Letter from Orlando L. French to Lydia French

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Letter written by Orlando L. French to his wife, Lydia French, during his service in the Civil War.

This is a scanned version of the original image in Special Collections and Archives at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.



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Head Qrs 75th Ill Vol Nashville Tenn Dec 9th 1864 Dearest Lydia I have neglected my correspondence with you or rather I have been so busy that I have realy had no time to write + I have to steal from the hours of sleep to write this but I feel that I must do it + can perhaps write nothing better than from my memorandum from the time I left Pulaski The 23d of November we had orders to march at noon we had hoped to remain there for the winter but it soon became evident that Hood was making by us for some more northerly front which made it necessary to concentrate our lines + as I have said the 23d we received orders to march This Brigade wsa detached for rear guard + to the 73th was assigned the special duty of destroying all stoves that could not be removed quite an amount of stoves had accumulated + the cars were running all day + then were unable to remove it all after the trains had all left we began the work of destruction

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and first on some rations + sannitary stoves consisting of twenty or thirty barrels of onion five or six of pickles + as many of sour craut which was burnt + otherwise destroyed after supplying ourselves with all we wanted: we then found 12 barrels of Ale the heads were at once brokeb in + after giving each man all he could drink the remainder was emptied on the ground we now returned to the Court house in the center of the town; all other forces having withdrawn left us masters of the city Our orders were to search the house for a supply of salt that was somewhere in the city we soon found 75 barrels which was rolled into the street + burnt this accomplished I took three companies + picketed the streets in the direction of the enemy while the Col guaranteed the Regt in the court house the Col + myself taking lodgings at the Tennessee House where we found a fine old lady with her two daughters anxious to minister to our temporal wants- Night now closed in upon us + I am inclined to think that company commanders did not keep their men in very close quarters for sundry sutters storekeepers + others who had accumulated goods here + could not get them away came to grief very suddenly whole cheeses by

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the dozzen boots shoes coats overcoats + tobaco + cigars by the wholesale together with almost everything a sutter keeps was soon transferred to the pockets + knapsacks of the 75th but little opposition was made to this transfer of property + in most cases it was given out to the boys willingly as they had no means of taking it away + must be abandoned to the Rebs + citizens as soon as we left fifty + over a hundred dollars was realized by some from property taken in this way In the meantime some three hundred thousand rouds of fixed ammunition that could not be removed was deposited in the streets + at 11 oclock the hour having arrived for us to evacuate I recalled the pickets + as the Regt marched away we fired the ammunition which gave first the few scattering shots as if skirmishing which gradually increased until it swelled into the full volume of a well contested fight but of course without the accompanying horrors of the real battle field we continued as rear guard marching until daylight without halting + then not long enough to make coffee the march was continued through the day annoyed by continued checks of the train + arrivell at Columbia at 8 oclock in the evening and bivouacked in the mud but thirty six hours without

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sleep + twenty without food or coffee put us in a condition to find no fault with the accomodations if they would but let us be quiet at this time had not made a more fatiguing march thirty three miles without food --- or coffee is seldom made but tiresome as it was there were many things that seemed to amuse us connected with this days march about one thousand contrabands had gathered into Pulaski + joined a motley group comprising all the colors shapes + stripes of Ethiopian sons + daughters from the infant in army to the venerable line with head bleached by the frosts of a century all bound for that sweet land the land of their freedom Alas! thought I to how many will it prove a blessing the amount of suffering in store for the most of these poor unfortunates is incalculable + it is a wise provision that they have been endowed with patience + long suffering to an eminent degree 25th In the morning we were put in position in the subburbs of the town facing south east where substantial works were at once made and here everything seemed to indicate a degree of good fortune

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sheet 2 for the Hd Qrs of this Regt that in its past history had not been equalled our Hd qrs were made in a house nearby + the lady kindly placed her parlor + bedrooms at our disposal + we promised ourselves a capital nights rest but "theres many a slip twixt the cup + the lip" The Maj had joined us here just from home + while regaling ourselves upon the luxuries he had best with him + socially chatting of things present past + to come an aide entered with "prepare to move out at once + away we go to the other side of the town one + a half miles + camped for the night in the mud + rain with the wind blowing hard - this part of the line had been fighting through the day + were hard pressed - such is the life of the soldier there is but a moment from the grave to the gay or from the lively to the pathetic + tragic We remained at this place until the night of the 27th reeching works but no fighting was done except on the skirmish line where we had one man wounded The night of the 27th in common with the whole army crossed to this side of the river the rear guard destroying what stoves could not be taken away

Last edit about 1 year ago by LibrarianDiva
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