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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623

Correspondence from Robert Caldwell - January 1862

January 3, 1862

Camp Jefferson Bacon creek
K.y Jan 3rd

Dear Sister

I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you yesterday and I need not tell you that all of your letters are truly interesting and welcome

We are still in camp at the above named place awaiting orders which we expect in a few days, when in all probability we shall move on Bowling green. The bridge across Green river is almost completed, and I believe the destruction of that structure was the principal cause of our detention at this point, but now that the bridge is about completed you will doubtless hear of some stirring events in this part of the State ere long[.] It is said that Buckner is in command of a very large force, report places the number at 6000 and it is also said that he has 105 pieces of cannon which he expects to bring to bear on us, and should the above report prove true, which doubtless is the case, it will in all probability prove one of the most sanquinary battles ever fought upon this Continent, and what an honor it will be to those engaged upon our side, should our arms prove victorious. I dont know exactly the number of our troops that are in this department, but I think it is fully equal or perhaps greater than that of the enemy. We have, at this camp, 12 pcs of artillery and there is also at Green river 66 pcs some of them of large caliber, There is one battery of 10 pound Parrot guns camped at this place, this battery has just arrived from western Va where it has been doing good execution. At the battle of Greenbriar where it was engaged, a projectile was fired from one of the guns, a distance of three miles which dismounted one of the enemy's guns, The Parrot gun is made of steel and is very long gun, and for that reason its accuracy is considered greater at long range, than that of other guns, I was glad to hear of Alfred Rices success in being elected 1st Lieut it is as you say a trustworthy position, and one that he may fill with honor to himself and Country, but it will require a great deal of care and judgement on his part to become an efficient Offier. He will be constantly called upon to use judgement and moderation in all his actions toward his men, and constantly bear in mind that He is no better than a private so long as the private is a good soldier, and on the other hand he must not be slow to command their obedience in all things that are just and right, as an officer without command is a poor concern indeed. I have no doubt that with proper care on his part, and being under the eye of his brother John he may make such an one as will be an honor to his company and regt[.]

You spoke of the Mason Slider case as giving great dissatisfaction to the people of the North, well we must take some insults from old England during our present difficulties, no matter how galling they may be, but just wait until the present war is ended, and I know of one that would not be backward to enlist for the purpose of giving her a sound thrashing for her meanness for interfereing at this time[.] I recd a letter from Aunt Mary short time ago which I will answer in turn.

Love to all[.]

January 10, 1862

Camp Jefferson
Bacon creek K.y Jan 10th

Dear Sister

I received your letter last night and was truly glad to hear from you, as it was the first letter that I have had since Lieut Vantine arrived in camp.

We have been lying in this camp for so long a time that I find it very difficult to write anything that would be calculated to interest you[.] you wish to know whether we had a cold day on the fifth, well it rained nearly all day and the mud was almost over shoetop,

In this portion of the State we generally have rain, about the time that it is snowing finely in your pleasant town and while you are listening to the chime of sleighbells we are wading through the mud, but that is not always the case, as we sometimes have the roads frozen pretty solid.

We have got our new tents and they are much better than the old ones were[.] Those that we have now have are called the Sibley tent and are calculated to hold 20 men, however we have but 15 men in ours I believe the Fremont regt has the same kind. Last New years day, I went out into the country and took dinner at the house of a Kentucky farmer, while the principle part of our mess had an oyster dinner. I may mention one thing that will probably interest you At the house where I took my New years dinner a young lady presided at the dinner table which made it quite interesting, and for that reason perhaps the dinner was prolonged for a greater length of time, than it would otherwise have been.

While dinner was being prepared I entered into conversation with the old gentleman but of course my eyes and thoughts were directed toward the aforementioned young lady while I appeared to be very much interested in the conversation of the Farmer. But dinner being over I was obliged to start for camp and did so casting many a lingering look behind. I have never heard whether I created an impression or not, but if I failed, it cannot be charged to me. But as I wish to write a few lines to Willie I must close,

From Robert

Dear Willie,
I received your long and interesting letter and was glad to hear from you. I think you are a pretty good scholar to do that example as there are lots of boys older than yourself that would have been puzzled with it. You wish me to give you a harder one here it is, How many men are there in the 21st regt there are 10 companies and each Co has an average of 90 men, besides 3 commissioned officers each, and there are also 5 field officers 2 surgeons one commissary one quartermaster and one wage master, now if you get this one right I must say that you are a good scholar indeed.

But I must close when next I write I will write you a longer letter.
Robert Caldwell
give my love to all

January 15, 1862

Camp Jefferson. Bacon creek K.y Jan 15th

Dear Mother

Well I declare, what shall I write, I hardly know what would be most interesting to you, but thinking that you will be glad to hear that I am enjoying good health I make the remark and back it up by telling you that I weigh just 170 pounds and never enjoyed myself better in my life, than I do at the present time.

There is hardly a man in Co I but what weighs more at this present time, than he did at the time of enlisting, notwithstanding the poor board that some of its members have been obliged to put up with, poor fellow [trails off] But Tattoo is just sounding and I must close for tonight.

Jan 16th

Yesterday morning we received to pack knapsacks and be ready to march at half past eight oclock, and the camp was all on the quivive to know what was up, some said that we were going to cut off a train of supplies that was being sent to the rebels, and some said one thing and some another, but the time arrived and we all marched out, with the artillery in advance of us and after going about a mile we came to a large field, and we then found out that we were to have a sham! battle. Our whole Brigade finally arrived and one company of Cavalry from the 4th Ohio which is camped alongside of our regt and then commenced a real! sham battle, the cavalry would charge upon the Infantry and then wheel and retreat and make an attack in a different place while the different regts were firing upon each other with unloaded! guns, and all this time the artillery was rushing here and there wheeling and firing with empty guns, with terrible effect upon the imaginary enemy and thus the fight raged for upwards of half a day, when thinking that the foe had been sufficiently chastised for the present, with tired limbs but fearless hearts we changed our mode of attacks and charged upon our dinner with equal effect, and after having Battallion drill for an hour or two we were ordered back to camp, where we arrived without any further adventure, and thus terminated our first great fight in this part of Kentucky, I believe our loss consisted of one barrel crackers, nothing more.

Day before yesterday it blew up cold and rained and toward night it commenced snowing and fell to the depth of about one inch, when it held up and remained cold for the remainder of the night and a part of yesterday but, the wind shifting the snow went off and as it rained last night we are once more in the mud. I recd a letter from Juliet last Sunday, and yesterday one from Al Rice their regt is almost full,

But I must close, love to all from

January 19, 1862

Camp Jefferson Bacon creek Jan 19th

Dear Father

Thinking that you might be anxious to know how I am getting along at present I improve the present time by writing a few lines to let you know that I enjoy the best of health, I weigh 170 pounds at present, which is about 15 pounds heavier than I was at the time of enlistment, so much for scant rations and hard living that some of our boys have taken delight in telling of so often in their letters that they have from time to time sent home. Such persons are to be pitied, as they are forever making themselves miserable, and never willing to contribute to the happiness of others. I received a joint stock letter last Friday from yourself, Mother & Willie, and in it Mother stated that you had lately, or rather Elmore had parted with a young! lady that used to be known by the name of Ella Ryder. Well I suppose the above named lady was born to be Lucky at some period in her life. That they may pass a long and happy life together is my wish.

I know not what kind of weather you are having but last night our camp was visited by a fine thunder storm it thundered and lightened the same as though it were an april shower that had burst upon us, For the last week or two we have had nothing but rain and mud with an occasional skift of snow, but I guess that our winter is about gone in this part of the State at least that is the opinion of those who are considered to be competent judges. I wrote to Wm as soon as I received your letter. The Green river bridge has been finished some time, and we are expecting to be ordered forward before many days, but it is difficult to tell how long we may be obliged to remain at this place. We are all very impatient to move onward and close the war as soon as possible.

Our drill ground is so cut up that all drill has been suspended for the present, and consequently time passes rather heavily on our hands, The health of the regt is improveing, there is but little sickness in camp at the present time, compared with the fore part of the winter. Please tell Mr Vetter that I should like very much to hear from him. Give my love to all

From Robt Caldwell

(P.S) It appears that Ely Eoff is tired of singe life. Perhaps he has taken a hint from Jim Luckey.

January 21, 1862

Camp Jefferson Bacon creek K.y Jan 21st 62

Dear Father

I have just received a letter from Juliet and, as I have a little leisure time I propose to improve it by giving you the news of the camp.

Yesterday morning a member of Co A. accidentally shot himself dead, while attempting to remove a loaded gun from his gun rack, eh had been out on picket the day before and yesterday morning returned to camp and very carelessly neglected to remove the cap before putting his gun away, and when the old guard was ordered out, to fire off their guns, in attempting, (as I said before) to remove his gun from the rack, the hammer was caught in some manner or other, and the piece was discharged, the ball entering his breast, and he fell dead without uttering a groan. I am in hopes the rest of the regt may profit by this sad accident, so that we may never be called upon to chronicle another such event. The most staple article now in camp is, mud, mud, mud, the wagons are covered, the horses are covered, the drivers are covered, and in fact everything about camp is deluged with the same sticky substance. It is almost impossible for those with shoes to get about. Yesterday, Gen Mitchel ordered out 800 men to work the roads, between the Depot at this place, and the 2nd Ohio's camp distant about one mile from this place, He had a new road graded and puncheons go out, and made a Cordurouy road, and they are to work on it still and intend to keep at it until they make a road, upon which teams can pass without miring, you have no idea how muddy the roads are in this vicinity. Last Sunday night, (or rather Monday morning) at about three oclock, our camp was visited by a most terrific Thunder shower and J__e__h__w how it rained, tent number 4 of Co I was flooded insomuch that the mess pans were floated out of the tent and the boys were obliged to climb upon the boxes and everything that was above water, in order to keep dry, The reason that no 4 suffered more than others was on account of our having thrown up a ridge in the middle of the street and neglected to dig a ditch through it, and as no 4 happened to be in a low place the water backed up into the tent to the depth of six inches.

Very early this morning we received the joyful intelligence that Zollicoffer & Co had been completely whipped and routed by Gen Thomas, and that the old thief of the world had received his quietus, which he has richly deserved for a long time, Hurah only think of it, 12 pieces of cannon, 80 wagons all their horses camp eqippage. Commissary and Quartermaster stores why it is the greatest victory yet won on our side since that is only the prelude to still greater achievements to be made by our forces, It may be that it will have an effect to hasten our departure from this place, which is greatly to be desired as we are all anxious to have a hand in, I have found it necessary, on account of the wet weather and bad roads to buy a pair of boots for which I am to pay when we receive our next pay, they are a good pair and come almost up to my knees, I am to pay $5.00 for them. I bought them one of the boys, and they are the same kind for which the Sutler charges $7.00[.] I considered my health to bed much more consequence than the price of the books, I can now have dry feet which is a very desirable thing, Juliet said in her letter that she and Mother had a discussion in regard to a certain oyster dinner, Well tell Juliet that Lieut Wood gave Co I. and oyster dinner something like four weeks ago, of which I had the pleasure of being present at, and last Newyears, day my mess had oysters for dinner but I was not present to help eat them as I was better employed, taking dinner at the house of a Farmer. There it is and now you may figure it up and if you find any difficulty in getting the answer, just ask Willie and I will warrant He can give it to you. Please tell Willie that I will write to him next time but I must close

from Robert Caldwell

(P.S) I forgot to say that my mess kept perfectly last Sunday night during the thunderstorm,

January 25, 1862

Sat 25th__62

Dear Father

I have just received your letter of the 19th and was surprised to hear that you failed to receive my letters. I write regularly two or three times a week and if you fail to receive them, the fault is in the mail line. You appeared to that I had been sick and that perhaps on that account I had delayed writing but when you have received my last two letters that I have already written, you will see at once that I am enjoying the best of health, You wish to know when we are to advance upon Bowling green, well I declare that it is hard to tell, at one time, appearances will indicate a speedy movement, and we will think that the doom of Buckner is about to be sealed, when, presto the indications of a forward movement are immediately reversed, and the aforementioned Scoundrel is once more allowed a new lease of life, We, that is the members of Mitchels Division are not allowed the privilege of knowing what is going on in the inner Sanctuary, and therefore we are obliged to draw our inferences from what we see going on around us, and to judge from present appearances, I should say that the prospects of a speedy forward movement, are rather limited[.] Gen Mitchel is having all the camps of the regts in his Div thoroughly ditched, and he has also lately been engaged, in roadmaking in this vicinity, He has had a Corduroy road of two miles in length, constructed, running form the Depot at this place, (Bacon creek) to the camp of the 2nd Ohio, He had a force of 800 soldiers at work for several days, which shows that in case of an emergence the indomitable Yankees can handle an ax or spade equally as well as that of a musket, But you may rest assured that when Gen Buell orders an advance, that it will be with the determination to keep his army in motion toward Dixie until the last vestage of treason shall have been removed from our once happy and beloved Country. Gen Mitchel has the confidence of every man in his Division, you can see him at all times upon his horse riding through the various regts of his command, superintending the drill of his men &c&c&c, and this forenoon He took command of the 21st while on Battallion drill and put us through sever new movements, he gave us great praise, for the promptness and accuracy with which we performed these new and difficult manouvres, He is a strict disciplinarian and insists upon having everything done in a soldierlike manner

But I will close upon a different sheet of paper.

(To yourself and nobody else)

You said that you had heard, by the way of Lieut Vantines letter that Capt Gibbs had resigned and was comeing home in a few days, &c &c &c. Well as to his resigning his commission, I guess it is true. Capt Gibbs ahs not in reality made a very efficient Commander, on account of not having confidence in himself, and also on account of his voice which is very poor for a commander, and most of the boys, also thought that He did not take sufficient pains to inform himself in regard to the tactics which doubtless is true in a measure, but the fact is He was not cut out for a military man as he don't appear to take an interest in military matters. About two weeks ago Lieut Wood and some others of the Co got up a petition to have the Capt resign and circulated it through the Co and got I believe 66 signers, which was nearly all that was in camp at that time, and Wood presented it to the Capt when, comeing over A.W. Luckeys favorite phrase he put it into the fire, I took a very lively part in opposing the measure and took the part of the Capt to the last, as I thought it would be a very serious matter to send him home in disgrace as I thought would be the consequence if carried our, and I also thought that if someone would go to him and tell him plainly what his actions were bringing him to, that he would take hold and take more interest in the affairs of the Co &c&c, but I could do nothing with them, and it turned out as I have told you. And ever since that occurrence he has been or appeared to be rather downhearted, which I cant blame him for, as a man in his position is in a very unpleasant situation indeed. But if the boys had acted fairly in this matter I think that the result would have been far different. Now I will just give you my opinion to this matter, and I know full well that you will not say anything about it, to anybody[.] Lieut Wood is very anxious to be first Lieut of Co I and Bumpus also anxious to wear the Shoulder straps of a second Lieut, and Bumpus and Lieut Wood and also Vantine have got a favorite by the name of Veon a corporal of our Co and I believe it is their intention to promote him irrespective of merit, as he was one to suddenly turn against the Capt and make great demonstrations in favor of the above named gentlemen (1st & 2nd Lieut & Bumpus) for which he will doubtless receive his reward, as soon as Vantine is elected Capt, which will certainly sake place as soon as Capt Gibbs resigns. Lieut Vantine is a general favorite with all the boys, and I must so say that there is not a better Officer in the regt than Charley. But I believe that the love of promotion is at the bottom of it all, and therefore if I stand any kind of chance I shall be very much surprised as I was not carried off to drill with the popular tide. But never mind, there will be a day of retribution when Cap Gibbs will stand as high as some others in the estimation of men of Judgement, when some of the members of Co I, will be ashamed to look Capt Gibbs in the face. Yesterday the box that was sent to the 21st regt by the citizens of Elmore arrived and was taken to the Hospital where it was opened, and Capt Gibbs went and got the things that were sent to Co I which consisted of a jar of plumbs sent to Capt, by Mary Luckey and two jars for Mike Rice, and a box of hickory nuts, which was divided among the Co. I got the Weeklies...[page tear]... we had a fine time with them, but I don't believe that Co I got its...[page tear]...after all the apples were nearly all rotten.

But I will write more of it next time.
From Robert

January 28, 1862

Camp Jefferson, Bacon creek Jan 28th [1862]

Dear Sister

As I have a few moments to spare I propose to improve them by writing to you. As we expect ere long to march from this place or are liable to, at any time, and as we have got more clothing than we stand in need of, we concluded to send our spare clothing home, in Lieut Woods trunk. It is to be sent in care of G. Wight, of whom you can get mine by applying to him.

I send my blouse, one shirt and one pair of drawers. I do not need them in the least, and don't wish to carry any extra clothing, through the comeing campaign. I send some crackers to be divided among a few of the girls, you will see the names of these, to whom the crackers are to be delivered, written upon the crackers, Perhaps you may be led to sympathies with us, on account of the toughness of our bread, but I don't want you to be concerned about us, as our teeth are good and we are all getting fat upon them, I hear that the Fremont regt has left, good luck to them. I wrote to Aunt Mary last Sunday and yesterday I wrote to Uncle Ezekiel Rice, I also wrote to Father a few days ago, and taking it all together I think that I am doing my share in regard to letter writing I am now sitting close by a large box of crackers, and this evening at supper, I intend to place myself outside of about a dozen of them. But I must close, give my love to all. Lieut Vantine sends his respects to all, from Robert.

Oh! Yes, I almost forgot to speak of that large box, that the citizens of Elmore sent to the 21st, about two months ago, by some mistake or other, the box did not arrive, until a few days ago, It was sent to the Hospital of the 21st and Capt Gibbs went up and got a can of plumbs that was sent to him by Mary Luckey and Mike Rice received two jars of canned fruit. There was also a box of hickory nuts, which were divided among the boys, The apples had become rotten, with a few exceptions, The papers have proved quite an acquisition as we have but little reading matter in camp. Please tell Mr Vetter that I should like to hear from him.

From Robert

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