From the Hundred and Ninth.
CAMP OF 109TH REG'T ILLS. VOLS.,
MOSCOW, TENN., Nov. 25, 1862.
Editor of the Jonesboro Gazette:
It seems like an age, yet it is scarcely six weeks since we bid farewell to the hospitable people of Union county, and started on our campaign in Dixie. In that time thirteen of our number have been called from their earthly labors, and as many more have been so disabled by disease and the exposures of camp life as to render them unfit for military service; whereby our regiment has been reduced from 955 to 928 men. But we are subject to still greater reductions, and it is likely our numbers will continue to decrease with a still greater rapidity for the next six months. — The 61st regiment entered the field last April with 880 men, and on the 15th inst. it could muster but 480 men for duty. It now has comparatively nothing on the sick list. The mortality in other old regiments has been equally as great, and I notice from 250 to 400 men to be the average strength of a regiment that has been some time in the service.
The uncertainly of all human calculations was brilliantly illustrated in our removal from Bolivar. Gen. Brayman had but the day before assured us that we were to stay at Bolivar during the winter, and had given us orders to remove our encampment from an old field in which we were situated, to a more desirable locality, and proceed at once to the erection of wooden barracks for winter. A portion of our regiment had removed over to our new site, and had scarcely finished, staking their tents when we received orders to march at once to Moscow, a dilapidated little village on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, twelve miles from Grand Junction, and thirty-five from Memphis. We at once commenced the work of packing up, and by one o'clock of Friday, 21st, we had our baggage on the train, and our men in line ready for the tramp. Provided with two day's rations, we turned our backs upon the pleasant town of Bolivar, and merged into the willderness, which we had been informed was swarming with guerrillas, and hostile parties on "savage deeds intent." That night we bivouacked in a strip of woods, on the edge of the little village of Middleburg, having been about three hours making seven miles. It was the first night our boys had tried sleeping in the open air. — The evening was quite chilly, and as we were in "the enemy's country," we were not permitted to have camp fires later than nine o'clock. A supper on wormy crackers and stale bacon was relished by the men, and "wrapping their martial cloaks around them," they disposed themselves to rest for the night. Sunrise the next (Saturday) morning found us a mile from Middleburg on our march, making fast time for LaGrange, which point it was intended to reach that night. Marching over a broken country, with sand shoe mouth deep, and a decided scarcity of water, was a new business to most of our men, and they soon began to show signs of giving out. Several were left at points along the railroad to be brought down on the train, and others were taken up by the ambulance and baggage wagons, and brought through in safety. The heavy loads the men were compelled to carry — being a knapsack with overcoat and pair of blankets — was rather more than most of them were able to master, and in almost every fence corner and on every green award by the wayside some of our boys had stretched their weary forms, firmly convinced that "this war might have been settled by compromise." At 12, the command, "Halt" was sounded, and the last of our provisions disappeared before our jaded soldiers, and we twenty miles from our destination! Just as the sun was hiding itself behind the trees, we entered the town of LaGrange, where we were furnished with one day's rations of hard bread and bacon. As the previous night, we were compelled to bivouac, with the cold ground for a mattress and the broad canopy of heaven for a covering. — Many of our men were really in a pitiable condition. The two day's march had blistered the feet of nearly all, and many had taken off their shoes, and adding them to their already overgrown load, trudged along barefooted. Many had been weakened by diarrhea, and the exposure gave a number the chills, who felt little like resuming a march of ten miles the next morning. — There was no alternative, however, and by eight o'clock Sunday we were again on the road, making the last installment of our journey. The men marched much better this day than at any previous time — influenced perhaps by the fact, which was well known, that we would have nothing to eat until our arrival at Moscow. Shortly after 12 we reached a little clearing in the wilderness, with a few blazed trees and a couple of log houses, which locality is denoted on the maps by the name of Moscow. Reporting to Gen. Quimby, a camp ground in the edge of the town was assigned us, immediately on the bank of Wolf River, a lively stream of clear water. Near us are stationed the Seventh Illinois Cavalry and some ten or fifteen infantry regiments.
The country along the road between Bolivar and this point presents a most wretched appearance. Previous to the outbreak of the rebellion, it was in a high state of cultivation, and was peopled by a thrifty and prosperous population. Magnificent plantations, of from 500 to 1,000 acres of land in cultivation, have been deserted by their owners — fine residences and outbuildings going to ruin, fences destroyed, and splendid fields overrun with the briers and bushes. In some instances fields of several hundred acres, with rich crops of cotton standing, have been deserted, and the fields ravaged by stock. Those of the inhabitants that remain at their homes, seem dejected and disheartened — and not without cause, as they have felt the horrors of this war to the fullest extent. Their stock and crops have been taken from them without remuneration, and they are subject to continued insults and outrages. It is difficult to decide by which party they are the more oppressed. The country was devastated by guerrilla bands, and the stock and produce sent to Price's army; what was left has been seized by the Federals, and between the two, citizens have been deprived of the successful labor of their lifetime, with no possible means of helping themselves. One very intelligent planter, and a consistent Union man, on the road, informed me that some ten days previously a band of soldiers from Van Dorn's army visited his house and took possession of his entire crop of cotton — the product of some 600 acres — and most of his horses. In a day or two afterwards a party of Federals called at his house, and were received in the most hospitable manner by the old man, who began to feel thankful that he was once more under the protecting folds of the old flag. — After furnishing the men with a good dinner, they went out into his fields, shot down his beef cattle and stock hogs, and took off seven of his negroes! One of the most aggravating beauties of the case is that the soldiers made no use of the butchered stock, but walked off, and left it lying upon the ground. A little further down than the scene of the incidents above mentioned, we observed a substantial looking old man standing at the gate in front of a splendid residence almost hid among the well arranged shade trees. As I approached, he stepped out and asked me to wait until the regiment passed — evidently fearing some outrage upon his person or property by our men. Assurances that no harm would bedone him, would not avail, and in company with a Lieutenant of our command, I took a seat until our rear guard should pass by. Like the other residents of this section, this old man had been an extensive sufferer by the depredations of lawless men. — Within a week, the guerrillas had deprived him of his entire crop of cotton, all his most valuable stock, and a number of his ablest negro men. He had scarcely congratulated himself on his passage from rebel to Federal rule, where he expected protection for his property, before a Michigan regiment paid him a visit and drove off thirty wagon loads of produce and provisions, and enticed away a number of his slaves! Over $30,000 worth of property was thus taken away from the man within a week. But it is useless to continue the narration of such cases. Their name is Legion. It is one of our greatest misfortunes that the perpetrators of these outrages, who are a curse and a disgrace to our army, cannot receive the punishment they deserve. Order upon order, prohibiting such conduct, is issued by the commanding General, the execution of which order is entrusted to regimental commanders. — They, however, instead of endeavoring to check the men in their course of vandalism, encourages it by every means in their power, and themselves are the recipients of the gains which are a damning stain upon our cause. At every new post we have yet stopped, we are cautioned against allowing our men to take or destroy the property of residents; yet the streets are filled with soldiers, just in from "foraging expeditions," who are l oaded down with turkeys, chickens, sheep, pigs, and nearly every other description of property, stolen from inoffensive citizens, who are guilty of the enormous sin of residing in a slave State! It is useless to say our boys never indulge in such disgraceful conduct, and are unceasing in their denunciations of it. God grant they may ever continue so, and that the fair name of our county may never be blackened by the perpetration of such outrages by our regiment.
It is impossible to tell how long we may stay at this place — perhaps a month, but probably not more than a few days. It is generally supposed to be a part of the programme to open the Memphis and Charleston Railroad from Corinth and Memphis, in which event a considerable force will be necessary for guard purposes. One thing I am assured of: making any calculations of probable military movements is an idle waste of time. All movements are so completely controlled by circumstances, that not the slightest dependence can be placed on any calculations until after you see it accomplished.
The health of our regiment is improving — the number of cases in the hospital having decreased materially since my last. We have had but one death during the past week, and no cases of a serious nature. — Fennel Hubbard, of company D, and a resident of Williamson or Johnson county, died of hemorrhage of the lungs on Sunday. The worst cases in hospital are: — James P. Cox, thumb shot off; — Hoffner, co. G, foot crushed by cars; William Brim, co. A, typhoid fever; Jefferson Hileman, co. A, Weak breast; James Moody, co. B, G. W. Legerwood, co. C, and Phillip C. Kimmel, co. A, pneumonia; B. M. Dewitt and Jack Dillow, co. F, continued fever. It is not believed, with ordinary care, that any of the cases above mentioned will terminate seriously.
We are once more dependent on horse and mule flesh for mail transportation. — The trains have just commenced running to this point, but as we are all impatient for the rapid and prompt transmission of our mails, it is carried between LaGrange and Moscow on horseback. The distance is about ten miles, and the mail carriers make the trip with safety in an hour and a half to two hours. We are placed in receipt of letters three days after they are started from home, and the Gazette of the 22d reached us on Tuesday following.
Major Perrine is at this time absent from the regiment as a member of a General Court Martial at Bolivar. It is difficult to tell when he will be able to rejoin us, perhaps a week or ten days. Surgeon Dewey and Assistant Henly, with Steward Durand, are with the sick at Bolivar, while Assistant Dewey accompanies us in our march. The entire Field and Staff will probably be together during the coming week.
Postage stamps have become decidedly a scarce commodity down here, and our boys are compelled to send their letters home without paying the postage, and thus involving that little outlay on the part of their fiends, or cease writing altogether. We have no post office here, and our letters are sent by couriers to LaGrange to be mailed, thus rendering it impossible to pay the postage in money. The men are generally making preparations to procure a supply of stamps from home. J. E.