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

Dec. 15, 1864.—It seems like folly to keep writing letters to you when they accumulate on my hands, yet they may be of some interest to you when you get them. When that will be I can not even guess. The blockade still continues, and except a very few vague and unreliable rumors we know nothing of what is transpiring north of us.

Our life here is almost perfect stagnation now— nothing of interest going on. I have moved the regiment to better ground and nearer my headquarters, and I spend part of each day there. Then I ride around and look at the fortifications, and visit the regiments of the brigade when the weather is pleasant, and thus manage to get through the day. Our fortifications are nearly complete, and Stevenson is very strong now. I apprehend no attack, however. This uncertainty is wearing.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Stevenson, Ala., Dec. 11, 1864.—We are progressing well with our fortifications. The weather is unusually cold and there is considerable suffering amongst the refugees, and even the soldiers are none too comfortable. Whether we are to have any trouble here with the enemy is uncertain, but I am not looking for an attack. Yet it may come, and we are rapidly getting in that frame of mind that we do not care much if it comes or not. It costs a man weary days and weeks of anxiety, toil, and almost suffering, to do his duty to his country in these times. I have nothing of interest to write about and if I had this letter will probably be a month old before you get it.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Stevenson, Dec. 8, 1864.—I write to you at the usual time, although I am as completely isolated from you as I would be were I in the Fiji Islands. Communication with Nashville is entirely cut off and we have no idea what is going on up there. You, I suppose, know all about it. The last we heard from there was that Hood was near Nashville. I expect to hear next that he has crossed the Cumberland and gone to Kentucky.

I am still in command of the brigade, but as soon as the road is open Colonel Doolittle will return and take command, when I shall go to the regiment once more I hope. We are hard at work building fortifications and getting ready for any rebel force that may stray off in this direction.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Stevenson, Ala., Dec. 4. 1864.—Here we are, safe and sound. We evacuated Huntsville last Sunday morning, went to Brownsboro that night, to Paintrock bridge Monday, to Larkinsville Tuesday, to Bellefonte Wednesday, to this vicinity on Thursday, and came in on Friday. We had pleasant weather for our trip, but we had an immense wagon train, the roads were very bad a part of the way, and I found myself overworked. We were not pursued by any considerable force, but were bush-whacked considerably.

An immense crowd of refugees and contrabands followed us, not less, I think, than three thousand; and there is much suffering amongst them, as they are all very destitute indeed. General Granger, who marched with us, did everything in his power to alleviate their sufferings, which act raised him in my estimation very much. This refugee crowd was bushwhacked the third day out and a terrible panic resulted. It is reported that a great many young children and infants were abandoned by their mothers. This occurred amongst the contrabands.

Colonel Given is sick, Colonel Doolittle is North, and I am commanding the brigade until one or the other returns to duty; then I go back to the regiment. There is now no communication with Nashville, and we have but little idea what is going on up there.

It will not do for you to come here now at all. The whole situation is too precarious and uncertain. Besides, we can get no accommodations. I have a little office for brigade headquarters, in which four of us sleep, and we mess along any way we can. I shall live in my tent when I return to the regiment. Our regiment can be very comfortable here, but a whole brigade can have but little accommodation.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Nov. 25, 1864.—I sit down this morning to write you the last letter I expect to write from Huntsville for some time. We are evacuating this line. Decatur is already abandoned, and when the troops from that place arrive here we shall take up our line of march for Stevenson. We expect to leave about Sunday. I have been very hard at work ever since we got the order on Wednesday.

This course is rendered necessary by Hood’s movement north, concerning which you are no doubt better posted than we are here. There is no enemy near us, and none is expected; and the evacuation is purely on the ground of military policy.

We march to Stevenson, and as we shall have no mail facilities until we get there you will not hear from me again as soon as usual. I send some money, $400, by Colonel Towne, a reliable man. Eighty dollars of this money belongs to ——. I got it from him because he is rather worthless and has a family of motherless children at Allen’s Grove which he has neglected. The enclosed letters from the oldest girl explain their situation. This girl is only fourteen years old. The family must have the full benefit of this money, even though you have to go out there yourself to look after them. At any rate, send the girl some money. In this way you will help soften the sorrows caused by the war, and you thus help the cause for which we are fighting, a cause that grows dearer to me and more sacred every day.

The citizens here, loyal and disloyal, express much regret that we are to leave. Many of the loyal people, including hundreds of colored folks, are leaving or will leave with us. This evacuating is a terrible job. Fort Henry is not to be compared with it, and that you know was quite a task.

Business has been lively here today. There are several stores here, and this morning I removed all restrictions from sales and dealers are selling at cost. I bought a pair of boots for ten dollars which would have cost $18 or $20 yesterday; and everything else is going in proportion. The reason for this reduction is that it is doubtful whether they can get cars to take their goods away, and they would be cleaned out in two hours after we leave. A great many men are compelled to go and leave destitute families behind them. There will be none left who are liable to conscription, and but few who ever professed loyalty. I have seen a great deal of anguish and almost despair in the last two days, I assure you, and can do but little to alleviate it. I have often thought of you and our dear babes, and thanked God devoutly that you have not been called to these bitter experiences. I issue rations freely to these people, without authority and regardless of personal consequences; but they are liable to be robbed of them as soon as we are gone.

There will be stirring times in Tennessee for a few weeks and our communications may be cut off, so if you do not get letters you will know the reason. Our brigade is ordered to garrison Stevenson, and whether the tide of battle is to surge that way time will determine. Direct your letters hereafter to Stevenson. We are all well. Minty is cooking for our march. Jerry says to tell Minerva that he is ‘just tollable.’ We will postpone for the present talking of your coming South this winter.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Nov. 21, 1864.—We are about moving into another house, where we can have more room and much better kitchen accommodations, besides having the whole house for headquarters. We have contemplated this for some time, but have only just definitely decided to make the change. Mrs. Rice, my landlady, is very sick. Last evening she sent for me. I found her scarcely able to talk. She said she thought she might not recover and she wanted to thank me for all our kindness to her since we have been here. I was with her for half an hour. I hear she is a little better today. We have endeavored to annoy her as little as possible and have improved every opportunity to do her a kindness, in view of her lonely and forlorn condition. For this she seems to be very grateful.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Nov. 13, 1864.—I have been to Stevenson, changing troops on the railroad. Was out all Tuesday night and came back last night very tired. A ten-hours’ sleep straightened me up, however, and today I am as good as new.

I think things are sufficiently settled now for you to come here, and I have just forwarded an application to General Thomas for leave. If granted, I can get it to you soon after the first of December, and if we have any trouble at all this winter it will likely come before that time; but I fear that we shall fail to obtain the permission. An application of the same kind made by the pilot of a gunboat to General Sherman has come back refused, with a statement that the General has prohibited women from coming south of Nashville. Yet the Chaplain got permission for his wife to come and she arrived at the regiment yesterday. This permission came from General Thomas. I think I shall move into another house where there are furnished rooms and where we can have better kitchen accommodations.

I will tell you now what I have kept still about. I expected that Hood would cross the river and move in this direction, and I had orders from General Thomas what to do in case his army came here. I was ordered to fall back towards Stevenson, resist him at the streams, obstruct roads and retard his movements as much as possible. I think that danger is pretty much passed, at least it will be by the time you get here. With such orders in my pocket, and while there was any prospect of an occasion arising for executing them, I knew that it would be folly to ask General Thomas to let you come.

I have taken the female college, a treasonable Methodist concern here, for a general hospital; and have had several interesting sessions with the lady proprietors about it. Dr. Evans will move here in a few days to take charge of it.

I have had some nice presents lately. My chief scout gave me a gold watch, which he took from the dead body of a rebel Colonel killed by him in some fight before Atlanta. An artist here, Mr. Fry, gave me a beautiful picture of General McPherson, worth $30, and the chief clerk of our post Q. M. gave me a gold pen.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Nov. 9, 1864.—I went up to the regiment yesterday and voted for Old Abe. I went as far as Larkinsville.

It looks less and less like leaving Huntsville, unless we are driven out, which we do not expect at present. I expect the Major down tomorrow to take command of the regiment. I have to work almost every minute of my time.

Dr. Evans is here. He has been appointed Medical Director of this district and ordered to establish a general hospital here. I have taken a female seminary for that purpose, and the ‘females’ are very sweet on me, hoping to induce me to rescind the order and take some other building. It can not be done, though.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Nov. 6, 1864.—Since Hood has left our vicinity I do not have as much work on hand. We are having quiet times, just enough bushwhacking around us to make us remember that war is our business.

The health of our men is improving rapidly. Yesterday morning we had a heavy frost, the first of the season. The weather is mild. There are about 160 nonveterans. They go north this week.

We do not know where Hood has gone, but there is a large force concentrated at Pulaski, ready to strike him if he demonstrates this side of the river.

Many of the best citizens profess to be anxious to have me remain here in command at Huntsville. My opinion now is that I shall spend the winter in this vicinity, perhaps at Larkinsville. It is a mud hole, but a woman that has wintered at Fort Henry ought not to be afraid of a little mud.

I go up on Tuesday to vote with the regiment. Old Abe will be elected, but that will not end the war. We have to whip them and disperse their armies to do that . Our people North are deceiving themselves if they expect the war to close on the strength of Lincoln’s election. It will have its influence, no doubt, in that it satisfies the people South that we are in earnest, but it will not rout and destroy armies. The hope of the country is the army and ballot box combined. Politics are good in their place, but 24-pounder howitzers are better to bring traitors and rebels to their allegiance.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Nov. 3, 1864.—To give you an idea of the way business runs with me, I will give you my experiences after tea Sunday evening. I sat down in my room thinking that everything was quiet and promising myself a comfortable night’s sleep, when a messenger galloped up with a dispatch saying that the rebels had opened with a battery on our troops at Whitesburg, which you know is in my command. I immediately went down to post headquarters, sent couriers to Whitesburg with orders, and was making other dispositions to prevent the enemy from crossing the Tennessee river there, when a man rushed into the office pale and almost breathless, announcing that the rebels were near the city on the New Market road in heavy force, and that they were burning every combustible thing as they advanced. Looking in that direction, sure enough the flames of several burning buildings corroborated the story.

I immediately strengthened my picket lines and sent out scouts to ascertain what was there, gave directions for the disposition of public property, assigned their positions to what few troops I had, went to the fort and made the necessary arrangements there, and returned to headquarters to await further developments.

In due time the scouts returned with the information that the force was only a raiding party of guerillas and citizens, who had burned some houses occupied by colored people connected with the contraband camp here—and the excitement was over. But all of this took from one until two o’clock in the morning. In the meantime I received information that two gunboats had arrived at Whitesburg, so I went to bed feeling easy. There were no further demonstrations there.

The next evening (Monday) I felt sure that all was quiet; when just as I was leaving the office to go to bed, a dispatch from the commanding officer at Larkinsville came, saying that he was attacked. It turned out to be nothing serious, but to find out that, and to make preparations to meet it should it prove serious, took half the night.

Tuesday night we were moving some troops and had to wait for trains, so the Adjutant remained up all night and I got a good, undisturbed night’s rest. Last night for the first time since the rebel army approached us we both slept all night. Yet, for all this, I keep perfectly well. How long our quiet will last I can not even guess. Hood moved down the river from Decatur, but I have no idea where he is. We have had reports that he crossed the Tennessee river to the north side of Florence, but these reports are not reliable.

Large numbers of troops have gone forward to Decatur and Athens within the last three days, and I feel quite confident that the tide of war has rolled by us once more without striking us. The General has given me more troops here on the river and on the railroad, and I am feeling quite stout. The non-veterans will leave in about a week for Nashville to be mustered out.

{ 0 comments }