Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 28 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

      28, "The performance of divine service is rare in jail." A plea to bring the Gospel to city jail prisoners

A Visit to Jail.

Many of our readers will remember that some two years ago the Appeal took the initiative in calling attention to the horrible state of our city jail. The portion appropriated to the chain gang was especially a dark, noisome division of dungeons, filthy in the extreme, almost deprived of air, and altogether unfit for anything but the receptacle of lost souls in the dominions of man's direst enemy. The upper portion of the edifice was little better, the disadvantages of the place necessarily arising from its ill construction—the result of a plan the grossest ignorance could alone ever atone for having been adopted—were increased by the gloom arising from walls covered with cobwebs and almost innocent of contact with a whitewash brush. A day or two ago, for the first time since Mr. Jackson has filled the office of jailor, we went over the place, and never was our gratification more complete than when we saw the change that had taken place. The chain gang were no longer barred within the confines of dismal and loathsome dungeons, but were in roomy, clean, light and airy quarters, from windows of which there is a splendid view up and down the river. These rooms were formerly the residence of the jailor; Mr. Jackson gave them up to the use of prisoners, so that they might be rescued from the living tomb in which "man's inhumanity to man" had beforetime enclosed them. The whole jail is now clean—every board of the floors is well scrubbed, the cobwebs are banished, the walls are well white-washed, the dreadful stench that used at times to make even the turnkeys vomit, as they themselves have assured us, was nearly imperceptible. The narrow corridors, confined gratings and scanty supply of air, together with the bad sewerage and miserable provisions for some important points of cleanliness, make it impossible that the present building can ever be all that it ought to be in this respect. We were not only impressed with the difference in point of cleanliness and the arrangement of the different articles in the various cells, but also, and to even a greater degree, with the respectful and orderly behavior of the prisoners, which afforded a great contrast from what we have, in former times, seen in the same place. We saw evidences that a firm but kind hand held the rule. We regretted to learn that no systematic effort is made by the religious portion of the public of Memphis to supply the spiritual wants of the prisoners. The weary days pass on, the tedious nights roll slowly by, and the Sunday passes like the rest, except that "the sound of the church-going bell" tells the incarcerated that the followers of him who loves those who visit the distressed that are sick and in prison, are going where they will pray for "all prisoners and captives" whom they rarely help. The performance of divine service is rare in jail. A Sundays since, the Rev. E. E. Porter, of Chelsea, held a service, and there is every reason to believe that it was acceptable to the prisoners. Good order was preserved, and most of the men manifested an attention and reverent demeanor. Mr. Thomas, a colporteur, has visited the prison and promised to supply it with books. We hope the promise will be kept. We respectfully suggest to the religious public, that men who lie in jail for months, and even one or two years, should not be left without religious ministrations. Cannot some effort be made in their behalf? Shall negroes, Indians, and orientals learn from our missionaries the glorious news of salvation, and the poor prisoner in our midst be left to perish in the midst of Christians and churches? Mr. Jackson's assistants in h is important duties are Messrs. J. F. Meyers, A. J. Ward and D. L. Porter, who are kind in their behavior to those beneath their care. We hope the time will come when Memphis will tear down the place in which her prisoners are confined, and rear a building that shall possess the requisites of air, light, comfort and safety, not one of which is secured in the present edifice. In the meantime, we are gratified to find that the present jailor is doing the best for the comfort of his prisoners that the existing miserable abortion of a building will admit.

Memphis Daily Appeal, April 28, 1861.


            28, Skirmish near Monterey

APRIL 28, 1862.-Skirmish near Monterey, Tenn.

Reports of Maj. Gen. John Pope, U. S. Army.


[SIR:] Both roads are good; need short bridges and corduroys in places.

Sent out five companies of cavalry this morning; met 150 of enemy's cavalry foraging; brisk skirmish[1] and chase. Enemy lost 5 killed (1 major) and 19 prisoners. Our loss none. Small force, about 2,000, at Monterey, with one or two light batteries. My whole force up and in hand. I do not know exactly the position of Buell's force. My pickets connect through Elliott with Thomas. Am all ready to move forward.

Have you received my dispatch of this morning in relation to movement on Farmington with strong force? I think there is no considerable force of enemy on any road this side of Corinth.

JNO. POPE, Maj.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, p. 453.


            28, General Joseph E. Johnston's continued anxieties relative to procuring food for the Army of Tennessee

TULLAHOMA, April 28, 1863

Hon. JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 17th instant. The difficulty of procuring subsistence stores in the country is increasing fast. Corn is still abundant 40 or 50 miles to the west, but its transportation requires much time. Meat is procured in small quantities beyond the enemy's flanks, but at great risk, over routes lying near his positions. This risk is becoming greater daily, the enemy's entrenchments and superior numbers enabling him to make detachments safely. The large Federal force now approaching Decatur will probably increase these advantages very soon.

It would be very difficult I think, to make purchases in Kentucky with cotton, on account of the long distance from our railroad to the Kentucky line. Where that exchange is permitted, it should be under such circumstances as to enable the Government to keep it out of the hands of individuals. That trade has subjugated our people where-ever the they have engaged in it.

Should this army be compelled to abandon Middle Tennessee, its position for the defense of East Tennessee will be extremely unfavorable, as its communications will be from the flanks instead of to the rear. Such a defense would be impossible against an enterprising enemy; hence the great importance of Gen. Bragg's holding his present position, and hence my applying, more than once, for re-enforcements for him.

I have been informed that a considerable quantity of bacon may be procured for sugar. An officer has therefore been sent to attempt to make the exchanges.

In writing to the President on the 11th instant, being then, as now, unfit for service in the field, I suggested that if conference with Gen. Bragg was still desired, a confidential officer should be sent to his headquarters for the purpose.

* * * *

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, pp. 799.


            28, Report of the Office of Inspector-General of Fortifications, Military Division of the Mississippi, relating to Middle Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TENN., April 28, 1865.

Brig. Gen. W. D. WHIPPLE, Assistant Adjutant-Gen. and Chief of Staff:

GEN.: I inclose, for the information of the major-general commanding, my inspection report of the defenses of Bridgeport and of the railroad line thence to Nashville, with accompanying drawings.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brig. Gen. and Insp. Gen. of Fortifications, Mil. Div. of the Miss.



Nashville, Tenn., April 28, 1865.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Cmdg. Mil. Div. of the Miss. West of the Allegheny Mountains:

GEN.: I have the honor to submit the following inspection report of the defenses of Bridgeport and of the railroad line thence to Nashville:

* * * *


Is thirty miles from Stevenson and eighty-two from Nashville and about seven miles from the dividing ridge through which the tunnel passes. The country from Stevenson is closed in by high hills and almost without inhabitants. Decherd is the principal intermediate stopping place between Nashville and Chattanooga, but has no military importance further than that which arises from the necessity of distributing forces at intervals along the line of railroad. One redoubt with a block-house keep would have been sufficient for this place. Its defenses consist of two polygonal breast-high inclosures, respectively 20 feet and 100 feet in diameter, and of a square stockade. These structures are not entitled to the appellation of redoubts. Decherd requires no additional works now.


Five miles from Decherd, the largest stream between Bridgeport and Nashville, is spanned by a bridge 480 feet long, resting upon four stone piers and four wooden trestles. The bridge is protected by two double-cased block-houses, which are sufficient. On a hill about 800 feet distant is a large redoubt with good ditches, built by the soldiers. It has no keep, however, and uncles strongly garrisoned would be rather prejudicial than otherwise to the defenses of the position. Although this bridge could be quickly replaced if destroyed, much inconvenience would have resulted from two days' delay during the Chattanooga campaign. It was necessary, therefore, to protect so large a bridge against raiding detachments and guerrilla bands.


Is six miles from Elk River and sixty-nine from Nashville. Being a large village, a garrison was necessary to control it and the guerrillas of the vicinity. It also covered to some degree the crossings of Elk and Duck

 Rivers, a few miles distant on either side. Near the station is a small stockade, and half a mile distant is a large bastion fort, nearly 300 feet square on the curtain lines, built by the rebels. This fort stands on the general level of the table-land. It has no bomb-proof keep, and its magazines was badly constructed. At each salient and each shoulder angle there is a gun platform, and on the parapet merlons have been raised to cover the gunners. With an interior block-house it would have been a very strong work.


Across Duck River is a bridge 353 feet long resting on twelve trestles. It is protected by a double-cased block-house. For greater security to this important bridge another block-house was commenced last winter. From Tullahoma to Murfreesborough the road required protection from the numerous guerrillas that infested the country. Small garrisons at the stations and in the block-houses at the numerous river crossings guarded the road. The towns being small, no forts were built to control them.


The city of Murfreesborough is situated about one mile and a half southeast of Stone's River. The country round about is generally level, and was formerly populous. One large fort near the city and depot, garrisoned by a regiment, would have controlled the place and neighborhood. A double-cased block-house would have been sufficient to protect the trestle bridge across Stone's River, 218 feet long. While Gen. Rosecrans' army was encamped in the vicinity, Fortress Rosecrans, inclosing 200 acres on either side of Stone's River, was constructed under the direction of Gen. St. Clair Morton, of the Corps of Engineers. This large work is composed of a series of bastion fronts, with small, irregular bastions and broken curtains; or more properly it may be described as consisting of lunettes connected by indented lines, having in the interior four rectangular redoubts, and one lunette as keeps to the position. In large permanent works, with high scarps, the ditches are swept by guns in the flanks, because the depression of the guns prevent the canister-balls from rising above the parapet. In field forts, with ditches only six feet deep and long curtains, opposite flanks cannot fire in the same manner as in permanent works without risk to the defenders; but by breaking the curtain line the ditches are swept by close musketry. This is the manner of flanking the ditches of Fortress Rosecrans. Its lines give powerful cross fires and direct fires, both of artillery and infantry, on all the approaches. Placed on the crests of the elevations, they not only command the distant country, but effectually sweep the gentle slopes within canister-range. This fortress could not be taken except by siege, if properly garrisoned and well defended. The parapets have high commands and when built were well revetted with fascines. The work has many traverses, covering against ricochet fire. Most of the guns are in embrasures, made with gabions. Lunettes Thomas and McCook and the four interior redoubts have large block-houses in the form of a cross. The magazines, except in Fort Brannan, are small. That in Lunette Mitchell is subject to being flooded, and is consequently useless in the wet season. The ditches of the redoubts are not so well preserved as those of the main lines. In fact the exterior slopes of the parapets and the scarps have taken the natural slopes, about 45 degrees. These redoubts, however, are strong against attack, being defended by large keeps, which deliver their fire upon every part of the interior. It requires much labor to keep so large a work in repair; small portions of the parapets have sloughed off, due to frosts and heavy rains. These effects were especially noticeable in Lunettes Mitchell and McCook. Some thirty feet of the parapet revetment of Lunette Thomas had fallen down, when I inspected March 10. Parts of the revetted traverses in Lunette Negley were badly broken down, and I have been informed that the heavy and uncommon rains since have caused some further damage. Temporary field-works are liable to frequent injury by storms. The garrison should keep them in order. Those that have been built for two or three years, of perishable material, must necessarily require repairs; gabions, fascines, boards, and nails, in contact with wet earth and exposed to the air, will decay rapidly, and in consequence parapets and embrasures crumble down and magazines leak. This large work, originally built as a refuge for the army in the event of disaster, is not needed in the present condition of the rebellion. The interior redoubts ought to be kept in order. A small garrison sufficient to hold them will control the neighborhood. At the date of my inspection Fortress Rosecrans was occupied by three artillery companies and mounted fifty-seven guns. The city was held by infantry. The depots were not within the fort. The accompanying drawing is well executed, and shows the positions and lines better than they can be described.


Is fifteen miles and a half from Nashville. It has a redoubt which has not been garrisoned for a long period. In truth the town is desolate and requires no defenses.


Before Hood's invasion there were seven block-houses between Nashville and Murfreesborough to protect the railroad bridges across the streams; six of these were abandoned to avoid the capture of the garrisons, and were in consequence burned by the enemy; the seventh, at Overall's Creek, stood a heavy attack until the enemy were driven away by a sortie from the garrison of Fortress Rosecrans. Between Murfreesborough and Bridgeport there are twenty-nine railroad bridges protected block-houses. These are mostly double-cased. Two large artillery block-houses defend the south bridge over the Tennessee, and ten have been erected to protect the bridges between Bridgeport and Chattanooga. Thus in the line between Nashville and Chattanooga the bridges and trestle-works, whose preservation was essential to the running of the road, have been effectually protected against guerrillas and raiding parties of cavalry by forty-seven block-houses, mostly double-cased. These block-houses always resist and drive off the infantry. Field pieces, unless in numbers, and of the caliber of 12-pounders, cannot reduce them. They have performed a most important service, and it was a very happy application of the double-cased block-house. Had they not been used it would have been necessary to have built small redoubts with single block-houses inside as keeps. The rectangular form of the block-house is defective, as the fire on the capital is a single musket. Those now in process of construction are octagonal. No new defensive works are required on this line. Drawings of Bridgeport, Stevenson, and Murfreesborough accompany this report.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Z. B. TOWER, Inspector-Gen. of Fortifications, Mil. Div. of the Mississippi.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 49, pt. II, pp. 499-503.


[1] i.e., at Middleton.

No comments: