Civil War Journal of Samuel Oliver Bereman, page 15
In the 4th Iowa Cavalry
March 1st 1865
Spring is here again. It is quite warm & pleasant so that we go about without our coats. There is considerable talk of us leaving this place soon. Preparations are being made for a move some where. It is likely that we will make a big raid some where from the amount of mounted men here. Eight men were detailed from co. "K". to go up to Florence thirty miles above here, others from the regt. also.
Rained very hard yesterday & today. Our borrowed houses leak badly, so that our floor is rather damp - in fact muddy. I must confess that it is rather disagreeable to be housed up in a little pen for days with nothing to while away the time with. Oh for a newspaper. We play chess & checkers, cards and all kinds of tricks to keep from dying of the blues. Charley Moulton & Hearkey K. Wallace are reported as Deserters. They left us at Louisville. We are better off without them. The former used to be our First Sergt. but was reduced to ranks for drunkenness & cowardice.
One year ago today we started home on veteran furlough. President Lincoln will be inaugurated today. I think he takes seat under more favorable auspices than on a similar occasion four years ago. Then, although the rebellion had not assumed such gigatic proportions, the future was any thing but bright.
March 5th 1865
Some more spring today. Every thing looks cheerful and bright. The sun shines as brightly and the birds sing as sweetly as though there had been no recent storm sweeping over the earth and destroying its beauty. So let us hope it will be, when this storm of human passions is over - hoping also that it will soon be over.
Got a lot more mail - also a late paper, the first we have seen since landing here. It contains very cheering news. How we all gathered around to listen while it is being read aloud. Men get hungry for news when deprived of it the same as they do for bread when deprived of it, & every word is a crumb of bread to an empty stomach.
Had a grand review of our Division by our Corps commander Gen. Wilson. He gave our Brigade (composed of the 3rd & 4th Iowa & 10th Mo.) the praise of being the Banner Brig. of the Corps. By the way Gen. Wilson has a very fine appearance, but I dont go much on appearances alone. If he is a good officer in the field - in a fight he will pass muster with us, and if not - the reverse in spite of appearance.
We had quite an interesting drill today. Our co. went away out in the country alone & mounted & drilled skirmish drill - made several charges on imaginary batteries with the loss of several hats, practised leaping our horses over fences & ditches, and came into camp with a very good appetite.
Quite a change in the weather, it rained nearly all day yesterday & at night changed to sleeting & is very cold again. If this is the "Sunny South", I want to get back to Iowa again. Dont know but that I would like to go back any how! It cleared off and turned warmer in the after noon so that we had a Flag presentation at Dress Parade. It was given by the Ladies of Mt. Pleasant (Bless their hearts) to our Regt. as a kind of "reward of Merit" to the brave soldiers and good looking officers of the Regt. It was presented to Co. H. by Col. Winslow as the Banner co. on account of their being the first co. in the Regt. to reenlist as Veterans.
Had another inspection and review all this fore noon. There is considerable talk of us leaving here soon. One Div. crossed the river yesterday & it is reported that we will cross in a few days.
Went out riding in the country in company with Lieut. Dillon of co. C. & Vanorsdol of K. Went into the woods & practised firing at a mark with our revolvers, first standing then on the walk then on the gallop. Did some pretty good shooting & I made the best shots of all. The weather is nice & warm.
March 13th 1865
Had regimental drill this P.M. by Major Pierce who has recovered from his wound & is in command of the regt. as Lieut. Col. Peters is at home. Got some more mail today. We are ordered to turn in all surplus Q.M & ordnance stores & camp & garrison Equipage. Looks like a move soon.
Marching orders! We are to start tomorrow morning at six oclock. Well I am glad of it - I like to be on the move. It seems like we are doing some thing then towards closing the war. And then it is so much livelier than lieing in camp - especially if there is any fighting going on. But it is raining and blowing tonight "for all thats out." I'd rather not start out in a rain, but 'tis not ours "to reason why" nor "to make reply". By the way we have had more rain this spring than is usually falls to the lot of mortals in this degenerate days. The Tenn. River has been on a bender for some & has overflowed its banks & washed away several hundred thousand bushels of oats - more or less, which was destined for our horses. Consequently those quadrupeds have been on short rations.
Revellie at 3 oclock, still raining. We saddled up & started out at daylight towards Waterloo landing where we arrived a little after noon. Found a Cousin here -Leslie Downard - whom I have not seen for nine years. Did'nt know him at first. He belongs to the 4th Indiana Cav. & his Co. is escort for Gen. McCook. I went with him across the river to his camp & stayed all night.
The sun rose in the east this morning for the first time since we have been here. It has been in the habit of rising in the west (or so it seemed to me & I could not get it right). I rejoined my regt. this morning. The[y] did not cross the river until 10 oclock last night & some of the cos. did not find camp at all till today. We are camped about a mile from the landing. Drew a lot of sanitary supplies such as potatoes, crout, pickles & dried fruit. Besides some of the boys went out in the country and killed some fat hogs & then we had a "feast of fat things." It is not likely that we will leave here for a few days until all the troops get across & get their supplies.
Quite warm & pleasant. Took a stroll upon to the bluffs. I am at present sitting in my shirtsleeves on the summit of a very high hill overlooking the river & our camp. I can see the white tents of the soldiers camped on the other side of the river, & is quite an imposing view. the peach trees are in bloom, so we are to have no more cold weather. I have drawn a rude sketch of the picture on the opposite bank of the Tenn. Dark pine forrests rise above the cliffs and stretch away - no one knows whither - but towards home. How I would like to explore their unknown depths.
March 19th 1865
Bed time - Orders to march at 4 oclock in the morning. Co. E. went out this afternoon with the Pioneer Corps to build a bridge. Got some more mail tonight which it is likely will be the last we will receive for some time, as we dont generally get mail very regularly on the march.
Well we did not move at four A.M. yesterday as per orders but started today at 2 oclock in the afternoon in a southern direction & went eight miles and camped near a small creek.
Revellie at 3 oclock. Started at daylight. Went two miles & crossed the M. & C. R.R. at Chickasaw Station, where we turned east & followed the R.R. all day. Marched 23 miles. The country is very hilly & rough but abounding in plenty of spring water. The inhabitants are few & poor at that, but we managed to collect a few chickens & hams & are living reasonably well.
Started at daylight & marched 20 miles in a S.E. course We were joined today by the rest of our Div. which did not start when we did. Gen. Upton is in command of it. The rest of the Corps are on other roads runing parallell with this. So that forage may be obtained more plentifully. There are supposed to be between fifteen & twenty thousand in the corps. We have but a small train so we are likely to do some hard marching & live off the country.
March 24th 1865
Only marched 15 miles & camped in the middle of the afternoon. Country continues rough & barren. Crossed Little Sypsey creek, a few miles back, at Sheridan's Mills. It was a romantic creek, & the most beautiful waterfall over the smooth rocks I ever saw. The falls were perhaps fifty feet in hight. The road on one side ran close along the bank of the creek, while on the other towering cliffs rose several hundred feet. Below the falls the water could be faintly heard rushing over its rocky bed although entirely hidden from view by the dense over hanging pines & cedars. Oh how I should like to have stopped and explored it - but could not. East at the falls was the "lone deserted mill" with its old fashioned waterwheel which reminded one of that old beloved song -
"Oh dont you remember Lillie Dear
The mill by the old hill-side
And the waterwheel with its giant arm
Tossing the beaded spray
And the weeds it pulled from the sands below
And tossed in scorn away."
It was the most picturesque scene I have met with in the south. Just before crossing the creek we passed the residence of what used to be the Hon Jas. Hubbard formerly a representative in our Congress. It was deserted now - with the exception of a few negroes. I saw a paper printed in 1858 in which was a speech made by this Hubbard in favor of secession. He heard of the Yankees coming & put his secession theory into practice by abruptly decamping. We paid our respects - in his absence, to his smoke house & hen roost.
Marched 30 miles. A Div. of Cav. marching in column of two abreast, makes quite a long string. Our regt. was in rear & consequently did not get into camp until nearly bedtime. Country very barren - only saw one house all day & that was an old log cabin in the pine forest with no visible means of subsistance. Have no forage for our horses, and not much for ourselves. I sigh as I sit down to my hard-tack & coffee & think of the chickens of the Hon. James-Hubbard. Camped on clear creek.
Started early & went twelve miles before we say any signs of habitation, when we found a plantation where we got some corn for horses and some meat. After an hour's halt we went on to Malvarine creek which was found unfordable. So we were obliged to countermarch a couple of miles & take an-other road which we followed five miles down the stream. By this [time] it was dark. The Malvarine here makes a junction with the Black water which we forded. It is a very swift stream with a rough rocky bottom. Just above the ford was heard the roar of a cataract, but owing to the darkness could not be seen. Went two miles beyond this and camped on the Big Warrior River.
Lay by till dark when we commenced crossing the river, the 2nd Brigade were crossing all the forenoon. The river is quite deep & very swift with rough rocky bed, so that it was not a little dangerous crossing - especially at night. Several accidents had nappened through the day & several men were nearly drowned. We met with quite an accident in our co. One of our pack mules lost his footing & was carried away by the rapid current of the river. The mule however was of less value than his load, which consisted of our coffee mill & boilers & some other cooking utensils, besides some of our rations.
Went a mile or so beyond the river & camped. It was very dark & rainlng but we had constructed some shelters & had just laid down to sleep, when "Boots & Saddles" sounded & we had to get out. Traveled nearly all night through the rain & mud & the "thick darkness", when we came to the Little Warrior River. Here we stopped but did not unsaddle, rolling ourselves in our rubber blankets we lay down on the wet ground & slept an hour.
The Div. commenced crossing at daylight but did not all get over till noon. This is a deeper stream than the other Warrior, but is not so rapid nor so wide. After getting across this stream we went on our way - marched 15 miles & did not get into camp until 10 oclock at night when we stopped on a very rich plantation owned by one Smith.
This is the richest place we have found since we've been out. There is enough corn, oats fodder here to last our whole Div. a fortnight. The negros (of whom there are only about 100 left) say their Massah owns 7,000 acres of land here. We have laid in a supply of hams, chickens, honey & preserves &c. It was thought that we would lay in camp all day at this place, so our co. was detailed to go to the mill. We only draw half rations of hard tack & have to cook slapjacks, provided we can get any meal or flour. We found a mill within a couple of miles which was in running order & a lot of grain in it so so pressing the miller into service - "The miller, Love with his broad-brimed hat and eyes of the mildest grey" &c. Who went plodding about his dusty work" - "While we kept the Rebels away." (Parody by the Author) I had borrowed a fish hook from one of our neighbors, & was enjoying myself trying to catch a fish. Got any amount of bites (but they were all from musketoes) - when a courier came with orders for us to report to our regt. as they were on the move. So bidding adieu to our friend the Miller we hastened to rejoin the regt. which we found at Elyton, a little town two miles from the mill, & situated in a fertile little valley reminding one of an oasis in the desert. Marched seventeen miles and camped on the Cahawba river. The advance had some skirmishing here at the crossing. We burned several extensive founderys today - called the Red Mountain Iron works. Raining all the afternoon & tonight.
The Cahawba proved to be dangerous fording so we went to work & tore up a lot of R.R. ties & laid them over the Rail Road bridge & crossed on that. The R.R track here is not finished yet. It is intended to run from the Iron works to the R R running to Mt. Gomery. We got across the river about noon & started on south ward, our regt. in the advance. Had some skirmishing, one man wounded in co. I.
Marched fifteen miles & camped at Monte-Vallo, a beautiful little village in a beautiful little valley, close to a nice little creek. After we had camped for the night Lieut. Vanorsdol & I went out visiting down town. We called at a house wnere there were three young Ladies, & an old one who was the mother of two of the young Ladies while the third one appeared not to belong there. We got our suppers, which was what we went for principally, after which we were entertained with singing, music on the piano & gossiping. In which latter accomplishment they were unsurpassed. They were all strong rebels except the strange Lady, who also pretended to agree with them, but taking advantage of the absence of the others to the kitchen she whispered to us that she was a Union girl & gave us some late Mt. Gomery papers & a written note to Gen. Wilson, giving a detailed account of the number & disposition of the rebel forces in our front and at Selma & Mt. Gomery. She said she was a perfect stranger to the other Ladies - had only come there within a day or two. She also said she was suspected & was watched & if it were known she had given us news, she would be hung. We left them at a late hour & sought our camp. Do not know what ever became of her as we never saw her again, but she was doubtless one of those "Nameless Heroines", many of which have been produced by this war.
Lay in camp until noon when we were joined by the rest of the command. Our mess had a regular feast at dinner, Some of the boys had been out foraging. Had ham & egg - corn pone and wheat bread milk and honey &c, I think I never ate more at one time in my life before. Just as we had finished eating the rebels attacked and drove in the pickets. "Boots & Saddles" sounded & away we went. The rebs. were soon routed but we had brisk skirmishing all evening. We had several men wounded. About the middle of the afternoon the rebels made a flank movement on us - striking the column from the right just as the Battery was passing. They came very near causing a stampede but our Regt, being just in rear of the Battery charged on them & drove them off before they could do anything. We captured about sixty of them.