Civil War letters at Middlebury College

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Letter from Orlando L. French to Lydia French

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336 The road was very dusty + being in the rear of a large wagon train our progress was hindred so that we arrived at our destination (Stevens Gap on the opposite side of the mountain) at midnight or I should say that the Colonel + myself arrived there with perhaps a corporals guard of the Regt the ballance lie along the road for ten miles back- the nght was extreme-ly cold there being a heavy frost that night Our Head quarters wagon was not to be found so that I barely had one blanket but I built a fire wrapped myself up and lie down to rest but not to sleep one side of me was too cold for that - + I passed the night the best I could + breakfasted on hard tack + coffee We soon received orders to place our regt. in company with one other of this Brigade in position to hold this gap with instructions to hold it at all hazzards while the other two went to the foot of the hill some four miles distant After having made a satisfactory disposition

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337 of the forces (Col Brunnett being in comannd of the two Regts we fixed up for a comfortable stay as we were told that we would probably ocupy this place ten day A short exploreing tour disclosed the fact that within a mile of camp we could overlook the whole confederacy and I shall ever remember the sight there presented- you will remember that this was Saturday the 19th the day on which the battle began + from the look out the two lines of battle could be discerned although not very distinct as the whole valley was one cloud of smoke + dust The distance was too great to hear musketry but the rear of Artillery was incessant and the clouds of smoke ascending showed us plainly their position: and camp fires of the two armies sparkeled brightly in the night air presenting a beautiful picture but the scene lost much of its beauty when we thought of the suffering wounded soldiers that

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338 must lie on the cold ground without the soothing hand of friendship to ease this pain or kindred ear to catch their expireing breath- a sad, sad thing is this war.- At 3 oclock the next morning we were arroused with orders to hasten to the front and at daylight we began our march to the battle ground then twenty miles distant We soon heard the roar of cannon which gradualy drew nearer and we expected in two hours to join the other two Brigades of the division and take our chances with the rest but at 2 oclock we came to the lines of Gen Mitchels cavalry forces who were there protecting the right flank of our army but had been cut off himself and was waiting our arrival and he gave us the gratifying intelligence that we might not hope to reach the Division except by another road + that by Chattanooga

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339 Sheet 2 But it became necessary that Col Post (commdg the Brig) should report to Gen Davis + one of the Col's staff - a Capt from our Regt volunteered + got arround the enemy's lines and made known to Gen Davis our condition but before he had returned Col Post + Gen Mitchel had decided to move forward to Chattanooga + at 4 P.M. we started distance yet 20 miles we left this place in company with Gen Mitchel + his cavalry - at this place there were nine hundred of - our wounded who were left behind + the enemies cavalry followed us right up- I rode back along the line of our Regt/ + told the boys the fix we were in that we were cut off + that Rebel cavalry were closely pressing our rear that all who stragled + fell behind would be certain to fall into Rebel hands and that we must make Chattanooga that night and as I told them that now was the time for them to show their manhood + spunk

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340 almost every man was fired with new energy + came promptly up to mark The boys were out of rations + were hungry + tired and fortunately we over-took our Div supply train about 9 oclock + three days rations were issued + we lay at this place until 2 oclock expecting every moment to be ordered forward- The night was very cold + fence rails plenty and the boys did not suffer + Gen Mitchel had the fever along the road + [?] an old barn or deserted shanty ^ (for two miles) and it looked as though there was an army corps camped in there - Our route lay along the east side of Lookout mountain + between that and another range the valley being not over a half mile in width at any place -We marched 3 miles farther + bivouacked for the remainder of the night- before morning it was excessively cold + I did not attempt a snooze + at day light we were placed in line of battle to the rear across the valley as it was reported that the enemys cavalry were in sight

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341 In this position we lay for twenty hours when Col Post ascertained that the right of our army which was just across the ridge east of us had fallen back + that we were four miles in advance of our other lines + that there was a road open by which the Rebs could cross + get between us + Chattanooga - Learning this we made a quiet + hasty march towards Chattanooga for four miles where we were placed in position again where we remained until 8 oclock [?] being then only three miles from the said town - all this time no communication had been had with Gen Davis sine the Capt returned Sunday night - an attempt was now made to do so + we ascertained the fact that we were cut off from Chattanooga + that we would have to fight our way through we moved up the valley by Regt in 4 parallel collumns left in front Soon the point of the mountain on our right came in sight + just from the other side of that the enemy began

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342 to (in a playful way) thru shells into us Some of which struck uncomfortably near we were here put in position and one Regt put out to skirmish with them and find out this strength - skirmishing was continued for an hour + some shells were thrown but they did not get the range + no damage was done It soon became evident ^that they did not intend to begin the engagement + Col Post ordered the Brig forward in line of battle + they evidently over estimating our strength cut dirt + run after setting fire to the bridge across Chimunga Creek running between us + the town but that was discovered + put out before it had made much progress + we soon landed within the breast works + found that the whole army had fallen back to this place- We felt very much [?] for we were in a pretty tight place as we had only forty rounds of ammunition and had they known it they could have forced us back over the mountain

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sheet 3 343 I have said that the whole army had fallen back to this place while our wounded of the two days hard fighting were left on the field - a deplorable state of things but it is almost a miracle that our whole army was one annihilated as Rosecrans fought 3 times his number - Our Brigade is now larger than the rest of the Divis while either Brig was larger than ours before the fight-The 2nd Brig now numbers only six hundred men + they have but one field officer left such a slaughter was never known before yet the army acknowledge to a much greater loss in proportion We were immediately sent to the front to skirmish with the enemy + it was yet expected that they would press down on us + endeavor to crush us - we were placed in line of battle + in connexion with others formed a line or a half circle from each bank of the river South of the town + we all stationed skirmishers in the advance + went to work throwing up breast work + digging rifel pits- The enemy were in sight and annoyed us somewhat + just at night a slight attack was made on our

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left which lasted for an hour during which several were wounded-firing by the skirmish-ers was continued all night The nex day we thought sure they would make an attack but all was quiet until 4 oclock two Regts of this Brig were sent out to make reconnoiscance which wakened them up beautiful + a sharp skirmish was kept up till after dark by the whole line and up to this time our position has not been changed + every night we are arroused from sleep by some sharp attack but it soon becomes quiet again but we have to be constantly on the alert- they have only fired on us with two parees of artillery Sept 30th There has nothing of importance transpired except to deliver up to us our wounded - it was arranged by flag of truce that we should send our ambulances to their lines + they put drivers ^on and give them back loaded with wounded for several nights the rebs have got into a habit of throwing shells into our head quarters we have fallen back to the 2nd line of entrenchments and are making our head quarters in

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a house + the rebs keep pegging away at us several have struck very close It is very funny music to hear these little balls and big shells come whistling by our ears and I have heard them enough to demonstrate one thing + that is that I can face them with as little fear as any of them + with less flinching than most of them but I am not sorry that we kept out of the big fight The reports that some have written of the result of the fight is shameful- It is true that Rosa was forced to fall back to this place but it was worse than useless to have fought the whole confederacy any longer but if he had been reinforced as he expected to be he would have whipped them and as it is they are about as badly whipped as we are -and the story that McCooks + Crittendens Corps acted disgracefull is entirely false it was written by Gen Thomas blower + strikes The enemy have been silent for three days except an occasional shot and it is the opinion here that they are going to lay siege

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