by Samuel C. Broughton, Sgt
Co. I, 21st Illinois Infantry
I first enlisted at Robinson, Illinois, April 27th, 1861, for three months. Was mustered at Mattoon, Illinois into Co I, Seventh Ill, afterwards 21st, Ill. We held an election at which S. S. Goode was elected Colonel. We were mustered by Captain U. S. Grant, who held our first dress parade. We changed the name of our camp from Camp Cunningham to Camp Grant in honor of the distinguished man who mustered us, it being the first camp named after him.
There seemed to be a mutual attachment between the regiment and Grant. He complimented us on being the finest body of men he had seen and said he would be proud to command such a regiment of nearly all young men from 18 to 25 years of age. The regiment liked Grant. He was a common appearing man who seemed to know what he was about; and when compared with the pomposity of Colonel Goode, our preference was largely in favor of Grant.
Then commenced what was known as the Mattoon War. Chickens began to disappear, and in a short time there wasn’t a rooster to crow in five miles of Camp Grant. Milk and butter grew scarce and dear. The cows all came to camp to get milked, and the women of that region set us down as the biggest lot of thieves that was ever got together and vowed if we couldn’t whip the Rebels we could soon steal out the Southern Confederacy. But for all that I believe they liked us pretty well for they brought us cakes and pies and eatables.
After all, I believe that was the best part of our drill. It gave us confidence in ourselves. We learned that wherever chickens grew and cows gave milk that we could get along somehow. Here my company got the name of the Wabash Riff Raff, which I suppose meant we were rough customers. The name stuck to us as long as the war lasted, but time passed and we were ordered to Springfield and was there when Lincoln made call for three years. Then we were given the opportunity to reenlist but were rather slow to do so.
When Governor Yates and Uncle Jessie Dubois, with whom we were well-acquainted, asked us the reason we told the governor to give us a Colonel we could depend on and we would. He told us to select our man and he would appoint him. We held elections in the company, and nine of the ten were unanimous in favor of Grant. The regiment then reenlisted for three years. There never was any meeting as has been reported. The boys were a little wild and did not like Goode, and Grant was appointed at the request of the regiment. I was orderly at headquarters when Goode received notice of his removal. He stormed and raved like a mad man. Swore he would take a musket and follow his regiment and see that his boys were not imposed on. But he thought better of it after he became cool.
I met him(Goode) after Grant had reached the position of Commander-in-Chief. With his usual bluster, he said if it had not been for Captain Peck of my company he would have then be filling Grant’s position. Shortly after reenlisting, we were paid off. Eleven dollars a month.
Soon after, Grant arrived and took command of the regiment. In a few days we were ordered to Quincy. Grant made a requisition for wagons, although he could have got cars easier and cheaper, and we started to march through distance 160 miles. We marched to the Illinois River, when we were ordered to take the cars; and the same night we camped on Missouri soil. The next day we went by rail to Palmyra, Missouri, where we found the 14th, 16th and 19th Illinois regiments. The next morning Grant arrived, having left us at Quincy, with orders to take command of all the troops in that district. It raised a terrible howl. Colonels Smith, Palmer and Turchin all claimed to be Grant’s seniors, but after threatening to arrest the fiery Turchin if it took his whole regiment to do it. Turchin’s regiment were nearly all of stealing chickens. They found he was not to be fooled with and obeyed. Here Grant showed some of nerve and strength of will which distinguished him afterwards.
But there was one man Grant could not master. We called him Mexico. That man would have whiskey. Grant would tie him to a tree every night and keep a guard over him in daytime. On a march Grant would make him carry two guns with a guard over him, but he would get whiskey somehow, and when he came in to camp one night with both gun barrels full he gave it up as a bad job. One day his gun went off, accidentally, he claimed; and the bullet whistled close to Grant’s ear. He arrested him for it, but as we had no military prisons then he gave him a furlough, promising to renew it when it expired. That was the last of Mexico. Grant kept his furlough renewed.
A short time afterward, Company I had a skirmish at High Hill station on the north Missouri railroad. We killed one man and two horses and would have captured the whole lot, but they run so fast we couldn’t catch them. We captured some chickens and some fine hams and confiscated some Irish whiskey. We had no one hurt on our side, but I wrote home and called it a battle. After that I was in a detail to patrol the north Missouri and Hannibal & St. Joe Railroads, which we did for a month and had a rattling good time.
My company and Company F was sent to Troy, some distance from the railroad. We found a camp of 7 or 800 they said 1500 Rebels. We threatened to burn the town if molested. Stayed all night and returned next day without a skirmish as we had orders not to bring on a fight; but we thought we could lick them if they would only come out and fight us.
Along about the first of September we were ordered to Ironton, Missouri, where we lost our colonel. Shortly after, Grant got his commission as Brigadier General. As he was walking from his boarding house to his office in the courthouse a billy goat, which the boys had named Jeff Davis and who was of a belligerent disposition, spied the general, who was walking with his head down probably planning out some future campaign. After watching for a favorable opportunity, Jeff finally made an attack in the rear with such impetuosity that the general immediately took a position on his hands and knees. They boys yelled, and Jeff, thinking he had vanquished one enemy, turned his attention to the boys. Grant rose to his feet and, shaking his fist first at Jeff and then at the boys, went on his way amid shouts and roars of laughter. Grant probably thought of that goat when he dictated terms of surrender to General Buckner, Commander at Fort Donaldson.
After the usual amount of scouting, drilling, picketing and so forth, we learned that General Jeff Thompson and Colonel Lowe had concentrated quite a force at Fredericktown, and my regiment and the 1st Indiana Cavalry were sent to see about it. The next day news came back that they had had a fight and one company of 21st was all cut to pieces and the Eighth Wisconsin with their Eagle and the 38th Illinois were sent to reenforce them. I was then on duty guarding Rebel prisoners, but being spoiling for a fight I deserted and went with them. We found them in camp as unconcerned as if nothing had happened. Finding the enemy too strong, they had not attacked them, but fell back towards Ironton. The next day we returned to camp, and after a day or two of preparation, they saw that I was spoiling for a fight and made me go along.
We started one evening, marched all night, and just at day light reached Fredericktown and made a dash but found no enemy. The citizens had most of them left too, but those who were there said the Rebels had gone towards Greenville. The sun coming up warm and pleasant, we lay down on sidewalks on the sunny side of the houses and were soon nearly all asleep. After a while, a force from Cape Girardeau came marching into town with bands playing and wakened us up with their racket. They passed through town, and in a short time we heard a cannon. Our major said the Cape Girardeau boys were going into camp. Just then another and another followed by muskets. “A fight”, yelled the boys. “Fall in,” shouted the major, and in a minute’s time we were on the double quick for the battlefield, followed by the other regiments, who being scattered more than we, took longer to get into line. We were soon overtaken by our colonel, who, spurring his horse and waving his sword, shouted, “On my brave boys. We’ve got to have a hand in this game.”
We met a staff officer who ordered us into a field to the left. The boys began climbing the fence. The colonel says, “Pull down the fence boys, I am going with you.” This became a byword in the regiment. We wheeled into line and in a few minutes were charging across a cornfield completely routing the enemy, killing Colonel Lowe and three hundred Rebels, with loss of 17 on our side. Among them was the lamented Major Garett of the 1st Ind Cavalry. The Rebel force amounted to about 7000, ours to about 10,000, of which only about half were engaged.
To show how the Rebels respected their oaths, there was an old man, a prisoner. He pretended to be sick and was finally discharged upon his taking the oath (not to fight in the war again). We called him Beauregard. Well, some of the boys found him on the field and sent for me to see if it really was old Beauregard. I went, and sure enough, there he lay with a ball through his head. He had taken an oath at last that he never would break. That was the first fight I was in, and it made me sick to go over the field and see the dead and wounded. I never hankered for a fight after that; and although I have been in many a battlefield since where the dead were counted by the thousand instead of hundreds, I never was affected in like manner.
After the fight, we went back to Ironton, and the 21st and 1st Indiana Cavalry were sent to find out what had become of the Rebels. We followed them to Indian Ford on the St. Francis River. Not finding them, we returned to Ironton. While on this march away down in the St. Francis bottoms, we halted close to a log shanty. Some of the boys went to it and found a woman and two small children who were almost starved, having nothing to eat but parched corn and roasted acorns, and not clothing enough to hide their nakedness, no floor, no bed, but leaves and some old rags. The boys divided their rations, gave her coffee, sugar, meat and bread. They even divided their clothing with her, gave her shoes, blankets, shirts, and everything that would be of benefit to her. Finally one of the boys proposed taking up a collection, which he did, and in few minutes raised $3.00 dollars, which he gave to her. We then went on. About a mile from there we came to a large plantation. Colonel stopped, went to the owner and asked if he did not know that a woman and her children were starving under his very eyes. He knew nothing about it. The colonel told him if she was not well provided for when we came back he would turn the boys loose and they wouldn’t leave very much behind them. He took the colonel at his word, and when we came back we found her well-provided for, but she was to wealthy to leave there. We put her in a wagon and took her to Ironton, where we got her a house; and when we left there she was well-fixed.
When we reached Indian Ford we camped till morning. In the morning we were ready to cross, but the water was cold and the officers dreaded the undertaking. Henry Ross, a big Irishman, agreed to carry them over for a quarter apiece. He carried a number of them over until he attempted to carry Lieutenant Easly of Co. G, who he did not like very well. When about in the middle of the river, he fell and pulled the lieutenant clear under. He didn’t charge him anything. When the officers had all got over, we got orders to go back, and they had to wade back. Oh, but it was fun for the boys.
When we got back to Ironton we built houses and went into winter quarters. I was restored to my old position in the provost guards. It was while there that I met with quite a mishap, which I never got over. While in the house we got up some private performances for the fun of it to pass the time away; and I let them put my name on the bills as “Brudder Bones”, which name stayed with me as long as I was in the service. They left off the “Brudder” after while and called me “Bones.” I never liked the name. One time on picket, the officer of the guard, who was not acquainted with me, came around enquiring for Sergeant Bones. Sometimes the boys would say to me, “Bones, ain’t you dry?” To which I would reply in the affirmative. They got to saying Bones was always dry and got to calling me Dry Bones. The name never done me any good, but once. One day on a march I stopped at a house. The lady was very clever and gave me a chicken. I stopped to have some sweet potatoes to eat with my chicken, when along comes some of the thieving provost guards. They arrested me and confiscated my property and marched me under guard all day. When they sent me under guard to the colonel, they wanted my name but I wouldn’t tell it. But one of the boys came along and says, “Hello, Bones, they have got you have they?” I answered, “Yes.” So they sent me up with charges under the name of Bones. I got away from the guard, but the fool went on with the charges. Now there was a man by the name of Bone in Co. 8. The colonel sent for him and put him on extra duty. When he got off, he came around hunting that fellow they call Bones, but I wasn’t around just then.
Things went on very nicely after we got in our winter quarters till the regiment was ordered to Greenville. They left a while before Christmas. The good folks at home got to thinking of the boys down in Dixie and they sent pickles, preserves, honey, eggs, hams, butter, besides socks, mittens, under clothes and lots of good things. There being but few of us left, we had hard work to get away with all of it. We done the best we could, and there was not much spoiled.
About Christmas we got orders to join our regiment at Greenville. We had become attached to the place by that time and also to some of the young ladies who lived there and hated to leave, but orders had to be obeyed so we began to get ready. We concluded we would have a ball before we left so we fixed up a hall, sent out invitations, and had a supper prepared. The provost marshal furnished us an ambulance to bring in the ladies. He also gave us six kegs of beer, telling us not to make hogs of ourselves. There were 18 couples and two fiddlers. I will not tell on the girls, I don’t think it would be right, but the six kegs of beer gave out before morning. We sent the ladies home about four o-clock in the morning and we turned in. The night was cold, but Wes Stevenson undressed and lay down on the floor by the side of his bunk and there we found him next morning. He was probably a little muddled.
But good times always come to an end in the army, and a day or two after, we started to join the regiment through snow and mud and rain, wading creeks, wet to the skin all day, trying to dry ourselves at night. We thought it pretty hard, after having a good warm room to stay in and light duty to perform, but we stood it and in four days reached the regiment at Greenville where we stayed the rest of the winter. In the spring we went to Black River where we were joined by the rest of the brigade under General Carlin. General Fred Steele also arrived and took command of the entire force. When my regiment went to Black River, we camped on the north side of the river. When the other regiment came up, they laid a pontoon and crossed over and camped on the other side.
The 1st Indiana Cavalry and our regiment were great friends and had been together on many a hard march and together had scouted that whole country. They had remained at Greenville. When we heard they were coming, we went to work and cleared off a camp for them just across the road from us. It was dark when they arrived, and the regiment was in line to receive them with pine knot torches to light the way.
They marched past till they reached the head of the regiment when they wheeled into line facing us, when we gave them three cheers which they returned with interest when their battery fired a salute and some of the boys fired their guns and the Cavalry their carbines. The troops across the river thought we were attacked and stood to arms nearly all night. They never came over to help us though.
We went from there to Doniphan, Missouri. While there some of our officers had the pleasure of restoring Colonel Lowe’s sword and watch to his widow. Colonel Lowe was a Rebel officer killed at Fredericktown. While laying at this place, the Rebels came one night and fired into our camp from across the river. My company was ordered down to the edge of the water and fired at the flash of their guns for that was all we could see. One of our boys, he had been a clerk in the commissary, said his gun would not fire. The next morning when he drew the loads there were three of them. He found he had put the cartridge in ball first and powder on top. The boys said Bill was trying to commit suicide. He did not hear the last of that.
Soon we left there and started through Arkansas. It was like all others, hard marches, only worse. We had to wade cypress swamp and drag horses, guns, caissons, mules and wagons through the mud, but you never knew bad roads to stop soldiers. If 25 men could not drag a gun, 50 could, or if 50 couldn’t, 100 would. They had to go through. Thus we went until we reached Jacksonport on White River. We were there but a few days when the 21st and 38th Illinois were ordered back to Cape Girardeau over the route we had come, taking the train with us as far as Greenville. It was 230 miles, and taking one day to ferry Black River and laying by one day at Greenville, we made the march in ten days, which I think was pretty good marching.
We took the boat at the cape and went to Ham(?)- Landing on the Tennessee River soon after the Battle of Shiloh, were at the investment of Corinth, took part in the seige after the evacuation. We marched some, drilled a good deal, changed camp every week or so until we were ordered to join Buel on his march back to Louisville. We made a forced march to Nashville, when we joined Buel’s retreating army and started for Louisville, marching day and night, sometimes with half the men asleep still marching.
Why that march was ever made I have never been able to find out. We would march day and night till it seemed the men could go no further, then go into camp, stay a day or two, when it would be the same thing over again. The boys said we stopped to let Bragg catch up. We beat him into Louisville though, which we found in a state of excitement. Nearly all the able-bodied men enrolled in the home guard. We were a ragged, dirty looking set, but they seemed glad to see us all the same, and they could not do too much for us and appeared to have more confidence in us than in the new regiments which had been ordered there. We did not get to stay very long. I wrote a letter home and my father and some of the old men came to see their boys, but we left the day before they got there and they did not get to see us. While there, General Jeff C. Davis, who commanded our division, shot and killed General Nelson.
We left without getting any clothing, but they put some new regiments in our brigade. They had their knapsacks full and in a few days we were as well-dressed as they were and without drawing on the quartermaster. It was a wonder to the boys of the new regiments how we got them.
We had a man in our regiment who was a living skeleton. The boys called him Friday. His face was as sharp as a hatchet, and he was as contrary as he was thin; but he was like a greyhound. He never got tired. He could march longer and carry a bigger load than any man in the division. His marching load was from 100 to 150 pounds. The boys, none of them liked him, but we didn’t know how to get rid of him. The captain said he would split ammo balls and he never would get killed. At Bardstown, Kentucky, an orderly came with orders to send the sick and those unable to march back to Louisville. The captain says, “By God, now is the chance to get rid of Friday.” He sent for him and told him to be ready to go back with the ambulance train. Friday begged and swore he could march further than the captain any day, said he was not sick and finally refused to go. The captain said he was sick and swore he had been dead for six months but was too contrary to stop breathing. The ambulance came up. Captain told him to get in. He wouldn’t do it, and the captain took him by the shoulders and shoved him along and pushed him in, and the orderly sergeant threw in his traps and that was the last we seen of Friday.
A few days after leaving Bardstown, we encountered the enemy near Perryville, Kentucky. Water was scarce and the Rebels had possession of the creek and would not even let us go there for a drink. General McCook was sent forward to open a passway to the creek, but the Rebels objected so strongly that it caused quite a racket in that vicinity.
While the fight was going on, many citizens carried water to the men who were fighting and, taking their canteens, would go and fill them and take them to them, and the women there opened their houses for hospitals and brought linen sheets, blankets, pillows and everything they had for the use of the wounded. During the fight we lay on a ridge in the rear of the battlefield where we could see all that was going on in front, but the history of the Battle of Perryville is too well-known for me to attempt a description of it. McCook was hard-pressed all day, constantly begging for reenforcements and getting none; although the whole army was in supporting distance. Along towards evening the enemy sent a force to turn McCook right. This seemed to be our chance to go in, which we did with a will, driving them from the field, charging the celebrated Washington Battery, driving them two miles and through Perryville where our boys fought the Rebels at the wells for water. One of them that we called Herman, charging on a squad and captured a load of canteens already filled and bringing them in triumph to the company.
When we came to look around we found we had no support, orders having been sent while we were charging, to fall back, which we did not get. The second line fell back, leaving my regiment and the 15th Wisconsin a mile or more from any support. The Rebels concentrated the fire of three or four batteries on us, which made it pretty hot, but we found a convenient ditch which we crawled into, where we lay until after dark, when we made our way back, capturing an ordinance train on the way which had to lost in the darkness. We finally halted, stocked arms, and some of the boys started to find water. They found a spring with some men getting water. When asked what regiment they belonged to, they answered, “14th Alabama, What regiment do you belong to?” “21st Kentucky”, said the boys.
Very soon after, we started and went some distance and stayed till daylight, when we joined our division. The Rebels left during the night, leaving their dead and wounded in our hands. The next day I was detailed at the Rebel hospital and saw legs and arms amputated by the wagon load and piled up like cord wood. They kept bringing in the wounded and carrying out the dead all day and night, through a drenching rain. The next morning there were nearly 500 dead men laying in the yard around the house. Among them was one poor fellow who we could see still breathed but was insensible. There being no room in the house, they had laid him out there by the side of the walk. Toward evening we made a fire in a shed and tried to cook something as we had had nothing to eat. When this man got up and came to where we were, saying, “My God, men, would you let me die out in the rain?” and fell. Some of the boys caught him and laid him down and got some dry clothing and blankets and fixed him as comfortable as we could, but he never spoke again and died soon after.
There was another man who had his under jaw and tongue shot off. He kept walking around until he got too weak to walk, when he lay down and slowly bled to death. All of those things made me sick of war. I thought I would give anything rather than see another such a sight.
We soon started in pursuit of the Rebels, who were destroying everything in their march. We followed them as far as crab orchard when we turned our course toward Nashville. It rained, and the roads got very bad and muddy; and at Rolling Fork there fell four or five inches of snow. We had turned over our tents when we left Missouri and had no shelter. The snow and slush were half knee-deep; and they would only let us have the top rail to make fires. But we roughed it through and finally got to Nashville.
Here happened one of those incidents of a soldier’s life, which one always looked forward to with interest. The volunteer soldier is an ambitions fellow and looks forward to promotion as a reward for his services. There was to be a grand show up in our company. Our first duty sergeant had been elected 1st lieutenant. The orderly sergeant was appointed regiment commissary sergeant, making a new lieutenant, new orderly sergeant, two new duty sergeants, three new corporals. Lightning was going to strike and who would be hit. Of course it was the corporals. The rest would be by promotion. In the evening, the new orderly came around with the details. He came to the new sergeants, notified them that they were on guard that night, came to me, saying, “Broughton, you are corporal of the guard tonight.” Great Caesar! I was struck without a moment’s warning, jumped from high private to sixth corporal at one jump. I felt almost as important as old Ross at guard mounting. I was in my place. There was Howe with the captain’s sword and sash. There was the new sergeants and the three new corporals. I took charge of the first relief. My bosom swelled with pride, straining the buttons on my blouse, as I gave my first command, “Guards right face, support arms, forward march,” and proceeded to pass the guards. There were 16 of them. I got around all right and came back feeling prouder than a general who defeated the enemy and gained a great victory here.
I should like to draw a veil over the scene but truth compels me to go on. I hardly got around when “Corporal of the guard number eight” fell on my ears. For the next two hours I was on the run. Sixteen guns were leveled at me. Sixteen hammers clicked. Sixteen bayonets touched my breast. Sixteen guns I held for their owners. And all the time, “Corporal of the Guard” was sounding in my ears. Such is greatness. I went to my bed that night a sadder, if not a wiser, man. The next day, after I was relieved, I went to the captain and tendered my resignation. The captain asked if it was in writing. I told him no. He said he could receive it only in writing. I set down and wrote “Captain O. K. Knight Sir I hereby tender my resignation as Sixth Corporal Co. I 21st Regiment Illinois Vol.” He then told me that it was out of his power to grant my request, that the only way was to prefer charges, have me reduced and have it read on dress parade before the whole regiment. Meanwhile, he would keep the resignation to show to the boys. That was worse than ever. I had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire sure enough.
A short time after, we were started out to catch John Morgan. The regiment divided into two battalions and took separate routes. We jumped him up and chased him two days, thinking when his horses gave out we would get him sure. We intended to cut him when we did get him, but he got in our rear and we found he was chasing us. We turned and chased him the other way, and when we had almost got him, he jumped into two new regiments who were guarding a crossing on the Cumberland River and scattered them in every direction. We heard the firing and went as fast as we could, but before we got there he destroyed their camp and skedaddled. We returned to Nashville in disgust.
When we got into camp I was appointed wood and water corporal and was at once a bigger man than the captain. I could pass out as many of the boys as I pleased while the captain couldn’t even get out himself. I had my revenge by passing out half the boys at once and was in high favor with them.
Then commenced the worst winter we had in the service. It rained and snowed and we had no shelter and had to depend on big fires to keep us from freezing. The smoke from so many fires nearly put our eyes out so that it was a relief to go on picket. A few days before Christmas we drew clothing, blankets and dog tents, which we kept about a week and then turned over to the Rebels.
A few days after, we were ordered to move, and our division fought the Battle of Knob Gap. See in the National Tribune. Several communications claiming for this regiment and that one the honor of capturing the Battery at that place. Now any regiment didn’t capture it, I know. They didn’t stop chasing the Johnies long enough, leaving it for those in the rear to capture the guns, which is not very hard to do after the enemy are drove away from them. This, I know, for my regiment was in the front line when the charge was made, and I passed within ten feet of one of the guns. We followed the enemy to Stone River, where we opened the fight on the 29th of December by attacking their lines. Here, the regiment suffered the greatest loss that we sustained during the war. After driving back their skirmishers, we came to an open space when a battery opened on us at about two hundred yards’ distance. There was a fence to cross and two lines of infantry supporting it, but we thought there was but one. The colonel pointed with his sword, saying, “Men, we must have those guns. Charge.” We charged, but a line of infantry laying behind the fence poured a volley into our ranks. A line laying down on the side of the hill above them fired their volleys into us while two batteries poured forth grape and canister. In two, minutes half of our regiment were killed and wounded, and we had been compelled to fall back to the edge of the clearing where we held our position till the next morning.
After dark, we brought our dead and wounded back. We had lost our colonel, lieutenant colonel, captain and both lieutenants; wounded 35 men out of 70 in my company, of whom 13 were killed dead. The rest of the regiments suffered about the same. The wounded, we sent to the hospital. The dead, we laid side by side in the rear of our line.
At daybreak we were relieved by the second line and fell back to their position. We hardly got there when the Rebels attacked our first line, which gave way and in a few minutes came swarming back in disorder. Some of them rallied on us but the most of them kept on. The Rebels came right at their heels, but we, together with the 15th Missouri, as brave a regiment as was ever mustered, and the few from the 101st Ohio, who had rallied, checked them for some time; but the troops on our right gave way and we were compelled to fall back but we took the guns of our battery with us, the horses having most of them been shot down. We formed several times, checking them each time until we were relieved by Rousseau Division. The enemy was by this time in the shape of a horse shoe. During the rest of the Battle, which lasted four days, we were not very heavily engaged. When the Rebels retreated we went and buried our brave comrades who we found stripped of their clothing by the Rebels.
After that, it always seemed that we had something to fight for when we thought of the boys who had given their lives for their country at Rebel hands.
Up to this point I had kept a diary, but we had orders to pile knapsacks and I lost it. Some Rebels probably have the pleasure of hearing my sentiments concerning them. I don’t suppose it done them much good, but I hated to lose it.
The morning after the battle I wrote a letter home. As soon as it arrived, the postmaster opened it, and before my father got it, it published in the paper.
We went into camp at Murfreesboro, and all through the winter we took the rain and snow and mud. We had but one tent in the company. Half the men had no blankets, and we had to depend on fires to keep us from freezing. It was a wonder we did not all die. We went on several scouts during the winter, once to Franklin, Tennessee, and stayed there two weeks. When we started back the snow was six inches deep. It turned warm and commenced thawing. I had a pair of sewed shoes and the soles came off. I tied them on with strings the first day, but the strings gave out and I let them go. We had two miles of swamp to go through. It had been piked and not wore down very much. The stones were sharp and the water was knee deep on the ice on each side of the road. My feet were cut to pieces and so sore for a month that I could not wear a shoe.
Just before we got to Murfreesboro, the boys commenced tearing off the legs of their pants above the knees, threw away their old ragged blouses, tore off their shirt sleeves, threw away their old hats, kicked off their old shoes, and went through town the raggedest set of men that was ever seen, I expect. We did not get anything for two weeks. We stayed at Murfreesboro until about the 2nd of June. When we were ordered to move, we started south and soon found the enemy. Our division fought them for two days at Liberty Gap. When they retreated, we followed, driving them from Hoovers Gap. When they evacuated (at) Tullahoma, we followed to the Cumberland Mountains, where we stayed for a while. I think that it rained every day on this company, and the roads and marching were fearful.
We finally crossed the mountains to Stevenson, Alabama, and soon after crossed the Tennessee River at Capertons Ferry; crossed Raccoon Range and Lookout Mountain and went toward Rome, Georgia, intending to cut off the retreat of the Rebels, who had hastily evacuated Chattanooga. We had got pretty well down towards Rome when we were ordered to fall back across the mountain and join the rest of the army as Longstreet was joining his forces with Johnson to give us a drubbing. We made all haste to get back, marched along the crest of the mountain until we thought we could form a junction with the rest of the forces. We had just got down the mountain when our advance was attacked by the cavalry and fought them continually all day, but it didn’t seem to check us very much.
We made pretty good time the next day. We fought them by brigades, all the time moving to their left, to close up on the main army. About ten o’clock we made connection with the rest of the troops, but before we had time to form our line, we were attacked. I was wounded in the commencement of the fight, and as we had to fall back, I was sent to the hospital. In the evening I got away and went to the regiment which had went to General Rosencrans’ headquarters. I found that eight men had been killed in the company and three wounded, making eleven out of thirty-five, leaving 25 men.
After I had come up the next morning, we joined the brigade and went to take position on the line. Being somewhat sore and weak, the captain told me not to march in ranks. So when they formed on the line, I was in the rear. The regiment took position along a fence. The pickets said there was no Rebels in front, but the skirmish line had hardly been sent forward when the Rebels came charging in our front, four lines deep. We were on the extreme right and only one line without any support. We checked them in our front, but they came around our right and in the rear. The colonel was close to me when he gave the order to fall back. He was shot and killed instantly. Very few heard the order, and the most of the regiment was captured. I got away, although some of the Rebels were within a hundred feet yelling, “Surrender, halt, you damn Yankee.”
That only made me run the faster. I did not know I could run so. I went back until I met Sheridan’s division when I stopped, thinking they would check the Rebels; but they fared no better that we and in a few minutes they were in full retreat. I went back to Rosencrans’ headquarters and had just got there when the cavalry made a dash, but we drove them back and started the train back towards Rossville. The cavalry made several dashes, but we refused them and got the train to Rossville. There I found our colors and sixty men commanded by my captain all that was left of the regiment. Fifteen of my company had been captured, leaving ten of the fifteen. Only six ever got back, and three of them made their escape about the middle of the afternoon.
General Davis, having gathered together enough men to make a couple of regiments, marched us back to the battlefield. We marched past him as he sat on his horse. Captain Hotchkis, who commanded our battery and whose guns we had saved, said, with tears in his eyes, “General, that is all that’s left of the 21st.” The general says, “It will make a damned good company yet.” We marched until we got on a ridge in the rear of the lines when we saw quite a force of Rebels coming in the rear. We lay down and waited until they got close enough, when we gave them a rally and charged, capturing over a thousand. That night the army fell back to Rossville.
There has been a great deal said and wrote about the Battle of Chickamonga and about General Thomas saving the army. Now I don’t think Thomas done any harder fighting than the rest of (us). In fact, his men did not suffer the loss that we did. In fact, his position had to be held and had all the troops to do it with. The third and largest division, Johnson’s, and a brigade each from Davis and Sheridan’s divisions were sent to Thomas from our corps, leaving us only four brigades to hold a line nearly as long as Thomases; and I have heard it was the same with Crittenden’s corps. Anyhow, the troops sent from our corps did not suffer half the loss that we did. That the right wing were defeated, I will admit, but Thomas had no need to fall back; and I believe could have whipped them right there without falling back to Chattanooga. At any rate, we lay there all day the day after the fight and was not molested and the next night fell back to Chattanooga at our leisure.
After we got back to Chattanooga, the army was reorganized and we were put in the fourth corps, my regiment being nothing but a remnant, and, having no regimental officers, was detailed in squads here and there, front being General Stanley’s provost guards. General Steadman also took his provost guards. My company were with the ordinance. We stayed a while at Chattanooga, when our division was sent back to keep the cracker line open.
We went back to Bridgeport. About this time Grant came and took command. We stayed there until John Hooker came from the east and Sherman from the west to help us out. We went with Hooker to Lookout; and there I was where the shot and shell were thickest, with the ammunition wagons. The Battle of Lookout Mountain was but a good-sized skirmish, there being but a skirmish line of the rebels.
We next went to Mission Ridge, which was pretty lively while it lasted. We did not stay at Chattanooga but a short time until we were sent to Blue Springs. We stayed there a while when we were relieved and joined the regiment at Ooltewah, Tennessee, and was sent to guard McDonald’s Gap. Here we reenlisted as veterans, elected officers. I was elected first duty sergeant.
While here I came very near being captured. The valley outside of the Gap was patrolled by both sides, but we had orders not to interfere with one another. There were some girls lived outside the lines who brought cakes and pies and other things into camp. On fellow, by the name of Buckannon, got at me to go out home with the girls. We started, slipped the pickets and went with them. It was a good deal further than I thought and I was scared before we got there; but the girls said there was no danger.
When we got there they told their brother, a little fellow, to watch the road for Rebels. Pretty soon he came running in saying, “The Rebs is coming, the Rebs is coming.” We did not know what to do. The girls told us to climb up in the loft, which was laid with loose clapboards. We scooted up in no time, but I could not believe but what the girls had sold us. The rebels came up, about a dozen of them. The girls met them at the door. They asked if there had been any Yanks there that day. They told them there had been two, but they had gone. They asked which way. They said, “Back towards their camp.” “How long?” “About half an hour,” said the girls.
One of them said, “By God, let’s catch them fellows.” They jumped on their horses and away they went; and down we came. One of the girls said I was too white to live long, but they went with us and showed us a road that ran along the foot of the mountain which had not been traveled for a long time and which they said would lead us back to camp. We got back safe but I never wanted to go to Pike’s Peak again.
We stayed there until about the middle of March, when we started to go home on our furloughs. Went by rail to Nashville, then took the boat for St. Louis, where we were treated like princes. They gave us all we could eat and drink; and the best, at that. But in our own State they noticed us about as much as if we were dogs. We never had a free dinner tendered us in the State, only at our own county. They tried to put us in the old lousy, dirty barrack at Camp Butler till our papers were made, after getting our new clothes to go home in.
I got home at last, having been gone three years lacking one month. So ends my first three years’ service. We enjoyed our thirty days’ furlough and went back to the front by the way of Indianapolis and Louisville. We joined the army at Kingston, took part in all of the rest of the campaigns, ending in the capture of Atlanta.
In the final move in which Sherman flanked Atlanta I was on the picket line on the extreme left of the lines. The officer of the day came around in the evening and said the army were all moving to the right and that we were to bring up the rear, cautioning us to be quiet and for every man to be at his post. He said we would not move until after dark. After giving us our instructions, he went away, saying he would be back before we started. After dark he came back but the officer of guard could not be found. He then asked for the sergeants but the other sergeant had gone with the captain. He then gave me the instructions and went away, promising to send an officer to take command. When the signal was given, we started following the skirmish line. It seemed the Rebels found out something was going on for they opened a heavy fire on us and we were under a constant fire. Two of the men were severely wounded and we had to carry them on litters as they had not (provided) us even a stretcher. I sent a man ahead for an ambulance, but he did not come back. As we were stopping every few minutes, I finally sent eight men to carry them forward until they found an ambulance, which they did, and returned, which was more than I expected. The Rebels would holler at Yanks, “Where are you going?”
Some of the boys would answer, “Going home to ?ate.”
We kept this up all night and it seemed a terrible long night. At daylight the Rebels left their works and started toward us, but as we were in our own works we didn’t propose to run; although they had about five to our one. When they saw we was not scared, they halted and we kept up fire on them at long range. In a short time the officer of the day came to us and told us (to) leave the works and if they followed us to keep them back as well as we could. As soon as we left the works, the Rebels followed us. When they reached our works, how they did yell. We turned on them a(nd) fired a rally or two at them when they started for us again. We came to an open field when we gave them another round and started on the double quick across the open space. Here they slightly wounded two more of the boys.
When (we) reached the woods we formed and kept them back. They kept coming until we thought, we have to git. When a brigade of our troops came up (we) gave them a drubbing and drove them back into their works. We were then relieved and went to our regiments; but I tell you, the boys were plucky and good fellows, all of them.
We went on around Atlanta until we struck the railroad at Rough and Ready Station south of Atlanta. The Rebels thought we had raised the siege and left, and had telegraphed the news all over the South. A train load of the aristocrats had come to Atlanta to have a jollification, the most of them were ladies. When they got to Atlanta they found out their mistake and tried to get back before we got possession of the railroad. But they were too late. We tore up the track in front, and when they saw that, they started back but found we had them in a trap.
Now if we didn’t get a blessing from those ladies. They called themselves ladies but they swore harder than gunboat marines and called us more bad names than you could find in the bible. They call us Lincoln traveling abolition cutthroats and everything bad they could twist their tongues around. If we had been one twentieth part as bad as they tried to make us I don’t know what would have become of them, but we sent them back to Atlanta without harming a hair of their heads. Sweet critters.
After we got possession of the railroad, the 4th Corps set to work to tear up the road. We would string out along the road for a quarter of a mile and commence turning, and over it would go like breaking sod. After we turned it over we would pile the ties and set them afire and lay the rails on them. When the rails got hot they would give them a twist so they could not be used again, wrap them around the trees, what the boys called making neck ties. That evening we fought the Battle of Jonesboro. That night the Rebels blew up their ammunition, the report of which was heard and felt plainly at Jonesboro a distance of twenty miles. We followed the Rebs to Lovejoy and then went back to Atlanta.
Here Sherman gave us a rest, after publishing orders for all the citizens to leave, giving them their choice north or south and furnishing transportation to the Rebel lines or to the Ohio River.
Co. G had a man we all called Sugar Sticks. As mean and sneaking as anybody could be, he stole a citizen’s clothes, his transportation papers, his wife and two children, and started with them to God’s country; but when he got (to) Chattanooga they knew him, (everybody knew Sugar Sticks) and arrested him; and he was sent to military prison.
While here, Sherman and Hood exchanged 2000 prisoners, and two boys from my company who had been captured at Chickamonga, smuggled themselves in. Was sent to our lines. They had (been) prisoners a year. Steel had on the same clothes he had on when captured. Only he had taken his blouse to patch his shirt and pants. Hat and shoes, he had none. Payne had got hold of a couple of meal sacks. He cut the bottoms off, put sleeves in one and called it a shirt. Sewed the other part way up, then cut it a part of the way and called it pants. He looked comical, but he said he was the best dressed man in Andersonville. They were both nearly dead with the scurvy and starvation. We fed them very careful at first. They stayed with us a month though their time had been out for some time.
Hood tried on the flanking game, which had beat the Rebels so often during the summer; and getting in our rear he tore up the railroad and attacked Altoona, where General Corse with about 3000 men were stationed. Hood attacked with about 20,000 but our boys kept them back.
In the meantime, we had crossed the Chatahoochee River and got back as far as Big Shanty when we heard the firing at Altoona, some 18 miles. We started. Stopped on Pine Mountain for dinner where Sherman sent his famous dispatch, “Hold the fort, for I am coming.” We had stopped close to the signal station and as I was always curious to know what was going on, I and one of the boys went up to hear what was going on. The general and his staff was there. Soon after, they got a signal from Rome. The signal officer reported Rome all O.K.; and in no time the orderlies were galloping to the different commands with orders to move immediately.
When we got back we found our guns and traps laying on the ground, and it took a good hour to catch up with the company. We kept on until we reached Altoona, the Rebels leaving before we got there. They had had a desperate fight, killing and wounding nearly half of Corse’s men, but they stood their ground and held the fort. We then started for Rome, which was the next place threatened, but they did not attack there but kept on to Resaca. We heard the firing in the night, got up and started, knowing that there was only a small force there. They had drove the boys into the fort and were plugging away at them from every side. They left as we came in sight, going north through Snake Creek Gap, a long narrow crooked pass through the mountains.
Although we had marched hard all night, our corps, the 4th, were ordered to pile everything but our guns and cartridge boxes and take across over the mountains to head them off. I never saw such climbing done in my life. Sometimes a fellow would lose his hold and go tumbling, no telling how far; but we kept on and a little before night came to the mouth of the gap just as the Rebel rear guard were going through. We were then six or seven hundred feet above them. We fired at them and rolled big rocks down on them, but that just made them go the faster. Right at their heels came the 14th Corps, stripped to their shirts, giving them particular fits. If we could have got there an hour sooner we could have captured a lot of them.
We soon after went into camp for a few days, when the army divided, Sherman going back to Atlanta to start on the March to the Sea, while our corps, the 4th, was left to take care of Hood’s army. We went to Chattanooga where the troops took the cars from Nashville, all but my brigade, who were ordered through with the wagon train. We had over thirteen hundred wagons to guard, and it would take all day and until way in the night for them (to) pass. Before we got to Nashville we were ordered to turn south to Pulaska, Tennessee, as the Rebels were crossing the Tennessee River and we were likely to have company in a short time. They came along and we started a little in advance. We didn’t want them to go and persuaded them to stop a while at Columbia, but they were bound to go so they crossed the river and started, leaving us to follow, but we passed them while they were asleep and beat them to Franklin where we waited for them to come up.
About the middle of the afternoon they attacked us. About half of our force had crossed the river, leaving three divisions at Franklin. We were on the right, and after the second charge they moved and charged the center, making seven or eight charges and getting repulsed every time; and the ground in front of our works being covered with dead and wounded Rebels, many of them being killed on the works.
They charged through the first line at one time when General Stanley called for the second line of our brigade and, putting himself at their head, drove them back and retook the works, capturing quite a lot of prisoners. Stanley was severely wounded in the charge.
Here again, it was my fortune to be in a position to see the most of the fighting. After the second charge in our front, they left our part of the line and although they were charging not more than two hundred yards from us to the left, we were not molested and had a good view of the entire fight. After dark awhile they drew off and did not attack any more; and along towards midnight we crossed the river and started for Nashville, fifteen miles. We were rear guard and at daylight stopped at Brentwood for breakfast. The Rebels came up and fired on us. We went back and gave them a few rounds and then finished our breakfast at our leisure. When we had smoked our pipes and rested as long as we wanted to, we again started for Nashville, which we reached about noon.
My regiment was immediately sent back two miles on the Franklin Pike, where we threw up barricades. Soon the Rebels began to come in sight on the top of a hill about half mile from us. As each regiment gained the top of the hill they had a good view of the city. They would halt for a moment and cheer, then file to the right or left and go into position. By the next morning they had a line of works along the ridge nearly in speaking distance. They did not interrupt us until afternoon when we saw them come out of their works, form their line, start towards us. Every man of them looked seven foot high. I wanted to be somewhere else. I thought the colonel might tell us to go back, but he didn’t.
They threw forward their skirmish line and kept coming. It was an open field, and we had a good view of them as they came up. When they had got close enough to almost see the white of their eyes, the colonel says, “Get ready men” (I wanted him to say, “Run,” but he didn’t) and at the word “fire.” Soon the word came, “Front rank fire,” which we did. Immediately the Rebel skirmishers dropped to the ground and the whole Rebel line fired a volley. As soon as the smoke cleared away we saw them still advancing. We gave them another volley and were ordered to fall back slowly and in order, which we did. After going back some distance we met our troops coming from the works. They opened ranks and let us pass through. We went to the works while they went on, but the Rebels fell back to their works. When we got to the works we found there was no room for us and we were moved close to Nashville and had nothing to do for two weeks but draw rations and eat them.
On the morning of the fifteenth of December, we were ordered to strike tents. It was so foggy we could not see any distance. We moved to the right and front. Finally we halted and skirmishers were sent forward. Colonel Hallowell, of the 31st Indiana commanded the skirmishes, and we knew something was going to be done.
It was not long until the skirmishers were engaged and we knew we were not far from their works. In a short time, the fog lifted and we found ourselves in plain view of their works. As soon as they saw us they began to shell us. We were ordered forward a short distance where we were sheltered by the brow of a hill where we’re ordered to lay down. In the meantime, General Wood, commanding corps; General Kimball, division commander; and General Kirby, commanding brigade; had got together in the rear of our regiment. We were in the second line. We heard the order from Kirby to charge with his brigade. They gave a cheer, and before the orderlies had got started, the whole brigade had started. The generals went with (them), waving their swords. The regiment in our front wavered and then lay down. We passed over them, taking their place in the front line. Colonel Reavers’ were shot down till five had been shot, then Captain Tinder took them, only to be shot the next instant, when Colonel Jamison seized them and planted them on the Rebel works. It did not take as long to do this as it takes to write this.
We found the works very strong, being a fort on what was known as Montgomery Hill, with several rows of palisades, a wide ditch and the earth works about eight feet high. I have no idea how we got inside. We captured a number of prisoners and a six-gun battery, and turning right and left down the works, drove them pell mell from their works, giving the rest of the troops, who were charging to the right and left, quite an advantage. We drove them that day from the first line of works, but they had a second line which they fell back to. I was on picket that night and heard them forming their lines and making preparations all night. We knew we would have to attack them in their works the next day and knew that it would be a desperate battle.
Soon after daylight the army commenced moving into position and I was not sorry when I found that our brigade was in reserve. We took position on a hill where we could see the movements for miles. We saw the charge made by the colored troops under Steadman, in which they were repulsed with heavy loss after making a gallant fight. The 3rd brigade of our division also charged but had to fall back with heavy loss.
It commenced raining and rained nearly all day. About three o’clock, the orders were given to charge all along the line. I never saw a grander sight. Both ways to the right and left as far as we could see, the lines were advancing on the double quick. Here and there the line would seem to waver for a moment, then with a cheer they would rush forward again. Then the smoke hid them from our sight, but soon above the deafening roar of artillery and the terrific rattle of musketry we heard the shouts of victory. We hurried forward and took the advance after the flying foe. We captured 19,000 prisoners and sixty-three pieces of artillery and destroyed Hood’s army. We followed them until dark. In the darkness and the rain, the remnant of Hood’s army made their escape. The next morning we followed through the mud. The Rebels threw away their guns and encountrements, blankets and everything they had.
A Note about the author
Samuel C. Broughton was born March 19, 1841, in Noble County, Indiana, the son of Edwin and Laura (Hartwell) Broughton. He was a nephew of Noble County residents, William, Nathan, Orville and Samuel Broughton, Emeline Lobdell, Lucy and Cordelia Cramer, and Annue Baker.
Samuel married Martha Ellen Childress in Independence, Kansas, and they had four children, all born in Kansas: Carrie, James E., Samuel H., and Ethel B The family relocated from Kansas to the state of Washington.
He received a Civil War veteran’s pension of $17 per month and in 1913 because of poor health, relocated to the Washington Soldier’s Home in Pierce County, Washington. Samuel died in 1934 Orting, Washington.
Transcribed: Clara Whan, July 17, 1999
Source: Original journal in the possession of Melvin Hans Jangard of Tacoma, Washington, great grandson of Samuel C. Broughton