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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

A Civil War Letter

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
Source:
The following letter was taken from The Western Star, dated June 18, 1908. Ulysses M. Greene, Company K, (?) O.V.I., wrote it and it tells of a tragic episode in the lives of a Civil War family.
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Way up in the mountain fastness of Northern Georgia stands a double log cabin. It is a typical mountain home, but unlike many of its kind it bears the stamp of at least a rude refinement. The occupants are a mother and little daughter. They are jointly writing a letter to the husband and father who is in the confederate Army then encamped at Murfreesboro, Tenn., and they hope it will reach its destination about Christmas. Among the childish things written by the little girl is the following: "We are so lonesome, Mamma and I, when will you come home to us?" The letter is sent and bears the date of November 20, 1862. (How I know the exact date will appear later on.)
It is the morning of December 31, '62. The first guns that ushered in the great Battle of Stone River have awoke the woodland echoes. The Confederates instead of waiting the attack of the Union forces, took the initiative, massed their forces on Rosecran's right wing, and at dawn of day furiously assailed McCook's corps.
Some of the troops are in the act of getting breakfast, the
Artillery horses are in the rear watering at Overall's Creek. Our picket line, only a short distance in front was driven in and the regiments which formed some semblance of a line of battle, were swept away by the hot blast of bullets and storm of shot and shell, disorder and consternation reigned supreme. Our life, which at that moment was on the move to cross Stone River, was recalled and sped across the fields into the cedar woods to check the exultant legions that swarmed like belligerent hornets. The enemy had the advantage of both numbers and momentum, but the arrival of Woods' division in a measure restored the equilibrium and confidence as well. Here was fighting. No romance about it, simply give and take. As fast as the Confederates swept over the battery guns they were in turn pushed back by the Federals. It was "Greek meet Greek." For Georgia crosses bayonets with Ohio! Mississippi flashes muskets in the face of Illinois! What did it all mean? It meant that if our right center was broken that the battle already out of joint was irretrievably lost and a disorderly retreat of our broken columns to Nashville if not a worse calamity. The men who formed the line and faced Bragg's onslaught knew this just as well as did the commanding general. Kossuth once said that in America "bayonets think." In the Franco-Prussian War it was not the Needle gun that defeated France but superior German intelligence. In like manner at Stone River met in battle array the institution of Slavery and the Northern school house! And however desperate could the final results be for a moment doubtful?
The fight over the guns of the 6th Ohio battery was short but deadly. Over the hot smoking cannon men fought with bayonet and gunstock like incarnate devils. The wheels of the gun carriages were actually blocked with the bodies of the blue and the gray. It looked like anybody's fight until General Wood who overlooked the melee from a rock in cedars, yelled "Give em the steel, dam em, Give em the steel!" The bayonet decided it, and the smoke cleared off and Stone River was won.
Protruding from the pocket of a dead Confederate who died at the high water mark of their advance was a new crisp letter. Sam Garrett of the 64th Ohio took it out and glanced over it. There he read one sentence and put the letter back. This was the sentence: We are so lonely, Mamma and I, Dear Papa, when will you come home to us? There stiff and stark with a bullet through his heart lay the father, and I thought of the little mountain child with her face against the window pane looking sadly out into the gathering gloom listening for the footsteps of that father who fell on the bright edge of victory and sleeps today beneath the sighing Cedars! Verily this bullet had found its billet-in a double sense.
Some of the boys who took a hand in this battle are still with us. George Hidee of Oregonia is one; Dr. Shackleford of the same village is another. By the way the doctor lost a leg there. The writer of this was also wounded there. There may be others.

[The statistics of the battle may be of some interest to the readers: Confederate forces, 39,400 engaged, killed wounded and prisoners, 13,780-about 38%.]
[Union forces, 41,200 engaged; killed, wounded and prisoners, 14,231-about 35%.]


FOOTNOTES: [a place to add additional information that you might want to submit]

     

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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