Hd. qrs. 11th Corps Bridgeport, Alabama
My dear Mother,
I arrived at this place at 2 o’clock this morning having started from Nashville at ten a.m. of Friday. The bridges burned by the Rebel Raiders were all rebuilt so as to allow of our passage that day and before dark we had got beyond the break – but the grades on the Nashville and Chatanooga R.R. are abrupt and as we had a heavy train we progressed slowly and finally got stuck on a heavy up-grade between Wartrace and Tullahoma. After several hours delay we were boosted on by another engine and stopped for breakfast at Déchert. The Conductor was hungry as well as the rest and so as accommodatingly as carelessly waited till a Breakfast was cooked at a forlorn shanty of a house. At Cowan, 4 miles below, we learned by telegraph that the Rebels had been there in the night and done damage to the R.R. in the tunnel near that place. Perhaps the conductor was more willing to delay owing to this report, owing to a similar report received the evening before we had brought troops of the 12th Corps from Wartrace to reinforce the R.R. guards etc. General Butterfield (Hooker’s chief of staff) was on a train just in rear.
After a decent Breakfast at 50 cts (which seemed reasonable in comparison with other meals for which I had paid $.75 and with the exorbitancy in Nashville) we went on to Cowan. Found that the guards (not from the 11th or 12th Corps) had run away and the Rebels had thrown rocks, stones, dirt and timber down through two apertures or shafts (as I think they are called) running from above perpendicularly down into the Tunnel and through which the stones, etc. were taken up in the construction of the Tunnel.
This Tunnel was 2 ½ miles from Cowan and when they took an Engine and platform car and went forward into the Tunnel to clear it out I got on board the Engine and so went along. I cannot describe minutely, here, the Tunnel and all I did and saw. It was 3000 ft long and wrought through solid limestone.The light reflected from the ground or rocks and travelling so far through the darkness became precisely of the same quality and appearance as moonlight. The sound from the Engine – pieces of rock etc. falling upon the Car, was almost deafening.
I was surprised to find at the other end of the Tunnel a train of cars with a thousand men from 11th Corpsand with them two of our staff. Capt. Stinson was greatly astonished, when, after clambering over the length of the train along the tops of the cars I found him on the one next to the rear and seized him by the hand as he stood in the darkness on a platform car. That was after the train had moved up into the Tunnel in an attempt to get through when we supposed we had got the way clear. These troops had come up to meet the Rebels but they (the Rebels) had escaped before they arrived. It was several hours before we got off from Cowan to which place we returned after the way was cleared, Capt. S. accompanying me.
We got very hungry and paid a woman 50 cts apiece for a cup of very cloudy Tea and two slices of hard bread – alias “hard tack” – “pilot bread” – “soldiers hard crackers” etc. The scenery was wild and rugged – some of it pleasing – after passing through the Tunnel & after we began to descend this side of the mountains. It was similar to that which we saw in crossing the Aleghanies on the Baltimore and Ohio R.R. We were only about 20 miles from Stevenson when at the Tunnel. Stevenson is the great Depot for Rosecrans Army. The junction of the Nashville & Chatanooga & Memphis & Charleston R.R. – and Gen. Hooker’s Hdqrs. [...]
Your affectionate Son, C.H. Howard