Back at Camp Starvation
Chapter 42 (November 28, 1863 – November 30, 1863)
Some of the boys when commanded to halt at the fence in coming from the hill, kept on going thru the open field and never did stop until they were safe behind the railroad in town. Later on we twitted them about it, when Elias Noll said that he would have gone farther if his wind had not given out. An Irishman of Company B, when teased about his running said, “be Jabers, I have made up my mind that if the Rebels ever shoot me they have got to do it at long range.”
This campaign, beginning at Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and ending at Ringgold, Ga., was a short but decisive one. We marched 22 miles and fought four battles in four days, with scarcely enough provisions to keep us alive. We suffered much from the cold, not having any shelter or cover of any kind during the nights spent in the rain and snow.
At Ringgold we had fresh beef issued to us, and the fat on it was mighty scarce. A number of us managed to snipe a good sized ham out of a nearby smoke house, which was fine eating and put us in fine trim to march back to our old camp.
Tuesday, November 29, early in the morning, we left Ringgold. A detail was made from the company, of which the writer was one, to remain until the troops had all crossed over a good sized wooden bridge, which spanned the creek near the town, and then to set fire to the bridge. This we did, and we often wondered that the citizens did not shoot us from the town while doing this work. On our way back to our old camp, we marched around what is called the Lookout Mountain road to Wauhatchie Valley. Here we met the boys of Company G who had been detailed to remain and guard the camp until our return, and we were glad to see each other again, marched 22 miles.
George Noaker, who was back in the hospital at Chattanooga, had gotten well enough to be about again and was selling papers in the town, when someone of the company met him and gave him the news of the campaign, also the death of the Captain and the wounding of Lieutenant Parks and Isaac Knapp. Listening until the story was completed, Noaker said, “Is dat so?” then called out “Here you are for the Chattanooga Gazette.”
Wednesday, November 30. This morning finds us back again in our old camp, Starvation, in Wauhatchie Valley. Things have changed wonderfully in six days. The Rebels had all been driven out of this part of the country, and none within 25 miles of us, and the Confederate flag supplanted by the old Star Spangled Banner, which now floated over Lookout Mountain’s lofty peak and which remained there until the close of the war.
The cracker line from Bridgeport, Alabama, 22 miles below Chattanooga, had now been opened. We were busy fixing up camp, and trying to get something to eat. Mails were received from home again, and how glad we were to hear from loved ones far away. Both armies had been back and forth thru this country for many months and everything in shape of food had been gathered so that nothing was left for man or beast. Only one small steamboat ran from Kelly’s Ferry, about two miles below our camp, to Bridgeport. This was not adequate to furnish rations for the soldiers and forage for the horses and mules. We never saw horses and mules in worse condition than they were in this camp. The matter of feeding this vast army, bivouacked in and around Chattanooga, was a great problem.
The armies of Sherman, Thomas, and Hooker were here concentrated, over 100,000 men. Company G never knew what it was to be hungry until we reached Camp Starvation. Guards were placed to prevent the boys from taking what little the mules were given. Mouldy crackers were thrown into their troughs, and the soldiers would pick out the little broken pieces that were not mouldy and eat them with relish, when the guards were not watching too closely.
After the death of Captain Davis and the wounding of Lieutenant Parks, Lieutenant William M. Willet, of Company B took charge of Company G. He was a good commander and a very genial fellow. The boys all liked him.