John J. Hight.

History of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 online

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Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 3 of 47)
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the best presentation possible and to evade such questions
of the mustering officer as might cause their rejection.

The Regiment remained in Camp Gibson about six weeks.
The time being industriously employed in company and
"squad drills" much to the dislike of many of the boys,
when the novelty of the thing wore ofT. P>ut. \vhik> this
daily drill was tiresome and monotonous to the privates,
it was very pleasing to the newly fledged corporals, ser-
geants and company oflicers, as it afforded them an oppor-
tunity to exercise thtnr authority in training the raw rcxruit.
After the companies had been sufficiently drilled so that
the men could "stand up in two rows and march out end-
ways," a regimental dress parade was attempted. Joe
Grant, who had seen service, and had an ambition to see
more, made himself quite efficient as the acting adjutant of
the Regiment on such occasions. Joe was very conspicuous
among the undisciplined officers and men in those early days
of the R(>giment. On dress parade he iiad the admiration of
all the ladies and was the object of envv of all the new officers


who had not yet caught on to the tactics. After a few
weeks Colonel Carr came to camp, and he had such a fine
manly presence and was possessed of svich a strong com-
manding voice that he at once obtained the favor and re-
spect of the members of the Regiment. He was a well
drilled officer himself and on takincr command of the Recri-
ment he instituted a more thorough discipline in camp duties.
He organized a special school of instruction for the line
officers and it was not long until the effect of it was shown
in compan}^ drill. A regimental band had been organized
by this time and with their services dress parade became
quite an attraction to the people of town and country who
were daily visitors to camp, bringing with them, usually,
man}^ delicacies not found on the soldiers' bill of fare.
These were gala days for the boys, but the}^ were not to last.
Indeed, the boys did not want them to last. They had en-
listed to put down the rebellion, they said, and they wanted
to get to the front where they could be about their business.
They had plenty to eat, good warm clothes, comfortable
quarters, an opportunity to see their friends often, but there
was one longing desire that was not satisfied while enjoying
these luxuries in Camp Gibson. The thing that the}- wanted
to hear, and as time wore along became more impatient
about, was marching orders. But the long delayed orders
came at last. On Wednesday night, December ii, just
before time for turning into bunks, the order came for the
Regiment to prepare three days' rations and be ready to move
to Louisville the following Friday. On the reception of
this news there went up such a shout from that camp as had
never before been heard in these parts. Everybody was de-
lighted although every one could but know that the contem-
plated move was but the beginning of days of trial, privation
and sutTering, and to man}' the end would be death. But
war is a serious business and these men had counted the cost
before enlisting.

That night, and the day and night following there was hur-
rying to and fro and everything was bustle and confusion in


camp. Strict orders had been given as to furloughs and the
guards were doubled to prevent soldiers from jumping the
fence and taking "French leave" on the night before de-
parture. It was of no avail, however, as the soldiers went
over the fence like a drove of sheep. Not content with this
in many places the};- tore down whole sections of fence ; they
captured the guard and burned the guard house, and in fact
took possession of the camp for the time being. They were
going to leave and proposed to celebrate the event in their
own way. Next morning the sober second thought came to
some who had been specially hilarious the night before, and
the}' were affected in a different way. When wives, mothers,
fathers, sisters, and sweethearts came into camp to witness
their departure and bid them good bye, when the actual
parting came, then there was an end to rioting and rowdy-
ism. Then it seemed to dawn upon many for the first time
that this going away was an affair that called for sober
thought rather than for jovous hilaritv and reckless dissipa-

On Frida}^ morning, December 13, the Regiment was
drawn up in line all accoutered and equipped readv to move.
As the Regiment stood in line waiting for orders to march.
Rev. John McMaster and Rev. J. E. Jenkins, representing
the Gibson County Bible Society, passed down the line witli
baskets filled with small pocket testaments and presented
each member of the Regiment with a copy. This incident
made a deep impression upon all and the testaments were
highly prized by the recipients. The Regiment moved out
of camp to the railroad depot and after a long wait there the
train that was to carry us to Evansville finall}' came and
we got aboard.

There was a large crowd of people present to see us off,
and amid the cheers and tears and lamentations of the multi-
tude of waiting friends, with the waving of handkerchiefs
and flags, and other demonstrations the train pulled out.


On the Way to the Front — First Experience in Camp
— Ox THE March to Bardstown — Brigade Organ-
ization — Flag Presentation — Through Ken-
tucky — Tennessee — At Nashville.

ARRIVING at Evansville, the Regiment landed on the
commons outside of the city and marched down Main
street to the river. There we embarked on the steamer
Baltic^ and after a few hours were on our way up the Ohio
river, destined for Louisville.

The Baltic was a very large boat and was provided with
luxurious accommodations, but these were not available, or
were insufficient for that emergency. The men had to sleep
on the cabin floor or out on deck as best they could, all the
comfortable sleeping space being overcrowded. But the
boat ride was a novel experience to many, and they enjoyed
it, notwithstanding the discomforts. Sometime during
Saturday night the boat landed at Portland, below Louis-
ville, and early on Sunday morning the Regiment began to
disembark. It was nearly noon when everything was in
readiness and the Regiment started on its first march. It
was about four miles at that time from the place of landing
to Louisville, proper, and the Regiment was required to
march that distance and thence about two miles to a commons
south of the city to a camping place. Here we drew tents,
of the bell pattern, and spent our first night trying to sleep
on the cold ground inside of a tent. Here also we had
our first experience with the army "hard tack." While


here the equipments of the Regiment were completed and on-
the 19th of December we started on our hrst march to Bards-
town, Ky., a distance of about forty miles. There was a
good turnpike all the way which was not so good for tender
feet. Most of the boys were shod in store boots with thin
soles, and there was a general complaint of blistered feet
after the first day's march. The broad, thick soled shoe
supplied by their Uncle Sam was much in favor with the
boys after their experience on that fort}^ mile march. We
arrived at Bardstown, December 21st, tired, weary and
footsore, and not very much enraptured with arm}- life, so
far as we had seen it. But this was but the beginning of
our sorrows. Marching through town to the most uninvit-
ing spot that could be found a few miles beyond, the Regi-
ment went into camp on a hillside in a cedar forest. An-
other kind of tent was issued to us here. It was called
the Sibley tent. We had never seen anything like it, and
had no idea how to put one of them up. It was a puzzle to
master a Sibley tent to any one who had not travelled with a
circus. But some genius in the Regiment did iind a solution,
and others profited by his discovery, so in time the tents
were up and camp established once more. Then it began
to rain and continued for several days. All about the camp
the soil was converted into nasty mud of various degrees of
consistency. By this time there were a few members of the
58th who would have been willing to exchange places with
some patriotic citizen who had a good roof over his head
and a comfortable bed in which to sleep. It had not occurred
to man}^ of them until now that a soldier's life was of this
sort. It was about this time that an order was given one
night for the RegimcMit to be ready to march early the fol-
lowing morning. When reveille was sounded next morning
a stalwart private arose and peeped out of his tent. He
found it was very dark and still raining. He turned back
and remarkcnl to his comrades, "Surely we are not going to
break camj-) and march this morning while it is raining this
wa}^" lie had lived on a farm and had learned enough


during his life to come in out of the rain, hut he found that
morning, and in his after experience, that military- tactics
had very little regard for the weather. The Regiment
marched that morning — December 29th — to another camp-
ing ground, about five miles south of Bardstown, on the
Bowling Green pike. This was also a muddy place, but it
was in an open freld and it was more suitable for a camp.
During the month of December the Regiment traveled three
hundred and seven miles — twenty-seven by rail, two hundred
by steamer and eighty on foot.

The object of moving the Regiment to this camp was two-
fold, first because it was here afforded a more eligible site for a
]")roperly alligned regimental camp, and second that it might
be in proximity to other Regiments with which it was to be
brigaded. Hitherto the 58th had not been associated with
an}'- other Regiment. Now it was to take a place as part
of a little army that was being organized in the vicinity of
Bardstown under the command of Brigadier General T. J.
Wood. At this new camp there soon arrived the other
Regiments with which the 58th was to be brigaded. These
were the 24th Kentucky, 40th Indiana and the 57th Indiana.
Col. H. M. Carr, of the 58th, was assigned to the command
of the Brigade, with General Wood commander of the divis-
ion, headquarters in Bardstown. General Wood was a
regular army officer and a very strict disciplinarian. He
found an opportunit}^ here for the exercise of all his talents
in this direction, in the development of these raw recruits into
an army of disciplined soldiers. But it was done, although
the process was often ver}- distasteful to the raw material
from which the disciplined soldier was being developed.

It was in this camp that the 58th received their stand of
colors which had been procured by some of the patriotic
ladies of Gibson county. It was the purpose to have pre-
sented the colors before the Regiment left Camp Gibson, but
circumstances were such that this could not be done. So,
on the 14th day of January, 1862, a committee of three ladies
from Gibson county brought the colors to Louisville where



they were met by a delegation from the Regiment. The
ladies composing this delegation were Misses Ophelia Hanks,
Artemesia Hanks and Mollie Sumners. Miss Ophelia
Hanks* made the presentation address and delivered the col-
ors to Lieut. -Col. George P. Buell and Major J. T. Embree
in the Louisville hotel. Following are the addresses made
on that occasion :


Lieutenant- Colonel:

I have the honor of presenting to you, the officers and soldiers of the 58th
Regiment of Indiana Vokinteers, this beautiful stand of colors — the free gift
of the patriotic ladies of Gibson county, of our beloved state of Indiana.
First, is this

"Flag of the heart's hope and home,
By angel hands to valor given."
Inspired by the glorious associations that cluster
around this emblem of our united nationality, I
doubt not that the officers and soldiers composing
your gallant Regiment will nerve themselves for the
conflict and bear it in triumph over every battle

The second is your Regimental banner. Upon
its blue field we have inscribed the American
luigle, the symbol of American liberty and great-
ness. This is a fitting emblem for an Indiana Regi-
ment, for in the Indiana soldier is concentrated all
that is truly great and heroic, and may we hope that
whilst the sight of this beautiful flag may stimulate 30U to deeds of valor,
that you will not forget that true greatness is alwaj's associated with mag-
nanimity. Therefore, if the fortune of war should place in your hands the
common foe, show to him that you are not only "great, but good" — be mag-
nanimous, be merciful. Indiana is justly proud of her citizen soldiers.
Their names are thus far associated with every hotly contested battle, and
the donors of these beautiful colors cherish the hope that when your Regi-
ment, under your leadership, shall be called upon to engage in deadly conflict
with the enemy, that new lustre will be added to the already bright sheen of
Indiana's valor.

Colonel, trusting that this unhappy strife tnay soon end in an honorable
peace, and that not one star shall be displaced from our national galaxv,
and that every stripe may remain unmarred. I bid you fiuewell. and may
Heaven's choicest blessing attend you.

* Now Mrs. James S. Mowry, Princeton, Ind. She is the only one of
this committee living at the time this is published.

MRS. Ol'llIiLlA ll.\XKS



Ladies of »iy Native State:

In company with Major Embree, I stand here as the representative of
Col. Carr and the sSth Indiana Regiment. Though I do not feel capable of
occupving the position. I feel complimented and am happy to be the recip-
ient of those colors in person. The demonstration of the ladies of Gibson
county is truly most gratifying and encouraging to every member of our

As a token of vour true patriotism and high regard for the cause in
which vour fathers and brothers have enlisted, you have presented us with
the banners under which we a»e to march. Ladies, we will take these tiags,
and whilst we thank you from our inmost hearts, we will bear them most
nobly; as we enter upon the battle field beneath them we shall call God to
witness that our motto shall be one thousand deaths rather than defeat. We
do not say this boastingly — we feel it; our hearts and souls are enveloped in
flames of passionate love and pride for this sacred ensign. There is within
man a hidden passion, which, when aroused, he knows no conquerer; there
is a period in the career of nations when their patriots are all brave. With
us that passion is aroused — with Indiana that time has come; fifty thousand
of her sons are already in the field. Indiana needs no encomiums! let others
behold and judge for themselves.

My friends, these colors may meet the reverse of fortune — they mav fall;
if so. our hope and prayers shall be that we fall with them. We are a Regi-
ment of brothers, defending a mother's cause; there is not one of us can look
at this emblem of his country for a moment but his e>'es will kindle and his
heart will throb with the noblest emotion of man. Think of it and then ask,
"shall we carry them safely through?" Ah. thou stainless shroud of Wash-
ington forsaken.? And that by Indianians.' Never! Never! I can assure
you we can appreciate the feelings that has prompted you to show this last
act of kindness to many of us. We have all left behind us our happy homes.
By yielding to their country's call, our mothers, wives and sisters have
already cast an eternal gloom over their domestic firesides. Before me are
sisters who would weep days and weeks over the death bed or grave of a
dear friend, but who have this day, without a summons or tear, marched
forward, bearing in the right hand their country's baimer and leading with
the left a father or brother to the sacrifice. Is not this love of country.?
Is not this deep, undying patriotism.? History may relate deeds of
valor, nations may boast of their oft'spring, but none now can be
more proud than Indiana shall be of her daughters, and Indianians of their

Sisters, we bid you adieu. We are brothers and soldiers; our lot is
perilous. Throughout the hills and vales' of Kentucky many of us may soon
rest beneath the sod, and when such shall be our fate, the boon we shall ask
will be one tear for the soldier, one sigh for the brother. Once more, in
behalf of the 5Sth Regiment, expressive of the heartfelt feelings of each and
every member. I thank vou most sincerely. Farewell.


The ladies afterward accompanied the delegation to the
regimental camp at Bardstown, where the colors were for-
mally presented to the Regiment at dress parade. Among
th^ ladies who accompanied the committee from Princeton
was Miss Irene Kirkman, who sang "The Star Spangled
Banner" and other patriotic songs on that
occasion. Miss Kirkman 's singing and
the presence of these ladies brought new
life and patriotic ardor to the soldiers
camped upon that'bleak, cold field. Their
visit was a bricfht event in our cheerless
army lifp.

In the latter part of Januarv the Brigade
MK^. iKKNK KIRKMAN g^^j.^g^ ou SL march" towards Lebanon,

of Princeton, I nd. wliitlier General Wood, the Division

commander, had already moved his headquarters. It
was the intention to concentrate the army under command
of General George H. Thomas, then near Mill Springs,
confronted by a large rebel force under General ZollicolTer.
But the rebel general concluded not to wait for this concen-
tration. He attacked the Union force in great fury, expect-
ing to rout them before reinforcements could arrive. But
his plan miscarried. His own army was routed, and he
himself was killed. When the 58th reached Lebanon the
news of the Union victory at Mill Springs made it unneces-
sary for them to move any further in that direction.

The body of General Zollicofler in an ambulance passed
by the 58th camp, soon after our arrix-al in Lebanon. The
remains were being taken to the dead general's late home in
Nashville for interment.

The Regiment remained in the vicinity of Lebanon for
several weeks. The hard marching and exposure to the in-
clement weather began to tell on the boys. The hos-
pitals were filled with sick', and many deaths occurred.
About the middle of February marching orders were again
received. The objective point now was Bowling Green,
then a rebel stronghold, under command of General Buckner.


The march from Lebanon to Mumfordsville was by rail.
The Regiment was loaded in box cars like cattle, onl}^ each
car was made to contain more men than is the usual capacit}-
for cattle. It was not the most comfortable condition of
things that the soldiers enjoyed in that night ride from Leb-
anon to Green River, but it was better than "hoofing it."

At Mumfordsville the Reo-iment halted while the rest of
the Brigade came up. At this place the 58th was paid off,
receiving pay for the first three months' service. A large
part of the money received here was gold and silver and it
was the last mone}'' of that kind we saw during the service.
But the new "greenbacks" were a very acceptable substitute.
We waited here for a few days while the rest of the army,
then under command of General D. C. Buell, was concen-
trating. While halting here the battle of Fort Donelson was
fought, resulting in a great victory for the Union forces
under General Grant. Immediately after this the rebels
evacuated Bowling Green, retreating through Nashville
towards the Tennessee river. This left the country clear in
front of General Buell's army and he pressed forward after
the retreating rebels.

The 58th moved forward with the rest of the army through
Bowling Green on toward Nashville, making some very
hard marches bv the wa}^ One of the most severe, and as
it proved the most unnecessary march, that the Regiment
made during all its service, was on the day preceding their
arrival at Edgefield Junction, near Nashville. It was about
noon of that day that the Brigade Commander received an
order from General Wood to camp at Edgefield Junction,
ten miles from Nashville. As usual with militar}^ orders it
was enclosed in a large envelope, directed to the Brigade
Commander. On the back of the envelope, for the guid-
ance of the orderly who carried the orders, was written
"make five miles an hour." As the orderly was mounted
this would not be a very extraordinary speed. But the
Commander of the Brigade construed the direction to apply
to his men who were afoot, which would make a pretty


livel}- gait, especially for men who were already foot sore
and weary from their long march. But the Colonel was
disposed to obey orders as he understood them, and his
understanding was that the Regiment under his command
was to move towards the designated camping ground,
which was lifteen miles away, at the rate of live miles an
hour, and so the order was giyen for a forced march for that
distance. The order was executed with very indifferent
success. For a short time the belief that there was some
serious emergency ahead inspired the men to strain every
nerve to reach the emergency' on time. But after a few
miles of exertion physical strength and enthusiasm were
about exhausted. In spite of strict orders the men were
dropping out of the ranks by the score and falling by the
roadside utterly worn out. After a while the Colonel was
convinced of the physical impossibility of carrying out his
construction of the order, and he was compelled to adopt a
more moderate gait. A part of the Brigade reached the
camp in proper shape and in ample time ; the larger part
came in by details during- the next twenty-four hours.
When the foolish blunder of the Commander was fully un-
derstood there were some deep dyed imprecations bestowed
upon him b}' officers and men.

This was a ver}^ beautiful camping place, situated in a fine
forest covered with blue grass. There was a disposition to
forgive and forget some of the privations and inconveniences
of the past, in view of the present surroundings. At this
place the regimental band left. They iiad followed the
Regiment, or rather had gone in front of it, from Camp
Gibson, but there had been some uncertainty on the part of
the government as to whether bands were really needed in
the army. At any rate they had not yet received any official
standing, and there was nothing for the bands to do but to
return home.

On tlie 13th of March the Regiment marched again to-
ward Nashville. They found that many other Regiments had
preceded them, the rebels having evacuated the place with-


out any attempt at defense. The rebels had destroyed the
fine suspension bridt^e across the Cumberland river before
leaving, which seemed a very foolish and wanton destruction
of their own property. It could not hinder the advancement
ol the Union army to an}- great extent, as the stream was nar-
row and a temporary bridge was easily constructed.

The 58th Regiment, and the Brigade of which it was a
part, marched through the city and went into camp on the
Nolensville pike about two miles south of the city, where they
remained for about two weeks. While here some changes
were made in the Brigade organization. The 58th Indiana
and the 15th Indiana exchanged places, which placed the 58th
in a Brigade composed of the 26th Ohio, 13th Michigan, 17th
Indiana and the 8th Indiana Battery. A few days afterward
the 3d Kentucky was substituted for the 13th Michigan. The
Brigade thus constituted was designated as the 15th Brigade,
and was commanded by Colonel Hascall, of the 17th Indi-
ana. The Division to which it belonged was known as the
6th Division, commanded by Brigadier General T. J. Wood.

Rev. John J. Hight, the recently appointed Chaplain,
joined the Regiment at this camp. The story of our Regi-
mental affairs will be suspended at this point while the new
Chaplain relates a little of his personal experience and
explains how he became connected with the Regiment.


Personal Experiences — How a Local Methodist
Preacher Became an Army Chaplain — Difficul-
ties AND Discouragements in Getting Started —
Observations by the Way — Arrival at Nashville
— At the Regimentai> Camp — A Cold and Cheer-
less Reception — An Unfavorable Impression of

Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 3 of 47)