Jesse B. Connelly
31st Indiana Volunteers
Rockville Republican, December 22, 1886
In the latter part of August, 1862, our regiment, then a part of Wood's division, Army of the Cumberland, were encamped at McMinnville, Tennessee, standing as a great picket post on the advance, watching the movements of Morgan and Forrest, who were in that vicinity. Raids were made by the Rebels on our lines nearly every day, unless we had a force out scouting for the enemy. The general impression among the men, was, that the offense demonstrations of Morgan and Forrest but covered some undeveloped movement of the main army of Bragg, in the direction of a raid into Kentucky. Such proved to be the correct solution, for while Forest and Morgan made vigorous demonstrations of attack, Bragg, with his main army, slipped through the valley east. of us and was well on his way to Ky. before his movements were discovered.
We left McMinnville on Sept. 3, arriving at Louisville, Kentucky, Sept 26, having been 23 days on the march. This was the hardest marching we had as yet had to do. It was a forced march from the beginning, it being a race for Louisville, and we on the long line. Ever man was in light marching trim, and without tents or trains we pushed along as rapidly as man could; several times marching until far in the night, and for six nights in succession camping by starlight, I have seen men marking along the road at midnight sound asleep,, and when halted, continue to stand; others, when the column halted, would lie down in the road, going to sleep as soon as they touched the ground. Most of the days, until we struck the enemy at Green River, we made 25 to 30 miles each day. During all this march we were on half rations. Several times have we marched all day and laid down at night without anything to eat, not even so much as a cup of coffee. We have, after a hard day's marching, taken our tin plates, which we made into graters, grated the new corn into meal, made it into Johnny cakes and baked them, sometimes on a board. sometimes on a fence rail, generally on the grater set up in front of the fire. Once or twice flour was issued. This we made into dough, which was wrapped around the end of a stick and held over the coals until baked. Water sometimes was hard to get. occasionally all we had we got from the round sink holes, common in some parts of Kentucky, and from the evaporation becomes very brackish. It was not an unusual thing to see the mules and horses wading in those sink holes, stirring up the mud and the men filling canteens for water to drink. Sometimes we founds ink holes, at the bottom of which was running water. in some of these, near Bowling Green, Kentucky, trees had been dropped with the limbs cut to make steps and down and up these went the boys, loaded with canteens for water. It was slow work, but the water was splendid when we got it. For three days we lay SO. of Green River, at Mumfordsville, skirmishing with the enemy, who were in heavy force under Bragg, and between us and home, friends and relatives. if a general engagement had been fought it would have been a desperate one, as a defeat to either army would have been its destruction. Buell, if defeated, might have retreated to Nashville and saved his army; Bragg must have surrendered, if defeated. Our boys realized this, believed they could defeat the rebel army, and were anxious to try it. The three days spent in skirmishing was by Buell feeling of the enemy, trying to learn his position; and by Bragg, to cover his retreat across Green River; and he succeeded but too well. He crossed over in safety and moved north, pursued by our troops. Wood's division and the rear guard of the rebels skirmished every day until reaching Elizabethtown, when the rebels turned E. to Bardstown and we came on to Louisville.
We reached West. Point on the Ohio River, September. 25 where there was plenty to eat; we rested one night and with a full stomach. Arriving at Louisville, our brigade was marched down to the river and camped on the island made by the canal around the falls. The first day we spent in the river, trying to find the man under the dust and dirt. A good wash and some clean clothes, with plenty to eat and we were ready for another tramp. Our wagons did not come up for a day after we reached Louisville, so we were without camp equipage of any kind. The same day of our arrival the 90th Ohio regiment was marched down on the island and camped by us. It was a new regiment, just from home, had lots of patriotism and a full supply of camp equipment of all kinds. In the morning there was great commotion in their camp, as during the night quite a large part of their cooking utensils had disappeared and were not to be found. Our boys, somehow, seemed to have struck a camp kettle mine somewhere and had worked it well. During our stay at Louisville occurred that unfortunate affair, the killing of Gen. Nelson by Gen. Jeff C. Davis. Nelson being a Kentuckian, the Ky. soldiers wanted Davis hung. The Indiana boys were for Davis, he being an Indiana man, and at times it seemed there might be trouble.
We had orders to move early, but during the night Bragg had retreated, and we advanced and camped on the creek. Since it is known now that but one corps of Buell's army was engaged in the battle of Perrysville, and the other two in reach and not ordered to advance, there begins to be talk among the men that Buell is not just right. it is reported in camp and believed among the men that Buell purposely held back the two corps, so that Bragg might escape with his army and the large among of plunder he had gathered. They thought it strange that at Green River Bragg so easily got away and now to leave 1/3 of the army to fight all day with the entire rebel army, and 2/3 stand idly by, they think there must be something wrong somewhere. Remaining a day and night at Perrysville, we were again on the march, reaching Danville about daylight; here we got breakfast and then moved out again. In the march to Danville we went right through farms, paying no attention to roads. From Danville we went to Lancaster, then turned south to Crab Orchard, on to Mt. Vernon, and on out to and up the mountains to Camp Willard, where Gen. Thomas had camped early in the war. To this place the 10th and 22nd brigades of Crittenden's corps had advanced by the 16th of Oct. On the 17th the man who were well and able to stand a forced march were called in line and quietly started to a crossing of two roads, six miles distant to intercept a drove of cattle going out under the escort of Gen. Buford's cavalry of Kerby Smith's army. We went in light marching trim, prepared either for vigorous advance or swift retreat. Silently and swiftly we advanced and so quietly that we captured the picket and post without firing a shot. Advancing rapidly, the inner pickets were surprised but one cavalry fled and so we pushed forward on double quick, formed quickly in line, charged the rebel camp, found them at supper, and so surprised were they to see us coming out of the woods that they at once broke and ran, and that without order -- helter, skelter, here, there, anywhere to get out of the way. We took 250 prisoners at that time and 200 came in next day in squads and gave themselves up. We made our suppers on the beef already prepared and by the fires already burning. We followed on Mon. Oct 20 and from what we saw if we had but pursued the next day, Sunday, we would have captured many more prisoners and a large train of wagons. The citizens who lived along the road over which the rebels retreated said they were thoroughly demoralized and suffering for food and rest. We could always tell where a regiment had halted, as the men had been chewing sorghum for the juice and where each man had rested there was the chewed cane. We were too late to do any good so returned to camp.
Oct. 22nd our brigade started for Manchester, a distance of 28 miles, where there were large salt works. We found five works in full operation, making about 500 bushels per day with near 100,000 bushels on hand. The manufactured salt we shoveled into the crest after allowing each family who come, to take what was supposed to be enough to last them for one year. The works were then destroyed, not burned but pieces of the machinery destroyed, such as could not be replaced. Our mission accomplished, we started on the return. Our brigade had gone 30 mi. beyond where the farthest out post of the main army had reached and were alone in their raids and forages in the mountains Sat. night, Oct. 25, we camped on Rock Castle River, at the foot of the mountain below Camp Wild Cat. It snowed all night and we had neither tens or blankets; we took the storm as it came. The next day it snowed all day and the snow and mud was about 6" deep, yet we made 16 miles. That night it froze pretty hard, but we had got out of the mountains far enough to be among the farms, and finding a big straw stack, had both bed and covering. The men suffered a great deal on this march; we never had more than half rations, and sometime none. When we ran Buford's cavalry out of their camp many of the men were so hungry they did not wait to cook their beef, but ate it raw. More than 100 men were barefooted or had their feet tied up in their blouses. Yet all through the mountains, over the rocks, through the woods, the mud and snow, over the frozen ground they went and made not a word of complaint, save that through the inefficiency, cowardice or disloyalty of the commanding General; the prize of the rebel army, with its wealth of plunder, had slipped through our fingers. And thus ended the rebel raid into Ky. We had followed from McMionville, Tennessee, to the Ohio River, from Louisville to the mountains of East Kentucky had marched by day and in the night, had gone in dust, in rain, in storm and in snow, over the frozen ground, pinched with hunger and suffering for water, barefooted and scantily clothed. We sought the enemy wherever he turned his footstep, and yet, through somebody's fault, and that not of the privates, the rebel army went out with fuller hands than when they came in.