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Saturday, May 5, 2012

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

Summertime in Alabama and Middle-Tennessee.
“On Monday, June 2d, Wood’s division marched in the direction of Iuka, Mississippi, the point at which we were to strike the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. We entered a broken country, covered with pine timber, sparsely inhabited, and with but little good water. The weather was excessively hot and the marching fatiguing.
“We marched at day-break for Tuscumbia (Alabama), where we arrived at 10 o’clock a.m., and camped in the creek bottom on the northeast of the town. Tuscumbia can boast of one thing which far surpasses anything of the kind that I have ever seen in the country. I refer to a large spring near town, which rises from beneath a wall of solid rock. Clear as crystal it boils up, a vast and never-ceasing fountain, flowing off to empty into the Tennessee. The distance from the fountain-head to the river is near a mile, and the stream thus formed, which is quite large enough to be navigable for medium sized steamboats, constitutes no mean tributary to the great river. One particular feature of this water is its coldness, almost equal to ice-water. There it gushes forth a never-ceasing volume, cold as the snows of winter, producing quite an effect upon the temperature of the waters of the main stream some distance below. The banks of the creek were lined with a dense growth of shade-trees, making it a delightful place of resort during the long and sultry days of June.
“Many plans were adopted to pass away unoccupied time - reading, writing, playing cards, peddling lemonade. Particularly, selling lemonade was quite a business with a few characters throughout the camp, and “chuck-lucking,” or the throwing of dice, with money at stake, was fast becoming a fashionable business through the camp. At almost any hour of the day you might have seen groups of soldiers scattered along the banks of the creek, intently engaged in the all-absorbing game. A few made their hundreds, and perhaps, at times their thousands of dollars. The mania spread until it became necessary to check it by orders from divisional headquarters. An order was issued by Gen. Wood, declaring the throwing of dice or the playing of any games in which money was at stake.
“We passed through Courtland, a pleasant-looking little town, with two fine churches. The citizens turned out to see us march through. We put on an unusual amount of style in our movements. There were no demonstrations of Union sentiment among them. We passed the night in the street, sleeping on pavements, porches, and balconies, until morning, when the regiment commenced crossing the river on the gunboat Tennessee; two companies being ferried over at each crossing of the vessel. Our wagons, which had not been unloaded, were also ferried over on the gunboat.
“Friday, July 4th, Independence Day, in Alabama dawned clear and beautiful, without a cloud to obscure the radiant brilliancy of the sun. A salute was fired at 6 o’clock a.m., by the artillery. Drills, and all except picket duty, were dispensed with during the day. At 11 o’clock the regiment formed, and marched to the camp of Garfield’s brigade, to join the celebration. Arriving on the ground, the men stacked arms, and exercises commenced with music by the band of the 64th Ohio. (It was) then followed by a speech by Col. Ferguson, of the same regiment. Music, “Red, White, and Blue,” and a prayer by the chaplain. Next came the reading of the Declaration of Independence, by the adjutant of the 40th Indiana volunteers. A salute of thirty-four guns was then fired. Next Gen. Garfield made a speech, which was greeted with prolonged applause, and music by the band. The usual dress-parade, at 5 o’clock, closed the programme of our first Fourth of July in Dixie.
“During our stay in the vicinity of Mooresville, wagons were sent to the neighboring plantations in search of corn, which had been stored in great abundance, no doubt for the purposes of furnishing subsistence to the rebel armies. Thousands of bushels were hauled in by our trains and afterwards appropriated to the use of government. Occasionally a detail of men would be sent to shell corn that had been gathered that had been gathered which was ground at a mill nearby, and the meal issued to the troops.
“There were still strict orders against indiscriminate foraging, or pillaging by individuals or private parties, though there never was a time when it was not indulged in to some extent; and even the most stringent orders failed to prevent it. This was particularly the case when we were on short rations, or in a region of country where the people were known enemies.
“The custom of granting safe-guards to citizens near our camps was also universal, and were granted in hundreds of instances where the people were actual sympathizers with the rebellion. These safe-guards usually consisted of a single soldier, or in some cases, a non-commissioned officer and one or two men, were sent to protect the property of citizens from being molested by any of the other troops. They were boarded by the person with whom they stayed, and it was their duty to watch orchards, gardens, potato-patches, rails, and to see that nothing was molested about the house.”   
(Alabama and Tennessee, June-July, 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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