Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bates Letters - April 16, 1863

Note: the battle of "Verd Creek" that Bates refers to appears to be the April 10th battle of Franklin or Harpeth River. The regiment captured Freeman's Battery, which was subsequently recaptured by Forrest's cavalry. They lost five men killed and 18 wounded in the engagement. The regiment's sergeant major killed the battery commander in the capture of the guns, which was the source of subsequent animosity the regiment and Forrest's command.

I found Bates' observations on the differing miltary legality of "foraging" in Virginia and Tennessee interesting as well.

Murfreesboro Tenn April 16th/ 63

Dear Parents,

Though it is some time since I have written to you I shall not try to excuse myself --- “You know too well the story of our thralldom; We are slaves.” For nearly two weeks I have not had time to swap jack-knives even if I wanted to do it. The company has been in a pretty sharp fight since I wrote the account of our advance to Snow Hill, and we have distinguished ourselves as the complimentary order of Capt McIntyre says – “To the list of your brilliant actions you have added the name of Verd Creek, a name which will be brightest among the many.” I suppose you have read in the papers before this of the affair and I can give you no particulars for I was like Bob Acres at the battle of the Nile, -- “There all the while, off about seven mile” but the firing was very rapid, and lots of prisoners were taken, lots of hats lost in the charge, and I am very sorry to say, lots of lives lost in the regiment.

We had plenty of poultry, pigs and sheep on the last trip, and the soldiers here are allowed to confiscate anything which appears disloyal or dangerous. A pig if he shows any disposition to bite, is summarily punished, and chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and such, have to take the oath, or die!! I say the soldiers are allowed to confiscate but must qualify the assertion, in this regiment, and indeed throughout the western army the officers instead of watching the men to catch them Jayhawking, turn their heads and let the men go in. The result is Virginia where the men have not been allowed to take an ear of corn without being court-martialed is secesh to the backbone, while Tennessee is rapidly getting union. I thought when on furlough that the fighting was about all done, but have changed my mind. Before long there will be one of the greatest battles of the war between Murfreesboro and Nashville, or I am mistaken. I have no doubt but Rosencrans will win but twill be a long pull, and a strong pull.

The order of the night is for every body to be ready to start at a moments warning and perhaps we shall be “off for the wars” before morning. I am so used to getting up o’nights now that I don’t mind it much and would as soon start for Chatanooga now as eat my supper. And as for fighting, the Regiment is so used to that I believe they would cut a mans head off as cool as cut a ration of beef. General Rosencrans is imitating the policy of McClellan in digging and ditching, and wherever there is room for a fort or ditch in this neighborhood, one is built or in course of building. The men all like him but I don’t, for this reason he has a Priest with his staff, to say mass night and morning. At least the boys all say so, and what every body says must be true.

I want you to send me some postage stamps for none are out here. I am going with the company the next time it goes to the front and shall perhaps have something interesting to write. All the prisoners taken at the Snow Hill scout were retaken by guerillas while on the road to Nashville, mine among the rest, I shant try to take any more if they cant be kept after the taking. Give my love to all for I have not time to particularize.
I remain affectionately
Charles E. Bates

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