In Camp at Duck River
Chapter 33 (October 7, 1863 – October 20, 1863)
October 7th, struck tents, marched to Shelbyville, the county seat of Shelby county. Cooked supper and as the Rebels had gone we started back for Duck River. Marched only five miles after supper when we encamped, traveled 17 miles. Next day, October 8, we returned to our camp at Duck River, marched seven miles.
A report that Rebel General Wheeler’s cavalry and a body of infantry were prowling around and might attack us at any moment put Colonel Pardee on the alert. Gen. Geary’s headquarters were at Murfreesboro, 30 miles in the rear. The Rebels had succeeded in destroying quite a lot of railroad between our camp and Murfreesboro, on Sunday night, October 5. They had also torn up a considerable stretch of track ahead of us. This isolated our regiment and several other regimental commands from the balance of our corps. It was cause enough to place our commanding officer on the alert.
We remained in this pleasant camp at Duck River, doing the regular routine of camp duties. This was a fine country and we lived on the best the land afforded. We had plenty of mutton, veal, pork, and kids (I mean young goats). While on picket along the river we noticed a fine flock of sheep. A member of Company B was determined to have mutton for supper for our post. So he started after one, when it jumped into the stream with the soldier following across and when the sheep with heavy water-soaked wool landed on the other side it could scarcely move and was easily caught, placed upon the soldier’s shoulder and brought back to our side of the river. The captor received the congratulations and cheers of the entire post, for we knew it meant for all of us a mutton supper and broiled mutton chops were surely a dainty dish.
The Colonel frequently would go along the railroad and picket line to see if all was right. We had charge of the picket at the railroad bridge, and after his examination he instructed us what to do. He then passed along the railroad when he reached the next post under command of Sergeant John R. Reigle. Here he found Elias Noll, of Company G, without his accoutrements on, and the Colonel ordered him bucked and gagged, which was promptly done by the sergeant. Several days after encamping here the 4th Tennessee Cavalry (Union) escorted General Geary from Murfreesboro to our camp.
Our troops having arrived from the Army of the Potomac, they were anxious to know from us how things were running in the east. We were sitting around the fire of the camp reserve post, when the Colonel of this Tennessee regiment with several of his men came to converse with us. We, of course, told about our battles and the hard fighting that was done at Gettysburg, when the Colonel said to the writer: “You know nothing about war”. I said “I don’t understand, explain yourself”. He said, “In this country you see families divided, half Rebel half Union. When you take prisoners you take them to the rear and take care of them, but when we take prisoners it is death to those captured”.
Tuesday, October 20th we broke camp, waded Stone River just below a dam, with the water very cold. Shelbyville was a loyal town, and the Rebels had been there and destroyed a great deal of property. The court house, which stood in a beautiful square, was among the buildings destroyed. The Rebel cavalry took their horses into fine stores and fed them from the counters. The citizens told us that the cavalry had gone into the stores and took out webs of muslin and calico, tied one end to the horse’s tail and then rode thru their principal streets, while others followed and trampled the fabrics into the mud. So bitter was the feeling against the Unionists in Shelbyville that the people lived in fear and dread all the time. We were quartered in one of the county buildings on Market square, while some of our cavalry was quartered in store rooms just across the square from Company G quarters. On the day after our arrival cavalrymen got into a quarrel with a darkey. It was said that the boys were teasing him until he became so angry that he took a carbine, which was hanging on the wall, and fired at one of his tormentors, the bullet barely missing. A member of the 5th Ohio regiment was just passing a front window and noticed the darkey about to take aim again. He drew his revolver from his pocket, shot thru the window and hit the Negro square in the forehead. This caused quite a crowd of citizens and soldiers to gather around the place, and Lieutenant Parks fearing a riot, commanded our company to fix bayonets and charge across the square. This charge had the desired effect and the crowd dispersed.
Upon returning to quarters a lady came out of her house and asked us what the trouble was. We told her that a Negro had been killed. She remarked, “Well, it don’t matter much, we have plenty left.” At this place the boys visited the nearby hen roosts, found no chickens but came back lousy from head to foot.