Remember the meaning of the day...
From Perryville we went to Camp Dick Robinson and drew three days rations, and then set fire to and destroyed all those great deposits of army stores which would have supplied the South for the year. We ate those rations and commenced our retreat out of Kentucky with empty haversacks and still emptier stomachs.
We supposed our general and commissaries knew what they were doing, and at night we would again draw rations, but we didn't.
The Yankee cavalry are worrying our rear guards. There is danger of an attack at any moment. No soldier is allowed to break ranks.
We thought, well surely we will draw rations tonight. But we didn't. We are marching for Cumberland Gap; the country has long ago been made desolate by the alternate occupation of both armies. There are no provisions in the country. It has long since been laid waste. We wanted rations, but we did not get them.
Fourth day out-Cumberland Gap in the distance-a great indenture in the ranges of Cumberland mountains. The scene was grand. But scenery had but little attraction for the hungry soldier. Surely we will get rations at Cumberland Gap. Toil on up the hill, and when half way up the hill,"Halt"-march back down to the foot of the hill to defend the calvary. I was hungry. A calvaryman was passing our regiment with a pile of scorched dough on the pummel of his saddle. Says I, "Halt! I am going to have a pattock of that bread." "Don't give it to him! don't give it to him!" was yelled from all sides. I cocked my gun and was about to raise it to my shoulder, when he handed me over a pattock of scorched dough and every fellow in Company H made a grab for it, and I only got about two or three mouthfuls. About dark a wild heifer ran by our regiment, and I pulled down on her. We killed and skinned her, and I cut off about 5 pounds of hindquarter. In three minutes there was no sign of that beef left to tell the tale. We ate that beef raw, and without salt.
Only eight miles now to Cumberland Gap, and we will get rations now. But we didn't. We descended the mountain on the southern side. No rations yet.
Well, says I, this wont do me. I am going to hunt something to eat, Bragg or no Bragg. I turned off the road and struck out through the country, but had gone but a short distance before I came across a group of soldiers clambering over something. It was Tom Tuck with a barrel of sorghum that he had captured from a good Union Man. He was selling it at 5 dollars a quart. I paid my 5 dollars, and by pushing and scrounging I finally got my quart. I sat down and drank it; it was bully; it was not so good; it was not worth a cent; I was sick and have never loved sorghum since.
Along the route it was nothing but tramp, tramp, tramp and no sound or noise but the same inevitable monotonous tramp, tramp, tramp, up hill and down hill, through long and dusty lanes, weary, worn out and hungry. No cheerful warble of a merry songster would ever greet out ears. It was always tramp, tramp, tramp. I have seen soldiers fast asleep, and no doubt dreaming of home and loved ones there, as they staggered along in their places in the ranks. I know that on many a weary nights march I have slept, and slept soundly, while marching along in my proper place in the ranks of the company, stepping along to the same step as the soldier in front of me did. Sometimes, when weary, broken down and worn out, some member of the regiment would start a tune, and every man would join in. John Branch was usually the leader of the choir. He would commence a beautiful tune, The words, as I remembered them now, were "Dear Paul, Just Twenty Years Ago." After singing this piece he would commence on a lively spirit-stirring air to the tune of "Old Uncle Ned." Now reader it has been twenty years since I heard it, but I can rememebrr a part now. Here it is.
There was an ancient individual whose cognomen was Uncle Edward.
He departed this life long since, long since.
He had no capillary substance on the top of his cranium,
The place where the capillary substance ought to vegetate.
His digits were as long as the bamboo piscatorial implement of the Southern Mississippi.
He had no oculars to observe the beauties of nature,
He had no ossified formation to masticate his daily rations,
So he had to let his daily rations pass by with impunity.
Walker Cleman raises the tune of "I'se a gwine to jine the rebel band, a fightin' for my home."
Now reader, the above is all I can now remember of that very beautiful and soul stirring air. But the boys would take up and step quicker and livelier for some time, and Aurthur Fulghum would holloa out, "All right; go ahead!" And then would toot! toot! as if the cars were starting-puff! puff! puff! and then he would say, "Tickets gentlemen; tickets gentlemen!" like he was conductor on a train of cars. This little episode would be over, but then would commence the same tramp, tramp, tramp, all night long. Step by step, step by step, we continued to plod and nod and stagger and march, tramp, tramp tramp. After a while we would see the morning star rise in the east, and then after a while the dim grey twilight, and finally we could discover the outlines of our file leader, and after a while could make out the outlines of the trees and other objects. And as it would get lighter and lighter, and day would be about to break, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo would come from Tom Tuck's rooster. [Tom carried a game rooster, that he called "Fed" for Confederacy, all through the war in a haversack.] And then the sun would begin to shoot his slender rays athwart the eastern sky, and the boys would wake up and begin laughing and talking as if they had just risen from a good feather bed, and were perfectly refreshed and happy. We would usually stop at some branch or other about breakfast time, and wash our hands and faces and eat breakfast, if we had any, and then commence our weary march again. If we halted for one minute, every soldier would drop down, and resting on his knapsack, would go to sleep. Some times the sleeping soldiers were made to get up and let some general and his staff pass by. But whenever that was the case, the general always got a worse cussing than when Noah cursed his son Ham black and blue. I heard Jessee Ely do this once.
We march on. The scene of a few days ago comes unbidden to my mind. Tramp, tramp tramp, the soldiers are marching. Where are many of my old friends and comrades, whose names were so familiar at every roll call, and whose familiar "Here" is no more? They lie yonder at Perryville, unburied, on the field of battle. They lie where they fell. More than three hundred and fifty members of my regiment, the First Tennessee, numbered among the killed and wounded-one hundred and eighty-five slain on the field of battle. Who are they? Even then I had to try to think up the names of all the slain on Company H alone. Their spirits seemed to be with us on the march, but we know their souls are with their god. Their bones, today, no doubt, bleach upon the battlefield. They left their homes, families and loved ones a little more than one short 12 months ago, dressed in their gray uniforms, amidst the applause and cheering farewells of those same friends. They lie yonder; no friendly hands ever closed their eyes in death; no kind, gentle and loving mother was there to shed a tear over and say farewell to her darling boy; no sister's gentle touch ever wiped the death damp from their dying brows. Noble boys; brave boys! They willingly gave their lives to their country's cause. Their bodies and bones are mangled and torn by the rude missiles of war. They sleep the sleep of the brave. They have given their all to their country. We miss them from our ranks. There are no more hard marches for them. They have accomplished all that could be required of them. They are no more; their names are soon forgotten. They are put down in the role book as killed. They are forgotten. We will see them no more until the last reveille on the last morning of the final resurrection. Soldiers, comrades, friends, noble boys, farewell! we will meet no more on earth, but up yonder some day we will have a grand reunion.
Sam R Watkins - 1st Tn - Excepted from "Co. Aytch - A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War"