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., Wed. Eve., Jan. 25, 1865.—I did not get ready to start for Nashville until this morning, and as the train was detained by the breaking down of a bridge near Brownsboro, I postponed until tomorrow morning. I leave at 6:30, and as the weather is now quite cold for this country I am not much delighted with the idea of turning out before daylight and then riding in a caboose or box car. There is no change in my command or in the situation of affairs here.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Sun., Jan. 22, 1865.—I was up the railroad looking after matters there last week and returned here last evening. We are just commencing to build block houses for the defense of the road. We make them artillery proof and it requires a great deal of work to build them. I pay more attention to this part of my command than to any other.

A new order lets out all of our officers who have served three years consecutively in any one grade. Under it Blake, Hewitt, Randall, Balis and Wemple go out. They are all mustered out except Balis, who leaves tomorrow. Captain Kummel was here a few days ago and mustered in as Lieut.-Colonel.

I have just received an order to go to Nashville as a witness for the defense in the case of Colonel Anderson, of the 12th Indiana Cavalry, who is on trial for ordering a young man, who was probably a guerilla, to be shot last summer at Brownsboro. I shall probably start on Tuesday morning and shall be absent about six days. I will write you from there.

Everything moves quietly and comfortably here. The presence of an army gives a feeling of security to which I have been a stranger for many months.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Sun. Eve., Jan. 15, 1865.—Sunday brings me but little respite from labor, and it is late in the evening before I can find time to write to you my usual Sunday letter.

I returned last evening from a trip of two days up the railroad. My principal business was to post and rearrange the troops along the line. I was on the cars all night Friday night, and of course I came home pretty well tired out. Captain Stevens of the 18th Michigan, Brigade Inspector, went with me. I went to Stevenson.

We have quite a family now, the Brigade Staff being with me, three officers and three or four clerks and orderlies. This will only last, however, until Colonel Doolittle’s return. We expect him every day.

I have just received the commissions for the new officers. They are Kummel, Lieut.-Colonel; Cobb, Captain; Auld, 1st Lieut, and Gibbs, 2d Lieut., Co. A. Hall, Captain, and Cheney, 1st Lieut., Co. B. Fish, Captain; Bardwell, 1st Lieut.; Loucks, 2d Lieut., Co. C. Patchin, 1st Lieut., Co. D. Briggs, 1st Lieut., Co. F. Pratt, 1st Lieut., and Beckwith, 2d Lieut., Co. H. Wemple, Captain, and Hollister, 1st Lieut., Co. K. The rest are the old officers. Captain Randall writes me that under a late order he is entitled to be mustered out of the service and is going out. He veteranized, you know. If there is such an order I think Captains Blake and Noyes, Lieutenant Balis, perhaps the Quartermaster and Dr. Evans, will go out, which will give a chance for more promotions. I intend to make Matson a Lieutenant in Company G, unless the Quartermaster goes out, in which case I shall probably give him that position.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

-

The Fight with Lyon at Scottsboro—Bravery of the Colored Troops.

-

(Letter from Colonel Lyon to the Nashville Union.)

-

Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 14, 1865. “A fight took place at Scottsboro, twenty miles west of Stevenson, on the evening of the 8th inst., between the forces of the rebel General Lyon and the garrison at that place, consisting of detachments from Company E, 101st U. S. C. T., and from Company E, 110th U. S. C. T., the former commanded by Lieutenant John H. Hull, and the latter by Lieutenant David Smart, the whole under command of Lieutenant Hull. This affair deserves more publicity than it will get through the ordinary medium of an official report, as it helps settle the oft repeated question, ‘Will the negro fight?’

Lieutenant Hull’s command numbered fifty-three muskets in all, but eleven of his men were on outpost duty at the water tanks over one mile west of the depot, in which the balance of the command, forty-two strong, was stationed. Here the little garrison was attacked by the whole force of the rebel General, reinforced by several guerrilla companies that infest that region, and numbering from 800 to 1,000 men, with two twelve-pounder howitzers.

After skirmishing with the enemy and holding him in check for some time, the garrison was driven into the depot, upon which three determined charges were made, each one of which was repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. The rebels then withdrew beyond musket range and opened upon the depot with their artillery; but the garrison remained in it until it had been struck with four shells, three of which exploded in the building. Lieutenant Hull then withdrew his command to a mountain four hundred and fifty yards distant, cutting his way through the ranks of the rebels, who attempted to intercept his progress, in a hand-to-hand fight. One rebel seized the Lieutenant by the collar, but was instantly killed by him. The pursuit was short. The rebels had been too severely handled to approach within reach of the muskets of these dusky warriors; and, after firing a few random shots with their artillery into the mountain, they left for the Tennessee river. Their loss was one Colonel and seventeen men killed, and forty or fifty wounded. Ours was six wounded.

The men on duty at the water tank were captured, but before reaching the river they stampeded, at great personal peril, and all of them escaped and are now with their commands.

There were some interesting incidents that took place during the engagement, worthy to be mentioned.

After the men had been driven into the depot, Lieutenant Hull went out upon the platform to reconnoitre. The enemy’s bullets were flying thickly around him when he discovered his orderly sergeant, a colored man, approaching him. The Lieutenant ordered him back into the building. ‘I wish to speak to you,’ said the sergeant. ‘Very well,’ replied the Lieutenant, ‘speak quickly’. ‘The men don’t want to surrender,’ continued the sergeant. The response from the Lieutenant was, ‘Go back and tell them that while a man of us lives there will be no surrender’.

The sergeant delivered this message, and a wild shout of joy went up from the beleaguered garrison—a shout that assured their gallant commander that there would be no faltering on the part of his men in the deadly conflict which was rapidly thickening around them.

Another incident. A colored sergeant named Anderson had his leg torn off by the explosion of one of the shells—and afterwards loaded and fired his musket three times! This brave soldier has since died of his wounds.

It is worthy of mention that these soldiers were mostly new recruits, and had never before been in action, and a majority of them had not even been mustered.

The whole affair lasted some three hours, and to give an idea of the desperate character of the fighting I will mention that in one at least of the assaults the rebels came so close to the building that they seized the guns of our men as they were projected through the loopholes in the brick walls of the depot and attempted to wrench them from the grasp of those inside.

Lieutenant Hull, a resident of Ripley County, Indiana, was formerly an enlisted man of the 83d Indiana, and is a brother, I am informed, of the gallant Colonel Hull, of the 37th Indiana, whose name is so familiar in the Army of the Cumberland.

I am not acquainted with the history of Lieutenant Smart, but it is just to add that Lieutenant Hull speaks in terms of the highest praise of his courage and efficiency in the contest.

Respectfully yours,

Wm. P. Lyon,
“Col. 13th Wis. V. I., Comd’g.”

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Huntsville, Ala., 11 o’clock p. m., Jan. 11, 1865—I write at this late hour because I have had no time to do so before. I am constantly occupied, early and late, and it is with difficulty that I get time to write at all. In addition to my other duties, the command of our brigade is thrown upon me again. Colonel Doolittle is commanding a brigade in the 23d Army Corps. This is Colonel Doolittle of the 18th Michigan.

Everything moves along nicely with me. Our town is full of Generals. Wood, Kemble, Beatty, Elliott, Granger, and others are here. My relations with them are very pleasant indeed. Granger and Elliott called upon me tonight. I knew the latter as Colonel of the 2d Iowa Cavalry, and went up the Tennessee river with him in April, 1862, to Pittsburg Landing.

I am about making an entire change of force on the railroad, and shall probably go to Stevenson in a day or two to superintend the necessary movements. I have received a reinforcement of two regiments, the 84th Illinois and the 18th Michigan, to enable me to increase the strength of garrisons here and on the railroad. When Colonel Doolittle returns I shall be relieved of the command of the brigade, and I hope of the post, so that I can devote my whole time to the railroad and river defenses.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Fri., Jan. 6, 1865.—On Wednesday I went up the river to where Paintrock bridge was burned by the rebels on the Saturday before, which used up the day. On my return I found the Fourth Army Corps, commanded by General Wood, coming here for the purpose of refitting for the next campaign. It is about 12,000 to 15,000 strong, and is encamped outside the city. Helping to get them settled, assigning quarters to officers, etc., is what has kept me so busy. General Stanley is the permanent commander of this corps, but he was wounded at Franklin and is absent. I find General Wood a very pleasant gentleman. The presence of the corps here does not affect my command at all.

Company G loses 37 men captured at Paintrock bridge. The bridge will be repaired tomorrow.

I think the army will soon be reorganized, and I feel as though they ought to let us go into the field in the next campaign. I am satisfied that the 13th would be better off today had it gone with Sherman last spring than it is now.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 2, 1865.—Company G, Lieut. Wagener commanding, was surprised and captured at Paintrock bridge on Saturday morning at about four o’clock, and the bridge was burned. Some of the men escaped. I think there are thirty to thirty-five missing. One man was wounded. The bridge will be rebuilt in a few days. The routine of duty here keeps both the Adjutant and myself quite busy all the time.

The rebels are across the river, and the campaign virtually over. There will now be a reorganization of the army, and where it will place us is more than I can tell. I presume when the next campaign opens we shall be in the field. I think we ought to be.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

Dec. 29, 1864.—We have finally got a mail through up to the 15th. Huntsville is rapidly resuming its old appearance, and the citizens generally profess to be pleased with our return. The rebels did but little mischief during our absence.

We know but little of army movements except those that pass under our immediate notice. I suppose Sherman is in Savannah, and I think the rebels are right when they say that the loss of that city is of but little consequence to them; but the destruction of their railroads on his march, and the capture of their cannon and locomotives by Sherman, is a serious disaster, almost irreparable.

Hood will lose half of his army, and the balance is powerless for mischief for many months. This is the worst blow the Confederacy has had, but it all avails but little towards closing the war so long as Lee sits defiantly in the gates of Richmond. When that army is routed and destroyed, and not till then, can we begin to look for the war to close.

I am glad to see a call for 300,000 more men. They will be needed, for the term of enlistment of half the army expires next summer and fall.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Huntsville, Ala., Dec. 25, 1864.—I write now with some little expectation that you will receive the letter within a reasonable time, for I hear that they have at last got a mail through to Stevenson for us, which should reach us tomorrow.

Monday morning General Granger ordered me to take the 13th, the cavalry and a battery and go to Huntsville and assume my old command. I commenced the movement Monday afternoon, the infantry and artillery moving by rail. We knew nothing about the situation of things here, so we advanced cautiously, the cavalry reconnoitering ahead of the train. We reoccupied the place on the 21st, the few Confederates here fleeing at our approach. It has not been strongly occupied during our absence, and we find things much as we left them. The people profess to be glad to see us back here, although I think the most of them lie about that.

We have taken a comfortable sort of a house for headquarters, partly furnished; and when you hear that Hood’s army, including Forrest, is across the Tennessee river and everything gives promise of a season of quiet on this side, if the winter is not too far advanced you may expect marching orders for this place, but not until the tide of war has rolled farther off.

The next day after we got here my cavalry had a severe fight just a few miles out of town with a part of Roddey’s command, and we were victorious. The rebel loss was at least 100 in killed, wounded and prisoners. Our loss is quite light. We have now some 80 prisoners of war captured since we arrived in this vicinity, several of whom are from here. We smashed a new company raised here during our absence.

General Granger moved down the river with the balance of his command to Decatur, but found the place so strongly occupied that he did not deem it prudent to attack. He returned with his fleet to Whitesburg, came up here and waited for General Steadman, who passed here on Saturday with a large force in that direction. General Granger left me in addition to the 13th, the 73d Indiana, and took the rest of his force down the river again to co-operate with Steadman in taking Decatur. Our force is so large there that the rebels will probably evacuate without a fight. We know nothing of Hood’s army except that it was badly defeated before Nashville and is retreating towards the Tennessee river. He will get across badly damaged; retreat as long as he is pursued; and then halt, reorganize, and in sixty or ninety days will have a force that will require another hard campaign to disperse.

{ 0 comments }

Colonel Lyon’s Letters.

 

Dec. 18, 1864.—Some time or other you will get a batch of letters from me which I have written during our blockade. In them you will find a history of our movements for a month.

Well, tonight we got orders from General Thomas to go back and reoccupy the railroad to Decatur; and tomorrow we expect to leave here for Huntsville. We do not anticipate any resistance, and shall probably get there on Tuesday, as we go by railroad.

The rebels occupy Decatur in some force and we may have to go down and clean them out before we settle down anywhere. We get with the orders to move the news of the glorious victory over Hood, telegraphed to General Granger by General Whipple (Mrs. Sandford’s brother), who is General Thomas’ chief of staff. Hood is badly damaged and will probably be ruined before he can get his army off—but you already know all about this. You probably will not hear from me again for a week, as communications will be rather unsettled for awhile longer.

{ 0 comments }