Leaving Camp Starvation
Chapter 44 (January 1, 1864 – January 21, 1864)
On Monday, January 4, the bugles at headquarters sounded early and our old division was again on the march and left “Camp Starvation”, never again to return to it. We moved about one mile in the direction of the ferry when we ascended the Raccoon Mountain. However, before going up the mountain, crackers were issued to us, and the writer ate 14 (10 were considered a day’s ration) and had room for more. When we first began to eat we imagined we could hear them drop. As we neared Whiteside’s Station on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, a heavy rain set in and towards evening we turned into the woods and spent a most miserable night, as we were unable to build fires to boil a cup of coffee and had scarcely a dry stitch on our backs. Traveled nine miles over rough mountain roads.
Tuesday, January 5. The rain had ceased and we made fires early to dry our clothing and have a few crackers and a cup of coffee. How we did relish the crackers and coffee as we had been strangers for many a long day and dreary night in “Camp Starvation”. About 10 o’clock A. M., we were on the move. Some time in the afternoon we came within sight of the Tennessee River and the pontoon bridge, over which we had crossed October 28 on our way to Lookout Mountain. Soon we were crossing the river and marched only a short distance along the railroad, where later on our camp was located. Marched 16 miles. A light snow had fallen before we reached here but lasted only a very short time.
Sixteen mules in our brigade wagon train died on this march from “Camp Starvation,” virtually starved to death. Daniel Ehrhart was detailed as wagon guard and as he was walking along, with his gun slung over his shoulders by the gun strap, and while going down hill his gun caught in the wheel and flopped Dan around a few times, when fortunately the gun sling broke which, no doubt, saved his life. The gun barrel was bent half-way around and the boys told Daniel that would be elegant to shoot around corners. The gun was the cause of a great deal of sport. Freddie Ulrich would get it and place himself at the end of the Company street and watch for Ehrhart to put in all appearance. Then Freddie would get behind the tent, the muzzle of the old twisted barrel pointing down the company street toward Ehrhart, when Freddie would yell, “Gep aucht Dannie, ich shees.” [“Be careful, Dannie, I will shoot.”] This the boys enjoyed but Dannie couldn’t see the joke and he would make a dive for Freddie, who would drop the gun and run.
Our camp grounds, in a few days, looked very respectable as it was well laid out. Good quarters were erected close by the railroad, about a half mile from the river and in sight of General Geary’s headquarters, which were placed upon a knoll along the river. This place, as well as others, was at once strongly fortified.
On the 20th the brigade started out on a reconnaissance to the little town, Jasper, about 12 miles up the river, and returned the next day. While the troops were away word was brought to the camp that Rebel General Forrest was scouting around with a large force of cavalry and might attack us at any moment. The General became very much excited as the troops had all gone away with the exception of the pickets and those just relieved from picket the morning when the troops left. He ordered all the spare men around camp to report at once to headquarters, which was near the fort. A goodly number of us were non-commissioned officers and I don’t remember of one commissioned officer being with us except the General and his staff. We were at once stationed in the fort and breastworks. The General had charge of us in the works and then took a number of us into the fort and drilled us as to loading and firing the canon. We were all on the alert during the night, and, as someone said, every minute we expected the next, so when morning came we looked anxiously for the brigade, which did not arrive until sometime in the afternoon. We were all overjoyed when we saw them coming. This was the only march that the writer missed during his service.
While in camp here James Bergstresser, a former Selinsgrove boy, visited Company G and found many whom he knew. Fred and Jas. P. Ulrich were nephews of his. He was a member of the 72nd Illinois regiment of the 15th Corps, then marching with Sherman’s army from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On January 21, Lieutenant Nelson Byers returned to the company after an absence of six months, being away on recruiting service. We were all glad to have Byers with us again, as he was a fine officer and well liked. Lieutenant Lewis C. Green, of Company F, was in command of Company G when Byers came back. Lieutenant Willet, of Company B, had veteranized and had gone home with the boys. A few days later Lieutenant B. T. Parks rejoined the company, having fully recovered from the wound thru his neck received, as you well remember, in the battle of Ringgold on November 27, 1863. All were happy and we gave him a hearty welcome.