Matilda Gresham.

Life of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 online

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ments without arms and in some cases carrying sticks for
guns. On the 21st day of August Colonel Scribner wired to
the War Department, and to Governor Morton, the follow-
ing dispatch: "I have a regiment of men nearly ready for
service; do you want them?"


Within an hour he received the following answer from
Govenor Morton : ' ' You are accepted. Report to Adjutant-
General Noble at Indianapolis."

Camp Noble was on the northeastern outskirts of New
Albany, in what was known as the State Fair Grounds.
Within two miles of Camp Noble was Camp Joe Holt,
which had been estabUshed by Lovell H. Rousseau on
land that belonged to Blanton Duncan of Louisville. This
land was in the original grant of the United States to
George Rogers Clark and his soldiers and lay about a mile
down the river from the State Prison, which was at the
western limits of Jeffersonville, just across the river from
Louisville. The site was selected partly because of its
easy access from Louisville, and also because, some two
months before, in defiance of Kentucky neutrality, Blanton
Duncan, its owner, had led a regiment of Kentuckians to
the Confederacy.

Rousseau, afterwards a Union general, was a Louis-
ville lawyer who had seen service in the Mexican War at a
time when he was a citizen of Indiana. As a member of
the legislature of Kentucky, which had just adjourned,
he had resisted secession. His idea was that it would be
observing Kentucky -neutrality to establish the camp on
the Indiana side and at the same time get ready for the
emergency that would demand troops. Another so-called
Kentucky recruiting station, Camp Clay, was established
opposite Cincinnati, about the time Camp Joe Holt was es-
tablished. Most of Rousseau's officers were Kentuckians,
but his men were recruited from the slums of Louisville,
among the deck-hands of the steamboats, and from Indiana
volunteers. It was on July i that Rousseau established
his camp. Of course Adjutant-General Buckner of Ken-
tucky had no hand in it. The tents were made in New
Albany by Wm. A. Daily and were paid for by the National
government, which also furnished the arms. At first the
organization was called the "Louisville Legion" and Stone's


Battery; later, the Second Kentucky Cavalry, the Fifth
Kentucky Infantry, and Stone's Indiana Battery. The
young, active Kentuckians were not yet ready to enlist.
Several months later they did. But in the Summer of 1861
it is true, as General Sherman said, that most of the act-
ive young men were incHned to the Confederacy or were
noncommittal. On July 12, when he predicted he would
have 1,500 men in Camp Joe Holt, General Rousseau could
count only 800.

While I was never in Camp Joe Holt, I spent many days
at Camp Noble, where I ate the soldiers' fare, drank coffee
out of a tin cup, heard the conversation of the officers as
they talked of visits to Camp Joe Holt, and saw some of
the Kentucky officers who came to Camp Noble. Many
of the New Albany people visited Camp Joe Holt to see
the dress parade. Enough time had clasped since its
establishment to make the Rousseau regiments proficient
in drills. Among the visitors who went to see the Ken-
tuckians drill were the New Albany young ladies, among
whom MoUie Compton was a leader. Then she would
come back to Camp Noble and tell Dan Grififin how much
better drilled and armed the Kentuckians were than the
Thirty-eighth. One of the results of these visits to Camp
Joe Holt was a number of "matches" followed by marriage.

It was after the Kentucky election on August 4 that
President Lincoln authorized Lieutenant Nelson of the
navy to arm a camp that was organizing at Camp Dick
Robinson, near Danville, Kentucky, and made his cele-
brated answer to Governor Magoffin's protest against this
violation of the neutrahty of Kentucky, that "it did not
seem contrary to the wishes of a majority of the people
of Kentucky for the force to remain at Camp Dick Robin-
son." At the same time the Governor wrote to Jefferson
Davis, the President of the Confederacy, that while he did
not fear the massing of so many troops on the Kentucky
border on the south, yet it created uneasiness in the minds


of many. Mr. Davis answered under date of August 28
that the purpose of the concentration of the troops on the
Tennessee border was to be in readiness to repel the in-
vasion of that State by the Union forces, and that the Con-
federacy would respect Kentucky's neutrality so long as
she herself maintained it.

Meanwhile the Kentucky State Guard under Adjutant-
General Buckner was concentrating at Camp Boone, Ten-
nessee. They became the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Ken-
tucky regiments of the Confederate army; and General
Buckner, as a brigadier-general in the Confederate army,
was put in command at Camp Boone.

The plan of the Confederates was to claim that the
neutrality of the State had been violated by the camp at
Dick Robinson, and to invade the State all along the line
and call the Secessionists to arms. Governor Magoffin
was in the plan, as were many other leading men, some
secretly, others openly. Among those working in secret
was George D. Prentice.

September 3 the Confederate General Polk, late a bishop
in the Episcopal Church South, occupied Columbus. Gen-
eral Grant immediately took possession of Paducah. On
the isth of September Buckner moved up to Bowling Green,
and two days later part of his forces were within fifty miles
of Louisville.

At Bowling Green, General Buckner issued a proclamation
which was published in all the Louisville newspapers, to the
effect that he came at the head of Kentucky troops to pre-
serve Kentucky neutrality, and as soon as that was re-
established he would retire from the State. The Courier
was teeming with sedition and secession, while Prentice in
the Journal was deploring the inertia and supineness that
prevailed. "Not a man has volunteered, the Governor
and city authorities are doing nothing. All an enemy has
to do is to walk in, hang his hat up, and take possession of
the mansion." All of which duly reached Buckner's camp.


In the event that Buckner reached Louisville, aside from
all the circumstances and Prentice's declaration that when
it came to a war for the subjugation of the seceding States,
Kentucky should take her stand with the South, I have
Henry Watterson's statement that Prentice was prepared
to welcome Buckner to the city by running up the Stars and
Bars over the Journal building.

And why did not Buckner come ? The answer is in what
had taken place at Camp Noble and Camp Joe Holt.

On the 1 8th of September the Kentucky legislature, after
General Pope had ignored its request of September 11 to
retire from the State, requested General Robert Anderson,
the Federal commander and a "native" Kentuckian, to take
instant command, with authority and power from the com-
monwealth to call out a volunteer force in Kentucky for the
purpose of repelling the invaders."

The same day the Louisville Courier was suppressed
because it was a "Rebel sheet," as the government of the
United States expressed it. It was afterwards published
from Bowling Green and Nashville while those places were
occupied by the Confederate army. My father took it
while it was published from these places. He would bring
it to me, with glowing accounts of the success of the Con-
federate army. It greatly disturbed and distressed me, so
one day I told him he must remember my husband was in
the "Yankee" army, and that I could not stand the discus-
sions we were having and could not Hsten to the news he was
bringing me. He said I was right, and that was the last I
heard of the Courier until after the close of the war, when
it appeared again in Louisville with Simon Bolivar Buckner
as the editor. So it must not be understood that Buckner
never got to Louisville.

General Sherman, in his "Memoirs," does not make plain
the day that Rousseau's regiments crossed the river and
advanced south to meet "the sudden and unexpected inva-
sion of Kentucky by Buckner. ' ' He states that on the order


of General Anderson he went over to Jeflfersonville and in
an hour had the regiments on the march to the ferry, and
that they went thence that night by rail to Lebanon Junc-
tion. He also states that James Guthrie of the Peace
Conference, the president of the Louisville & Nashville
Railroad, arranged for the special train which carried the
Rousseau brigade to Lebanon Junction. One of the stories
of the times was that the Rousseau Louisville Legion and
Stone's Battery crossed the river to Louisville, on the
1 8th of September; that the cavalry regiment marched to
Lebanon Junction, while the infantry and the battery went
at night by train to the same point.

The Thirty-eighth Indiana was mustered into the serv-
ice of the United States government on the i8th of Septem-
ber. It left the camp on the afternoon of the 21st, Satur-
day, and as the men marched through the streets of New
Albany they were met by wagons from the Jeflfersonville
Penitentiary carrying arms for those who had not yet been
supplied, and knapsacks for the entire regiment. They
were without cartridge boxes, but at Louisville ammunition
was issued to them, which they carried in their pockets.
The excitement was great as they went through Louisville.
James Guthrie had arranged for a freight train on the Louis-
ville & Nashville Railroad, and they went that night to
Lebanon Junction.

In a few words, in a letter written home at this time, in
pencil, my husband pictures the rapid, exhausting march :

Camp Sherman,
September 24, 1861
We left Louisville Saturday night about 10 o'clock and worked
our way cautiously to Lebanon Junction, arriving there about
7 A.M. Sunday. We halted a few hours, and then took up our
March for Elizabethtown, where we arrived about sunset after
a very fatiguing march. We crossed Rolling Fork where the
bridge was burnt, the water being nearly up to our shoulders.
The boys plunged in with a will.


Our object in moving on so rapidly was to get to Elizabeth-
town before the Rebels, which we did. We encamped for the
night, sleeping on the ground, and yesterday morning came out
here, where we have stopped to meet the enemy. Our baggage
is all back at the Junction, but we expect it to-day. I have not
had my clothes off since I left New Albany, and I never felt
better in my life.

We all expected to have fun at Elizabethtown, but Buckner
was not there. We have now here about 4,500 men and a battery
of six guns. By to-night or to-morrow morning the ntunber will
be swelled to 6,000.

General Sherman is a strong man. He pays no attention to
the traps and trimmings. He has brains and is all the time
wide awake.

My prospect now to get home soon is not very good

September 25 the Kentucky legislature, over the veto of
the Governor, called for 40,000 Kentuckians to serve for
not less than one year nor more than three to repel from the
State the armed invasion from the South. That even then
the Kentuckians did not come forward with alacrity is mani-
fest when we consider that thirty days later but fifteen
Kentucky regiments had been organized, while in the mean-
time there had reached Kentucky seventeen Indiana regi-
ments, aggregating 18,187 men; and thirteen Ohio reg-
iments, three from Pennsylvania, two from Minnesota, and
several from other States.

The following letter from Colonel Gresham is of interest

at this point :

Camp Muldrough Hill,
September 27, 1861

I wrote you the other day by Mr. Cannon, giving you a brief
account of our march to this place. We had a hard time of it for
several days, but we now have our tents and supplies and are
living finely. Give yourself no trouble on my account for really
I believe I can enjoy myself better when we are hard up than
at any other time. I can stand as much hunger, heat, and cold as
any other man. It is all over now, but for three days we lived



on meat alone and that too of a poor quality, yet I never was in
better spirits in my life. You need not be afraid of my risking
my life unnecessarily. I want to live, I confess, on my own ac-
count, but more on your and the children's account.

Our force is still increasing. We have a most splendid army.
Rousseau's men, as a whole, are the worst in the camp. His
brigade is composed mostly of low, worthless men who have no
pride nor character. Of course, there are exceptions. The Ohio
troops can't be beat, but old Hoosier, God bless her, stands head
and shoulders above all the States. The Indianians are cheered
wherever we find Union people in Kentucky. The Kentucky
officers all say the Hoosier soldiers are the best in the Union,
but they claim that we are all descendants of the Kentuckians.

I was field officer of the day from yesterday morning till
this morning. It is the duty of the field officer to station the
pickets according to the instructions of the general. I started
out this morning at two o'clock on the grand rounds, visiting all
the pickets. Several times during the night the pickets fired on
men trying to get through the lines.

Can't say how long we will remain here, perhaps a week
or two weeks.

I shall be all night making the grand rounds. The grand
round is visiting all the pickets after night and seeing they are all
faithful and that nothing is wrong. We will start out at ten and
get in about daylight.

I have received the sword, belt, etc., presented me by my
friends. It is a very nice one and I prize it highly. Our boys are
all doing finely — very little sickness, none of a serious character.
I am getting stouter every day; think I am going to grow fat if
I stay in camp long.

Here I must anticipate and relate what General Sher-
man afterwards told me many times — first at the Gayoso
House in Memphis.^ I give his exact words: "When your
husband came to report to me at Muldrough Hill, he was
the handsomest young fellow I had ever seen, with his
black hair and brilliant eyes, but what delighted me more
than I can tell was what he said — 'General, we know
nothing about soldiering, but are here to obey orders, study,

1 See page 194.


and learn.' He, I said to myself, is the kind of man I am
looking for; he will learn, and I ordered him and his reg-
iment right out to the front. I put him on the picket line
and kept him there most of the time he was with me."

It so happened that Colonel Scribner was absent when
the Thirty-eighth Indiana Volunteers first reported to Gen-
eral Sherman, and thus it was the lieutenant-colonel who
spoke for it.

Walter Q. Gresham could obey and did obey his supe-
riors. He recognized the trained soldier as his master.
But when it came to political, legal, and moral questions
it will appear he recognized no party ' and no man as his
master, neither General Sherman nor General Grant. ^

I give a number of letters received by me at this time :

Camp Muldrough Hill,

September 30, 1861

Yesterday was Sunday. At nine in the morning we were in-
spected by General Sherman. He is a very singular man — very
plain — more regardless of his appearance than I am — says but
little. He is decidedly a man of action. He has a regular mili-
tary education. Was in command in California during the -Reign
of the Vigilantes.

From present indications I think we will soon have a large
army here. I have just learned from Mr. Wintersmith that the
famous Sixty-ninth Irish Regiment of New York is back at the
Junction. In addition to that, troops are coming in from Penn-
sylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The boasted chivalry of
Kentucky are great for bragging on each other, but at a time like
this, when their State is invaded, you would think every man
would step forth to battle for her rights. She is lukewarm.

I am satisfied the administration intends to make this army
50,000 or 75, 000 strong and send it to Nashville and there operate
in conjunction with Fremont on the Mississippi. I was told by a
gentleman last night who knows or who is in a position to know,
that 40,000 men are ordered from Washington here, that is, to
Kentucky and Tennessee by this route.

Scores of Kentuckians are coming in daily and taking the oath.

' See pages 184, 458, 656 and 670. 2 See pages 427 and 469.


Some come over twenty miles. Some of them seem to be much
relieved after taking the oath and being forgiven, as a guilty sinner
after his load of sin is removed.

Our chaplain sings well, prays well, preaches well, and I am
satisfied will fight well.

You can make such disposition of the home as you like. If

you could rent it to a good family, perhaps you had better do

it. .

Camp Muldrough, Kentucky,

October 6, 1861

It is now 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and I have been in the

saddle all day — I think I have traveled over twenty miles. I am

field officer of the day and have charge of all the outposts or

pickets. We have thrown out our pickets from two to four

miles around the camp.

Dan has been with me to-day and although it has been raining

on us pretty much all the time we have had a good time of it.

Dan is the best adjutant in the brigade ; he is altogether the most

perfect man I ever saw, and the more I am with him the more I

see about him to admire. He has fine military talent.

Our regiment has improved most marvelously since we came

here. I never studied so hard in my life as I have in the last two

weeks. I am determined to be up with the best of them.

Camp Nevin, Kentucky,

October 24, 1861

I am pleased with the way General Sherman is managing this
column of the army. He is organizing it on a large scale, I assure
you, and when we do move forward the Rebels will have no child's
play of it fighting us. We belong to General Wood's brigade,
which consists of the Twenty-ninth, Thirty-eighth, and Thirty-
ninth Indiana Regiments, and General McCook says we are the
best brigade he ever saw anywhere. We drill eight hours every
day, so you see we are not idle.

A Pennsylvania brigade comes up to-night. I will go down to
meet them and see if John Jones is along.

The Second Minnesota got up this morning, but I have not
had time to call on them and see whether Bill [the younger
brother] is along or not. I hope he is, for I don't want him to stay
at home at a time like this.


There was quite a scene at General Wood's headquarters last
night. Fourteen slaves belonging to his father, living on Green
River, walked all the way to him for protection. The general
told me that one of the servants, his sister's maid, who is intelligent
and virtuous, was robbed of her clothing, and she came to him
with a blanket wrapped around her. He also says that the Rebels
made the Union ladies give up their finger rings and everything
of value.

Camp Nevin, Kentucky,
November 8, 1861

I have just returned this morning from picket duty; I went
on yesterday morning — and have been in the saddle at least twenty
hours out of the twenty-four. I lay down last night in the woods
and took a short nap.

Camp life agrees with me finely. My health has not been as
good as it now is for years. If you are just as comfortable as I am,
you will do well this winter.

Yesterday evening Colonel McHenry of Owensboro sent into
our camp fifteen secesh cavalrymen, with their horses, etc., which
were captured by him when on their way to join Buckner. I
saw them last night. They were anxious to take the oath and be
forgiven, but they were not so fortunate as that. They will be
confined as prisoners of war, or handed over to the loyal author-
ities of Kentucky to be dealt with. We are still at Camp Nevin
and I can't say when we will leave. The men are all anxious for
a move.

The greatest sufferers in the war were the women who
were left behind. I saw something of the suffering and woe
the war brought to the Southern women and I sympathized
with them. To many a youth the war for most of the time
was a holiday. The men in authority and at the front had
none of the heartrending, anxious times the women had.
A war is an evil not so much because of the loss of life
and physical pain that is inflicted, but because of the cor-
rupting influence it has on society — with its swarms of
contractors, sutlers, and parasites of every kind. In our
war, the destruction of private property, the property of


non-combatants — because of its use by the enemy — to me
was horrible. The only time I ever heard my husband
question the wisdom of any of Sherman's acts was after the
"Meridian campaign" in January, 1864, when he said, "It
was awful the way we burned bridges, mills and grain, and
private property of every description that could be used by
our enemy ; but our orders were imperative. ' ' For such work
he had no heart. Southern people blame General Sherman
for much unnecessary, and as they put it, wanton destruction
of private property. But that property was not destroyed
until it was evident that it was being used to help sustain a
cause that the pitched battles had already demonstrated
could not succeed, and until the Confederates themselves
were getting close to the line that divides the war of the civil-
ized man from that of the savage, if there is such a line.
General Sherman simply applied the rules of his profession
to the case before him, and made war, however it may be
disguised, what it really is — hell. Honest, generous, and
warm-hearted, when the end came, he was the most mag-
nanimous man in the North.

I quote several other letters sent me from the field:

Gamp Nevin, Kentucky,
November 29, 1861

Captains Carter and Glover have succeeded in getting fur-
loughs for a few days to visit their families, and I take advantage
of the opportunity to send you a few lines.

We are in very much the same condition as when I wrote you
last— no worse and not much better. One poor fellow died last
night in his tent and another is dying now. It has been raining
constantly for three or four days. Last night the very heavens
seemed to open. The information from Buckner's army is that
the mortality there is much greater than it is here. He lost
over a hundred men in one day last week.

We are waiting here for reinforcements before we move, but
every preparation is being made now to advance. Pontoon
bridges are being built which we will take with us for the purpose


of crossing creeks and rivers. It is thought we will get off next
week. I hope we will move soon, for I think a change will do the
men good.

My health continues good. I never felt better in my life.

Camp Nevin, Kentucky,
November 30, 1861
Another Sunday is well-nigh gone and the remainder of it will
be devoted to writing you a letter. The last two or three days
have been cold and disagreeable, but we have fared well. Some
of our boys have invented a very good substitute for a stove.
You have seen the old-style kiln for drying fruit. It is made on
that principle. A flue is at one end of the tent, extending inside
about two feet, with a small chimney at the end outside. By this
means our tents are made quite comfortable. Lesh Pfrimmer
and John Springer of Captain Carter's company were good
enough to build a very nice one for me yesterday, for which they
received my warmest thanks. I am fortunate enough to have
plenty of good friends. I verily believe there are men in this
regiment who would deny themselves almost everything to
accommodate and please me. There is nothing like having
good friends in the army. The man who has no friends is not
deserving of them.

Major Merriwether and I have moved together, and we now
occupy the same tent. He is a very clever gentleman and we get
along very agreeably.

I am now more at a loss than ever as to the intention of General
Sherman in regard to the movements of this division of the army.
I am satisfied he intended to make a forward movement some ten
days ago, but the reported reinforcement of the Rebels likely
induced him to postpone his contemplated attack until he gets
further reinforcements. I have great confidence in his judgment.
In fact, I have almost learned to believe that anything he does
is right. I am satisfied that if he is left free to pursue his own
way, he will speedily expel the Rebels from Kentucky. All com-
mtmication with our camp is now cut off. General Sherman not

Online LibraryMatilda GreshamLife of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 → online text (page 16 of 39)