Cardinal Charlie: Letters from a Civil War veteran continue

Published 11:37 am Friday, January 3, 2014

There was a big revival, which began in April and was still going on in June, James said. Lt. Townsend ordered him to clean some guns and James said he would not clean a coward’s gun, and James was ordered tied up by the thumbs. Jim managed to escape and get away.


July 1863

The Third had to ford the Elk River and one man drowned. I think James picked all kinds of nuts and berries as he mentioned them a lot.


July 15

Christopher Harmon of Dowagiac went to get berries and James went with him and said it was rough climbing the Cumberland Mountain. Seems like James met a lot of nice families with nice girls. When he went to get a canteen of milk where they got the berries, their girl gave them more to take back to the boys in camp. The boys in this outpost were given lots of free meals at lots of famers’ houses.


July 20

The men went to the creek and washed their clothes. They boiled their shirts and drawers as they were alive with 2 million gray-backs (lice).

Aug. 1

Went fishing and caught three fish, then played chuck-a-luck and won $5.


Aug. 6

Went to the 36th to see Jim Alston.


Aug. 18

James was 20 years old today and he went to town and had his picture taken again. Jim got Sid Hitchman to run a chuck-a-luck board for him and Jim won $100. He also had a fight with a fellow of the 88th.


Sept. 10.

Capt. Bragg of our company died at 3 a.m. I was one of four who buried him. The Battle of Chickamauga was about to begin. In the charge we lost a lot of men, as the 13th was out of ammunition. His friend, Pete Rummel was with him when Pete was shot. James gave his cup of coffee and hardtack to Gen. Sheridan, for his cook was missing, so they said. I was the only private in Company E that came out of this terrible battle. I was hit on the arm with a spent ball and it lamed me so bad I couldn’t get my hand to my mouth. In this Battle of Chickamauga my regiment had 300 men and we lost 162.


Sept. 29

We could see the Rebs on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.


October 1863

William Colburn went to see our boys in the hospital. Wood is scarce, I found a handful of corn where the horses had fed. I took it to camp and parched it.


Oct. 26

We had very little to eat, one small cracker, one cup of coffee. Not much for a hungry man.


Oct. 27

Report is in camp that our men captured 2,000 prisoners. Today we got half rations, wormy hard bread, and a quarter ration of coffee and sugar. Some boys ate it all in one meal.


“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at