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War Comes to Broad River


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CHAPTER III

SOLDIERS ALL

 

I enlisted May 9th, 1862 in Company B, 9th Georgia Battalion. There  were six companies in the 9th Georgia Battalion. They were from Madison, Elbert, Hart, Wilkes, Franklin and Muscogee Counties of Georgia.

 

    After mustering in, Ike and his friends were quickly transported to Atlanta and on to Knoxville, Tennessee where they joined the rest of the men who had joined the Company two months before. The days at Camp Van Dorn, while they lasted only three weeks for Ike and Sam, were like nothing they had ever experienced. The May recruits received a quick lesson in drilling and movements to be used when on a battlefield and were quickly introduced to the crowded unsanitary conditions of the camps. Upon arriving at Knoxville, they had found Jesse Power sick with the measles and Peter David already dead from the same disease.

  We were in camp first in and around Knoxville, Tennessee.  Sometime the last of May 1862, Jesse Power relapsed with measles and died in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (He went out one morning and got his feet wet and relapsed) S. P. Power and I bought his coffin and shroud and sent him home.  I waited on him while he was sick.

     When Ike heard that Jesse was sick and was told he was still in camp, he went looking for him. Ike found Jesse in his tent. Jesse coughed as he stirred from a fitful sleep when Ike entered the tent.

    “Ike,” he said weakly. “What are you doing here?”

    “Sam and I joined up,” said Ike. “So did Asa, Joe and Tom. We’re all here.” “How are you doing Jesse”? continued Ike. 

    “I’m getting some better, Ike,” said Jesse. “The hospital got so full they couldn’t keep us all so those of us who were the least sick were sent back to camp. Peter David died Ike. Did you know that?”

     “Yes they told me,” answered Ike. “What did they do with his body? “

    “I’ve heard they started a cemetery near town, I think they took him there.”

    “Did they tell Mary (Peter’s wife) and his father? Surely they would have wanted him returned home?” Ike asked.

    “I don’t know”, replied Jesse, his voice trailing off as he rapidly tired from the conversation.

    “You’re tired”, said Ike. “Get some sleep and I’ll look in on you tomorrow if I get a chance”.

 

     Ike having had the measles as a child took it upon himself to wait on Jesse until he was up and about. In the next few days Jesse improved and began to move around camp. A few days later following a couple of rainy days, Jesse got his feet wet walking around in camp and his fever returned. With the return of the fever he quickly relapsed and within a couple of days had died. Sam and Ike bought his coffin and shroud and sent him home to Georgia. Several other members of the battalion not as well known to Ike as Peter David and Jesse died during the days in Knoxville and were buried in cemeteries in and around the town. They included James R. Patterson from Ike’s Company.

    Back home, Elizabeth had continued to live above Jim Power’s store after Ike’s departure and eagerly sorted through the latest postings after each delivery for a letter from him. One morning in early June, she was elated to find a letter posted only a little more than a week before at Knoxville.

    As the store was empty of patrons at this early hour, Elizabeth excitedly opened the letter trying not to tear the precious contents. Wiping at her eyes to clear away the tears of joy, Elizabeth unfolded the paper and began to read                                                                                      

June 4, 1862

 

My Dearest Elizabeth,

 

    I have sat myself down at the end of a long day to write you a few lines that I hope find you and my beloved children well. I received your letter of May 22nd this morning and hope it will be the first of many. There is sad news from here as your cousin Jesse Power has died from measles on May 29th.  I waited on him while he was sick and Sam and I bought his coffin and shroud and arranged to have his body sent home yesterday. His earthly remains may arrive there before this letter but knowing the man he was his soul is surely with his creator. If the letter arrives before the body please let his father know of his death. Peter David passed away before I arrived here and was buried in a cemetery here in town. If you see Mary his wife or his father please offer them my condolences.

   

    Elizabeth, I miss the quiet times we shared together in the evenings after the children were asleep and holding you close before we went to sleep. I long for those times to return soon and it is my hope we are able to share a lifetime of these memories. How is little Mary? I regret that I probably will not be there when she takes her first step or speaks her first words. I cherished those memories from the other children so much. I pray my absence will not be a long one.

    

    Elizabeth, if you see Father please tell him I am well and look forward to seeing him soon. Please kiss the little ones for me and give them my love. I must close for now as we rise at four o’clock in the morning and it is after nine o’clock now. We are told that our orders are to leave this camp and join other troops before marching north. Please write when you can as our officers have assured us that mail will find us wherever we go.

 

                Your loving husband

 

                              Ike

    In early June the 9th Battalion marched out of Knoxville, stopping briefly at Clinton on the Clinch River before turning north toward Kentucky. Their objective was Tazewell and Cumberland Gap now in enemy hands. On the evening of June 17th 1862, the men of the 9th Georgia Battalion, in addition to other units from Georgia, were placed in line of battle expecting their first action to come the next day with Union troops under General George Morgan who had recently moved south of Cumberland Gap toward Tazewell. The anticipated battle did not materialize and the next morning the Confederate forces began a withdrawal from the Tazewell area down the Kentucky Road, after camping briefly on the East side of the Clinch River.

 

June  18, 1862

We left on a march at eleven o’clock and crossed the Clinch River and camped, went in bathing. 

 

     Many of the men took this opportunity to wash themselves and their clothes in the river. This was the first bath for many of them since leaving home. Ike washed his clothes and laid them on one of the many large rocks that dotted the river bed. He slipped below a group of these rocks and relaxed in the quiet still waters of the pool created by the rocks diversion of the rapidly flowing river. After a few minutes he stepped from the eddy into the faster moving water between the rocks to finish his bath. Soon he gathered up his clothes and waded toward the bank from where he had entered the river. Positioning of the units along the shoreline had placed Ike and the men in his Company at the lower flankof the Rebel Army as it spread out along the river. As he neared the riverbank, he saw a group gathered down river a ways, along the river’s edge. It was some of the younger men in the Company who generally hung together when the Company was in camp. The group included Frank David, Tom Deadwyler, the Power brothers, Will Porterfield and the Simmons brothers, David and Wiley. Something had attracted their attention and they were gathered around in a near circle, all looking down at the object which had caught their eye. It was awhile before any of them saw Ike coming toward them. Finally, David Simmons saw Ike as he approached the group.

    “Sarge,” David exclaimed in excitement. “Look at this. I think it’s a dead Yankee.”

    As Ike moved closer to the group he could see what had drawn their attention. Snagged among some tree limbs close to the riverbank was a body clothed in what had been a military uniform. At first glance the soldier’s allegiance was hard to determine but upon closer examination the uniform buttons confirmed that he had at least been wearing a Union sack coat.  

    “Yeah it looks that way boys but many half naked southern boy has put on an enemy jacket,” replied Ike. “Did you find anything else?”

    “No,” said David, the oldest in the group at twenty-four. “Looks like he washed downstream from up above and got caught up in these here tree limbs. He was gut shot Ike. Probably crawled to the river to drink and died along the edge. First good thunderstorm the rising water just carried him along to here.”

    “You’re probably right”, said Ike, “poor soul”. 

 

    The body was already decomposing but the wound just above the top of the trousers was obvious. A Minie ball left quite a hole.

    “What’s that under him?” Ike asked.

   “Can’t say,” said young Simmons. “We ain’t touched him.” 

 

    Laying his freshly washed and dried clothes on a nearby rock, Ike broke a limb from the snagged tree and poked at a dark colored object under the body.

    “Why it’s his haversack,” exclaimed Tom Power. “Can you get it Ike?”

    Ike pulled the haversack from under the decomposing body and held it away from the decaying flesh.

    “Cut the strap off the bag and lets see if it holds anything,” said Ike.

     As Ike held the mud covered bag away from the body, David cut the strap and pulled the bag from the water. Opening the canvas bag, which had been tarred indicating federal issue, the men found the contents little help. There had been some hardtack and pork, some badly deteriorated letters that had faded to the point that they were illegible, a pencil and a tintype ruined by the exposure. The dead man was still a mystery. The men of Company B had seen death in the camps but this was different. Here was a man with a large hole in his belly. The dead Yank had ripped at his shirt and wound until his internal organs protruded from the wound and had attracted various aquatic wildlife which had ripped at the exposed flesh. After a brief discussion the men decided to leave the man where he was due to the advanced decomposition. Ike bowed his head and under his breath spoke a few words and then picking up his clothes, turned and left the dead man to the river.

    The next day the Southern troops crossed the Clinch Mountain and camped around the hotel at Bean Station on the Knoxville Road.

 

June 19, 1862

We marched and crossed the Clinch Mountain we were to be going over and camped at Bean Station on the Kentucky Road. There is a large hotel here, no town, it is large summer resort.

 

     During the next few days, Ike and his fellow Georgians marched south on the road to Knoxville camping near Rutledge until the fourth of July. On July 5, 1862 the Ninth Battalion moved their camp to one of the many springs in the area where they remained for almost the remainder of the month.

 

 July 27, 1862

      Moved to Lea’s Springs and camped. I was taken sick about the 11th of July with yellow jaundice. The Dr. gave me a pass to go out into the country to get a suitable diet for this disease. Ed Eberhart went with me. We stayed at the home of a good lady whose name (maiden name) was Lowe. She was very kind to us.

 

    One morning a few days after the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from England, Ike woke with fever and stomach cramps. Ed Eberhart who had been sharing a tent with Ike hunted down the doctor who examined Ike and decided he had jaundice and needed a better diet than he could get in camp.

    “Soldier,” the doctor said to Ed, “take this man and see if you can find a local who will take the two of you in for a week or so. Maybe some home cooking will cure him. I’ll talk to your Captain and write a pass for the two of you. He will need someone to go with him.”

 

    Ed and Ike left camp the next morning and walked the country roads near Rutledge. The Grainger County countryside near Rutledge was dotted with farms, large and small, all lush with vegetable crops of all kinds and many types of fruit. The second farm house they came upon sat on one of the rolling hills that were common in the valley. These hills stretched back to the mountains that ran southwestward on either side of the valley, like fingers extending back to the palm of a hand.

    Ike found the shade of an Elm tree to rest in while Ed walked up the wagon path to the house. Approaching the house Ed noticed a woman in her middle twenties hanging clothes on a line running behind the house. Startled when she caught sight of Ed, the young woman bolted toward an old shotgun propped against a near by corn crib. 

    “Ma’am,” Ed shouted, raising his hands above his head, “I don’t mean you no harm, just want to talk a minute.”

    The young woman continued on until she felt the security of the old shotgun in her hands. Picking up the beat up old gun she turned toward Ed, with a look of terror in her eyes.

    “I can shoot this thing, raised up doing it,” she said. “What is it you want?”

    “Ma’am,” Ed continued, “I’ve got a real sick man down there by the road under the shade of that big Elm. We’re camped up the ways at Sulphur Springs, as you likely know. The doctor sent us out to see if we could find someone who wouldn’t mind feeding him something other than camp rations for a few days to see if it might help his condition. You wouldn’t have to make no fuss about me, I’ll eat my rations and I’ll be glad to help you out with your crops and such.”

    “What kind of condition?” the young woman asked.

    “Doctor thinks it’s his liver, nothing contagious,” replied Ed.

    “Well, I don’t want my young’uns exposed to nothin’ they might catch, like the measles or such. My man caught the measles in camp. Might near killed him.”

    “No ma’am,” Ed replied, “nothin’ like that. We’ve seen our share of measles too.”

    “Well, I could sure use the help. I reckon I got more than I can say grace over.”

     Ed and Ike were fortunate that the young woman was the wife of a Confederate soldier serving in a cavalry unit in East Tennessee. She was trying to manage the one-hundred acres they had with the help of her brother too young to be a soldier and her two young children, both too young to be of any real help. 

    “You see the barn there? You’ll have to sleep in there. I’ll take a look at your friend and feed you if you will help out, it’s a mite more than Josh and I can handle just now. Josh, that’s my brother Joshua, he’s fourteen. He tries hard but he’s got his heart set on being a soldier. Daddy just won’t hear of it. Daddy, he’s the preacher round here. Josh is in the upper field yonder. We’re trying to get in some late crops for the fall. Tell your friend to come on up. What are you names by the way?  Mine’s Martha but folks call me “Mattie”. My young’uns are Ben and Sarie. They’re seven and four.”

     “Ed, my names Ed, Ed Eberhart and my friends name is Ike, Ike Moore. We’re from Georgia. We sure do thank you Ma’am it means a lot to be among friends. I’ll go get Ike,” replied Ed as he started back down the hill toward the Elm tree.

    “Didn’t think you sounded like you were from around here,” Mattie said. But by this time Ed was too far down the path to hear her.

    Ike had fallen asleep while Ed was gone and did not awake until Ed shook him by the shoulder.

    “We can stay here. Lady here seems real nice. I’ll tell you about it later,” Ed said as he helped Ike to his feet and up the wagon path toward the barn.

    “This here’s Ike,” Ed said to their benefactor as they approached where she was hanging the remainder of her wash.

    “Good to know you Mr. Moore”, said Mattie. “Bet you both are hungry. Got some biscuits left over from breakfast. I’ll fry up a half-dozen eggs and a piece of ham and then ya’ll can bed down in the barn”.

    “We’d be mighty grateful,” replied Ed.

    During the next two weeks, Ike’s health slowly returned as Mattie’s home cooking had been just what he needed. Ed had spent the two weeks helping with the crops already on the way to maturity and the various livestock on the farm. They had all developed a bond of friendship likely to be remembered a lifetime. After the first couple of days Mattie had become so trusting of Ike and Ed that they all ate around the table in the house together and talked of times before the war. Ike and Sam told Mattie about their wives and families and all about their home in Georgia. She shared with them the story of how her Great Grandfather, Isaiah had come to Grainger County from Virginia in the late 1700’s and settled on a tract of land he had received as a grant for his service in the war for Independence from Great Britain. She told them of her mother’s people who had arrived in the area about the same time from North Carolina receiving land for her mother’s Grandfather’s service in the war. She explained that her mother’s people were pretty much Unionist, while her Father’s people and those of her husband were strong secessionist. This had made for some unpleasantness between the families but it was no different from many of the families of East Tennessee which was almost equally divided in its support for the two sides in the great conflict that was this War between the States.

    Toward the end of July, the men received word that the camp was moving and since Ike was feeling much better they said their goodbyes and returned to camp, grateful for the hospitality Mattie had shown them and pleased to have shared this time with someone so caring and generous.    

    A couple of days later the camp was moved to Lea Springs, a few miles down the road toward Knoxville, where they remained until the 3rd of August 1862. On that day, the 9th 5, 1862, the Battalion moved back north toward Tazewell as part of a joint campaign into Kentucky by the armies of Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith. The men of Company B crossed over the Clinch Mountain into Poor Valley, many camping near a small Baptist Church at Locust Grove. As was the case at many of the stops along the way, many of the men were to remain in the woods and fields around the church for eternity. By the evening of August 9th Georgia Battalion along with troops of the 3rd Georgia Battalion, and 40th, 42nd, and 52nd Georgia Infantry Regiments along with others from Alabama and Tennessee were drawn in a line of battle in the cedar and pine thickets dotting the hills south and east of Tazewell. Company B was about to get its first test in battle.

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