21, A Funeral, Confederate Attack and Incorrigibles; Excerpts from the letter of Captain Gershom M. Barber from Murfreesboro
Head quarters 1st Battalion O. V. S. S.
Murfreesboro Tenn. March 21 1863
My Very Dear Wife
….At 12 we attended the funeral of a private of the 7th Company Capt. Sqire. He died of congestion of the lungs induced by cold and measles. It is the first funeral in the battalion and was very impressive. Chaplins Harker of the 86th Ind. performed the ceremony and the escort was furnished by the 10th O.V.I. We have had heavy skirmishing on the front the last two days. Rosecrans sent in his pickets on a particular route and directed [?] [in a] hurry forces on the flanks and thoroughly enticed the enemy's cavalry with[in] about five miles of our camp and then gobbled them up. They say hear it is an old friend of his. We rendered this morning hospital preparation for 150 secesh wounded. We had one killed and 30 wounded. A captain of a Tennessee regiment left his company and chased a rebel who turned on him and shot him dead. The booming of cannon and explosion of shells we hear heard distantly yesterday and the day before. Today all is quiet along the front. The health of the Battalion is generally good except measles. We have about twenty cases in the hospital most of them doing well… two [are] dangerous….
….We have a few incorrigibles who are homesick and want to get discharged and lie around and pretend to be sick and are very angry because we won't discharge them. We will put them on the front line trenches as work before long when they will get enough to do duty mighty quick. One man [who has been] lay[ing] in his tent for days and groaned and took on a terrible sight [?]. Would get up about once a day and come to my quarters and cry and beg me to get him discharged as he would die in a month and he wanted to see his family once more. I got the Surgeon to give him a thorough examination and he pronounced him as well as he ever was in his life. Surgeon told him he was pretending to be sick and if he didn't do duty he would give him medicine that would make him sick to death earnest. I induced him to duty and he has been well enough since. Another one who has been groaning all the time the surgeon has cupped and blistered half over his body until the poor fellow can hardly walk. I understand he says now he will now try to play off again. Most of the boys….are perfectly satisfied. We have a few cowards and I heartily wish the surgeon would discharge them. But it is a hard place to play "old soldier."
21, Major-General Nathan Bedford Forrest's situation report for West Tennessee
HDQRS. FORREST'S CAVALRY, Jackson, Tenn., March 21, 1864.
Col. THOMAS M. JACK, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Dept. of Ala., Miss., and East La.:
COL.: I forward, for the information of the lieutenant-general commanding the inclosed statement of outrages committed by the commands of Col. Fielding Hurst and others of the Federal Army.
I desire, if meets with the approval of the lieutenant-general commanding, that this reports may be sent to some newspaper for publication. Such conduct should be made known to the world.
Very respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant,
N. B. FORREST, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
HDQRS. CAV. DEPT. OF WEST TENN. AND NORTH MISS., Jackson, March 21, 1864.
Lieut. Col. T. M. JACK, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.:
COL.: I have the honor to report the arrival of my advance at this place on yesterday morning at 11 o'clock, and deem it proper to give to lieutenant-general commanding a report of the condition of the country through which I have passed, also the state of affairs as they exist, with such suggestions as would naturally arise from observation made and a personal knowledge of facts as they exist. From Tupelo to Purdy the country has been laid waste, and unless some effort is made either by the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company or the Government the people are bound to suffer for food. They have been by the enemy, and by roving bands of deserters and tories stripped of everything; have neither negroes [sic] nor stock with which to raise a crop or make a support. What provision they had have been consumed or taken from them, and the major of families are bound to suffer. They are now hauling corn in ox wagons and by hand-cars from Okolona and below to Corinth, and as far north as Purdy, also east west of Corinth, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, but their limited means of transportation will not enable them to submit their families, and my opinion is that the railroad can be easily and speedily repaired, and that any deficiency in iron from Meridian north can be supplied front the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and that a brigade of cavalry with a regiment or two of infantry placed at Corinth would afford protection to that section, and would be the means of driving out of the country or placing in our army the deserters and tories infesting that region, whose lawless appropriation of provisions, horses, and other property is starving out the defenseless and unprotected citizens of a large scope of country. Repairing and running the railroad would enable the inhabitants to procure provisions from the prairies and would prove an invaluable acquisition in the transportation of supplies and troops from this section. But little can be done in returning of supplies and troops from this section. But little can be done in returning the deserters from our army now in West Tennessee, and collecting and seeding out all person subject to military duty, unless the railroad is rebuilt or repaired, at they will have to be marched through a country already, for want of labor and supplies, insufficient for the subsistence of its own inhabitants. With a conscript post or an established military post at Corinth and the railroad from thence south they could be rapidly forwarded to the army. The wires can also be extended and a telegraph office established. The whole of West Tennessee is overrun by banks and squads of robbers, horse thieves, and deserters, whose depredations and unlawful appropriations of private property are rapidly and effectually depleting the country. The Federal forces at Paducah, Columbus, and Union City are small. There is also a small force at Fort Heiman, on the Tennessee, and Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi River. About 2,000 men of Smith's forces, composed of parts of many regiments, have crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton and Fort Heiman, and returned to Nashville; four regiments of Illinois cavalry have re-enlisted and have gone home on furlough. The cavalry force at Memphis is therefore small.
Numerous reports having reached me of the wagon destruction of property by Col. Fielding Hurst and his regiment of renegade Tennessee, I order Lieut. Col. W. M. Reed to investigate and report upon the same, and herewith transmit you a copy of his report. Have through it both just and proper to bring these transitions to the notice of the Federal commander at Memphis, and by flag of truce will demand of him the restitution of the money taken from the citizens of Jackson, under a threat from Hurst to burn the town unless the money was forthcoming at an appointed time. Have also demanded that the murderers be believe up to Confederate authority for punishment, and reply from that officer as to the demand, &c., will be forwarded you as soon as received. Should the Federal commander refuse to accede to the just demands made, I have instructed the officer in charge of the flag to believe the notice inclosed outlawing Hurst and his command.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. B. FORREST, Maj.-Gen.
HDQRS. FORREST'S CAVALRY DEPARTMENT, Jackson, Tenn., March 20, 1864.
Col. R. McCulloch, Cmdg. Division, Oxford, Miss.:
COL.: I am directed by the major-general commanding to say that he will move on Union City and Paducah, and has forwarded you orders to send Richardson's brigade to Brownsville. He directs also that you move the remaining brigade of your division up as near to Germantown as possible, keeping on hand five days' ration ready it be cooked at a movement's notice. The general commanding thinks you can move over to Waterford; at any rate, move as far over as you can subsist your command, and be ready for a forward movement should the enemy move after me from Memphis, or further orders be sent you. Should it become necessary, or you be ordered to move, you will leave one regiment to guard the country and your wagon train, and bring with you only such wagons as may be necessary to carry your extra ammunition and as few cooking utensils as will do your command. He directs me also to say that the force of the enemy at Paducah, Columbus, and Union City is reported as small, and that he will move on Union City at once.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHAS. W. ANDERSON, Aide-de-Camp to Maj.-Gen. Forrest.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF WEST TENN. AND NORTH MISS., Jackson, Tenn., March 21, 1864.
Col. ROBERT McCULLOCH, Cmdg. Division:
COL.: You will order Richardson's brigade to move via Hudsonville and LaGrange or Moscow, direct to Brownsville. They will move five days' cooked rations, and 60 rounds of ammunition to the man, if possible to get it; not less than 40 rounds in cartridge-boxes, bringing no more wagons than will be necessary to bring the extra ammunition, if any. The commanding officer of the brigade will dispatch of courier to these headquarters at Jackson, stating the time, &c., that the command will reach Brownsville, starting the courier as soon as the command passes LaGrange or Moscow.
By command of Maj.-Gen. Forrest:
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, pp. 663-665.
21, Major General J. G. Foster's report on operations of the Army of the Ohio in East Tennessee, January 7 – February 9, 1864.
February 21, 1864.
GEN.: I have the honor, in obedience to your direction, to make the following report of the operations of the Army of the Ohio while I was in command, and of the general condition of affairs in East Tennessee:
Gen. Grant visited Knoxville on the 30th of December, 1863. Seeing the suffering of the troops, he decided to have me await the arrival of supplies and the completion of the Strawberry Plains bridge before advancing. He left on the 7th of January to return by the way of Cumberland Gap. The cavalry, under Gen. Sturgis, was almost constantly engaged with the enemy's cavalry in the direction of Dandridge and Mossy Creek after crossing the Holston. These fight culminated in a general cavalry engagement near Mossy Creek on the 29th [of December], in which the enemy were driven from the field toward Morristown. Gen. Elliott's division of cavalry, from the Army of the Cumberland, particularly distinguished itself for gallantry.
On the 13th January, the main body of our cavalry having entirely exhausted the supplies in the country around Mossy Creek, were forced to move to Dandridge, where some little forage was to be found. The draft animals of the infantry and artillery, being by this time almost entirely without forage of any kind, were dying by the hundred daily. It became a matter of the first importance to move to a position where forage, if not corn for the men, could be obtained at once. I therefore ordered the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps to move across the Strawberry Plains bridge (which was passable on the 15th January), to march to Dandridge, cross the French Broad River near that place on a bridge to be built of wagons and any boats that could be obtained, and then to occupy the country south of that river as far toward the Nola Chucky as possible. It was represented that a considerable quantity of corn was to be found in this section. Besides this, the movement would tend to disturb Longstreet concerning his left flank and communications to the rear, especially toward North Carolina. The Ninth Corps was ordered to hold Strawberry Carolina. The Ninth Corps was ordered to hold Strawberry Plains, to be ready to support the movement while in progress, and afterward cover Knoxville.
The troops started on the 15th and reached Dandridge on the 17th, when the bridge was immediately commenced. It was completed to what was supposed to be the opposite bank of the river, and a brigade crossed over. It was soon found, however, to be upon an island, and that another channel of the river remained to be bridged. In the mean time the cavalry which had skirmished heavily with the enemy on the previous day (the 16th) near Kimbrough's Cross-Roads, 5 miles from Dandridge toward Morristown, had been forced back by the determined advance of the enemy almost to the town. Gen. Parke satisfied himself that Gen. Longstreet was in his front with his whole force, having advanced from his front with his whole force, having advanced from his cantonments to meet our supposed advance in force. This fact, added to the delay in completing the bridge, the difficulty in crossing in presence of an active enemy, the want of rations, and the commencing rain, which would soon make it impossible to get up supplies from the rear over the then almost impassable roads, induced Gen. Parke to decide to retire at once on Strawberry Plains, which he did without loss. I immediately ordered the whole force to move to Knoxville, cross the Holston on the pontoon bridge at that place (just completed), and ascend the south side of the French Broad to reach the foraging ground that it had failed to reach through Dandridge. As the cavalry passed through the town most of their horses had not been fed for forty-eight hours, and some of the artillery horses were without food for four days and nights. The cavalry reached and occupied the country south of the French Broad as far up as Fair Garden, 10 miles beyond Sevierville and scouted through the entire country as far up as the Nola Chucky. The Fourth Corps in following was 4 miles out from Knoxville, when I received Gen. Sturgis' report that the reports of the supplies in that section of the country were very much exaggerated, inasmuch as they would only suffice his cavalry for three weeks, and that the roads were impracticable for wagons and artillery. Disappointed in this, no other course remained but that of distributing the bulk of the force to obtain forage and supplies wherever it could be found. I accordingly sent the Fourth Corps to Morrisville, Lenoir's Station, and Loudon, with orders to gather their supplies from the surrounding counties. The Ninth Corps occupied the railroad, within supporting distance of Knoxville. The Twenty-third Corps encamped around the town. All the draft animals were sent to the rear on the Tennessee River, to forage. Those that were entirely broken down were sent back to Kentucky. The cavalry occupied the country south of the French Broad until the supplies were nearly exhausted, when the enemy, feeling the necessity of driving it away, made the effort with his cavalry on the 27th January. Gen. Sturgis met the enemy's cavalry at Fair Garden and completely defeated it, with a loss of 150 killed and wounded, 75 prisoners, 2 rifled field pieces, and some wagons and horses. The enemy's cavalry was then re-enforced by several brigades of infantry which had succeeded in fording the river, and Gen. Sturgis was in his turn forced to fall back toward Morristown. Previous to this Col. Palmer with his regiment, the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, had captured Gen. Vance with his staff and 150 prisoners. Subsequently he sent an expedition against Col. Thomas and his gang of whites and Indians at Quallatown, which succeeded in entirely breaking up the gang. All were killed or wounded except 50 that escaped into the mountains and 22 that were brought in as prisoners. The Governor of Kentucky having become anxious for the safety of the State from raids by the enemy, and having called on the Legislature to raise regiments for the defense of the State, I sent a division of dismounted cavalry to Mount Sterling, Ky., to be reorganized, remounted, and re-equipped for service, either against raids or in making them upon the flanks of the enemy's communication with Virginia. The remainder of the cavalry was ordered to the Little Tennessee River to forage.
Such was the military situation at the time I was relieved by Gen. Schofield, on the 9th February, 1864. In Kentucky the detachments guarding railroads and posts had been reduced to the minimum. Cumberland Gap and the adjacent districts of the Clinch were under the command of Brig.-Gen. Garrard, who had an infantry and cavalry brigade under his command. In my opinion no offensive movement can be undertaken before the 1st of April, in East Tennessee, without running great risks of a disaster which may cause the loss of that section of the country. The reasons are, that the men and animals are worn down and need rest and recuperation; the country between the two armies is entirely exhausted of forage and all kinds of supplies, which it is impossible to haul from the rear in consequence of the bad roads of the winter and spring, and also of the lack of forage even at the rear. For lack of horses, caused by the want of forage, very little artillery can be taken on a march at this time. The green grass, with the green corn, wheat, &c., will by the 1st of April subsist the animals of an army on the march. The men will be recruited in strength, and the veteran regiments returned to their brigades, with, probably, filled ranks. The same reasons will keep Gen. Longstreet inactive, unless forced to move. If, however, he should advance with his present force to attack Knoxville, the chances amount to almost certainty that he will meet with a great disaster. Knoxville, if properly defended, cannot be taken. It is naturally very strong, and I increased the strength of the defenses raised by Gen. Burnside, and armed them with seventy pieces of artillery. As for supplies for a siege, they are ample. I had salted down over 500,000 rations of pork and collected 500 barrels of flour. If Longstreet attempts to march past Knoxville, for the purpose of destroying the communications with Chattanooga, resistance can be successfully made at the Little Tennessee or the Holston, as a line of defense, while re-enforcements are marching from Chattanooga. At the same time his communications will be open to flank attacks from Knoxville. If he should attempt to make a raid into Kentucky through Pound Gap, Pendleton's Gap, or Crank Gap (Cumberland Gap being held by us), a column formed of the disposable force at Knoxville, marching rapidly on his heels, can easily close the gaps in his rear, and perhaps capture his trains; while a force may be thrown around by rail from Chattanooga sufficient, with that in Kentucky, to destroy him. No large force will be thrown into East Tennessee by the rebels, unless we force them to do so by increasing our force and taking the offensive. It is in their power to increase Longstreet's force between this and the 1st of April by detaching from Gen. Lee's army, but after that time they will not dare no diminish Gen. Lee's force. If by great sacrifices Gen. Longstreet be now driven from East Tennessee, he will re-enforce other rebel armies where his presence may be productive of more harm than in East Tennessee. While he is in his present position he can neither do damage in Virginia, North Carolina, nor assist Gen. Johnston to resist our armies in Alabama and Georgia. The best policy seems to be to let him remain until the objects of the movements farther south are attained, and until the offensive can be taken with advantage; even then it is questionable whether the engagements with him should not have for object to retain him where he is until Atlanta, Mobile, Montgomery, and perhaps Augusta and Savannah, fall. Knoxville is only the left wing of the united armies under Gen. Grant. It is 110 miles from the center at Chattanooga, a secondary base, which is still distant from the right wing and the primary base in Tennessee. It is very questionable whether the left wing should be pushed beyond Knoxville. By keeping the army there on the defensive, a considerable force may be spared from it to re-enforce the large army of the center to penetrate into Georgia, where every mile gained in advance tends to dissever the Confederacy. Gen. Longstreet's force has been increased by a force from North Carolina, said to be Pickett's division, numbering 2,800 men. Gen. Pickett did not come with it, but remained in North Carolina. Added to the above about 1,000 convalescents arrived from Richmond.
On the other side, he had suffered from desertions at the rate of 20 a day, and had allowed 5 per cent. of his force to go home on furloughs ranging from twenty-five to thirty-five days each. His present strength is 21,000 infantry and artillery and 6,000 cavalry. The Army of the Ohio, numbered (Twenty-third Corps, 7,000; Ninth Corps, 4,000; Fourth corps, 8,000) 19,000 infantry and artillery, and 6,000 cavalry, of which, however, only about 3,500 were mounted. The question of supplies is satisfactorily settled. The railroad from Chattanooga to Loudon was opened. The work on the bridge at Loudon was being rapidly carried on; it should be finished is seventy days. A wagon bridge having been completed across the Holston at Knoxville, I ordered the pontoon bridge removed to Loudon, to enable the supplies brought up by rail to be wagoned across the river and thence conveyed by rail to Knoxville. The number of light-draught steamers on the river is to be increased. In general the condition of affairs in East Tennessee was so much improved as to produce a decided feeling of confidence.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER, Maj.-Gen. of Volunteers.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Gen.-in-Chief, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt I, pp. 444-447.
 Not found.
 Gen. Foster relieved Gen. Burnside on December 12, 1863. For the portion of this report here omitted, see Series I, Vol. 31, pt I, p. 286.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214