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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Camp Diet and Arrangements for Sleeping.

IT might be interesting to the readers to know how I came
to tind a place as Chaplain in the army. Whether the
reader is interested or not, the process of my evolution from
an itinerant Methodist preacher to an army Chaplain is an in-
teresting event in my history, and I will ask the indulgence
of such readers as may not be interested while I relate it

From my earliest recollection I had cherished a desire to
see more of the country than comes within the range of
vision of an ordinary itinerant preacher, but the proverbial
poverty that pertains to my class was always an obstacle in
the way of my ambition. When the war broke out and
volunteers were wanted to put down the rebellion it seemed
to me my opportunity had come. Here was a chance to
travel at the expense of the government and at the same
time perform the duty of a patriot. I was at once filled
with a desire to go and do my part as my forefathers had
done in their day. l>ut it did not seem consistent for a
preacher to enter the fighting department of the arm}-. The
weapons of our warfare are not carnal, vou know. Besides,
I was not a very combative man by nature, but was rather



inclined to timidit}' of disposition. But when it was an-
novinced that the volunteer Regiments were to have Chap-
lains it occurred to me that this would be more in the line of
my disposition and in harmon}' with my profession. And
when the suggestion was made to me b}- some of my friends
that I ought to seek a position as arm}^ Chaplain I fullv
made up my mind to do so. When Thomas Johnson was
recruiting a Company for what was afterward the 24th In-
diana, I told him that T would be glad to go with them as
Chaplain. He seemed to be heartily in favor of the idea,
so I was not at all surprised to hear from him by a telegram
a few days after reaching the rendezvous of the Regiment
at \ incennes. He wired, "It is all right, come on." This
was on Saturday, and I very foolishly took the lirst train for
Vincennes. But when I arrived at the camp I was surprised
to find a number of other applicants for the place. I
found that there were a number of preachers who were as

patriotic as myself, so I gave it
up. I went into the city and
preached on Sabbath for my Meth-
odist Brother, Stallard. On Mon-
day I returned home with regrets
that I had ever started on the trip.
A short time after this my friend.
Dr. Pennington, urged me to write
to Colonel Baker, with whom I
was acquainted, and who was or-
ganizing the First Indiana Cavalry
at Evansville. I did so but never received any reply. I
have always passed Colonel Baker since as though I was not
acquainted with him. Have said I would not vote for him
if he is ever a candidate for office, but may reconsider that.
During the remainder of the summer of 1861 I made no
further effort to go to war, feeling very much discouraged in
my efforts thus far. About the ist of October I left Prince-
ton and took charge of Simpson Chapel, Greencastle. Soon
after this the 58th was organized. Colonel Andrew Lewis,



the Commander of the Regiment, urged me to put in appli-
cation for Chaplaincy of this Regiment, which I did. Here
the matter ended so far as I was concerned. I heard a short
time after this that the Regiment had gone to the front and
hearing nothing more about my application I presumed that
they were either supplied with a Chaplain or else did not
desire one. The matter had almost passed from my mind
until one day in the following March I was surprised to re-
ceive a letter, postmarked Bowling Green, K3^, containing
a brief announcement of m}^ election as Chaplain of the
58th Indiana. The appointment, signed bv Lieut. -Colonel
George P. Buell, commanding the Regiment, was enclosed.
This was ver}^ gratifying so far as it went, but I was now so
situated that I could not so readily get the consent of m}^
mind to accept the appointment. This was just after the fall
of Fort Donelson and it was the expectation of many that
the war would soon be over. I was influenced b^' this opin-
ion and questioned whether the war would last long enough
to justify me in going. We all had better information on
this point later on.

However, after much debating I made up mv mind to ac-
cept the appointment. I decided I would go to the army
even if it was for a short time. I resolved to break oft' mv
pleasant associations at Greencastle and see what I could do
for the spiritual welfare of the soldiers. Immediately I be-
gan preparations to join my Regiment. I went to New
Albany, March i6th, where I ordered a Chaplain's uniform
and purchased other necessary equipments. I labored undiM-
the impression that it was very important that mv arrival at
the seat of war should not be di'layed and so I emploved
two tailors to make my suit. I purchased a big valise and
tilled it full of clothing, besides had several good sized
bundles of blankets, etc. It was the custom of officers to
be thus provided at that time, but the custom changed some-
what when the arm}^ got down to business. Finallv, mv
preparations were completed and dressed in my militarv suit
T crossed over to Louisville. I tramped around that citv for


some time seeking transportation and information of various
kinds. After much labor I procured the former but found a
very limited supply of the latter. At the time I ascribed
this to the surliness of the officials, but I have since dis-
covered that they did not know anything and simply masked
their ignorance under the cover of ill-manners.

By this time the 58th had gone with the rest of the army
from Bowling Green to Nashville. The railroad was not yet
opened so I took passage on a boat for Nashville. My trip
vs^as without much incident worthy of note. I did not make
the acquaintance of many of the passengers. I remember a
Lieut. -Colonel Wheat, a big man of some Kentucky Regi-
ment. Even at that early period of the war he was dissatisfied
because he was not promoted to a Colonel. I never heard of
him afterward, and presume he did all his lighting early in
the struggle. I remember also that Colonel Whittaker was
one of our passengers. He was a famous Kentuckian and a
fighter. He soon became a Brigadier and got his name in
the newspapers.

At Fort Donelson we were permitted to land and view the
scene of the recent battle. This was about a month after the
battle and the evidences of the conflict were plainly visible.
It was m}' first sight of a real battle field and it made a deep

It was Sunday morning, March 23, when we came in
sight of Nashville. The boat landed at the foot of Broad-
way. On inquiry I learned that my Regiment was camped
about three miles south of the cit}^ and I engaged a carriage
to take me out. Arriving at the picket post I learned that I
was minus one essential thing — a pass. I explained as
best I could and the officer, seeing my greenness and that
my intentions were good, permitted me to pass. Soon I was
at the gate of the woods pasture in which the 58th was
encamped. In a few minutes I was with the Regiment with
whose fortunes I was destined to be associated for some time.

It was a cold raw March day and the surroundings were
to me everything else but cheerful. It was a new experience


and I felt the embarrasment of the situation greatly. As I
entered the camp the tirst man to meet me and extend the
hand of greeting was Lieutenant Wm. Davis. He was fol-
lowed by several old acquaintances. Some, however, while
they seemed glad to see me, yet had a distrust of my abilit}^
to till the place of Chaplain. I could not blame them, since
I was filled with the same distrust of m^-selt. Colonel H.
M. Carr, who was then in command of the Regiment,
greeted me in a cordial sort of. way, but it was plain that, in
the person of the new Chaplain, he had a regimental equip-
ment that he was at a loss to know what to do with. He
said to me afterwards that mv coming rather took him b}"
surprise, that he was not expecting me and therefore was
unprepared to properly receive me. I think, however, his
action was due to a feeling of general distrust of army
Chaplains that was then so prevalent in the arm v. This
feeling was shared by nearlv all the officers, especialh'. on
account of the alleged dereliction of some Chaplains. But
I think there was less real cause for it than manv imagined,
which opinion I hope to establish before I complete this

I did not preach on this, the first Sabbath of my presence
with the Regiment, but contented mvself in visiting friends
in camp and getting mvself settled. Bv the invitation of
Major J. T. Embree I spread my cot in his tent. Dr. W.
W. Blair very kindly invited me to mess with him for the
present, both of which invitations I gladl}'" accepted. The
fare was crackers, bacon and coffee. I did not relish this
very much but the Doctor told me I "would come down to
it," and he was right. My first niglit in camp was not
passed in sleep. It was too cold and niv new cot was not
the sort of bed I had been accustomed to. I was cold
underneath and on each side, notwithstanding the two heavy
blankets that were on top. It was a miserable niglit, but it
came to an end at last. During the week, with the assist-
ance of some friends I procured a tent and fixed up verv
comfortable quarters.



We had several sick in the hospital at Nashville and in
camp. I visited these and extended mv acquaintance by
visiting through the Regiment as opportunity offered, and
in a few days began to feel more at home. I found many
men whom I had met in other days, and received from
them assurance of sympathy and co-operation in m^• work
for the spiritual interests of the Regiment.

And now, as I am here and established as a part of the
equipment of the 58th, I may as well drop this narration of
my personal experiences and give more attention to the
movements and incidents pertaining to the Regiment with
which mv lot has been cast.


Forward Movement — Ox the Way to Savannah —
Some of the Officers in Command — Baggage and
Equipments — Through Franklin — Columbia —
Some Fine Plantations — Grapevine News — Inci-
dents OF the March — Weary and Sick Soldiers —
Burial by the Wayside — Sound of Battle — Hur-
rying TO the Front — Pittsburg Landing.

DURING the latter part of March active preparations
were being made for a forward movement. Our men
were provided with new clothing and new equipments. The
winter was now over and heaw clothing would not be
needed, so the soldier relieved himself of this incumbrance
by sending his surplus clothing home by express. The
hard marching of the previous winter had told severely on
the men and at this time there were manv in our Regiment
who were unfit for duty. These had to be sent to the general
hospital. This was the last we saw of many of them.
Some of them were discharged, others died. Among those
who answered the last roll call at this place was Lieutenant
Wm. Overlin, a bright, promising young officer of Company
F. Another was Elias Bigham, private of Company A.
These, with the others, who were called to give up their
lives before they had mingled in "battle's deadly array,"
were none the less martyrs to liberty's cause because of their
early sacrifice. Many of the brightest and bravest perished
before we reached the noontide of our campaign.

Early on Saturday morning, March 29th, our tents were
struck and thc^ Sixth Division began its forward movement,


the five other Divisions of General BuelFs army having
preceded us. While the Regiments of our Brigade and
Division are slowly forming in column, preparing to move
out toward Nashville, we will improve the opportunity to give
a few sketches of some of our officers. Mention has already
been made of General T. J. Wood, Commander of the
Division, and we will have occasion to mention him again.
Colonel Milo S. Hascall, of the 17th Indiana, commanding
our Brigade, is, in personal appearance, tall and slender, with
shoulders slightly inclined to be stooped. His voice is
shrill, his eye restless and piercing. He is quick in temper
and often hast}^ in speech. But withal he is a talented and
thoroughly trained military man. He is a thorough disci-
plinarian and a terror to evil doers. He was promoted to
Brigadier General a short time after taking command of our

Colonel E. T. Fyfte, of the 26th Ohio, is a man past the
meridian of life but he has a heart as young as any boy in
the army. He has seen a good deal of militar}^ service and
is a very popular and competent commander. He has a
remarkably plain and unostentatious manner and always has
a word of encouragement and sympathy for his soldiers.

Colonel Thomas E. Bramlette, of the 3d Kentucky, has a
tall commanding form and the manner of an accomplished
gentleman. He is possessed of a brilliant mind and is
among the most prominent and influential of the Union men
of Kentucky. This was evidenced by the fact that he was
called from the field to serve as governor of his state within
a year from this time.

Colonel Henry M. Carr, of our own Regiment, in ability
and personal appearance, compares favorably with any of
the officers. He is a young man of more than ordinary
personal attractions. He is warm in his friendship and
pleasant and sociable in his demeanor. His form is tall and
erect and his voice is strong and clear.

But now the bugle is sounding "fall in," and soon the
order is given to move forward. The entire Division is


moving, the 15th Brigade in tiie rear. We march into
Nashville and then out the Franklin pike, moving steadily
along until we had made the distance of 13 miles and
went into camp. The men were weary enough by this time
and were anxious to halt. It was a late hour when all the
wagon train reached camp. This train was composed of
ammunition supply and headquarter wagons, and thirteen
wagons to each Regiment. The Regimental wagons were
loaded with two wall tents and five Sibley tents for each
Company, making seventv large tents for the ten Companies
Then the iield and staff officers, commissioned and non-
commissioned, each had a tent. Then there were the hos-
pital, commissarv and cook tents. More than this each
officer had a cot and some had huge trunks and some had
stoves, to say nothing of the mess boxes, tables, chairs and
man}^ other articles. The wagons were simplv loaded down
with superfluous baggage and camp equipments and this
immense train had to move slowly.

On the morning of our second day's march we were called
early and soon were on the wav. The day was bright and
pleasant ; our journev was through a fme agricultural coun-
try. It was the Sabbath and we made a distance of 13 miles
to-day. The roadsides were lined with negroes in their best
attire eagerly watching the "Yankees" pass. The large
plantations on either side of the road were uninjured bv the
troops that had gone before us, as it was strictlv against
orders to molest any private propert}^ We found nearlv all
the people, white and black, at home. This was especially
the case at Franklin, through which we passed on the morn-
ing of the 31st. We went through this town with colors
flying, lines dressed, and with a great show of pom]-). We
had an idea then that the rebellion was to be put down by
this sort of display and by kindly protecting the property
and chattels of the rebels. We passed General Thomas'
Division at this place and marched 15 miles bevond.

Four o'clock Tuesday morning, April ist, found our
Division again in motion. We crossed Duck river on a pon-


toon bridge and passed on through Cokimbia, a town some-
what old and dihipidated. After a ten mile march we
camped. During the 14 mile march of the next day we
passed through Mt. Pleasant. We also passed over some of
the most charming country during these two days that we
had yet seen. Perhaps the loveliest spot along the entire
route was near the residence of the rebel General Pillow, and
that of another rebel, General Polk, just across the pike.
In trout of each of these residences is a large and magnifi-
cent park. A neat little church is near. Our army care-
fully guarded these residences and surroundings, although
their owners had left them to fight against our country.
The 200 negro slaves of General Polk were not molested.
Thev were left to cultivate the fields and raise supplies for
the rebel army and the rebel women and children at home.

Thus far the rank and file of the army had no definite
idea of where we were going. The general supposition
was that we would strike the Tennesse river about Florence,
unite with Grant and move on south in pursuit of the fleeing
rebels. It was the fear of many of us that it would be im-
possible to overtake them and get them to stand for an en-
gagement, and that the war would end without us being
permitted to smell gunpowder. But our fears and theories
were both groundless. We were not going to Florence,
and the rebels were not fleeing, at least not in the hither-
ward direction as we thought.

Our mail communications were now severed and we did
not have access to newspapers, but let no one imagine that
an army is destitute of news because mail communication is
cut ofl'. Under such circumstances there is more news than
when papers are received daily. We heard very much of
that sort of news about this time. It was reported, for in-
stance, that a rebel fleet had come up from Memphis and
destroyed all our gunboats, and was now moving on Louis-
ville and Cincinnati. This report was said to have come
directly from headquarters and was sincerely believed by
many. Some supposed that we would be compelled to fall


back to the Ohio river as our supplies would be cut oft\
This is only a sample of the absurd stories started and cir-
culated. They were called "■grapevine dispatches," and


however improbable and absurd they might be tliere was
always some one to believe in them.

* After leaving the army, Lieutenant-Colonel Moore removed to Mis-
souri, where he engaged in mercantile business for several years. Then he
returned to Indianapolis and established a claim and pension agency, which
he conducted quite successfully for about twenty years. He died at his home
in that city, May 7, 1894, aged 65 years, from the eftects of disease contracted
in the service.


The next da3^ Thursday, April 2, we marched fourteen
miles. We were now headed in the direction of
Savannah, on the Tennessee river. This much in regard to
our destination was now apparent. The day was warm, the
roads were dusty, many of the men were pale and weak
from the effects of the march. They had not yet become
hardened to this service, nor had they yet learned discretion
in the matter of their equipments for a march. Some of
the loads which the pale, sickl}^ men were tr^dng to carry
were enough to kill a horse. Not only were their knapsacks
tilled to the fullest capacity with extra clothing, but many of
them were lugging along trophies of various kinds, such as
rebel bowie knives, canister-shot, and other things. They
had the impression that the war would soon be over and
they wanted something in the way of a souvenir to take
home with them.

But the useless equipments of the men was not the only
item in the wa}^ of foolish indiscretion that contributed to
their weary and fatigued condition. A large part was due
to absurdities practiced by the commanding officers in camp
and on the march. For instance, reveille would be sounded
long before daylight each morning, and the tents would be
struck before the proper time. The men were compelled to
eat a hurried breakfast and get into line. Then they would
have to "dress up" to the right, and move about here and
there until time for the column to move out on the day's
march. By that time the men would be already weary and
ready to lie down. This kind of exercise was known by
the privates as "knapsack drill," and was heartil}^ detested
by them. Then, on the march there were many foolish and
absurd practices that added to the weariness and vexation
of the troops. It was the custom for the Regimental Com-
mander to ride pompously on his horse at the head of his
Regiment while the men on foot crowded on his horse's
heels like a herd of cattle. When a bridge or other obstruc-
tion was to be crossed the men invariably ran after getting
over until they regained their place at the heels of the


Colonel's horse. On such occasions the newly fledged
officers would cry out, "double quick," "close up," close
up," and the men would attempt to obey the orders. Noth-
ing was gained by such orders. It only served to weary
the men.

In those days the greatest man of rank was the officer of
the guard. He wore a blood red sash and a bloodier ex-
pression in his countenance. He was in command of a
detail of men with guns and bayonets who marched in the
rear of the Regiment with orders to keep all the men in
ranks and especially to permit no one to fall back without a
surgeon's certificate. This officer of the guard was expected
to execute all the disagreeable orders of the General or
Colonel, when those officers desired to escape the odium of
such orders themselves. And he was expected to execute
these orders without mercy or discretion. No one was
really murdered but there was much threatening and swear-
ing that it would be done. When a poor fellow fell by the
wayside thoroughly exhausted, the guard would pounce upon
him, and, with a threatening flourish of bayonet, order him
to his Company, while the officer of the guard would em-
phasize and embellish the order with such choice impreca-
tions as he might have in stock. Sometimes the surgeon
would excuse the worn out soldier, which gave him the
privilege of riding in the ambulance. But, if that vehicle
is already full, which was generall}^ the case, the soldier
might rest by the wayside and come on at his leisure, or, if
he was too far gone, he might die in the fence corner. It
was an actual fact that some did thus die on this march and
were found and buried by succeeding Regiments. But this
was soldiering ; it was

"From f^rave to gay, from lively' to severe."

April 4th our Brigade, except the 17th Indiana and 26th
Ohio, remained in camp. These two Regiments went out
in the direction of Lawrenceburg after some rebel cavalry.
They succeeded in capturing some bacon, but the cavalry-
men were too fleet for them.


Just at this time the poHcy in reference to negro slaves
was undergoing a change in the army.

It had been customary to use the soldiers to send fugitive
slaves to their rebel masters. But Congress had recently
added to the articles of war a prohibition of this. This new
article was exceedingly distasteful to many of the higher
officers, who were in bondage, body and soul, to the negro
drivers. They could not now use military force to send
back runaway negroes. But all officers and men were pro-
hibited from interfering with these old Lagrees. They might
often be seen prowling about our camps, or moving amongst
our columns, hunting for their missing chattels. By our
protection of rebels and rebel property we were doing as
much to uphold rebellion as we were doing to put it down
by fighting. The rebels could have successfully withstood
us for ten generations had this policy been maintained.

On the 5th the march was continued through a country of
medium fertility. We had rain yesterday and to-day. The
dust has been succeeded by mud. We marched seventeen
miles. About this time I saw for the first time a soldier
buried. He had died in a camp from which the troops had
moved. The surgeon in charge sent out, as our column was
passing, for a detail of men and a Chaplain. I went and
found Chaplain Gunn, of the 3d Kentucky, there. A rude
box was made and the poor fellow placed in it. He was
borne to a spot just by the roadside where a grave had been
dug. While a martial band played a dirge his remains were
lowered. Chaplain Gunn made a few remarks and offered
up a prayer. The grave was filled and we passed on. We
knew not his name or histor}^. Bvit doubtless, to some one

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 4 of 47)