Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Etowah Bridge, Sunday, July 24. All very still and dull in camp after morning inspection. Anxiously listening for intelligence from the front. From the last reliable information we received last night, Atlanta was not ours, terrible efforts being made by General Hood, commanding rebel forces to retake his lost position. Heavy cannonading could be heard for an hour this morning, supposed to be in front.

2 P. M. While writing home, the long roll was sounded, and the infantry fell in with arms, and we were ordered to be ready for fight. The cavalry seen galloping over the hills. Waited half an hour, when the men returned to their quarters, the scare being over. Proved to be a squad of guerrillas, estimated at 150, which rushed upon one of our picket posts west of town, capturing it and then skedaddled. No mail came in. Track reported torn up. If they come and fool around here much, they may get hurt. General Kilpatrick’s headquarters in town. Two of his cavalry brigades here, and one of ours. In the evening Griff and I took a walk to town, the first time I have been in it since arrived. Old fashioned and dilapidated.

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July 24th. Sunday morning, Kearnstown, hot. Ordered out into line early for inspection. Instead orders came to advance. Hot skirmishing began right off. Our regiment placed at the right of the line, west side of the pike. Colonel Mulligan with his division form the left of the line. Our position is on high ground where we can overlook the field. Orders came to charge into the woods. There we found the enemy en masse. They poured their fire on Mulligan’s division. Mulligan was killed, his division losing very heavy. They were ordered to fall back. Orders came for our regiment to fall back to Winchester. We marched back and later the enemy came out of the wood, when we saw plainly the large force they had. Owing to my naked feet I could hardly keep up, but kept pushing. There are many hills around Winchester. Before we could reach the earthworks the enemy had field guns posted on hills commanding our position. As I could not keep up with the boys I came near being captured. I made a running jump over into the rifle pits near the old Star Fort. As I landed in the pits a solid shot also struck there. As I looked at it was thankful it was not a shell. Running around in the pits I was able to get out on the opposite side from the enemy and take my place in our company, line being just in the rear of the fort, where we formed. Shells began to drop all around us. Finally one came in our midst, doing much damage, some being killed and wounded. It caused great excitement as the dust and dirt flew over us. A peculiar numbness came to me, making me think I was wounded. Picking up my gun that had fallen to the ground, I discovered that it had been hit by a piece of the exploded shell, the barrel being flat and bent. I threw it down and picked up another on the field. That was no doubt the cause of my numbness. Orders came for a change in our position and to fall back to Bunker Hill. Up to this time we had been fighting and falling back for about sixteen miles. Had the 6th Corps remained in the valley it would have given us more show against Early’s large force, as they are in plain sight and we can see them from the hills. We will hold Bunker Hill and remain here for the night. I am in agony with my feet. We are in a ragged, dirty condition. The life of a soldier is a hard one. Our suffering at times is intense. It’s all for our country that we all love.

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by John Beauchamp Jones

            JULY 24TH.—Cloudy and cool, but dry.

            Yesterday and last night both Grant and Lee, or Beauregard, were moving pretty heavy forces from the south side to the north side of the river. I am not advised which initiated this manœuvre, but it indicates renewed activity of the armies in this vicinity.

I hope the roads will not be cut again, or we shall starve!

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Sunday, 24th—The weather is sultry. All is quiet, and no news from the front. I am gaining every day and can be up and around in the ward, but have not yet been out of doors.

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Sunday, July 24, 1864.

No church. Our preacher’s horse stolen by the Yankees. This raid is headed by Guerrard and is for the purpose of destroying our railroads. They cruelly shot a George Daniel and a Mr. Jones of Covington, destroyed a great deal of private property, and took many citizens prisoners.

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23rd. Saturday. Nettleton went to the Point yesterday so he did not go down this evening for John.

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Jacksonville, Fla.,
July 23, 1864.

Dear Sister L.:—

The “District of Florida” is cursed by a commander called Brigadier General Birney.[1] It seems to be a sort of dunce block for the government—a place where they send men good for nothing in any other place. They began with Seymour—his performances you have heard of. Then they sent Hatch. He couldn’t hatch up any disaster and they sent him somewhere else. Next came Foster. He was a pretty sensible man, so he did not stay a week. Then at last came Birney, the summum malum, a man afflicted with the St. Vitus’ dance, in a military point of view. He is utterly unable to be quiet or let anybody else be. He came early in June about the time most of the troops were sent away, and immediately began to stir up things. He thought there was not much force near Charleston and he would make a reconnoissance. He took the splendid steamer Boston, put a regiment of infantry and two pieces of artillery on her and started up one of the small rivers near Charleston. He ran aground, the rebels fired into the boat, he set fire to her, and the regiment jumped overboard and took to the woods. The steamer was lost with the two guns, all the arms of the regiment, and stores, in all $100,000 of property. By and by he started again, went up to James Island and—came back again. Didn’t lose much that time but a great deal of patience among his officers and men. On the Fourth of July there was some difficulty between the Third and Thirty-fifth Colored Troops in town here. He would punish the Third. He didn’t like the Eighth very well. He would punish the Eighth. The Third was in the forts here and had been drilling all summer in heavy artillery and understood it pretty well. He ordered the Third to Yellow Bluff and the Eighth to the forts at Jacksonville. Next day he ordered a raid. There was a steam sawmill belonging to a rebel on the Nassau River about twenty-five miles from here, and he started nearly all the force in the district to capture that sawmill. Three steamers loaded with troops left here a week ago to-day, landed the troops at Trout Creek above Yellow Bluff, and they marched across the country while the Alice Price, one of the most valuable steamers in the department, went round to go up the Nassau. He marched one day’s march into the wilderness and concluded he didn’t need so large a force, so he sent them all back but one hundred men. The Price struck a snag in the Nassau and went to pieces, a total loss of $40,000 and he hasn’t got the sawmill yet. He came back and ordered the Eighth out of the forts and the Third back again. He ordered us to camp on a place that was an equine cemetery, and didn’t see the joke till he had been told half a dozen times, and then he ordered us to change again over by Fort Hatch where we were last spring. We had not got tents pitched before the order came to “Prepare to march immediately. Six days’ rations, etc.” The regiment stood in a pelting rain for two hours on the wharf and then were ordered back to camp. This morning they started again, and after waiting two hours again in the rain, at last got on board and started. They are off on a cow-hunting expedition to Indian River, a hundred miles down the coast. You will ask why I am not with them. I was not able to march and am left in charge of the camps. I gave out on the sawmill expedition. We marched eight miles through the pine woods (which keep off the wind but give no shade) without a halt, with the mercury above 100 in the shade. At the end of that time I fell in the road, sun-struck, and I haven’t been worth much since. It was terrible. Twenty-five men and three officers had given out, and we all came back together towards night. So my boast of never being excused from duty is done. I was not well when I started and went further than I should have done, but for my pride in never “falling out.” There is a limit to human endurance and I found mine there. I can stand any reasonable hardship and I believe little things do not daunt me, but that was altogether too much. I never heard of such a thing before as marching men in such weather. Why, they do not allow a sentry to stand without a shelter, but men can march and carry six days’ rations on wild goose hunts well enough. There is no pretense of an enemy. There are not seven hundred rebels in the state of Florida.

General Rimey seems to consider the Eighth as a sick child that requires nursing, and block and tackle by which to hoist his favorites into place and power.

Major Burritt was badly wounded at Olustee and has not been able to be with the regiment since (Colonel Fribley is dead and Lieutenant Colonel Bartram promoted to another regiment); he is the true commander of the regiment. Captain Bailey commanded in his absence for a long time, but the general had one friend (only) in the district, a South American major, ambitious and unprincipled, and he wants to make him colonel, so he sends him to command the regiment, on the ground that Captain Bailey is not competent. Then he proposes to have Major Burritt (who has appointment as Lieutenant Colonel, but cannot be mustered till he takes command) mustered out of the service, Major Mayer promoted to Colonel, and a Captain Hart to Lieutenant Colonel of the Eighth. Major Mayer has already made recommendations of officers to be promoted who are entirely out of the line of promotion, and, to cap the climax, the general yesterday sent Captain Hart to command the regiment, which stirred up such a breeze that he had to send him back. You do not understand why, I presume. Suppose the captain of my company to resign, or be promoted, or die, or get out of the way in any other way. Of course, I would expect to be promoted to fill his place, the second lieutenant to take my place. That is, if I were senior first lieutenant (having appointment of earliest date). Now, if an officer from another regiment is made the captain, that throws me and every officer out of promotion. Of course, that does not work smoothly, being opposed to the regulations, and such performances are demoralizing the Eighth very fast.

I have wished many times this summer that I was back in the Army of the Potomac. We would probably knock about more there than here, but it would be to some apparent purpose and we would have the satisfaction of trying to do some good.

I expect before Birney gets back there will be another steamer blown up by torpedoes and we will be hurried down to Yellow Bluff again to guard the river.


[1] Note—Not the General Birney of the Third Corps.

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July 23d. Routed out early this morning. Picket firing has commenced. Our boys are driving the enemy. We advance in line of battle for quite a distance through the open lots, coming to a halt at Kearnstown, going right at work digging rifle pits and throwing up earthworks. Our regiment ordered out on the skirmish line. Later, orders received to fall back and prepare camp for the night. At this time I am barefoot, shoes and stockings worn out. No prospect for any more as we are on the march about all the time. My feet are very sore as I must go through stubs and briers, cannot pick my way, must keep in line. Many of the boys are also in the same condition as I am, no shoes or stockings. Try to keep up courage.

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July 23, 1864.

I have been left in my home all day with no one but Sadai. Have seen nothing of the raiders, though this morning they burned the buildings around the depot at the Circle [Social Circle, a near-by town]. I have sat here in the porch nearly all day, and hailed every one that passed for news. Just as the sun set here Major Ansley and family came back. They heard of the enemy all about and concluded they were as safe here as anywhere. Just before bedtime John, our boy, came from Covington with word that the Yankees had left. Wheeler’s men were in Covington and going in pursuit. We slept sweetly and felt safe.

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July 23, 1864.

The fight came off the 22d, and a glorious one it was for us. Lieutenant Blair of our regiment was killed, also Charles Buck, of Company F, and John Smith of my company. There were seven wounded only. Our brigade gets credit for 400 prisoners. They took us in rear and every other way, but the repulse was awful. Everybody is wishing that they may repeat the attack. Generals McPherson and Force are killed. (Force, was not killed.) Our regiment gets credit for its part, though we were very fortunate in losing so few. Our skirmish line is within one mile of the town.

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