Carefully Passing Information
Chapter 35 (October 28, 1863 – October 31, 1863)
This scout, as he wished to be called and not a spy, as death is the penalty for a spy, said he had been suspected of being a spy, was arrested, but made his escape. He was captured the second time, was tried, found guilty and ordered to be shot. The night before the day set for the execution he got the sympathy of a German guard, who was placed over him. He told the guard that he was so nervous that he wished he had a bottle of whiskey to quiet his nerves. He also found that the German liked his tea pretty well so he gave him money and had him get the whiskey. The guard was asked to take the first drink while the spy pretended to drink but never tasted a drop. Soon the guard fell asleep and the spy escaped.
He said he knew the country well and struck out for a swamp which was close at hand, waded in about waist deep and found a tree which had blown over and on account of the limbs the trunk of the tree was only a few inches above water. Behind this was his hiding place. The tree was about midway in the swamp and between him and the Confederate camp, so he pulled a few brushes around his head and then laid down with only his head out of water. Blood hounds were put on his trail and they followed until they reached the water’s edge, then lost it. The Rebels were around the swamp all day but by evening gave up the chase, and some time during the night he quietly left his hiding place and made good his escape into our lines. He said that was the greatest trial of his life.
While we were hearing this man’s experience our picket (I think this was Jere App) yelled out “Halt!” The answer came quick: “For God’s sake don’t stop me, I have an important message for General Hooker.” This courier passed the reserve post, on thru camp and out at the other end of camp, saying the same thing to each guard. Who he was or where he came from no one ever knew. He rode a white horse and traveled as fast as anyone could travel in that dark night.
Thursday, October 29, early in the morning, we broke camp, marched to Wauhatchie Valley at the foot of Lookout Mountain, halted in the woods on the battlefield of the previous night, while the Rebels shelled us from the summit of the mountain. During the night of the 28th, Longstreet’s Corps descended the mountain and attacked the 2nd and 3rd brigades of Geary’s White Star division of the 12th corps about 11 o’clock. The fighting lasted about two hours and a half, when Longstreet retreated. taking his wounded with him, but leaving his dead on the field. This was a hard fought battle, but the victory was ours. Captain Geary, who commanded Knapp’s Battery, and was the son of General Geary, was killed in this engagement. Many men and horses were killed and my recollection is that the battery alone had thirty-two horses killed. We could see plainly the Rebel signal corps signaling from the top of Lookout and could also see the artillery loading and firing their cannon. Isaac Reed had never been in a battle and when he saw them loading their pieces he said, “Now wut ich se data amole un shell do river sheesa.” [“Now I wish that they would just shoot a shell over here.”] Hardly had he said this when a shell came whizzing into our camp and exploded quite near us, when Reed said, “Now will ich ovver bym dunner kenny mae hara.” [“Now I will see if I can hear above the thunder.”]
Friday, October 30. During the night we put up a line of breastworks on the battleground.
Saturday, October 31. We continued working hard, strengthening our earthworks. The place occupied by us was low and swampy. A heavy rain set in and soon we were drenched to the skin. Blankets, tents, and everything we had was soaking wet. The whole camp was under water. The dead were lying in the trenches, filled with water. This camp was indeed a watery grave for many of the boys in blue. Our division was moved a short distance to the rear on a ridge, just beyond the reach of the Rebel artillery. Here fires were built, our clothes dried, details made to bury the dead and a new line of earthworks erected.
While in this camp Ed Fisher and Elias Miller, who were taken prisoners at the battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, returned to the company. We were all glad to see them again and have them with us. William McFall and Michael Schaffer, who were also taken prisoners at the above battle, never returned as they had been disabled and were attached to the Veteran Reserve Corps.
The supply wagon train had to go quite near our camp on their way to the steamboat landing on the Tennessee River, about three miles from our camp. These wagons hauled supplies for the troops in and around Chattanooga. The only way supplies were brought was by one small steamboat, which made its trips from Bridgeport, Alabama, 22 miles down the river. At some places the river was very narrow, with high mountains on both sides. Here Bushwhackers gathered and shot off the crews of the boat, until the trips had to be abandoned. Stevenson, Alabama, was forty-five miles away and a large train of pack mules was sent over the mountain for crackers. Each mule carried two boxes of fifty pounds each. This was a very slow way of getting supplies, and quite an inadequate one to feed an army numbering perhaps 70,000 men.