CIVIL WAR DIARY
HENRY W. TISDALE
November 1, to December 31, 1863
On guard today. Received a letter from Nellie.
Skirmish drill all day. We are on half rations, 3 hard tacks per day and for the first time in the service have an empty knapsack. Regiment told they might fix up for winter quarters as possible we may remain here for 3 months, so some have begun “logging up”, and others have remodeled our tents with “turfing up” at the bottom and fixing bunks inside. New orders about saluting officers given out of which some of us have been negligent as of late.
Did some working. Skirmish drill all day. Bought some candies so can spend some of the time evenings before “taps” in reading instead of loafing and talking to no purpose around the camp fires. Felt I need to be more earnest in all I do. Wrote letter to L.A.T.
Have had 3 delightful Indian Summer days.
Skirmish drill AM and rain in the afternoon. Sergeant J. Bradford Calder returned to regiment from furlough today. Was almost like seeing Dedham people to hear his report of them and from them and caused a hit of homesick feeling and with thoughts of home. My God give me a patient spirit.
Partly wrote letter to Abbie. Ration of half loaf of bread and 1 pt. of flour for ration today managed to eat the flour in the form of fritters with salt and water mixed. They were heavy and soggy.
Finished the letter to Abbie. Got some fine boughs for tent. More flour for rations today and so more soggy fritters. Was hungry and they tasted good, and as we have fared well for 15 months have no need to complain. Received letters from Carrie and Abbie.
Feel I have not studied God’s word as much as I ought. Felt sort of a discouraged spirit towards it. Might perhaps brave an empty stomach. Swapped my ration of flour for some hard tack. Wrote letter to Carrie.
No drill. Raw and cold snow squalls in afternoon. Busy all day getting old drift wood to “log up” going 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile for it. No rations, borrowed 1 pt. of flour for supper.
Rations this forenoon. Went to Knoxville on noon train. Busy all afternoon buying sundry articles for myself and comrades. Slept with guard stationed at the depot buildings.
November 11th. Slept poorly on account of the cold. Lounged about the town waiting for a return train until noon. Feel I have wasted much time. Regiment sent out on picket duty just at sunset crossing the river on pontoon bridge which has been laid for foraging purposes. Had rations of bread, first from the new army bakery which has just been laid out. Out 1 1/2 miles from camp.
Slept but little as we were not allowed any fires. Daylight found us chilled to the bone, but with the privilege of building fires soon forgot it in the bright sunshine. Posted in a sunny spot at the edge of the wood. Corp Spring killed a “porker”, Sergeant J. Bradford Calder dressed him and we soon had him sliced up and packed into our haversacks. Killing porkers was against orders and it was some misgivings that we marched into camp in the afternoon lest our bulging haversacks should invite inspection. Felt sort of mean about it as one of the first requirements of a soldier is obedience to orders. Worked until dark logging up for winter quarters.
Fine warm day, drill in manual a.m. and in bayonet exercise in PM. Need more determination in mastering the required skill, and to make up my dull perception faculties in military matters.
Routed at 3 AM with orders to “fall in at once on color line” with further word to make no noise which we did in rain, darkness, and mud wondering what it was all about. After a little waiting were allowed to turn in daylight when word came, “strike tents, pack up and be ready to move at a moment’s notice.” This to those of us who had worked hard to log up for the winter was anything but a pleasant turn of affairs. Our mess had planned to get up early and finish if possible our hut. Sunrise saw now all of us packed up and setting on our knapsacks waiting orders. This we did for the forenoon, drenched with occasional showers. Rumors were floating about that the rebels under General Longstreet had crossed Tennessee below Loudon-his army outnumbering us 3 to 1. All our wagon trains, cattle and stores were now on the move towards Knoxville. At noon General Burnside appeared upon the scene and soon the 1st division of our 9th Corps and part of the 23rd Corps were on the move back to Loudon and night saw us alongside the 51st Penn camped on our former camping ground near Loudon.
Routed at 2 AM. Cold and raw. Mud awful. Packed up and marched out at 2:30AM for Loudon Bridge. Darkness and mud made hard marching some of the way for rods. Mud ankle deep and so slippery that many a poor fellow was laid sprawling. Most of us are poorly equipped for clothing, few have good shoes, some almost barefoot. One of my feet goes partly on the ground at each step. It was a sad sight to see some of them tramping through the mud. Few if any imagined this to be a part of our army life. At daylight camped in a hollow and were quiet a good part of the forenoon, then ordered to load rifles and marched 1/4 of a mile to Lenoir’s. We are here located near a camp of some sort of the 23rd Corps troops. Here we found a lot of cast of shoes and clothing which they had left behind, they having fortunately for them and us received a new supply. It is needless to say that we quickly gobbled up the fragments. Was lucky enough to get me quite a decent pair of shoes. At near 3 PM marched back towards Lenoirs with skirmish rules left upon our left flank. At near Lenoirs were deployed on skirmish line for the night with orders to keep awake and make no noise. Had but just got into position when ordered to march to Lenoirs. Where we found that near all the troops were in camp about the town, and the country all about us was alive with camp fires. Soon orders came that our regiment was to be rear guard for the night and that we must be ready for any order. One day’s ration of bread, sugar and coffee hurriedly given out. We were told to “hurry up and make coffee.” Hurry we did. Some got it made and drank when the order come to move and those who had not had time to do so took it long in their dippers and drank as they marched along. It was evident that a retreat was in order, and that it was a race between us and the rebels for Knoxville. A thousand things left that all could not have been taken. Fifty wagons or more fully loaded with clothing and supplies were burned. It was a sad sight to us of the rank and file some were ragged and barefoot, to see shoes and clothing turned to ashes almost within our reach. Felt that some method might had been devised in which a rough and tumble distribution might have been made. Perhaps from the quartermaster’s view of it should have thought differently. Our regiment had the task of helping the batteries along. No easy job moving over a rough road mingled of mud, rocks, and guerrillas, so that we were from 7 in evening until 3:30 in the morning going three miles. The poor horses were near exhausted and ever and anon we would hitch on ropes and pull the guns and caissons out of the mud, working sometimes half knee deep and once had the fun of fishing one of my shoes out of it.
By 3:30 this morning had got most of the guns and wagons out of the worst part of the road, and turned by a rail fence bonfire for coffee and a little sleep, but a small part of the regiment however, for many had given out and were left straggling behind and some other had got tired of the job and had marched on ahead. Slept about an hour and a half and then helped the guns along until daylight. In spite of our efforts had to destroy one caisson and lot of ammunition from Benjamin’s battery, also our regimental ambulance and some of the wagons making the night brilliant with their bonfires and others from the fence rails taken to illuminate our way. Marched during the forenoon to within 13 miles of Knoxville when the infantry was halted while the batteries moving on. Stacked arms in a wood hoping for a little rest, but at 11AM the sound of musketry told us that “Johnny Reb” was on our track. Soon orders to load and be ready to move and were soon in battle line in an open field. The other regiments in our corps and the 23rd. were forming all about us with our batteries. Soon the rebels became saucier, and stray bullets flew about us and two of the regiment wounded. Suddenly they appeared in battle on our right and part of our line was obliged to beat a double quick retreat to a new position. Meanwhile Roener’s and Benjamin’s batteries opened upon an advancing line and sent them back to the woods. It was an exciting scene and experience as we lay along in an open field as an occasional shell flew whizzing to burst and plant itself in the ground in our rear. A part of both armies were in view, and sight of General Burnside and staff directing the fire of a battery on an adjoining hill inspired us with confidence. So the afternoon wore away as fast as the rebels came out of the woods our batteries opening up upon them and driving them back. They kept working around to our flank however, and at about 3 PM brought (as near as we could make out) a 6 gun battery to bear upon us. This made some of our positions untenable and soon there was a lively retreat to a new line of battle or defense rather, as I suppose our object is to hold the rebels in check until our wagon trains and stores are safe inside of Knoxville and its forts. Soon came our regiments turn to fall back-as we did so two shells struck among us-one giving us a shower of dirt and the other starting a loose stone and causing it to lance one of the men though but for a little. We next took a position behind a rail fence where we lay flat upon the ground for an hour or more, the other regiments about us skirmishing and gradually falling back. At near dark the rebels appeared a in new line on our flank and as we could see them filing along seemingly but a few rods away matters began to look serious and visions of rebel prisons flitted before us. As darkness came on we could see neither friend nor foe and soon came word to fall in line of retreat and most gladly did we take up our 16 mile to Knoxville in the mud and darkness. The road was rough and muddy and it was daylight ere we reached the city. It was a hard and weary march, most of us had had nothing to eat all day, but many had not had a full night’s rest for a week. Nothing but the fear that the rebels may be in our rear spurred us on, and as it was many would drop to sleep as we stopped to rest for a little, to be awaked by the chill, for a double quick run to catch up. More than once I found myself staggering like a drunken man in my effort to keep awake as I stumbled along until daylight when I flung myself upon the ground within the city of Knoxville tired, sleepy, muddy, and hungry and wet.
After a little rest went into the town and bought some bread for myself and comrades. Were soon marched to hill north of the city where we pitched our tents. Plenty of loose boards about from buildings which had been torn down from building defense line of the city. This furnished us with good floors. Rations were given out to us at near noon.
A sound night’s rest how sweet it was. We were in camp along side a trench which had been dug about this part of the city. We were hoping for a quiet day when orders came for fatigue duty, and with picks and shovels were soon at work damming up a small stream which we ran along to our right, and by night a pond from 4 to 6 ft. deep stretching quite a distance from out front was the result of our labors.
In trenches all day, with our pickets in our front were skirmishing more or less all day. The rebels brought a battery of two guns into position and soon shells were flying into our camp and the city. One came near the head of General Burnside as he stood on the brow of a hill just in rear of our trenches, one rolled down our street, and one struck a house in rear of our camp. A return fire from our batteries soon silenced them.
Out on picket duty. The rebel rifle pits stretched along the edge of the woods and a few shots were exchanged during the day, but the range was to great for any harm to be done except to waste ammunition. The houses in our front were burnt today to prevent their being of use as hiding places for the rebel sharp-shooters. One of them was a fine mansion elegantly furnished and we loaded ourselves with books and brick and bract before firing. Just at dark the rebels opened their battery firing a few shots but doing no damage.
Went out on picket line all night. It rained in torrents from 12 to 3AM. Relieved at 4:30AM and returned to camp wet and muddy. Had chance to sleep near all day when had to turn out and try stopping the dam from giving way. We worked in vain to save it. We are out to 1/2 rations of bread, coffee, and sugar.
A beautiful clear day, while we were in the trenches near all day. Had many thoughts of home and loved ones today. The rebels threw over a few shells just at dark.
In trenches near all day, while busy mending and reading. Elegant books confiscated from the houses situated between our picket lines and deserted by their owners. Line our trenches together with all sorts of apparel and household goods. It seems sacrilegious to see the use made of them. Read “Steps Toward Heaven” by J.S. Arthur. The dam repaired today.
Routed out at 9 PM last night and ordered into the trenches in double quick time. The enemy made a charge upon a section of our picket and drove them in. Were in the trenches for about an hour, when our company was ordered out onto the picket line. Hard and weary work kept us awake. At sunrise a battalion from the 48th PA and 21st MA made a charge and drove the enemy back from the position they had gained the night before. Our picket line took a hand in the fray. The firing was quite sharp for a half hour or so. Six killed and a dozen or so wounded was our loss. Wm. Wenzy of our regiment only one killed. He was the third of three brothers killed, one at Port Hudson, and one at Charleston. As we regained our position we found the rebels had dug semi circular trenches during the night. Found in one of them some meat and bread which gave me a good breakfast. I slept good part of the day, with rain in afternoon.
Busy most of forenoon in fixing up some shelves intent. Much thought of loved ones at home. Of Ron on his journey home this afternoon for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day in dear old Massachusetts. Had some fried wheat and molasses for dinner.
Thanksgiving Day. Routed at 4AM and out in trenches at 5AM for picket duty. These trenches are semi circular, about 6 ft. long and 2 or 3 ft. deep and 3 or 4 wide. In these 6 or 8 men were posted. We were allowed to have fires so it was quite comfortable. Plenty of reading matter in hand. Had to be very careful how we showed ourselves outside of the pits, for rebel bullets would fly thick and fast if we did so. Had one bullet strike the ground a few inches from my foot. Much thought of the dear ones at home today, and of happy Thanksgivings in the past. Little did I dream that in the year 1863 I should have a Thanksgiving dinner down in “Old Tennessee” of fried pork, bread and coffee. Yet how much do I have to be thankful for. My life spared while so many of my comrades on my right and left are laid soldiers in a grave. My health is in rich measure through my first year and a half of soldier life. Pleasant thoughts of the dear old home and its loved ones and that our Heavenly Father has granted peace and prosperity to them. May a thankful heart going out in loving obedience in work and word, thought and deed be within me.
Back in camp today. Busy in forenoon fixing up tent, mending washing, and cooking some beets. Slept all the afternoon.
Out into the rifle pits. Thunder shower early this morning. Rain off and on all day. We have tents fixed up so they are quite comfortable abodes-for soldiers. This afternoon we enlarged our pit some two feet wider, fixed a fire place in our side and with our rubber blankets stretched the top made merry at the rain and rebels.
Heavy firing from our left from 11 o’clock last night until near 8 AM today. We were routed at 3 AM and stacked arms but were soon ordered to quarters with word readiness to “fall in” at a moment’s notice. Were soon detailed for picket duty and at 4:30 were out into the rifle pits. Were just settled when the rebels attacked us and soon came orders to fall back which we did in double quick time. A ram bang skirmish was kept up until daylight when a charge was made by the 2nd Brigade and the rebels were soon driven back to near their old position. Our regiment had one killed, one wounded, and one taken prisoner. During the forenoon a skirmish fire was kept up but little loss to either side along our part-the right-of the line. A short and deadly fight we had on our left, the rebels making an assault upon Fort Sanders but were repulsed with a loss over 800 killed, and wounded and 300 prisoners. A flag of truce was granted the rebels from 1 to 10 p.m. to bury their dead and exchange wounded prisoners. While this was in progress there was a mutual advance between the lines and soon “Yank and Reb” were in friendly confab. Those in our immediate front belonged to the 5th South Carolina and 4th TN. They were anxious to get newspaper, saying they were on short rations, flour and pork most wholly, and they were soon going to bag the whole of us. It seemed strange to see us mingling without any apparent bitterness in friendly converse we who had just been trying to kill each other were soon to return to the work again.
Moved back to our trenches and ordered to occupy them all the time when not out on picket duty. Our trenches are about 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. deep and we have fire places dug in the sides so we are quite comfortable with our tents and board floors and literature in abundance taken from the deserted “reb” dwellings. John D. Cobb, and J.Bradford Calder in tent with me. Drew rations of corn meal and fresh meat. It is both vexing and amusing our attempts to cook our own rations. Some bake “joe cakes”, some fritters, some make mush, and some fry in fat and whether it cooked or half cooked we are hungry enough to it. Some of us are poorly off for clothing but none complain and we all are hopeful.
Had my only outside shirt stolen today. Was fortunate to get an old one from Alvan B. Chace to support my need. Had glorious news read to us by General Burnside, that General Grant had won a single victory over General Bragg capturing 6,000 prisoners and 52 cannons. He also complimented our corps for its patient endurance of the hardships of hunger and fighting of the past 17 days. Busy most of the day, reading a “Life for a Life.”
Routed at 3:30 and out on the picket line. Rebs, saucy with their bullets this p.m. and one had to be cautious about showing himself outside the pit and the whiz of shots would come dangerously near. One of the 48th Pennsylvania dangerously wounded.
Busy reading, washing, and getting firewood this AM. Slept in PM. Half rations of meal today.
Busy cooking and mending today. Rumors that rebels are “on the leave” which we most devoutly hope is true, and that General Sherman is near with reinforcements for us.
The day opened with the glorious news that the rebels had left-glorious to feel that our days of short rations and hard work were over for this campaign. Now we could walk out into the open and feel that there was no rebel on the watch for us. At near 8 PM our Brigade was on the march going some 5 miles with the result of capturing a few straggling rebels. An new life seemed to spring up all over the city. Stores were opened, vehicles of all kinds began to move about, whistles to blow, citizens came out into the suburbs to look after their homes. Many to find them in ashes. Found an ear of corn which I ground up in our coffee will for my tomorrow’s ration of bread.
On picket duty-real play now, only one man on post at a time the rest of us strolled about or rested and read as we pleased. Visited the rebel trenches and the city cemetery. A most lovely day.
A fine night’s rest upon a bed of fine boughs. At sunrise came orders to be ready to march in light order. Whole corps on the move at 9:30AM for Morristown. Fine weather and a fine road for marching. Felt weak doubtless from the half rations of the past 3 weeks and no coffee. Eleven miles and into camp along a valley the sides of which were a splendid sight.
Slept soundly most of the night. Routed out two or three times to get warmed up by the blazing fires which we kept going all night. Lounged around until near noon devouring our half rations and foraging corn and parching it. Marched 7 miles an into camp in the midst of a light rain. Drew rations half as usual of fresh pork and flour. With but one frying pan in the company, some of us had to wait until 11 o’clock for a chance to cook. Made some sorry looking “short cake” out of the flour rations.
Marched at 7:30AM. 12 miles and camped at Rutledge. A good deal of straggling as marching on half rations is not very inspiring. A fine camp spot with fence rails. Corn and spring water in plenty. Drew half rations of fresh meat and meal, had to wait until 10 o’clock to get them cooked.
Slept in circles with feet to blazing fires, fairly comfortable. Had good breakfast of foraged beef and corn and wheat and coffee. In camp all day. Spent the day parching corn and wheat, mending and washing and reading over old letters. No letters from home since November 1st. Had a vexing time cooking my ration of meat.
A fine night’s rest on a bed of cedar boughs. Men out in squads foraging corn, chickens, molasses, grease, potatoes, apples, and brought in goodly quantities. Some of the regiment’s have been recently paid off so cash is plenty. The citizens are about half and half rebels and union, so that between the two armies they have suffered severely. Mended shirt and put in pocket. Drew rations of meat and salt.
Wrote letters to Abbie and Carrie. Rain this PM.
Read much in God’s word. What a mine of blessed teaching and promise. How comforting to feel that God’s care and love for me are just the same in these almost Sabbath less days of army life, as in the home life with its wealth of Sabbath peace and worship.
A squally night of rain and wind. Had to turn out in the midst of it to readjust our tent coverings. At 5 AM came orders to be ready to march at 7AM. Drew rations of flour, coffee, and sugar. Cooked fritters. At noon word what we should not move today. Fixed up a sort of tent of boughs which with cleaning gun took up most of the day. Drew again ration of corn, flour, soup, salt, coffee, and desiccated vegetables. Good to have salt soup, and coffee once more. Our first mail for three weeks today. Most gladly was it welcomed and far into the evening we were grouped about out log fires eagerly devouring our letters and papers from home. Cooked pancakes, and mush and fried bacon for tomorrow.
A fine morning. Orders came soon after sunrise to move at a moment’s notice. Packed up and seated upon my knapsack took to letter writing to sisters, when behold came another lot of mail with six letters for my own self which brought lots of news from dear ones. Also package of bread, soda for which I sent to help cook my rations of flour. At noon orders to march and we were soon on the move and formed in battle line a short distance from our own camp where we remained the rest of the day. Rumors flying about that the rebels have been reinforced and a fight is at hand. Just at dark took to making some “short cake” with ration of flour and my soda-got one done and another partly, when word came to “fall in” and cramming my cooked and half cooked cakes into my packets, on the move again towards Knoxville.
Marched until 1 AM amid darkness and mud slough holes and brooks-batteries and wagons often stuck in the mud. Many of us half shod getting shoes full of the soft mud-wagon trains, infantry and batteries all mixed up and did not get to camp until forenoon. Camped in a corn field and soon rail fence bonfires were aglow on every hand. Got about 1 1/2 hour’s sleep and on the march at 9 AM 5 miles brought us to Blains Cross roads where we halted for coffee. Cannon heard in the distance. Formed in line of battle. A barricade of rails and brush was made across the valley. Two lines of cavalry and infantry took position in out front with batteries in our rear with pouring rain and such bonfires as we could induce to burn, passed the night as best we could.
Never passed a more disagreeable night thus far in the service. Sat most of the night crouched upon my knapsack with head and shoulders covered with rubber blanket. Towards morning fixed a sort of shelter of fence rails and got a little sleep. Remained in line all day. Some skirmishing going on in our front our 1st division and a part of the 23rd Corps engaged. In afternoon was sent out on picket duty for the night. Weather clear, cold, and freezing. Took rations of hard tacks and fresh meat. Busy until 3 this AM cooking the meat and coffee for the men out on the “posts.”
No sleep for the night. Morning showed us that the rebels had retreated. Regiment formed in skirmish line and moved about a mile, where we remained until PM. When we fell back to some woods for the night.
Were marched back to a fine wood with plenty of water and were told to make ourselves comfortable. Made tent of rubber blankets and bed of cedar boughs. Mail came and the letters and papers made us happy again. Rumors that we were soon to go back to Kentucky.
Orders to lay out our camp in a more orderly fashion. Took us until 10 AM to obey. As a result we had a motley collection of brush huts and blanket tents arranged in rather in rather crooked street lines. Read in Psalms and Roman. Rumors that we were soon to go back to Kentucky.
Busy most of the day in writing to Abbie. and Carrie. Wrote 22 pages.
Got into an unduly warm debate with John L. Smith, upon an unimportant matter. Feel that such debates are apt to create ill feeling and must learn to avoid them.
Weather for the past week delightful. This morning cloudy, raw and cold. At breakfast orders to “fall in” in light marching order. Moved out about 3 miles. At 3 PM back to camp. Spent most of the day about blazing bonfires discussing various matters. Glorious bonfires we have of logs 4 to 8 feet long piled up 2 to 3 feet high.
A lovely day. Managed to take a bath. Busy most of the day patching up and cleaning my ragged outfit. Read in Atlantic Monthly “A Man Without a Country” a good article for these days.
Christmas Day. What a contrast in surroundings to the Christmas days of the past. No rations until near night, so no dinner. But still it has been in many ways a Merry Christmas. Wrote to Nellie. Mind busy of how the dear ones at home were enjoying the day. Trust that I am learning that it is not the position of material blessings and surroundings that are necessary to give a contented and peaceful spirit. Feel that the blessings of memory, the sense of the love of the dear ones at home, of the privilege of correspondence with them, the sense of God’s love and care, the precious teaching and promise of his holy word, and privilege of prayer and communication with him have in them rich sources of comfort and content.
Our baggage left at Knoxville having now arrived we were able to put up our shelter tents so that with blazing log fires in front of them we were quite comfortable. Rainey during the day and it was cheering to be able to sit snug in our tents and hear the rain patter over our heads.
Peaceful and quiet the day until 4 pM when we were detailed for two days picket duty. Rainey and had a trying time in the darkness and mud in getting out to the picket line.
A rough night but with shelter tent got on comfortably. Cleared off warm, but grew cold during the day. On post with Corporals Bagley, Shufelt, and Alfred Ellis. With no enemy in our front our picket duty is free and easy. Read in “Life for a Life” a rather wholesome domestic story by the author of John Halifax Gentleman.
A warm day. Busy cooking, washing, and loafing some of the day. Some of the men out foraging brought in a sheep. Climbed to top of hill in rear of our fort and got a fine view of Smokey Mountains and the surrounding country. Relieved from picket at night, and drew rations of flour, and made some soda bread.
Wrote letter to W. H. C. Cut up lot of wood. As we have had no candles given out for sometime, we have to spend our time evenings about our log fires. Notice with these closing day’s of the year that the most of the talk takes on a sober tinge.
The record of the year nearly closed. Feel that God has been merciful to me; that my heart ought to cry out with the psalmist “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits, who redeemeth thy life from destruction.” Rainy and drizzly. Mustered for pay today.
Jan - July 1864