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Monday, June 18, 2012

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

Retreat from Tennessee to stop the Confederates from invading Indiana.
“For some time the enemy had been gathering a large force at Chattanooga which, under command of Gen. Bragg, was intended as one of three grand columns then forming for the purpose of invading the northern states. At the council of war, held in Richmond, Virginia, July 4, 1862, by the leading Confederate generals, they unanimously favored an offensive movement northward. One column, under command of Gen. Lee, was to cross the Potomac and enter Maryland; another, under Kirby Smith, advancing from East Tennessee, was to cross the Cumberland Gap, move through Kentucky, and strike the Ohio River at Cincinnati; while the third, outnumbering the second, was to march from Chattanooga, cross the Cumberland Mountains, and, by a rapid movement, reach the Ohio at Louisville, before the scattered forces of Buell could be concentrated for resistance.
“Early on the morning of Wednesday, the 8th of September, we took up the line of march northward, through thick forests of oak timber, with which the ground was covered. In this season out tents were rarely unloaded from the wagons, unless there was an appearance of rain. Beds were made on the ground, on bunches of leaves or small bushes, and when convenient, under the shelter of trees, so as to prevent the dampness caused by falling dew. We camped in a dense cedar thicket, with a corn field nearby, which furnished a good supply for cooking.
“On Saturday, we reached a road filled for miles with troops, citizens, and negroes, who were on their way north. A large number from the vicinity of Shelbyville, both whites and colored, dreading the oppression of Confederate rule, were on their way to Nashville. When yet a few miles out, we were met by some ladies in a fine carriage, doubtless, spies, engaged in counting the number of troops. Occasionally, they expressed their disgust at the appearance of the dirty soldiers, and finally returned to the city (Nashville).
“We were now four miles from the Kentucky state line. When we arrived at the line, the Kentucky boys in our brigade gave rousing cheers for their native state.
“The dust on the road was nearly ‘shoe-mouth’ deep, and the constant motion of so many men caused it to rise in perfect clouds. At times it was impossible to see from one end of the company to the other. Col. Wagner came by, and gave the regiment commanders orders to send one man from each company with all the canteens, dismount negroes and all persons riding surplus or government horses, mount them, ride ahead of the column, and fill the canteens with water.
“Upon our arrival at the town of Cave City, it was reported that the enemy were near. Advancing a short distance, a line of skirmishers was sent forward, which soon demonstrated that the enemy was not far off. The brigade then formed in line of battle, and preparations were made to give them a reception, if they should attack us. No forward movements were made, owing to the fact that no very large force of our troops had yet arrived. In the afternoon reinforcements came up, and Thomas’ division took a position still nearer the enemy than the one we occupied. Large numbers of troops arrived in the evening, and that night the country around Cave City was lit up by the glare of many camp fires.
“The prisoners that had been captured (earlier) by the enemy were paroled by them, and sent through their lines so that they could make their way to our camp. The enemy were doubtless aware that we were scarce of provisions, and this act of inhumanity was perpetuated intentionally, though it was but the beginning of their more systematic modes of starvation. These men came inside our lines to the number of four thousand, almost famished with hunger, and many of them robbed of valuables and clothing. Our rations, such as they were, were divided with them.

“It was now ascertained from citizens and negroes that the heavy force of cavalry which had been stationed in our front had withdrawn nearer the river. When within two miles of them, sharp firing was heard, and immediately the order was given to advance double-quick. Hascall’s brigade gained some distance. We could see the brigade advancing, with the 3rd Ohio on the right. Gradually our men pressed back the rebel skirmishers, and a cheer announced the charge. Our cavalry made a brilliant dash, and drove the enemy, who retreated to the north side of the river. They at once opened fire from two batteries posted on the north bank, which was responded to by the battery belonging to Hascall’s brigade. Moving to the top of a hill, our artillery had a commanding view of the rebel guns, they were soon hurling shot and shell thickly upon the foe. An artillery duel ensued, lasting till dark, when the enemy retreated, leaving twenty killed and wounded.
“At 3 o’clock a.m. of Friday, September 26th, we reached Louisville. The advance troops of the “Army of the Ohio” thus closed a retreat of near three hundred miles. Cheerfully, the citizens threw open their doors and welcomed to their tables the men who had come to save their city from destruction.
“How changed the appearance of the regiment, since the time we first marched into Louisville! Then, we came with more than eight hundred men, but now with scarce three hundred who were able to bear arms. According to an account kept by members of the regiment of the distance marched, we had covered over sixteen hundred miles; and now we were back again upon the same ground from which we started.
(Tennessee and Kentucky, September, 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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