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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#5 of 52)

Marching to Shiloh
“Early on the morning of March 29th, 1862, our brigade was in line, ready for the long-expected move. Heretofore we had marched by brigades, but this morning the whole of the 6th division, consisting of three brigades of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and several batteries of artillery, were ordered to move together. In the rear of the division was a battery of heavy siege-guns, each piece and caisson being drawn by ten horses. Immediately in the rear of the artillery were the trains, in the following order: First, wagons belonging to division headquarters; second, baggage wagons of the different brigades, in the order in which they marched; third, supply and ammunition trains for the division, consisting of two or three hundred wagons. Thus it will be seen that the troops of our division, alone, with their trains, will occupy a road several miles in length.
“The country through which we were now traveling was delightful. Some of the finest scenery in the southern states may be found in Middle Tennessee. Fields, orchards, and meadows were covered with the verdure of early spring. Peace and plenty reigned on every hand; and were it not for the warlike columns, dressed in blue, moving slowly along the road, one could hardly believe that the desolating cloud of war was even then hovering over this beautiful scenery.
“As the different brigades arrive upon the campground they are shown to their camps by the division commander, or members of his staff, and the regiments by commanders of the brigades, until all have been assigned a stopping place for the night.
“Now a lively scene occurs - the bustle of men, as they hurry to and fro, unloading wagons, pitching tents, carrying wood and water, building fires, grinding coffee; loud talking, neighing of horses, braying of mules, and, above all, the sharp, shrill notes of the cavalry or artillerymen’s bugles, as they sound the call to ‘water and feed’ ring out upon the gentle evening air, with a strange and mingled chorus.
“At night the encampment is brightened by the hundreds of camp fires and lights in the tents, until, from brigade headquarters, comes the sound of the ‘tattoo’ which is immediately taken up by the bugler in each regiment and battery. Half an hour later, ‘taps’ are sounded, lights are put out, and all is still.
“We are up early on Sunday morning preparing for the march. The brigade which yesterday marched in front today takes the rear. The entire division is on the road by 7 o’clock, and by noon we have traveled as far as all day yesterday. Then the dust and heat become oppressive. Each man carries from forty to fifty pounds. As the march continues, the men commence to lighten their loads by throwing away all surplus clothing. Bed-quilts, blankets, and even overcoats, are thrown aside, with every article, not essentially necessary to be carried. The pleasant march of the morning becomes a weary and harassing toil long before the close of day. It is no longer the mud that hinders us, but marching under heavy loads, over the stony pike, with blistered feet, and the blinding dust which almost stops our breathing.”
(Middle Tennessee, Fourth week of March, 1862)

Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

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