Monthly Archives: May 2018

THE VOICE OF THE NORTH.

BY JOHN G. WITTIER.

Up the hill-side, down the glen,
Rouse the sleeping citizen:
Summon out the might of men!

Like a lion growling low–
Like a night-storm rising slow–
Like the tread of unseen foe–

It is coming–it is nigh!
Stand your homes and altars by,
On your own free threshold die.

Clang the bells in all your spires,
On the gray hills of your sins
Fling to heaven your signal-fires.

Oh! for God and duty stand,
Heart to heart, and hand to hand,
Round the old graves of the land.

Whoso shrinks or falters now,
Whoso to the yoke would bow,
Brand the craven on his brow.

Freedom’s soil has only place
For a free and fearless race–
None for traitors false and base.

Perish party–perish clan;
Strike together while you can,
Like the strong arm of one man.

Like the angels’ voice sublime,
Heard above a world of crime,
Crying for the end of Time.

With one heart and with one mouth,
Let the North speak to the South;
Speak the word befitting both.

Originally posted 2008-01-29 18:46:01.

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A SCOUT TO EAST TENNESSEE– (Part Three)

¬†While on our rout to Kingsport, a man by the roadside told me that the infantry and artillery stationed there had crossed our route six hours before marching to Bloutsville, expecting to intercept us there. While on the high ridge above Kingsport we had a beautiful view of a snowy mountain illumined by the setting sun. At fifty miles distance towered up the black mountain of North Carolina, six thousand nine hundred feet in the air,–the highest land in the old United States proper, standing like Saul a full head and shoulders over all his companions. It looked exceedingly rugged at that great distance, with its rude concave side towards us, seamed and furrowed by tremendous chasms from top to bottom. It had a crest of two or three miles in length, and is crescent-shaped on top, very steep on both ends, and towering so high above all others, seemed not to be a member of any chain of mountains that I could perceive in the distance. For an isolated mountain it was very picturesque in appearance, and was beautified by being covered with snow, while the surrounding landscape was dark. It looked a-rifted, inaccessible, and uninhabitable as the high Alps of Switzerland. Riding at night down the South Holston at Kingsport,–there a broad and beautiful stream fit for steamboating,–we were fired upon from over the river, the bullets whistling over our heads and striking the fence between our horses. I got tired at the one-sided arrangement and ordered some of my lads, who are adepts with their rifles, to try some long shots in the moonlight–dismounted; they never require a second bidding for that kind of work, and the popping from over the river was quickly ended. I cannot tell if there was “anbody hurt,” but we came off clear. After fording the north Holston at its junction with the main stream, we marched on to a very fine and extensive farm, where the horses were fed and the men had their coffee. The night had become unusually nipping, and large fires with fence-rails were a great luxury to benumbed fingers and toes. The enemy would not let us rest in peace to enjoy our coffee, but kept popping at us from the hill-tops occasionally. There was quite a little skirmish back in town. Some of the cavalry following us up had the audacity after dark to attack Col. Carter, his orderly and a private, at a hotel in Kingsport, where he was acquainted, and had halted behind the column to appease his hunger. Some twenty or thirty shots were exchanged in the dark. The orderly got a ball through his hand, and our force of three were compelled to beat a retreat to camp across the North Fork. Our pickets dashed into the town, but the enemy had fled and all was quiet again. After resting three hours, we were in the saddle again at midnight, understanding there were some two hundred cavalry forward of us whom we desired to capture. Our advance came near their camp near Clinch river, but they fled and our poor horses were too jaded to pursue them. The “bushwhackers” had quite a busy time, popping at us crossing Clinch river. Rested at night for a few hours on a limestone mountain, and exchanged a few long shots with the enemy to no purpose. Started at daybreak, without breakfast or horse-feed, on our last long day’s march to the Cumberland mountain, crossing Powell’s mountain, river, and valley. The “bushwhackers” here had an unusually busy day at it, even for them, lively as they are. But they are either miserable shots or have miserable guns, for they have not touched a man since we left the railroad, except Col. Carter’s orderly, shot in the hand-to-hand fight; whereas two of the Michigan sharp-shooters “incontinently” rolled two of them down the rocks at about seven hundred yards. While I was fording Powell’s river, they were darting in and out among the trees and rocky hill-tops, and throwing down some lead in a very spiteful way, but did no damage. I concluded, after crossing and seeing one fellow blazing away among the rocks, to try and cure him with a little saltpetre, as salt was scarce, and called tow of my lads out of the ranks. One of them drew a sight on him, and he cut up some very ludicrous antics for a sane man. He flew round and scrabbled about among the rocks, and then made a dart up the hill, rattling down the stones at an alarming rate; he bounced about it as if burnt with a hot iron, and not at all pleased with the impression made.

At Jonesville, Va., the rebels had quite a force. After our column had passed they engaged our rear guard of the Seventh Ohio, and we were all halted, the General sending back the rifles of Co. B. Ninth Pa. Cavalry, to deploy as skirmishers and engage them in the open field, and Co. D. Ninth Pa., with sabres. It was understood that they expected to engage our attention, so long as to enable a force to move around by Poor valley, occupy the mountain pass, engage our front, and have us between two fires. We were crossing at our old gap (only twenty miles from the Cumberland Gap), contrary to their expectations. There was some little firing on our front, and quite a brisk little skirmish in the rear. As usual they kept at too great a distance for their shooting and did no harm, but there were several rebels shot down by our rear guard and skirmishers, among whom were some Michigan rifles, when they concluded to draw off and let us go on our “winding way,” which we did without further molestation. We had made a very sever day’s march, with a little sprinkling of fighting, and nothing to eat since the night before for man or beast, and while we were at Jonesville, there was a very fair prospect of a regular mountain battle for the possession of the pass. I had been giddy from want of food and rest, while marching down to Watauga, but did not feel it much during the excitement of the homeward march. I slept on my horse during the bushwhacking of the day; and while waiting for the rear to scatter the enemy at Jonesville, one of my men said he was hungry. I had entirely forgotten that I had not eaten for twenty-four hours, and felt no symptoms of hunger, and told him that we might yet have a two days’ fight up the cliff of the Cumberland mountain without coffee, and I felt as if I would be able to stand it for three. We moved on to the foot of the mountain, and now there was the excitement to know whose horse would reach the top and whose would fail. They were all very carefully handled, but many a one of them failed, and the poor cavalryman would be seen breaking up his saddle with a rock and cutting up the leather with a knife to prevent sechesh from using it. The poor horse wanted no quietus; he generally dropped dead in his efforts to scale a rock, and fell over out of the path, except one that made a convenient stepping-place for his more fortunate fellow horse. There must have been thirty horses fallen dead ascending the Cumberland. The men shouldered their blankets, gave one last look at their steed stiffening in the keen frosty night air, and clambered on over the rocks. When I reached the topmost crest I cried, “All hail, Kentucky!” and stretched out my arm as if to grasp and welcome a long lost friend. The excitement was over, and I felt faint and giddy. I scarcely know how I got down; and when I reached the little valley at the foot of the mountain, and had a fire of rails kindled, fatigue overpowered all the animal wants and ailments, and the moment I lay down upon the frozen earth, I was fast asleep, and so continued until well shaken after sunrise. Our horses had corn here, but we were on short rations. The ground was frozen hard, and all the shoes had been put on the horses’ feet, and none short of Richmond or Nicholasville. There had been no kegs of shoes brought to McKees with the corn, and the prospects ahead were dark for the men who had limping horses whose feet were worn to the quick. I saw them cut up clothes and blankets and tie them on their feet, but it did no good; nothing but iron would answer on the frozen and rocky creek beds and gullies which formed our path. We had been signally favored by Providence with unfrozen roads in the enemy’s country, but now they were telling on horse-flesh. Every day a score or more of men were compelled to drop their horses and shoulder their muskets. There was no murmuring; nor did I hear a whimper from any man who marched twenty or thirty miles in a day (all unused to walking as he was), with his boots worn and torn, and his feet on the rocks and frozen ground. Two days after our arrival on Kentucky soil, we encountered a storm, which raised all the Tennessee rivers and made them unfordable. Two days after our arrival here at Nicholasville, has come upon us the heaviest snow-storm for many years. I lift my hands in praise when I think of our escape from this storm among the mountains, and shudder at the thought of what would have been the condition of man and beast there without food or forage. We should have been compelled to adopt the plan Duroc proposed to Napoleon at Moscow; to slaughter, salt, and eat his horses to save his men. Our most arduous and hazardous march of five hundred miles to and fro in twenty days, over an almost impracticable mountain country in mid-winter, has been a complete success. Of one thousand men, there were only two killed, two wounded, and six missing–supposed to be captured.

I must relate a little incident of the march coming down the Red Bird, in a country where “corndodgers” are worth a dime. A part of one I had preserved as a curiosity, for its fossil-like appearance, to show what a soldier can subsist on when he is put to it. I think I must have it engraven for Harper or Frank Leslie, with all the finger-marks on it. The “corndodger” is an institution; and he is fitly named, as any one can tell who takes him in hand; for if he is mixed up as usual with water and no salt, and well baked and thrown at you, if you do not dodge, and he hits you, his name will be remembered for many a long day, I warrant it.

In the western counties of Kentucky saw-mills and grist-mills are known to but few inhabitants. The corn is broken into coarse grains with a pestle attached to a spring-pole, or grated on a piece of tin or iron punched out rough with a nail. The country is clear of wind-mills or sieves to clear it of husks; such superfluities have been played out, or rather they have never been played in; but hospitality has not been played out. I will relate an incident. the horse of one of my soldiers yielded up his life on the rugged paths this side of the Cumberland mountain. The soldier was making his way in the rear of the column over the rocks of the Red Bird, with his pistol at his belt and his trusty rifle, which had done him such good service at Watauga river (his “Betsy Ann,” as he called it), on one shoulder and his blankets on the other, trudging along at sunset for the camp, miles ahead of him, and “whistling as he went for want of thought,” when a native overtook him. “Stranger,” said he, “you have a heavy load; give me your blankets” (and he took them off his shoulder). “You must come and stay with me to-night down to my house at the Big Rocks.” So soldier, nothing loth, acquiesced, and they trudged through mud and over rocks, and in the bed of the creek for some miles, and arrived at his clay-chinked cabin, where were his “household gods” in form of a wife and a host of children, such as are to be found in every poor man’s cabin in Kentucky. You will almost see the exact counterpart of the primer-book picture of John Rogers’ wife, excepting there will be ten, eleven, or twelve children who can just peep over each others’ heads in regular gradation beside “the one at the breast.” The host says, “Mary Ann, can you get supper for this tired soldier?” “Yes,” says the wife, “if you pound the corn,” and she handed him four ears, which he soon manipulated with his spring pole and pestle in the yard. The supper was soon prepared of the corn mixed with water (no salt, for they had none), and scraps of bacon fried, and he ate on the principle of the Indian, “eat much, get strong!” The tired soldier, who had not seen the inside of a house for months, rested, after six days’ march and no sleep, as only such men can rest when they know the pickets are posted and the guard mounted; he taking the Kentuckian for his guard. At sunrise he was wakened by the “thud, thud,” of the corn-grinding machine, and presently the good dame invited him to sit at the table to the corndodgers, the bacon scraps, and the corn-coffee, innocent of sugar or cream, so as to expedite him on his way before the children were up to have their remnants of clothes put on them. After he had eaten, not before, his host apologized for the lateness of his breakfast, saying that his corn was all eaten over night, and he had to go four miles to borrow some of his near neighbor for the soldier’s breakfast. The soldier donning his load, having received no pay for more than four months, thanked him as he should have been thanked by a man ready and willing to pay, but having no money in his pocket, and with unwonted full stomach went on his way rejoicing to overtake his comrades.

Where indeed among the rich will such hospitality, such abnegation of self be found? or where among them the man that will contribute such a mite to his country? It is like the scriptural widow, who, out of her poverty “gave even all that she had.” When we arrived at Big Hill we were met by a wagon train ladened with rations and corn that had been sent for by Gen. Carter’s messenger pressed on before us at Manchester, on our homeward route, to order the train forward to us. When the white-topped wagons were seen by our men, one universal shout went up as a glorification for the hard bread they knew them to contain. To men who had been roasting lumps of corn meal or of wheat flour in the ashes for days, the transition was great indeed, and ere dark the “slow enough” coffee was boiling, the bacon toasting on the sticks, and “there was a great feast of fat things” that night. Resting at Big Hill a few hours, with the cares and perplexities of the march off my shoulders, I had time to look back at the beauties of the place, which I had not done when we moved forward. Here is a table-land four hundred feet high, which was once the shore of the great lake of which the “blue grass region” is the bottom. The sand-stone strata of seventy feet crowning this table land has been washed into many singular and unique forms, each cliff so unlike the other that each would make a separate picture. In one place there is a genuine mountain, apart as it were. The water had washed entirely around it. The soft under strata giving way was only saved by the capping, which, covered with some earth and trees, once formed an island in the lake some distance from shore. Moving along for several miles these sand-stone cap rocks are seen in fantastic array succeeding each other, and you are astonished at the varied forms of them and at the sudden change in the form of each as you view it from another point. They are all well worth transferring to canvas, and as they have been somewhat noted in these wars, they should be placed with its illustrations. The quiet “blue grass region” possessed a great charm to our worn and anxious minds longing for rest, and the old walnut-trees near Richmond, covered with mistletoe until they looked like pine-trees, had a charm of still life in them that was very soothing, lulling the mind into dreams of the Druids and of that olden time when rushing, fiery modern wars were unknown.

Originally posted 2008-01-29 00:35:02.

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A SCOUT TO EAST TENNESSEE… (Part Two)

¬†Companies C and d and the balance of Company A, Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry, had been formed in fours around the hill to charge with sabre should there be resistance. When the firing slacked they were ordered to charge, and did so, on the camp. Finding it almost abandoned, they galloped over the Watauga. Companies C and D filed left into a ploughed field to head off the retreating enemy. Company A kept the road, and at full charge came on them drawn up in two ranks by the roadside. Capt. Jones ordering them to throw down their arms at thirty paces, the rebels were so startled by the rush of horses and glancing of sabres that they all obeyed the order, but a half dozen, who came near to losing their lives by not doing so. There were two lieutenants and sevent-two men who surrendered and saved much blood-shedding. They were making their way to a log house close at hand–a capital fortress–which we would have been compelled to have stormed at once. Companies C and D went down the road and overhauled sixteen more. The short, sharp action cost several lives. One man of Company D, Seventh Ohio, shot dead; one man of Company A, Second Michigan, mortally wounded in the abdomen, and two of the twelve men, Company A, Ninth Pennsylvania, wounded in the leg; one had to be amputated and the man left with the rebel wounded. Of the rebel forces, there were two killed and fifteen wounded. Our surgeon assisted in dressing their wounded, and two of our wounded men were left at the station, Col. Love and Lieut. Hill promising they should have the same care as their own men. The two Lieutenants, Hill and ____, of the Sixty-second North Carolina, fought their commands with great gallantry. What a pity that it should be exerted in so evil a cause as the disruption of their country.

Our prisoners were all paroled on the road, and here, amounting to near four hundred and fifty, inclusive of one Colonel, two Majors, two Captains and five Lieutenants. It was now dark. The telegraph was instantly destroyed, the camp and the bridge fired, the arms broken and put on the locomotive, and after the bridge had fallen, steam was drawn on the engine and she was run over the abutment on to the burning mass below with a great crash. In our haste to expedite these matters we lost a prize of another locomotive and train that came up in sight at the burning bridge, reversed her wheels and scudded down the road toward Knoxville. Jeff Davis himself might have been on the train. It is the only thing we have to reproach ourselves for during the expedition as being left undone, or half done. There were two hundred and fifty cavalry came up after dark to reinforce the infantry. Hearing of the fight they wheeled about and marched over into North Carolina, reporting there were thirty thousand of us at the railway. Our men were ordered to feed their horses on the rebel corn, and rest for a few hours; but there was no rest after the excitement of the day and night, and at one O’clock on the night of December 30th, we commenced our retreat, and by strategy to baffle the enemy that our scouts told us were missing to cut us off and pursue us. We felt confident they must be great adepts if they could outmanoeuver Gen. and Col. Carter and our guides. Our poor horses were sinking under the severe toil of marching, and it became a matter of prime military necessity to replenish the stock or leave straggling men on our retreat. Every man having a worn-out horse was sent out with a sergeant or corporal to trade off his horse at any farm-house right or left,day and night, leaving his own horse in exchange, it taking only one to make a horse-trade Morgan fashion. Some hundreds of horses were thus pressed into the service, but some six unwary men fell behind the column and were captured by the rebel troops that were following us at a safe distance for themselves in our rear. I find that the Richmond papers give us the credit of doing no marauding, nor injury to private property. Our scouts informed us that five hours after we left Watauga river the enemy had sixteen hundred infantry and four pieces of artillery brought up by railway from Jonesboro or Greenville, and put upon our trail. We laughed at the idea of footmen and field-pieces following up the paths we came across the farms and lanes and ravines. Our guides certainly must have been coon-hunting over that country all their lives at dark nights, to have guided us so unerringly. We cog so that we left the horses to follow up in the dark, and although it felt sometimes as if both horse and saddle were going from under one and we going to perdition, we came out all right on the ravine bottom at last. Humphrey Marshall moved troops from Abingdon to Blountville on our right, and troops were moved from Rogersville to Kingsport to intercept us; but be passed between “Scylla” on the one hand and “Charybdis” on the other, and came out ahead of them all.

to be continued—-

Originally posted 2008-01-28 01:14:07.

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A SCOUT TO EAST TENNESSEE. ( part one)

A SCOUT TO EAST TENNESSEE.

BY THE LOCHIEL CAVALRY.

At sunrise, on December 20th, 1862, ten companies of the Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry–460 men, under command of Major Russell, and eight companies of the Second Michigan–300 men, under command of Col. Campbell, marched due east from Nicholasville, Ky., on a secret expedition, for which thirty days were allotted for those who should be so fortunate as to return. The orders were to move “light and easy,” without tents, baggage or extra clothing; carry on your horse all you wanted, and two shoes and twenty nails for him. There were ten days’ rations issued, which each trooper carried. Marching through the farms and by-paths to avoid all towns and villages, crossing the Kentucky river at an out of the way ford, and ascending Big Hill south of Richmond, we arrived at M’Kees, county town of Jackson county, Ky., containing six or eight houses, being the first village we had passed through. We were halted here one day, for a corn and provision train to come up that had pack-saddles in it. There were fifty mules packed here with two days’ rations, and the wagons sent back to Lexington with half team force, leaving corn for our return, there being none in Jackson county.

December 24th.–The weather had been very fair and beautiful, except this last day, which was rainy and cold, and we marched out in the rain for Goose creek, near its junction with the Red Bird fork of Kentucky river. Halting in the meadow an hour to give the horses a bite of hay (the first they had for four days, and about all they ever got on the march), we were joined by the Seventh Ohio Cavalry–240 men–from Winchester, Ky., under command of Major Reany. The whole force now numbered 1,000 men, and was under command of Brig. Gen. Carter, having on his staff Col. Carter, Col. Walker, Col. Garrett, Capt. Watkins, Capt. M’Nish, Capt. Easley and others, all acting as aids, assistants, or guides. We now ascertained we were sent to burn the bridges on the East Tennessee railroad, and were expected to foot it half the way over the successive steep and rugged mountain ranges of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, and recommended to cheerfully endure all the hardships and place ourselves on half rations to begin with. I will say for the soldiers that no man cavilled at it, or wanted to turn his back, but all went cheerfully forward, bearing their own burdens as best they might, without sleep, on half rations, food half cooked, and boots worn off their feet by tramping over the rocks to ease their own good horses, and trusting to Providence to keep down the wide and swift rivers that drain these wild mountains. There was to ford, on going and coming, the Cumberland, Powell’s river, Wallen’s river, the Clinch, North Holston, South Holston and the Watauga, the Holston and Clinch being navigable for steamboats when the waters are up. Providentially they were kept down for us. In three days after our exit they were in full flood, so that they could not even have been swum by our horses. From Goose creek we had only bridle-paths, and marched by file across a deep depression in the ridge to the Red Bird, up that and across it scores of times to its topmost spring.

December 27th.–Crossing the Kentucky Ridge, and down to the waters of the middle fork of Kentucky river, crossing and rising that, we came down to Straight creek and halted for half an hour to breath, ere breasting the pine mountain that appeared to push its rocky side up like th wall of a house to near the clouds then lowering and dripping on our heads. The zig-zag paths up the face of this mountain turn and return on each other as often as a fox trail, and the toiling men and horses crawling up its side, looked, from the valley, like flies ascending and sticking to a wall. Its sandy eastern front was too steep to ride down, and there were several miles of arduous marching over the Pine Mountain ere we reached the Poor Fork at the Cumberland. Marched up its quicksand shores and beside the horizontal rock ledges that are natural fortresses, ready made to the hand of the men of Harlan county to defend themselves from invasion by way of Cumberland Gap or any other in the mountain range. Fording the Cumberland and Clover Fork and following up Martin’s creek, we camped during the rainy night and slept by the fires for the last time for many days until our return into Kentucky again. Marching over a high ridge, the bold and beautiful Cumberland mountain rose majestically before us, and extended like a frowning barrier to right and left as far as the eye could reach without a perceptible break in the uniformity of its crest. Two-thirds of the way up the mountain was a level shoulder, as it were breaking the uniformity of its side and appearing as if there had been great waves running the length of the mountains, and thus arrested and changed to rock while in motion adding greatly to its beauty, while the softened rays of the declining sun shone in contrasted light and shadow on the gray rock waves, the green pines and the bare, brown poplars and oaks. Halting beside the little stream in the pleasant valley, an hour was spent in giving corn to the jaded horses, sending back the whole pack mule train, all inefficient horses and a few sick men to Lexington. At sunset, leading our horses for a two mile march up, and a one mile march down, we cheerfully addressed ourselves to the task of crossing the Cumberland mountain. We reached the summit in two hours, under the light of the full soft moon that silvered and beautified the scene, and passed over into the State of Virginia through Crank Gap, so called from its tortuous break in the horizontal rock crest of the Cumberland, some 200 feet deep and a quarter of a mile in width. This pass is more beautiful and picturesque than anything I have ever seen. It arrested the attention of every soldier and according to his temperament he viewed it to right and left in silent admiration at the wonderful works of God, or in rapturous comment as the soft moonlight silvered o’er and smoothed the ruggedness of each natural “frieze and coign of vantage” that was broken or rounded and carved, and overhung our winding path with all the softness of a summer Italian landscape by Claude Lorraine. Passing the crest we turned to the left and went down an easy grade on a projecting Sierra from the face of the mountain, with a precipice on each side. Reaching the end of that we turned short again to the left with our faces to the mountain and slipped down into chaos, pitching and sliding from rock to rock into a wild gorge. Looking directly up to the Kentucky heights was rock scenery of such savage character over our heads, as would have delighted the heart of Salvator Rosa. It would but have required a camp for while our troops were filing and plunging down, and his pencil, to more than rival his scenes in the Appenines. The cliffs here were in shadow from the moon, and crested the whole north-eastern face of the mountain in one rude unbroken strata, and projected like a threatening arm from Kentucky, raised to chastise any invader. It is not to be wondered that the white man had his superstitions in invading the western home of the Indian while climbing these cliffs from the east.

This Crank pass has the singular appearance of having fallen two hundred feet into some subterranean gulf, the pass being level for a quarter of a mile in width, winding over the mountains in a curve between the buttressed walls for more than half a mile, with the rocks torn sheer down from both sides, leaving the singular rock walls overhanging. The pass has the same kind of soil and trees on it that cap the rock battlements, and to soften the wild scene, were glassy glades around a dilapidated house, where some mountaineer had once built him a home, now abandoned. Below his house the sounds of falling water greeted our ears as we crossed the sunken pass, through an avenue of hemlocks and gigantic rhododendrons, intermingled with isolated rocks, moss covered by the falling waters, that were of such enormous sizes as would have made dwelling for the Genii or the Titans.

Turning with a sigh from all this wealth of natural beauty, thinking how much it would be endeared to us could the loved ones at home be at our side to appreciate it, and pondering on the thought of how far distant was the day when we could visit it with smiling peace waving her wing over the land, we looked the present toils and dangers fully in the face, and strode manfully on. Passing north up Poor Valley to avoid alarming Jonesville, we forded Powell’s river and crossed Lee county during the night, reaching Wallen’s Ridge at sunrise, where resting two hours, cooked our coffee and toasting our meat on long sticks or eating it raw (as many preferred), and feeding our horses with the corn we carried over the Cumberland we pushed on for Tennessee, crossing Powell’s mountain. At sunset we reached the broad and swift Clinch river; fording it, we halted at a very picturesque spot, where was a large old-time mansion and the only good flouring mill we had seen in our travels, with its very large wheel driven by the tumbling waters at a mountain brook poured on the top of it, glistening like silver in the soft twilight, while the river waters murmured by. Halting here for an hour for coffee, and to give to the horses a good feed of corn, which the mill and farm-house furnished, and was paid for in “greenbacks,” though under the confederate iron rule the miller would not dare to use them, we pushed on through the mountain passes at Purchase Ridge and Copper Ridge for Estillville. We had captured many squads of confederate soldiers and conscripts on our way, paroling them all. We this night captured several, under charge of a lieutenant, who were halting at a farm-house by the road-side. Before starting, orders were given that we were to report ourselves to inquirers along the road as confederate Georgia and Tennessee cavalry returning from a secret expedition, and every one along the road was deceived by it, as they thought we were purposely disguised in blue clothes. Passing Estillville, crossing Scott county, Virginia, and fording the north fork of the Holston at night, we reached Blountsville, Tennessee, at eight A. M. The Ninth Pennsylvania and Seventh Ohio were halted here an hour, and the Second Michigan were pressed forward six miles to Union Station, where the East Tennessee railroad crosses the south fork of Holston on an expensive bridge 1,000 feet long. Here, as we had understood from our prisoners of last night, were stationed three companies of the Sixty-second North Carolina confederate troops under Major McDowell. After all our marches, toils and trials, here was to be tested the complete surprise and success of our expedition, or we were to be met by the enemy, repulsed and driven back over the mountains without accomplishing our object. It was a moment for anxious thought on the part of General Carter, which was fully shared by each one in the expedition from highest to lowest. As it proved, the Almighty was pleased to bless our cause, for never was surprise more complete. We had outtravelled all certain information, but rumors of a coming host had preceded us like the mutterings of a thunder storm. Within eighty rods of the station Sergeant Whitemore, Co. A, commanded the Michigan Videttes, met six citizens riding up; they asking who our troops were, were answered First Georgia Cavalry. They were delighted, shook hands with the Sergeant and said, “The d–d Yankees were in Estillville, fifteen miles off, five thousand strong” –that “they had raised a hundred men besides the troop, and were going out into the country to raise more men to defend the post–that the Major was coming along right up and the Sergeant would meet him before he got to the bridge.” Col. Carter came up to the citizens at that moment and passed them to the rear. The Sergeant told him he would go down to meet the Major. He said, “Yes, do so.” The Sergeant moved forward to a sharp curve in the road and saw the Major and two citizens, at sixty rod’s distance, talking to the sentinels at the bridge. He came back out of sight, dismounted three men and himself, sent the horses back to the column halted up the road, and secreted his men in a fence corner behind the road curve to await the Major’s coming. When the Major and the two citizens came up, conversing about the “Yankees” to within five feet of the ambush, they were appalled by the sight of the bright revolving rifles close th their heads at full cock. the Sergeant said, “You are my prisoners.” Involuntarily they halt, wheel their horses to flee, when a sharp halt! brought them to front face again. The Sergeant moved them up toward the column. Colonel Campbell had come to the point with Colonel Carter. Colonel Campbell addressed the Major, took his hand and told him he had come to take his post, and if he did not surrender unconditionally he would take it at any rate; saying also, “My men are posted to fire on you–you have not a moment to lose to avoid useless bloodshedding. The Major wrote a note to the Captain in command at the post and advised its surrender. It was sent down with a flag of truce and the place was surrendered at once; the rifles peering across the Holston from the hill commanding the camp being persuaders too potent to be gainsaid. The telegraph was instantly destroyed before an intimation of our presence could be conveyed and the railroad bridge fired. The two hundred prisoners (who appeared to be rejoiced) were placed under guard, and the Ninth Pennsylvanian and Seventh Ohio ordered forward from the Blountsvill road. On their arriving,an expedition was ordered under Colonel Walker and Colonel Carter to capture and burn the bridge nine miles south-west across Watauga river, consisting of companies A, C, and D, the twelve rifles of Co. B, fifteen of Co. F, Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry; companies A. and F, Second Michigan Cavalry, and two companies of the Seventh Ohio Cavalry. The balance of the troops were kept back by General Carter to destroy the county bridge, the turn-table, cars, ammunition, camp and commissary stores, and to follow us down to Watauga and defend our rear from the enemy’s 800 troops at Bristol, fourteen miles by railway, and Humphrey Harshall’s force at Abingdon, thirty miles off by railway. At five miles out the Watauga expedition heard a whistle. The troops were instantly dismounted and ambushed at both ends and besides a deep cut, a rail cut out with our axes in front, and men ambushed with orders to cut out a rail in her rear the instant the engine ran into the deep cut–all in less time than it takes me to write it. A locomotive and tender came in sight, ran into the cut, saw the rail out, reversed and backed out instanter, but not before the reil was up in their rear, and they were fully caged on the rifles peering over the bank. We had gotten a prize, having captured Col. Love, of the Sixty-second North Carolina, a Major, a Captain and a telegraphic staff coming up to ascertain why the telegraph would not work. Five minutes sufficed to put a guard on the locomotive and run her down after us, and we were again on our way and on the alert. It had been raining slowly all day and now came on heavily. Nearing the rebel camp, Col. Carter, who knew all the ground, arranged the attack, Col. Walker assisting. Companies A and F, Second Michigan, dismounted on the right; the twelve rifles of Company A. Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry, in the centre, and Company D, Seventh Ohio, with their rifles, on the left, were to surround the camp, the balance of the rifles being posted as rear guard and on the left of the road, and then it was to be summoned to surrender, to save useless bloodshed. Unfortunately there were some rebel soldiers on the outskirts of the camp shopping wood, six of whom were captured as the troops deployed, but two ran in and alarmed the camp. A shot was fired by some one on the left, and the attack became general. The rebels were under arms and the firing was very heavy on both sides for the numbers engaged, for ten minutes, when the Ninth Pennsylvania, followed by the Seventh Ohio, charged on the camp pistol in hand, and the enemy fled.

To be continued—-

Originally posted 2008-01-26 15:35:26.

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