Monday, June 18, 2012

Forward March!

When ordered to break camp the infantry man is seldom informed where or why the march is directed.  Whether this information is withheld for the security of the mission or the security of the command is a matter of opinion.  Orders, unlike horses, are frequently changed in mid-stream and it wouldn't do for the soldiers to experience the indecision that permeated the upper ranks.

On May 17th, 1862 the division at Iuka was ordered to break camp and began marching to the east.  The conversation in the ranks undoubtedly centered around their regrets upon leaving the resort city of Iuka.  They said good-bye to the refreshing mineral baths,  to the lovely southern ladies and to the countryside unspoiled by the ravages of war.  They were now marching to the east at a determined pace. 

The Kentucky regiments were anxious to head back north to protect their homes from the Confederate marauders, notably Morgan and Buckner. These  generals were not only raiding supply trains, but also gathering conscripts for service in the Confederate Army.  The volunteers were aware of this through letters and newspaper accounts and felt powerless to help their family, friends and neighbors back home.  But an eastward heading could only mean one thing, and rumors spread that they were going to show McClelland a thing or two about fighting Rebels.  The recent newspaper accounts indicated that he needed their assistance.

Surprisingly, after only three miles, Nelson's march ended at Bear Creek, where it was crossed by the Memphis & Charleston RR.  Their new orders were to protect the bridge from Confederate soldiers and saboteurs, such as the one described Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and this is where their new camp was established, 150 years ago today.

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