Chapter 6: December 1864 - February 1865
From St. Louis, we were taken aboard steamers and were carried down the Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, thence up the Ohio River, and from there on the Cumberland to Nashville. On the day of our arrival there, we were drilled and marched around until evening, when we were left in a slough for the night. There was no sleeping for us that night of December 15, 1864. We got the order to be ready for marching at six o’clock in the morning. We had an inkling of what was the objective of the order. There were strong indications that we were on the eve of storming the Nashville Fort, a considerable stronghold, it being nine miles in length. Sure enough, in the morning operations began, with General Thomas as our head commander and General Hood on the side of the Confederates. My regiment, the 32nd of Iowa, happened to have its positions quite near the center of the besieging line. As usual, the opening of hostilities was signalled by the booming of cannon, and for two days the battle raged. It turned out to be a piece of good fortune that we had been dumped in the slough, for the enemy shots went mostly over us, especially so with the heavy discharges from the cannon. Although they could see us from the fort, the timber having been cut away, they seemed to be having trouble focusing us right in the depression which we occupied.

Near the end of the second day’s fighting, we saw our flag go up on the breastworks to the right of us, which meant our boys had broken through the rebel lines. Then came our turn to start from the slough and go directly at the fort to capture, if possible, a share of it. We went on a rapid run, firing as we ran, but not all of us got by unscathed, for soon one of my companions fell, and then another, but we could stop at nothing now, and after a fierce onslaught, we occupied the fort.

The Battle of Nashville proved to be one of the most complete and decisive victories of the Civil War. Hood’s army was practically annihilated, a great many being killed or wounded, and an enormous number taken prisoners. It was rumored that many of Hood’s soldiers got so disgusted after the battle that they left his army and went home. Union paper money rose 15 per cent after this battle.

The next day after the battle was spent chasing the fleeing rebels, and we crowded them so that they were unable to move their cannon fast enough, so they dumped many of them into the Wolfe River. The next day, December 24th, we still pursued them, but on coming to a stream, which I believed was the same Wolfe River, we found that the bridges had been burned. We made a bridge and marched over, but we did not make the bridge sufficiently strong at once. The provisions trains and vehicles could not pass over, and all we had to do was starve. The next day was Christmas Day and no food! The provisions reposed tantalizingly on one side of the river, and we fumed and fretted and licked our tongues on the other. Never during the whole war did I think so much of home, father, mother, sister, and brothers, as I did on this doleful Christmas Day in Tennessee. I thought of the many Christmas dinners mother had prepared and which I had enjoyed, and of the many other Yuletide pleasures experienced in the simple, yet dear home in far off Iowa. In the afternoon some of the boys had succeeded in bringing down some geese, so we had an imitation feast towards evening.

We continued marching until we came to the Tennessee River, where we were taken by steamboat to a place called East Port, at a point where the states of Alabama and Mississippi meet, just south of the Tennessee line. Here we hoped to get rest and quiet for awhile, but the rebels had no sympathy, and continually bothered, and in three weeks we were again in motion. This time we went up the Tennessee River, then down the Ohio and landed at Cairo once more. In a few days we were loaded on a steamer again and made a trip of 1,200 miles to New Orleans. It gave us an opportunity to view the city, but having seen so many different towns by this time, I did not take the trouble to do any sightseeing. However, I visited an old cemetery here and found many of the tombstones with the dates going back as far as 1700 and a few to the latter part of 1600.
Chapter 7    Table of Contents    Home
Copyright © 1996 by John Ritland. All rights reserved. For permission requests, contact