John J. Hight.

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

. (page 38 of 47)
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 38 of 47)
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At seven I found a shed in which there were many strag-
glers from our Regiment. Here, I remained until near
midnight. The soldiers gave me coffee and crackers ; for
on such an occasion, they are better ofT than officers. The
officers came often to this shed to rally the men for duty,
but as they took no steps to enforce their orders, many of
the men remained.

Saturday, January 21. — The rain was not falling when
I arose at day, but the waters were still upon the face of the

Lieutenant Colonel Moore received orders from General
Davis, informing him that the march liad been suspended
on account of the weather, and directed him to go into camp
as near Gene-ral Carlin as possible. As there was dr}-,
sandy ground a mile back, where most of the train had
stopped, he sent us thither. We got there about noon and



the remainder of the day was spent in tixing up quarters.
As the weather does not seem to improve, we expect to
remain here several days.

We hear that between the freshet and the cutting of dykes,
by the rebels, the central column, composed of the 20th and
half of the 15th Corps, is being compelled to return to
Savannah. Some wagons are being washed away and
mules drowned. I fear this will thwart our General's plans
for some days.

We received some letters this morning — the lirst in answer
to letters sent North from Savannah. In one letter, received

by me, came the informa-
tion that a young relative
of mine, who was cap-
tured in the McCook
raid, has joined the rebel
army. His motive was
to escape the rigor of
imprisonment. If he

succeeds in escaping from
the rebels to our lines,
there may be the end of
the matter. But if he is
captured he may be hung.
The experiment is dan-
gerous, and sinful —
almost beyond pardon.
Better die and rot, as many noble men have done, than swear
allegiance to the sinking cause of the enemies of the country.
On the day before ^^esterday we heard of the capture of
Fort Fisher, the key to Wilminjrton. Ben Butler said it



DR. S. E. Hol,T/.MAX.*

* Dr. Holtzman was commissioned as Additional Assistant Surgeon of
the Regiment bv Governor Morton, in 1862, and joined tlie Regiment after
tlie battle of Shiloh. He was promoted to Assistant Surgeon, and served
some tiine on detached service. March 26, 1864, he was made Surgeon, and
served with the Regiment imtil its muster out. After the war, he returned
to his old home at Bloomington, and resumed the practice of medicine. He
afterward removed to Pontiac, Illinois, where he established lilmself in a
good practice, and where he still lives.


could not be taken. I am no General, but I knew it could,
and so expressed myself in my letters. Now it has fallen,
but no lower than Mr. Ben Butler. I wish he were here, to
rule Savannah, as he is a splendid Provost Marshal, though
a poor General.

Tuesday, January 24. — I spent all day reading the
numerous stray papers which came in last evening's mail.
Most of these were for loth Indiana men, now out of the
service. After a hasty reading, they were distributed among
the Companies.

Our hopes for a few days' rest were blasted, by an order,
which came in the evening, to march in the morning at
seven. More letters were written to-day than during any
day, since leaving the Chattahoochee.

Wednesday, January 25. — Reveille at five ; marched at
eight. For several miles, the road was. a causew^ay, with
some bad places, on account of recent rains. Here and
there, the roads had been improved by corduroying — some
of it recently made. After several miles, the roads were
good. Passing Eden, we came into a desperate swamp,
and broke down in it, and camped just at nightfall.

Morgan's and Carlin's Divisions are in front, and only the
reserve artillery of the 14th Corps in the rear.

We saw but few people, in our march to-day, and they
were poor enough to disarm all hatred, had we borne them
any. One family was about moving to Savannah, where
alms were more plentiful. At another house, a woman sat
shivering by the mule pen, guarding the last mule. The old
man trembled with the palsy. A young man, thinly clad,
stood shivering, while an armless sleeve told a tale of rebel
service, which I did not feel at liberty to draw from his lips
by Yankee questions. No people reside in any of these
parts, save the poor. As for slaves, there never w^ere many,
and still fewer now.

The houses were few, and far between. Tliey are made
of nice pine poles, stripped of their bark. The chimneys are
made ivfter a pattern common in these parts — of sticks and


mud. They are much inferior, and not so safe or durable
as the stick chimneys in tlie North.

Just as the head of the train reached a little run, near
Eden, we heard, near by, a dozen or more fhots, in rapid
succession, followed by shouts. This was an infallible indi-
cation of the presence of the enemy, but no effort was made
to get our men into line. Such things always agonize me
almost beyond endurance. This is not the tirst time tiiat I
have seen such unpardonable slowness. A moment more,
and an orderly came galloping down the road, reporting the
rebels "right up here." Had the}^ been disposed to attack
the train, the}^ would have been upon us in a minute, and the
Regiment would not have been in line. As soon as the
Order!}' presented his report, some attempted to form a line,
and some tried to load their guns. A part of the officers
were very prompt, while some were as dull as stumps ; they
were not afraid, they weren't. But there was hurrying to
and fro. The new conscripts at length formed an indiffer-
ent line ; skirmishers were sent forward ; the train was
ordered to park, and Captain Smith was ordered to defend
it with four Companies. It proved, in the end, that a bat-
tery post master had wandered a little from the main road,
and had been tired on by a squad of six rebels. When he
ran, they hallooed, and then scampered off. Such is the
battle of Eden.

Thursday, January 26. — We left the main road, 3'ester-
day, at Eden, and did not regain it to-day. We wound
about through the swamp, where much of the road was
almost impassable. General Buell's Brigade spent the after-
noon making corduroy. We marched about six miles,
which was as far as we could go. We camped in a sand
field, about three miles before reaching Springtield.

In the afternoon, while several Companies were cutting
small pine trees for corduroy, one fell on Thomas Feeler, of
C(jmpanv 11, and broke an arm and a leg. It is a wonder
more accidents of tliis kind do not happi-n. The soldiers
are very careless. When a trei^ is cut, warning is seldom


given until it begins to fall. It is considered great fun, to
make the men scatter and run. And then, man}- soldiers
will hardh' attempt to get out of the way of a tailing tree.
Some permit it to brush them, and some stand behind a tree
while it strikes the other side. The woods are usually full
of men, and there is a clatter of a hundred axes. Trees are
fiilling here and there, and men are busy carrying out the
cuts. It is a wonder more men are not killed.

We followed General Mortjan's Division this mornino;,
and passed Carlin's and l^aird's Divisions near Springiield.
When we started, we hoped to reach Sister's Ferry, on the
Savannah, by night. But we soon came to a dead lock, and
lay for a long time by the roadside. There was a stream
ahead which defied the passage of the trains.

We marched about tour miles, to-day, through a better
country than yesterday. There were several swamp creeks,
some plantations, and the ruins of a village. Springfield is
the seat of justice for Effingham county. The court house
is a two-stor}^ frame. There were but few houses in the
place before we came ; there are fewer now.

The weather is clear and cold, with a sharp wind blowing.
The lire runs through the wood in all directions, burning
the leaves.

After spending most of the day at the creek above named,
the pontoons were moved forward, with a design of putting
down some balk and chess to make a bridp:e. But General
Davis ordered none of the material to be placed in the
stream. We then went to camp, and the men went to work.
Poles and logs are cut and piled one upon another, until they
rise above the surface of the water, and at ten p. m. the
treacherous road is completed.

After four miles travel, on Saturday, January 28, we came
to the river road, on which we had advanced to Savannah.
It must have been five miles above Ebenezer creek, and about
thirty from Savannah. We turned into this road, and went
two miles farther, to Sister's Ferry, where we went into camp,
on the bluft', by the river side. At this point, the bluff is


about seventy-five feet above high water mark, and there is
a gap in it, made bv a ravine. Here is the ferry road — a
deep cut, now full of brush, concealing torpedoes. The
South Carolina shore is low. The river is now very high,
and the other shore is overflown. The rebels have a long
line of works there, but the water is up to the top of the port
holes. The prospect of pontooning such a flood is not flat-

The gunboat Pontine lies anchored under the bluft'.

Sunday, January 29. — This is the day I was to have
preached on intemperance. But I am not prepared, and
must, therefore, decline. Having been smoked all week
b}' pine fires, I have been unable to even collect a few poor
thoughts. I am sorry of this. Whisky rations are issued
to our men, and many of them are going to the dogs. I
would that I had the power to issue a general order, exclud-
ing this vile stuff' from the army. At present, all my labor
seems to be in vain. My way is hedged up ; what am I to
do? May God help me to do something.

I preached a sermon which I had prepared last Sabbath.
The mornings was' cold and the attendance small. The
work of the Lord is under par, and His servant is
neglected. When will a brighter day dawn? May God
send it soon.

About twelve m. the men were put to work. A large
detail began digging a new approach. "I had rather,"
said General Slocum, "work the entire command two weeks
than have one man killed by the torpedoes." This is a
noble sentiment.

The putting in of pontoons was delayed by unloading
two transports, which came up with forage. At dark, the
work began in earnest, and the bridge was completed in the
course of the night.

Ward's Division, of the 20th Corps, is on the other side
of the river. The 14th Corps and Geary's Division are on
this side. One other Division of the 20th, and some of the
15th Corps are also said to be on this side.


Monday, January 30. — The roads are being cleared and
prepared on the other side of the riv^er. It is almost impos-
sible to. get out to the main land on the South Carolina side,
on account of the flood. The water is falling to-day. The
road on the other side is full of water. We learn some new
ideas almost every day in road making. To-day, in certain
places, where the water is deep, a causeway is made of brush
and poles, above the surface of the water, for the infantry to
cross. Several transports came up, loaded with supplies.
We have no mail coming in, but it goes out regularly.

We hear that some of Hood's men have reached Augusta.
It is probable that the rebels will make a stand at or near
Branchville, South Carolina. Many of the planters above
here are so firmly convinced that our army will cross into
South Carolina, that they are sending their corn and other
valuables across into Georgia. An expedition v^ill go some
miles up on this side to get some of this corn.

Supplies are now landed on this side at a point just below
the pontoon. A wharf and a road are being made on the
other side.

I learn that nearly all the negroes, abandoned by General
J. C. Davis, at Ebenezer, by the good providence of God,
passed over the stream. A few were drowned. A few
were captured by the rebels, unmercifully whipped, and
sent back into slavery. Such would have been the fate of
all had the will of Jeft' Davis anything to do with it.

A Sergeant of the 79th Pennsylvania, while engaged,
about ten a. m., to-day, a mile up the river, on the other
side, in clearing up the road, stepped upon and exploded a
torpedo. It was buried under the road. Our people knew
nothing of its existence. The Sergeant had his left leg torn
oft' below the knee, requiring amputation above the knee.
At the same time, another soldier was dangerously injured.
The men were removed to their Division hospital by Doctor
Holtzman. After this explosion our men began searching
for the torpedoes. They removed some twent}' or more.
Their presence is indicated by a peg by the roadside, just


opposite the torpedo, with a number on it. The torpedoes
usually have the appearance of an ordinary shell. They are
buried under the road and entirely concealed from view.
They are connected with the surface by a tin tube, a few
inches long, and about two inches in diameter. When the
dirt is removed from the top they present the appearance of
the lid of a five-cent blacking box, with the hollowed side
down. A Captain stepped on one, to-day, and slipped ; he
lifted his foot, and lo, a torpedo. It was removed and
found to be spoiled. Otherwise, he would have been blown
into eternity.' Amongst the pins removed was one num-
bered "tift}^" so we may presume^ that most of them are
still undiscovered.

What is the remedy ? We should get a detail of rebel
prisoners and make a chain gang of them — officers are pre-
ferable. Let them remove all they can find, then, let them
draw heavy wagons before the advance of our army. This
will efiectually cure the rebels. They w^ill soon become
tired of blowing up their own people. It is their privilege
to put tlie torpedoes in and ours to make them take them out.

I have been sadly mistaken in our conscripts. I had sup-
posed that as a class thev would be better men than volun-
teers. I supposed that many men of standing, whose
families or business did not permit them to volunteer, would
be drafted. All in all, I tiiought there would be fewer wild
young men amongst the drafted people. True enougli,
there are many good, substantial citizens, but the mass of
the conscripts are below par. We have amongst them
deserters from the rebel arm}'-, refugees from the South,
bounty jumpers, men who have been in the army before and
"played out" of the service, shirks, butternuts and sub-
stitutes, many of whom are the scrapings of society. The
three hundred added to this Regiment, together with the
whisky I'ations, have demorah/tHl this command to a shame-
ful extent. I no where meet the encouragement I once did.
But few of the elements of the old 58th Indiana remain, and
I seem destined to outlive my usefulness in the Regiment.


All this, tempts me sorely to return to private life at the end
of my term of service — March 5th, 1865. There is more
profanity and card playing in the Regiment than ever before.
There is fiddling and dancing even on Sunday evening.

Several cargoes of sutler's goods have been brought up
the river to this point. Apples are sold at $2.00 per dozen ;
potatoes at ^13.00 per barrel ; butter if i.oo per povmd.

The road is not yet prepared for the passage of the army.

Friday, February 3. — The river has been steadily fall-
ing, and it is now about ten feet lower than when we tirst
came here.

The road was completed over the swamps and bayous,
beyond the Savannah this afternoon. Kilpatrick's cavalry
Division began crossing at two p. m. and continued until
late at night.

The crossing of the army was completed on the morning
of February 5th. We will now follow on and will again be
cut otT from our base of supplies.

I anticipate a spirited and successful campaign. Battles
may be fought and defeat may result to our army. But I
anticipate only victory in the end. The Confederacy is on
the decline. I believe that by next autumn the war will be
over. May God grant an early and successful termination
of this deadly struggle of iVeedom against slavery.

Monday, February 6. — Remained in camp all day,
expecting orders to take up the bridge and go on. Only the
34th Illinois and five Companies of the 58th are here. Our
people are very circumspect. A few rebels came near our
skirmish line, yesterday and to-day, being led by the inevi-
table man on the grey horse. They only desired to know
whether the Yankees were gone or not. Call again, gentle-

After dark, the long expected orders came, to take up the
bridge and go to tlie landing on the other side. It is two
miles above here. Immediately opposite here is a swamp,
and directly opposite the landing above, there is a swamp
on this side.


Our baggage wagons pulled over first, and went on up the
road, along the river bank, through the swamp. Some rain
had fallen during the day, and the bridge and corduroy was
very slick. In all my travels I never saw such a road. I
was compelled to lead my horse, and it is a wonder the army
ever got through such a place.

It was only half-past ten o'clock p. m. when myself and
the front of the train reached camp. The rear did not arrive
until 5 :30 next morning. The officers and men had an
arduous time taking up the bridge.

Early on the morning of the seventh, there was hurrying
to and fro, preparatory to our departure. Orders came to
lighten our baggage. Our wagons are ordered to haul all
the forage they can. A part of the supply train is left with
Captain Tousey, A. C. S., to get rations. This is what
the army has been waiting here tor, during the last day or

We march after the reserve artillery of the 14th Corps, at
seven a. m.

There is a growth of scrubby oaks about Sister's Ferry,
on the South Carolina side. The soil is sandy. We
marched out through a swamp. Here, in addition to gum
and cypress, there are numerous pines. The road is made
by cutting, parallel, two ditches, about fifteen feet apart,
and throwing the dirt together. There is very little in this
land for man or beast.

About one o'clock we came to Brighton, St. Peter's
Parish, Beaufort district. The village has nearly all been
burned. A sign post stands yet in the center of the village
with a board marked, "To Orangeville, 76 miles." There
are about two dwelling houses remaining. The air is chilly
and damp. I stopped by the embers of a building destroyed
by fire and eat my dinner, which I had put in my saddle
bags the day we came to the Savannah river. It had kept
well, for it was bacon and crackers. Very unexpectedly to
me, our train stopped and went into camp about the ruins ot
the village. Our tents were soon up, and we were com-


fortable. Abundance of clear water was obtained from
a well in camp. This is a rare circumstance in a soldier's
experience. Wells seldom afford sufficient water for the
many soldiers that collect around them. It is equally rare
to see a pump, or any facility for drawing water. In fact,
at this season of the year, and in this country, the brooks
give us more palatable water than the wells. The soldiers
are not anno^-ed by the thought that there may be a dead
cow a mile down the stream from which he is drinking.
Indeed, dead horses and mules above do not injure the
water. At Chattanooga, last spring, we drank iVom below
hundreds of them, and the water was just as sweet as that
which came from above these carcasses. It is difficult to
corrupt the waters of the great Tennessee. Many things
which people taste and smell only exist in their imagination.

Wednesday, February 8. — We marched this morning
at seven o'clock. Companies A and F, with a short train,
moved with the light column, composed of Baird's Division,
on the main Augusta road. The remainder of the trains
and Carlin's Division went on the Orangeburg road. Mor-
gan's Division is back at Sister's Ferry, with the supply
trains, awaiting steamers with rations.

Our progress was very slow to-day. Our road led through
the swamps. We came to many quicksands, made worse
by recent rains. The pine is almost the only growth. Here
and there was a miserable plantation, where, in other days,
the poor inhabitant eked out the struggle of pride and pov-
erty. How hard it must have been trying to keep up chiv-
alric dignity on such poor dirt. "St. Peter's Parish, Beau-
fort District, South Carolina," sounds ver}' large in print.
But, when you come to look at it, it is ver^^ flat and much of
it under water. When these swamps are drained the soil
soon filters through the sand.

We camped, in the afternoon, at Lawtonville. This was
a small villiage, now all gone but the church and a hut or
two. The church is a large frame structure, painted white.
I did not visit it or learn to what denomination it belonged.


Thursday, February 9. — Wc marched at nine o'clock,
following Carlin's Division. Our supply train joins us, hav-
ing obtained rations and the mail.

We marched north eight miles, to Beach Branch Baptist
Church. This stands at a noted cross roads, and near Beach
Branch Swamp. It is a frame house, near the roadside, and
unfenced. Just across the road is the cemetery, or "gar-
den," as it is called on a tomb. This is surrounded by a
jilank fence. Tiiere are but few graves here and still fewer
stones. The largest is in memory of a Baptist preacher by
the name of Webb, who, in days long gone, probably dis-
coursed the words of life through the various associations
amongst the swamps.

Thus far, the road has been good, and the country the
best this side of the river. We are still in the sandy, pine

In illustration of the strait to which the chivalry are
coming, a soldier told me about seeing an old planter,
whose house had been burned, and who is now living in the
negro quarters, gathering up a few sweet potatoes thrown
away by the much despised Yankees. His feelings must
have been akin to those of the widow of old, who was
gathering up two sticks, preparator}- to baking her cake
and dying. Whether the Good Being will bless and
preserve these people here, as he did her, remains to be

We are marching on the trail of Kilpatrick's cavahy.
Though the}^ passed several days since, and a heavy rain
has intervened, the trail is not yet cold. Many of the houses
are still burning. Amongst the tales of the camp is one that
"Kill," as lie is familarly called, tilled all his boys' saddle-
bags with matches, before leaving Savannah. Nearly all
the dwelling houses along our route were burned before we
come up. Here and there can be seen two or more magnif-
icent two-story chimneys, left standing to tell the story of
departed joys. Terrible are the judgments of the Most

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 38 of 47)