The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#17)
Winter and Spring Encampment 1863 :
On the fifth, the troops received two months’ wages, at which time all those present had their accounts with the government settled to the 1st of March preceding. On the 20th of April, Wilder’s brigade of mounted men, Starkweathers’s Brigade, of Rousseau’s division, and our brigade, all under the command of Gen. Reynolds, started on a scout to McMinnville, Liberty, and Alexandria. Being so long confined to our camp, it was a treat to be out once more among the rich vegetation, which everywhere surrounded us as we passed along.
The army has now settled down to the monotony of constant and thorough discipline. Rations were plenty; and men not on picket duty were subject to six or eight hours’ drill each day. Besides the time allotted for drill and other duties, there was still much unoccupied time in camp. Card playing was, with the majority, the favorite pastime and there were few who did not engage in it for amusement or gambling. Orders still existed preventing men from gambling though they were
executed with no sense of duty or moral
obligation. Card playing for amusement was no more prohibited than the eating
of rations, and was engaged in by both officers and men. Men who persisted in
gambling usually assembled in small groups in the woods, at some distance from
the camp, where they might enjoy the exciting game unmolested. On
one occasion, a party of considerable
size from various regiments had assembled in the woods in front of our camp;
and were enjoying the fun hugely. Guards on duty were instructed to arrest all
such men when discovered; but the cunning gamblers always had someone inform
them of the approach of the guard, and invariably made their escape. On the
occasion referred to above, the guards were formed into a company and, as if
going on drill moved out to where the gamblers were assembled. Unnoticed by
them, the guards deployed as skirmishers and completely surrounded them, then
facing inward; they charged and captured the entire party, who were forthwith
marched off to headquarters.
But time wore on. Winter and spring passed away.
We marched early, passed through Bradyville, a small village containing about a half dozen rickety buildings, a few ugly women, and several dirty-faced children, who stared at us as we waded through the muddy streets in the pelting rain. The wet weather impeded our progress so much that the enemy gained information of our movements, and made good their escape from Tullahoma and Shelbyville.
Exhausted by continuous and, to us, fruitless marches on the same road, the men indulged in expressing their dissatisfaction at so much marching and counter-marching, which availed nothing, and might all have been prevented by a little understanding and forethought among commanders. On July 5th, glorious news was received from our army in the east. Our battery fired salutes upon the reception of the news that Grant had taken Vicksburg. Loud and prolonged cheering resounded throughout our camps; and the drooping spirits of our army were revived by the cheering intelligence. The next day, being a day of thanksgiving, set apart by the President, to commemorate the recent victories of the Federal arms, services were held in the grove and were attended by the entire command.
We were now once more on the eve of an important campaign.
(Tennessee, February to July, 1863)
Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.