Burns, Robert – August 25, 1863

Michigan Civil War Collection Rare and Notable

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 4th Michigan Cavalry

Battles Mentioned:

Historical Figures: Braxton Bragg, Don C. Buell, Robert H. Minty, William S. Rosecrans

Hd Qurs 1st Brigade 2d Cav’y Div
Smith’s Coss Roads Tenn. 6 miles
from Tennessee River. 38 miles from
Chattanooga in the Tennessee Valley
August 25, 1863
My dear Davidson
I wrote you on the 14th a long letter telling
of my Shelbyville experience sending also Col Mintys
report and five rebel papers. again on the 16th I
wrote on the eve of our departure from McMinn-
ville. We have crossed two spurs of the Cum-
berland Mountains and alighted in this place we
are now engaged watching the movements of the
rebels a cross the river about 6 miles from here
seeing that they do not run a cross and repeat
the Bragg + Buell campaign of last year up
in Kentucky. This is the place where Braff
passed through with his army. I do not think
Rosecraus will be caught napping. It is ru-
mored that there has been and is now heavy fight-
ing at Chattanooga. Our army (Gen Rosecraus’) now
has a front of about 200 miles and it requires
a great deal of vigilance to watch it. We are now
all I suppose on the Tennessee River with some of
us a cross. Our main body is in front of and
around Chattanooga. I know nothing certain
about his of course. We are on the extreme

left. and are in East Tennessee. We shall pro-
bably stay here but a very short time. We have had
several skirmishes and chases within the last week.
On the 17th the day after I wrote you I came ra-
ther near being shot. We had been to Sparta
and had driven a regiment of rebels from their
hiding places there. A creek called the calf
killer runs through the place. The 4th Mich
and 7th Penna had been down the east side
of the creek had driven the rebels several miles
and had returned to the village. We, i.e. the
Brigade officers with the 4th Regulars and 3d
Indiana had driven them down the west side and
were returning along the bank of the creek to Sparta
We were riding carelessly along at the head of the
column when suddenly an inferval fire was opened
on us from the opposite side where the 4th
Mich + 7th Pa had been a half hour previously
The rebels were wholly concealed in the bushes
which lined their side of the creek. Lieut Vale
our Inspector who was just behind me was shot.
and Buch the Sergeant of our Ordelier besides
3 or 4 horses. Their object was to kill Col Minty
by whose side I was riding. The rebel colonel afterwards
said that there were over 500 shots fired into
our little squad of a dozen. The bullets whistled
and sang altogether too close to be pleasant. The
creek could not be crossed there. There were
no bushes between us and the rebels and a

high fence was on the other side of the road
We first attempted to run the gautlet but formed
the fire was getting hotter the farther we advanced,
and it was evident the whole bank was lined
with them. We then dismounted and lay close
to the ground (the balls popping into the fence
and earth) until we could push the fence
down behind us and lead our horses behind
shelter. It was a very close call for us all
and it is remarkable that we were not nearly
all killed. While we were lying on the ground the
balls would strike the fence within a foot of us
and cover us with dust. I never was o sur-
prised in my life as when they opened fire on
us supposing them to have been driven away
by the 4th Mich. They had followed the 4th Mich
right back when they returned to the village
and lay down in the bushes waiting for a
good shooting chance. As soon as
we got behind shelter we sent in our reg-
iments who soon cleaned them out. We
had 15 wounded none killed.     Since
then we have had some remarkably rough
riding over the mountains. We are again without
tents, clothing, baggage or wagons. have to go shirtless
while our only one is being washed + dried. The
weather however has been very pleasant and
warm and we are now accustomed to sleep
shelterless on the ground. I keep my health

very well. Am perfectly sound and tough and think
unless some accident happens I shall see this war through
and return as well as ever. We think we have the
rebellion down and intend keeping it there. If we can get
them out of Chattanooga and Atlanta we will have done a little
something. I wish you would write to N.Y. + Willie for
me. I have not written to any of my friends in a long time
excepting you. We can not get chance to write. It is
not half an hour since I alighted from my horse. We
have not had a mail in a long time. I have not heard
from you since Porter went home. Your last I think
was dated July 12th. Am not sure about that however
In it you told if Willy’s being inspector. Did you re-
ceive $250 by Porter? We are completely cut off
from the world here. Now + then by carriers heard
Northern doings. a party is going in a few minutes a cross
the mountains and by them I shall send this. Write
to me. Love to Mother + friends
Your affectionate brother
Robert Burns

[On Envelope:]

J. Davidson Burns Esq