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

Reminiscences of the Civil War, William and Adelia Lyon

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Thurs., Oct. 13, 1864.—I went to Stevenson and back on Monday on an inspecting tour. The regiment is still very sickly.

Things are very unsettled here, and we are liable to be struck by heavy forces of the rebels almost any day.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 9, 1864.—All is quiet now, Forrest having recrossed the river without being much damaged. There will be a large force kept in this district, no doubt, which will lead to changes, and it is hard to guess how it will affect us. We may remain right where we are, we may be sent back to the river, and we may go to Atlanta. One is just about as likely as the other. We shall know soon.

I have found one of my horses—the best one—in a contraband camp two miles from town. As father used to say, ‘Give a man luck, and a little wit will do.’

Most of the officers who are entitled to a discharge will take one when the original term of service of the 13th expires. The officers who went home with the regiment last winter are not held by reason of having done so, the War Department having overruled General Thomas in that respect. If the Major goes out, Captain Kummel will be Lieut.-Colonel. We shall not be entitled to a Major, the regiment being below the minimum (806 enlisted men). In that case, Fish may stay as Captain of Company C. If not, Bardwell will be Captain, and I think that Moulton will be a Lieutenant.

I go up the road tomorrow on an inspecting tour as far as Stevenson. I take a special train and expect to be gone two days. Officers and men of the 13th nearly all sick, but I hope the cool weather will straighten them up.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala,, Thurs., Oct. 6, 1864.—We have had lively times, but everything has settled down now into the quiet of utter stagnation, and last night I was allowed to sleep all night without interruption. The night before, just at bedtime, I received information that there were a thousand rebels nine miles from Larkinsville. So I had to put out in the rain and send out reinforcements and telegraph orders, and it was nearly midnight before I got to bed. It turned out to be a small guerilla party. The last we heard of Forrest, he was in the vicinity of Columbia. There are so many troops in this vicinity that we had no fear of his coming this way again.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 4, 1864.—I am well but completely tired out. The raid seems to have passed us. We find that we were menaced by 4,000 men with artillery, and when they came they no doubt intended to attack, but gave it up. So we have lost another fight.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 2, 1864.—I keep on writing to you, although I do not suppose that one of my letters has reached Nashville for over a week. Of course, I receive none from you. The railroad over which our mails pass is not used, and the other road is used exclusively to transport troops.

When Forrest left the railroad, near Pulaski, he went east towards the Nashville & Chattanooga R. R., but, as far as I can learn, has not injured it. On Thursday I sent a scouting party nearly to Fayetteville, 28 miles north of this place, who learned that his army passed through there the night before, going east. The next day I sent another scout in a northeast direction and about 12 miles out. They ran into a large force of the enemy and had a little fight. On their return General Granger, who in the meantime had arrived here from Decatur, sent out another scout on the same road, and soon after we heard them skirmishing some two miles out of town. This was just at night. The scout came in and reported 150 rebels there. They lost one man, killed. We made every preparation for defense. In the evening a flag of truce came in with a communication from the rebel General Buford, saying that he commanded the advance of Forrest’s army, and demanding a surrender of the town, fort, troops, etc., at this post. The substance of General Granger’s answer was, ‘Go to h—l.’

Some further correspondence occurred during the night, the dispatches purporting to be signed by Forrest himself. He offered to let the citizens have two hours after daylight to get out of the town. We allowed all to leave who chose to go, and most of them went. There was a terrible panic amongst them. They are nearly all rebels, and General Granger, Colonel Johnson and myself had all told them repeatedly that if we were attacked we would play smash with their old town. It was interesting to see them, on foot, on horses and mules and in all sorts of vehicles, run from their doomed town, as they supposed. They went in all directions, but mainly to the mountains near by.

Well, about eight o’clock on Saturday morning several parties of the enemy appeared in sight and moved up to within one or two miles of the town. Whenever we could get a fair view of them we let the shells fly at them. They kept pretty well under the cover of the woods, and after an hour or so, there being no apparent increase of their force, we sent out scouts, who at noon reported that the enemy had left and were moving west, saying that they could take Huntsville, but that it would cost them more men than they could afford to lose. So the citizens returned and everything quieted down again. I was up all Friday night, and stayed at the fort last night, but slept most of the time. Tonight I am at headquarters and hope to have a good, quiet, ten-hours’ sleep.

The 13th had its usual luck, or would have had it had there been a fight. About twenty minutes before we learned that the rebels were in our neighborhood, General Granger started all of them who were here, some 200, on the cars toward Stevenson to remove the wreck of a train that was fired into and ran off the track at Bellfonte the same morning. So they would not have been here at all, except Company E, which we brought up from Whitesburg during Friday night. The regiment returned last evening and this afternoon was sent to its old stations on the railroad.

Last evening several thousand troops arrived here to reinforce us. They are commanded by General Morgan, with whom I formed a very pleasant acquaintance at Stevenson a year ago. This force went down towards Decatur this evening on a reconnoisance. While it is in our vicinity we are in no danger of attack.

We have no knowledge of the size of the force that made this demonstration on us. General Granger thinks it was Forrest’s whole force. I do not. I think it was large enough, however, to satisfy them that it could take Huntsville. I was much relieved to have the General here to take the responsibility of the command. I was also much relieved to know that you were in Wisconsin, safe and snug.

Jerry packed up my traps and carried them to the fort, and then took a musket and went into a colored company we have here and was ready to fight. The officers and men of the 13th are nearly all sick. I have reported the regiment as unfit for field duty, and mean that it shall lie still for a few weeks to recuperate.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Thurs., Sept. 29,1864.—I suppose you learn from the newspapers that Forrest is playing smash in here. He first struck the railroad at Athens. His coming was a complete surprise. He captured the garrison there (a colored regiment) without much of a fight. Just as the surrender took place, reinforcements from Decatur reached there, the most of whom were captured. The 18th Michigan loses 300 and the 102d Ohio, 150 men. He then went north to a heavy trestle work a few miles from Athens and captured two regiments, burning the trestle. Then he moved on to Elk river bridge and captured and destroyed it; after which he pressed forward to Pulaski, where he encountered General Rousseau with reinforcements. They have been fighting, but we do not know the result.

This morning I received dispatches from Decatur that Forrest moved on Tuesday night towards the Nashville and Chattanooga R. R., in the direction of Fayetteville. His force is 6,000 to 8,000 strong, with plenty of artillery. I keep scouting parties in the direction of Fayetteville constantly. I do not think he will come this way, although when he was at Athens I felt a little squally.

Heavy reinforcements have come up from the front and have gone toward Nashville, and more are expected. So I think we are out of the woods. Colonel Chapman, with a part of the regiment, is still at Decatur.

Just at this point I received the following telegram from General Granger at Decatur: ‘Strengthen Huntsville all you can. Use every available cotton bale for traverses in fort to defend against enfilading fire. Thoroughly barricade the streets. Defend all approaches to the fort as completely as possible.’

I had been doing all this for several days, but, to be certain that everything is right, I started out and made a thorough examination of the works. I do not know whether the General thinks that Forrest is coming this way or not. I keep out scouting parties fifteen or twenty miles towards Pulaski and Fayetteville constantly, but as yet can hear nothing of his moving this way. If he comes, I have a good fort, some artillery and a gallant little garrison, and hope to be able to make a good fight. I think, however, that the order is merely precautionary, as this is the first time that he has said anything about the defenses. If he had information that we were in danger of attack he would have said so. His family are here and have had no communication from him on the subject. Then we can be reinforced in a few hours, if attacked, both from Decatur and Stevenson. The General is feeling very badly. He was surprised. The railroad under his charge is seriously injured and he has lost 3,000 to 4,000 of his command. These are hard blows for any officer to stand up under.

No doubt you will know the result of operations here before you receive this. I am confident that a vigorous effort is being made by General Sherman to head off and destroy the force engaged in this raid, and I shall expect in a day or two to see large reinforcements moving this way. How fortunate that it did not happen before the capture of Atlanta, when no troops could have been spared!

I have been much broken of my rest for four or five nights, and am very busy all the time. I am a good deal worn and fatigued with labor, anxiety and loss of sleep, but am well. If any one is ambitious for an important military command in times of peril, or thinks it is a soft thing to be an officer, I am perfectly willing that he should have a chance to try it on. Oh, it will be paradise, indeed, if I am permitted to sit down at home once more with wife and children, family and friends, and know that the war is over, the flag triumphant, and my duty as a soldier done. Will not that be a happy day for us all?

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Mon., Sept. 26, 1864.—Forrest, with a large force, is raiding in this region, and I have been up nearly all night for two nights, moving troops, telegraphing, etc. He captured Athens, 25 miles west of here on the railroad, Saturday, and yesterday captured and burned a long trestle work a few miles north of Athens. Reinforcements came down yesterday from Chattanooga to go to General Granger at Decatur, but I received orders from General Sherman’s headquarters to turn them about and send them to Nashville, which I did. I infer from this that Forrest is moving north. We hear all sorts of reports about what his intentions are, but can not form any definite idea about it.

We have a good fort here, considerable artillery and some troops, and will try to give a good account of ourselves if attacked. A train was captured at Athens which had on it a mail. The road to Nashville via Stevenson is still open, but will probably be broken, and we shall have another blockade. I send this to Stevenson and hope it will get through.

I took all the troops that I could possibly spare from the railroad and sent them to General Granger yesterday. Colonel Chapman took about 300 of the 13th. I do not hear a word from my horses. Two companies of the 18th Michigan were captured at Athens.

Now, do not worry about me. I, as well as you, am in the hands of a kind Father, who does all things for the best, and we can trust Him without a fear or doubt. I do not disguise from you that we are environed with perils, but I will try to do my duty and leave the event.

I hear that recruiting is lively all over the North. This is good news for us, for the men are needed.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 21,1864.—I go out as far as Woodville, 24 miles on the railroad, in the morning, but will not be gone long. They run out a special train for me, so I can return when I please.

Everything is perfectly quiet throughout my whole command. I have a lot of cavalry out after guerilla Johnson, and they are spreading terror amongst the people who have been guilty of harboring these fellows. If the cavalry fail to smoke him out, I shall try him with infantry and go myself.

I have a pleasant room in the second story, well furnished, my amiable and excellent landlady (whom I have not seen since we have been in her house) having left the furniture. The room is nearly twenty feet square, and at least fifteen feet high, has a grate, four large windows with blinds outside and damask curtains inside. The floor is carpeted. The furniture is all old-fashioned—an enormous bedstead with high posts and a canopy, spring mattress, bolster, pillows with ruffled slips, sheets and a white counterpane; an arm rocking chair, cushioned; several flag bottomed chairs; a chest of drawers, wardrobe (kept locked), marble-topped washstand, a little table, on which I am writing; large looking glass, a sewing machine, a few lithographs in square, gilt frames; wash bowl and pitcher, some earthern candlesticks and a thermometer, constitute my furniture. The Adjutant has a similar room, with rather more furniture, which we use as an office. There is only a hall between us. Our kitchen and dining room, where old Minty and her little girl, six years old, live, is a few rods back of the house, and Jerry, Johnny, clerk and orderlies, live in their tents in the back yard.

I think you could stand it if you were here, especially after wintering in a tent. I have sent by Captain Noyes to Nashville to try and get a permit for you and Minerva to come. He is acquainted with Colonel Sawyer, General Sherman’s Adjutant-General, who has power to grant these permits, and thinks he can get it. He left here for Nashville this morning. No ladies are coming south of Nashville, so far as I know. If you were to apply to him for leave to come he would say to you that if the Government would be as much benefited by your coming as it would be were 175 pounds of corn shipped in your place, he would let you come. Mrs. Moulton wishes to come, and I think to accomplish it she will take an appointment as matron in the hospital at Decatur. Of course, it is entirely inadmissible for you to get here in any such manner.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Sun., Sept. 18, 1864.—I wrote to you from Stevenson last Wednesday, returned here the same night, and on Friday I received four letters from you. What a feast I had!

Everything is quiet here except that there is a gang of guerillas between the railroad and Tennessee river, variously estimated at from 75 to 250 strong, under one Johnson, a Methodist preacher. They do not disturb the railroad thus far, but rob and murder Union men wherever they find them defenceless. General Granger has promised me some troops to make an expedition after them in a few days.

The 13th has been sent out on the railroad to take the place of another regiment, the 12th Indiana Cavalry, sent to Tullahoma. The regiment garrisons the defense of the railroad to Woodville, twenty-four miles towards Stevenson. Company C is still at Claysville Landing, and Captain Kingman, with 75 or 80 men, is at Whitesburg. While I have my present command I shall remain here.

I think I have met with a loss here in the way of horses. Now ‘horses’ is rather a delicate subject for me to write to you upon, but I will venture. The one I bought in Stevenson got lame, and I took a captured horse to ride in his place. Mine got well, but I liked the other and kept him. Both turned out to be capital, good animals, and last Wednesday both of them were stolen out of a little yard where they were feeding, right in the middle of this town. No one is to blame but the thief. We can get no track of them. When I go for Johnson I will try to capture another.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Stevenson, Wed., Sept. 14, 1864.—I am here on an inspecting tour of railroad defenses. I came yesterday, leaving Huntsville on Monday. Went to Bridgeport last night, returning early this morning. I have written several letters during the blockade and you may receive this one first of all. Colonel Anderson, of the 12th Indiana Cavalry, which is a part of my command, is with me. Dr. Horton came here this morning from Nashville, where he has been during the interruption of our communication.

{ 0 comments }