Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rise and Shine

The Seventeenth is once again on the road today, July 14, 1862.  There was no advance warning of this move and the destination was unknown, causing much discussion in the ranks. The men were also unaware of the followiwng orders received by General Nelson the previous evening.


HEADQUARTERS, Huntsville, July 13, 1862.
General NELSON, Athens:

Order the Third Kentucky Cavalry and one section of artillery from the artillery reserve to move by forced marches to Fayetteville, thence to Shelbyville, to form a junction with the troops at Wartrace or at Tullahoma, and to act, according to circumstances, in attacking the enemy, who appeared this morning at Murfreesborough [sic], or in cutting off his retreat. They must be vigilant on the march, and should take three days' rations at least and buy forage on the route. Move one of your brigades of infantry by forced march to Reynolds' Station, and there if possible take the cars and move toward Nashville to any point which may be threatened. If the railroad fails you must march of course. Take with this brigade four pieces of artillery from the artillery reserve. Move forward the most advanced regiment you now have working on the road by forced marches to Reynolds' Station and replace it on the road by another regiment moved forward by forced march from your camp. You are to go up in person with the brigade, and you will take command of any troops you find on the route and use them in the maner best calculated to drive back the enemy or cut off his retreat. You will understand that the preservation of the road is a matter of vital importance. It is reported that about 2,500 rebel cavalry surprised our troops at Murfreesborough [sic] this morning and defeated them. The wire is cut and we hear nothing from them except by messengers to Nashville. It is supposed the rebels will either move on Nashville or Franklin.

Chief of Staff.

 Captain Cox penned this entry in his diary after a hard days' march under the hot southern sun, having spent just five nights in the camp he had hoped to call home for the summer.

This morning we were aroused from our slumbers by the bugle sounding reveille at 2 o'clock.  It was something unusual for we were in the habit of sleeping until sun-up, except when on the march.  We could not imagine what was up until we were ordered to eat breakfast, strike tents, and be ready to march at 5 o'clock.  The boys did not like to tear down their tents from the fact that they were better situated than we have been since we came into service.  We, however, obeyed the orders and by five o'clock we were on the road to Athens.  We passed through said town and took the road leading to Elkton and Nashville and at present are camped for the night four miles from Elkton.  This has been the warmest day that was ever known.  I am sure that the Old Master cannot make the sun shine warmer than it has today.  We have travelled twenty miles, the men carrying 60 rounds of cartridges, knapsacks, etc.  The consequence has been that many poor soldiers have given up and are still behind on the road.  They will, I suppose, come up tonight.*

The captain's mention of "60 rounds of cartridges" is significant.  This is more than they would carry on a standard march, and indicated to the experienced officer that there may be trouble ahead.  By comparrison, each man carried only 80 cartridges into battle on that fateful Sunday morning at Shiloh. 

In the last statement, the Captain's concern for the men who were unable to keep up was tinged with the knowledge that small bands of men in gray and rogue civilians trailed these trains in hopes of picking off stragglers and capturing the occasional broken down supply wagon. Collecting just one weary soldier's Enfield with 60 rounds and a knapsack filled with three days' rations was a successful day for one of these scavengers.

*Cox, Samuel K., Civil War Diary 1862-1865 of Captain Samuel Kennedy Cox, courtesy of Daviess County Public Library, Kentucky Room archives, pp.19-20.

No comments:

Post a Comment