|Our next stopping place was Island No.10, where John Nelson Tarvestad received his discharge and went home. Jonas Duea and I became quite sick while here, but went, nevertheless, into active service in a few days. We had eaten too much fresh meat and had contracted a disease called bloody flux.
We left Island No.10 in February, 1864, and traveled per steamer some 800 miles, reaching Vicksburg, finally, where we remained a few days pending the collection of a large army. When gathered, we numbered about 40,000 men, all under the command of General Sherman. The army, when strung out, stretched as far as 15 miles. This is called the Meridian Expedition and was undertaken in February, 1864.
On the way we marched past a town by the name of Jackson, where we saw ruins of a large building, the courthouse, which had been burned, and of which only piles of brick and iron remained. Further on we were obliged to leave our "provision wagons" as we dared not be encumbered with them any longer. We marched steadily on for another 50 or 60 miles, shooting as we went, but did not meet a great many of the enemy. We had a fine promising lad, who was a drummer in our military band, who was caught and overpowered by a skulking reb and later was taken to Andersonville prison. He was the only one in our company who had the ill fortune to be taken to this terrible place.
When marching, we would suddenly hear the command "Halt", and as quickly "Forward March", and all we could do was obey, and thus it was repeated over and over again, no one being the wiser, except, perhaps, the officers. When we were about five miles from Meridian, we were abruptly halted again, but this time we learned the reason. Colonel Scott had something he wished to say to us. He jumped on top of a stone, while we crowded eagerly around, as thick as ants, all anxious to hear every word.
"Men, you have now been in the service over a year, and have had comparative ease and sufficient food, but now, as it seems, the Government will soon have urgent need of us. I ask you, man to man, to set your faces sternly to the performance of every duty, and be prepared to make the great sacrifice, if need be."
Again we marched on with the firm resolution in our hearts to do or die; and again we were halted, this time to receive orders not to fire a shot, meanwhile, continuing our interminable marching, as if there was no end. Almost unaware we found ourselves marching though a deserted town with here and there some negroes reported, but not a sign of the enemy. Upon asking where they might be, the negroes reported, "Theyre all gone. They began going yesterday. Some went last night, and the rest this morning." They had divided and their destinations were Mobile and Richmond. We occupied the city without a shot.
Immediately upon our arrival, we were allowed to break ranks and were told to make use of our liberty to forage for food, for we were desperately hungry. Some were ordered to tear up the railroad track and gather the rails together, placing supports at the endings making it possible to build a fire in the middle and underneath, which, when hot enough, make the rails bend rendering them useless.
Six hundred of the men were ordered to go six miles south of Meridian and fetch corn to a mill situated there. After the grinding was finished, we set fire the mill and a large cotton warehouse which stood near by. After we had performed our necessary, but disagreeable task, we started on a run back to Meridian, for we now knew the whole countryside would be roused by the flames, as likely as not lurking rebel forces near at hand would seek reprisal.
After a stay of four days at Meridian, we again turned our faces towards Vicksburg. On the way we came across a big mill said to be owned by a brother of Jefferson Davis. We stopped here a few days to grind the grain we could find and when that was accomplished, we set fire to the mill as well as to several other large buildings connected with the establishment.
While we were here Co. C. and K. were sent, under Co. C’s captain, Captain Peoples, to go and burn a bridge which spanned the Pearl River. We marched four abreast, and as we approached, we could see rebel pickets stationed on a high hill overlooking our advance. We expected them to take to their heels, but no, not only did they not fly, but one of them flung himself on a white horse, rode directly at us, and when within shooting distance, hopped off his mount and promptly fired. I happened to be in the front rank, and I noticed the bullet as it glanced off the branch of a tree, and rolled harmlessly at my feet. We answered in kind, but it made no further impression than to have the bold rider fling forth, "You may shoot, you Yankees, but you can’t hit me anyhow." Then spoke up Silas N. Lee (Editor's note) of Nevada, threateningly, "Look out! Look out!", and we fired another volley, but the gay daredevil was off like the wind.
We rushed to the bridge and make a good fire under it as quickly as possible, hurrying away as quickly as we came for fear of being gobbles up by an arm of the enemys forces, who, by now, might have received warning of our whereabouts. However, we got safely back to the camp, where the Davis Mill was burned, and then set off for Vicksburg.
On the way the four companies, A, D, F, and G, with whom we had parted one and a half years before at St. Louis, turned up, and there was much joy and handshaking in the happy reunion.
When we came to Vicksburg, I was quite sick. Nevertheless, I was given orders to go with the others and discharge the old load from my gun and clean it up. Some obeyed the order, others did not. A sense of duty impelled me to go, but as I stumbled along, I forgot to remove the stopper inserted in the gun barrel to keep the water out. I blazed away, but discovered immediately to my horror my mistake and the bursted barrel. I became exceedingly downcast at my misfortune, but finally mustered my courage enough to go to our Captain Wheeler and ask him if he thought I would be obliged to pay for the gun. He answered that he feared that such might prove to be the case. I then went to our 1st Lieutenant George Childs of Nevada, who was always rather partial to us privates, and laid the case before him: "Would I have to pay?" Oh, no John, just shine it up and bring it up for inspection." I polished it up inside and out till it shone like burnished silver. During the inspection, as I went through the required drill extra properly, the officer, glancing at my shining weapon, noticed that it was slightly battered at the end and exclaimed, "This gun is good for nothing!" Someone took my name down, and in the afternoon I received orders to go to the commissary department and get another gun. I never succeeded in getting the shine to it as compared to the other one, but I was relieved of the dread of disgrace, not being obliged to pay damage money.
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