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., 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.

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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.

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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.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Sept. 11, 1864.—I will write again from force of habit, for the cars do not yet run to Nashville and two letters that I have written to you still lie in the postoffice at this place. We learn that the railroads are nearly repaired. General Granger has not yet returned to Huntsville, and I am tied up here until he does return; then I propose to make an inspection tour to Stevenson and back, and an expedition southeast towards Claysville, to clear the country of guerillas.

Quite a number of the men are sick with chills and fever, caused by malaria. Captain Norcross and Dr. Horton went to Nashville just before the raid and have not been able to get back. I have sent Captain Kingman to Whitesburg with a detachment of seventy-five men taken from all of the companies. It is a sickly hole and I intend to change the men there as often as once a week. Company C, with the band and a lot of convalescents, is still at Claysville Landing. I have not heard from them for several days. I have no fears for their safety. They are strongly fortified and the gunboats are frequently there.

I told you in my last of an attack made on Company F. It was a mistake. The attack was made on a company of home guards, about a mile from the train— one killed and one wounded on each side, and ten of the guards (who are loyal men) captured. They were surprised by guerrillas.

It is a paradise here, where the rude hand of war has not desolated it. Huntsville is a beautiful town. Before the war there was much wealth in it, and it was the pride of the South. The city has not been torn up much, but the country about is devastated.

General Granger, I hear, is expected tonight.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Headquarters, R. R. Defenses, M. & C. R. R., Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 6, 1864.—I give you the name of my establishment. I think it quite showy. We have just located this afternoon. We have nice quarters. The Adjutant and I each have a large, carpeted, well furnished room, in the second story of a large mansion very pleasantly located. We have a kitchen in the back yard, where we are to eat and where old Minty, our cook, lives. Jerry, Johnny, and our clerk have pitched their tents just back of the house, and we have altogether the coziest headquarters you ever saw.

I expect communications will be opened to Nashville by tomorrow, via Stevenson. You will learn enough of Wheeler’s raid by the newspapers not to be surprised at getting no letters from me. Wheeler is west of us, and our troops are driving him toward the Muscle Shoals. General Steadman went through here today with a considerable force to join Rousseau and Granger.

There is quite a large force of guerrillas south of the railroad on my beat that I intend to drive out as soon as General Granger returns and I can get some cavalry.

Lieut. Graham was coming through with our wagon train, and camped last night four miles out of Woodville. I hear he was attacked in the night and that Company F, which had just reached Woodville, has gone out to help him. I do not know the result, but shall in a few hours.

Company F had a man shot and captured the night before they left the river. He was carrying dispatches, and is supposed to be mortally wounded. So you see we have war even here.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., Sat., Sept. 3, 1864—I have been knocking about considerably since I wrote to you last. Wednesday I got an order to concentrate my end of the regiment, except one company, at Woodville. That evening I started out with E and H, went four miles. The next morning took G and got to Woodville at noon. Soon after I and D arrived. I supposed we were on an expedition after Wheeler or some of these raiders who are playing smash in our rear; but when I got there I found dispatches from General Granger ordering me to come here and take command of the railroad and all of the troops on it from here to Stevenson, together with all of the troops at this place.

I came down here last evening on the cars, and sent back a special train and brought down the men this morning. I found Colonel Chapman here with A and B. K is at Whitesburg and C at Claysville. F is on the road here. The Adjutant, Jerry, and a good many men with the ague are at Claysville. General Granger is up the railroad somewhere at a threatened point and I have not seen him. I have sent for the Adjutant and Jerry.

We are cut off from Nashville and I don’t know when you will get this lettter. Wheeler has been in there and cut the railroads. I will write just the same. I have just issued an order assuming my command. The General in his order gives me power to move troops wherever I think they are needed, and orders me to meet the enemy wherever they make their appearance and ‘Strike to scatter and destroy.’

We shall have rooms for the present in one of the largest houses in town, owned and occupied by an old widow, Mrs. Rice.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Claysville, Ala., Tues., 2 a. m., Aug. 30,1864.—You will wonder why I am writing to you at this time in the morning. I will tell you. We had information that a large force of rebels was in our immediate front, on the other side of the river. I spent the whole day yesterday in preparing for an attack, which I confidently expected before long. Last evening Sergeant Moulton came up here from his station on the river and told me that he had information from the same source that this force received orders on Sunday to repair at once to Atlanta and that they all left for that place on that day and yesterday; that his informant saw the last piece of artillery leave; and, further, that the rebels had 13 pieces of artillery. I felt greatly relieved, and not having slept much the night before I congratulated myself on a good night’s sleep in prospect.

I had just sat down to write some dispatches to General Granger to send off in the morning, when I received a note from Lieut. Fish saying that a force had made its apperance on the other side of the river. This was about eight o’clock. I immediately went down to his camp and found that a force has really come into Guntersville, which is about three-fourths of a mile from the river. It was after dark and they could see nothing, but they could hear commands given. I am satisfied that the force is not large, and that it has no artillery; yet their presence made it necessary to use all precautions against a surprise or an attack, and that along my whole line, for their making their appearance here was no evidence that they would not strike at some other point should they attack us, but rather the contrary. So I came back here and have been engaged ever since in sending off orders and dispatches. I expect some gunboats down today from Bridgeport, and when they get here I shall feel easier.

Claysville, Ala., Tues. Eve., Aug. 30, 1864.—The rebel force has certainly left our front. There are two gunboats here tonight, and they will be constantly along our line hereafter. We have been in great peril, but I think the danger permanently passed. We shall have no serious trouble here now for some time, if at all.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Claysville, Ala,, Sun., Aug. 29, 1864.—I have ridden fifteen miles today. I am now with Company C at our landing, waiting the return of a gunboat that passed down the river this morninig convoying a steamer loaded with supplies for the regiment.

There is undoubtedly quite a large rebel force on the other side of the river a few miles back in the country. I hear they intend to try to cross the river. I think the gunboats and the 13th together can prevent them from doing it, and if the gunboats are not here when they attempt it, the 13th will try to do it alone. The river is high now and they can only cross in boats, which I understand they are building for the purpose. It is quite possible that we shall have a brush with them, and if we do—there is so much solicitude felt about our ability to hold this line—you will hear all sorts of exaggerated reports from us through the papers before we can get any news to you. Pay no attention to these reports unless they are favorable; and if you hear direct from us, which will be as speedily as possible after anything of interest transpires, I will keep you posted as to our situation, as I always have done.

On Thursday last a party of rebels came opposite Law’s Landing and fired at Company G, stationed there. Lieut. Balis sent over a party of men soon after, who came up to the rear guard of the rebels and killed two of them. A woman wanted to cross there and our boys had promised to bring her over. She had gone down to call them across the river, when the rebels first made their appearance, secreting themselves so that our men could not see them, and insisted that she should call our boys over, in which case they could easily be captured or killed; but she absolutely refused to do so, and no entreaties or threats could shake her resolution. She sat down and told them that they might kill her as quick as they pleased, but she would not, even for the sake of her life, do so base an act. They then commenced firing. The party from Company G brought her back with them. I have not seen her. She is a Union woman and a heroine.

On Thursday night Captain Blake, who is located ten miles down the river, got information that a force was intending to cross that night near his post. I put the whole line in the best possible shape for defense and went to Deposit, where Company I is stationed. I was up nearly all night making arrangements to meet the attack, and in the morning went down to Captain Blake’s. No demonstration was made on us, however, and I returned to headquarters on Friday afternoon. While the enemy is in our immediate front I expect but little bodily or mental rest.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Claysville, Ala, Tues., Aug. 23, 1864.—The rebels are on the other side of the river in some force, but they do not act at all threatening. They seem to be doing the same duty on that side of the river that we are doing on this side—that is, picketing the river and watching us. Thus far they have shown no disposition to get across, but of course I know nothing of their intentions. We, however, keep a strict watch on them. They appear to be in our front from here to Whitesburg.

The river is getting quite high and two gunboats passed down yesterday to Decatur. It is rather agreeable to have these fellows about when there is an enemy near us. It seems a little more like war to see an enemy occasionally, but I do not expect to have a fight with them unless I go over there after it, which I may do when I ascertain more about their position and strength. However, I shall take no unnecessary risks.

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Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Aug. 20, 1864.—The Adjutant has just returned from an inspection tour down the line. There is a rebel force on the other side of the river, as near as I can learn. About a regiment recently came in there. I suppose they are going to picket that side of the river and try to keep us on our side. Five of Company A men were captured across the river on Thursday, near the mouth of Flint river, twenty miles below. They were over there and were decoyed away from the river, surrounded and captured—no one hurt.

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