Spencer, Article 19
I closed last week, while in the thickest of the fight and will now finish. Our Brigade at that time composed the left wing of our line, and the enemy's line extended ours and captured our Battery of 4 cannon on our left, commanded by Capt. Carnes. Genl. Longstreet with his command came up on our left, engaged the enemy and assisted in recapturing Battery. The loss of our Battery so early in the battle, and the enemy flanking our left, almost demoralized our men, until we saw Genl. Longstreet coming to our aid. The battle was raging terribly on our right. A minnie bill (?) clipped my canteen strap, and down it went, but I picked it up and put it in my haversack. The boys were falling, killed and wounded all around. A grape shot struck a tree a little way from me, and a piece of bark struck my nose a glancing lick, tearing off a lot of hide, and made a scab for awhile. I thought at first that my nose was shot off, but plenty was left. Capt. Parks was mortally wounded near me and I saw Mark Mitchel assist in getting him off. Tom Mooneyham was shot through the leg. Our line was being thinned, and I took a quick glance to see if I was left alone, and a few steps to my left stood Bill Payne banging away, and a load of grape shot from a cannon struck the g?? in front of us and flew by us like a drove of pheasants. We saw that our line had fallen back a short distance and we went back and reformed. The battle on our right was still raging fiercely. Gard Green lost a leg while standing very close to me. Night came on and we lay in line all night. It turned cold, and a heavy frost on the ground next morning. The moans and cries of the wounded on the field between our lines during the night were terrible and pitiful, but dangerous to go to their rescue. On the morning of the 20th the battle was opened again. Genl. Breckenridge on our right advanced and opened the fight, and the battle was terrific the whole day. Our Division was held in reserve to be used at some critical point and time. The time and point came in the evening when Genl. Cheatham was ordered to move us to the extreme right of our line, and between sundown and dusk we formed in line and advanced on them and they left their works and fell back to Rossville and were in possession of the field. So you see that I was in the last charge at the great battle of Chickamauga. We rested that night on the battlefield with dead and wounded all about us. I would then have voted for the war to close, but oh, my! Forty-eight years have come and gone since then, and not many Van Buren boys living now, who were in that battle. I was back on the ground last October and you cannot imagine my feelings. But I must go on. We then marched back this way and took position on Missionary Ridge, and the enemy in and around Chattanooga. The Yankee army was being recruited, but ours diminished. Our Regiment took position at the western foot of the ridge, and were in sight of Chattanooga. Occasionally the Yanks would send a cannon ball to us, to let us know that they were there. Parson Dewitt, our Chaplain, preached for us every Sunday, when we were still. His favorite song was "Jesus, lover of my soul". You might as well preach to a drove of wild hogs as a lot of soldiers. I have seen boys with blanket spread on the grounds, playing cards in a few steps of the preacher while preaching. I think Dewitt was a Presbyterian, and a good man. My recollection is, that he continued with us until the end. I will move out from the ridge in my next.
Spencer, Article 20
The enemy was invading East Tennessee and threatening to cross the river near the mouth of Hiwassee. Our Regiment was ordered to prepare to march out from Missionary Ridge. I think that was early in October 1863. We started sometime during the night and marched to some point on the railroad and took the train for Charleston on Hiwassee River. Some of the soldiers were always ready to prowl through the country, kill hogs, sheep, chickens, etc., and some of the citizens called for protection. Capt. Randals asked me to go, and protect the property of a widow, up the river from Charleston. I went and watched over her property. I have learned since the war that she was the mother of Crede Bates. The enemy was slowly and gradually penetrating our right and left flank. We were getting discouraged and wishing for the war to close, but oh, my! Several of the boys were tired of war and decided to go home. Mrs. Bates had one son and four grown daughters at home, and all treated me nicely. Drawing some of our troops from Missionary Ridge weakened our line, of which the enemy took advantage and stormed the ridge. We were ordered back to the ridge as quick as possible. The enemy broke our line on the left of our Division, demoralizing our men and were compelled to fall back. We lost what we gained in Chickamauga. November was upon us, and we knew there would not be much fighting during the winter. We fell back to Dalton and went into winter quarters. The night we arrived at or near Dalton was cold, wet and stormy and almost impossible to have fire. I yet remember that I suffered with cold all night and never slept any. Next day, encampment was selected and our Regiment located about 3 miles Southeast of Dalton for the winter. We erected little cabins and daubed with mud, and made chimneys of wood and clay. Water and firewood were handy, and we passed off the time there very well. The citizens made complaint that the soldiers were killing and carrying off their hogs, chickens and other stuff and asked for protection. Capt. Randals asked me to take my gun and ammunition and go out to A. C. Leeks on Conasauga River, and protect him in his property. I went and did my duty, and was well treated by the family. They were "well to do" people, had a good farm and several negroes. On going to the barn lot one morning, found that 5 or 6 geese were missing, and I knew had been taken by soldiers, but did not know what part of the army had taken them, whether Tennesseans, Georgians or from other states. Mrs. Leek fell from grace when I told her. I went to camp that day to see how the boys were getting along, and in going around, I found to my surprise, Mrs. Leek's geese snugly quartered in my Regiment being stuffed with dough. I mentioned the matter, and one of the boys said for me to keep my mouth shut, and I decided it might be best and never told on the boys. Van Buren boys were innocent in that matter. I got acquainted with good many people who lived near Leek. Mitchels, Hollands, Kirkseys, McAfees and others. Mrs. Leek kept a switch on the mantle in her room to whip a negro girl, when she needed it. One night the little children were playing, having a good time and turned a churn of milk over the hearth, and Mrs. Leek fell from grace again, took down the switch and warped it on little Florence's back, and Mr. Leek took the switch, broke it and threw it in the fire, then Mr. L. give him a lick in the short ribs, he shoved her back, she came again with a "Jo.darter" (?) and he sent her to the wall, but she started for him again, and he said "Don't come again Jane" and the fight ended.
Spencer, Article 21
I closed last week telling you of the loss of a churn of milk, and the fight. I never told you the funny part of it. Mr. Leek had given me a pair of boots, but heels worn off of them, and they were very slick. I grabbed for the churn, hoping to save some of the rich milk, but my boots slipped and down I went, taking a seat in the milk on an old-time hearth and my boots under the forestick of an old-time log fire. The milk was thick, was 3 or 4 inches thick on the hearth. Mr. L. laughed and grabbed me to help me out of the fire, and if Mrs. L. had not lost her temper, they surely had a good one on me. I went to the wood pile, got chips, etc. and scraped the most of the milk from my pants. They pouted for several days and the matter was never mentioned during my stay there. I have not exaggerated in this matter. ??? are solid facts. I took no side in the fight, and guess I did ??? Some soldiers were bad court-martialed and put in "stocks" but others went, liberated the prisoners and destroyed the stocks, which came near, having war among ourselves. The winter was the coldest in my memory and the last day of 1863 and the first day of 1864 were the coldest days since the days of Adam. The Chaplains in our Brigade decided to hold a few days meeting and erected a brush harbor a short distance from our Regiment and during services one night, a wind storm blew down a tree and killed 3 or 4 of the mourners. We were cut off from home and home communication and had not much hope of ever meeting again the loved ones at home. Preachers referred to the facts and had but little trouble in persuading boys to the mourner's bench. "A worldly sorrow." I thought of earthly home sweet home and cried, but never went to the mourner's bench, thinking it best to whip the Yanks and then go home. But it took me a long time to "clean 'em up". I have said enough of our soldier life near Dalton. Mr. L. sold his farm and refugeed to Southwest of Ga., and they requested me to go to them in case I got sick or wounded. Spring time came on, and we knew something would take place. Genl. Sherman had pushed a portion of his army across Tenn. River and was in Lookout Valley, Ga., and threatening our communications. Genl. Burnside with a considerable force of Yanks had possession of Knoxville and threatened us on our East flank. About the first of May, Genl. Jo Johnston ordered us to get busy. His army was in good condition and ready to do as he commanded. We left our winter quarters and from that day until the surrender was "sure enough war." Every day and almost every hour during the three months from Dalton to Atlanta the roar of a cannon or the sound of a rifle could be heard. It was fortunate for us that Jo Johnson was our commander. Some Generals would have had us all killed in the campaign from Dalton to Atlanta, but "Old Jo" (as we called him) wished to avoid the sacrifice of his men's lives, unless when forced to. It is 100 miles from Dalton to Atlanta, most of it might be called a battlefield. Sherman had his host in our front and kept a heavy force on our left, pushing South. Rations were scarce and no such thing as a solid night's rest. Among our killed at Resacca was Col. Stanton, a brave and gallant man. Our Regiment supported a Battery in that engagement. I shall never forget New Hope Church house and the fight there, and the night attack made on Cleiburn's Division getting close to Granbury's and Lowry's Brigades, but repulsed with heavy loss. The darkest night I ever saw was during our march near New Hope. A soldier stepped out in the bushes, bang went his gun and he hallooed "Oh, Lordy", and someone yelled out "You done it on purpose to get a discharge." Oh war, war! Keep cool boys. I am not yet done, but will likely hasten on and leave out much that would interest you.
Spencer, Article 22
Do not forget when I closed last week. We were hugging close to "Rocky Face Ridge to Kenesaw Mountain." On the 27th of June, Sam Baker was killed on picket duty between the lines. Jeff Hillis married his daughter (I believe). Sam was a jovial, lively, good-hearted and brave soldier. I think Wm. Lowry of Warren County was killed the same day. I very well remember the day Sam was killed. It would take a book of many pages to contain events and occurrences from Dalton to Atlanta. We were getting ragged and never got a chance to wash our rags except to wade into Creek River or pond, pull off, rub and scrub without soap, rinse the best we could, wade out, put them on wet, and be ready for any order. Oh the Ga. campaign! Many of the boys quit before those memorable days, and a few of them gave out and stopped to be picked up by the Yanks as they advanced, but I pulled on tired and ragged, hungry and discouraged. I think that Genl. Polk was killed the 14th of June. We all loved Genl. Polk. I well remember the place. We had some heavy rains while near "New Hope Church." We had a considerable fight near Adairsville. We threw down a fence and piled the rails in front of us to protect our heads from shots from small arms. A grape shot struck the pile in front of me and a rail hit Sam Worthington by my side and came near killing him, but he banged away, and he never flickered in any battle. Genl. Sherman had twice as many men as Genl. Johnston. Genl. Quarles Brigade of 2000 men re-inforced us which gave us some encouragement. After Genl. Polk was killed, Genl. Loring was put in command of the Corps. About 7000 Yanks were killed in the battles near New Hope. On the 27th of June Genl. Sherman made a disastrous attack on our Division and Genl. Cleburnes at a place called the "Dead Angle" and was repulsed with heavy loss. The enemy's loss in killed in front of our Division was estimated at 800. Our Regiment was in position near to and east of Dead Angle. Our Battery was stationed by my Company, and it poured shot and shell in the ranks of the enemy. The enemy knew that if our line could be broken at the Angle an enfilade (?) fire would demoralize and route us, but they failed to capture the point notwithstanding they pressed forward and some of them killed in a few feet of our line. Two days afterward, a truce was observed to bury the dead, during which all was quiet. I was out on picket duty the day of the burial, and several were buried near me. During battle, the pickets retire to the main line but after the battle, pickets are put out between the lines. Genl. Sherman found that he could not break our line by direct assault, resorted to his usual tactics of flanking us and kept pushing South on our west. Major Genl. A. P. Stewart was put in command of a corps composed of three Divisions commanded by Genl. Loring, French and Walthall. During the midnight hour, about the last of June, a volley of musketry was heard off to our left, which excited us very much but the firing soon ceased, and next morning we inquired the cause of the firing, and they said that a Brigade fired on the lightning bugs. These things seem fresh to my memory. While our line was in position on Kenesaw, our pickets were stationed at the western foot of the mountain and I was detailed to take W. H. Head, Polk Douglas, ___ Butler and another whose name I have forgotten, locate the enemy and hold the fort. We selected a place, dug a pit, got in it and made it hot for the Yanks that day. They were near the road leading to Marietta, on higher ground than we were and we had that advantage of them. We were in the edge of the woods and they evidently thought we were in the main line. We kept banging away at them and they at us. We had more pickets off some distance to our right and left. In my next I will move out and tell you something of war.