Return Down the River - Napoleon - Young's Point - Digging the Canal - Overflowed - Scheme Abandoned - Pioneer Corps - Promotions - Arrival of General Grant - New Camp - Milliken's Bend - Change of Surgeons - Paymaster - Complimentary Order -- Major Moats - Military Board - Seventeenth Ohio Battery.
We left Arkansas Post on the morning of Jan. 17th, and arrived at Napoleon at noon, where we remained Sunday, the 18th. During that night three of the Regiment deserted. The next day we started for Young's Point, situated opposite Vicksburg, where we arrived on the 21st.
Our trips on steamboats were very unhealthy, especially when confined any length of time, with so large a number as we had on the "City of Alton." The 48th was put on with the 108th Illinois, that had over 1,000 men, besides Col. Landrum's brigade headquarters, and all the horses and mules belonging to the two regiments. In pleasant weather the men could sleep comfortably almost anywhere, but during a rain or snow-storm the suffering from exposure was intense.
The army was compelled to live principally on crackers, as there were no accommodations whatever for cooking. Before leaving Arkansas Post the weather turned very cold, which, with the unavoidable use of the Yazoo water at Vicksburg, the close confinement on the over-crowded steamboats, and poorly prepared food, disabled nearly half the troops in the whole expedition. The 108th Illinois, being a new regiment, suffered severely. Nearly three-fourths were rendered unable for duty, and death was thinning their ranks at a fearful rate, so that our steamer had the appearance of a hospital boat. Our Regiment escaped with scarcely any sickness, especially of a fatal character.
January 14th, Capt. John W. Frazee resigned, and on the 23d, First Lieut. Charles A. Partridge's resignation was accepted. The same day we disembarked, and marched three miles down the river, and camped along the levee. On the 25th, the Regiment was allotted its share of the canal. Our portion was the length of the Regiment, as it stood in two ranks.
Jan. 26th, a detail of eight men from the Regiment was made for the gun-boat Chillicothe. In the attack on Fort Pemberton, March 12th, 1863, while the Chillicothe was shelling the fort, a shell from the enemy exploded at the port-hole, just as our gunners were in the act of loading, which exploded their shell, and killed Thomas Henderson, of company D, wounded a member of company K, and J. F. Holladay, of company C, in the right foot, which made amputation necessary.
Our time was occupied in digging the canal across the bend of the river. Our part was completed on the 6th of February. Some of the other regiments, however, were not so far advanced, when the river, which had been rising, broke over the dam at the levee that night, and flodded the whole peninsula with from five to seven feet of water, which caused the scheme to be abandoned.
The object of the canal was to let the boats pass through, and thus avoid the batteries in front of Vicksburg. Since the close of the war, a channel has been cut across the point where the first attempt to dig the canal by dredge-boats was made, and boats are now obliged to pass through this channel, which in time will leave Vicksburg off at one side.
On the 6th of February, the Pioneer Corps was organized, by transfers from each regiment in the brigade. The 48th furnished fifteen men as its quota.
Feb. 14th, Capt. Robins resigned; on the 15th, Capt. Joshua Hussey; on the 20th, Capt. J. C. Kelsey; and on the 21st, Capt. S. G. W. Peterson and Lieut. W. E. Brayman, Quartermaster. Lieut. J. R. Lynch was appointed Quartermaster in the latter's place.
Young's Point, at that time of the year, presented a dark and gloomy aspect. In our front was the Mississippi river; in the rear, a dreary swamp, covered with water, from one to two feet deep, leaving us but a narrow strip of dry land along the levee, on which to set our tents. The winter winds and heavy rains had unobstructed play on our canvas dwellings, and it was a common occurrence for the men to emerge from underneath their prostrate tents, after a heavy storm of wind and rain, as it swept down the Mississippi.
On the 18th, the following commissions were received from Gov. Tod: J. C. Kelsey, J. A. Bering, Joshua Hussey and R. T. Wilson, promoted to Captains. C. P. Bratt, Geo. W. Mosgrove, Daniel Gunsaullus and J. R. Lynch to First Lieutenants; Cornelius Conard, Thomas Montgomery and M. McCafferty to Second Lieutenants. In the meantime, Gen. Grant had arrived and taken command, and reorganized the whole army. Our Brigade and Division was placed in the 13th Army Corps, under Gen. McClernand.
Feb. 20th, we moved a short distance up the river, to a higher camping-ground. The river still kept rising, therefore, March 9th, the Regiment embarked on the steamer "Hiawatha," and moved up with our Corps to Milliken's Bend, La., and camped along the levee.
March 11th, Surgeon M. F. Carey, who had been captured at Shiloh, having resigned after he was exchanged, Ass't. Surgeon Plyn. A. Willis was promoted to Surgeon. A. A. Johnson, our Ass't. Surgeon, who had remained with the Regiment when scarcely able to stand, and neglected himself while attending to the duties of the hospital, and part of the time all alone, was finally compelled to resign. He took his departure when we left Young's Point.
March 14th, we received four months pay, and sent our surplus money home by Rev. John Spence, our Chaplain, who resigned on the 18th. The same day, Serg't. Major E. A. Conkling was discharged on account of disability. On the 28th, we were inspected by the Corps-officer of the day, and on the next day the following order was issued, in regard to our camp, and read to the troops on dress-parade:
"HEADQUARTERS 13TH ARMY CORPS,
MILLIKEN'S BEND, LA., March 29, 1863.
"Accepting the report of the Corps-officer of the day as a tribute to merit, the Commanding General, John A. McClernand, takes great pleasure in commending the cleanliness and good government which characterizes the camps of the 48th and 114th Ohio Infantry, as being worthy of imitation.
[Signed] "Your Ob't Serv't. &c.,
"WALTER B. SCATES,
"Lieut. Col. & Ass't. Adj't. Gen'l.
"To 48th Ohio, through Gen. A. J. Smith."
The praise received for the cleanliness and good order of our camp, on this as well as other occasions, was in a great measure due to the untiring energy of Adj't. McGill.
April 2d, one hundred and fifteen men and two officers were sent as a guard, with a boat that was used by a military board, in collecting evidence along the Mississippi river, in regard to some cotton speculations. They were absent one week, during which time the remainder of the Regiment was excused from duty. While here a detail of ten men was made from the Regiment to fill up the 17th Ohio Battery.
Since leaving Memphis, the Regiment had lost by resignation fifteen officers. Their places had been partly filled by promotions in February. On the 9th of April, Capt. Moats returned from Columbus, Ohio, promoted to Major, and took command of the Regiment. He brought commissions for the following members of the Regiment: D. Gunsaullus, promoted to Captain; A. M. Cochran, C. Conard, Thomas Montgomery, W. H. H. Rike, M. McCafferty, W. H. Smith and R. A. South to First Lieutenants; and Harvey W. Day, J. K. Reed, J. M. Kendall, Jesse H. Allison and W. J. Srofe to Second Lieutenants. Shortly after, Lieut. Conard, Co. A, and Lieut. Plyly, Co. B, were permanently transferred to the Signal Corps, and Lieut. Jesse H. Allison was detailed as Aid-de-Camp on the staff of Col. W. J. Landrum.
While at Milliken's Bend, the sickness contracted on steamers and at Young's Point began to terminate fatally, the mortality being confined chiefly to the new regiments. The muffled drums were heard all day long, and the parting volleys at the graves on the slope of the levee awoke the echoes across the waters of the Mississippi, while comrades were laid in their last resting-place, far from the loved ones at home.
"Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er;
Dream of battle-fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking."