Monday, February 17, 2014

2/17/2014 Tennessee Civil War Notes

17, John B. Hamilton, at Mill Creek, Nashville environs, to his wife, relative to Fort Donelson fiasco

Feb. 17, 1862

Dear Wife,

I am at cousin Lizzie's-Staid [sic] here last night-Our army (from Bowling Green) are now crossing the [Cumberland] river-and will be all day (perhaps). The cavalry got over at dark last night, crossing on the R.R. Bridge-

Our arms have met a reverse at Ft. Donaldson [sic]. Our troops are in retreat for this place. If the Gun Boats get up here, Nashville will be surrendered, I think. If they cannot get up we may make a stand near this-[sic]

We are camped at Mill Creek 4 miles out on Murfreesborough Pike-Should we move from there, we will go, I think, towards Murfreesborough.

If I knew how [sic] to get them to me I would send for Peter or John Turley. Take things a calm as you can. "all things are not deth." [sic] My helth [sic] tho [sic] poor, is better-The Boys are well.

I am going to camp this morning. will [sic] write as often as I can-but if all communication for a time shall be cut don't suffer yourself to fret & grieve still have an abiding faith in the God of all Good & justice [sic].

These clouds that soon blow by & we shall have a calm [sic]

It is raining this morning-If it shall continue [sic] it will raise the water & the Gun Boats up-as it now [sic] stands we think [sic] they cannot come.

Our killed at Donaldson [sic] if reported at 500-that of the enemy 1,000-

We brought all the dead from the field. Such is my information-I saw McMeans in charge of Col Brown's (3d Ten. Regt. [sic]) [sic] Waggon's crossing last night. The Regt [sic] would get about Charlotte last night [sic].

Our forces from Bowling Green inform us to 25,000 [sic] respects to Ma & all the rest....

Yours Truly,

J. B. Hamilton

Hamilton-Williams Family Papers.[1]



17, Private in the 5th Iowa Cavalry Charles Alley's impressions of Fort Henry

We arrived here on Tuesday last and landed the same day. The cannon of the "Fort" looked black and gloomy at us but they are harmless now. The "Fort" is a space of several acres enclosed by a ditch about 15 feet wide and 8 or 10 deep. The river was very high, over the low grounds, and the lower part of the fort was overflowed. There were 17 guns in the works, one a 128 pounder, one a rifled gun which burst. A smaller ditch was carried out I think not less than a mile and a half from the river. Then a piece of woods not cut down, then about forty rods wide of timber cut down so as to stop cavalry or artillery, and to be difficult for infantry. A great deal of labor to be lost in an hour. We encamped on a gentle rise a short distance south of the fort. We had clear a place for our camp, but the rebels had cut down all the heavy timber for us, thereby saving us some hard labor. The weather was fine.

Civil War Diary of Lieutenant Charles Alley,

Company "C," 5th Iowa Cavalry[2]


       17, "Hurried to the Commissary's – great crowd there, everybody carrying off bacon.  Gartlan had our wagon getting a load.  While waiting on him I had a fine opportunity of witnessing the scramble – all sorts of vehicles in use – stout men walking off with sides and hams – Irish women tottering under the same.  Some persons secured large amounts." An entry from Journal of Dr. John Berrien Lindsley describing the panic in Nashville during the retreat of the Army of Tennessee from Fort Donelson 

Monday – At daylight dismissed Deubler & company.  Waked up Dr. Peake, and made out a requisition for 750 men for 90 days on Capt. Schaaf, Commissary.  This was on the supposition that many wounded men would speedily arrive from Fort Donelson, and that when the Federal army occupied the city we would have some four or five hundred patients.  In case these men were not recognized as prisoners of war we would thus have a fund to support the hospital say six weeks until they were well: or in case the rules of war were observed the hospital would be turned over to the Federals well supplied.

After breakfast it rained very hard.  I walked to Dr. Yandell's office.  Called twice – saw Childers – neither Yandell not Pim in – Went to the Quartermaster's Office – fortunately found Major John Sehon in – he was packing up busily to leave – explained my requisition to him – he wrote a few lines of approval.

Hurried to the Commissary's – great crowd there, everybody carrying off bacon.  Gartlan had our wagon getting a load.  While waiting on him I had a fine opportunity of witnessing the scramble – all sorts of vehicles in use – stout men walking off with sides and hams – Irish women tottering under the same.  Some persons secured large amounts.  This promiscuous and irregular scramble was so much in the way of parties getting supplies for their regiments that Gen. Floyd stopped it about noon.

Had now about 100 men at the University.  Mrs. Lindsley & Mrs. Hoyte did good service this day with kitchens & stoves in cooking for us.

Much work done in fitting up hospital.

After dinner learned at Pa's that Dr. Yandell was anxious to see me at Dr. Martin's.  Found him there.  He told me that himself & Dr. Pim were obliged to accompany Gen. Johnston, and that they wished me to under-take the duties of Post Surgeon.  Agreed to it.  Loaned my carriage to the Dr. to take his family to the Depot – it being nearly 3 o'clock.  In taking this work it was understood that Dr. Pim would attend to the duties of the office for two days so as to give me time to get my hospital ready – and also that I was to retain my post as Acting Surgeon at the University.  Had a few minutes interview with Dr. Pim: said the hospitals were in great confusion as several of the surgeons or assistants had suddenly left; and that it would be necessary to send to each one to ascertain their present status.

About 5 P.M. Dr. Hay, Assistant Surgeon at the Johnson hospital, came to the University greatly troubled: he had a house full of wounded men, and owing to Dr. Eve's sudden departure the day previous, every thing was in confusion.  Went down at once with Dr. Peake, who after looking around agreed to take charge immediately. On Saturday I had engaged one of Carroll Napier's [marginal note in a different hand: "A coller man"] carriages – found it very useful now.

As a day of panic and terrified confusion this was equal to the preceding – Large bodies of the retreating army were hastening through, and getting their supplies as they passed. 

Many citizens and their families left on the cars and in vehicles.  So absorbed was I with my special work as to be but little struck with the universal terror; it was not until my attention was called to it afterwards that I realized it.

What I saw of Johnston's army to day and yesterday fully equaled any description I have ever read of an army in hurried retreat before a superior force, whose fangs they must avoid.  There was hurry, confusion, alarm, and on the part of many a sullen dissatisfaction at not being able to fight.

Went to bed in good season – perfectly worn out.

Dr. John Berrien Lindsley's Journal, February 18, 1862TSLA, ed. Kathy Lauder



ca. 17, News of the fall of Fort Donelson reaches Murfreesboro, excerpt from the diary of John C. Spence

* * * *

Our town was quietly reposing, not dreaming that an army would tread our quiet streets, or that we should have any thing to molest us in our every day avocation. But, merely to speak of war as a thing that was raging in other parts of the country and not likely to ever reach us-these and similar feelings were in the minds of all.

When one morning, early, our ears is [sic] greeted by the sound of the horses [sic] hoof, the roll of Artillery wagons and trains, the heavy tread of the retreating soldier and cavalry in our midst. If dreaming, we are now awakened to a new sense of feeling, that war is spreading its baneful effects through the land and its future effects to be dreaded.

Spence Diary.



 17, Expedition from Memphis against guerrillas

FEBRUARY 17, 1863.-Expedition from Memphis, Tenn., against guerrillas.

HDQRS. SECOND ILLINOIS CAVALRY, Memphis, February 17, 1863.

Report of JOHN J. MUDD,

Maj., Cmdg. Regt

SIR: I have the honor to report the safe arrival of my entire command at 9 o'clock this evening. I moved in concert with Col. Starring, of Seventy-second Illinois, and found enemy's pickets about fourteen miles out, and afterward were constantly annoyed by the bushwhackers, who lost no opportunity of firing on us from beyond fences and ravines; but fortunately we suffered no loss. Owing to delay at a small bridge beyond Horn Creek we did not reach Maj. Blythe's camp until Tuesday morning. We found it deserted, and after burning the few sheds remaining and the camp and garrison equipage we found the rebel forces advancing. On our approach they fled in great haste and confusion. We pursued about three miles, capturing 12 prisoners, 20 or 30 guns, some horses, and a lot of regimental and company papers, part of which I send you, and the remainder are in possession of Lieut. White, aide-de-camp to Gen. Quinby. Among the prisoners is Lieut. Smith, of Capt. Matthews' company. I have never before met as bold and daring bushwhackers. I do not believe they can be driven out without quartering troops in the neighborhood, which course I wound suggest. The neighbors are nearly all connected with the troops. They are wealthy, and have meat enough this side of Coldwater to supply a large army for a long time. If we don't eat it the rebels will. They have also forage in abundance. If a force were quartered amongst them, and the bridges on Coldwater destroyed, a large contraband trade would be broken up and our flanks be protected and the guerrillas would not be so plenty in this City.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN J. MUDD, Maj., Cmdg. Regt. [sic]

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 24, pt. I, p. 61.



17, Major-General Rosecrans seeks power to promptly execute death penalty in order to prevent desertion from the Army of the Cumberland

MURFREESBOROUGH, TENN., February 17, 1863--3 p. m.

Maj.-Gen. HALLECK, Gen.-in-Chief:

The effect of the state of party agitation at the North is to encourage desertion. To counteract this in my army, at least, I deem two things necessary: First, that I have the power of confirming and promptly executing sentence of death for desertion. Second, that I have the authority to send proper details of officers, and, if necessary, men, to arrest and bring back absentees, whether deserters, paroled prisoners, skulkers, convalescents, or stragglers. I have once requested this of the War Department, but have not yet received a reply. I beg your attention to this matter, as one requiring immediate attention. There are 40,000 absentees from this army to-day.

W. S. ROSECRANS, Maj.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, p. 75.



17, Confederates escape from the penitentiary

Escaped.—Night before last seven Confederate prisoners escaped from the penitentiary in this city. They worked their way up to the cupola of the building, then by ropes—supposed to have been furnished by some secesh ladies of this place—reached the ground. One of them was shot and captured, and one of them captured unhurt. The remaining five escaped through the picket line, and are now supposed to be in the rebel army.

Nashville Daily Union, February 19, 1863



17, Expedition from Island No. 10 to Riley's Landing Tennessee

FEBRUARY 17, 1864.-Expedition from Island No. 10 to Riley's Landing, Tenn.

Report of Capt. Robert M. Ekings, thirty-fourth New Jersey Infantry.

HDQRS. U. S. FORCES, Island No. 10, Tenn., February 18, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report that, having received information that 4 deserters from the Union army were secreted near Tiptonville, Tenn., I with 40 men of my command embarked on a steamer at 2 a. m. of February 17, and proceeded down the river to Riley's Landing, 6 miles below Tiptonville.

At Riley's house we seized a small amount of Government ammunition and several guns. Being unable to carry away these guns we destroyed them.

We then proceeded to the house of one Lewis, where we succeeded in capturing 5 of the gang of guerrillas which has infested the bend for five months past. Together with them we captured their arms and their horses. These men were in bed, having their pistols under their heads, but being completely surprised offered no resistance.

From this point we marched to the place where the deserters were said to be employed, but could find no traces of them. Seeing no chance of effecting any further captures we got on board a boat at Tiptonville and returned to this post.

One of these prisoners, Owen Edwards, is a quasi lieutenant in Meriwether's company of bushwhackers, and is reported to have been in command of the party which fired into a Government boat below Tiptonville about three months ago. Another, Lewis, claims to belong to Faulkner's command. Gregg says he was a private in Meriwether's gang, but that he deserted when Meriwether proceeded south. George Moore, formerly of the rebel army, now horse thief and scoundrel in general, is the fourth person captured; and lastly Clayton, about whom I have no particular information except his being found with the rest at Lewis' house. Lewis is a paroled prisoner. He was formerly a captain in the Fifteenth Regt. Tennessee Volunteers, rebel army. He stated that the guerrillas have eaten over $200 worth of provisions at his house within six months. He has a parole from Gen. Quinby, formerly commanding this district.

Of the captured horses three have been sent to Columbus. The prisoners will be examined and sent to Capt. I. H. Williams, district provost-marshal.

R. M. EKINGS, Capt. Company C, 34th New Jersey Infantry, Cmdg. Post.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 404.[3]




 17, An end to military control over newspaper circulation in Chattanooga


Headquarters Depar't [sic] of the Cumberland.

Office of Provost Marshal General

Chattanooga, Feb. 17, 1864

All orders heretofore issued in this Department proscribing or restricting the circulation of Newspapers, are hereby revoked.

by command of Maj. Gen. Geo. H. Thomas

Nashville Dispatch, March 16, 1864.



17, "Supplies were permitted by General Sherman to be sent up the river, partly upon my representation of the extreme necessity of the families living on the bank of the river, many of whom I know to have been loyal to the Government at times when Union men were hunted like wild beasts." Trading Cotton for Supplies on the Tennessee River

Report of Lieutenant-Commander Shirk, U. S. Navy, regarding the operations of the steamer S. C. Baker in Tennessee River.


Clifton, Tenn., February 17, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th instant, relative to a steamboat trading in cotton on the Tennessee River, and enclosing a copy of a telegram from Brigadier-General Dodge to Major-General U. S. Grant.

The steamboat referred to is the S.C. Baker, owned by Halliday Brothers, of Cairo, and William H. Cherry & Go., of Memphis. These gentlemen had proper permits to purchase cotton in the counties bordering on the river, in the States of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, from the supervising agents of the Treasury.

The supplies that the S.C. Baker took up the river were all distributed under the personal supervision of a Treasury agent. Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Jason Goudy, commanding the U. S. S. Tawah, convoyed the Baker, and his orders from me were to see that no supplies were put on shore where they could fall into the hands of rebels. This he did do.

The papers of the Baker and the permits for family supplies were all correct, and in accordance with the requisitions of the Treasury Department for" commercial intercourse with, and in, States declared in insurrection," and the general orders of the War and Navy Departments, annexed thereto, direct, that "all officers of the Army or Navy should not permit, prohibit, or in any manner interfere with any trade or transportation conducted under the regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury."

The officers commanding convoys in this river are attentive in a high degree to their duty, and I know that they would not permit any violation of any order or regulation of the Government.

The Baker is now in the river again with supplies permitted by the collector of customs in Paducah, Ky., and was cleared for Florence, Ala. She is now at Craven's Landing, about 10 miles below Savannah. I have directed Acting Volunteer Lieutenant E. M. King, commanding U. S. S. Key West, who is convoying her, not to go any farther up the river, to seize her if any relative of General Roddey is on board, or if anyone on board has a permit to trade given by General Roddey, and to take her to Cairo.

Supplies were permitted by General Sherman to be sent up the river, partly upon my representation of the extreme necessity of the families living on the bank of the river, many of whom I know to have been loyal to the Government at times when Union men were hunted like wild beasts.

I shall do all in my power to prevent supplies of any kind from falling into the hands of rebels.

I have certain information that the rebel Roddey has gone with his command into the State of Georgia. There may be a few stragglers from his force on the west or southern side of the Tennessee River, but I believe that there are no rebels in arms near the places the Baker has been trading. I have directed Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commanding King to afford the S. C. Baker every facility in buying cotton on the lower part of the river, provided he finds her to be all right.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,


Lieutenant-Commander, Comdg. 7th Dist. Mississippi Squadron.

Rear-Admiral DAVID D. POUTER.

Commanding U. S. Mississippi Squadron,

Flagship Black Hawk, Mound City, Ill.

NOR, Ser. I, Vol. 25, pp. 765-766.




[1] Hamilton-Williams Family Papers, mfm 1303, Box 1, folder 15, TSL&A.

[2] Civil War Diary of Lieutenant Charles Alley, Company "C," 5th Iowa Cavalry, TSL&A Civil War Collection, typescript. [Hereinafter cited as: Alley Diary. If not otherwise designated, the entry is date specific.]

[3] This same report is also found in Rebellion Record, Vol. 8, p. 447. It includes the following sentence which does not appear in the OR version: "At nearly every house we visited, we found guns, which we destroyed."

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-532-1550  x115

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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