Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sgt. Newlon's Tennessee Narrative Continues...

We Shoved from Shore

On the 4th of March at 10 o’clock A.M., orders came for the 3rd Iowa to march, and at 12 o’clock the same day, we were on our way to St. Louis.

The journey was very unpleasant as the weather was remarkably cold. We arrived at St. Louis 9 o’clock P.M., the sixth. The next day was spent in moving from the cars to the steamboat intended to carry us down the river.

I procured a pass in the morning and visited Benton Barracks where I found the 4th Iowa Cavalry. Here I found a number of acquaintances, that I had not seen since enlistment.

The barracks looked almost like home, for I spent two months here last winter and not very pleasantly either. The day was spent very pleasantly with my former associates.

In the evening I returned to the landing and found my regiment aboard the steamer Iatan, all ready to open the way through the running ice down the Mississippi River. Starting time found not


a few of the soldiers intoxicated for they had liberty to do as they saw fit during the day, privilege which a great many abused, bring trouble upon themselves as well as others. At 10 o’clock P.M. the 7th inst., all being in readiness, we shoved from shore, directing our course to the sunny South. Not far had we proceeded, until a member of our company by the name of Robert Blythe, being drunk, fell overboard and was drowned. He was a wicked wretch and prepared for any thing but death. The ice was running in abundance, which made it rather disagreeable traveling.

Sabbath morning March the 9th found us at Cairo, Ill.

A quantity of commissary stores, and coal sufficient to carry us a long distance, but where to, we then did not know, but very soon found out by experience. The town of Cairo was under water. The water in the Ohio River being ten feet above the streets of the town, we found but about 2,000 troops here, all having previously left for the field of active service.

At two o’clock P.M., being fully-equipped with hard bread and bacon, we launched steering our course up the Ohio River which we found remarkably high, overflowing the bottoms on either side, the water paying no attention to the farms or houses covering the former, washing away fences and everything of that nature, and in many instances, half of the first storey of the latter was under water. What had become of the inmates [citizens] is more than I can tell, for, but very few could be seen at any point along the river. In many places cattle and hogs could be seen standing upon dry spots of ground perhaps a rod [16.5 ft.] or two square, apparently waiting for the water to subside that they might once more enjoy themselves upon the land that gave them birth.

Some time during the night of the 9th inst., we arrived at Paducah [Kentucky] at the mouth of the Tennessee River. Starting quite early the next morning up the Tennessee River gave me no opportunity to see the town and therefore I can say nothing about it.

Confederate States of America


The Tennessee River, like the Ohio, was very high; the current ran very swift taking, as a matter of course, more power to carry us up the stream. How unlike the great Mississippi is the Tennessee River. What beautiful valleys, what fine farms and beautiful dwellings along the Mississippi River, everything presenting of industry and civilization. But upon entering the Tennessee River how wild and uncivilized everything appears to be. Yet, it is in the sunny South, the Confederate States of America. The land of Rebellion, containing a people that rebelled against the purest, the best and the freest government ever formed by mortal man.

Our journey up the Tennessee River at first was rather dull-nothing but dense forests of timber, and that covered with water. Once in a great while we would chance to pass an inferior log hut with but little or no improvements around it whatever, presenting an uncivilized appearance, the inmates (as is generally the case with the mass of the people of the Southern States) appeared to be very poor, at one place, where we hauled into repair some damage done the boat, the inhabitants had their shoes tied on their feet with bark. There appeared to be but very little furniture of any kind in their houses, this is the condition of the three fourths of the people so far as I could learn up the Tennessee River.

We traveled but little during the night owing to the high stage of water, also to secure ourselves from the fire of an enemy that might be concealed for that purpose. Care and foresight is the best policy in time of war.

At 12 o’clock March the 10th, we arrived at Fort Henry. Took a good view of the fortifications, the heavy guns about 30 in number, three of which were dismounted. The barracks, which the enemy had prepared for winter quarters, were built of round logs and just of a size, and perhaps two hundred in number.

The enemy went to a great deal of cost and labor in fortifying this place and then evacuated it after such a short engagement leaving everything behind them, no dwelling could be seen near the Fort, more the winter quarters.


Our stay at Fort Henry was but short. We had proceeded on our journey but a short distance after we left Fort Henry till we came up with a fleet of about 30 steamers loaded with troops, and every mile we traveled from this point the number of steamers increased to the number of about 150. Judging from the number of steamers in the fleet and from the number of troops on each that the entire expedition consisted of about 125,000 men. Such a sight never was witness before on the Tennessee or any other River in these United States.

Just here I would say that in almost every instance, through Kentucky and Tennessee the people presented the white flag, and at one time about 40 miles above Fort Henry, a company of horsemen, about thirty in number, hailed us from the shore with white flags, upon nearing the shore they informed us, that there was about 500 of them and that they wanted us to take them to Fort Henry where they desired to be armed that they might fight for the old Union. They were large able-bodied men and looked as though they might do their country good service had they an opportunity.

The fleet landed at Savannah, Tennessee [10 miles northeast of Shiloh N.M.P.] the 12th and remained for three days. Here men from the surrounding county flocked in by hundreds and joined our ranks, and I presume it would be the case all over Tennessee had they a chance to fight for the old Union. This is speaking well for Tennessee.

On the 13th, we were ordered to prepare three days’ rations and equip ourselves for duty. At 6 o’clock on the morning of the 14th, we left Savannah passing up the river some 10 miles. But the river, which had been raising [sic] for two or three days, was so high that a landing could not be effected.

General Sherman’s division landed 25 miles above Savannah [perhaps Peters Landing area] and marched eight miles from the river, but found the water so high that it was impossible to go further, and were


compelled to return to the boats. We remained aboard the boat until the 17th, when a part of the expedition landed at Pittsburgh Landing, Hardin County, Tennessee, where we still remain in camp this the 26th of March.

We are at last brigaded. Colonel [Nelson G.] Williams is acting-brigadier general and has command of the First Brigade in the 4th Division, which gives our regiment the position of honor, which is on the extreme right of the division.

... To Be Continued

BTW,  I'm planning on re-doing Will's web-site: with no ads and more links; shuffle things around a bit, too.

Also, I created a Twitter account for Will yesterday; I'm still in the process of putting it together.

You'll be able to follow Will: @sgtnewlon.

Best Regards to All,