Monday, October 27, 2008

Army Correspondence

Headquarters 112th Regt., Ill. Inf’try.
Crab Orchard, Ky., Aug 19th, ‘63

Dear Kaysbier:–

On the 28th of July we were ordered to move from Danville, where we were then in camp, for the purpose of meeting a rebel force that had come into the State under Scott, which was estimated at from 15,00 [sic] to 2,000 men. They had attacked on the morning of that day, some 500 men of our force, under command of Col. Sanders, at Richmond, Ky., and used them very badly. About 150 of the 112th were in the fight, and some six or seven of them were wounded, and about thirty taken prisoners. A son of Calvin Davidson, of Penn township, was on a visit to the regiment, and went with the detachment to Richmond, and was the only one killed. – Such is the uncertainty of human life.

It is said our forces acted badly, and the truth is, they were thrown into confusion and could not be rallied; but it was owing to a blunder of the commanding officer. He allowed himself to be flanked, while they were amusing him with artillery at long range, and when he returned, as he did, in good order, through the town of Richmond, he found himself quite surrounded and the rear guard, who it is said, was out of ammunition, being attacked on both flanks and in the rear, broke, and running in upon the others, threw them into confusion so much so that all attempts to rally them proved ineffective. Perhaps no troops could have been rallied under such circumstances. The men of the 112th were in the advance, with the exception of some thirty men of Co. K, who were sent back to support the rear guard, and when the rear guard broke they ran in upon them, and in fact over them, throwing them into such confusion that it was quite impossible for them to do anything. The rear guard was composed of one company of the 10th Ky., I understand. Although the 112th were in the advance, by some means they got mostly in the rear, which does not look very cowardly on their part, and shows, at least, they were not very good runners. I think they suffered more than any other detachment. Col. Sanders is a very brave man, and has a good reputation, but he made a blunder in allowing himself to be flanked and to cover that blunder up, the men were accused of being panic-stricken. I have never seen any evidences of cowardice, unless in case of a very few individuals, in the 112th. But I have seen many evidences to the contrary. The foregoing are the facts, as I learn them from the officers of our regiment, who, it is admitted, behaved themselves well, and I have written them to you because it was charged in the papers that the men acted cowardly in the fight, including of course, the men from the 112th, and such charges may have reached the friends of the regiment at home. If so, I thought I would like to have you in possession of the facts.

We left Danville about 2 o’clock p.m., and then with a force of about 2,000 men moved to Winchester, and arrived there just about dark. The main body of the rebels had “skedaddled” before we got to the town. We drove the balance out after a little skirmish on the double quick, and then we began a chase, not soon to be forgotten, by those engaged in it. I cannot give you the particulars, although they were exciting and interesting from the beginning to the end of the chase. We drove them before us about 140 miles, skirmishing nearly all the way, except at night. The chase was continued for four successive days and nights; stopping about three hours at Irvine and about the same at Stanford. – during all the time I slept about four hours – three hours of that was the night we got to Lexington – and eat [sic] but three scanty meals, with an occasional hard cracker, that I begged from some one. The men also were out of rations after the second day, and we had no forage for our horses. When we drove them across the Cumberland River at Smith’s Ferry, we were compelled to give up further pursuit. Both men and horses were worn down and tired out. We took, however, in the various skirmishes, some 500 prisoners. We scattered and drove hundreds of others into the woods. We compelled them to abandon large quanties [sic] of property, a large number of stolen mules and horses, two pieces of artillery; gave them a “big scare” – one they have not yet got over, I assure you; and finally left them with only five or six hundred “demoralized” men.

We are now going, I cannot say. – But the general indications are that our destination is into East Tennessee. And everything begins to look like work. We have here to-night sixteen regiments. There are other columns moving on different roads, of the 23d army corps, and the 9th army corps is also moving along in the rear. It is said in all, the force amounts to – well, it may be contraband, and I will not mention it – but the force is large.

Hundreds of East Tennesseeans now are flocking in here weekly, fleeing from the conscription, which is being enforced there. – Hundreds of them are now returning with us with guns in their hands. We have two fine regiments in our division, from East Tennessee – one of them in our brigade (1st brig. 4th div. 23d army corps) and they are by far the strongest regiment we have in numbers and good fighting men. They are going home too, many of them, to visit their wives and children, after an absence of two years, and they go with light hears and cheerful spirits. The 65th Illinois is also with us.

The 112th is now in better condition than it has been for some months, and the boys are in better health. We have about 641 men present.

Company F is now the largest company in the regiment, I believe – at least it has more present for duty. The boys are generally well, too, in the company, and are in good spirits. Lieut. Armstrong is quite well again, and is now first Lieutenant. Edwin Butler is now Orderly, and is always on duty – he is no shirk. Sam Edridge id Regimental Post Master – ever prompt attentive and faithful; he daily delights the boys with messages from the “dear ones at home.” When he makes his appearance in camp, with mail bag in hand, it is the signal for a grand rejoicing. George Green is well and makes a capital good soldier. So are all the boys in company F – officers and all are ever ready for duty.


– Published in the Stark County News, Toulon, Illinois, Thursday, September 3, 1863

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