Riding Box Cars to Chattanooga
Chapter 30 (September 20, 1863 – September 29, 1863)
While the armies were facing each other along the banks of the Rapidan River, the armies of the southwest under General Rosecrans were hard pressing General Bragg. General Longstreet, who had taken his corps from the arm of Virginia to reinforce Bragg, fell upon Rosecrans and the great battle of Chickamauga was fought on September 17th, 1863, and news was sent to the Confederate army confronting us, that the Yankee General Rosecrans had been whipped and driven into the defenses surrounding Chattanooga. We knew from the cheering and jollification in the Confederate camp that they had received some good news from somewhere.
On September 20, we also received the discouraging news of our army’s defeat at Chickamauga, Tennessee. On September 24, we struck tents, passed thru Stevensburg and encamped about three miles north of the town, marched six miles.
Friday, September 25, broke camp, marched to Brandy Station on the Rappahannock River and encamped, traveled three miles. While marching along today a darky picked up a loaded carbine cartridge, placed it against a tree, took a stone and began pounding against the shell. He struck the cap, the shell exploded and a piece of cartridge cut the darky across the forehead, making quite a deep gash and the blood flowed freely. He was wonderfully scared and if a Negro ever turns pale I think he was as near to it as it is possible for one to get.
Saturday, September 26, we were ordered to strike tents. We passed Brandy Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, crossed the Rappahannock River at Rappahannock Bridge, passed the station, halted at Bealeton station and went into camp, marched 14 miles.
Our services in the Army of the Potomac came to a close that day, and I know that Company G left a record of which she need not be ashamed. When the Governor Snyder monument was unveiled in Selinsgrove a number of years later the colonel of our regiment, John Craig, was present at that time.
The Colonel and the writer walked down Market Street together and, meeting an old soldier, I introduced Colonel Craig to him as the commander of the 147th Regiment, to which Company G belonged. The soldier said, Oh, Yes! This is the Colonel that commanded the company (G) that saved the Union. The Colonel replied, “Well, Company G did her full share towards it and I want to say further that Company G can feel very proud of her record”. Quite a compliment from one who knew all about the company and I am sure the boys all appreciated the words of our brave commander.
Our Western Trip:
Sunday evening. September 27, about 8 o’clock, we boarded box cars at Bealeton Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad for our destination. Chattanooga, Tenn. But, of the destination we were ignorant at this time and yet it was wonderful how well so many could guess right concerning the different moves of the army. We were placed in box cars, which had a seat on each side of the car running lengthwise, and one in the centre. These benches, or seats, were made like the old-fashioned school house benches. Forty-five men were placed in one car and when night came we were huddled together like so many porkers. Our beds were the soft side of the bottom of the cars with not even a handful of straw. We left old Virginia not to return again until the war had closed.
The first stop we made was Alexandria, eight miles from Washington. Here William Keller came into the car with sixteen loaves of bread, government size and first class, under his arm and distributed it among the boys and no questions were asked as to where he bought it. Only a short time and our train passed thru Washington, from there to the relay house five miles from Baltimore, Md. on the B. and O. Railroad. Passed Point of Rocks, Harper’s Ferry, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, and took supper at the latter place September 28, Monday. All got off the train and in order marched in a line on each side of the tables, loaded with hardtack, pork and coffee. When all had received their ration, we again boarded the train and continued our journey during the night.
Tuesday, September 29. Today, near Cumberland, our train met with an accident. The train came to a standstill just around a hill on a curve. Our car was the fourth from the rear end of our section. Some of the boys had gone up the hill after chestnuts and the captain with several others sat in the door of the car, while the writer sat on the middle seat inside. I saw these men jump and concluded that something was not right and just as we were ready to get up a train of soldiers ran into us from the rear and when the crash was over the writer, slightly bruised, lay under the seat. The two rear cars were pushed on top of the third one, which was next to ours. Thirteen soldiers were wounded, but none killed. A splinter from one of the cars about eighteen inches long and about as broad as a man’s hand, pierced the thigh of one of the boys and stuck out six to eight inches on each side of his leg, producing a very painful wound.