Burns, Robert – October 20, 1863

Michigan Civil War Collection Rare and Notable


Click here for this soldier’s biography: http://micivilwar.com/authors/burns-robert/
Regiment: 4th Michigan Cavalry Battles Mentioned: Historical Figures: Alexander M. McCook, Dan Butterfield, George Thomas, Horatio P. Van Cleve, Robert H. Minty, Thomas L. Crittenden Head Quarters 1st Brigade 2d Cav’y Div Maysville Ala 10 miles N.E. of Huntsville Flint River Bridge Oct 20, 1863 My dear Davidson Down in this Dixie I shall attempt to write you a few lives. After wandering to and fro up and down the country, we have settled here for a few days. On 26th Sept and 7th Oct I wrote you a line each day to let you know that all was well with me. Since then I have been perfectly well physically but mentally and morally in a bad way. As things have been managed lately in this command we have been in a terribly swear- ing mood. But no matter. Sept 17th I wrote you from near Reed’s Bridge Ga on the banks of the now famous Chickamanga Creek. We had gone down there the day before and were on the extreme left of our army. Some what in this shape [hand drawn map] You probably have seen maps of the county which will explain our position better than I can. We were thus situated on the morning of the 18th when the attack commenced. Wood (the left of Crittenden) was at Gordons Mills the rest of the army away on the right. We had known for a day or two that the enemy was in great force in front of us (we being in the extreme advance and one pickets constantly exchanging shots) Col Minty informed Genl Crittenden where and how the enemy’s corps were posted we having learned from the citizens and our scouts, but Genl C. would not believe it. “pooh pooh no such thing. Keep good watch, don’t get scared” Such was the substance of what he said if not the words Genl C. has since learned to his cost that Col M was right. On the morning of the 18th we had ordered one scout of 100 men to go towards Lafayette and one of 75 to Ringgold to “drive in the enemys pickets push them see what and where they were” +c They had no sooner got outside of our pickets when they ran on to the rebels advancing in force. They skirmished with them for a half hour when they sent us word that the rebels were coming in crowds and that they would have to re- treat they had struck against a snag which would sit give way. The 4th Mich was sent to reinforce them at once and all the rest of our brigade made ready to move in any direction our wagons sent on the road to- wards Gordons Mills. In not more than 15 minutes after the first alarm we were all moving to the front where at about a mile our men were fighting. When we arrived there we could see the rebels moving towards us and from the clouds of dust on all the roads in every direction we knew that they were all coming. We had two pieces of artillery which opened on them to which they soon replied. Col Minty sent to Col Wilder (2 ½ miles to our right) informing him if the state of affairs and asking for reinforcements. Col W. sent us two regiments. Before they left him the rebels had struck him and he had his bends full. We were all day fighting and slowly retreating. At one time nearly our whole brigade had to cross the Chickamanga over a narrow bridge two abreast. I stood there along time directing them and seeing that the shaky flanks were kept in their places. The rebels had a good chance to fire in to us there, but our men crossed at a walk none ran. The enemy’s forces were twenty to our one Longstreets whole cross being in our front. We of course did not attempt to hold him, but merely to delay his advance and allow our infantry in our rear to be prepared. I never knew a day to pass so quickly. We had fought I suppose until 11 o’clock when we reached Gordon’s Mill, and it began to get dark The whole day had been used up. Rickard of Co C was killed and Feman wounded. Capt Pritchard was wounded by a piece of shell in the arm. We were under fire for 9 or 10 hours. Shot + shell sometimes flew unpleasantly close to me. At dark we reached Gordons Mill. There found Col Wilder + command who had also been just driven in. Genl Wood met as and asked what all the row was about. said that nothing but the enemy’s cavalry was there and he would take some of his infantry and soon drive them out of the woods. He sent Van Cleve with his division in to do it. but they soon came back with sore heads having been quickly driven back the woods were full of rebels. Genl Wood then came to the conclusion that it was something more than a mere cavalry skirmish. We lay that night where we were in a line within 100 yards of the evening with our horses a quarter of a mile in our rear. We could hear the rebels talking in the woods. I never passed such a night it was cold and bleak. We were allowed no fires and not a man slept every one of us expecting at earliest dawn to be anni- hilated. We knew that if the enemy made such an attack upon us as he did upon Johnson 31st Dec at Stone River very few of us would escape alive. No one dared speak above a whisper. During the night Genl Thomas was moving his forces in our rear to place them on our left and McCook was moving towards us. We were in the front of the centre of the rebel army. There we lay all night cold and shiv- erring. At daybreak we were ordered to fall back through the infantry who had taken their position a few hundred yards behind us. Silently we did so and were glad to see that the woods and field in our rear were filled by our men. We were told to move back a quarter of a mile to a corn field feed our horses and try to sleep. We fed our horses but didn’t sleep much. At 20 minutes of 8 o’clock Sept 19th the first gun was fired a half mile or so in front of us. We knew that it was to be a great battle. Soon occasional sputterings of mucketry could be heard then cannonading. Firing was also heard several miles to our right where part of McCooks forces was engaged. It was not until nearly 11 o’clock that the battle became general. Then volley after volley of musketry until it was one continuous roar. You could not distinguish the separate shots or separate volleys. It was all one. There was not as much cannonading as at Stone River the ground was so densely covered with thickets and woods that can- non could not be advantageously used. I have heard officers say [ ? ] have been in many battles that they never heard such firing of small arms. The smoke sore out of the woods but we could see none of the fighting through not more than a half mile from it. We did not care about seeing it. Per- sons in battle have very little curiosity to see the fight though very anxious a- bout the result. We remained there until noon when we received orders from Genl Rosecraus to report to Genl Thomas near Rossville. Genl T. by that time had moved his corps to that point. The battle was being pushed towards Chattanooga. The whole battle was fought sideways on the march as it were. [hand drawn map] The rebels were pushing towards Chattanooga and our troops had to be drawn from our right marched behind the battle fireld and hurled against the rebels on our left. As soon as those on our right be- came in their turn disengaged they were marched to our extreme left. So you can see that we were continually shifting positions. According to orders we started for Genl Thomas over a road filled with wagons, fugitives, wound- ed men, mules, niggers and confusion generally. To Rossville was 6 miles. The road ran directly behind the live of battle. Once we rode up on top of a hill and looked down upon the fight about a quarter of a mile in front of us. The field miles long, was covered mostly with woods. In [ ? ] the battle was raging fearfully. We could see a part of it. I can not describe it here. We were ordered to remain on that road during the afternoon at any rate it was dark when we reported to Genl Thomas. He told us to report to Genl Granger. We did so + were ordered to [   ?   ] and be ready for anything in the morning. At 3 o’clock the next morning I went to Genl Grangers for orders. Received them from Capt Russell his A.A.G. Poor fellow he was killed a few hours afterwards. Shot dead. En- closed you will find probably the last order he ever wrote. We were ordered to go upon Missionary Ridge to Missionary Mill, 7 or 8 miles and to prevent the rebel cavalry crossing and turning our left flank. We went there and spent the most of the day. We could hear the roar of battle again a few miles from us. About 4 o’clock we were ordered from the Ridge down the Ringgold Road as Granger had been compelled to move to Thoomas’ support. We pushed down several miles and soon ran on to the enemy’s cavalry. Where we were use knew not. All our couriers were cut off by the enemy. They were to the right left and in front of us. We fought them until dark driving their cavalry a mile, and lay down where we were. During night we sent off couriers in all directions some of whom reached their destination. The army was again shift- ing position having been badly used during the day. The enemy had been too strong for us. On the morning of the 21st when we awoke we found ourselves in a valley in front of Missionary Ridge about a half mile before the centre of our army. Genl Thomas was posted on the Ridge behind us. In fact we were between the two armies and in a very unpleasant sit- uation liable to be fired into from both sides. Thus [hand drawn map] There was but one way we could get out, through a narrow gap. by a road to Rossville. We were ordered by Genl Thomas to wait until the rebels approached and then to fall back. We had not long to wait. Soon they came on driving in our pickets. We fell slowly back and it took them several hours to drive us into the Gap. We lost quite many killed + wounded. When we approached the gap we were fired into once by our own infantry by mistake. We got safely through however and were glad to see the gap and Ridge covered by our men. The enemy then made an attempt to carry the Gap but were repulsed with great loss. The fighting was tearific for ¾ of an hour. He had to with draw and armmed himself by throwing shells at our troops on the Ridge. In the meantime we had reached Rossville, where we halted for an hour. It was filled with wounded men, and all the sights of an army engaged. There we sat listening to the fight. We were then ordered to the left back of the Ridge to guard some Gap there where it was feared the enemy would attempt to cross. On our way several shells which the rebels were throwing at the troops on the hill, were carelessly aimed too high and went clear over the Ridge and burst in our column. We [ ? ] ed that night at the place I have marked having strong pickets on the Ridge. At midnight word was sent to us that the whole army was falling back to Chattanooga and we must send one regiment to the Gap through which we had passed. It was expected that we would hold the paper as long as we could and then fall back to Chattanooga fighting. We sent the 4th Rega- [ ? ] to the Gap and waited until morning. Soon after daylight (22d) one picket reported the enemy coming in. We held them at our pass as long as possible and the 4th Regulars did so at theirs. However there were too many their whole Army was advancing and we retreated to Chattanooga fighting and skirmishing the distance was about 6 miles. Interim our infantry and artillery had been busy throwing up breastworks at Chattanooga and were in strong position. They were about a mile and a half in front of the town. We passed through them into the village. The enemy came up to where our main army war and concluded to wait. During the day they felt for one position but dared not attack. They shelled us all day but re- ceived no reply. We went to our old quarter of Sept 12th with nothing to eat for our horses. The town was filled with our wounded who were being burried across the River. I cannot describe to you the sights I saw. We remained there until the afternoon of next day (23d) hearing occasional cannonading. Then we were ordered into the rifle pits to assist the infantry dig and throw up breast works. We dug like beavers until 3 o’clock in the morning. During night picket firing was going on. Then we was ordered across the river and into Tennessee Val- ley to recruit our horses. Moved up and through the valley until the 28th when we found ourselves at Washington. Rhea Co. Tenn. guarding the fords there against an expected crossing by the rebel cavalry. There was Brig Genl Crooks commander of our Division, the 2d. I will now give extracts from my diary as it is less trouble than trying to remember. Tuesday 29th Near Washington, Remained still daring day. Scouts sent ou to sur- picious points on river. No doubt of Forrests being there in force Wednesday 30th Near Washington During night orders came to saddle up, enemy reported to be crossing the river. The 4th Mich which was sent to watch ford at midnight be- came engaged with the crossing rebels and was forced to fall back. Genl Croocks to moved with his whole force which he had scattered from Kingston to Chattanooga down towards Smith’s Cross Roads. By good luck on their part the 4th Mich and one battalion of 4th Regulars joined us before we reached the x roads. The 2d Kentucky joined us in night. the 4th Ohio not yet heard from probably cut off. Somebody has blundered. Infantry Generals can’t manage cavalry. We [   ?   ] three miles below the x roads. Thursday Oct 1. Near Smith’s Cross Roads. Rained all night + day for the first time since Aug 10th. We did not move during day though expecting to every moment. The rebel cavalry supposed to be about 10000 strong passed during the night through the Cross Roads and up the mountain towards Pikeville. Lieut Stockton 4th Regulars and picket of 25 men were gobbled up by them on their way. The 4th Mich were sent to skirmish with their rear guard in morning Genl Crooks moved up to top of Waldrons Ridge with one Regiment of the 2d Brigade. Friday 2d Near Smith’s Cross Roads. At 2 A.M. we started and marched up on Waldrons Ridge by Hart Road. There about 6 A.M. found Genl Crooks. Then with 1st + 2d Brigades of 2d Cav’y Div and Wilders Brigade of Mounted Infantry which had joined as last night, moved across the Ridge into Sequatchie Valley about 8 miles below Pikeville. Wharton with 3000 rebels had passed down the valley at 10 o’clk. 3 hours ahead of us. The remainder of the rebels under Wheeler were there going up the Cumberland Mountains at Pikeville. Genl Crooks determined to follow the latter but by a different road. We commenced ascending the Cumberlands about 5 and at midnight the whole command had reached the top. We then [     ?     ]. We have 5 pieces of artillery and about 3500 men. Saturday 3d On Cumberland Mountains. At 5 ½ A.M. we started again our brigade having the advance the 4th Mich leading that. About 3 P.M. arrived at the valley in which McMinnville lies. about 10 miles from it. From top of mountain could see the rebels in the valley. Skirmishing commenced as soon as we descended. The 4th Mich went in and had a brisk fight. Wilder’s men afore their arrival were dismounted and showed the enemy their calibre. Lighting was kept up until dark. 2 of 4th Mich were wounded and 3 of Wilders. Eleven dead rebels were found. We killed about 25 of them. [     ?     ] on the field with horses saddles + men under arms. Sunday 4th In morning no enemy to be seen be having gone to Mc Minnville. We followed our Brigade in the rear to-day. When we arrived at McM. We found “ruin” The enemy had been there and destroyed all government stores. The streets were strewn ankle deep with oats corn flour hard bread +c +c. They had robbed on sick men there of money clothing and whatever they could find even of things they could not use We did not stop but pushed on. Our advance had struck the rebel rear guard two miles before reaching McM and followed it through. Six miles beyond they made a stand until dark. The 2d Brigade and Wilder’s fought with them as long as it was light. We did not get in. We had several you did none killed. About 10 rebels killed. Had another night of sleeping saddle and armed Monday 5th The rebels had again moved during the night and the coast was clear. We started early after them. About 10 miles from Murfreesboro we turned from the main Pike and went into Murfreesboro on the Liberty Road. Reached there at dark. We had marched 41 miles without a single halt. The rebels kept on the Woodburys Pike to within 3 miles of Murfreesboro and turned to the left. We had expected to meet them in front of Murfreesboro but they dared not come there. We [   ?   ] near the fortifications. After our arrival I went to find a box of clothing boots +c +c which I had left for storage in the fortifications last june. Every thing had been stolen from it. I found a few of my letters + papers scattered in the store rooms Tuesday 6th Intruder starting early in the morning but the distribution of rations forage + horse shoes detained us until about 10 o’clock. The rebels had approached to within 3 miles of Murfreesboro yesterday, burned the rail road bridge across Stone River and started for Shelbyville. We to-day started after them. Just before starting Genl Mitchell came in with the 1st Cavalry Division. They had followed us from McMinnville. We marched to beyond Guy’s Gap and [   ?   ] near our camp of June 28th. Genl Mitchell’s command joined us about 11 P.M. We have now here about 7500 cavalry Wednesday 7th By a mistake (no order to march having been received) our Brigade did not move until noon then Gen Mitchell informed us that our Di- vision was beyond Shelbyville skirmishing with the enemy. We immediately sad- dled up and started. Passing through Shelbyville young ladies with Union flags greeted us. They recollected what we had done there last June. We there met Genl Dan Butterfield. We moved out on the road towards Farmington when nearing there could hear the cannonading of our Division engaged with the rebels arrived at Farmington at dark. The 2d Brigade and Wilder’s Mounted had had quite a severe battle there. Had taken 3 pieces of artillery and about 300 prisoners. Our forces lost about 100 killed and wounded [ ? ] others Col Monroe of Wilders Brigade killed. On account of our non-arrival at Farmington in time Genl Crooks put Col Minty under arrest and ordered him to return to Murfreesboro. Col Siper of 7th Penna was put in command of the Brigade. Stayed at Farmington Thursday 8a Early in morning started again in pursuit of the rebels but could not catch a glimpse of them during the day. Col Minty went to Murfreesboro In evening reached Pulaski. Across the creek there [   ?   ]. The detach- ments of one and the 3d Brigades were now temporarily put under command of Col. Lowe of 5th Iowa Cavalry who joined us in the chase yesterday at Shelbyville Friday, Oct 9th Pulaski Tenn. In morning I reported to Col Lowe, he wished me to remain A.A.G. of his command. Very early we started again. the 5th Iowa in the advance. At sugar Creek some 10 or 15 miles from Pulaski we struck the rear guard of the rebels, two regiments, about 500 strong. The 5th Iowa skir- mished with them dismounted across the creek with no great success on either side Genl Crooks then ordered the 5th Iowa to charge. The rebels were drawn up in line on a hill at a short distance off but after firing one valley at us turned tail and fled. We pursued them 5 or 6 miles killing 13 and capturing 95. One man slightly wound- ed on one side. I participated in the charge and pursuit but didn’t get a hit at any of them. The column then pushed on 7th Pa having the advance they ran into a few more rebels badly slashing one. About dark we passed thro’ Rogersville Ala. From there we went to Lamb’s Ferry on the gallop with sabres drawn expecting to find the enemy on the River bank engaged in cross- ing. They however were too quick for us. Everyone of them were on the oppo- site side of the Tennessee. Not a single soul to be seen. We returned to Rogersville greatly disgusted. Wheelers great “raid” is supposed to be over Saturday Oct 10th Rogersville Ala. Remained all day resting our horses who are almost worn out. Burned $30000 worth of cotton near our camp Sunday Oct 11. Again in the saddle. On our return. Marched to Athens, Ala. Monday Oct 12. On the road early. About 1 o’clock reaches Huntsville Ala. Genl Crooks then marched us out on the Newmarket Road and after spending all the afternoon in alternate fits + starts marched us back to Huntsville and told us to lie down there. We stayed near where we were last July. Tuesday Oct 13. Genl Croooks didn’t know where he wanted to go or what to do so after marching 26 miles in a circle through a drenching rain be finally en camped us within 8 miles of Huntsville at a place called Meridianville. Genl Roddy with a few hundred rebel cavalry is reported to be near here somewhere and the sapient heads of Genl Mitchell + Crooks are being rubbed to-gether to see if they can’t bag him. There isn’t much danger for Roddy. Infantry Generals not over acute can not catch a smart rebel cavalry man. Our Generals appear to think that all that is required of us is to ride from morning till night with nothing for our horses to eat. though we pass by thousands of acres of corn. The dead bodies of our horses now line the road sides where we pass. Wednesday Oct 14 We again started this morning as the rain every body [ ? ] ing Genl Crooks for putting us a mile away from corn, wood or water, when the country is filled with all three. We marched towards Winchester until 1 P.M. when [   ?     ]. The chore is reported to be over. Roddy hav- ing without much difficulty having effected his escape. Thursday Oct 15. Again early on the march Raining all day. Our Brigade in the rear. Reached a little beyond Salem when an aid of Genl Crooks came to inform us that we must turn about again and go to Ala. Camped at Salem Oct 16. Marched cold and wet to Newmarket. Oct 17 Marched to Maysville. “ Here we are, how long to remain I know not. Oct 22d I have been for a day or two writing the above you can see that I have not many conveniences for writing, the rain sometimes drops on my paper. We have no tents nor wagons yet and have to shift the best we can. Yesterday we heard that Genl Rosecraus had been relieved and was to be succeeded by Genl Thomas. I regret it exceedingly though Genl T. is a fine soldier. What Genl R. has don deserving censure I cannot conceive. This army has implicit confidence in him. Genl Stanley has been removed and Genl Elliott of Iowa is to be our Chief of Cavalry. I regret more than all the arrest of Col Minty. He and Col Wilder are the only men in this department who have won any distinction as Cavalry leaders and all our other Generals are jealous of them. Mitchell + Crooks are Infantry Genls and do not understand the management if Cavalry – and would do anything to ruin Minty Cenl C. has seized the opportunity and will do his best. I have no doubt Col M. will come out all right. Our Brig- ade is the only Cavalry mentioned in the battle of Chick- amango which still farther discompores Genl C. He was on the right and did nothing. I believe and so do all who know the circumstances, that if Col M. had command at Washington in Genl C’s place, that Wheeler would (could not) not have crossed the Tennessee on the 30th Sept. Some such opinions were uttered in the hearing of Genl C. A great many of the 4th Michigan offices will resign – and the regiment I doubt not will got to the I – I unless Col M – is cleared. We all feel it as a personal wrong. I like Col Lowe our new Brigade Commander very well and have no doubt we shall agree. However that is not all We took pride in our Brigade, as it was the best one in the ser- vice – and now to have it split up and di- vided among the different commands is more than we can easily bear. The other brigades are exceedingly tick- led as they were very jealous of us. You have no idea to what an extent envy + jealously is carried in the army. Men (officers) have more personal hatred to- wards each other than they have towards the rebels. I hope Col Minty will soon come back to us. I shall remain here until the war closes as I inlisted for three years. That of course depends in a great measure on health +c. I am now perfectly well. Have received no letters from you since the one Porter bought. Have not received a mail in two months. Only three since we left McMinn- ville. We occasionally see a paper. In Louisville Journal of Oct 10 is a very fair account of the battle of Chickamanga at least of the part our com- mand took. Write to me soon. Direct 4th Mich Cav’y. Give my love to Mo- ther. You can see by our [     ?     ] that I have had no opportunities to write you before. You must have received one of my letters since the battle. Good bye God bless you all. I shall send this when I can. Your affectionate brother Robert Maysville Oct 27. A detail with unserviceable horses is going to Nash- ville to-morrow rmorning and I shall be able to send this This is the first opportunity I have had. Still no mail, and we have almost given up expecting one. Since Aug 24th I have not heard a word from the world I suppose all are well. We are still here living on the country with one stock nearly ruined. A rumor reaches us to-day that our wagon train was destroyed a few days ago on the mountains between Stevenson + Chattanooga. If so good bye to the little comfort we have. We also hear that Col Minty has been ordered back to duty. I hope so. Great changes have taken place in our army here. New commanders coming in and old over going out. Nothing new personally. Good bye again. Yours R.B. [On Envelope:] J. Davidson Burns Esq Kalamazoo Michigan