve days, long enough to become acquainted with the troops with which it was thereafter to be associated, and to further perfect the officers and men in the routine of duties incident to a great army.
On the 2d of August orders came from General Rosecrans directing the regiment to proceed to Eastport, a small town then at the head of navigation on the Tennessee river and a large depot for commissary and quartermasters supplies. Only one company of cavalry was at that time stationed there, but a superior force of rebel guerrillas had been menacing the place, and a larger garrison was deemed necessary, as the point was important as a base of supplies, and there were probably several million dollars worth of government goods stored in the town.
At three oclock on the morning of the 3d the regiment marched, and early in the afternoon of the fifth reached Eastport, passing through Iuka en route. On arriving, four companies were camped on the top of a hill overlooking the town and surrounding country, and inside a rough chain of breastworks which had been previously built. Lieutenant Colonel Martin assumed command of the post, and appointed Captain Block as Provost Marshal, that officer with his company (B) being stationed in the town, which was close to the river bank.
The Eight remained at Eastport fourteen days. During that time its scouts penetrated the country in every direction. A detachment under Captain Austin, company I, made scout to Chickasaw, about eight miles up the river, capturing twelve men and a large quantity of salt and flour, smuggled through our lines and intended for the rebel army. On a second visit to the place, Captain A. found a party of guerrillas engaged in rifling a store, but they broke for the woods as soon as discovered. Our men pursued and fired upon them, but were unable to overtake them. Lieutenant Rose, company E. made a scout across the river and captured two guerrillas. Lieutenant Blackman company H, was sent up the river to Florence, Ala., on the small steamer "Cottage," and captured a lot of stores taken from sutlers of our army by the rebels. Captain Hurd, company K, Lieutenant Keifer, company B, and Captain Greelish, company E, also made scouts into different parts of the surrounding country, and captured quantities of materials and munitions of war. The latter, while on a trip to Florence, took prisoners a rebel Colonel and a small detachment of rebel soldiers.
On the 18th we received orders to be in readiness to march next day, and that evening the First Brigade arrived in Eastport. The other two Brigades came in next morning. General Davis being absent on leave, General Mitchell was in command of the Division, and Colonel Coler, Twenty-fifth Illinois, in command of our Brigade. At noon on the 18th the Eighth crossed the Tennessee river, and marched out about a mile, camping near Waterloo, Ala. As the means of crossing were wholly inadequate, the troops of the Division did not all get over until the 22d. On the morning of the 23d, at 4 oclock, the Division marched, traveling south and camped at noon, near Gravelly Springs. Next day, after a march of fifteen miles, it reached Florence, Ala.
Here we learned, for the first time, our destination, and the object of this movement. While Buells army watched the fords of the Tennessee, from near Florence to Bridgeport, Bragg had stealthily crossed it at Harrison, above Chattanooga, and traveling the Sequatchie Valley, was pressing hurriedly northward towards Louisville and Cincinnati, while Kirby Smith, with another Division, pressed through Cumberland Gap towards the same objective points. To meet this sudden and threatening move two Divisions of the Army of the Mississippi were ordered to reinforce Buell, and ours was one of those selected for this duty.
At Florence, therefore, the command was stripped for the campaign. Transportation was cut down to three wagons to a regiment, to be used for carrying ammunition and commissary supplies, all tents, except one to each regiment, were sent across the river to Tuscumbia; all necessary baggage was abandoned, and for the first time, the Eighth was organized in light marching order.
At two oclock on the morning of August 26th this terrible campaign commenced. It is impossible, in the space allotted to this report, to give any adequate description of the events that crowded it with interest, or of the hardships, toils and sufferings that attended it. The fiery southern sun beat upon the marching column like the heat of a furnace; the dust was almost insufferable, at times arising in such clouds that it was difficult to see three feet ahead; and water was very scarce, the only reliance, except at long intervals, being ponds digged by the farmers of the country for catching the rain that fell during the wet season. These ponds had become stagnant during the long drought, and their surface was, in nearly all cases, covered with a foul green scum, which had to be pushed aside to get at the water. We were never supplied with more than half rations, oftentimes less than that. During the latter part of the march the hard bread gave out, and flour was issued in its stead. This the men had neither the time nor the implements to bake properly; it could only be used by making of it a dough and frying it, or by pasting it upon their ramrods and baking it over the fire. As we abandoned all large cooking utensils at Florence and none others were issued, each man was thrown upon his own resources to provide vessels with which to cook his food. Canteens were made to supply nearly every want. Split in two, one side formed a frying pan, and the other, perforated with small holes, upon which they rasped what corn they could pick for making meal-cake or mush. Tin cups or old fruit cans supplied the place of coffee-pot and boiler, but only once a day was coffee to be had. So the commissary department was conducted on the march.
The first day out from Florence we traveled twenty-four miles, camping late in the afternoon, near the Tennessee line. The next day we camped at Lawrenceburg, Tenn., having marched twenty-one miles; the next, passing through Franklin at about 9 oclock, we turned off southeast and camped twelve miles beyond, having marched nineteen miles. The next day (September 1st) we reached Murfreesboro, nineteen miles. On the third day out from Florence our rear guard was attacked by guerrillas in pretty strong force, but they were driven off without loss. On the night of the 31st the camp was alarmed and the men stood to arms for an hour in anticipation of an attack, but none was made.
At four oclock on the evening of the 3d we started for Nashville. By the direct road the distance is thirty-two miles, but the bridges over several streams were destroyed and we were forced to travel by circuitous routes, so that the way was lengthened out to thirty-nine miles. The night was very chilly, and the march a rapid one. At 2 oclock in the morning the column was halted in line and allowed to rest. The rail fences furnished fuel for the bivouac fires, and in ten minutes two lines of flame blazed along the sides of the road for six miles, irradiating the heavens with an angry glare, and revealing a wild, weird scene of army life, as it flashed from the stacks of burnished armes and shone upon groups of dusty soldiers preparing for a brief and grateful repose upon the bare chill earth, beneath the quiet stars. In three hours, however, the bugles sounded the advance, the command moved on, and at 11 oclock, faint with hunger, drowsy from loss of sleep, and enervated with fatigue, the exhausted troops reached Nashville. Hundreds of strong men had fallen by the roadside, powerless to proceed, and the jaded column, usually so compact, was stretched out for miles to the rear. On this terrible night march the Eighth acquired the name of the "grey hounds," from the solidity and rapidity of its marching. On reaching Nashville only about thirty of the regiment were absent from the ranks, while many other regiments did not have fifty with their colors.
We remained in Nashville until 4 oclock in the afternoon of September 11th, when we again started on, and marched that night, though a fearful storm, to Edgefield Junction, ten miles. Next afternoon, at four oclock, we moved on, passing over a spur of the Cumberland Mountains at nine, and camping at two oclock in the morning near Tybee Springs. At six oclock the same morning we started again and had reached a point near Mitchelleville, when we were overtaken by a courier and ordered to return to Nashville. Facing about, we marched two miles and a half, and at 3 p.m. halted. Shortly afterwards the order to return was countermanded, and the troops were directed to move forward as rapidly as possible. At ten oclock that night we were en route again; at daylight we passed through Franklin, Tenn., and an hour afterwards halted by the roadside, where a rest of two hours was allowed. We then pushed on again, and at eleven a.m. camped about fourteen miles from Bowling Green, Ky. The march from Murfreesboro to Nashville was exhausting, but this was even worse. It occupied forty-three hours, and during that time the troops were almost wholly deprived of food or rest, and traveled over forty-seven miles.
Next morning (15th) at 2 oclock, the Division was on the road, and at 1 p.m. went into camp about a mile north of Bowling Green. At 6 a.m. on the 17th we again marched, leaving behind, by order of General Buell, all wagons except one to a regiment, and all clothing except that we had on. Rested and refreshed by the halt of a day and a half, and inspired by the intelligence that Braggs army was just ahead, the men were in high spirits, enthusiastic and eager for the expected combat. The whole army had been concentrated at Bowling Green, and its serried columns moved out by different roads simultaneously. We forded Big Barren river, and our Division moved along the Louisville pike until 10 oclock, when it turned in the direction of Glasgow, to cut off a body of four thousand rebels reported at that place. Just after noon a drenching rain fell, and continued during the whole day. After a march of eighteen miles, we learned that the enemy had hastily retreated and we bivouacked for the night. Our wagon had been left behind, the men were entirely out of provisions, and nearly all their blankets were in the wagon. To add to our discomfort, the rain continued to pour down during the whole night. A straw stack furnished bedding to keep the troops off the ground, and a convenient rail fence paid its tribute to the cause of the Union by lighting our bivouac fires.
At 4 oclock reveille sounded, and in half an hour, soaked, dripping, hungry and tired we were again on our way. No dinner or supper the day before; no prospect of breakfast or dinner that day, we knew, as we could not reach our commissary train until evening. We satisfied the cravings of our stomachs by eating corn plucked in the fields along our route, and after a march of eighteen miles, rejoined our Corps, near Bells Tavern, at 3 p.m. Here we found our train, and for the first time since the morning of the previous day, got a meal.
At 5 oclock next morning we moved on, and shortly afterwards met the troops lately composing the garrison at Mumfordsville, captured and paroled by Bragg two days before. We were then within seventeen miles of that town, and half of Braggs army, with the greater part of his artillery and train, was on the south side of Green river. The passage of that stream was difficult, and had our army pressed directly on, the capture of a large portion of the rebel force was inevitable. But after a march of about four miles, we were halted at Prewetts Knob, and remained there all that day and the next, and until half past four on the morning of the 21st. We then moved on, but had gone only three miles, reaching Cave City, when we were formed in line of battle, and remained until four in the afternoon. That day Bragg got his whole force across the river, his rear guard having a spirited skirmish with Woods Division, in which a number of officers and men were killed and wounded. At four that afternoon our Corps moved on, and at 1 oclock at night camped about a mile from Mumfordsville.
Next day the army was put in motion again. Our Division crossed Green river at 12 m., and camped at 1 oclock that night thirteen miles north. Next day we marched twenty-three miles, reaching Elizabethtown (President Lincolns birth place), at dark. Twelve miles south, Braggs army had turned off to the right, moving towards Bardstown, and we were marching directly towards the Ohio river. We reached it next day at about 9 p.m. after a hot and exhausting march of twenty-five miles, camping near Westpoint, about twenty-five miles from Louisville. Next day we marched to Greenwood, fifteen miles distant. Three times that night the Division was called up and ordered to march immediately to Louisville, but each time the order was countermanded shortly after the wearied troops were formed in line. It was not until 8 oclock in the morning that we finally started, and after having marched over six miles we reached the city, where we were paraded through all the principal streets in review by column of companies, tired, dusty and sleepy as we were, and it was after dark when we reached our camp in the southwestern portion of the city. The cordial enthusiasm with which we were received partially recompensed us for the fatigue of this useless march. The whole loyal population turned out to welcome us; ladies thronged the streets with baskets of provisions for the troops, men greeted us with hearty cheers, and the enthusiasm with which the coming of the army was hailed was unbounded.
Thus temporarily ended one of the most extraordinary campaigns of the war. Leaving Waterloo, Ala., on the 23d day of August, at noon on the 4th of September we were at Nashville, Tenn., having marched two hundred and six miles in nine marching days, or an average of twenty-two miles a day. On the 11th of September we left the latter place, and reached Louisville, Ky., on the 26th of the same month, having traveled two hundred and eight miles in thirteen marching days, or averaging sixteen miles per day. Thus in twenty-two days we marched four hundred and fourteen miles once making thirty-nine miles in nineteen hours; on other days as little as four and five miles. There was no regularity in our movements; sometimes we rested by day and marched by night; at others, rested at night and marched by day. We were pushed onward when we should have halted, or halted when we should have advanced; and throughout the conduct of the march exhibited shameful mismanagement, or an utter disregard of either the health or comfort of the troops.
The army remained at Louisville four days. During that time large reinforcements were added to it, but they were mostly new regiments, which had not seen a days service, and almost as little drill. The increase was therefore simply in numbers; the efficiency of the army was but little enhanced. An entire reorganization was also had. Three corps were formed commanded respectively by Major General McCook, Gilbert and Crittenden and designated as the Right, Centre and Left Corps, Army of the Ohio. The Brigades and Divisions were numbered consecutively. Our Division was formed into three Brigades, two new regiments being added to each of these. The Eighth Battalion formed part of the Thirty-second Brigade (Colonel Caldwell, Eighty-first Indiana, in temporary command), Ninth Division, (General Mitchell commanding), Centre Corps (Mayor General C.C. Gilbert commanding).
On the 1st of October we moved out of Louisville, Ky., taking the road to Bardstown, were the rebel army was reported to be concentrated. At dark that day, after a very tedious march, full of inexplicable delays, we reached Newburg, nine miles from the city, and went into camp. Next day we marched ten miles and the next six, camping on a branch of Salt river. The rebels had burned or destroyed all the bridges and placed obstructions in the road, so that our progress was very slow. On the 4th we marched eight miles, passing through Mt. Washington, where our vanguard shelled a force of rebels out of the town. Next day the advance had a series of skirmishes with the retreating rebels, and several were killed and wounded on each side. At dark we entered Bardstown, and passing through it, camped a mile beyond the place, having marched about eleven miles. At 3 oclock next morning we moved on, and at dusk camped five miles beyond Springfield, having traveled twenty-four miles. Near the latter town the advance Division had a skirmish with the rebels, resulting in the loss of several men on our side, and a larger number of the enemy, who made quite a stubborn resistance before giving way.
At 9 oclock on the morning of the 7th we pushed on, and shortly after noon the crash of cannon told us there was work ahead. Our Division this day had the advance, our Brigade forming the rear of the Division. Far to the left, where McCooks Corps was, the heavy boom of artillery sounded almost continuous, and in our own immediate front we heard the ominous thunder which presaged the coming storm. Very soon an order came to hurry up, and the troops were moved forward at double quick step.
Braggs army was deployed to the north and west of Perryville. It had an admirable position, posted on a range of hills that commanded every approach, and protected by heavy timber, which concealed all its movements. It was also well supplied with water, while our troops suffered greatly from its want. Colonel Dan McCooks Brigade having been sent to cover some hollows along Doctors creek, where a small supply of water was found, was vigorously attacked by the enemy, and our Division was ordered to his assistance. Reaching his vicinity, the Brigades of Colonels Carlin and Post were ordered to file off in line of battle on each side of the road, and the Twenty fifth, Illinois, Eighty-first Indiana and Eighth Wisconsin Battery of our Brigade, were halted in line with them, while the Eighth Kansas and Thirty fifth Illinois were hurried forward about a mile in advance to a range of hills on Dan McCooks left, Priveys Fifth Wisconsin Battery being sent out with them. The regiments took position on the left of the battery, which at once opened on the rebel position. The shots told handsomely, and the rebel batteries replying were several times forced to change their location to avoid the destructive effect of our shells. The rebel shots were poorly aimed. Two shells fell close to the right wing of the Eighth and burst, but did no damage; another fell directly in front of the battery, severely wounding one man. All others flew wide of the mark. This artillery duel was kept up until dark, when we were recalled to the main line, and remained during the night sleeping on our arms.
At daylight the next morning the fight was resumed. Four regiments of General Sheridans Division of our Corps had been ordered to the front as skirmishers, and during the forenoon kept up a brisk tight but the orders to our Division commanders were positive not to bring on a general engagement. On the left General McCooks Corps was doing heavy fighting, as the constant roar of musketry and thunder of artillery evidenced. It was 1 oclock in the afternoon, however, before we received any orders to advance, and the Division was then moved into position on the right of the main road, directly in front of Perryville. Colonel Posts Brigade was shortly afterwards ordered to the assistance of McCook, while the two remaining Brigades were formed in line of battle, Colonel Carlins in front and ours supporting it.
The Division was then moved steadily forward until it occupied a position on the edge of a woods near the town. In front were several open fields, and along the fence on the further side the rebel line was posted. The Fifth Minnesota Battery was placed in advance of our lines, and opened fire on the enemy. The rebel regiments shortly afterwards made a charge on it supposing it to be weakly supported. They were permitted to approach within short range, when our troops poured into them several deadly volleys, and they fled in confusion, leaving their dead and wounded on the field.
A brisk artillery duel followed this advance and repulse, and for a time the shot and shell flew thick and fast, but our forces were moved slowly and steadily forward, the rebels falling back before them. At dark Colonel Carlin entered Perryville, capturing about two hundred prisoners and a large train loaded with ammunition.
This closed the fighting of the second day on our part. We camped on the battle field, sleeping on our arms, and awaiting the events of the morrow. White and cold in their last sleep, the dead lay all around us, the moans and groans of the wounded sounded in our ears; but worn out with fatigue, loss of sleep, and the feverish excitement of the past two days, the exhausted troops spread their blankets upon the bare ground and were soon slumbering as soundly as though reposing in their beds at home. Only the watchful sentinels and the agonized wounded remembered that battle had been there, and that its dreadful carnage was scattered all over the so lately peaceful field.
Early on the morning of the 5th we moved forward again, the Eighth Kansas supporting a battery, which shelled the woods as we advanced. The enemys guns for a time replied, but feebly, and it soon became evident that they were retreating, with only a small rear guard to resist our advance. As we pressed on evidences of a hasty flight were manifest. Their dead and wounded were left uncared for, and the ground was covered with guns, blankets and knapsacks, indicating the confusion in which they had fled. We moved to the left, crossing the fields still strewn with the debris of battle, where McCook fought so gallantly, and halted at Goodnight Springs the enemys position on the day before. Here we bivouacked. And so closed the third day of the memorable battle of Perryville.
The Corps to which we were attached, with the exception of the Brigades of Colonel Post and Dan McCook, did no heavy fighting during this engagement, its commanding General, despite the earnest appeals and advice of his subordinates, refusing to allow it to press forward. Had it been advanced, as it should have been, the destruction of the rebel army was inevitable. In enveloped the enemys left flank, and could have crushed it like an egg shell. But for several hours the troops were exposed to a heavy artillery fire; and in this, its first experience on the battle field, the Eighth gave evidence of that sterling courage which, on future occasions, was so conspicuous. Never were men more eager to be led where the fight was raging hottest never did men, in the face of danger, exhibit more firmness and resolve.
On the night of the 10th, at about 10 oclock, we left Goodnight Springs, marching during a cold, chilling rain to Nevada Station, four miles distant. Our regiment had the advance, and during the march scared out a small force of rebel cavalry, who betook themselves to hasty flight. We bivouacked at 1 oclock, and remained there until 8 next night, when we again started on, marching in the direction of Harrodsburg until 2 oclock in the morning. At 10 a.m. we were off again, and camped that afternoon near Harrodsburg. Net morning at 6, owing, as we learned, to the fact that the enemy had made a rapid march to the southeast, we moved back on the road some three miles, until we struck the Danville pike, and down it to within a few miles of that place. At 6 on the morning of the 14th we started again, and passing through Danville, marched about twelve miles southeast, to a point near Lancaster. Here a force of the enemy was discovered, and our division, which was in advance, was rapidly formed in line of battle, our Brigade on the left, and the others to the right of the main road. Our batteries soon opened fire on the rebels, and theirs replied briskly. From our position we could see that a large train was passing through the town, and that the enemy (evidently a strong rear guard in charge of the train) were hurrying to and fro, apparently much confused and frightened. Meantime our lines were advancing in full order, our batteries keeping up a constant fire, and we had got within half a mile of the town, when General Mitchell received a peremptory order to withdraw his forces, and "not to bring on a general engagement." So we were moved back half a mile, and went into camp while the enemy was allowed a good long night in which to escape. Our pickets heard their train rumbling through Lancaster until about an hour before dawn.
Next morning, shortly after daylight we advanced toward the town, the Eighth having the front of the Brigade, and the Brigade leading the Division. Company B was deployed as skirmishers, and the regiment moved rapidly toward. A portion of the enemys rear guard had not yet left but upon our approach, hastily retreated, and being mounted, easily kept ahead. A brisk fire was maintained on both sides. We captured several prisoners and on entering Lancaster were received with frantic demonstrations of joy by the people. Discovering a force of rebels about a mile east of town, we filed rapidly through, greeted as we advanced by the fire of a battery posted on a hill near by. Companies E and K were then thrown forward as skirmishers to develop the enemy, and moved about a mile out, but the rebels retreated as fast as they advanced, and the recall was sounded. We were then ordered to move down the road to Crab Orchard, and deploying a company on either side as skirmishers, the regiment pushed on the skirmishers being relieved alternately by other companies as we advanced. We captured on the road about a dozen prisoners, and at 3 oclock reached Crab Orchard.
In the skirmish at Lancaster some twenty of the enemy were killed and wounded, while our forces were fortunate in not losing a man. Had we been permitted to close in on the town on the evening of our arrival in front of it, there is no doubt we would have captured a large supply train, some of the enemys batteries, and several hundred prisoners, as we were afterwards informed by the citizens that the main body of the rebels had passed through during the day, and only a force of about a thousand cavalry was with the train.
We remained in camp at Crab Orchard four days. General Mitchell there received a leave of absence, and the command of the Division devolved upon General Woodruff, who had joined and been assigned to the command of our Brigade at Lancaster. On the morning of the 20th the army marched back through Lancaster and Danville towards Lebanon, which place was reached on the evening of the 22d. We remained there until the 27th when we moved on towards Bowling Green, reaching there at noon on the 1st of November.
At Bowling Green, on the day of our arrival, Lieu. Colonel Martin received from the Governor a commission as Colonel of the Eighth with Graham, deceased. Captain James L. Abernathy, of company A, was at the same time promoted to Lieut. Colonel of the regiment.
On the 3d the whole army was rejoiced to learn that Major General Wm S. Rosecrans had arrived, and that he had been assigned to the chief command. To the soldiers of our Division, who had served under him in the Army of the Mississippi, his presence was peculiarly gratifying and the enthusiasm with which they hailed his coming was unbounded. Always a favorite General, the glory of his recent victories at Iuka and Corinth gave a fresher and greater charm to his name, and they felt that with him there would be earnest and telling blows struck that while he commanded the tomorrow and to-morrows which in the past had lighted so many yesterdays to fatal blunders or disheartening repulses, would no more follow in a listless inefficiency and inglorious emptiness, while anarchy and feud where wasting the substance and loyalty of the land. The Corps, too, had, at Lebanon, been relieved of Gilbert, brave and cheery Alex McCook succeeding him in command. Thus two Generals, in whom the army had not the least confidence, passed out of sight and out of mind, never more to vex and dishearten the noble soldiers whose misfortune it was, for a brief time, to be subject to their orders.
On the morning of the 4th of November our Corps left Bowling Green, and early in the afternoon of the 7th reached Edgefield, opposite Nashville. No incident of importance marked this march, except a skirmish with rebel cavalry near Tyree Springs, in which five or six of the enemy were killed and wounded, and one man of the 25th Illinois, of our Brigade, wounded.
We remained at Edgefield until the 4th of December, when we crossed the Tennessee river, moved through Nashville, and camped on the Franklin pike, about four miles out. Here we remained until the 20th.
The time spent in these camps was profitably employed in equipping the regiment anew, company, battalion, and brigade drills, and in re-establishing the discipline of the troops, always impaired by long marches, and especially marred during the campaigns under Buell and Gilbert. Ina few weeks, however, the regiment had fully attained its accustomed excellence, and at a review of the Division by Generals Rosecrans and McCook, on the 22d of November, was highly complimented by those officers for the neatness of its appearance, the perfection of its evolutions, and its fine discipline.
On the 8th of December General Woodruff was assigned to another place, and the command of the Brigade devolved upon Colonel Martin, while Major Schneider assumed charge of the regiment. On the 9th, in obedience to orders from Division Headquarters, the Eight Kansas, Twenty-fifth Illinois and Eighty-first Indiana, with a section of the Eighth Wisconsin Battery, proceeded, under command of Colonel Martin, on a reconnaissance to the front. After moving out the road to the vicinity of the enemys lines, four companies of the Eight and Twenty-fifth were deployed as skirmishers, and advanced with such impetuosity that the rebel pickets broke in confusion, abandoning many of their guns and some of their clothing in their flight. The command moved out about five miles, when, the subject of the reconnaissance (to ascertain what force was in our front) having been accomplished, the troops returned.
On the 19th the Eighth was ordered by General Rosecrans to report to General Mitchell, who had some time before been assigned to the command of the post of Nashville, for provost duty in that city. Next day it moved to Nashville, going into camp back of the state house. Colonel Martin was appointed Provost Marshall of the city, relieving Colonel Gillem, of the First Middle Tennessee Infantry. The close of the year found the battalion discharging the duties of provost guards in this place.
During the year 1862, while the battalion, with regimental headquarters, was engaged in the operations thus narrated, the battalion in Kansas (except company G, which remained at Fort Laramie until January, 1863) was drawn together at Fort Leavenworth. Companies A and D left Fort Kearney during the latter part of June, and arrived at Leavenworth early in July. During the summer companies A, C and F were engaged in several expeditions after Quantrel and other guerrilla leaders. On the 15th of August companies A and F formed part of a command which had an engagement with the forces of Colonels Coffey and Cockrill and Quantrels band, in which the rebels were driven from the field, losing a number killed and wounded. Companies A and D also had a skirmish in Platte county, Missouri, with Cy Gordons band of bushwhackers, in which one man of Company C was wounded.
At the close of the year the regiment numbered, in the aggregate, 776 men. Forty-nine deaths occurred during the year; seventy-two were discharged for disability, and fifty-nine deserted. The regiment marched 1,254 miles.
In the commissioned officers of the regiment, the following changes occurred after the consolidation: Martin Manerlian, Second Lieutenant company B, resigned July 15th; First Sergeant Claudius Keifer appointed in his place, July 28th. Second Lieut. D.D. Rooks, company E, resigned July 16th; Sergeant Major Sol. R. Washer promoted to the vacancy, July 28th. Col. R. H. Graham dropped from the rolls August 14th; Lieut. Col. John A. Martin promoted Colonel November 1st; Captain James L. Abernathy to be Lieutenant Colonel; First Lieut. Samuel Laighton to be Captain company A, and First Sergeant Rowland Risdon to be First Lieutenant company A, at the same time, Second Lieut. A. Graham, company I, dropped from the rolls August 14th; First Sergeant Byron Slemmens promoted to his place, November 1st. Adjutant S.C. Russell resigned November 16th; First Lieutenant James E. Love appointed Adjutant November 17th. Second Lieutenant Wm. H. Babcock promoted to be First Lieutenant company K, and First Sergeant A. J. Quinn to be Second Lieutenant same company, December 1st.
The new duties to which the Eighth was assigned in Nashville were delicate and important, requiring in their performance sound judgment, untiring zeal, unceasing vigilance, and the strictest discipline. The whole army was then encamped around the city, and although the greater portion of it soon moved to the front, a garrison of several brigades remained. But in addition to the troops stationed at the post, there was an army of civilians employed in the quartermasters commissary and ordinance departments. Nashville being the main depot of supplies for the army; dozens of hospitals and camps of convalescents were located here; troops were constantly arriving and departing; the city was swarming with rebel spies; fully three-fourths of the whole population sympathized with the rebellion, and thousands of desperate and degraded characters, following in the wake of the army, made this city their temporary home. Rows were an every day occurrence, and hardly a night passed that was not stained by murder or blackened by outrage.
Into this chaos of anarchy and confusion, of lawlessness and crime, of treason and rebellion, the Eighth came like an avenging angel. It had to deal with vices and abuses deeply rooted, and almost impossible to eradicate or reform. It met the emergency with daring and decision, and combining freedom with order, kept down the turbulent without unnecessarily disturbing the well affected. Subject to temptations calculated to test severely the best organized and most thoroughly trained troops, its splendid discipline was never more conspicuous than during its sojourn in this demoralized city. The martial pride of its name rose superior to the allurements and contaminations that surrounded them; they gloried in maintaining unspotted their reputation as dutiful, trustworthy, orderly soldiers, and proved themselves equal to the highest duties by winning at once the respect of all good citizens and the warm approval of the Generals commanding. The streets, into which, before, it had been dangerous to venture after nightfall, were kept as quiet and peaceful as those of a New England village. The theaters, which had for a long time been closed on account of the disturbances which broke out in them nightly, were permitted to re-open, and the guards of the Eighth maintained in them perfect order and decorum. The humblest of its non-commissioned officers knew no rank when in the discharge of their duty enforcing the provost regulations, its bayonets gleamed in every street and alley and flashed on every corner, and its patrols, constantly on the alert, allowed no disturbance to escape their vigilance.
The city was divided into districts. Provost headquarters were in the State House. A patrol went out every two hours, made its rounds, visiting every portion of the district to which it was assigned, and remaining out until it was relieved by another. It then returned, and had a rest of four hours, there being three reliefs of the guard for every district. The men at the Capitol were considered on duty at all times, and must be ready for any emergency at a moments warning.
The regiment furnished, in addition to the provost patrols, the stationery guards at the Capitol, military headquarters, the penitentiary, the jail, the market house and the work house. The Provost Marshall had charge of all the military prisons of the city, and the four places last named were all used for the confinement of military offenders and prisoners of war. Some three hundred men from other regiments also reported to Col. Martin daily, for duty as guards at the commissary and quartermaster depots, the ordinance department and the prison hospital, all interior guards being under his control and directions. Captain Henry C. Austin, company I, was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal and Inspector of Military Prisons; Captain John F. Isom, Twenty-fifth Illinois, was detailed as Provost Quartermaster, and sometime later Captain John Conover, Eighth Kansas, as Chief of Police.
The duties of the Eight in Nashville commenced at a most trying period. Six days after it came into the city, the army advanced on Murfreesboro, and on the 28th the great battle commenced. The rebel cavalry gained the rear of our army, several of our Divisions were driven back in confusion, and hundred of stragglers sought safety in Nashville. Within three days the patrols of the Eighth arrested over two thousand of these men, and they were at once sent back to the front. Two thousand five hundred rebel prisoners were also received within a few days after the battle, and had to be taken charge of and provided for. Within a week these were all sent to prisons in the North.
During the six months the Eighth remained in the city, rebel prisoners were arriving almost daily, and had to be guarded, provided for, sent North, and reports made of their disposal; a prison hospital was established for the reception of the sick and wounded among them; stragglers and deserters were arrested and sent to the front in squads, and the rebel sympathizers of the city were closely watched. At one time a number of rebel prisoners, some of them sick or wounded, were quartered in the houses of wealthy secessionists who had been manifesting intense anxiety for their comfort and well-being. This was the last of their solicitude on that score. The theaters were directed to play national airs every evening, and did so. The circulation of rebel newspapers was suppressed.
On the morning of the 22d of February companies A,C, D and F, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Abernathy, arrived in Nashville from Kansas. On the 20th of March company G arrived, and then, for the first time since its organization, a union of all the companies of the Eighth was effected.
On the 13th of April, by order of General Rosecrans, the Provost Marshall arrested and confined in prison about one hundred of the most prominent citizens of Nashville. Some were afterwards sent north of the Ohio, some south into the rebel lines, and others of them were transferred to northern prisons for confinement during the war. This action created great excitement, as the arrests were made at different times during the day, and no one knew whose turn would come next. Consequently all of the rebel sympathizers were alarmed. The arrests were made as quietly as possible, but the order was firmly and faithfully executed.
On the 22d of April General Mitchell issued an order that within ten days every citizen of Nashville over the age of 18, male and female, should take the oath of allegiance or non-combatants parole, and give bonds for its observance, or go south of the lines. The execution of this order was entrusted to Colonel Martin. The next day a rush to the provost office commenced. Several prominent Union citizens of the city were invited to assist in fixing the amount of bonds, and cheerfully gave their aid and advice. A large force of clerks was detailed to make out the papers, but it was found impossible to get through within the time prescribed, and it was extended ten days. During that period over fifteen thousand persons took the oath or parole, giving bonds in amounts ranging from $500 to $20,000 for its faithful observance. Some two hundred, refusing to do either, reported to go south, and Captain Conover was detailed to escort them outside our military lines. During the twenty days occupied by this work, over fifty clerks were constantly employed, and hundreds of people thronged through the Capitol from morning until night.
On the evening of the 8th of June orders were received directing the Eighth to proceed to Murfreesboro next morning and rejoin the Division. General Robert E. Granger, (who had sometime before relieved General Mitchell), telegraphed General Rosecrans urgently insisting that the regiment could not be spared, and stating that he would rather lose any two other regiments of the post garrison. The Mayor and other citizens of Nashville also telegraphed a protest, but the response was that the regiment was needed at the front, and early next morning its columns filed though the streets of the city, its bard playing that splendid refrain it had long ago made familiar to Nashville ears "John Brown." This march out of town was a triumphal oration. Streets and side walks were crowded with citizens who had heard with regret that their favorite was ordered away, and had assembled spontaneously to bid it "good bye." Everywhere along the route of march it was greeted with cheers, the waving of handkerchiefs, and every other demonstration of approval. It had won and kept, during its six months stay in the city, the confidence of the loyal and the respect even of the disloyal, and the commanding General and officers of the post, the Governor, the Mayor and city officials, and all classes of citizens united in testifying to its uniform good conduct, soldierly bearing, and in regretting the necessity which called it to another field of duty.
Colonel Martin, Captain Austin, Captain Conover, and Captain Trego were ordered to remain at Nashville for a few days to instruct their successors in the duties of their positions. On the 17th these officers, with the exception of Captain Austin, rejoined the regiment at Murfreesboro.
The aggregate strength of the regiment at the time it rejoined the Brigade was 700. It had recruited some forty men while in Nashville. On reaching Murfreesboro, the regiment was attached to the same Brigade to which it previously belonged, now numbered the Third, of the First Division. Twentieth Corps. Colonel Hans C. Heg, of the Fifteenth Wisconsin, was in command of the Brigade. The Division and Corps commanders remained unchanged.
The Eighth remained at Murfreesboro, going through with the usual routine of picket, police and camp duties, until daylight on the 24th of June, when the army advanced on Tullahoma and Shelbyville. Both of these places were strongly fortified positions. Braggs headquarters, with 15,000 men, were at Tullahoma; Folks Corps, 18,000 strong, were at Shelbyville, and Hardees Corps, 12,000 strong, at Wartrace, between the two places, to the right of Shelbyville and front of Tullahoma. South of Murfreesboro some ten miles, and covering the objective points at which this movement was made, was a range of high hills, almost deserving the name of mountains. Over this range there were several roads, leading through Hoovers Liberty and Guys Gaps, and against all of these demonstrations were made, some real and others feints. The country was admirably adapted for defensive operations, the only assailable point being those narrow gorges, running tortuously through the hills, and covered on both sides with a heavy growth of timber, which served not only to conceal but to protect the enemy. Grangers Corps, with a strong force of cavalry, had started from Triune towards Shelbyville the day previous. It being Rosecrans intention to deceive Bragg by making a feint on his left, thus leading him to concentrate there, leaving the difficult passes on his right uncovered. Against these our main force was then to be advanced, and once secured, the army was to menace the enemys communications south of Tullahoma by moving to Manchester, and thus compel Bragg to leave his entrenched positions and give battle on ground that would not afford him the advantage of defensive works, or retreat across the Cumberland Mountains. This plan was, although somewhat delayed by the bad condition of the roads, successfully carried out in every particular, and the result was exactly what the commanding General had hoped.
The Division to which the Eighth was attached moved out about six miles on the Shelbyville pike, and then filed to the left across the country to the Wartrace road, camping that night in the vicinity of two or three dilapidated houses, called Old Millersburg. Our advance was skirmishing with the enemy during the whole day, and an attack made by Johnsons Division of our Corps, on Liberty Gap, resulted in a severe fight, in which some fifty or sixty of our men were killed and wounded. This position was secured, however, and firmly held. Wilders cavalry brigade surprised the enemy at Hoovers Gap, and held the place until the infantry could come up and secure it. The enemy having thus lost two of the strongest gorges through the hills, slowly fell back towards his entrenched camps.
Shortly after the army commenced its forward movement, a heavy rain set in, continuing almost incessantly during the entire day and night. The roads became nearly impassable. Wagons stuck fast, the artillery could only be moved forward by doubling teams and then with the greatest difficulty, and even the movements of the infantry were soon materially retarded by the soft, glutinous soil into which they sank almost half-knee deep at every step. The men, soaked and chilled by the rain, suffered terribly, and although we traveled only about twelve miles, the fatigue was greater than during a march of double the distance on a fair day.
We expected to move on early next morning, but after daybreak an order was received detailing the Eighth Kansas and Thirty-fifth Illinois as a guard for the corps train. Rosecrans had suffered severely by cavalry attacks in his rear at Stone river, and was determined on this occasion to guard against such a contingency. The wagons were parked in a ploughed field directly in our rear, and we had the irksome and irritating ill luck of waiting all day and the next night until the whole of them could get on the road, the rain, meantime, continuing to fall without cessation.
On the 26th at 8 a.m. we at last got off, and after a march of four miles, passing the train on the way, joined the Brigade in camp. We remained until 2 oclock in the afternoon, giving the men an opportunity to cook, when we again started, and after marching three miles went into bivouac on the Manchester road. The rain continued to fall, at intervals, during this day and night. In the afternoon General Carlins Brigade of our Division had a severe engagement with the enemy, in which he lost many of his men.
At 2 oclock on the morning of the 27th we were ready to march, but did not move until 2 in the afternoon. The heavy rain still continued, and the men were foot sore with marching through the mud, and sore in body from their cold, constant drenchings, but the sound of artillery ahead and the prospect of a fight kept their spirits up, and without a murmur they kept on. We marched, however, only four miles, going into camp on Garrisons Fork.
Next morning at 8 oclock, in the midst of the heaviest rain we had yet had, we started again. During the whole of the previous night, the rain had poured down in torrents, and the roads were, if possible, in even a worse condition than before. At noon we had marched eight miles, when, the rain having ceased, we halted to allow the men an opportunity to cook. At 2 p.m. we moved on, and at 2 oclock that night went into camp near Manchester. In all of our past experience, rough as some of it had been, there was no march so disagreeable and exhausting as this. The route for several miles ran up a narrow, muddy ravine, then into a dense forest, where the road led through holes knee deep, with slushy, dirty water, and crossed, every mile or so, a running stream, which generally had to be forded. The light of the moon was obscured by the clouds and the overhanging trees, and in the dense darkness we blindly groped our way, stumbling over fallen trees, rocks and stumps, wading through creeks and crossing tumble-down bridges until we reached camp. Regiments and companies were jumbled together in perplexing confusion; officers sought in vain for their men, and at last gathering together what they could find, we were shown a camping place dense with an undergrowth of brush, in the bend of a creek, and tired, hungry, soaked with rain and chilled to the very bones, all sank on the wet ground and slept the sleep that follows perfect exhaustion. The rain continued to fall all night, but there were few who heeded it. The writer of this slept at the foot of a tree, with his saddle for a pillow, as soundly as if reposing on feathers, and awoke in the morning to find himself in a puddle of water about three inches deep, drenched by the rain from above and steeped in the watered that covered the ground thoroughly but evenly.
In the morning we learned that we were to remain here for a day or two, and although the camp was a miserable one, the prospect of a rest was as gratifying as it was unexpected. Our rations had given out at noon the day before, and we had not broken fast since. We got nothing to eat that day until three oclock, when two of our wagons arrived and rations were issued. There have been meals more delicate and savory, but never one that tasted sweeter or was relished with greater zest than was our dinner of hard bread and salt side meat that afternoon.
The rain continued to pour down at intervals during the day, but ceased just after dark. The next day was the time for regular bi-monthly muster, and fortunately, until nearly night, was clear and warm. The regiment was mustered in the morning, and the day devoted to making out monthly rolls and letter writing. One of the officers of the Eighth, after completing the muster-roll of his company, endorsed the copy for the Adjutant General's office with the following amusing inscription:
³I make this roll lying flat on my belly on the ground, with a rubber blanket for a desk. If I was at Washington in a comfortable room, supplied with a hundred dollar desk, a gold pen, black, blue, red and purple inks, the latest and best patent rulers, and plenty of ﾔred tape' I could make a more artistic copy. But I have been constantly soaked with rain for seven days and nights; there isn't a bone in my body that doesn't ache; my fingers are as numb as though they were frozen, and my clothes are as stiff with Tennessee mud as my fingers are with chill. Under the circumstances this is the best I can do. If any first-class clerk in the department thinks he could do better, let him duck himself in the Potomac every five minutes and wade through mud knee deep for six days and then try it on. If he succeeds, I will change places with him with great pleasure.²
His roll was a frightful mess of blots and blotches, but it was never send back ³for correction².
The next day July 1st opened beautifully bright and warm, and the forenoon was occupied in washing and drying clothing, cleaning arms, and baking a lot of flour issued instead of hard bread. At 2 o'clock p.m. we marched. The afternoon was excessively hot, and the sudden change made the heat more oppressive. After a rapid march of twelve miles, we entered the rebel stronghold, Tullahoma, at 12 o'clock at night. Two Divisions were in advance of ours, but they had not discharged a gun, the rebels having beat a hasty retreat during the previous night. The carriages of their siege, guns fired before they left, were yet burning when we entered the town. Six of these guns, with several warehouses filled with flour, meal, salt, clothing, etc., and the tents of several Brigades left standing in their places, were captured.
At 6 o'clock next morning we moved on again, marching to Elk river, nine miles and a half. Sheridan's Division, which was in advance, had a slight skirmish with the enemy at the river, and did not get across until nearly night so we went into bivouac. Next morning we forded the river, the water being waist deep, and after a march of four miles, fording two or three smaller streams on the way, reached Winchester, where we camped. During these two days we had frequent showers of rain, but the weather was warmer, and the clothing of the men soon dried out.
We remained in camp until the morning of the 8th at 2 o'clock , when the Eighth Kansas and Thirty-fifth Illinois started on a scout to the Cumberland Mountains, five miles distant, in search of a force of rebel guerrillas, who had been committing many depredations. It had rained every day, at intervals, since we reached Winchester, and we marched that morning in the midst of a very heavy shower. On reaching the foot of the mountains, seven companies of the Eighth were deployed in line, the other three companies, with the Thirty-fifth Illinois, being held in reserve, and the ascent commenced. There was no road, and hardly sheep-paths, leading to the summit, but slowly and toilsomely the command made its way up, pushing through the dense growths of underbrush and climbing over the stony ledges and fallen trees scattered along the steep acclivity. Half way to the top the Thirty-fifth was halted, and the Eighth moved on alone. In about two hours it gained the summit, and shortly afterwards captured an old man who, by threatening, was induced to act as pilot. A march of two miles brought the regiment to the opposite side of the mountain, on the edge of an abrupt precipice, and the guide informed us that the guerrilla camp was under the rocks below. Colonel Heg took two companies and moved to the right, while Colonel Martin, with two others, moved to the left, to find passages leading down. After a toilsome descent, clinging to the brush and leaping from rock to rock, both detachments reached the foot of the ledge and moved towards each other. Suddenly and almost simultaneously they came upon the guerrilla camp, but they had seen us just in time, and not stopping a moment, plunged down the precipitous sides of the mountain, without the slightest regard for their necks. A volley was fired after them and our men started in pursuit, but the recall was at once sounded, as it was seen that a chase was useless. We captured a number of horses and mules, a quantity of stores and a lot of camp plunder, and bringing with us all that was valuable, made our way back to camp, where we arrived at three o'clock in the afternoon.
Thus ended our campaign against Tullahoma and the scout succeeding it. The marches were not long, but the terrible rains and mud through which they were made, combined to render them far more exhausting than ten times the distance. During the ten days occupied in marching to Winchester, not one passed without a heavy shower, and sometimes for twenty-four hours in succession the rain fell incessantly. The clothing of the men was never thoroughly dry, and rations were at all times scanty. Many of the men wore out their shoes before they had been on the march three days, and went barefoot the rest of the time. But they kept up their spirits nobly, and bore their hardships and privations uncomplainingly. The glorious recall of the campaign compensated them for all. In these ten days, without a serious battle, and with a loss of less than six hundred men in the whole army, Middle Tennessee was cleared of rebel soldiers, fully six hundred of the enemy were killed and wounded, seventeen hundred were taken prisoners, and several pieces of artillery were captured. Only the rapidity of Bragg's flight, the heavy rains and bad roads, saved him from even much greater disasters.
We had a pleasant camp at Winchester, and were rejoiced to learn that we were to remain there some time. The country around the place was picturesque; the climate salubrious; the water clear, cool and abundant, and the foraging good. The duty, too, was light, the health of the command excellent, and it soon again attained the discipline and neatness of appearance for which it was justly celebrated. It had been complimented many times before, as a regiment worthy of emulation, and that those who care to read its history may know what was said of it officially, the following reports and orders are embodied. They are but a few of the many received during its term of service, as there was never a review or inspection held in which the regiment, it forming a portion of the troops, was not complimented for its soldierly appearance, the perfection of its drill, and the neatness and cleanliness of its arms, accoutrements, clothing and camp.
Just after reaching Winchester the following circular order was received from Department headquarters:
³Headquarters Department of the Cumberland.
Inspector General's Office, Tullahoma, July 15, 1863.
³Colonel ﾑ I have the honor to make the following extract from the semi-monthly Inspection Report of Lieutenant Colonel H. N. Fisher, Assistant Inspector General Twentieth Army Corps:
³The Eighth Kansas, lately attached to the Corps, is splendidly equipped and well cared for. Its long stay in Nashville enabled it to attain a polish to a certain degree impracticable in the field, but its example is valuable in the Corps.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. S. BENT, Captain and A.A.I.G.
³To Lieut. Col. Goddard, A.A.G.²
³Headqr's Dep't of the Cumberland,
Tullahoma, July 17, 1863.
Respectfully referred to the commanding officer Eighth Kansas Volunteers.
By command of Maj. Gen. Rosecrans,
Major and A.A. General²
A short time afterwards the following circular order was sent from Corps headquarters.
³Headqr's Twentieth Army Corps,
Inspector General's Office,
Winchester, Tenn., July 31, 1863
³Colonel ﾑ I have the honor to call your attention to the following extract from daily report of Captain H. W. Hall, A.A.I.G., First Division, on the condition of camps of the Third Brigade, for 22d of July, 1863:
³The camps of the Eighth Kansas and the Twenty-fifth Illinois are the best in the Division. All are good in this Brigade. These regiments vie with each other in excellence in every respect, and are models worthy of imitation for any troops with which it has been my fortune to associate. The camps of the other regiments of this Brigade reflect much credit upon their Brigade and Regimental commanders, and have been repeatedly reported to me.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HORACE N. FISHER, Lieut. Col and A.I. General.²
³Headqr's Twentieth Army Corps,
July 31, 1863.
³Respectfully referred to the commanding officer of the Third Brigade, First Division. The General commanding the Corps is pleased to have so favorable a report of the regiments of this Brigade.
³By command of Maj. Gen. Sheridan,
A.A.G. and Chief of Staff.²
To the commanding officer Eighth Kansas Infantry.
While at Murfreesboro the following circular order, also from Corps headquarters was issued:
³Inspector General's Office,
Twentieth Army Corps,
Murfreesboro, June 19, 1863
³Colonel I take great pleasure in reporting to you the following extract from the daily report of the Inspector of the First Division, especially as the same regiments attracted notice of their Brigade Inspector:
³The drill, military appearance and dress of the Eighth Kansas Infantry is the best observed in the Division, and that of the Twenty-fifth Illinois next.
Captain and Inspector First Division
³Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HORACE N. FISHER, Lieut. Col. And A.I. General
G.P. THURSTON, A.A.G and Chief of Staff.²
"Headqrs Twentieth Army Corps.
June 20, 1863
"Respectfully referred to Colonel Heg, commanding Third Brigade, First Division, who will have this creditable compliment conveyed to the within mentioned regiments.
"By command of Maj. McCook,
Captain and A.A. General.
Many other orders, alike complimentary and creditable, could be given, but these are sufficient to show the character and standing of the regiment in the opinion of superior officers.
On the 17th of August the Division broke camp at Winchester and crossing the Cumberland Mountains, reached Stevenson, Ala, on the 20th. The distance marched was but thirty-eight miles, but as the Sequatchie valley cleaves through the heart of the mountains, two ranges instead of one are to cross, and the work of transporting an army over them, with all its wagons, artillery, etc., is toilsome and difficult.
As soon as the army was concentrated on the south side of the mountains, and sufficient supplies accumulated, Gen. Rosecrans prepared to force a passage of the Tennessee river, and at 5 oclock p.m. on the 28th of August our Brigade moved to Copertons Ferry, reaching there at 10 oclock that night. We were accompanied by a battalion of pioneers and a pontoon train. The pioneers were at once set to work, behind the brush that fringed the bank of the river, getting the pontoons ready for launching. Our pickets and those of the rebels on the other side held frequent talks during the night, but advanced videttes had been stationed along the river for some time, and the enemy seemed unconscious of the fact that any considerable force had moved down, and was only waiting the first faint glimmer of dawn in the east to swoon across the wide channel upon them.
Before daylight all was in readiness. Our Corps commander, General McCook, and our Division Commander, General Davis, were both present to direct the movement in person. The enterprise was regarded as one of extreme peril, as it was not known what the enemy had on the other side, and if any resistance was made to our passage, the loss of life, with men crowded, as they must be into frail boats, would be fearful. The Generals commanding were therefore anxious as to the result, and nervously paced the bank of the river, listening and watching intently for any movement on the further side.
The Eighth Kansas and Fifteenth Wisconsin were selected to cross in advance. Two batteries were brought down and placed on the bank, masked by the dense foliage that overhung it, and ready slotted. The other regiments of the Brigade were placed in position, and at last the order to move was given. In a few moments the boats were launched into the stream, twenty-five or thirty men, with their officers, were crowded into each, sharpshooters were in position, oarsmen in place, and they shoved off. Every one knew that the most hazardous undertaking known in warfare ﾑthe crossing of a wide, deep river in the face of an enemy was being attempted, but not a man quailed at the danger. Anxiously they listened for the crack of the guns that would send many a gallant soul to its Maker, but in each boat there was intense excitement and rivalry as to which should first reach the opposite shore. A few moments passed, but no shot broke the peaceful stillness of the morning air. Almost simultaneously the prows of a number of boats touched the bank. The men leaped ashore, climbed the overhanging brush, and moved rapidly through a cornfield to the edge of a woods, where they were at once formed in line of battle. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and the advance began. The camp fires of the rebels were still burning, and half eaten ears of corn, upon which their horses had been feeding not a quarter of an hour before, strewed the ground. But the enemy had fled in a panic, not even making an attempt to resist the crossing of check the advance of the enthusiastic troops. Our skirmisher caught sight of them several times as we pushed forward, and passed some shots, but this was all. In a short time we reached the foot of Sand Mountain, about two miles from the river, and made a brief halt. The Fifteenth Wisconsin was directed to remain here, and the Eighth moved on, its gallant men tolling laboriously up the steep sides, until at 10, o'clock, almost exhausted, they reached the summit, and the regimental flag was unfurled from the top of a projecting rock. For the first time in long years the glorious Banner of the Stars waved there. The distance up the side of the mountain to the top, by the only practicable road, is a mile and three quarters.
The Eighth remained where it first halted after reaching the summit until 5 p.m. General Rosecrans, Garfield and McCook, with a number of other prominent officers, visited the mountain top, and the former highly complimented the regiments that had formed the advance for their energy and courage, while he congratulated them upon the successful accomplishment of so desperate an enterprise without loss.
The Fifteenth joined the Eighth in the afternoon, and at 5 o'clock the regiments moved out three miles, where they went into camp. The other regiments of the Brigade joined them that evening. They crossed the river as soon as the boats could return for them, and guarded the bank until a pontoon bridge could be laid down, which was done by 2 o'clock.
On the 31st Generals Rosecrans and McCook issued orders complimenting the troops of our Brigade on the promptness, coolness and courage evinced by them in crossing the Tennessee, and thanking them for the success attending this desperate undertaking.
On the 2d of September we marched, and camped that night in Will's valley, sixteen miles south. General Stanley's cavalry Corps passed us here on the evening of the 3d. On the 4th we moved to Muston's Gap at the foot of the Lookout range of mountains, and some twenty miles south of Chattanooga. Here we remained until the 8th, when we moved to the top of the mountain, and marched across it, thirteen miles, to Lafourche Gap, going into bivouac at 9 o'clock at night. The rebels had felled trees in the road heading down into the valley, and next morning at daylight two companies of the Eighth were detailed, one (company F) to make a scout, and the other (company I) to clear the road of obstructions. A few hours afterwards, however, the Brigade was ordered to join that of General Carlin, eight miles below; the companies were recalled, and we marched south along the brow of the mountain, descending into the valley through Standlfer's Gap, late in the afternoon, and camping a few miles from Alpine, Ga. The remainder of our Corps arrived there on the 11th.
It is proper, at this time, to give a brief statement of our position relative to the other Corps of the army and the enemy. While two Divisions of our Corps crossed at Carpenter's Ferry, others had within a few days effected crossings at Bridgeport, Shell Mound and Battle Creek, and a portion of Crittenden's Corps had moved directly on Chattanooga, arriving on the heights opposite that place on the 31st of August. Thomas' Corps after crossing, pushed over the Lookout range some fifteen miles north of McCook, descending into McLemore's Cove through Stevens' Gap. These movements so alarmed Bragg that on the 6th and 8th of September he abandoned his strong position at Chattanooga, retreating southward and concentrating around Lafayette, facing the gaps in the Pigeon range of mountains beyond McLemore's Cove. Crittenden occupied Chattanooga on the 9th, and from thence advanced to Ringgold, Ga.
The different Corps of our army were thus occupying widely detached positions, while Bragg was rapidly gathering strength. Buckner, from East Tennessee, and a strong division of Johnston's Mississippi army had already joined him, Longstreet's Corps of Virginia veterans was hastening, by rail, to reinforce him, and every soldier employed in the rear was rushed to his assistance, Georgia militia taking their places.
It took several days to develop these facts, and rapid movements were then made to concentrate. On the afternoon of the 12th our Corps moved back to the top of the mountain. Next day we moved across it and descended into Will's valley through Muston's Gap, camping about five miles north of that place. It is understood that General McCook received information, which he deemed reliable, that it was impossible to join Thomas by moving directly north on the mountain top. But the next morning he learned better, and we moved back that day to Muston's. On the morning of the 16th we again ascended the mountain, and marched across it to Stevens' Gap, a distance of twenty-three miles, reaching camp at 10 o'clock that night. On the 17th we moved down into the Cove. This day was spent in maneuvering about among the hills and valleys, skirmishing, forming line of battle, advancing, countermarching, and going through all manner of evolutions, the exact purpose of which no one seemed to know. But the enemy was in front, in strong force, and the skirmishers of the two armies kept up a running fight all day. It was 12 at night before, worn out with excitement and fatigue, we went into bivouac near Lee's Springs. Old troops, accustomed to danger, become incredulous as to its approach, and never believe that a battle is imminent. Hence that night our weary men grumbled more because, after reaching camp, they were compelled to draw and distribute one hundred rounds of cartridges each, than they had at all the fatigues of the day.
On the 18th we went through with the same maneuvering, changing position every hour or so, and momentarily expecting an attack. At 6 p.m., we started northeast, and after marching about four miles bivouacked in a corn field. There was heavy artillery firing during almost the whole of this day.
At 8 o'clock the next morning we again moved on. Our route lay along a dusty road, where troops had bivouacked in line the night previous and fired the fences for miles. Fragments of rails were yet smouldering amid the ashes, adding to the intolerable dust dense volumes of stifling smoke. A disagreeable tramp of eight miles brought us to the widow Glenn's house, where General Rosecrans' headquarters were established. Several miles to the right of the road ran Chicamauga creek, and on the march we passed a number of Brigades waiting for orders, while is front at the fords of the creek, our artillery was keeping up a constant thunder. As we neared Rosecrans' headquarters a more terrible sound greeted our ears, the dull, heavy crashes of a dense musketry fire, rising and falling in sullen, resounding, deafening roars, like waves breaking upon a shore. The enemy had attacked Reynolds' and Van Cleve's Divisions with great fury, driving the latter back in disorder, and our Division came up just in time to check the impetuous advance of the rebels. We were moved rapidly nearly two miles to the left and front of widow Glenn's, about a mile of that distance on the double-quick, and after forming line of battle, advanced through the dense woods, ³going in,² as general Rosecrans after expressed it, ³where the fight was hottest.²
Our Brigade was formed in two lines, the Eighth Kansas, Fifteenth Wisconsin and Thirty-fifth Illinois in front; the Twenty-fifth Illinois in rear. The Second Brigade had not yet formed, but was rapidly doing so, three regiments of it to the right and one to the left ours, all some sixty yards in the rear. Colonel Post's Brigade was not with the Division, being detailed as guard to the Corps train, and the two small Brigades of General Carlin and Colonel Heg were all of General Davis' troops that were in action during either day's engagement.
After forming we were rapidly advanced through the rugged forest, but had proceeded only a few hundred yards when a terrific volley saluted us, rapidly succeeded by another and another. The two hostile forces met without skirmishers in front, and in an instant were furiously engaged in desperate combat. Our men promptly replied to the rebel fire, and at once the roar of battle became one steady, deep, jarring thunder. Our line was moved forward firmly, until it rested along the brow of a small rise of ground. The Twenty-fifth Illinois was then ordered to a position in the front line. The crash of musketry grew denser and more terrific, and the artillery added its thunder to the furious raging of the battle storm. The rebels rushed forward line after line of troops, charging with desperate valor and impetuosity, but our men held their position firmly and defiantly, firing with such coolness and precision that at every discharge great gaps were cut in the enemy's lines, and bleeding, broken, staggering, they reeled before the awful hail of leaden death that greeted them. In vain they rallied and advanced again and again ﾑthey could not move over firm, unyielding lines. For half an hour this desperate struggle was thus continued. The carnage on both sides was dreadful. In that brief time over a third of our Brigade were killed and wounded, and still the frightful carnival of slaughter raged unabated. Of the Eighth, five captains, three lieutenants and one hundred and fifty men were already struck. Our flanks, too, were exposed, and the lines were being enfiladed by a heavy fire, some of the enemy having already penetrated, on the right and left, far to our rear. The desperate valor of the troops had resisted every effort to break their lines or force them back, but at last Colonel Heg, seeing that disaster must follow an attempt to hold this isolated position any longer, gave and order to retire, and loading and firing as they went, our men fell back slowly about fifty yards. Here they were reformed, and after a short halt charged the enemy with impetuous enthusiasm driving him back until our former position was almost regained. For a quarter of an hour the line was firmly held by the thrice decimated command. Bullets flew like hail stones, grape and canister, shot and shell, whistled and crashed through and over and around the devoted ranks, but the heroism of the men rose with the terrible grandeur and desperation of the awful battle, and they stood like walls of adamant before the fury of this storm.
But no courage, however sublime; no enthusiasm however magnificent, and no discipline, however perfect, could continue to resist the masses of fresh troops which the enemy was constantly hurling against these two small Brigades, fighting alone in the woods, detached from other portions of the army, and already bereaved of nearly half their numbers. The Division was finally ordered to fall back to a fence some distance in the rear, and facing the woods in which it had been fighting. Behind it was a wide field, and beyond this another strip of timber. On the edge of this several batteries were ranged, and with their aid the Division held the rebels at bay until late in the afternoon, when Colonel Bradley's Brigade, of Sheridan's Division, came up and relieved it. Our exhausted troops then fell back to the opposite woods, where a fresh supply of ammunition was obtained, and the men had an opportunity to rest for a brief time. Bradley's troops, however, soon becoming hotly engaged, our lines were again advanced across the field, forming behind the fence they had previously occupied. Here they continued until dusk, and the firing had almost ceased, when fresh troops arrived to relieve them, and they were withdrawn late bivouac near the battle field. The two Brigades had lost in killed and wounded over forty per cent of all engaged. Colonel Heg, our Brigade commander, was mortally wounded about the middle of the afternoon, and the command devolved on Colonel Martin, of the Eighth. Two-thirds of the field officers of the Division were either killed or wounded, and over half the line officers. When General Davis reported to the commanding General that night, General Rosecrans thanked him for having saved his centre from being pierced and broken and his train from capture, saying that the Division had done hard and desperate fighting before, but had excelled itself that day.
It was indeed a fearful day's work. The roar of musketry never for an instant ceased, and at times it grew so dense as to drown the crashes of the artillery. The ground was strewn with the dead and wounded, and almost every foot of the shot-torn field was red with the crimson of loyal blood. The two small Brigades of Davis' Division had fought alone, two full Divisions of the rebel army, under the personal command of General J.B. Hood ﾑ Hood's own Division, under Law, and the Division of General Bushrod Johnson. This we learned at the time from prisoners captured and the official reports of the rebel commanders afterwards substantiated the fact. General Hood was severely wounded directly in front of the Eighth Kansas and his leg amputated on the field.
At 2 o'clock next morning the remnant of the Division, now numbering less than thirteen hundred men, was moved to a position about a mile and a half further north, and across the Chattanooga road. Here it remained until 12 m, when it was again ordered into line, and moved southeast, taking a position to the right of General Wood's Division, with General Sheridan's in rear, but then moving towards the left. Changes in the location of our troops, made during the night, had drifted the lines of the army far to the left, leaving us on the extreme right.
On moving forward, Colonel Buell's Brigade, of General Wood's Division, was found to be directly in front of Colonel Martin's and the latter Brigade was therefore ordered to move by the right flank and form in rear of General Carlin's as a reserve. It had just arrived at the place designated, when General Wood received an order (as he understood it) to support Reynolds, and at once withdrew his troops from the line they occupied, moving on the double-quick, by the left flank, to the rear of Brannon, then in echelon to the right and rear of Reynolds. A fearful gap was made in our lines by the withdrawal of this large Division, and Colonel Martin's small Brigade, numbering little over six hundred men, was ordered to move into it, on Carlin's right. It was promptly moved as directed, and three regiments had already reached their positions, but the one on the left (Thirty-fifth Illinois) was yet filing into line when Longstreet's fresh troops charged over the rising ground in our front, four columns deep. Our men, who knew nothing of the fatal gap on their left, met this impetuous rush with determined courage, firing with such coolness and directness that the enemy's front line was almost annihilated, and broke in impotent disorder to the rear. The second line was also broken, and our troops were beginning to imagine themselves the victors, as they continued to sweep the remaining lines with a dreadful fire. Pollard, the rebel historian, in speaking of this attack of their forces, says that ³the shock was terrible² that ³never did Yankees fight better than just here,² and that ³the Union troops stood as long as human powers of endurance could bear up against such a pressure.² But just at this moment the fatal result of the terrible gap on our left and the short line on the right, was felt. The rebel regiments advancing on our left had penetrated through the gap in our lines far to the rear, on the right of Carlin, overlapping him some distance, they had also advanced unopposed, and now dense masses of them were pressing down on our flanks, pouring in a terrific enfilading fire. Capture, annihilation or retreat were the only alternatives left, and the Division was forced to fall back, narrowly escaping as it retreated through a shower of bullets. Sheridan's Division, further to the rear, was also struck on the flank while moving to the left, and carried back with ours.
On the top of a hill just south of the Chattanooga road the command was rallied, and for a time checked the advance of the enemy. But the full consequences of the disaster that had befallen us, resulting from that dreadful gap in our lines, were now clearly seen and comprehended. An overwhelming force of the enemy separated us from the main body or the army. Our Division had lost its commander, he having, in attempting to get a battery off the field, been carried far to the right, and the command of what was present of the Division devolved on the Brigade commanders. The enemy in our front was wary of approaching, contenting himself with keeping up a heavy fire of artillery. The only thing left to attempt was to get the command safely to a place from which it could reach the rest of the army. The fragments of our Division were therefore formed and marched back towards Mission Ridge, gaining large accessions in their numbers as they went. General Carlin, with a portion of his Brigade, soon joined us, and a short time after General Sheridan, with a portion of his Division, came up. The latter at once assumed command, and marched the remnants of the two Divisions to a point about three miles from Rossville. To his able management and perfect familiarity with the roads of that region, the troops are probably indebted for their safe extrication.
We found General Davis, who had come in from another direction, at this point, and the command having arrived at a position from which it could reach General Thomas, was allowed a short rest. After a consultation, Generals Sheridan and Davis decided to go to his support. We accordingly moved out a road leading to the southeast some two miles, and had reached the vicinity of General Thomas right, when an order was received from General Garfield, Chief of Staff, directing us to fall back to Rossville. The dusky shades of evening were just settling in the woods when we started to retrace our steps, and we had proceeded but a short distance when, at a gap in the ridge, we met a confused mass of infantry and artillery pouring out. Our command was halted to allow them to pass, and falling in their rear, moved back to Rossville, where nearly all the army had by this time been concentrated. It was 12 oclock at night when we reached there and went into bivouac.
Next morning we threw up breastworks, expecting an attack, but none was made, and that night at 12 oclock we silently withdrew to Chattanooga, reaching the outskirts of the town just at daylight.
So terminated the battle of Chicamauga. This description of it, and of the part of the Eighth Kansas took in, is necessarily but an outline sketch. Although in thus writing of it, the terrible scenes of that two days struggle on the banks of the "Dead Mans River," come up with startling distinctness, and pass in awful panorama before the vision, no pen can portray, no tongue describe, the mad excitements, the desperate struggles, the magnificent courage, the great deeds, that sprang out of the tame level of hitherto common lives, and the dreadful carnage of this red field of battle. Many incidents, indeed, are so vividly impressed on the mind that it can grasp and give them shape on paper. But the brief space allotted to this history will not permit it. Instances of personal and individual heroism, as grand as any that ever adorned the page of chivalry, could be mentioned by hundreds. But no one man could see all that transpired, and it would be invidious to mention any unless all were given that credit which is their due. It is enough to say that the Eighth nobly sustained its own reputation, and reflected immortal honor on the state.
The names of the killed and wounded are given in the accompanying report of the Adjutant General. The Eighth went into the battle with an aggregate of four hundred and six, rank and file: it lost, in killed, wounded and missing, two hundred and forty-three, or over sixty-five per cent of its total. It left the field at dark on the second day intact so far as stragglers were concerned, but fearfully decimated by shot and shell.
Lieut. Col. Abernathys brief report of the part taken by the Eighth in this engagement is as follows:
"Headquarters Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry,
"Chattanooga, Tenn., Sept. 29, 1863.
"Captain I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Eighth Kansas in the action of the 19th and 20th instants. I was not in command of the regiment until the evening of the 19th, when the loss of our brave Brigade commander threw the command of the Brigade upon Colonel Martin.
"On the morning of the 19th, after marching near eight miles, most part of the way on the double quick, we were suddenly turned to the right and marched near two miles into the timber, where we formed into line of battle facing east. Soon after being formed in line we were ordered forward, but had advanced only about fifty yards when the enemy poured a terrible fire upon us from behind a ledge of rocks where they lay concealed. Many of the men fell the first fire, but the others, promptly returning the fire, pressed forward vigorously, and not only maintained their ground, but had nearly penetrated the lines of the enemy, when our Brigade commander, seeing the terrible fire to which the line was exposed, gave the order to fall back.
"Reforming the line, we again advanced under a perfect shower of bullets, sometimes driving the enemy and in turn being driven by them, until we had fought the ground over and over again, and almost half of our number lay dead or wounded upon the field.
"The enemy being largely reinforced, we took a position further to the west, on the edge of the timber, where we resisted every effort of the enemy, and finally drove them entirely from that part of the field. We encamped with the rest of the Brigade that night close to the battle field.
"Before dawn next morning we were moved into position on the road to Chattanooga, where we remained until near 12 m., when we crossed the road and took position behind a low rail fence. Scarcely had we taken our position, however, when the enemy rose up in front of us, where they had been concealed in the tall weeds, and poured upon us a heavy fire. The fire was quickly returned and with effect, whole lines of the enemy falling at every discharge. This continued for a short time, and the enemy was almost effectually checked in our front, when the troops upon our right and left gave way, and before I was aware of the damage, the enemy appeared in heavy force upon both flanks, when, unsupported and almost surrounded, we were compelled to leave the field or fall into the hands of the enemy. We fell back in disorder until we reached the ground occupied by us in the morning, where our lines were reformed. From here we were ordered to the support of the right of General Thomas, but before reaching the field were ordered forward to this point.
"There were many instances of marked personal bravery and valor displayed on the field, but all did their duty well.
"I submit a list of the killed and wounded, which speaks for itself of the severity of the combat, and the heroic bravery with which our men contested the field. The regiment entered the battle with four hundred and six officers and men. Our loss, as you will perceive by the list, is two hundred and forty-three.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant.
"JAMES L. ABERNATHY.
"Lieut. Col. Eighth Kansas Vol., Commanding.
"To Captain John Conover, A.A.A.G., Sd Brig., 1st Div., 20th Army Corps."
Colonel Martins report of the part taken by the Brigade in the battle of Chicamauga was as follows:
"Headquarters 3d Brig., 1st Div., 20th Army Corps,
"Chattanooga, September 28, 1863.
"Captain I have the honor to report the following account of the actions of this Brigade from the time of crossing the Tennessee river up to the present date, including its participation in the engagements on the 19th and 20th instants:
"As I did not assume command of the Brigade until the 19th instant, when the brave and gallant Colonel Heg was mortally wounded, and as Capt. Henry Hauff, A.A.A.G. of the Brigade, was killed, and none of the official records of headquarters are in my possession, the report of our movements prior to the 19th may contain inaccuracies of memory, which the General commanding will readily correct.
"On the 28th of August, ultimo, the Brigade was ordered to march from Stevenson, Ala., and at 5 p.m., started, reaching the banks of the Tennessee at 11 p.m. We bivouacked for the night, and at daylight next morning were ordered to cross the Tennessee river in pontoon barges and occupy the other side. The crossing was supposed to be a dangerous enterprise, as the enemy had pickets in plain sight on the further shore, and might be in force. The pioneer brigade had during the night unloaded and got the pontoons in order. The regiments of the Brigade were divided into squads of twenty-five men, commanded by a commissioned officer, and as soon as everything was in readiness each squad launched one of the boats down the bank and into the river. They were rapidly filled by the men and started across, occupying but a few moments in the passage. As soon as the opposite bank was reached the regiments were rapidly formed, the Twenty-fifth and Thirty-fifth Illinois left on the bank to protect the shore, while Colonel Heg advanced the Eighth Kansas and Fifteenth Wisconsin across the bottom to the foot of Sand Hill mountain, keeping a strong line of skirmishers in advance. Reaching the mountain, the Fifteenth Wisconsin was left at the foot, and the Eighth Kansas advanced up the mountain road, occupying the summit at 10 a.m. The Fifteenth Wisconsin was ordered up at about 3 p.m. and at dusk the two regiments advanced about three miles across the mountain and camped, remaining in this position until the 2d instant. The Twenty-fifth and Thirty-fifth Illinois came up on the 20th. Frequent scouts were sent out from the Brigade during the time we occupied the mountain, one under Lieutenant Colonel Abernathy, Eighty Kansas, penetrating to within a few miles of Trenton, Ga., discovering a large force of the enemy.
"On the 2d inst. we marched sixteen miles to Wills Valley; on the 4th marched five miles to Winstons: on the 9th ascended the mountain and marched across fourteen miles, bivouacking at the entrance of Lafourche Gap, leading to Broomtown; on the 10th marched south along the mountain, descending into the valley through Standlfers Gap, and bivouacked near Alpine; on the 14th crossed over the mountain back to Lords farm; on the 15th marched back to Winstons; on the 16th marched over the mountains to Stevens Gap; on the 17th marched to Lees Springs; on the 18th marched four miles north on the Chattanooga road.
"On the 19th instant we marched at 8 oclock, and at half-past 11 reached a point near General Rosecrans headquarters. The Brigade filed through the woods to the right, and after marching about a mile was rapidly formed in line of battle, the Fifteenth Wisconsin, Eighth Kansas and Thirty-fifth Illinois being in line, and the Twenty-fifth Illinois, a reserve, directly in our rear. We then moved a mile to the right; then, by the left flank, forward in line. We had not advanced more than a hundred yards when the enemy concealed in the timber and behind fallen logs, opened a destructive fire on us. The men replied with promptness and effect, and pushed forward vigorously. The fire at this time became deafening. The Twenty-fifth Illinois was ordered into line, and came up gallantly. The stream of wounded to the rear was unusually large. Still the Brigade held its ground, cheered on by the gallant but unfortunate Colonel Heg, who was everywhere present, careless of danger. The enemy was constantly reinforced, and at last flanked us on the left, pouring in a deadly fire down our lines. Colonel Heg gave the order to fall back, and the men slowly retreated, taking shelter behind trees, firing at the advancing enemy, and stubbornly contesting every inch of ground. Fifty yards to the rear they were again formed and again advanced, almost regaining their original ground, but were again compelled to fall back by overpowering numbers. Again and again they formed and advanced, only to be driven back. Almost half the brigade was killed and wounded, but the remainder, falling back to a fence a short distance to the rear, held the enemy in check until reinforcements came up and relieved them, when they fell back across and open field, taking position in the edge of a forest behind a log barricade. What remained of the Brigade I here reformed with the assistance of Captain Morrison, A.A.G. of the Division, and again advanced across the field, taking our old position behind the fence, and remaining there until nearly dusk, when the ammunition of the men being almost exhausted, we withdrew to the barricade in the edge of the woods again. Just at dusk we were withdrawn, by order of General Davis, and went into bivouac.
"During the night of the 19th the Brigade changed its location, crossing the Chattanooga road and occupying a strong position on a ridge in the woods north of the road. Our ammunition was replenished to ninety rounds. At noon we received an order to support General Wood on the right. We advanced across the road again, formed in line of battle, and were then advanced to near a small barricade on the edge of the woods, fronting on an open field. Finding the barricade occupied by our troops, the Brigade moved by the rank flank to the rear of General Carlins Brigade, and was ordered to lie down in a small ravine. The order had hardly been executed, when I received an order to move back by the left flank and take a position on the left of General Carlins Brigade, the troops that occupied that position having been moved away to the left. I directed the movement, passing General Carlins position, and moving by the right flank forward to the breastworks. The three regiments on the right of the Brigade reached the barricade, but the Thirty-fifth Illinois, the regiment on the left of the line, had not reached its position, when the enemy rose up from the tall weeds in front and advanced on us four columns deep, pouring in a destructive fire. The left flank of the Brigade was entirely exposed, as the troops that had occupied that position had moved so far to the left as to be out of sight, and we were soon flanked and exposed to a destructive enfilading fire. The enemy in front was terribly punished as they came up. Our men fired coolly from behind the barricade, and with terrible effect. The Brigade held the position until the enemy had mounted the barricade, when, flanked on the left, and overpowered by overwhelming numbers in the front, they fell back in confusion, partially rallying about two hundred yards in the rear, but finding all supports gone, and the line on the left in disorder, breaking again. On the brow of the hill in the woods they again rallied and formed in line, leaving the field in rear of General Sheridans Division, which had been partially rallied at the same point.
"I enclose herewith a list of the killed, wounded and missing of the Brigade during the two days engagement. By far the larger number were lost the first day, our loss on the 20th being light. On the second day we had hardly six hundred men left in the Brigade when we were thrown into the fight. These were opposed by at least two full Divisions of the enemys army. The list accompanying shows the loss to have been fully sixty per cent, of those engaged, and amply attests the courage, stubbornness and determination with which the troops fought.
"Where all behaved so gallantly, it would be invidious to mention individuals as particularly conspicuous in their actions. The vacant ranks, eloquent with heroic memories of the dead, speak for our absent comrades. The living, who fought by their side during the terrible storm of the two days conflict, have again established the invincible courage of the defenders of the Union.
"The effective fighting force of the Brigade when it went into the engagement of the 19th instant was as follows, viz.:
Twenty-fifth Ill. Vol. Infantry: Com. officers present, 17; enlisted men present, 320; aggregate, 337.
Fifteenth Wis. Vol. Infantry: Com. officers present, 19; enlisted men present, 157; aggregate, 176.
Eighth Kansas Vol. Infantry: Com. officers present, 24; enlisted men present 382; aggregate 406.
Thirty-fifth Ill. Vol. Infantry: Com officers present, 18; enlisted men present 281; aggregate, 299.
Total: Com. officers present, 78; enlisted men present, 1,140; aggregate, 1,218.
The loss of the Brigade during the two days engagement was as follows, viz.:
Twenty-fifth Illinois: Com. officers killed, 0; com. officers wounded, 11; com. officers missing, 1; enlisted men killed, 10; enlisted men wounded, 160; enlisted men missing, 23; aggregate 205.
Fifteenth Wisconsin: Com. officers killed, 2; com. officers wounded, 6; com. officers missing, 4; enlisted men killed, 3; enlisted men wounded, 47; enlisted men missing, 49; aggregate 111.
Eighth Kansas: Com. Officers killed, 3; com. officers wounded, 9; com. officers missing, 0; enlisted men killed, 41; enlisted men wounded, 170; enlisted men missing, 20; aggregate, 243.
Thirty-fifth Illinois: Com. officers killed, 3; com. officers wounded, 5; com. officers missing, 0; enlisted men killed, 14; enlisted men wounded, 125; enlisted men missing, 13; aggregate, 160.
Total: Com. officers killed, 8; com. officers wounded 31; com. officers missing, 5; enlisted men killed, 68; enlisted men wounded, 502; enlisted men missing, 105, aggregate, 719.
"Since the battles on the 19th and 20th the Brigade has been largely recruited by returned convalescents, and by two full companies of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Volunteers, which joined us on the 21st from detached service at Island No. 10. Many of the men slightly wounded have bravely returned to duty, considerably augmenting our force. I am, Captain, very respectfully,
"Your most obdt servt,
"JOHN A. MARTIN,
"Col. Comdg Third Brigade
"Capt. T.W. Morrison,
"A.A.G. 1st Division, 20th Army Corps"
The army, as before stated, reached Chattanooga at daylight on the morning of the 22d of September. Of the forty-eight thousand men who, on the 19th and 20th, had maintained the unequal combat with ninety-two thousand veterans the flower of the rebel armies of both the East and the West eighteen thousand had dyed the field of Chicamauga with their heroic blood, and but thirty thousand men were left to hold the great objective point of our campaign. Bragg had lost in the battle fully twenty-five thousand of his troops, but he still had a largely preponderating force, flushed with what they believed to be victory, and eager to make it complete by our capture or annihilation. With this overpowering army he at once almost surrounded Chattanooga. His right rested on the Tennessee river, northeast of the town, his lines running from thence up the valley in front of Mission Ridge to the southwest, crossing below Chattanooga creek, on the south, to Lookout mountain, running over its point, and his left resting on the Tennessee in the Wauhatchie valley.
At the time our army entered Chattanooga in the grey of that chill September morning, but little had been done to prepare it for defense. There were only two or three unfinished forts on the east and south of the town. The Army of the Cumberland was therefore at once set to work throwing up fortifications. Our lines formed a half-circle, with the 21st Corps resting its left on the Tennessee, the 14th Corps in the center, and the 20th Corps on the right, its right also resting on the banks of the Tennessee. Gen Davis Division, to which the Eighth was attached, was on the extreme left of the 20th Corps, and fronted south towards the Chattanooga valley and Lookout mountain.
Since daylight on the 19th we had hardly known what it was to rest. On arriving at the town we were given two hours to sleep, cook and eat, and our Brigade was then detailed for picket duty, occupying a line running along the irregular banks of Chattanooga creek. During the morning we threw up a light line of rifle pits, half of the men working while the other half watched. At noon we were relieved from this duty by Colonel Posts Brigade, and returned to the main lines. An hour was given the worn and tired men in which to rest, and then they went to work to construct a heavy line of breastworks along their front. Until 12 oclock that night this labor was continued, the men working with that energy which is stimulated by the presence of terrible danger, and when at last orders were given to cease, and that half of the command might sleep at one time, those whose turn it was to rest sank on the cold, damp ground, and in a moment were adrift in that dull, heavy and dreamless slumber which perfect exhaustion produces.
So the siege of Chattanooga was inaugurated, and so, for a long time it continued. As one line of fortifications was completed another was commenced, and forts, redoubts and curtains were laid off and begun. The work and rest was more regular as the defences advanced to completion; we had the tours of duty divided into so many hours, and details relieved each other in rotation. But the labor never ceased, and to add to the severity of this hardship the weather turned bad; the humid clouds dropped low and flooded the flat, marshy ground where we camped with their contents; the winds came colder and colder with the breath of approaching water, and the ill-clad men, with clothing almost constantly soaked with the rain, and shivering with cold that chilled almost to the bone, huddled, when relieved from duty, around the smoldering fires, or busied themselves in constructing little huts of the boards they could gather from the debris of the wrecked houses and dismantled fields. Rations, too, grew scarce. The depot was nearly bare, and the sturdy mules of the army were dying by scores from want of food and the overtasking work of drawing loads of commissary goods from Stevenson our nearest base of supplies sixty miles away, and over two ranges of the Cumberland mountains. Gen. Rosecrans issued an order cutting down an order cutting down the rations to one third the usual amount, and prohibiting the sale to officers, no matter what their rank, of more than was issued to the private soldier. So to the horrors of bitter cold and scanty clothing, of hard work and almost constant showers, of danger and ever anxious watchfulness, was added the startling terror of want and the near approach of grim and gaunt starvation. Cattle, almost dead from lack of food were killed and their flesh doled out in stinted quantities; the hungry and tired men haunted the slaughter houses in crowds, and snatched eagerly for the hoofs, tails, heads and entrails of the animals that were butchered, cooking and eating with avidity garbage they would before have shrunk from with disgust. The writer one day saw a commissary train which had just arrived from Stevenson, and was unloading at the depot, surrounded by several hundred half famished soldiers, who eagerly snatched at and struggled for the crumbs of crackers that fell into the road from broken boxes as they were being carried into the storehouse. Behind our camp was a park of artillery horses, and over them a guard had to be stationed to keep the half starved men from taking the poor rations of corn doled out to the almost famished animals. The writer has seen soldiers during that siege eagerly picking up the few grains of corn that had been spilled by the horses from their troughs, and trampled in the mud and filth under foot. One of the regiments of our Brigade caught, killed and ate a dog which wandered into the camp.
So the long, cold, cheerless, labor-burdened days dragged slowly on. A week after we reached the town the rebels opened a fierce artillery fire on our camps, commencing at daylight. The heights of Lookout and Mission Ridge and the valley of the Chattanooga thundered with the startling crashes of the great guns. The angry cannonading was kept up until late in the night, and repeated, day by day, for some time. The men, thus accustomed to it, soon grew to regard it with indifference, and worked on the fortifications, built their shanties, cooked their scanty meals, or crowded on top of the breastworks to watch the flash and smoke of the enemys guns or the effect of our answering shots, with that reckless abandon and cool defiance of danger which only those who have long looked death in the face can feel. Instead of dispiriting, it kept them in better cheer. A bad shot from the enemys batteries provoked shouts of derision, and an unlucky duck of the head at the whiz of a far off shell was saluted with running commentaries of that keen ridicule which veteran soldiers use with such saucy and yet good humored severity.
This unfailing good humor in the midst of such gloomy surroundings, was one of the most wonderful of the many strange things connected with that memorable siege. These men had lost all regular sleep for weeks, were living on one-third rations, and were surrounded by dangers of the most disheartening king, but they never for a moment seemed to lose faith in ultimate success, never doubted the justice of their cause, never lost heart to laugh, or joke or shout or sing. Their rough jokes and odd conceits were irresistible; their pungent criticisms of men and movements were singularly clear and just; and their sparkling retorts, quaint saying, and grotesque comparisons would have done no discredit to the pages of "Punch."
By the 3d of October the breastworks were so far completed as to justify a partial cessation of the exhausting labor before bestowed on them, and thereafter details were made from regiments alternately to work on the forts in the town and its suburbs. It was still no lazy and listless inactivity, but it was luxurious ease when compared with the terrible duties of the past. Our picket duty was done by Brigades, two of the Divisions being in the second line of fortifications, the other in the first, and they alternately relieved each other every four days, thus giving to each eight days in the second line, where such ceaseless vigilance had not to be maintained, and four days in the first line, where half of the men and officers must be awake at all hours, day or night, and none of them were allowed at any moment, asleep or awake, to take off their cartridge belt and box. The Brigade on the outer lines had also to furnish two regiments for picket guards, and on this duty no rest was allowed during the twenty-four hours. The two Brigades in the second line of defences furnished the working details, comprising about half their effective force each day.
On the 2d of October the besieged army was rejoiced to learn that the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps of the Potomac army had arrived at Bridgeport, twenty-three miles below. On the 6th of the same month Gens. McCook and Crittenden were relieved of their commands, and an entire re-organization of the army was announced, the three Corps being consolidated into two the Fourth and Fourteenth the former being placed under the command of General Gordon Granger, and the latter under General George H. Thomas. Previous to this time, each Brigade had been composed of from four to five regiments; after the consolidation they consisted of from eight to ten. Col. Martins Brigade was consolidated with Gen. Willichs of the same Corps, and the new Brigade was afterwards known as the First, of the Third Division, Fourth Army Corps, the Division being commanded by Brig. Gen. Thos. J. Wood. The position of nearly all the troops was changed by this consolidation, but of course slowly, and it was not until the 20th that we were relieved and joined our new Brigade on the extreme left of the line, about a mile and a half or more from our old location. We now fronted Orchard Knob and Mission Ridge, our line resting against Fort Wood, the largest and most important fortification in Chattanooga. On the same day that we changed camp Gen. Rosecrans was superseded in command of the Army of the Cumberland by General Thomas, and on the 23d General Grant arrived in Chattanooga and assumed command of all the forces in the Department.
On the night of the 26th General Hazens Brigade, or our Division, floated down the Tennessee in pontoon boats and effected a landing at Browns ferry, just below the spur of Lookout Mountain, holding the point until assistance came to them, and Hookers forces were established in the Wauhatchie valley. The opening of a new route via Browns ferry so improved the facilities for supplying the army that on the 12th of November the rations were increased from one-third to two-thirds. This increase was a gratifying one, as the men were gradually but surely failing strength and health for want of adequate food. Thereafter, though supplies were not abundant, they were sufficient.
General Sherman reached Chattanooga on the 15th, and his army arrived on the 21st, going into camp on the north side of the Tennessee. Rumors that an attack would soon be made on the rebel positions at once became prevalent.
On the 23d of November the Eighth Kansas went on picket duty at daylight, relieving the Thirty-fifth Illinois. The picket line of the regiment covered the front of the Brigade, and ran along the embankment of the Atlantic and Western railroad from north to south. The morning passed in dull monotony, only the usual relieving of sentinels every two hours breaking the sluggish duty of waiting and watching. But just at noon a staff officer of General Willichs came out bringing intelligence that a strong reconnaissance was to be at once made to develop the forces of the enemy in our front; that our Division, whit that of General Sheridan, would move out and form line before the breastworks, and that at the sound of the bugle the picket line of the Eighth was to be advances as rapidly as possible, its right flank directed on Orchard Knob, a small circular mound some three-quarters of a mile distant. The instructions were also to take Orchard Knob and the line of breastworks running over it, which was the first one of the rebel defences, if possible; if this could not be done with our force, to await the arrival of the main line of battle.
While the troops of the two Divisions were forming in front of the breastworks, a fresh supply of ammunition was hastily issued to the Eighth, and the picket reserves were doubled on the advanced skirmish lines. A moment later and the Brigade bugle sounded "Forward!" the regiment bugles answered it, swelling its clear, startling notes into the full volume of wars most stirring music, and the first movement towards raising the siege of Chattanooga was commenced. Over the embankment and across an open field our brave boys poured with irresistible enthusiasm. The rebel rifles rang out clear and sharp, and the "ping" of their leaden messengers greeted the blue-coated column with their defiance and defence. They answered with a cheer and a volley as our men rushed on. The field was crossed, the woods beyond reached, and then for a moment a stubborn struggle ensued, and a deafening crash and roar followed, as the rebels strove to check this impetuous charge. But Kansas led the van that day, and the fighting blood of the old Eighth was at fever heat. The rebel horde could no more stem the torrent that struck them than they could check a bursting billow with a feather. Our men dashed forward right on to their line so fiercely and rapidly that one-half of them were captured, and the rest broke in wild confusion to the rear. A quick race through the woods ensued, and meantime the heavy guns of Fort Wood let loose their thunders; the ugly whiz of their shells as they sped on towards Mission Ridge was answered by the still uglier whiz of those from the enemy, tearing and crashing through the forest overhead and around. But the fleeing rebels never stopped until they reached their reserves behind the line of entrenchments running over Orchard Knob. Here another struggle came; fierce volleys poured out, and a louder and denser crash and roar rose up, but with a ringing cheer our boys rushed on like a furious flood; again the rebel line faltered, broke and fled, and Orchard Knob was ours. Never stopping, our men pushed on until they had driven the enemy fully a hundred yards beyond, and beneath the shelter of their second line of breastworks. Our skirmish line was then established, and the Brigade coming up, formed in position behind the captured works.
The position gained was an important one, and its loss was severely felt by the enemy. Orders were at once issued to hold it at all hazards. It was in fair range of the batteries on Mission Ridge, as well as those in the valley, and the enemy at once opened upon it a most terrible artillery fire. The Eighth was relieved on the skirmish line shortly after the successful termination of its brilliant advance, and returned to the main lines at Orchard Knob. Furious was the fire now poured upon this position. Solid shot and shell thundered on to it and over it, knocking the stones in every direction, and making the boughs of the trees around it fly as before the breath of a hurricane. From the front, and from far up and down the valley, the great guns vomited forth their fury. The men, however, had nothing to do but to keep under cover as much as possible, and so, lying on the ground behind the works, or hugging closely the trunks of trees, they waited until this iron hail had slacked in its furious peltings. It lasted but an hour or so, and fortunately the loss, terrible as was the fire, was slight, only five or six men in the Brigade being killed or wounded.
That night the command worked until about 1 oclock completing a formidable line of breastworks, and placing a strong abattis in front of them. A battery was also brought out and placed on the Knob. The picket line was strengthened, and half the men were allowed to sleep. All were aroused half an hour before daybreak and stood to arms to guard against attack.
The morning dawned cold, dark and cheerless. At intervals during the day a drizzling, chilling rain fell, and the troops huddled around their half smothered fires, shivering with cold. The enemy kept up an irregular cannonading during the day, adding to the dreariness of the surroundings.
It now became evident that Orchard Knob was to become the centre of operations. From its top a full view of the whole length of Mission Ridge and the valley in its front was obtained, and far off to the reign and rear was Lookout Mountain, also plainly in sight. Early in the morning the headquarters of Generals Grant and Thomas were established on the Knob. A signal station was also established behind it, from which messages could be exchanged with nearly all parts of our lines. And on that small mound were gathered, at intervals during the day, the men whose directions guided the movements of the great armies of the Union. Howard, Hooker, Sheridan, Wood, Shurz, Willich, Zazen, Harker, Granger, Palmer, Baird, and many other General Officers, whose deeds have made their names immortal were there during the day. Sherman, Davis and others were off to the right.
At dawn that morning Sherman crossed 8,000 men to the south side of the Tennessee in pontoon boats, and occupied the detached hills on the left of Mission Ridge. In the afternoon Hooker, with the Twelfth Corps, a Division of the Sixteenth, and another of the Fourth Corps, assaulted and carried the enemys position on Lookout Mountain. The conflict was plainly seen from Orchard Knob, and was watched with the most intense interest until the clouds that enveloped the summit of the mountain swept down and hid the combatants from sight.
Another night came on, and slowly wore away its chilly, dismal hours. Camp fires would have been comfortable, but they would also have afforded the enemy excellent marks, and they were prohibited. So the men shivered with the chill until dawn. The occasional whiz of a shell from Mission Ridge, and the usual rattle of skirmishing alone disturbed the stillness of the quiet night.
At daylight it was discovered that the enemy had removed all his artillery to the summit of the Ridge, leaving only infantry below. They had also materially strengthened their entrenchments on the hill. Early in the morning Shermans forces assaulted the enemys right on Mission Ridge, and a fierce battle ensued, lasting until noon, but our troops were repulsed with severe loss, although they gained some important positions and advantages.
In front of our lines the Ridge, running parallel with them, was of nearly equal height for a long distance. Small promontories, however, jutted out into the valley at irregular intervals. On those points and in their centre the rebel batteries were posted. Between our position and the Ridge was, first, a dense wood covering a broken country; then a wide, open field, and then came a slight, abrupt rise of ground, on the top of which was a strong line of earthworks. Behind this was a plateau, probably a hundred yards wide, on which, until after our first advance, the rebel camp had been located. Beyond this the Ridge rose, ragged, broken and steep, to the height of nearly five hundred feet. Its summit crowned by a line of entrenchments. From our own works to the top of the hill, every inch of ground could be covered with the converging fires of dozens of batteries, and from the edge of the forest in our front every foot of the way was within fair range of the more destructive muskets.
At about 2 oclock General Grant ordered General Thomas to advance his lines, and the troops were immediately formed in front of the breastworks. Our Division was directly before Orchard Knob, and our Brigade occupied the centre of the Division, which was formed in two lines.
The definite instructions were that the six pieces of artillery on Pilot Knob would be fired in quick, regular succession, and at the sound of the sixth gun the whole army was to advance. At last the expected signal came. Simultaneous and clear followed the orders of the regimental commanders "Forward, guide centre, march!" and the lines moved off. A few moments passed in silence. Then, through the branches of the leafless trees, we saw a bright flame leap out and a dull grey smoke curl up all along the summit of the Ridge; a crash like a thousand thunder claps greeted us; solid shot went screaming through the timber, and hurtling shells exploded above and around the lines, sending their scattered fragments shrieking through the air like a legion of demons. Without an order the line broke into a double quick brave fellow, they knew the work before them was quick success or sure destruction. The rebel pickets, too, opened fire, but the puny crackle of their muskets was drowned in the terrific thunder of the heavier guns. Our men did not even answer their fire by a single shot, but with arms trailing or on the right shoulder pressed onward, leaping over the fallen timber and brooks and crowding through the briars and brush that lined the way, until they burst like a thunderbolt out of the woods and into the open field. Then from the whole line there rose a loud, hearty, ringing cheer, and on they swept. In the field the columns were caught in the fiercer fire and leaden sleet from the rebel line at the foot of the hill, and soon in the still deadlier volume of musketry from its summit. But there was not a waver or a pause in the stern advance nor a straggler from it. In a few moments our men were nearly across the field. There was a break in the grey lines behind the rebel works; a few rushed to the rear, and with frantic eagerness began to climb the slope, but nearly all, throwing down their muskets, and holding up their hands in token of surrender, leaped to our side of the entrenchments and cowered behind them, for the hail of bullets now rained down from the hill was as deadly to them as to us. The first line was won, but behind it there not room for both forces, and seeing this Adjutant Washer, of the Eighth, dragged one of the prisoners from his place and ordered the whole of them to the rear. "You have been trying to get there long enough," he said, "and now charge on Chattanooga!" Off the fellows scampered towards the lines we had left behind.
We had no directions to go beyond this line of works, and a brief halt was ordered; but it was instantly seen by every soldier in the ranks that no line could live there, ranked from every direction as it was by both artillery and infantry. Almost simultaneously several regiments moved forward towards the hill, and as if animated by a common impulse, all followed grim and silent, with compressed lips and eyes fixed on the goal before them, they breasted the fiery sleet of battle and commenced the steep ascent. From behind the rifle pits on the summit shot and shell rained down upon them in a ceaseless torrent, and the roar of the contest grew deafening. Owing to the nature of the ground all regular formations of lines were soon lost. Great masses of men, who had crowded together in the places easiest of ascent, were climbing the steep at intervals and rising in their efforts to be first. Regiments were so intermingles that their organization and unity soon disappeared, though the greater portion of each clustered around their battle flags, and these were in every ease ahead. Gradually these groups look the form of a wedge or triangle, the apex being the regimental battle flag. The progress was necessarily slow. Above, the summit of the hill was one sheet of flame and smoke, and the awful explosions of artillery and musketry made the earth fairly tremble. Below, the columns of dark blue, with the old banner of beauty and of glory leading them on, were mounting up with leaning forms, each eager with desperate resolution to be first. Cannon shot tore through their ranks; musket balls were rapidly and fearfully decimating them; behind them, the dead and wounded lay thick as autumn leaves; before them, death was reveling in a whirlwind of carnage; but the lava-flood of battle pouring down upon them no more checked the grand advance than if it had been the softest rain of summer. The writer saw a rebel column charge over a field at Chicamauga with desperate bravery and in the face of a deadly fire, but the men came on with faces averted and arms thrown before their heads, as when men protect themselves from the peltings of a hail storm. But at Mission Ridge our men looked death squarely in the face without a waver. Their eyes were fixed steadily on the blazing heights, and they moved forward with a courage as cool and devoted as it was sublime.
Our Brigade went up in the centre of one of the half-circular bends of the Ridge. On the right of us Hazens men breasted a point; to the left Beatty also had a headland. Between an Ohio regiment of Hazens Brigade, and one or two or ours that had their flags well ahead, there sprang up a fierce rivalry as to which should be first planted on the rebel lines. At last but a dozen yards separated the line of grey and the columns of blue, while the flags of the Eighth Kansas, Sixth and Forty-ninth Ohio and several other regiments were but a few yards from the red clay banks that were belching forth streams of fire and sulphurous smoke. With a wild cheer and a madder rush our men dashed forward, and for a few moments a sharp, desperate, almost hand-to-hand fight with bayonet and ball ensued. Before this resistless assault the rebel line was lifted as by a whirlwind, and borne backward, shattered, bleeding and confused. In quick succession half a dozen Union battle flags were planted upon the works, and in a moment more the foemen were hurrying down the hill on the opposite side and off into the woods beyond. Our men were about starting in pursuit, as, in the excitement of the moment, no one had observed how the attack on either side was progressing, but they were quickly reminded of it by the ugly whiz of cannon balls coming from the left and passing directly down our lines. The men were rapidly formed, and we were preparing to move down the breastworks to the left, while Hazens men did the same on the right, when suddenly the whole rebel line gave way. Then followed a scene of tumult and confusions which baffles description. Grey clad men rushed wildly down the hill and into the woods, tossing away knapsacks, muskets and blankets as they ran. Batteries galloped back along the narrow winding roads with reckless speed, and officers, frantic with rage, rushed from one panic-stricken group to another, shouting and cursing as they strove to check the headlong flight. But all in vain. Our men pursued the fugitives with an eagerness only equaled by their own to escape; the horses of the artillery were shot as they ran; squads of rebels were headed off and brought back as prisoners, and in ten minutes all that remained of the defiant rebel army that had so long besieged Chattanooga was captured guns, disarmed prisoners, moaning wounded, ghastly dead, and scattered, demoralized fugitives. Mission Ridge was ours, and the victory brought all the results of perfect triumph. Over the hills to far away Knoxville, where Burnside was suffering as we had suffered, the route was clear; and forty pieces of artillery, many thousands of small arms, and large numbers of prisoners were the substantial results of the fight. The Eighth Kansas captured four pieces of artillery, five hundred stand of small arms, and more prisoners than it had men in its ranks. The regiment also claims to have planted upon the rebel breastworks the first Union colors that waved there.
So, running through a period of two months and five days, ended the terrible siege of Chattanooga. The march from our lines at Orchard Knob to the summit of Mission Ridge occupied just one hour and fifteen minutes.
Colonel Martins official report of the part taken by the Eighth in this engagement was as follows:
"Headquarters Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry,
"Chattanooga, Nov. 27, 1863
"Captain I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry in the late battles:
"On the morning of the 23d instant the regiment was ordered on picket duty, and was on the outer lines when, at noon, orders for the advance were received. The Brigade shortly afterwards marched out and formed in rear of the picket station. I was directed by General Willich to strengthen my outpost picket line by doubling the picket reserves on it, and then to move forward rapidly until I reached the enemys first line of entrenchments. This was immediately done, and at the signal the line advanced. We at first met with a stubborn resistance, but we pressed forward with such impetuosity that the enemy broke, and we drove them nearly a mile and a quarter, passing their first line of works at Orchard Knob before they could wholly recover from their confusion. Our skirmishers passed on over a hundred yards beyond this line, the Brigade occupying the enemys works. Our loss in this days fight was but three men wounded. We captured some forty prisoners and wounded about a dozen of the enemy.
"During the night of the 23d and until noon on the 25th we remained at this line, strengthening it by various additions. Shortly after noon on the 25th we were ordered to advance on the enemys position at the foot of Mission Ridge, and moved out of our works, forming in the second line of battle. We then advanced steadily in line through the woods and across the open field in front of the enemys entrenchments at the foot of the hill, subjected during the whole time to a heavy artillery fire from the enemys batteries and as soon as we reached the open field to a destructive musketry fire. Reaching the first line of works, we halted to rest our men for a few moments, and then again advanced through a terrible storm of artillery and musketry to the foot of the hill and up it as rapidly as possible. The crest of the Ridge at the point where we moved up was formed like a horseshoe, we advancing in the interior, while the enemys batteries and infantry on the right and left, as well as in the centre, poured upon us a most terrific fire. But the men never faltered or wavered, although from the nature of the ground regiments were mingled one with another, and company organizations could not possibly be preserved. Each man struggled to be first on top, and officers and men of the regiment, without a single exception, exhibited the highest courage and the most devoted gallantry in this fearful charge. The enemy held their ground until we were less than a dozen yards from their breastworks, when they broke in wild confusion and fled in panic down the hill on the opposite side. A portion of our men pursued them for nearly a mile, capturing and hauling back several pieces of artillery and caissons which the enemy were trying to run off.
"We occupied the summit of Mission Ridge until the night of the 26th, when we were ordered to return to camp at this place.
"Our loss was one commissioned officer wounded and three enlisted men killed and thirty-one wounded. The regiment went into the battle with an aggregate effective force of two hundred and seventeen men and officers.
"Where all behaved with such conspicuous courage it is difficult to make distinctions, but I cannot forbear mentioning my Adjutant, Lieut. Sol. R. Washer. Wounded at Chicamauga, and not yet recovered from the effects of this wound, and suffering from a severe sprain of the ankle, which prevented his walking, he mounted his horse and rode through the whole battle, always foremost in danger. Maj. Ed. F. Schneider also left a sick bed to go to the battlefield. The line officers present, Capt. Jas. M. Graham, company C; Capt. John Conover, company F; Capt. Robert Flickinger, company G; Capt. Samuel Laighton, company A; Lieut. Marion Brooks, commanding company I; Lieut. Wm. H. Babcock, commanding company K; Lieut. William S. Newberry, commanding company H; and Lieut. Rowland Risdon, commanding company E; all behaved with marked gallantry and courage. Sergeant William Melchert, commanding company B, and Sergeant Thomas Adamson, commanding company D, should also be mentioned for conspicuous gallantry and courage.
"I send accompanying a list of killed and wounded.
"I have the honor to be, Captain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
JNO. A. MARTIN
"Col. 8th. Kan. Vol. Inf., Commanding
"Capt. Carl Schmidt, A.A.G., 1st Brig. 3d Div., 4th Corps."
The Eighth was specially complimented by Gens. Willich and Wood for its action in this engagement, as well as by disinterested spectators who witnessed the battle. The correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial thus speaks of the first days advance.
"Wood moved with a part of Hazens Brigade on the right, and Willichs on the left, Gen. Sam. Beatty being in reserve. The Eighth Kansas did the skirmishing for the entire line, and did it in the usual admirable style of that fine regiment. The enemy was of course encountered before the first hundred rods was traversed, and the whole of Woods front became immediately engaged. He pushed forward rapidly driving the enemy before him into their rifle pits."
The special correspondent of the New York Tribune, who witnessed the assault on Mission Ridge from the summit of Orchard Knob, in the course of his description says:
"The distance between the rifle pits and our skirmishers was probably not to exceed three hundred yards. In less than ten minutes the rebels began to leave and climb the abrupt slope of the hill, in desperate eagerness to gain the main line Hardees Corps on the top. Cheer on cheer now go up from the attacking columns, and a galling fire is poured in on the fleeing rebels. But not all escape, for so sudden was the advance that many prisoners were taken in the pits. Notwithstanding the order was to halt at the rifle pits, in the eagerness of the pursuit it seems to be forgotten, and the chase is kept up with vigor. In the center, where Woods Division is advancing, some of his men are already half way up the rugged steep. The elevation is almost five hundred feet. Glancing up and down the ridges slope you see a score of battle flags, some further advanced than others; one or two so far ahead of the supports, save a few impetuous spirits who seem determined to scale the heights first, that the attempt seems mere hardihood. From the crest of the Ridge the rebel artillery now belch forth more furiously than ever, and rain the iron hail on the masses below. And yet there is no wavering or the sign of it. Cheer on cheer roll in waves up and down the advancing line. The right, the center, the left now go forward in order to support those who seem to have pushed too daringly to the assault, in the determination to be first to make the ascent where the foe was in force. The battle flags are now seen everywhere, and those that have been carried with so much daring almost to the crest now receive salvos of cheers. In the center the Sixth Ohio, Hazens Brigade, Woods Division, has from the first been ahead, the object of special interest, and those who have watched their progress, while they have admired their bravery, have almost regretted their impetuosity; for it can scarcely be otherwise than they will be hurled back by an overwhelming force the moment they reach the summit. To the left of this regiment is the Eighth Kansas, sharp competitors in the race, whose colors have been carried so defiantly ahead. Volleys of musketry are poured down on the column of attack, which makes no reply but right on."
We remained in our camps at Chattanooga until 3 p.m., on Saturday, when our Corps moved out, en route to Knoxville, to relieve Burnside. The line of march lay through Harrisonville, Decatur, Sweet Water, Morgantown and Maysville, to Knoxville, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. We reached the latter place at noon on the 7th of December. The winter march was a very severe and trying one. The weather was exceedingly cold, and the men were inadequately supplied with clothing or blankets. Their shoes were almost worn out, and the rough, hard-frozen roads bruised and tore their feet as they progressed, leaving many a blood stain in their tracks. The troops lived on the country, as only three days rations were supplied on leaving Chattanooga. Forage details were sent out every day, scouring the country for miles on each side of the route, and bringing in whatever they could find flour, meal, live stock, vegetables, &c. Although at times our meals were scant, the fare was a decided improvement on the living at Chattanooga, and all relished the change.
We remained in camp south of Knoxville until the 16th of December, when we crossed the Tennessee river, marched through the city, and to Blains X Roads, about fourteen miles northeast. While the command lay at Knoxville the regiment was on several scouts and foraging expeditions, once perpetrating nearly to the North Carolina line.
On Christmas day we moved four miles to Strawberry Plains, at the junction of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, and here the regiment was at the close of the year 1863. During the year the following changes occurred in the regimental and company organizations:
Lieutenant Colonel James L. Abernathy resigned November 8, 1863. Major Ed. F. Schneider promoted to Lieutenant Col. and Captain James M. Graham to Major, December 22, 1863. Second Lieutenant Sol. R. Washer, company E, promoted to First Lieutenant and Adjutant, July 16. John Paulson appointed Chaplain July 4. Samuel E. Beach appointed Assistant Surgeon May 25; died of disease at Chattanooga, November 4. Geo. W. Hogeboom, Assistant Surgeon, discharged to accept promotion, May 24. Adjutant Washer wounded at Chicamauga, September 20.
Aggregate strength of the regiment, December 31, 1863, five hundred and eighty-three. Present for duty, one-hundred and ninety-nine. Ninety-eight men died of wounds or disease during the year, and sixty-eight were discharged for disability.
Company A No change in officers. Second Lieutenant Seth Foot wounded at Mission Ridge.
Company B Captain David Block resigned May 13; First Lieutenant Alten resigned May 26, Second Lieut. Claudius Keifer promoted to Captain May 14, and Sergeant Mayor Z. Burkhardt promoted to Second Lieutenant same day, Lieut. Burkhardt promoted to First Lieutenant and First Sergeant Wm. Baker to Second Lieutenant, May 29. Captain Keifer severely wounded at Chicamauga. First Lieutenant Burkhardt mortally wounded and taken prisoner at Chicamauga, died at Atlanta, Ga., October 28. Second Lieutenant William Baker deserted in September.
Company C Captain Graham promoted Mayor December 20. First Lieutenant John G. Bechtold resigned June 3. Second Lieutenant R.R. Bridgeland promoted to First Lieutenant and Corporal Wm. Becker to Second Lieutenant, June 20. Lieut. Becker died of disease at Nashville, Nov. 21, 1863.
Company D Captain A.W. Williams dropped from the rolls in January. First Lieutenant S.B. Todd promoted Captain April 20, and resigned September 15, 1863. Second Lieutenant John L. Graham promoted to First Lieutenant April 30, and to Captain September 15, killed in battle at Chicamauga, September 19. First Sergeant Phillip Rockefeller promoted to Second Lieutenant April 20, to First Lieutenant September 15, and to Captain November 4. Commissary Sergeant V.S. Fisk promoted to First Lieutenant November 4.
Company E Captain John Greelish severely wounded at the battle of Chicamauga. Second Lieutenant Sol. R. Washer promoted First Lieutenant and Adjutant July 16.
Company F Second Lieutenant J. Milton Hadley discharged to accept promotion in August. First Sergeant A.E. Beardsley promoted Second Lieutenant August 19. Severely wounded at Chicamauga, September 20.
Company G Captain N. Harrington and Second Lieutenant Joseph Randolph resigned September. First Lieutenant Robert Flickinger promoted Captain, and First Sergeant David Baker promoted First Lieutenant, September 10. Lieut. Baker severely wounded at Chicamauga, September 19.
Company H Captain Edgar P. Trego killed at Chicamauga, September 19. First Lieutenant Frank Curtis wounded at Chicamauga, September 20.
Company I Captain Henry C. Austin severely wounded at Chicamauga, September 19. Second Lieutenant Byron Slemmens wounded same day.
Company K Captain William E. Hurd resigned July 16. First Lieutenant and Adjutant James E. Love promoted Captain July 16. Captain Love severely wounded and taken prisoner at Chicamauga, September 19.
The winter spent in East Tennessee was a very severe one. The cold was intense, and the army was but illy equipped. Long use had almost worn out the shelter tents of the men, and their clothing was in tatters. Of blankets, there was scarcely one for every two soldiers; their shoes were nearly all soleless, and their heads were covered with the ghosts of what had once been hats, some destitute of tops, some without rims. At an inspection held at Strawberry Plains it was found that only about thirty men of the Eighth had shirts constant use for months had worn out the others. Yet they were never despondent. They made the best of everything, and joked about their condition when they could not mend it. They constructed "nests" of cedar boughs, weaving the branches so closely and thickly that the wind could hardly penetrate them; they built primitive cabins of logs, thatched with beef hides and adorned with mud chimneys; they burrowed in the ground like rabbits. Danger could not daunt them nor could hunger they had faced unflinchingly the storms of battle and bore unmurmuringly the privations of siege; now snow and sleet and rain alternated day after day, chilling their bodies to the very bones, but never the generous ardor of their souls. The suffering that was incident to this winters campaign cannot be described, but the rudest and coarsest soldier in the ranks seemed to feel a solemn pride in the fact that they formed part of the Grand Army which held in its hands the destinies of the great Republic, and they rose to the glory of the epoch in which the lived. In their countrys service danger was laughed at, privation was welcomed, and suffering was accepted with cheerful resignation. The more they braved and endured, the nearer and dearer the Nation and its flag seemed to be to their hearts.
The duties of this camp were not light. All the mechanics of the regiment were detailed to assist in the construction of a bridge over the Holston, and the services of a large number of laborers were also required. Almost daily, too, scouts and foraging parties were sent out, making long, cold and wearying marches through all parts of the country.
About this time the order for the organization of veteran regiments was issued, and the old soldiers were again appealed to give three years more to their country. There was no hot enthusiasm to impel them to this step, as when they first enlisted, nor did they take it, as then, unconscious of the terrors and vicissitudes inevitable to a soldiers life. They had learned what war was on fields where the heavens were blackened and the earth shook with the mad wrestle of contending armies; they knew that it was no holiday parade, glaring with lace and tinsel and bright with trappings, but a hard, stern, painful struggle, terrible in its grim realities. But with a heroic self-sacrifice, that seems more than human, and has no parallel in all the records of the world, these men responded with cheerful alacrity to this fresh appeal to their patriotism, and devoted themselves anew to the deprivations and hardships of camp and march and to the possibility of disaster and death. On the 4th of January, two days after the order was read to them, four-fifths of all the members of the Eighth then present re-enlisted as veteran volunteers. A cause, which, in the immediate presence of such adverse circumstances, could command such unfaltering devotion, needed no other prophecy of triumph, and the soldiers who thus grandly dedicated their lives to their country, need no eulogy. Their action surpasses eloquence.
On the 9th, Gen. Wood having received a leave of absence, Gen. Willich assumed command of the Division, and the command of the Brigade devolved upon Col. Martin. Lieut. Col. Schneider being absent on leave, Maj. Graham assumed charge of the regiment.
On the 19th the army moved toward Dandridge, our Brigade having the advance, and reached that place at 12 m., next day. On the 16th our outpost cavalry pickets were attacked by Longstreet, and there was heavy skirmishing during the whole day. The Brigade stood to arms in the evening in expectation of battle, but none resulted. At noon next day the fighting was resumed, the enemy slowly but steadily driving back our cavalry, until at evening, his lines were not more than a mile and a half from the infantry forces. Our troops were several times drawn up in order of battle, in readiness for the contingency of attack, but the enemy seemed to content himself with pushing back the cavalry to within striking distance. Early in the evening Gen. Parke (who was in command of the "Forces in the Field," Gen. Foster being sick at Knoxville) called a Council of War, and to the astonishment of everyone, finally ordered a retreat that night. What we ever came to Dandridge for was an enigma, but this movement was incredible. Our Division, however, was ordered to cover the retreat, and our Brigade was detailed as rear guard. Long and full of anxiety were the hours that night, as we waited and watched while the other troops got off, and day was breaking in the east before all were fairly on the road and orders came that our Brigade could follow.
The Eighth had gone on outpost picket duty with the Fifteenth Wisconsin at about 12 oclock at night, relieving some regiments of Gen. Sheridans Division. They were at once ordered in, and on their arrival the Brigade moved on, taking its position in the rear of the army. The night had been clear and cold, but just as we started a drizzling, chilling rain commenced falling, continuing during the whole of the day.
The position of rear guard to a retreating army, although the post of honor and of danger, is a most disagreeable one. The anxiety wears worse than the excitement of battle. On this occasion it was peculiarly annoying. The rain soon told on the yielding, sticky soil, rendering the road almost impassable. A large train had been placed in the rear of all the troops except two brigades of our Division, and Gen. Hazens Brigade had to be deployed alongside of it to keep the wagons, which stuck fast every few rods, out of the mud. We had not progressed more than three miles when the enemys cavalry appeared in sight. A small force of cavalry, sent to report to Col. Martin and act as rear videttes, proved worthless, as it was constantly crowding on to the infantry, and reporting the enemy preparing for a charge when he was warily keeping his distance. They were finally sent to the flanks of the column, and two companies of the 89th Illinois took their place.
We moved so slowly that at noon we had not traveled over six miles. By this time a large cavalry force had concentrated in our rear and seemed preparing for an attack. Two regiments were rapidly formed in line, one on each side of the road, but the enemy, seeing these dispositions for battle, contented himself with firing a few volleys at long range, and halted where he was. After waiting a short time the Brigade moved on. The enemy continued to hover in our rear until 4 oclock, when he disappeared. At night we went into bivouac some six miles from Strawberry Plains, having made one of the most disagreeable of marches. The evening turned clear and cold, our bivouac fires were lighted, the scanty meal eaten, pickets put out, and the exhausted troops were soon asleep. We awoke in the morning to find about four inches of snow on our blankets. The command was so completely worn out with the fatigues of the previous day, that few knew of the snow fall until the bugle aroused them at daylight. The snow formed a warm covering, keeping out the wind, and we slept as soundly as though in a comfortable room wrapped up in quilts and blankets.
We started on early next morning, General Hazens Brigade relieving us as rear guard. Near camp we found an artillery caisson, abandoned by some Division ahead, and, determined that nothing should fall into the hands of the enemy, the men attached ropes to it and hauled it to Strawberry Plains. This days march was hardly less disagreeable than the one preceding it. The snow melted early in the morning, and the roads were exceedingly slushy and muddy. We crossed the bridge at the Plains about noon, and marched to Flat Creek, three miles beyond, where we camped for the night. Next day, to the great joy of the command, a lot of new clothing and an abundant supply of shoes, sent forward from Knoxville, were received. They were distributed during the forenoon, and late in the afternoon we marched, but traveled only about four miles that evening. Next day we were en route at 7 a.m. This morning dawned clear and beautiful, the air just cool enough to make marching pleasant, and the men, now well supplied with clothing, were in high spirits. We reached Knoxville before noon, and passing through the city, crossed the river and went into camp in a fine woods about two miles out on the Savierville road. We remained here during the whole of the next day, receiving another supply of clothing and blankets, so that the troops were abundantly provided for. On the 23d we started, early in the morning, for Maysville, under orders to go into winter quarters at that place. After a march of eleven miles we camped. That evening an order was received directing the Eighth Kansas to proceed to Chattanooga, there to be mustered in as veterans and return home on furlough. It was joyous news, and was received with tumultuous enthusiasm by the men.
Next morning, just after daylight, having bid good-bye, to the old and dear companions of many marches and dangers, the Eighth, with banners flying and band playing, moved out of camp, amid the cheers and "God-speeds" of the other regiments, homeward bound. It reached Knoxville at 1 oclock, and early in the evening went into camp five miles beyond. Next day it traveled twenty-three miles, bivouacking at Woods Hill; and the next, at 2 oclock, reached Kingston. As no rations could be supplied to last us while marching to Chattanooga. It was determined to await here the arrival of a boat, and Lieutenant Fisk, Acting Q.M., was sent to London to secure an order for transportation. He returned the next evening, and before daylight on the 28th we were embarked on the "Lookout" and steaming down the Tennessee. We reached Chattanooga on the morning of the 23th at 10 oclock, and went into camp on the banks of the river south of town. A number of our officers and men wounded at Chicamauga rejoined us here.
The work of making out enlistment papers, muster rolls, etc., was at once commenced, and on the 8th of February Captain Wells, Commissary of Musters, mustered in two hundred and five men of the Eighth as veteran volunteers. The rolls were approved the next day, and on the 11th the regiment was paid in full to the date of its reinlistment, including bounties due. On the 13th we received marching orders for home, with transportation on the cars to Nashville, and the next morning started, reaching Nashville at ten and a half oclock that night. The men were comfortably quartered in barracks, and for the first time for nearly two years slept with a roof over their heads.
The following day the regiment was visited by hundreds of its old friends, and the citizens generally took pleasure in welcoming it back. The managers of the theatre extended it a complimentary invitation to attend the performance that evening in a body, and reserved seats for the whole command. We drew new clothing for the men that day, the officers were paid off on the 16th, and next morning the regiment embarked on the steamer "Hawkeye" for St. Louis. On the night of the 18th it reached Cairo, and finding the river so full of ice that it was impossible for the boat to proceed, the command had to take the cars. At noon on the 19th we got off, and at daylight next morning reached St. Louis.
Here we found our old commander, General Rosecrans, and received an invitation to accompany him to Alton to attend the Sanitary Fair then in progress there, on Washingtons birthday. The invitation was accepted, and the regiment embarked on a splendid steamer, acting as the Generals special escort. On arriving at Alton it was received and handsomely entertained by the Tenth Kansas, then on duty at that post. Next morning it returned to St. Louis, where the citizens gave it a fine reception and dinner at Turners Hall. The same evening the regiment took the cars, and on the morning of the 25th reached Atchison, Kansas. A magnificent reception was given it in that city. The streets were adorned with flags, cannon were fired and bells rung, and a large concourse of people assembled to welcome and greet the command. An eloquent reception speech was made by Judge Horton and briefly responded to by Colonel Martin, after which a sumptuous dinner was provided. The regiment was generously entertained until next morning, when it took the cars and proceeded to Fort Leavenworth. On the Monday following the Eighth had another splendid reception at Leavenworth City, the militia of the town, the post garrison at the Fort, and thousands of people taking part in it. Hon. Thos. P. Fenlon delivered a beautiful reception speech, and a bountiful dinner was spread in Turners Hall.
On the 1st of March the command received a furlough for thirty-five days, and officers and men quickly and quietly dispersed to their respective homes.
On the 5th of April nearly all the men had reassembled, and the commanding officer reported to the Provost Marshall General for orders. On the 12th the regiment was instructed to proceed to Chattanooga, and transportation was at once applied for, but we were delayed until the 20th awaiting the arrival of a boat. That day the command embarked on the "Jennie Dean," and on the evening of the 24th reached St. Louis. Next morning it was transferred to the steamer "Sunshine," and on the evening of the 28th reached Nashville. There it received orders from Major General Sherman to escort a pontoon train to the front, and on the afternoon of the 1st of May left the city, marching out about five miles. Next day it marched sixteen miles; the next passed through Murfreesboro, and camped eight miles beyond, having traveled nineteen miles, and the next it reached Shelbyville, seventeen miles. At 7 a.m. on the 5th it left Shelbyville, and at noon on the 7th reached Tullahoma, where it was compelled to remain during the whole of the next day and repair the wagons of the train. Early on the morning of the 9th the regiment moved on, and on the evening of the 10th reached Cowan at the foot of the Cumberland mountains. The roads were bad and the train a heavy one, so that we were much delayed by its slow movements.
On the 11th we commenced the ascent of the mountain. A heavy rain had fallen during the night, adding greatly to the difficulty of moving the wagons up the precipitous roads. The distance to the summit is only a mile and a half, but the road steep, winding and narrow, was now slippery as glass, and it was impossible for the mules to draw the wagons. Long ropes were consequently attached, and the men slowly and laboriously dragged them up the mountain sides. As there were some fifty wagons in the train, this task was difficult and exhausting, but it was completed just after dark, ant the regiment camped directly over the great railroad tunnel.
The descent was even a more difficult undertaking than the ascent. Next morning (12th) at daylight it commenced. The distance to Tantalon, the first station on the east of the mountains, is only about eight miles, but we were until noon on the 14th in reaching that place. The road was the worst that could be imagined, and our men had to repair or corduroy nearly every foot of it. At times it was so precipitous that the wagons had to be let down as they were before dragged up, with long ropes attached, by which the men held back. When we reached Tantalon there was scarcely a wagon that did not need repairs, either the wheels, tongues or reaches being broken. We were consequently compelled to remain at this place repairing damages until the 16th. On the afternoon of that day we started on, and on the 17th reached Stevenson; on the 18th Bridgeport; on the 19th camped five miles beyond Shell Mound; on the 20th beyond Raccoon range, and on the 21st, at 3 p.m., reached Chattanooga. Here we received orders to thoroughly repair the train and bring it through to the front.
We remained at Chattanooga until the 9th of June, awaiting the completion of this work. During that time opportunity was afforded to visit the battle fields of Chicamauga and Mission Ridge. We had watched the heights of the latter so long during the siege, that every outline of it was familiar. It looked as of old, only that hostile bayonets no longer gleamed in the sunshine along its winding roads and foot paths, and hostile guns no more awakened the slumbering echoes of the peaceful valley beneath it.
But of the fields of Chicamauga and their surroundings we knew little. Only amid the wild excitement of battle had we ever seen them, and such opportunities of inspection are not favorable. We now revisited this ground, made truly sacred soil by the loyal blood which crimsoned it on those September days. Where the Eighth fought we found the whitened skeletons of its glorious dead lying on the spots where treasons bullets struck them down, covered with a few loose stones, the only sepulchre that rebel barbarity provided. About twenty-five bodies were identified by peculiarities of form or remnants of clothing, and some by surviving comrades who knew the places where their companions fell. Details were sent out, and the remains of all were carefully collected and brought to Chattanooga, where they were interred in the National Cemetery. The graves of all recognized were marked.
The field of Chicamauga seen at this time was horrible to look upon. Foemen were sleeping their last sleep peacefully side by side, but the rebels were all decently buried, while the Union dead were nearly all unsepulchered. The ground was strewn thick with the mounds of earth covering the forms of the one and the heaps of stone piled above the remains of the other.
Every tree and shrub in that part of the woods where the Eighth fought during the first day was cut by bullets or torn by cannon balls, and it seemed a miracle that any one could have come out of that fearful fire unharmed. In the trunk of one small tree, not as large around as a mans body, the writer counted the marks of thirty musket balls, and there were few that were not as badly perforated. In front of the regiments first line of battle was a heavy line of breastworks, constructed of the trunks of trees and concealed by an abattis of branches. When this was built we could not tell, but if before the battle, it was a great advantage, if during the night that succeeded it, it furnished conclusive evidence that the rebels were whipped the first day, and thought only of defence.
On the 9th of June the regiment, in compliance with orders received that day, started to rejoin the Brigade, but had proceeded only about eight miles, when it was overtaken by a courier and ordered to await the arrival of the pontoon train and escort it safely through to the front. The train overtook it on the evening of the 10th, and next morning at daylight it was again on the way. That evening it camped beyond Ringgold, Ga., on the 12th reached Dalton; on the 13th Resaca; on the 14th Adairsville; on the 15th Kingston; on the 16th Cartersville, and early on the morning of the 17th Etowah Bridge. Orders received at Cartersville directed us to report at Etowah to Colonel Buell, commanding Pioneer Brigade, and we found him awaiting us. On the afternoon of our arrival we moved on, camping that night on the top of Altoona Mountain, near the station of the same name. Next morning we were en route at daylight. Just after starting a heavy rain set in, continuing during the whole day. The mountain road soon became exceedingly bad, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that any progress was made. The wagons stuck fast, and it was impossible for the mules to pull them. The men were compelled to aid in dragging them along, and even then so slow was the progress that it was nearly dark when we reached a point only two miles beyond Altoona. Here we received an order from General Sherman, forwarded by courier from Etowah, directing us to remain with the train at the bridge until further instructions were sent. It should have reached us the day before, and as we had gone so far, and over the worst part of the road, the quartermaster in charge of the train was sent to Big Shanty, General Shermans headquarters, to report our situation and ask further orders. Her returned next evening at dusk, with instructions directing that the train be turned over to Colonel Buell, and that the regiment return to Etowah without delay. We started back early next morning, and reached our destination before noon. This sudden change was based on information received that a Division of rebel cavalry had been ordered to destroy the important bridge over the Etowah.
The regiment remained at Etowah until the 26th, occupying the time in constructing a strong line of breastworks and making a number of scouts into the surrounding country. On the afternoon of the 26th, we received orders to at once rejoin our Brigade, and within an hour were on our way. That night at 10 oclock we bivouacked beyond Altoona; next day, marching through Ackworth and Big Shanty, we camped three miles beyond the latter place, and Saturday morning, at 8 oclock, reached our Brigade in front of Kennesaw Mountain. The regiment was greeted with warm enthusiasm, and most cordially welcomed. General Willich had been wounded at Resaca, and the Brigade was then commanded by Col. Wm. H. Gibson, 49th Ohio.
Next morning, (29th) it went on picket duty, relieving the 32d Indiana. We found the hostile lines very close, and both our own forces and the rebels strongly entrenched behind formidable earthworks. Firing was constant, and hardly a moment passed that a shell did not scream along overhead or a vagrant Minnie whistle by. Every day several men of the Brigade were wounded, and as the enemy had lately taken to night attacks, not one came without bringing an alarm. During the time the army remained in this position the Eighth went on outpost duty every alternate day. It was singularly fortunate in not losing a man, although many had escapes so narrow that they seemed miraculous.
On the 2d of July, General Sherman, deeming the enemys lines too strong to carry without a great and unnecessary loss of life, determined to flank him out of his position, and the Army of the Tennessee commenced a movement from the extreme left, passing in rear of our army, to the extreme right. Our Corps was directed to extend its lines so as to cover, as far as possible the works left vacant by McPhersons columns, and in this movement the position of our Brigade was changed, after dark that night, to a place about a mile and a half further to the left, near the extreme left flank of our army. Next morning at daylight it was discovered that the enemy, alarmed at the movement threatening his left flank and communications, had hastily abandoned his strong position at Kennesaw, and fled. Our Brigade skirmishers, on moving forward, went unopposed into his works, capturing nearly two hundred stragglers.
The army was at once put in motion southward, and passing through Marietta at about 10 oclock, moved to a point known as Smyrna Camp Ground, where it was discovered that Johnson had made a halt behind another strong line of earthworks. Stanleys and Newtons Divisions, of our Corps, did very heavy skirmishing all day, but our Division was not engaged.
We went into bivouac at 5 p.m., and remained stationary until 1 p.m. next day, when, under a brisk skirmish fire, we were put into position on the extreme left of the army, and threw up, in about an hour, a strong line of earthworks, fronting the enemy. The Division lost a number of men that day, but the Eighth, although on the front line, sustained a loss of only one officer (Captain Austin, Co. I.) who had incautiously ventured far to the left and front, alone, and was captured.
During the night of the 4th of July the rebels again fell back, and at daylight in the morning we started in pursuit. General Hazens Brigade had the advance, and did some sharp skirmishing, losing a number of men, but driving the enemy before them to the banks of the Chattahoochie river, near Vinings Station. The Eighth went on picket duty shortly after striking the river, but did not establish the line until after dark, when, in the face of a furious fire from the opposite bank, our men digged a line of rifle-pits along the Northern shore, and as soon as they were occupied opened a rapid and steady fire. This was kept up constantly until dark next evening, when the regiment was relieved.
We remained in camp at this point until the 10th, when we moved, in the midst of a drenching rain, to a position five miles further up the river. At 10 oclock on the 12th we marched down the river about two miles, to Powers Ferry, where the Pioneer Brigade was engaged in putting in a pontoon bridge. It was completed in a few hours, and we crossed to the south bank, moving out about a mile and a half. There we threw up a line of breastworks, but next morning left them and marched about two miles to the front and right, where we constructed another strong line of entrenchments. The right of the regiment was here resting on a hill just above the Chattahoochie, and running thence East.
Lieut. Col. Schneider had resigned while the regiment lay at Chattanooga, and at this camp Major Jas. M. Graham received a commission and was mustered in as Lieutenant Colonel.
On the 17th at daylight our Division moved South, along the banks of the river, to cover the crossing of the 14th and 20th Corps at a point opposite our old camp ground near Vinings. Companies F and I were on the skirmish line during the day, and did some brisk skirmishing, capturing several prisoners. On reaching the designated point our lines were established, and in less than an hour we completed a very strong line of entrenchments in an impregnable position. A pontoon bridge was put down about the middle of the afternoon, and as soon as the 14th Corps crossed we were relieved, and returned to our camp.
Next day the army moved southward, and that night our Division bivouacked at Bulkhead, six miles out. There was considerable skirmishing during the day. At 5 oclock next morning we again marched, leaving behind our blankets, knapsacks and shelter tents, and soon reached a point near Peach Tree Creek. The enemy had a formidable line of rifle-pits constructed along the south bank of the creek, and was evidently resolved to make an effort to hold them. Our skirmish line was cautiously advanced until it occupied a position close to the creek, when it opened upon the enemy such a brisk fire that they could hardly show a head above their works. Several batteries were also brought down, and opened a vigorous fire.
After a careful reconnaissance General Wood directed the skirmishers to make a crossing, if possible, and our Brigade, with Beattys was moved down to their support. The skirmish line was doubled, and at the signal, dashed forward, fording the creek in the face of the enemys fire, and obtaining a position under the bank, where they were, in a great measure, sheltered, and from whence they opened so hot a fire that in a few moments they abandoned their works and fled to the rear, taking shelter in their main lines. The two Brigades were all at once moved across the creek, and to the brow of the hill just above it, where they built a strong line of breastworks, finishing them so as to afford good protection in about twenty minutes. In this short but spirited engagement, a rebel Lieutenant Colonel, two Captains, two Lieutenants and about forty enlisted men were captured, and a number killed and wounded. Our Brigade lost two men killed and fifteen wounded, the Eighth lost two men wounded. We occupied this position until dark, working on the entrenchments all the time. We were then relieved by Hazens Brigade, and returned to our camp at Bulkhead.
At 5 on the morning of the 20th we marched southeast about two miles, relieving Stanleys Division with our Brigade, and occupying a line of breastworks built by it. To do this the men were deployed in single file, and our line was consequently very weak. The firing between the pickets was kept up all day, and balls were constantly flying through camp. About noon a furious assault was made by Hood on the 14th and 20th Corps, his main attack being hurled against the position our Brigade had captured on the previous evening. He was repulsed with great slaughter, and that night abandoned his entrenchments south of Peach Tree Creek, falling back to another line about three or four miles from Atlanta. Our pickets discovered at daylight that the enemy had gone, and we at once moved forward, crowding the rebels back until they could go no further without an attack in force. Our lines were then established, and heavy breastworks thrown up. The Eighth had three men wounded during the operations of this day.
At 12 that night Captain Brooks, who had charge of the pickets of the Eighth, reported that he believed the enemy was again falling back, and was instructed to at once advance his lines and ascertain. He moved forward and occupied their works without opposition, remaining there until morning. The Division then started on, and at 9 a.m. struck the enemys main lines in front of Atlanta in the midst of a terrible artillery fire of shell, shot, grape and canister [few words missing] iced to within five hundred yards of the enemys works [few words missing] hundred yards from their picket pits, where we constructed a strong line of breastworks, completing them so as to afford fair protection from musketry fire within fifteen minutes. Our men had, by this time, become so skillful in the building of defensive works that the celerity with which they would complete a line was wonderful. The regiment lost, during the day, three men wounded.
For thirty-three days we occupied this position, and during that time there was hardly a moments cessation to the firing, nor an hour when danger was not hovering, like a sombre cloud, over our lines. Day and night musket balls were flying in every direction through our camp, and artillery was thundering in our ears. The awful crash of bursting shell and the ugly whiz of solid shot, tearing through the dense wood and stripping great boughs from the trees as though they were thistledown, made our waking hours one constant peril, and robbed even the darkness of its solemn silence and sleep of its grateful and refreshing repose. Men were killed and wounded on the picket lines and in camp; while cooking their meals at noonday and when asleep in their shelter tents at midnight. The dark angel of death brooded over this place of slaughter like a terrible fate, his wings never lifting their shadow his wrath ever eager for blood.
For six days the fire of the enemy was particularly severe. The line of the Eighth ran east and west. Directly on its right flank was on open field, stretching back about two hundred yards to the rear and about fifty to the front. On moving into position the troops on our right found this field so hot that they did not attempt to cross it, but established their skirmish line on the edge of the woods just back of it. Consequently the 89th Illinois and 15th Wisconsin, originally placed in reserve in rear of the Brigade, had to be moved into position forming a right angle with the right flank of the Eighth, running directly back until they connected with the east and west line of Newtons Division. Until the 28th the lines remained thus, and the enemys pickets, running along the edge of the woods facing the field on our right and not fifty yards distant, enfiladed the camp of the Eighth with a constant fire, at such short range that exposure above the breastworks was exceedingly hazardous. This finally became unendurable, and as the troops of the Division on our right would not relieve us by advancing their lines and driving the enemy from their rifle pits it was resolved to dislodge the rebels by an advance of our own men. On the 28th, therefore, the picket line was strongly reinforced, and several companies of the Eighth and the 89 Illinois moved up a ravine on our right, under cover of the woods, and forcing the enemy from their picket pits at that point, moved to the West, skirmishing their whole line for some distance, driving them back in confusion, and making prisoners of a number. Our men held the line, after taking it, until dark, when the troops on our right were ordered to relieve us. The Eighth lost three men wounded in this advance.
This important change gave us relief from the terrible and close enfilading fire to which we had before been subjected, and although musket balls continued to fly through the camp at all hours they were aimed at random and from a much greater distance, so that our men were far more secure. But the fierce artillery fire continued as annoying as at first.
On the 2d of August our Division was ordered to make a feint, along the whole front, on the enemys lines, as it was supposed (the Armies of the Tennessee and of the Ohio having moved from the left to the right, leaving our Corps on the extreme left of the army [few words missing] have greatly weakened his forces here, in order to meet [few words missing] movement of Howard and Schofield. Our pickets were strongly re-enforced, and at the sound of the bugle moved forward with impetuous enthusiasm, capturing the enemy's rifle pits, with nearly all their occupants. Captain Kiefer, of the Eighth, mistaking the orders, and supposing an attack on the enemys main lines was intended, rushed his pickets far in advance, approaching to within eight yards of the strong and almost impregnable fortifications around Atlanta, and only retreating when, after receiving two severe wounds, one in the leg and another in the arm, he found that the troops on the right and the left had halted at the enemys picket line. The regiment had one man killed and five wounded, in addition to Captain Kiefer, during this advance.
From this time until the 25th of August the position remained unchanged. The terrible monotony of artillery and musketry firing continued, on both sides, with unabated severity, but the rebel lines had been driven back so far that their small arms, although sometimes annoying, were much less dangerous. The days were crowded with anxiety, and the nights afforded no relief. During the whole siege one-third of all officers and men in the main lines were constantly on the alert, with arms in hand and accoutrements slung, ready to meet an attack, and the picket details were very heavy. The weather was intensely hot; the camp, despite all exertions to prevent it, became filthy; and sickness soon began its ravages among the troops, worn out by had duty and increasing vigilance, debilitated by poor fare, and suffering from the combined effects of the fervid Southern heat and the foul atmosphere in which they lived.
They hailed with delight therefore, the order for the movement to flank Atlanta, and on the night of the 25th of August, at 10 oclock, were quietly withdrawn from the works, moving to the rear of the 20th Corps, and about a mile to the right. The pickets were left in their places until about 1 oclock, when they noiselessly followed, and rejoined their commands. Early next morning the enemy discovered the change, and opened a heavy artillery fire on the works north of town, evidently supposing that our troops had moved that way. Our Corps lay in line of battle, facing east, for two hours, and then moved in a southwestern direction, bivouacking that night about thirteen miles from the old camp. Next day it moved southeast about eight miles, to a place some six miles from Eastpoint, skirmishing with the enemy all day. That evening the command threw up a line of defensive works, but early next morning moved again, marching south three or four miles, when it struck the Montgomery Railroad, at Red Oak Station, and completely destroyed it for ten miles. The 29th was spent in maneuvering about, within a radius of six miles, and on the 30th the Corps moved about nine miles in a southeasterly direction, bivouacking near Shiloh Church. The Eighth went on picket duty in the evening, and during the whole night rebel columns were moving along its front, southward, and about two miles distant.
On the 31st the Regiment moved, in advance of the column, to the Macon Railroad, and the work of destroying this road was commenced. While this was going on a train of cars from Atlanta came down, but discovered our troops soon enough to reverse the engine and get back to the town. Next morning our Corps moved along the railroad towards Jonesboro, near which place Hardees command was strongly entrenched. The army at once commenced closing around the rebels, and at 4 oclock the 14th Corps charged their works, capturing a number of guns and prisoners. The Eighth Kansas was, during the afternoon, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, without an opportunity of returning it, as the Regiment was in the second line of the Brigade, in an open field, where the men were compelled to lie flat on the ground, for several hours, as the only protection from the fire that swept over them.
During the succeeding night, at about 12 oclock, the sound of heavy and ominous explosions far to the north, aroused the whole army, and lighted up the heavens with great brilliancy. It afterwards proved that Hood, outgeneraled by this flank attack, was blowing up his magazines, burning his stores, mills, machine shops, and cars, and escaping southeast with the troops that had remained at Atlanta.
On the morning of the 2d, our command entered Jonesboro and pushed southward seven miles, to a point near Lovejoys Station. There it again struck the enemy, strongly entrenched on the ridge of a pine forest, his flanks well protected by Flint river and Walnut creek. Our lines closed in on him, and were formed in readiness to charge the works, which they occupied until the 5th under a heavy fire both night and day, and constantly on guard to repel attack or ready for an advance. Seven men of the Eighth were killed and wounded during the 3d and 4th.
On the morning of the 5th the whole army started back to Atlanta, entering the place on the 8th, with bands playing and colors flying, and amid the cheers and rejoicings of the soldiers who had at last won the right to rest, after so long and arduous a campaign, by the capture of the point they had set out for months before.
Thus terminated the operations against Atlanta. The Eighth Kansas was, from the 28th of June until the 5th of September, a period of sixty-nine days, under fire for sixty-three days and forty-four nights. It built, during that time, two thousand six hundred and eighty yards of breastworks, and rifle pits without number. During the thirty-three days it lay in front of Atlanta, its loss, out of a total effective force of about two hundred and twenty-five men, was one officer wounded and one captured, and eight enlisted men killed and thirty wounded. Aggregate loss during the campaign, 2 commissioned officers and 36 enlisted men.
The army, after reaching Atlanta, was camped in line from Decatur to Eastpoint. Our Brigade had a very pleasant and beautiful location at a point about four miles east of the city, near McPhersons battle ground of the 22d of July. Hood was near Rough and Ready, some twenty-five miles south. The duties in this camp were light and the repose and quiet after the fatigues and excitements of the past two months and a half was very grateful to the troops. The army was soon again in excellent condition. New clothing was rapidly forwarded, full rations were issued, and opportunity was afforded for drill.
Lieutenant Colonel Graham resigned on the 25th of September, and (Colonel Martin having some two weeks previous assumed command of the Brigade) the command of the Eighth devolved on Major John Conover. Captain Austin, who had been captured at Smyrna Camp Ground, was exchanged and rejoined the regiment at Atlanta.
The quiet of our camp was rudely broken on the night of the 2d of October by an order to march at daylight on the following morning. It took us entirely by surprise; as, although vague rumors of intended movements of the enemy to our rear had been floating through the army for several days, we had given them not much credence. But we were off at the appointed hour, and passing through Atlanta, moved north towards the Chattahoochie, leaving us no longer in doubt as to our destination. The whole army, with the exception of the 20th Corps, which was left to garrison Atlanta, was in motion. At noon we took dinner on the banks of the Chattahoochie, near Vinings, and at 4 p.m., went into camp behind the old rebel works at Smyrna Camp Ground, twenty one miles from our camp in the morning. At daybreak next day moved on, and at 3 p.m., reached the old rebel line at Kennesaw Mountain, where we camped. We arrived there just in time to see from the summit of the mountain the rebel army engaged in destroying the railroad from Big Shanty, seven miles north, to Ackworth. Gen. Sherman arrived simultaneously with our Corps, which had the advance of the army.
Next morning at about 8 oclock we moved on, marching in a northwest direction to Pine Top, where, at 2 p.m., we went into camp. During the forenoon the rebels made a furious assault on Alatoona Pass, but were repulsed with great slaughter, and our signal officers reported them in the evening retreating rapidly towards the southwest. During the night it rained in torrents, and continued with few intervals during the two succeeding days, rendering any movement of our trains and artillery almost impossible. We therefore remained at Pine Top until 2 p.m., of the 8th, when we marched to Ackworth, about nine miles. We remained there until the 10th, at 2 p.m., when we again moved on, passing over the Alatoona range, crossing the Etowah at our old camp ground, and bivouacking near Cartersville, sixteen miles distant, at about 10 oclock at night. Next day we marched to a point three miles beyond Kingston, and on the next to Rome, twenty-three miles southwest, reaching camp at 12 oclock at night. This march was a very hard one. The day was cold and disagreeable, a drizzling rain falling during several hours, and the delays were exceedingly annoying, the trains and artillery sticking fast in sloughs every few moments. The men were utterly exhausted when we reached camp.
We remained at Rome until 2 p.m., next day, when reports were received that the enemy had attacked Resaca, and was in strong force north of that place. We marched at once, our Corps in advance, and going thirteen miles north, camped at 10 p.m. Before daylight next morning we were off again, and passing through Resaca, we camped at 3 p.m., four miles north of the place, having marched twenty-four miles. The rebel attack on the town was apparently a feint to cover their movements, and under cover of it they had totally destroyed the railroad to Tunnel Hill, capturing the garrisons at Tilton and Dalton.
At 8 oclock next morning (16th) we were off, moving northwest. Leaving Dalton to our right, we faced directly towards Rocky Face Ridge, a precipitous range of hills running south from near Ringgold, and only passable though gaps at wide intervals. Those the enemy held in strong force. The Army of the Tennessee moved into position opposite Snake Creek Gap, the 14th Corps opposite Dug Gap, and our Corps feinted the heights between the two. At 12 m., Gen. Sherman directed a movement to force a passage over the hills. The 14th Corps was suddenly withdrawn and joined ours, and the two, without a single piece of artillery, moved directly up the precipitous hill side, taking the enemy by surprise and forcing him to hastily evacuate the Gaps he held and fall back, to prevent our troops from closing in on his rear. The movement was executed without the loss of a single man, as the enemy, never dreaming of such and attack, had no troops on the hill.
When this advance was commenced, Col. Martin was detailed by Maj. Gen. Stanley to take charge of all the artillery and wagons of the Corps, and escort them back to Resaca, covering the movement with his Brigade. Accordingly the trains were moved out, the artillery following, and the infantry bringing up the rear. At 9 oclock that night we reached and took position behind the old rebel line of fortifications. A large force of rebel cavalry was several miles, on the same side of the Ridge, but they gave us no trouble, as was apprehended. Next morning we moved through Snake Creek Gap, and at 9 oclock that night joined our Corps near Villanow, having marched twenty miles.
We remained at Villanow until the morning of the 18th, when we marched through Fricks Gap and thence southward, traveling twenty-three miles that day, and going into camp at 7 p.m. On starting, orders were issued that the army must live on the country, and from that time, for several weeks, we foraged for supplies.
On the 11th we marched nine miles to Summerville, and the next day twenty miles to Gaylesville, Ala. Here we remained until the 27th, when our Corps marched to Alpine, Ga., seventeen miles distant. Next day we marched to Lafayette, twenty-one miles, and the next day to Rossville, near Chattanooga, twenty-four miles. At daylight on the 30th we marched into Chattanooga, where our Division took the cars and proceeded to Athens, Ala., which place we reached at 6 a.m., on the 31st. The same afternoon, at 2 oclock, we started northward and marched thirteen miles. Next morning, at 4 oclock, we were again on the way, and at 4 p.m., reached Pulaski, Tennessee, having marched twenty-five miles, fording Elk river on the route.
While at Gaylesville Maj. Conover was promoted to be Lieut. Colonel vice Graham, and Captain Henry C. Austin to be Major vice Conover.
On reaching Pulaski the Division was placed in position to the west of the town, and after a rest of two or three days commenced the construction of a formidable line of forts and breastworks, which were completed on the 10th.
On the 17th of November Colonel Martin was mustered out on expiration of term of service, having served three years and twenty-one days. He bid farewell to the Regiment and Brigade next day, and left for the North on the morning of the 18th. Thereafter the Eighth was under the command of Lieut. Col. Conover. He was afterwards commissioned as Colonel by the Governor, but the regiment was below the minimum number required to allow an officer of that rank, and he could not be mustered in.
Nothing of importance occurred during the time the regiment remained at Pulaski. The defensive works were soon completed, and the men made as comfortable as circumstances would permit. The camp was a pleasant one, and the rest grateful and refreshing.
On the 23d or November the army received orders to march. Hood had, some days previously, crossed the Tennessee near Florence, Ala.., and was then at Laurenceburg, fifteen miles wet of Pulaski, advancing towards Nashville via Columbia. The two armies were about equally distant (twenty-four miles) from the latter place. At 2 p.m. the command got off, and after a march of thirteen miles bivouacked for the night. At daylight next day it was on the road, and at 11 oclock reached Columbia, just one hour in advance of the enemy, who was traveling on a parallel road. The troops were at once formed in line of battle to repulse attack, but the rebel General, although he took up a position during the afternoon, made no further demonstration. Next morning, however, he drove in the pickets on one portion of the lines, and a lively skirmish fight was kept up for an hour or so, but no general engagement ensued. That night our troops constructed a strong line of works on the south side of Duck river and these were occupied until the night of the 27th, when the army crossed to the north side of the river, and another line of works was thrown up. These were occupied until the night of the 29th.
During the previous night the enemy threw a pontoon bridge across Duck river, four miles from our left flank, and on the morning of the 29th moved a column towards Spring Hill, seeking to gain the rear of our army and cut it off from Nashville. He still, however, kept a strong force in our front, compelling our lines to hold fast where they were until dark. One Division under command of Gen. Stanley was, however, moved to Spring Hill, accompanied by all the surplus artillery of the Corps. It reached its destination about noon, and moved east two miles where it struck and checked the head of the enemys column. To this bold movement the forces remaining at Columbia are probably indebted for their safety, and Nashville for an escape from rebel occupation.
At 1 oclock on the morning of the 30th the troops put in motion, Woods Division, to which the Eighth was attached, covered the rear. This march was one of singular delicacy and danger. The enemy had by this time crossed the greater part of his forces to the north side of the river, and were camped within one mile of Spring Hill, and nine miles north of Columbia. At this point our troops moved on the pike for a full mile, within six hundred yards of their camps. Their bivouac fires were burning brightly, and it was evident that they did not suspect that the hated Yankees were even then silently slipping out of the trap so cleverly prepared to catch them. Their astonishment next morning must have been intense.
At about 3 oclock a.m. the command reached Spring Hill, and halted until daylight to allow the wagon train to get on the road. It then moved on, and at noon arrived at Franklin. As Woods Division had been covering the retreat on the march to this point, it was ordered to the north side of the town as a reserve. Hardly had it reached this position, when the enemy assaulted the Union lines south of the town with the greatest fury and impetuosity. A desperate and terrible battle ensued, but the rebels were repulsed in every assault, and finally withdrew.
Before daylight next morning (December 1st) the army was en route towards Nashville, Woods Division again covering the rear. At 3 p.m. it reached that city, having marched eighteen miles. The enemy did not seriously trouble the column during this movement. He had been so severely punished on the previous day that his approaches were wary and hesitating.
On the night of the 1st the troops were quietly formed about Nashville. The Eighth Kansas occupied a position on the grounds known as the Acklin place, and was the second regiment to the left of the Hillsboro pike. Strong defensive works were at once erected, and there seemed to be a chance that the enemy would attack them a prospect that delighted the men, who had built dozens of lines of breastworks, and charged many built and defended by the enemy, but had never had an opportunity to fight behind their own.
By the 4th Hood had his forces fairly in position, and began to feel the lines for weak places and to gain advantageous ground. Picket firing was kept up constantly, day and night, at a distance of not over two hundred yards, but the enemy did not make any serious assault.
So affairs continued until the 15th. On the previous night orders were received that an advance would be made on the enemys position next day in force, and at daylight all was in readiness. At about 10 oclock a.m. the Brigade to which the Eighth was attached charged the enemys works on Montgomery Hill. This position, about three hundred yards distant from our advanced lines, was considered the strongest on the enemys front. The space intervening between it and our pickets was covered with a thick undergrowth of honey locusts, which materially impeded the movement of troops, but the men advanced in fine order and with splendid enthusiasm, and although greeted with a terrible fire of musketry and artillery, carried the enemys works in less than ten minutes. The Brigade commander gave to the Eighth the credit of being the first regiment to enter the rebel works. Its loss, considering the nature of the ground and the sweeping fire of the enemy, was slight, but one man being killed and two wounded. The regiment captured in this charge forty prisoners.
Our forces remained on Montgomery Hill about two hours, and then, as the right of the Division wheeled to the left, conformed to its movement, which brought the Brigade near the enemys second line of breastworks. The whole army was then executing a grand left wheel movement. At this juncture a Brigade to the right which had been lying down, rose and made a feint of advancing, when Lieut. Col. Conover, taking it for a genuine start, and not wishing to be behind, ordered the Eighth to charge. The men greeted the order with a cheer, and moved forward with that splendid courage which always distinguished them. Although the enemy poured into their advancing line a rapid and heavy fire, it reached without serious loss, a piece of ground about two hundred yards o the front of the Brigade. A few moments later the Brigade charged, and the Eighth, having the advantage of its previous start, was again the first regiment in the enemys works, the rebels breaking in wild confusion before its impetuous and irresistible charge. It pursued the enemy for nearly half a mile, capturing ninety prisoners. Its successful charge also compelled the abandonment of a battery of brass field pieces, which fell into the hands of our forces. The other troops of the Division halted in the captured works, to which the Eighth shortly afterwards returned. The command bivouacked there for the night. The Eighth lost seven men wounded in this charge.
At daylight next morning (December 16th) preparations for another advance were made. Early in the morning a heavy rain commenced, and cold, drenching showers made the operations of the day exceedingly disagreeable. The army was this day making a grand right wheel. At about 11 a.m. brisk skirmishing commenced, and at 12 the Brigade struck the enemys main works, located on a range of hills four miles south of Nashville. The position of the Eighth Kansas was on the Franklin pike, near the Four Mile House. From noon until 3 oclock the musketry and artillery fire was very heavy, but the troops were kept under cover as much as possible. At 3 p.m., Colonel Posts Brigade was ordered to charge Overton Hill, and Col. Streights Brigade was ordered to support it in this movement. Everything being in readiness the column, seven lines deep, two regiments front, charged the enemys position. The Eighth was on the right of the fourth line. In this formation the troops moved down the left side of the pike on the rebels, who were posted behind high breastworks, crowned with head logs, and protected in front by a dense abattis.
In a few moments the charging column was enveloped in a terrific fire of musketry, grape and canister. The roar of the battle was deafening, and for fifteen minutes the bullets rained upon the devoted men with such fury that it seemed impossible for any one to escape. Col. Post, who commanded the column, was severely wounded early in the fight, and the first line, which he led was broken. The horses of Col. Conover and Adjutant Washer, of the Eighth, were shot under them. The second, third and fourth lines, advancing to where the first had broken, got into confusion among the fallen timber and abattis and huddled together. It was now seen that in this situation the enemys strong, almost impregnable position could not be carried, and Lieut. Col. Conover asked permission of Lieut. Col. Williams, commanding the fourth line, to retire his regiment and reform it. The order was given, when the whole force fell back, moving in comparatively good order to a point a short distance in the rear. The troops were then immediately reformed and at once ordered to charge the enemys works again. At this moment, however, the rebel position to the right was carried, and his whole line broke in confusion. The Brigade joined in the pursuit, following the retreating foe to Brentwood, where night overtook it, and the troops went into bivouac in a cotton field ankle deep with rain. The Eighth Kansas lost in the charge on Overtons Hill two commissioned officers wounded and nine enlisted men killed and nineteen wounded. Its total loss in the two days battle was two commissioned officers wounded and ten enlisted men killed and twenty-eight wounded. Its total effective force engaged was only one hundred and forty.
During the desperate charge on Overtons Hill, the colorbearer of the Eighth, Sergeant John Binger, planted his flag on a ledge of rocks far in advance of the lines. The ground all about him was cut with shot and shell, his colors were riddled, and his clothing torn with bullets. Of the five Corporals of the color guard, one, Simeon Shafer, was killed, and two, William Spencer and Lewis V. Bryan, were wounded, the latter in three places; but they kept the flag of the regiment blazing in the fore front of this awful battle storm, defying danger and death, until peremptorily ordered to fall back. First Sergeant Harrison Jones, company F, was slightly wounded and taken prisoner, but when the enemy gave way he escaped, and with Corporal William K. Greenwood, company C, who had remained on the skirmish line, made prisoners twenty-three rebels and brought them in. Corporal Henry D. Ellison, company H, also remained on the skirmish line, and with one man of the 16th Ohio captured and brought in three commissioned officers and eighty-three enlisted men of the rebel army as prisoners. There were many other instances of personal heroism exhibited by officers and men, but it would occupy too much space to detail them all. Let it suffice to say that in this battle the Eighth nobly sustained the reputation it had gloriously won.
The battle of Nashville utterly destroyed Hoods army. All that was left of it was totally demoralized and scattered in almost every direction. Broken in spirit and bankrupt in fortune, its pride humbled, its morale destroyed, nearly all of its artillery captured, one-third of its soldiers taken prisoners, its falling back was not a retreat, it was a panic; not a march, but a rout. The rebel Army of the West was by this one terrible blow ground to atoms, dishearted, crushed. Not alone its haughty and reckless leader, but its equally proud and desperate men went down, never to rise again, before the legions of the Union.
Lieut. Col. Conovers official report of the part taken by the Eighth Kansas in this engagement is as follows:
"Headquarters Eighth Kansas Vet. Vol. Inf.,
Near Huntsville, Ala., Jan 7th, 1865
"Sir I have the honor to report the part my Regiment took in the recent campaign against the enemy under Gen. Hood.
"On the morning of December 15th, 1864, we were under arms in our line of works in front of Nashville, and east of the Hillsboro pike, until 9 a.m., when I moved out and formed the Regiment in line of battle in front of the works, conforming to the movement of the line on my right. Remained in this position until 10 oclock a.m., when, according to orders, I ordered Capt. Balderston, with thirty men, to form skirmish line and cover the front of the Regiment. All being in readiness we advanced with the line to charge the enemys works on Montgomery Hill, which we took. We re-formed in the captured works; lay in this position until 3 oclock p.m., when, by conforming to the movements on our right, we gradually approached to within four hundred yards of the rebel second line. We lay in this position, under brisk fire, about thirty minutes, until the forces some distance on our right (beyond the hill on the Hillsboro pike) started the rebels from their works. At this instant the left of the Second Brigade, which was on our right, made a feint to charge. We, taking it as real, charged down the slope, through a heavy fire, to a ravine equi-distant between our position and the enemys line. Being the only Regiment in the advanced position, we lay down, and took cover about three minutes from the storm of musketry aimed at us. As soon as there was a lull in the enemys fire, we arose and charged their works, which we carried, capturing about ninety prisoners, who immediately threw down their arms. We pressed on beyond the works of the retreating enemy to a ravine about four hundred yards distant, from which place we kept up a fire on them as they ascended the opposite slope. Here Major Dawson, of the Corps staff, ordered me to fall back, and take a position in line with the Brigade. No troops either on our right or left were in the works as soon as my regiment, excepting those on the hill far to our right. WE lost this day one killed and nine wounded.
"December 16th my Regiment was in the second line of the Brigade. Moved, at about 8 oclock a.m., into line of battle two miles down the Franklin pike, confronting the enemy on Overton Hill. Lay in this position until 2 oclock p.m., when the Second Brigade was ordered to charge the Hill, and our Brigade to be the supporting column. The Brigade being formed in three lines, the 89th Illinois and Eighth Kansas composed the second line, with the Eighth Kansas on the right. We charged in this formation, and pressed on until within forty yards of the enemys works, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery. Here the troops of both Brigades were mingled together. After remaining in this position about ten minutes, I received orders to withdraw, which I did, and re-formed in front of our works. I lost, in this charge, nine killed and twenty-one wounded.
"After re-forming we again advanced on the enemy, (who were being flanked on the right of us) when his lines gave way. We pursued until after dark and bivouacked near Brentwood Hills.
"Since that time the Regiment has been with the Brigade, in the marches and operations of the campaign, but has borne no particular or distinct part.
"I am, Sir, very respectfully, you mo. ob't servant,
"Lt-Col. Eighth Kansas Infantry, Comdg.
To Lieut. W. McGrath A.A.A.G., 1st Brig., 3d Div., 4th A.C."
Col. Streight, commanding the Brigade, speaks as follows of the operations connected with the engagement:
³The next morning everything was in readiness, in accordance with instructions, but we did not receive orders to move until about 10 o'clock a.m., when the Brigade was moved over the works and formed immediately in front of its old position in the following order: The 8th Kansas Vols. on the right, 51st Indiana Vols. in the center, and the 15th Ohio Vols. on the left; the 49th Ohio Vols. and the 89 Illinois Vols. formed in double column at half distance, composed the second line. We remained in this position about one hour, when I received orders to move forward on the left and in conjunction with the Second Brigade and charge the enemy's works on Montgomery Hill. Our advance was sharply contested at first, but the impetuosity of the men seemed almost uncontrollable, and soon all firing ceased on our side, and the only unsettled question for the time seemed to be who, among our officers and men, should reach the works first, which I believe was settled in favor of the Eighth Kansas boys, though the boys of the 51st were but a few seconds later, nor was the second line much behind; and I am not certain but that many of those who belonged in the second line had reached and formed a part of the advance by the time the works were carried. The enemy fled in confusion, the 51st Indian Vols. and the Eighth Kansas Vols., and portions of the Regiments, pressing on for about three hundred yards, capturing many prisoners and small arms.
³My position being the extreme left of our attacking column, it was necessary to look well to my left flank; consequently, I ordered the 15th Ohio to take a position to the left and rear of our lines. I was soon ordered into position near the Montgomery House, my left to the rear, were we constructed temporary works to protect the command; and about 3 p.m. I received orders to advance upon the second line of the enemy's works. The Brigade was promptly put in motion, conforming to the movements of troops on my right, and amid a most galling fire from both our left flank and front, carried the works in double quick time, capturing a large number of prisoners and small arms. Here again the Eighth Kansas was successful in reaching the works in advance of any other portion of my Brigade, though all pressed forward as fast as possible, and I can only attribute the advantage gained to the superior fleetness of the men!²
The pursuit of Hood's beaten and demoralized fugitives was continued to the Tennessee river. The weather, during the whole time, was terrible. Rain, snow and hail, thawing and freezing, alternated day after day, and the roads were, at times, almost impassable. The progress of the army, under such circumstances, was necessarily slow. On the 17th it reached Franklin; on the 18th, bivouacked three miles south of Spring Hill; on the 19th, at Rutherford's Creek; and on the 20th reached Duck river, opposite Columbia. Owing to delay in the arrival of the pontoon train, the army was not able to effect a crossing until the evening of the 22d. This halt gave Hood and opportunity to somewhat reorganize his scattered forces, and to gain a long distance on his pursuers. So far as the infantry was concerned it virtually ended the chase, but the army, after crossing, still moved on slowly until the 29th, when it reached a place on the Alabama barrens called Lexington. There orders were received to proceed to Huntsville, Ala., and go into camp. On the 31st the column started, making, that day, a most disagreeable march of sixteen miles, through mud and snow, across creeks, ravines and hills, and camping, late at night, on Sugar creek. January 1st it moved three miles, to Elk river, where a bridge had to be built. This was done next day, and on the morning of the 3d the army crossed the stream, marching to Athens, Ala., a distance of twelve miles. Next day it traveled nineteen miles, and on the 5th went into camp five miles out of Huntsville, on the Whitesburg pike. Here, for the first time since the 15th of December, the troops had an opportunity to rest. This winter campaign, with its attendant hardships, privations, dangers and fatigues, was one of the most severe and trying ones which the Regiment ever participated.
During the year 1864 the following changes occurred in the Regimental and Company organizations: Assistant Surgeon, John Butterbaugh, resigned March 4th; Edwin J. Talcott, Hospital Steward, promoted to be Assistant Surgeon, May 1st; Lt. Col. Ed. F. Schneider, resigned, June 11th; Maj. Jas. M. Graham, promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel, June 26th; Capt. John Conover, Co. F. promoted to be Major, August 23d; Lt. Col. Jas M. Graham, resigned, September 23d; Surgeon O. Chamberlain, resigned, September 22d; Major John Conover, promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel, October 21st; Capt. Henry C. Austin, Co. E, promoted to be Major, October 21st; N.C. Clark, appointed Surgeon, November 14th; Col. John A. Martin, mustered out, November 6th ﾑexpiration of service.
Co. A. Commissary Sergeant Eli Balderston, promoted 1st Lieutenant, July 1st; 2 Lieut., Seth Foot, died of disease, May 14th; 1st Lieut., Rowland Risdon, resigned, April 13th; Capt. Samuel Laighton, resigned, Nov. 27th; 1st Lieut. Eli Balderston, promoted Captain Co. G. Oct 12th; 1st Sergt. Ferd. A. Berger, promoted 1st Lieut. Co. A. Oct. 21st. Lieut. Berger severely wounded at Nashville.
Co. B Capt. Claudius Kiefer severely wounded in arm and thigh in front of Atlanta, Aug. 4th; Sergeant August Shultz promoted 1st Lieutenant, Feb. 3d.
Co. C 1st. Lieut. Richard R. Bridgeland, promoted Captain, March 8th; 1st Sergt. Geo. H. Robb, promoted 1st Lieutenant, April 17th; Capt. R.R. Bridgeland, resigned, Oct. 12th.
Co. D Capt. Phillip Rockefeller, resigned, Aug. 13th.
Co. E Capt. John Greelish, resigned, June 6th; Capt. Henry C. Austin, transferred from Co. I, and promoted Major. Oct. 21st; 1st Lieut. Milton Rose, mustered out, Dec. 5th; Quartermaster Sergeant Elisha D. Rose, promoted 1st. Lieutenant, Dec. 6th.
Co. F Capt. John Conover promoted Major, Aug 23d; 1st Lieut. Wm. S. Newberry, resigned, April 29th; 1st Sergeant Jas. A. Neff, promoted 1st Lieutenant, Aug. 23d.
Co. G Capt. Robt. Flickinger, resigned, April 4th; 1st Lieut. Eli Balderston, Co. A, promoted Capt. Co. G, oct. 12th.
Co. H 1st Lieut. Frank Curtis, discharged for disability, July 6th; 1st Sergt. Samuel R. Stanley, promoted 1st Lieutenant, July 7th; promoted Captain, Sept. 1st; 1st Sergt. Adam Cosner, promoted 1st Lieutenant, Sept. 1st.
Co. I Capt. Henry C. Austin, transferred to Co. E, July 4th; 1st Lieut. Marion Brooks, promoted Captain, Sept. 16th; Sergt. Chas. Slawson, promoted 1st Lieutenant Oct. 21st.
Co. K 1st Lieut. Wm. H. Babcock, resigned, June 28th; 1st Sergt. Jacob Neuffer, promoted 1st Lieutenant, Aug. 30th; 2d Lieut. A.J. Quinn, discharged for disability, Dec 28th; Lieut. Neuffer, slightly wounded at Nashville.
The regiment remained in camp near Huntsville during the month of January. Nothing of importance occurred during that time; the duties of the camp were light, the men made themselves as comfortable as was possible, and the health of the command was good. On the 1st of February orders were received, quite unexpectedly, to move into Huntsville. Arriving there, the Division took the cars and proceeded to Nashville, where it arrived at 8 a.m. on the 2d. The Eighth moved out near its old camp on Montgomery Hill, where it remained until the 6th. It was then, with the Division, ordered to return to camp at Huntsville. Proceeding to that place by cars, it remained there until the 15th of March. The command was then sent, by train, to Knoxville, East Tennessee, and thence to Bull's Gap, moving slowly from one station to another, repairing the railroad and building bridges as it went. Reaching Bull's Gap, it remained ten days, and then moved to Greenville, where it arrived on the 4th of April. While in camp here intelligence of the surrender of Lee and the assassination of President Lincoln was received. The former was celebrated with the wildest demonstrations of enthusiasm. Alas! how soon came the sad news turning this joy into grief and this enthusiastic rejoicing into mourning, as the wires flashed over the land that saddest message they ever conveyed ³Abraham Lincoln is assassinated!² And surely none mourned this great National calamity with more profound sorrow than did the soldiers of the Eighth Kansas.
On the 22d of April the Corps was ordered to return to Nashville, and, marching to Bull's Gap, there took the cars. On the 19th it reached Nashville, and went into camp about five miles from the city. Here it remained until the 13th of June, when it was ordered to Texas. The other Corps of the Army of the Cumberland, the 14th and 20th, were mustered out; the war had ended; and the men of the 4th Corps generally felt that their further detention in the service was a violation of their terms of enlistment. This feeling was so strong that it resulted in open mutiny in many regiments in wholesale desertions from others. But the sterling discipline and splendid martial pride of the Eighth Kansas rose superior to the feeling of outrage, and the dissatisfaction of its men, although strong and deep, never found expression in an unsoldierly act. They obeyed the orders they received, if not with cheerful alacrity, with promptness and manly resignation. On the morning of the 15th the Corps broke camp at Nashville, going by rail to Johnsonville, on the Tennessee river, where it was embarked on boats, and on the 29th reached new Orleans. The troops were camped at Chalmethe, below the city, until the 6th of July, when they were embarked on gulf steamers and started for Indianola. The Brigade to which the Eighth was attached arrived off Indianola on the 8th, and on the 9th disembarked. Thence it marched to Green Lake, twenty-three miles distant, starting at about 7 o'clock in the evening. This march was a terrible one. The route lay over a marshy ground, into which the men sunk shoe-top deep at every step, but the water was alkali, poisonous and unfit to drink. The heat was intense, inducing thirst which emptied the canteens, filled before starting, before the column had progressed ten miles. They could not be refilled. Water was all around, but, like the Ancient mariner, the men had ³not a drop to drink.² Parched with almost intolerable thirst; assaulted by legions of mosquitoes, with which the air was dense, and against the smarting bites of which there was no protection; their feet soaked in alkali water at every step thus this awful night march was made. When the head of the column reached Green Lake, men who had fallen exhausted and fainting on the road were stretched out for ten miles back, and water had to be sent to them in wagons before they could proceed.
The Brigade remained at Green Lake until the 10th of August. The men amused themselves during this stay by hunting alligators, with which the lake is thickly populated. On the 10th the command broke camp and started for San Antonio, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. On the 21st it arrived on the banks of the Salado, five miles from San Antonio, and on the 23d the Eighth Kansas moved into the town, where it was placed on provost duty, Lieut. Col. Conover being detailed as Provost Marshal. It continued in this place, discharging these duties, until the 29th of November, when it was formally mustered out of service and ordered to report to the Chief Mustering Officer at Fort Leavenworth for final discharge. On the 30th it left San Antonio; on the 17th of December it reached Indianola; on the 18th it embarked on a steamer for New Orleans, where it arrived on the 24th, and on the 26th took a boat for Kansas. On the 5th of January, 1866, the regiment arrived at Atchison, where it received a fine ovation and was most hospitably entertained by the citizens. Arches, elegantly festooned and decorated, and inscribed with the names of the battles in which the regiment had participated, were thrown across the principal streets; houses were decorated with evergreens and mottoes of welcome and compliment, and a formal reception was given at Price's Hall, where Judge Horton made an eloquent welcoming speech, to which Chaplain Paulson, of the Eighth, replied. The men were entertained until next day, when the regiment left for Fort Leavenworth. On the 9th of January the muster-out rolls were handed to the Chief Commissary of Musters, the officers and men were paid off to that time, and the Eighth Regiment Kansas Veteran Volunteer Infantry was formally discharged from the service of the United States. It had served four years, four months, and eleven days. The record of the State Adjutant General and the roster accompanying the report gives the date of its muster-out as November 28th and 29th, 1865, San Antonio, Texas. This is incorrect, as it was only provisionally mustered out at that place and ordered to Fort Leavenworth for final discharge. This it received on the 9th of January, 1866. The regiment was the last of Kansas troops to be discharged, although one of the first in the field. It numbered, when discharged, nineteen commissioned officers and one hundred and seventy-seven enlisted men, or a total of one hundred and ninety-six.
During the year of 1865 the following changes occurred in the regimental and company organizations:
Assistant Surgeon Edwin J. Talcott resigned February 15th. First Lieutenant and Regimental Quartermaster Alfred Robinson dropped from rolls April 2d supposed to have been mustered out while absent from the regiment on expiration of service. First Lieutenant Adam Cosner, company H, appointed R.Q.M. September 15th.
Company C First Lieutenant George H. Robb promoted to Captain March 1st.
Company D First Lieutenant V.S. Fisk mustered out January 27th, on expiration of term of service. First Sergeant Thos. Adamson promoted First lieutenant September 2d.
Company F Second Lieutenant A. Earl Beardsley promoted Captain January 10th. Captain A. Earl Beardsley dismissed the service July 24th, for absence without leave.
Company H First Lieutenant Adam Cosner appointed R.Q.M. September 15th.
Company I Second Lieutenant Byron Slemmens resigned July 17th.
Company K Captain James E. Love mustered out May 15th, on expiration of term of service. Captain Love was wounded and taken prisoner at Chicamauga and held until the winter of 1864-5, when he escaped from Columbia, S.C., arriving within the Union lines in East Tennessee early in March, 1865.
The following officers were mustered out with the regiment on its final discharge:
Lieutenant Colonel John Conover
Major Henry C. Austin
Adjutant Sol. R. Washer
Regimental Quartermaster Adam Cosner
Surgeon N.C. Clark
Chaplain John Paulson
Sergeant Major David P. Trimble
Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas Lane
Commissary Sergeant Henry M. Hurd
Hospital Steward George E. Wright
Principal Musicians Leo W. Rich and Jacob Keuch
Company A First Lieutenant Ferd. A. Berger and eight enlisted men.
Company B Captain C. Kiefer, First Lieutenant Aug. Schultz, and twenty-two enlisted men.
Company C Captain George H. Robb and ten enlisted men.
Company D First Lieutenant Thomas Adamson and nineteen enlisted men.
Company E First Lieutenant Elisha D. Rose and sixteen enlisted men.
Company F First Lieutenant James A. Neff and twenty-three enlisted men.
Company G Captain Eli Balderston, First Lieutenant Baker, and seventeen enlisted men.
Company H Captain Samuel R. Stanley and eighteen enlisted men.
Company I Captain Marion Brooks, First Lieutenant Charles Slawson, and twenty-four enlisted men.
Company K First Lieutenant Jacob Neuffer and fourteen enlisted men.
Nearly, if not all, the First Lieutenants had commissions as Captains, where vacancies existed, but their companies were so reduced that officers of that rank were not allowed. Lieut. Col. Conover had a commission as Colonel, Major Austin as Lieut. Colonel, and Adjutant Washer as Major, but the regiment was so far below the minimum number that they could not be mustered into their places.
Of the officers of the Eighth, Colonel John A. Martin was brevetted Brigadier General, Lieutenant Colonel Conover as Colonel, Major Austin as Lieutenant Colonel, and Adjutant Washer as Captain and Major, by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.
Thus terminated the military history of the Eighth Kansas Veteran Volunteer Infantry. Its career, commencing at a very early period of our great civil war, and ending long after the last hostile shot had been fired, the last rebel flag lowered, and the last rebel soldier had surrendered, was conspicuous always for the loftiest and most sublime courage, the most unselfish and sublime patriotism, and a martial pride and discipline that no extreme of privation or plenty, of camp monotony or the fatigues of the march, of life in garrison or in the field, could ever destroy. Tried by campaigns crowded thick with hardships and suffering; tried in the demoralizing atmosphere of a large city; tried in battles where the earth was crimsoned with its blood, and half of its heroic men were killed or wounded; tried by siege, and the near presence of grim and gaunt starvation its steadfast patriotism, its constant order, its unfaltering courage, and its sturdy endurance were equal to every emergency.
During its term of service the Eighth traveled ten thousand seven hundred and fifty miles. It participated in fifteen battles and eighteen skirmishes. It lost in battle, three commissioned officers and sixty-two enlisted men killed; thirteen commissioned officers and two hundred and fifty-nine enlisted men wounded; and one commissioned officer and twenty enlisted men missing; or a total of sixty-four killed, two hundred and seventy-two wounded and twenty-one missing, and an aggregate of three hundred and fifty-eight killed, wounded and missing. Of the missing nearly all were killed, and of the wounded nearly one-third died of their wounds.
The regiment was at no time much over the minimum standard. Its largest aggregate was in March, 1862, when its rolls exhibited a total strength of eight hundred and seventy-seven officers and men. Its largest aggregate for duty was at about the same time, when there were six hundred and fifty-six present.
The regiment had three regimental flags. Under the first, which it carried until it returned to the state on veteran furlough, it marched three thousand, six hundred and eighty-one miles, and lost three commissioned officers and forty-four enlisted men killed, ten commissioned officers and two hundred and one enlisted men wounded, and twenty enlisted men missing. Under the second flag, carried until after the battle of Nashville, it marched two thousand, six hundred and sixty miles, and lost three commissioned officers wounded and one captured, and eighteen enlisted men killed and fifty-eight wounded. Under its third flag it traveled four thousand, four hundred and nine miles, but sustained no loss.
In the losses here given some five men killed and seventeen wounded in slight skirmishes, or by guerrillas while on scouting or foraging expeditions, are not included. These would swell the aggregate loss of the regiment to three hundred and seventy, or over fifty per cent of the greatest number it ever had present for duty. The largest loss the Eighth sustained in a single engagement was at Chicamauga, where, out of a total of four hundred and six present, its killed, wounded and missing numbered two hundred and forty-tree officers and men, or about sixty-five per cent, of all engaged.
There were in the regiment, from the date of its organization until its muster-out, one thousand and eighty-one officers and men. On the 1st of June, 1865, a report (the latest in possession of the writer) was made out, showing the losses from all causes. It foots up as follows: Aggregate mustered out by expiration of service, 187; officers resigned, 26; aggregate discharged for disability from wounds or disease, 178; discharged by order of the War Department, 20; officers died of disease, 3; enlisted men died of disease, 92; aggregate killed or died of wounds received in battle, 117; transferred to other commands, 68; dropped as missing, 5; discharged by sentence of General Court Martial, 4; deserted and not apprehended, 114. Total loss from all causes, 814. Aggregate strength at that time, 267. The total loss by death up to that time was 212, and the loss by discharge because of disability from wounds or disease, 178, or a total loss by death or disability of 390.
These figures are in themselves a history, eloquent though sad. But suggestive as they are, they can only vaguely typify the great deeds and grand events with which the service of the Eighth Kansas is indissolubly associated. Few regiments in the army embraced in their operations so vast and varied a scope of country; none were actors in a drama more exciting and romantic than that which crowded its whole career with thrilling interest. The gleam of its bayonets was seen from Fort Laramie, Nebraska, to the Rio Grande; its banners fluttered in the sunlight from Kansas to the North Carolina line; the crack of its rifles startled the echoes in the valley of the Platte and along the hillsides of the Tennessee and the Chattahoochie, and the tramp of its soldiers resounded in the dusty highways of twelve different states.
It studied geography as the surveyors do, by personal inspection of country. It learned military engineering by practical experience in bridging rivers, constructing roads over mountain ranges and through impassable swamps, and erecting earthworks under the enemy's fire. It marched barefoot over frozen roads in winter, and bareheaded beneath a burning sun in summer. It shot antelope and buffalo on the Plains, and alligators in the swamps of Texas. It hunted guerrillas in Missouri, combated Longstreet's Virginia veterans at Chicamauga, stormed the blazing heights of Mission Ridge, fought a continuous battle from Kennesaw Mountain to Atlanta, and broke through Hood's lines at the battle which annihilated the rebel army of the West. At Nashville it did duty in white gloves, and at Knoxville it was shirtless, shoeless, hatless, and in rags. It knew how to garrison a post or charge a line of entrenchments. At Fort Leavenworth it vied with the oldest and best trained soldiers of the regular army in the perfection of its discipline and drill, and in Georgia it ³lived on the country² with Sherman's bummers. It convoyed trains over mountains and across rivers through a country swarming with foes; it built railroads and destroyed them; it slept without tents in the snows of winter and the rains of spring time; it bore hunger without murmuring, it faced pestilence without blanching, and it braved bullets without fear.
But if the writer lingers, as he is tempted to do, over this retrospect of recollections that can never be effaced, he will transcend the limit prescribed. He cannot, however, lay down his pen, nor bring this sketch to a close, without recording a tribute to the unflinching patriotism, the patient, calm endurance, and the magnificent courage of the private soldiers who followed the flag of the Eighth through the long years of its arduous service. They represented nearly every branch of mechanical, agricultural and literary pursuits, and were men of many and widely different characters. They grew to be reckless, as do those whose lives are long familiar with danger. In their protracted absence from the purifying influence of society, many of them forgot its most wholesome restraints; they were not free from those petty infirmities of temper and those graver errors of conduct and gross solecisms to which soldiers are prone. But they were inspired by a unity of spirit, a pure devotion to the cause of their country, a persistence against all obstacles, and a patience under all sufferings, that made their hitherto common lives glorious and grand. Their faults and failings were redeemed by noble disinterestedness, high resolve, untiring energy, and the most exalted courage. They might violate the strict letter of religious teachings, but they were never inspired by hypocrisy, nor selfishness, nor cowardice, and the homely truths of patriotism, honor and generosity they had learned by heart and daily exemplified. Their roughness and violence was tempered by discipline and never failing good humor. War was to them no holiday parade, but a hard strengthening of will and nerve against the sterner vicissitudes of fortune, and fearfully earnest men they grew to be. No danger could dampen their ardor, no repulse could shake their confident hope, no toil or suffering could for a moment perplex or obscure their faithful loyalty. Not nobler was the impulse which inspired our forefathers when Washington sent out his calls for men; not grander the spirit which moved the ragged Provincials around the camp fires of Valley Forge, than was that which thrilled their hearts with undying fire and nerved their arms with unconquerable strength. They suffered, but they never knew what it was to shine; they knew hoe to die, but never to despair or yield. Their spirit seemed to rise to the greatness of the events surrounding them. They recognized no will but duty; they loved their country with a deep, abiding affection; they dreamed of no delight but her service; they asked no reward but her triumph. In her cause hardships were welcome, for her flag dangers were laughed at; to save her life the humblest and the roughest of them would have cheerfully given his own. They rejected with contempt every idea that despaired of final victory, and scouted at every suggestion of peace without union or tranquility, without a wholesome punishment for out-breaking treason and a stern vindication of offended law. Their patriotism was passionate veneration of the Republic; they loved its flag, and followed and upheld it with an eagerness and earnestness which had in it no vulgarity or common affection, and could not be simulated. With what exact discipline, with what dauntless courage, with what patient devotion, with what forgetfulness of the dearest home ties, with what confident hope and tenacious persistence the soldiers of this regiment marched and bivouacked, suffered and dared, through summer’s heat and winter’s cold, on the battle field and in the besieged city, in the face of hunger and pestilence, no one who was not with them can ever know, for the wildest license of language cannot describe it.
Their toils and privations, their trials and dangers, have long since been over. “they need no praise whose deeds are eulogy,” and this tribute can add nothing to the splendor of their achievements. But the writer feels that it is due, and he could not close this sketch of the regiment’s history without recording an expression of his admiration for the services of the men who served in its ranks. With loving gratitude he writes, remembering with pride every soldier who followed its flag during the events which make its career a cherished glory, never to fade from the recollections of the loyal people or perish from the best and noblest records of the state.
Transcription submitted by Christina Carvajal.
Transcribed from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. (Reprinted by Authority) Topeka, Kansas: The Kansas State Printing Company. 1896.
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Tom & Carolyn Ward