[Mailed at Crab Orchard Ky. Dec. 15, 1863 ] Headquarters Eleventh Corps, Loudon Tenn.
We are waiting here for other columns to get in position and cross the Little Tennessee, when we will all move forward to the relief of Burnside and against Longstreet if we can find him. The latter has about 30,000 men & made an unsuccessful though but a partial attack on Burnside last Tuesday. We can get no news since. The garrison here escaped but we captured flour & meal enough to feed our command two or three days. This morning we put a Regt. across the river and they drove off the Cavalry videttes of the Enemy and just now I learn they have found four cannon abandoned by the Rebels. In our advance the 15th Corps comd’d by F. P. Blair has the right Wing. The 4th Granger, the center and the 11th, (ours) the left. Today we have been building our bridges across the Little Tenn.
Sometimes we fear Burnside will not hold out (as he has only 15,000 and is probably short of provisions). Then again sometimes we fear Longstreet will get off to Va. In the latter case we will congratulate ourselves on Burnside’s relief and a campaign grandly successful and important in its results. But there still seems good reason to believe that Longstreet tarries. Not a quarter of an hour ago we learned that our cavalry Regt. left to guard the bridge at Charleston (the Hirvasee) had come away and that the Rebel Gen. Wheeler was approaching. It is a pity an Infantry Regt. had not been left there – still we chased a Rebel Infantry Regt from there. Wheeler will probably destroy the bridge and pick up some stragglers – possibly some wagons – but we are without trains and have none on the way to join us that we know of. So Wheeler will find the rear unusually dry.
It is a warm pleasant day but I have had a bad cold for some time. This will make it better. We are in an old hotel kept by a German who has been a Consul for the U.S. Govt. an old Whig. He has a fair library but mostly German & French books.
We have been compelled to take horses for our artillery and soldiers taking advantage of this have stolen a great many. The people are flocking in with all sorts of complaints and I am exceedingly sorry to find that many good Union people have suffered. Blair’s Corps are regular robbers roaming all over the country. I fear the Lord will not bless us if this practice is not stopped. The Episcopal Clergyman here – an Englishman – came in this morning – a staid old fellow with not over much polish.
We took 75 Rebel wounded at Sunday’s fight here. Expect Steamer up here to bring rations for Granger’s Corps today. The Div’n. of Jeff C. Davis which has been in our column considerably will now be the Reserve for this Army.
Sherman is a hearty thorough-working commander. Will never be over-cautious – and believes that the whole country in Rebellion ought to be devastated.
Longstreet may escape into Va or into South through a portion of North Carolina and he may give us battle. We have enough to meet him even though Burnside should do nothing and of course he may easily cooperate.
The country we marched through in coming from Parker’s Gap (7 miles East of Ringold [TN]) here is much more thrifty than any we have seen before in the South. The Villages are pleasant and what is most refreshing there are many Union people who receive us with open arms and give all the information they can.
Dr. Hubbard is still with us, remaining voluntarily till the Campaign is over when he will go home. Dr. L.
Brinton, new med. Director, is a fine gentleman. Capt. Stinson rode last night to Morgantown to Gen. Sherman not getting back till 2 this morning. Balloch is away back in Lookout Valley and has $50 of my money besides a letter containing $100 directed to Father which he may have mailed. I got my pay for October just before we started. We have not seen a newspaper since the great battle. The Editor sends me the Cincinnatti Gazette gratis and I will send you some copies if I find anything worth the while. I wrote a recital of the four (4) days fighting and pursuit of the Enemy. It was almost too much like a statement of bare events or military movements to be interesting and as the Gazette has correspondents here who probably wrote more attractive accounts I doubt if mine is published. I did write two or three articles or letters to the Boston Journal signed “Zephyras”. Did you see them?
Please give much love to Ella. I have looked in vain for hers and all letters lately. I suppose you are beginning to have snow. Last Sunday & Monday were as cold here as they ever have it and I never was more uncomfortable from the cold than when we first started in the early morning of these days. Thermometer said 18° above zero. This place is small and like all villages long occupied by troops is filthy and dilapidated.
I feel as though their must have been a good deal of faithful prayer and the Lord’s time had come. A Kind Providence has been with us all along. Down at Charleston the Rebels left behind plenty of excellent timber from which we bridged the Little Harvassee in one night. They left flour & meal for our men as our cannon prevented them from taking it away or destroying the cars. They left salt and therefore we could use the numerous sheep and cattle on the road. Tell me about Thanksgiving at Farmington. I don’t know as I will be able to mail this for the present – all I trust will eventuate favorably and we will not fail to give God the praise.
Your affectionate brother, C.H. Howard