117th OVI / 1st OVHA
Company G’s Movements Throughout the War
Transcribed and Submitted by Linda Tope Trent
Oct. 2 – Oct. 31, 1862--- Stationed at Ashland, Kentucky
117th's March Over the Mountains.
In January, 1864, the Regiment was ordered from Kentucky to Knoxville, Tenn. Burnside had been fenced in by Longstreet at Knoxville, and in December ’63, Sherman came up from Chattanooga to the relief of Burnside, and the last effort of Longstreet was desperately made to dislodge Burnside, by an early morning charge on Fort Sanders. The result was fatal to Longstreet’s forces, and fully 700 of them were left dead in the ditches and in front of Fort Sanders. They beat a retreat, and raised the siege, and left the country, going into Virginia. It was immediately following this event that the order came for our Regiment to move in winter over the mountains, through a wilderness, from Kentucky to Knoxville. The companies rendeavoused [sic] at Camp Nelson, Ky…
On the 25th of January, 1864, two battalions of the Regiment marched out of Camp Nelson, to begin that hardest march of our history…
The first night we camped at Camp Dick Robinson. The 3rd night at Hall’s Gap…
On the 30th of January we arrived at Point Burnside, on Cumberland river. Here we remained for a month, awaiting supplies by transports, and completing arrangements for the hardest part of the march yet to be made. As usual the transports were behind time, and Gen. Fry, with an orderly, rode through to Knoxville to report the cause of our delay… The time was employed in hard drilling while we remained here. There was excellent water and plenty of it. The river was clear and cold, and as a bathing place, and for clothes washing, contributed much to the well being of the men. The men will never forget the mammoth spring which gushed out of the mountain across the river from camp, and came rushing down the side of the slope, which power enough to run several factories…
On leaving Burnside Feb. 28th, we entered a country where there were not many roads, and wagons could not be used! So that in the transportation of supplies, for man and beast, pack mules had to be used. It was amusing, (and at the same time painful,) to see the ponderous loads of some of those mules, at the start. Of course these loads grew rapidly less as we progressed, until they almost wholly disappeared-not much left but the mule and the empty pack, (both empty) long before the march was concluded.
The route over which the regiment traveled was the same traversed by Burnside in 1863. The old telegraph wire which he had put up was our only guide in many places. The wire was down upon the ground, and here and there attached to a tree. It was a worthless country. Very rarely did we see a human habitation after leaving Pt. Burnside until we passed the Tennessee line. The country was just as God made it. Not much change in it since creation. One who had read of Daniel Bonne and Simon Kenton would think that they had certainly selected a poor place for a scene of operation. Occasionally a log hut was passed, and a clearing of a few acre would indicate that some poor deluded creature had been there and made an effort at agriculture. It was said that the advance guard on a few occasions came in sight of human beings as they fled to the woods before the advancing hordes of Yankee invaders. There were no men in sight. The women and children were almost naked, and strangers to soap and water, apparently only half civilized. And this was the sacred soil of Kentucky neutrality. It cost our Government a lot of money to penetrate this wilderness. On the route we traveled, it was claimed by some of our men who counted them, were the wrecks of over 200 army wagons, and 400 dead horses and mules. I saw a number of places where a team of mules had been left chained to a wagon, and had broused all the twigs within reach, and then gnawed away the wood work of the wagon, and died there, unable to get away. I never could understand why they had not at least been turned loose, and given a chance to forage for life.
On the last day of February, and 1st day of March, it rained hard, and got cold. We were on top of the Cumberland mountains. At noon it began to snow, and freeze to the limbs, and the brittle pine trees would give way under the load of snow and ice and come threshing down in a way that was not at all pleasant to our men. (My record says that a man of the 10th Mich. Cavalry was killed that day by a falling limb.) I remember standing on an eminence at noon where I could see the regiment moving below; their knapsacks, and hats and guns, covered with snow-guns at right shoulder shift; looked like the very mountain was moving. A beautiful landscape- would have made a handsome picture, worthy to hand alongside of Washington, at Valley Forge, or Napoleon, at Moscow. Now we come to an opening from which we could look down into a valley, and below us could be seen the clouds floating like great rolls of smoke. A storm was raging below us. But we were above it, and secure.
H.C. Miller, Regimental Historian for the 117th OVI/1st OVHA.