We Led a Precariously Amphibian Life: A Mid-Summer’s March with the 59th Ohio
In the days following the end of the siege of Corinth, Mississippi in May 1862, Second Lieutenant Frank Kibler and his comrades in the 59th Ohio started the long march east towards Chattanooga. As recalled in a letter to his sister, the 150-mile march in the June heat of Mississippi and Alabama was definitely something to be remembered.
"Through the day marching under a broiling sun whose rays made a perpendicular with the horizon and in dust deep and hot that rose in dense columns, stifling and blinding us. At night, we froze between the damp ground and a think blanket which by morning become saturated with the heavy dew that has fallen, and all the time feeling the hunger that is poorly satisfied with the scant ration of “pilot bread” and pickled swine cooked over a forked stick and a cup of strong coffee made in a tin can with grains mashed with a bayonet. We led a precariously amphibian life," he recalled.
Lieutenant Kibler's letter was originally published in the July 10, 1862 edition of the Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro, Ohio.
June 17, 1862
Since the 31st ultimo, we have had marching and picketing and marching to our heart’s content. Our first visit was to the ramparts of that Rebel stronghold Corinth and in the 24 hours I was there, I formed quite a respect for the place as a position for a means of defense. It rises like an Egyptian pyramid from the sluggish swamps which surround it and which so impeded our approach; it rests on an eminence that has been cleared from the jack oaks which seem to cover the whole country and is strengthened by an irregular line of earthworks 25 miles long surrounding the town from the Memphis & Charleston railroad on either side. The parapets were high and deeply ditched on the outside with embrasures for heavy guns while the glacis in front was rendered impassable by trees felled and thickly matted, making an attack by storm utterly impossible. But our works were equally as good if not better and more numerous; I think we could have speedily reduced the place with our thousand shells per minute which we could have thrown upon them from the positions we occupied.
Although our General was chagrined and the Rebels considered it a great strategic movement, yet I was quite content to our advent to “Krinth” was so easily attained. As a town, Corinth is an unimportant place. Being a railroad center, it has sprung up like a mushroom. The houses are poor and very much scattered, chiefly frame, and all nearly new. A beautiful Female Seminary is located near and in sight of the place which has gained considerable reputation in the South. While we say our steady approach and close proximity compelled the Confederates to skedaddle, the Rebels insist it was the scarcity of water that forced them to leave. Probably both were weighed in the scales by Beauregard; withal, I think chivalry was “found wanting.”
|"Through the day marching under a broiling sun whose rays made a perpendicular with the horizon and in dust deep and hot that rose in dense columns, stifling and blinding us."|
The 24th Ohio relieved us from our duty there and I had the pleasure of seeing Lieutenant Burch Foraker and the boys from Hillsboro. They are all well and hearty except [Samuel] Add Glenn whom a slight indisposition had kept in camp. Thus relieved, we were permitted to return to camp for a day’s rest and were again ordered out with three days’ provisions and have been out ever since until yesterday afternoon. Our wagons in the meantime, however, were sent back for provender. Nearly the whole of our march of 150 miles was in Tishomingo County through which, as Paul would say, we fetched a compass and withal it was the hardest marching I have seen since I have been out.
Through the day marching under a broiling sun whose rays made a perpendicular with the horizon and in dust deep and hot that rose in dense columns, stifling and blinding us. At night, we froze between the damp ground and a think blanket which by morning become saturated with the heavy dew that has fallen, and all the time feeling the hunger that is poorly satisfied with the scant ration of “pilot bread” and pickled swine cooked over a forked stick and a cup of strong coffee made in a tin can with grains mashed with a bayonet. We led a precariously amphibian life.
|Another set of 59th Ohio national colors shows the ravages of battle in its rent and torn folds.|
The monotony of the march and the solitude of the wilderness was occasionally relieved by a few little villages. Danville, the first through which we passed, is a small and desolate-appearing town, and a prototype for the Highland County town of the same name though not possessing the same thrifty look. Rienzi is a large and better place, a railroad town on the Memphis & Ohio, and of course, new, and contains many good residences. Most of its white male population is in the Confederate army. In it we saw smoldering ashes of large quantities of cotton. Jacinto, the county seat of Tishomingo County, is another town of like dimensions and qualities and lies east of the first two mentioned places not on the railroad with but few white inhabitants at this time. It is the old bailiwick of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Fields who used to practice medicine in Hillsboro.
But the garden spot of Tishomingo is Iuka and its surroundings. It is in a pleasant situation and most of its dwellings are large and commodious and of the most approved style of architecture. It is a notable watering place. Within the village limits are four strong mineral springs, chalybeate, sulfur, alum, and magnesia, the spout up from the ground in a large and beautiful grove which is laid out in splendid walks and drives. Just the place for an invalid in the winter. I had the felicity of strolling through the grove and streets of the town at my leisure and dined with Madam Secesh at the Iuka Springs Hotel. The fresh pork and johnny-cakes were highly appreciated and believe me, I paid them the highest compliments.
|Colonel James P. Fyffe|
From Iuka, we came to Tuscumbia in two days, a distance of 35 miles. On Monday the 16th we started at 4 o’clock and halted at 11, having made a distance of 14 miles. This would be at the rate of 35 miles per day. You may imagine it was warm work. On our route we passed, after we had crossed the Mississippi state line, several large and beautiful plantations in which on some beautiful sites was the large and handsome mansion of the wealthy planter and far removed was the little Negro town of very nice and comfortable log houses, not huts, looking clean and healthy and much better than is seen occupied by the Negroes at the North. In fact, the black man in the South, “groaning under the weight of the yoke of bondage and writhing in agony from the torture of his shackles” is far happier than his contemporary in the North and better provided with the necessaries of life.
These large plantations which were formerly covered with cotton are now waving majestically with the finest of Indian corn and fields containing hundreds of acres are now planted in corn that only yielded cotton before. The reason is obvious. The immense granaries of the Northwest are closed to this country and their old cotton crop is shut in upon them, so that while they have an abundance of the latter, there is a scarcity of the former article. Consequently, cotton is not the king it used to be.
We are now encamped on the south bank of the Tennessee River about two miles north of Tuscumbia and the same distance below Florence. This is the region in which General Mitchel has been operating with so much success and you already know more about it than I can tell you. We are now waiting our turn to cross the river, which we will have to do by ferry, as the Rebels have destroyed the fine bridge which spanned the river at Florence. Buell’s army is now crossing and we will probably go over tomorrow. No one knows our destination under the rank of a divisional general, but the prevalent opinion is that it was be east Tennessee via Decatur.
Letter from Second Lieutenant Frank F. Kibler, Co. I, 59th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Highland Weekly News (Ohio), July 10, 1862, pg. 2
Rienzi was actually on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.ReplyDelete