Genelogy is more than just a collection of names and dates. It is a human picture of family and events as lived in past times. Stories put faces on the people presented. This is one such story. It is a remarkable letter written by Harold Fisk Chenoweth to his niece, Patricia Ann Opper, describing Harold's abiding interest in the Civil War and his uncle's service and ultimate death in that conflict. Harold weaves his acquired knowledge from studying the history of the war to retrace the service of Caleb Asbury Chenoweth as a young soldier with letters written by and to Caleb and by Harold's own journey, retracing the route that Caleb followed to Kennsaw Mountain, Georgia, where Caleb was mortally wounded on June 27, 1864, during an ill conceived assault on the Confederate position. It is an extraordinarily well-done account. I thank Jean Tuohino, Harold's daughter, for allowing me to use it. Caleb's remains can be found in the Marietta National Cemetery, Cobb Co., GA
To frame the letter, this is Caleb's family. Harold was a son of Wilbur Fisk Chenoweth, Caleb's brother.
RICHARD FOSTER5 CHENOWETH (THOMAS C.4, ELIJAH3, THOMAS2, JOHN1) was born December 27, 1818 in Ohio, and died April 02, 1857 in Tippecanoe Co., IN. He married LUCY JANE VRENDENBURG July 03, 1842 in Fountain Co., IN, daughter of H. VRENDENBURG and SARAH ?. She was born August 30, 1823 in Illinois, and died March 09, 1857 in Warren Co., IN.
Children of RICHARD CHENOWETH and LUCY VRENDENBURG are:
My Dear Niece Patty:
Several months ago while visiting you in Virginia you asked me about your Mother and my family history. I regret that up to now I have been unable to satisfy your curiosity the more so since I have been regarded as sort of family historian since our Mother's passing several years ago.
I recently did some research on the family during the Civil War period and I hope the following pages pass on to you some history that I am sure will interest and thrill you as it did me. When I related it to my daughter, Lois, she said: "Dad, you are just making that up." To which I replied: "All you have to do is to read the Civil War letters in chronological order and you will find it true with all the romance, humor and tragedy of a novel of the Victorian age even to the recounting of the love of a high minded Union soldier boy, your great Uncle Caley, for a northern girl with divided sympathy for the causes of both sides, having relatives in both the armies of the north and the south. I hope you will be as thrilled as was I by what the letters reveal."
Our family name is not a common one, hence a persistent curiosity as to our heritage by the present family generation. As for me I can go back no farther than my great, great grandfather, an itinerant preacher living in Ohio and Indiana.
Our American ancestors came over from Wales [should be Cornwall, most early accounts of the family mention Wales. This is a misconception of the Cornish nature of this name and family.] in the early days of the Virginia Colony and others are found to have been among Maryland's earliest settlers. So far as I have been able to ascertain, we are of the Maryland strain and related to the Calvin [should be Calvert] family by marriage, one of whom was Lord Baltimore. Our coat of arms goes back to before the days of Oliver Cromwell. [this long held family tradition is not correct]So much for a synopsis of our early family history.
I suppose it was curiosity as much as anything that got me started delving into the activities of relatives of the Civil War period as my lately deceased Mother had several years before her death placed in my keeping family letters of the Civil War period which my Father who died when I was only seven had so carefully kept. The most interesting to me were those written by his brother, Caley, from the camps and battlefields of the Civil War. I was later to find that my Uncle Ross, Father's younger brother, had in his later years bequeathed to his son, Claude, more of the letters of the same period. The letters became the foundation for what was later to become my hobby: the history of the Civil War.
My Father's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Foster Chenoweth, were residents of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where he first practiced medicine. Their first born, Caleb and Sarah, were born there in 1843 and 1844, respectively. Sarah died shortly after birth. My records show that it was either in 1845 or 1846 that the family moved to Monroe, Wisconsin, later to become known as the "Swiss Cheese Capital of America." My Father, Wilbur, was born there October 12, 1846.
In a letter of March 6, 1850, to his parents in Indiana, the doctor gave a very unusual reason as to why he was planning to leave Monroe. He wrote:
"I have some idea of leaving Wisconsin this summer. The repeal of the usury law has raised the interest rate to any amount a man will ask and hundreds of dollars have been sent into the country and loaned at 25 to 75% and a large share of the property in the county is mortgaged for it, so I think I have done business enough for nothing. I have concluded to leave what is not collectable of my accounts and try another place. Our exemption laws make collections difficult but the repeal of the usury law made ten fold more effect than that...."
The doctor and his family returned to Tippecanoe County, Indiana, soon after the above letter was written where Alice was born September 16, 1851, and Rossiter on November 16, 1853. In a letter to his parents February 16, 1857, the doctor wrote:
"My dear mother, sister, and family:
Jane (his wife) has been confined to her bed for about two weeks with typhoid fever and is just able to sit up a few minutes at a time now but is doing very well. Fever broke. Caleb was sick last week but is well now. The rest are well and have been most of the time during the winter."
Jane died March 1, 1857, and her husband, the doctor, one month later on April 2. Theirs were tragic deaths as they left four minor children: Caleb, then 14; Wilbur 10; Alice 6; and Rossiter 4, affectionately called Caley, Willie, Allie, and Rossie, respectively.
The four orphans were cared for by their Mother's people. The grandparents, a veteran preacher and his wife, took little Allie and Uncle John Vredenburgh assumed the responsibility for the three boys. The letters show they were wonderful people and assumed the burden of the children's care bravely and lovingly. Common tragedy seemed to bring the children, very closely together in love and affection.
None of the letters indicate where and when Caley completed his schooling but we do know from his letters that it must have been quite adequate for the times. The next we hear of him he had worked at several jobs, on farms, in stores, a printing office and lastly as a newsboy on trains in Illinois and Indiana. Some of those years he described to his grandfather as "wasted years." But in reality they were not as they had gone a long way toward his sophistication and making him determined to find a permanent vocation with a desire to succeed.
In a letter to Alice written in July (no year given, but most likely 1862) he tells of getting time off from his train newspaper work, procuring a railway pass to visit a friend, Harvey 0. Frusman in El Paso, Illinois, where Harvey was running a drug store in partnership with a man living in Peoria. He told of having a good visit with Harvey who promised to use his influence in getting him a job in a drug store so he could learn the business. Caley was to take the 3 o'clock train that afternoon back to Peoria to resume his work as a "newsbutcher". That is the last we know of Caley's movements until one month later.
We know that Caley was intelligent and living in Lincoln country where the great Lincoln-Douglas debates were held, he formed definite opinions as to the preservation of the union and so it was after many of his friends had joined up for military service that Caley enlisted for three years or the duration of the war in Company "All at El Paso, Illinois, in August of 1862. How Caley happened to be back in El Paso I do not know. Perhaps he was lonesome and had made good friends there with whom he wanted to enlist. Company "All was mustered into the 86th Illinois Volunteer Infantry later that month at Peoria, Illinois, and went into camp with the regiment at Camp Lyon on the outskirts of that city.
For a boy like me there were many things of interest in the Civil War era. There was the pension that Mother received after Father's death for his services in the war and which went a long way toward helping her rear her young brood of four, the youngest born six months after my Father's death in 1899. There were the juvenile books, the plays in our old opera house, the thrilling tales of the old soldiers, many of them dealing with the tragic war period. Then there were the old wartime Harper's and Leslie's Weeklies with woodcuts of drawings by contemporary artists. My father had saved them along with the old Century Magazines which he had had bound in book form since they contained the articles by generals on both sides titled "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," written twenty or more years after the war. And then, of course, there were the letters and the oft spoken words "Kennesaw Mountain."
I well remember the activities of the old veterans in our community. The torchlight parade they led for their comrade, William McKinley, when he ran against Bryan in 1900. The erection and dedication of the soldier monument and the mounting of the old Civil War cannon in the courthouse square. Their placing of the five-pointed GAR metal star over the grave of each passing member of the local Heckathorn Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Several months ago I went back to the old town of my boyhood. How things had changed with the old soldiers now only a part of the past. The base of the monument had cracked, the old cannon had been removed from its base having been used for much needed scrap iron in World War II. The stars on the graves of the veterans in the cemetery were rusty for the lack of care. The OLD SOLDIERS had "just faded away" and I said to myself: "It is well that at least we have our Memorial Day left to give a thought for those who gave so much."
As I grew older interest in my hobby, the Civil War, did not diminish and I continued by the reading of autobiographies and war memoirs. I had been able to purchase at secondhand bookstores many old books on the war, the most valuable being "The Photographic History of the Civil War" in ten volumes which, besides being brilliantly edited, contain the rare pictures made by Brady, Lytle, and other war-time photographers, which have been so much help to me in my research.
I have never had cause to regret the pursuance of my hobby, the Civil War, the more so since in recent years such distinguished, modern day generals as Eisenhower, Montgomery, Patton and others have studied the tactics and strategy used in the Civil War battles, particularly the one fought at Gettysburg. General Montgomery as usual found fault in the way it was fought.
General Patton is said to have spent days at a time tramping over the battlefield. The top generals on both sides who fought there had all graduated from West Point just as had he and other generals of later wars. Basic infantry and cavalry tactics had not changed much. Most of them had given much study to Hardee's manual.
Few wars have produced such a galaxy of distinguished generals as the American Civil War with their diversity of character and personalities; leaders with the military brilliance of Jackson and Sherman, the unswerving tenacity of Grant, the sound character and strategy of Lee, the capacity for right decisions of the irascible Meade, the dash of Stewart and Sheridan and the boldness of Custer and Hood.
On business trips to the south I visited many places where battles had been fought such as Vicksburg, the Red River campaign engagements of General Banks, then to Gettysburg on the 75th anniversary of that battle, thence on to Antietam, Winchester, Appomattox, the Wilderness, Richmond, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Washington, and many other places BUT I had not as yet been to Kennesaw Mountain; that, regrettably, would have to wait.
Space will not permit my telling all the interesting anecdotes of those trips but I will mention a few .... My wife and I were at the anniversary at Gettysburg when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lighted the eternal flame. While there we visited the last joint encampment of the veterans of the Blue and the Gray, camped side by side. We met twin veterans who had fought there and two Union veterans who were boyhood friends in Janesville, Wisconsin, when they enlisted. Both had fought there but had not seen each other since enlisting 75 years before. There were more imitations of President Lincoln than I care to remember. When my wife became tired out waiting while I looked at monuments and markers on the battlefield we moved on to Antietam and as she said, "to more markers and monuments."
At Winchester, Virginia, we met a lady who occupied the house which General Phil Sheridan had used as his headquarters in his campaign to drive the rebels out of the Shenandoah Valley. She told us that the general ordered the occupants to vacate the house for use of himself and staff.
A short time later he was confronted by the pretty young daughter of the household who protested to General Sheridan against the orders of a young staff lieutenant that she remove all her personal belongings and finery from the closet of her room which the lieutenant was about to take over. The dashing young general is reported to have told her that she could put her things in his room, a suggestion that the young lady blushingly declined.
At Lexington, Virginia, the birthplace of Stonewall Jackson, we called at the very old, modest cottage of a centenarian, Mrs. James Kirkpatrick (Mrs. Ann Elizabeth Senseney Kirkpatrick) whom some of her friends suggested that we go to visit., She and her elderly daughter living alone in the house very graciously received us.
Two years before the good people of Lexington had made a gala occasion of her 100th birthday. One of her gifts consisted of one hundred pieces of each denomination of U. S. silver coins. There was also a letter of congratulation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She recalled telling a "little white lie" to some soldiers belonging to a Union army invading the valley who had come to her house with plunder in their eyes. She told them that they had better be careful, as Stonewall Jackson's men were but a short distance away. She resumed with a chuckle: "You should have seen those Yankees skedaddle."
She was proud to tell us that after the war General Lee had come to see a preacher who was visiting in her home. Her daughter then spoke up to tell us that she was then a little girl and had sat on General Lee's lap.
As we rose to leave, the very old lady laughingly remarked: "We have been making blackberry jam and Emmy here, my 72 year-old daughter, just can't take it any more. I tired her all out."
Two interesting experiences occurred on my travels visiting the Red River battlefields fought by troops under the federal General Banks who had tried to go up to Shreveport to capture Confederate cotton, a contraband, stored there. He failed, being driven back down the river with his troops and over the same route he had come.
One of the battles was fought at and near the little town of Pleasant hill, Louisiana. I was directed to see two "old confederate ladies," as a filling station operator called them, whom he said were there as little girls when the battle was fought. My traveling companion and I found the two widowed sisters living all by themselves in two or three rooms of an old once white pillared mansion. A log fire was burning in the massive fireplace in the big living room.
The sweet little old ladies invited us in and told us how to reach the battlefield near the highway over which we had come. "You will notice some mounds to the right of the road as you go back near an old cistern," one of them said. "Those were Yankee trenches. I was on the battlefield after the Yankees retreated leaving many of their wounded behind. I was just a little girl then but I remember just as though it was yesterday, one of our soldiers going up to a wounded Union officer lying on the ground, sticking his bayonet through him, then removing the dead man's boots and jacket and putting them on. Rising and throwing out his chest, he said "I'se captain now," I was ashamed of him but then wars make such brutes out of men, don't they?"
Farther down the river above Alexandria, LA., I stopped to see the shoals just below which Yankee engineers had built coffer dams to raise the level of the water over the rocks so they could float their boats past and continue their retreat down the river which had fallen dangerously low since their passage upstream. Their effort was successful There I found a modern veterans' hospital had been built and its commanding officer, and army doctor, Major J. Baldwin McComb. Beyond the gate but a few rods distant on the other side of the road was a new monument marking the spot where once stood a state Seminary and Military Academy, later to become Louisiana State University located at Baton Rouge. Major MComb told me that his uncle, General William Tecumseh Sherman, was the first president of the new school but soon after resigned to go north to offer his service to President Lincoln when war clouds were gathering to threaten the Union.
The monument was dedicated shortly after the Major arrived to take command of the hospital and he being the highest ranking officer in the area was designated to act for the army at the unveiling ceremony. He told us of his reluctance to appear since he knew that many in the south hated his uncle for the destruction his troops had wrought in Georgia and the Carolinas to hasten the end of the war.
He was greatly relieved and pleased when the first speaker referred to him as being the nephew of a man who had taught there and who had gone on to become one of the world's greatest generals. I suggested that he was lucky that the unveiling had not occurred in Georgia or the Carolinas. He just smiled and said most of the southerners were wonderful people in which I was happy to concur. He wouldn't allow me to take his picture saying that it was just "one of his idiosyncrasies." Perhaps it was because he so closely resembled his uncle in facial appearance and didn't want to seem to be basking in his uncle's shadow.
Now for one last anecdote...In 1939, I took my 15 year-old son, Robert, with me on a boat trip from Evansville, Indiana, on the Ohio River, then down the Mississippi to New Orleans on a towboats the steamship Indiana, as guests of its owners in courtesy to one of their shippers who was a good friend of mine. (A practice that I might say to any who might expect similar courtesies was later discontinued.)
It was our good fortune to have our quarters next to the skipper, Captain Haynes, just below the control deck so we got very well acquainted with him. I had brought along several volumes of "The Photographic History" in which Captain Haynes took a great interest especially the volume showing pictures taken along the Mississippi during Civil War time. He showed us how many of those places looked today as we passed them. He pointed out a spot on the east bank of the river about 40 miles above Memphis where "Fort Pillow" was located during the war, occupied by Negro soldiers who were annihilated in a battle with the rebels. As we approached Vicksburg he told us that that was where his folks had lived long before and during the war, giving their name to the bluff just to the north of the town where General Sherman had been repulsed in 1862 in the first but futile attempt to take the city at that point. It was called the battle of Chickasaw Bayou or "Haynes Bluff." The city was surrendered to General Grant the next year in an attack from the south.
After the war the Haynes family tried to get restitution for the damage done to their place but were unsuccessful, perhaps because they had affiliated with the South. I am wondering if this Haynes family was related to Mollie Haynes who played a romantic part in Caley's life. She wrote of having relatives in that vicinity.
The Captain allowed my 15 year-old son to steer the boat where the river is very wide in its lower reaches and Bob would steer the six-barge tow from target to target with the Captain at his elbow looking at the books. I believe that Bob got his first good liking for the water as he joined the Navy a few years later in World War II, becoming the commander of a PT boat in the southwest Pacific.
Now back to more recent times. It was now the autumn of 1960. The centennial of the Civil War was but a few months away. Congress had created a commission to aid in the commemoration. Many southern states had appropriated several million dollars for the forthcoming four-year celebrations and I had not yet gotten down to Kennesaw Mountain.
I had placed the war letters in the archives of the Nebraska State Historical Society for safekeeping. I got the letters from them, had them all microfilmed together with other family war letters which my Father's brother had left in the hands of his son, Claude, now living in Long Beach, California.
After returning the letters I gathered up the microfilms and other items such as cameras, part of my ten-volume set of "The Photographic History of the Civil War," Caley's war record which has been photostatted for me by the Illinois State Historical Society, and set forth last October (1960) to get additional information on the family, but to particularly follow Uncle Caley's regiment over its route to Kennesaw.
I first went to Monroe, Wisconsin, "The Swiss Cheese capitol of America," where my Father was born in 1846. I was unable to find any records of Father's family in the court house at Monroe as complete records of the years before 1870 had not been saved. There had been another family there of the same name but nothing in their available history or antecedents made any near connection with ours.
My next stop was at El Paso, Illinois, which I found to be a little town about forty miles east of Peoria where Caleb had enlisted in Company "A". He was mustered into the 86th Regiment at Peoria in the same month, August 1862. I called on several of the old settlers in El Paso and consulted a history in book form of the town, but could find nothing concerning Company "A". But I was not greatly surprised as 100 years and four intervening wars had dimmed the memories of even the town's oldest inhabitants.
I spent the night in El Paso and as I lay in bed that night, I wondered what had gone through Uncle Caley's mind the night before he enlisted here. We shall perhaps never know but we do know what he was thinking about when his Company became a part of the 86th Illinois Volunteer Infantry after it was mustered in on August 27th into the 86th Regiment and went into camp at Camp Lyon on the outskirts of Peoria. Caley must have given much thought to his two brothers and a sister who had been dispersed among his uncles, aunts, and his grandparents for their upbringing. He was very fond of Wilbur, Alice, and Rossie who were 16, 11, and 7 respectively at the time of his enlistment.
His affection was expressed in his letter from Camp Lyon to Alice. To quote from a part:
"I love you, love you dearer than my own life and now that you are where a proper care and estimate can be made of your necessities and possessions, I shall provide such books and papers as will best contribute to your interest and improvement with a lavish hand."
The children's parents had been dead now a little over five years. As previously stated they had died barely a month apart in the spring of 1857, the victims of a typhoid epidemic.
To resume the story of my trip. In the morning I took some still color pictures of the older parts of the town of El Paso, then set out for Springfield, about an hour's ride distant where I went direct to the capital grounds and visited the state historical society. There I met Mr. Walton, the secretary, who allowed me to read the privately written history of the 86th Illinois which he had mentioned in his letter. It had been written shortly after the war by a member of the regiment, J. R. Kinnear, and published by the Chicago Tribune.
After browsing through the history, I went to the Adjutant's historical office in a building just across the street where I was shown Uncle Caleb's war record and the official history of the 86th Regiment from which photostats had previously been made and sent to me.
I now headed for Danville, Illinois, where so many of the family letters had originated, but when I got there I found that no one was able to give me a lead on either side of my Father's family.
I continued on to Lafayette, Indiana, county seat of Tippecanoe County, but found that the court house closed a little before noon on Saturdays and unfortunately I arrived a few minutes too late.
I was now like a bloodhound on the trail and eagerly wanted to get on toward Kennesaw and the battlefields that intervened. Mine was a too long deferred longing to be in the places that I had read about all my life and I did not wish to lay over Sunday in Lafayette; that and a trip to Peoria would have to await another time.
On Sunday morning bright and early I crossed the Ohio at Owensboro and continued south toward Nashville, Tennessee, arriving there a little after noon.
Now let's go back nearly a century and read Caley's description of the departure of the 86th Regiment for the front in a memorable letter from Camp Jefferson written September 10, 1862. The camp was on the Ohio River near Louisville, Kentucky. In the letter Caley tells of the train ride starting from Peoria on September 7th, then through eastern Illinois and the pause of the train at Eureka, but a few miles out from Peoria. He wrote:
"At Eureka where most of our company was raised, the train stopped to wood (the locomotives were wood burners in those days) and the whole town and country around were there to greet their friends. At this place I received numerous expressions of regard from several beautiful young ladies with whom I had become acquainted while in camp. Among them a very handsome bouquet. Here again I was witness to affecting partings, tears, wringing of hands, and truly touching signs of silent grief of the soul."
We were to learn later that the bouquet came from a young lady by the name of Mollie Haynes who had been introduced to Caley by her brother, N. S. Haynes, one of Caley's closest friends. In the months to come many were the letters to Caley postmarked Eureka but more of them later.
In other letters from Louisville are descriptions of camp life, long drills and army routine with fatiguing marches in dust and heat.
Later letters tell of the 66th Regiment being made a part of the 36th brigade of General Sheridan's Division of Galbreat4@'s Corps. Col. Dan McCook, one of the "fighting McCooks" of the 52nd Ohio was placed in command of the newly formed brigade. The regiment remained at Camp Jefferson until October 1st when it, with other regiments under the command of General Buell, marched in the pursuit of the confederate forces under General Bragg southwesterly through Kentucky and into Tennessee, to southwest of Nashville where on October 10, 1862, they defeated Bragg at Perryville. In this, the 86th's first battle, it led the attack with the loss of one killed and 13 wounded.
The regiment then retired to make camp at Nashville from where in a letter to his sister, Alice, Caley described his part in the regiment's first battle, a part of which is rather ludicrous. He wrote:
"I would like to describe my first engagement face to face with the enemy but cannot in this letter without losing more sleep than prudent since I have just learned we go on picket tomorrow; but it was pretty spirited for a little while, let me tell you. Some two hundred shots were exchanged and the balls from the guns in the hands of the rebels which I could see taking deliberate aim went zip, zip on both sides of me and one struck the ground half a dozen paces behind me near the captain. I tried hard but could not get in a shot, the lock proved faulty and the hammer would not burst a cap. There I was all out of patience. We were skirmishing to clear the way for the forage wagons."
The regiment then retired back to Nashville, there to await further orders.
Now, to resume my trip to the south. I had been in Nashville several years before but had seen very little of the city, so after a good night's rest I was out early to tour Nashville. First, I wanted to see Andrew Jackson's old home, The Hermitage, on the outskirts of the city. I intended to spend the day in Nashville and The Hermitage was on my "must" list. I stopped at a large filling station, asked for the manager to get my directions to The Hermitage. The manager, Mr. J. B. Foster, with his affable disposition well personified the extreme friendliness and hospitality of the southern people even to this Yankee who had come down to see the battlefields where they had lost the war.
While the colored helpers were servicing my car, I told Mr. Foster in detail why I was down in his country, opened a volume of "The Photographic History of the Civil War," and showed him photographs of Nashville of nearly a century ago, the fortifications about the city, the parapets about the capital building with the dust and smoke of battle photographed from the capital's steps. He became so interested that he wanted a friend who was visiting him, a retired businessman, Mr. John L. Weaver, to see the pictures who he said was interested in such things. I invited Mr. Weaver to sit in my car and look through the book, which he did.
The car serviced, directions gotten, and since Mr. Weaver seemed so engrossed in the book, I invited him to go along with me and guide me to The Hermitage, take lunch with me, and then go along and show me the marks left by the Civil War. He did not hesitate and I was able to see many of the old forts and trenches around the city. I was disappointed in a way that Nashville had grown so much since the Civil War that most of the old trenches, forts, and bastions had long since been absorbed or obliterated. The most famous of the old forts was Fort Negley and it was in a state of neglect with no road leading to it.
Mr. Weaver introduced me to Richard Pettigrew, manager of a large baking plant who also had had relatives in the war of the Rebellion, one an officer in the Confederate Army. Anyone listening in would have thought all of us had kin in the same regiment.
I remembered Uncle Caley's letters describing Nashville to which he was to return off and on through the early months of 1863. Of his thrill at seeing the then new capital building which contained a fine state library from which he had the loan of many good books. He told of seeing Governor Andrew Johnson (later to be Vice President) several times going and coming from his office in the capital generally followed by Negroes and other supplicants for his favor.
One of the best letters written by my Father was addressed to Caley shortly after the latter first reached Nashville. It was written on New Year's Day, 1863, from Delphi, Indiana, where Father and Rossie were evidently living with an uncle, John Vredenburgh. He tells of his and Rossie's fair progress in school. Sister Alice was living with their maternal grandparents at Danville, Illinois, who were deeply loved by all the orphaned children. (note that my Father, like Caley, was a good penman although he was but 16 years old at the time. Those were the days when good penmanship was a school requirement. There were no typewriters then.)
In his letter to his Uncle John from Nashville on January 31, 1863, Caley expressed himself very definitely and frankly on many subjects. He would like to see General Sherman dismissed from the army for his failure to take Vicksburg in 1862, the same General Sherman under whom he was to serve and admire later on.
"We want as you say, such generals as old Rosey (Rosecrans) and then we will have but one song: Forward, the day is ours.
He speaks of many desertions and the resignations of commissioned officers or furloughed home due to illness.
"When us poor subordinates and privates have to lay in hospitals until we are nearly dead before we can expect release to go home."
He condemns the "treasonable editorials in the Chicago Times and the Cincinnati Inquirer and other papers sympathetic with the South" He comments very favorably on his Uncle John's writing to "Old Abe" for a command and that he (Caleb) would be most happy to serve under him, a commentary on how volunteer regiments were raised and commanded in the Civil War.
During the rest of the winter months and the spring of 1863, Caley's letters tell of life in the army camp, of how they built their winter quarters, of their marches into various parts of Tennessee sparring with Bragg's army. In a letter to my Father he described how they built their cabin-like shelters, their beds out of tree boughs and gunnysacking.
In a letter of May 5th, 1863, to Allie, he describes a new camp 75 miles from Nashville which he praises highly. He also speaks complimentarily of his messmate, Commissary Sergeant Eber Hotchkins.
There were occasional well written letters from his regularly writing cousin, Julia Vandergrift, living in Indianapolis and, of course, from Mollie Haynes who was now out of college at Eureka and teaching school.
Back again to my trip ... After spending a day and a half around Nashville, I drove south about fifty miles to the town of Franklin on the Harpeth River, which town was mentioned several times in Caley's letters. They had camped near the town, had held patriotic rallies there in which many of the local citizens participated. The town that was to be one year later in the late summer of 1864 the scene of one of the most hard fought battles of the western campaigns. After Sherman had taken Atlanta he had sent Schofield's 23rd and Stanley's 4th Corps back to Nashville to reinforce General Thomas who was building up strength to hold Tennessee. General Hood with larger forces had tried to head off the small Union Army and intercept it before it could cross the Harp6th River at Franklin.
After forced marches Schofield and Stanley reached the river at Franklin first and his resistance to the forces of Hood resulted in heavy losses to both sides. The confederacy lost five generals who led their men in battle, the most famous was the Texan, General Patrick Cleborne, a native of Ireland.
The father of General Douglas McArthur, Major Arthur McArthur of the 24th Wisconsin, was wounded in this battle. I ate in a restaurant on Franklin's main street whose tall pillars bore the marks of cannon balls and musket fire. I then drove to Murfreesboro, thirty miles to the east, another famous battlefield fought over the year's end of 1862 and into New Year's Day of 1863, and while no decided victory was gained by either the forces of Rosecrans or Bragg, it did result in a later movement that forced Bragg to retreat southward to Chattanooga leaving most of Tennessee in control of the Federal Army.
Caley's regiment had camped there in July, 1863, while Gettysburg was being won in the east and Vicksburg was falling to the Army of Grant in the west. Caley's regiment returned to Nashville where it went into camp. He described in a July letter, one beautiful moonlit night march back to Nashville and the singing of the soldiers. I quote from his letter as follows:
"The entire brigade was ready and commenced to move. No demonstrations were suffered such as cheering and the like on the part of the soldiers but the greatest quiet was commanded. It seemed like a funeral procession as the columns slowly moved through the beautiful wood by the wagon road.
Pretty soon our company moved by the grandeur of the scenes as the moon resplendent in the heavens casting a charm on the natural loveliness of the scenery that can better be imagined than described, broke forth in full chorus singing Red, White, and Blue. Then followed all the sentimental and patriotic airs as they came to mind. Among them, Old John Brown; the Battle Cry of Freedom; Good Bye, Lover, Goodbye; Nelly Gray; etc., etc.
It had a magic effect and ran along the line, every regiment catching the enthusiasm until the woods fairly rang with music. Thus passed the time. No weariness was felt from the fast marching and at half past eleven we were entering our old camp in Nashville with the band playing. Our brigade had just organized a brass band and received the instruments only a few days ago."
Several letters reached Caley there, one of which was from mollie in Which she showed her womanly wiles:
"You thought me very selfish not to answer your letter sooner but as I thought you given to procrastination, I would be in no commotion to return one. This is a glorious day, everyone is rejoicing because it is raining, the first since the corn was planted. As much if possible as they did at the downfall of Vicksburg. The Fourth of July has long been a memorable day but how there is fresh lustre added to our national birthday. I think the soldiers of Vicksburg have won laurels for themselves that shall never fade but grow brighter and brighter until the hostile array of armies shall cease and the peace to this nation be declared."
She hinted of clouds on the horizon by stating:
"Tennessee (is) the sister state of my old home in early childhood. Do not let your letters be like the visits of angels, few and far between. M."
In August the regiment was encamped at Fort Brentwood also in the vicinity of Nashville. In a letter to Allie he enclosed a drawing he had made of the fort and the arrangement of their camp nearby.
General Rosecrans had built up his forces during the spring and summer of 1863 and began a southward movement to drive Bragg out of Chattanooga, an important communications center.
He decided on a movement on the city from the south to force Bragg out of the city. In doing this Rosecrans divided his forces, and Bragg seeing his opportunity attacked the federals near Chickamauga Creek on the 18th of September, 1863, in tending to defeat the Union Army in detail which would have been accomplished but for the tardiness of one of his generals (Polk) to attack before the Union forces could be brought together.
The federal line while forced back by the initial attack remained intact until through an error in carrying out an order a gap was left in the Union lines which caused the right wing of the army to collapse and but for the holding of the right center by General Thomas, all would have been lost.
The 86th Illinois did not bear the brunt of the battle as they had been held in reserve and were put in at a time to help save Thomas" divisions.
I visited the battlefield of Chickamauga after spending the night before in Chattanooga. A battlefield park historian, "Rock" Comstock, was kind enough to conduct me on a personal tour of the battlefield but not until he and a fellow National Park Historian, Ross Hopkins, from atop Lookout Mountain had shown me the famous Fuller Gun collection in the Park's headquarters building, one of the finest collections in the U. S. and worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Comstock showed me where the breakthrough in the Union lines occurred near the Brotherton Cabin. Also the monument to General Thomas close by where he held his lines firm against confederate charges throwing them back like ocean waves from a staunch sea wall.
We then proceeded to the rear of the Brotherton house to Snodgrass hill where another cabin stands and it was here that Thomas formed his new line and extending his right with soldiers from other divisions on his right many fleeing the trap that had been set for them by the breakthrough. Only a few other reinforcements came up to help but Thomas stood firm, permitting the disorganized troops of General Rosecrans and Rosecrans himself to fall back to Chattanooga. Thomas made famous by his stand was henceforth called "The Rock of Chickamauga."
I have often wondered what would have happened had not the breakthrough occurred at Chickamauga. It was no fault of the commanding general, Rosecrans, but rather the fault of a courier or the misinterpreting of an order. But it is often on such tenuous strands that the fates of armies and men depend. Who knows but if that mistake had not been made, perhaps the name of Rosecrans who had performed brilliantly in leadership and strategy before might shine today in history as great as the name of Grant?
To resume our trip over Chickamauga battlefield, we found the monuments and a battery of field guns marking the spot where the 86th was held in reserve protecting the withdrawal to Chattanooga.
In a letter to his sister, Alice, written about four days after the battle on September 25, 1863, Caley wrote from Chickamauga:
"I would not write until the great battle which is in progress is over with but that I know you must be uneasy about me and anxious to hear how your brother had escaped. The battle opened Friday, one week ago today. Saturday and Sunday it raged with awful fury. The reserve corps has taken a conspicuous part from the first, with the exception of one or two casualties on Saturday and the same number on Sunday. Our brigade has suffered very little. our regiment was under fire both days but lost only two killed. I have been at my post all the time and while I am able by the help of God I intend to be found nowhere else."
He tells of heavy losses on both sides, of the shocking scenes he has witnessed:
"The faintest picture would shock your little innocent heart."
He tells of Rosecrans falling back to newly fortified lines which he is confident they can hold. "The army is still cheerful and contented and confident of eventual victory."
"Though I have loved you more than I could tell, my love swells and grows stronger every day of our separation,"
And so Caley concludes as in many of his letters to express his great affection for his little sister who was now twelve years old.
After the great battle of Chickamauga, both armies were pretty well exhausted. While the south had won the battle, they gave up Chattanooga to the Union forces and to which they proceeded to lay siege by cutting off the main supply railroads supplying Rosecrans Army, which became so effective that many of the horses and mules of the Union Army died for want of feed. There was but one single line of communication open to the outside and that became to be known as the "cracker line." Much of the mail from the northern troops to relatives and friends back home did not get through and it was during that time that my Father became concerned and wrote to the U. S. Sanitary Commission inquiring as to the whereabouts of his brother, Caley, thinking that he might be lying in some army hospital.
A reply finally came to Father at DeSoto, Illinois, from the Commission dated October 10, 1863, from Louisville, Kentucky, stating that they did not find Caley in any of the hospitals but hoped "that in a few days to have their records complete as we are perfecting them as fast as possible." When Caley next wrote he told of how they were bottled up in Chattanooga and that his letter was coming out over the "Cracker Line."
Caley received a letter from Mollie's brother, J. S. Haynes of Eureka, Illinois, written October 10, 1863, who said that he had not written oftener as one correspondent seemed enough for the family, referring of course to his sister Mollie. Haynes was attending college and he seemed to be the second in his family to be in love "which I fear will result in something serious."
A letter written to her brother "Willie" by little "Allie" as she was affectionately called. A reference that one uncle was not at one time very popular with the orphaned children, as she says:
"I am so glad that you have got some place where we can say something without Uncle John's knowing about it. Uncle Caleb will do well by you if you do well by him. You must call him "Uncle" not call him "Cale" like Marcellus (a cousin) did. And Oh! Willie, for your sake shun bad company and do just as Uncle Caleb wants you to."
(Note: "Uncle Caleb" was evidently the one after whom our Uncle Caley was named.)
Though younger than Caley and Wilbur, she talked like a little mother to them in her letters. She and Willie were living with two different families. Allie was cared for by her grandparents, whose health, as mentioned in several of Alice's letters, was not good.
A letter from Mollie to Caley written November 9th, 1863, indicated that all had not been going well between them. In this letter she said that she had waited for some time to answer his last letter so that he could cool off.
"I was also afraid you would hurt some of them, Rebs, as you say in your rage and you know I do not want them hurt for I have more relatives in the secesh (Rebel) than I have in the Union. You think no one can get spunky but yourself, terribly mistaken if so."
The besieged army of Rosecrans was gradually being reinforced by troops brought in from many places according to a master plan of Generals Grant and Halleck (now Lincoln's Military Advisor.) The Confederates had command of the Tennessee River and supply roads to the south. The 86th Regiment was with Sherman's forces northeast of Chattanooga. The regiment, along with others of the 2nd Division, Ilth Corps, was engaged in moving Sherman's army across the Tennessee on November 23. The 3rd Brigade to which the 86th Illinois was attached was entrusted with bringing forward and launching the necessary boats.
After being in reserve during the assault of Missionary Ridge, the Division was put in pursuit of rebel forces near Chickamauga Station around midnight, November 25th and that was the part of the great battle of Chattanooga which included the assaults on Lookout Mountain that Caley described so vividly in his letter to his brother, Wilbur, from Chattanooga on November 26th. He wrote:
"Tuesday morning a pontoon fleet launched the day before in the mouth of Chickamauga Creek numbering 120 boats, quietly dropped down the river 2 1/2 miles to the encampment of the 120th Illinois and received aboard its cargo of troops (20 soldiers to the boat); then with muffled oars in the stillness of the night (3 o'clock in the morning) the gallant men pulled across in the face of the Rebel fortifications and touching the bank undiscovered by the enemy, they leaped upon the shore and so completely surprised the rebel pickets guarding the fort that they never snapped a cap or fired a gun; but surrendered one company including officers of the guard and day."
He tells of the boats then being used as pontoons for a bridge across which heavy artillery was soon moving. He describes the fighting on the heights of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain and the grandeur thereof.
The rebel army was turned into a near rout and retreated to Dalton and the mountains of North Georgia where the campaign of the following year was to be fought by Sherman's army on their way to Atlanta of which the 86th was a part.
In the latter part of the letter of November 26th Caley reveals his breaking off further correspondence with Mollie. He continued:
"By the way I received a regular copperhead letter from a copperhead gal the other day. You ought to see it. I guess I'll enclose it to you. No, I won't either. It's a disgrace to the female sex. We have been corresponding for some time but you'd better believe I squelched it right suddenly when her sentiments (political) leaked out when she told me she had more friends and relatives in the rebel army than in the Union and that she didn't want me to hurt any of them. The mercury of my affections fell about 160 degrees at one dash but I lived over it and at my present writing I feel no palpitation of the heart or other signs of love distemper."
Commenting on things that they should be thankful for on that Thanksgiving Day, 1863, he continued:
"We should be thankful that we have a man at the head who believes in a God and trusts not solely in his own wisdom and fallible judgment. I do not know of one soldier who would be willing to have any other man that might be found in all the land entrusted with the office in Lincoln's stead. He is emphatically the right man in the right place."
Caley and his comrades in arms detested the copperheads, who sympathized with the rebel cause and who lived back home in the north. They were regarded as traitors. He had evidently really let go on poor Mollie according to her letter to him of December 10th, 1863. Quoting from that letter:
"You have (called me) unjustly a copperhead and every other name that a newspaper editor can invent ... Suppose you think I read the Chicago Times. No indeed! So for as calling one by the name of 'black abolitionist' or 'copperhead' is beneath my dignity...
She then states she is sending back his letters and the book he sent her and asked him to do the same with hers. In closing poor Mollie wrote:
"I have one request to make before I close. Will you grant it? Will you send me your photograph? My reason I will not state but will receive it with gratitude. I have much more I could say but will desist. Your image shall never grow dim or the pleasant words you have spoken fade from my memory. I must close tonight by bidding you one long and last farewell. Good night forever."...Mary Ellen Haynes.
Quoting from the Illinois Adjutant General's report:
"On November 29 (the regiment) marched to Knoxville, Tennessee, to the relief of Gen. Burnside and returned to Chattanooga, crossed the Tennessee River and occupied the old camp ground six miles above on December 18. On the 20th day of December, it recrossed the Tennessee River and encamped near Chickamauga Station."
Caley, now a corporal, wrote glowingly of his trip to Knoxville, of the beauty of the mountainous country and the patriotism of the simple mountain people of eastern Tennessee.
While in Winter Quarters at Chickamauga Station, the month of January was productive of much letter writing but few of the letters to Caley gave him greater pleasure than the one from Mollie Haynes written January 13, 1864. She began:
"Your letter of the 22nd of December was received a few days ago and the owner willing to accept it. You asked my forgiveness. I can say the same as you did, I forgive with all my heart, you forgave me, it is all I ask. Oh! how sweet it is to forgive and be forgiven. I will recall the 'unjust sentence' (so you termed it) as you desire me. There is no reason why I should not for every doubt and shadow has cleared away from my mind."
Caley also received another fine well written letter from his cousin, Julia Vandergrift, of Indianapolis, Indiana. I have already mentioned her regular well written letters before. In her letter of January 4, 1864, she spoke of how she would like to look in on his improvised winter quarters which he evidently had described in one of his recent letters and see how he and his bunk mate, Ebers, kept house.
On January 3, 1864, Caley wrote to Sister Allie and tells her of an expedition with his division down to Ringold, Georgia, where a brief skirmish was had with the enemy. He thanks her for gloves and other clothing sent him, paid for by money he had been sending home for such emergencies and also to help pay for her care.
In a letter to my Father from McAfees Church, Georgia, January 24, 1864, Caley was bubbling over with happiness and as he says "all around him seemed to be happy, too."
"You are the best brother in the world, everything to me, and now I want to tell you something about my own little affairs, private and otherwise. By the same post this evening I received a pretty little 'billet deaux' from my sweetheart about whom I promised some time ago to tell you a few things in general. The pretty little angel in question lives in the town of Eureka, Illinois. Her name is (isn't it a pretty one) Mollie Ellen Haynes. I met her first at Camp Lyon in Peoria, where in company with a large deputation of the citizens of Eureka and Woodford County, she came on two different occasions for the twofold purpose of spending what time she could with her friends and making them (which means Company "A") a feast and be as gay as possible under the peculiar circumstances which were in spite of the efforts of all to the contrary quite melancholy, in view of the parting, I mean, and what was before us.
When we passed through Eureka bound for the seat of war and the land of King Cotton, she had a short greeting and as a parting proof of her affection, she gave me a handsome bouquet refreshed with the tears from her own sparkling, laughing eyes, tears of regret, they wer e tears of joy to me. But I must quit this, to me, happy theme and pass on to other things about which you will be concerned (naturally enough.) Will only add, Mollie and I have carried on a correspondence ever since arriving in the south and she is as affectionate as ever. You mention having been introduced to a young lady, an old acquaintance of mine. I can guess who it is ...
We have a Debating Society which has been meeting every night the last week but hereafter will meet but twice a week. I am a prominent member of this esteemed institution and hold the office of Secretary into which I was formally installed upon my first attendance. This, however, does not relieve me from speaking and tonight I held forth in all the grandeur of a Patrick Henry. The question for discussion was 'Resolved that education is productive of greater happiness than riches.' I was on the affirmative but the negative won. I am thankful for the Frank Leslie you sent me. Send me it or Harper's Weekly instead of daily papers as newspapers since the cars have been running into Chattanooga, are showered upon us. I have been reading novels considerably of late in the absence of anything better."
As was the case in so many of the small towns and rural communities of the time, the church played a very active part in the lives of the people in those communities. in one letter Caley wrote to Wilbur to see to it that little Sister Allie got to Sunday School regularly.
There was also mention of a revival meeting by Mollie Haynes in one of her letters. As with all Christian peoples down through the halls of time who turned more fervently to God in times of trouble, so did the good people of both the North and the South during the fateful days of the 1860's. And so it was with many a soldier boy like Caley, lonesome and away from home. One February 7, 1864, he wrote to his little sister from McAffees Church, GA.
"Dear Sister. This is a very pretty day, the Holy Sabbeth, and I've been to preaching; the first service in the Regt. since we left Nashville. Our new Chaplain Hilsop who came up last week (and) preached. We like him very much.
Oh, Allie I would like so much to take your little hand in mine and walk to the call of bells into the grand old church at Danville thronged with smiling, kind faces. There are no tender mothers and loving sisters here to cheer one's soul and impress us with the sacredness of the place."
In a letter to his brother, Wilbur, of February 15, 1864, from Chickamauga Station, Georgia, Caley admonishes his brother to get as much education as possible. He is elated over little Sister Allie joining the church.
"Was glad to hear that Allie had joined the church. God bless her! She has a pure nature and earnest disposition that are bound to make her a (fine) woman in every sense of the word."
After the defeat of the confederate army at Chattanooga at the hands of Grant and his skillful generals, Sherman finally sold Grant on a campaign to split the confederacy by a daring march right through the heart of Georgia and that was the campaign in which Caley was to participate.
While I was in Chattanooga I visited Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and was soon to start south through Dalton, Resaca, and other towns, so finally I was on my last lap to Kennesaw. For the movement of the 86th regiment during the late winter and spring of 1864 I quote from the Illinois Adjutant General's report from February-July 3rd inclusive:
"In February, 1864, the Regiment joined in a reconnaissance, going as far as Buzzard Roost, where it took part in the engagement of that name, losing one killed and seven wounded. Then returned to camp where it stayed until March 6, when it marched to Lee's and Gordon's Mills: (Here an account of sickness Lieutenant Colonel D. W. Mages resigned, and Major Allen L. Fahnestock was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain J. F. Thomas as Major.) Stayed here till May 3, then marched to Ringgold, where General Sherman was concentrating his grand army for the march upon Atlanta; left Ringgold on the 5th, and arrived at Tunnel Hill the 7th.
On the 10th of May in the fight near Buzzard Roost, one man was wounded; then moved to the right through Snake Creek Gap, and on the 14th and 15th participated in the battle of Resaca, Georgia, losing four wounded and one missing. Moved from Resaca, Georgia, 16th, and arrived in Rome, Georgia, on the 17th; was in the fight at Rome, losing 5 killed and 12 wounded.
On May 24 marched from Rome to Dallas; had a skirmish, having one man wounded and one accidentally wounded; then moved through Acworth and arrived at Kennesaw June 15; while in front of Kennesaw lost one killed and Seven wounded.
In making a charge at Kennesaw on June 27th, the Regiment lost 26 killed, 60 wounded and 12 missing, holding its position till the 2nd day of July; during the interim it lost 2 killed and 7 wounded.
I do not have many letters in my possession from February on to Kennesaw in late June. There is one letter from Mollie and a few others from Caley to my Father telling of some of the skirmishes and movements from Ringgold to Kennesaw Mountain which were for the purpose of flanking General Joseph Johnson out of position causing him to retreat further to the south toward Atlanta. Johnson had succeeded Bragg in command of the confederate army, now facing Sherman.
On May 20, 1864, Wilbur who was to become my Father, but 17 at the time, enlisted in Company "B" (135th Regiment) Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In a letter of that month he tells his Uncle John of his desire to serve his country. Since reading that letter again, I feel that it is so well written both in its composition and the thoughts expressed that it is worthy of quoting in full. It follows:
"It was from no lack of patriotism or interest in the principles and issues at stake in this war that have thus far kept me back. My whole soul is immersed in the great work and now that I can go and am needed, I am in. Have enlisted in a company from this 'Woodford County with a friend who is in friendship only so devoted and near (er) than a brother. Our company will be organized in Eureka today and go into camp at Peoria next Monday where the regiment is already rendezvousing. I will certainly receive one of the first non-commissions at the election today. My friend with whom I enlisted will be a commissioned officer and have the power of conferring the non-commissions on whom he chooses. What if I receive a bounty what remains after I have paid my debts will be left with grandpap for the purpose of clothing and schooling Alice. Also, all I can spare of my wages while in the service.
I cannot write more concerning enlistment and business affairs but with every feeling of earnest exhortation and anxiety I ask and insist that you and Rossie meet me at Grandpap's where I will visit a short few days next week."
And that, believe me, was quite a letter from a lad of but 17 years.
On my trip following the route of Sherman to Kennesaw, I stopped at several of the places where Johnson had made temporary stands to put up some resistance before retreating again due to Sherman's pressure on his flanks, thus threatening the Rebel rear.
Finally I arrived at Kennesaw Mountain where Johnson had at the urging of Jefferson Davis made a stand in the trenches of New Hope Church on to the fortifications he had had constructed at and near Kennesaw Mountain.
The last letter received from Caley had been written June 17, 1864, at Big Shanty, Georgia. Even while he was writing that last letter he had not been informed of the death of little sister, Allie, on June 7th. I quote the letter in its entirety not only because it was his last but also since it is so informative as to the tactics of Sherman's flanking movements up to that time but which were to be temporarily changed at Kennesaw:
"It (our position) is about four miles direct to Marietta south and eight to the north. The left of Jeff C. Davis' Division rests on the Rail Road. On our right are the Ist and 3rd Div. of the 14th with the 4th and 20th Corps. Left of the Rail Road are the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 23rd Corps. Most of the fighting is being done from behind hastily constructed breastworks on our part. The rebels, of course, are in position and have their fortifications already built. Here in the center we steadily push forward gaining a little ground every day while on the flanks maneuvering is going on to get into the enemy's rear and thus compel him to abandon his position and fall back again; a plan twice successful so far and one which will never fail with the odds we have in our favor and such able engineers as Sherman and his Lieutenants to direct and do the headwork. Our men use artillery, sending shells, grapes, and 'canned fruit' into the rebel works in abundance, but scarcely ever do the rebels reply. Whether their heavy ordinance and ammunition is scarce or their object be to make believe they have moved in position to decoy us into a snare by (so doing?) is a question. The most ... of the siege hereabouts is that of carrying on a system of ... relations between the skirmish lines. Our boys and the rebels (the lines being in most places in easy speaking distance) banter to each other to meet half way. Tis frequently agreed to and a friendly chat and exchange of such things as coffee for tobacco, canteens, etc., take place.
You will doubtless read accounts of scores of the enemy coming in and when charged upon, throwing down their arms and giving themselves up with but a faint resistance and in numerous other ways deserting the sinking confederacy. You will perhaps be a little incredulous, but I assure you a great deal of it is true.
There have no less than 500 been taken into our lines in this neighborhood. I am as well convinced of this much as though I seen it done with my own eyes and counted the Johnnys. None but the cotton state troops are kept in the front line. The cause of the confederacy is so mostly played out and the army is becoming so badly demoralized that even these -- Mississippians, Alabamans, Louisianans, and I dare say some Georgians -- in the face of all obstacles resort to this desperate means of gaining their freedom from a service which they have lost both faith and interest in long ago.
All is going well. I am hearty and though under fire much of the time still cherish high hopes that I may live through it all and get back safe home again. I pray (to God) it may be to see my dear (ones?) all alive and well once more... Caley
(P.S.) I need a light wool hat for summer badly and you will be able to select one to suit. Will you please to do so and mail it. Other boys are getting them in this way all right. Also, please send me some post stamps. Yes, and two calico shirts, brown or some color that will fade or show dirt. Yours respectfully, Caleb Chenoweth."
Caley was killed at Kennesaw Mountain in the attack on Cheatham Hill June 27th.
I had longed ever since I was a little boy to see if I could find the place where he died and was buried and now as I entered the Park Headquarters building at Kennesaw National Battlefield on a beautiful early October day, I had hopes of finding out.
I was greeted by a venerable receptionist in the lobby of the building. When I told him that I had lost an uncle at Kennesaw and his last letter had been written but a few days before the battle, he took me directly to the Park Superintendent office in the building.
When I informed Superintendent B. C. Yates that I had Caley's last letter on microfilm, he said he would like to look at it as he had some equipment for projecting microfilm pictures on a picture screen. When he came to Caley's last letter he turned to his secretary almost excitedly and said: "Look, there is a letter from Big Shanty. That was from right here. It is now called Kennesaw Station." Mr. Yates said he would like a print of the letter which I have sent him.
Then he took me to the lobby and showed me a painting in color of an artist's conception of the Battle at Cheatham Hill and said "That is where your uncle died. Of course, you will want to go there so you leave your car here at the building and you can look while I drive my car."
It was but a short drive to Cheatham Hill. We got out of the car and stood by a fine monument and looked down on a wheatfield sloping away from the front of the monument. As I walked down the hill, I trod its hallowed turf with a feeling of deep reverence. I WAS AT KENNESAW AT LAST
I knew that Caley had died as a result of a general's miscalculation as General Sherman admitted years later, in his memoirs, that that was a battle that need not have been fought. That he should have continued his flanking tactics against Johnson but this time he saw a chance of breaking the confederate lines in two for a decisive victory.
It was given to General Daniel McCook's brigade to carry the hill defended by the rebel General Cheatham who had entrenched it and placed batteries just as if he expected a major assault to be made at that very point. Most were Illinois boys and many died along with Caley in the charge. The position was not carried and many were killed and Sherman's old law partner, Gen. Daniel McCook mortally wounded. Some were killed after they had reached the parapet at the crown of the hill. Others not able to retreat back down the hill through the hail of bullets and shells, dug shallow trenches right under the confederate parapet, there to remain for several days until the enemy withdrew again on their way back to Atlanta.
And how did Caley die? Years later his brother, Ross, met a restaurant owner at Geneva, Nebraska, by the name of Stowell who said he had seen Caley die. (Another comrade of Caley's had told my Father that Caley had received news of Allie's death before the battle and his grief was so great that he seemed to not care whether he lived or not.) Mr. Stowell, also a member of Company "A", said that when the color bearer was shot in the charge up the hill, Caley rushed forward, picked up the flag and continued on until he, too, was shot down. I have checked with the Illinois Adjutant's office and they find that a Luther Stowell was a member of Caley's Company "All and at least was in a position to see what happened. Of the 8000men making the assault, 1580 were lost.
In 1879 the veterans of the Daniel McCook brigade purchased sixty acres of the hill up which the charge was made and later by popular subscription and the help of the state of Illinois erected a beautiful monument at the top of the hill on the 50th anniversary of the battle.
In 1928 the old soldiers then few in number found the care of the grounds too great a burden so they turned it over to the federal government. Not until 1931 did the government purchase the rest of Kennesaw Battlefield and make it into a National Park of 2882 acres.
No one knows where Caley is buried but very likely in the National Cemetery at Marietta, Georgia, but a short distance from Kennesaw. Mr. Yates called the National Cemeteries at Chattanooga and Marietta but there is no record of his grave at either place. Those cemeteries are filled with graves unidentified except by the numbers they occupy in the rows of stone markers.
On our return from Cheatham Hill, we paused to look at beautiful Kennesaw Mountain with its twin peaks of big and little Kennesaw and there was nothing to suggest that here, as in centuries past, man's inhumanity to man had again asserted itself. I later drove up a beautiful tree-lined road to the top of Big Kennesaw.
So, my dear niece, Patty, I have tried to give you the account of one part of our family, a precious heritage. As yet I have not found where my great grandfather came from except that he was from Ohio, an itinerant preacher of the time and character of the great camp meeting revivalist and backwoods preacher, Peter Cortwright, and that some of his principles and ideals had been passed on to his grandson, Uncle Caley.
I am accompanying this letter with colored photographs I made on the trip of some of the battlefields and other points of interest together with some post cards. I hope to continue the pursuit of my hobby with other trips. I trust that what I ,iave written has proven of interest.
With love, Uncle Harold
I often wonder what became of Mollie.