About Benjamin Lewis DeMoss
From History of the Thirty-seventh regiment of Indiana infantry volunteers; its organization, campaigns, and battles--Sept. '61-Oct. '64:
Colonel George W. Hazzard was a regular army officer — a real soldier — a rigid disciplinarian, and just the man to teach officers and enlisted men how to conduct themselves in camp, on picket, on the march, on the skirmish line and on the field of battle. No doubt the Regiment owed much to this careful training for the brilliant record it afterwards made in many hard fought battles — a record on which there is not a single stain.
After drilling a month at Lawrenceburg, the Regiment, on Sept. 18, 1861, was mustered into the United States service by taking the oath required. To be a real soldier, to be bound by a solemn oath to obey your superior officer, even if so doing led to death in a strange land, caused strange feelings to agitate the breasts of the young and honest farmers, merchants, and mechanics, of which the Regiment was largely composed But, for the love of their country, they cheerfully accepted the solemn obligation.
On the 19th of October, at dress parade, the following general order was read to the Regiment :
Headquarters 37th Indiana Volunteers, Camp Dearborn, Oct. 19, 1861. Order No. 9.
The Colonel commanding congratulates the Regiment that they are ordered to take the field. Our first move will be to Louisville, Ky., and will be made tomorrow night.
By order of L. Howland, Adjutant. Col. G. W. Hazzard,
The next day knapsacks were packed, nearly every man having twice as much in his knapsack as he could carry, and not half as much as he thought he would need in order to be comfortable during the approaching winter. In the evening the Regiment formed and marched through Lawrenceburg to the river. Each man had a pack on his back as large as was carried years ago by traveling dry goods peddlers. Many good old ladies, with tears running down their motherly faces as the boys passed, audibly prayed that every one might be spared to return to parents and friends. The Regiment and teams were placed on a steamboat and two large barges that lay at the wharf, and steamed on down to Louisville. The night was extremely cold and the men suffered greatly.
The boat arrived at Louisville before day, lay there most of the next day and then ran down to the mouth of Salt River. At Salt River the Regiment drilled and worked on Muldraugh's Hill a few weeks, and then moved on to Elizabethtown, Ky. From there it went to Bacon Creek, Ky.
The men had been greatly exposed during all the time since they left Lawrenceburg. They were not allowed to gather straw for beds, and had to sleep on the ground in their tents through November and December, and many of them died at Bacon Creek during the months of December and January. At Bacon Creek 12 men died in one night in the hospital tent, and their bodies were laid out on a rail pile near by. Both Col. Hazzard and Dr. Anderson were to blame for some of the exposure of the men.
Consequently, both the Colonel and the Doctor were heartily disliked by most of the enlisted men. The Colonel would not permit any of his men to eat anything but government rations. It was a serious offense to buy cake, pie, fowl or fish from a citizen. If the Colonel found any man coming into camp with provision he would make him throw it away.
One day a Co. H man, named Daily, who could imitate to perfection the noise of any barn-yard fowl, came past the Colonel's tent with his oil blanket full of leaves for his bed. As he passed the tent, a noise in the blanket sounded very much like a hen was confined there. The Colonel rushed out, and with much profanity assured the man that he had caught him disobeying orders and ordered him to let that hen go.
Daily dropped the leaves, but no hen ran out, and the Colonel *'caught on" and sneaked back into his tent.
December came in cold and cheerless, and Jacob S. McCullough,Co. K's poet, sympathizing with the gloomy surroundings and discouraging prospect, repeated the poet's melancholy words, "The cold, chilly winds of December," which were often repeated by many in the Regiment for a few weeks.
The colder it got the more dissatisfied the men became, and the more vigorous was the Colonel's discipline. Consequently, the men were more than delighted one day when Col. Turchin, commanding the brigade, gave a command which they did not understand, and Hazzard rushed furiously at him, saying: **There is no such command in the book."
Then Col. Turchin coolly said : "Col. Hazzard, you must not address your superior officer in that way ; give me your sword; consider yourself under arrest and go to your quarters." He rode off and the men in the Regiment could scarcely keep from cheering. Turchin was ever afterwards a great favorite with the Thirty-Seventh Regiment.
While in camp at Bacon Creek, Chaplain John H. Lozier wrote an article, which was published in the Cincinnati Commercial, criticising the conduct of the Colonel and Surgeon. For this, the Colonel placed the Chaplain under arrest: placed charges against him, and had him lined. The boys made up the tine for their Chaplain, and thus showed that they believed in him.
Shortly after this Dr. Blackburn, of Cincinnati, the medical director of the division to which the 37th belonged, came into camp, and riding up to Dr. Andereon's quarters, called him out and said: "Doctor, don't you know better than to put your sick men in such a hovel as they are in?" Dr. Blackburn, continuing, said: "It is outrageous; worse than the Black Hole of Calcutta."
Then Col. Hazzard came out and said he did not allow any one to interfere with his Regiment. Dr Blackburn said: "I will come in whenever I please.*'
Hazzard said: "Leave my camp."
"I will when I get ready," Dr. Blackburn said.
The Colonel David S. Stewart, Co. K. turned to Grossman, of Richland, Ind. Co. A, and said: "Bring me a file of guards."
The file of guards was brought, and when Dr. Blackburn got ready to go, he turned to Col. Hazzard and said in bitterest sarcasm : "Colonel, have you that escort ready?"
The Colonel ordered the Corporal to take the Doctor out of camp, which he did. In about an hour. Gen. Mitchell, our division commander, rode into camp and had a brief talk with Col. Hazzard in his tent, and left. Soon afterwards Col. Turchin and several of his staff rode into camp, and calling Col. Hazzard out of his tent, placed him under arrest in the presence and hearing of a large number of officers and private soldiers.
This was loudly cheered by many of the soldiers. Major Hull said the cheering "was done by a d — d set of low-flung privates.
After the removal of Hazzard, the health of the Regiment improved rapidly and discontentment disappeared.
On the 12th of Feb., 1862, the Regiment was ordered to leave with three days' rations to attack the Confederates at Bowling Green, Ky. The Regiment started early next morning and marched to Cave City that day, where it bivouacked for the night.
The first night out was warm the fore part of the night, and the men being tired, slept soundly. The snow commenced falling about midnight and covered, but did not awake the tired hosts. The bugle awoke them in the morning, and as they shook the snow from their garments, each boasted of his good night's rest, and prepared for the day's march.
The rebels having learned of our advance, burned the bridge that spanned Barron River, opposite the city, and our brigade marched a few miles down the river and found an old boat in which it crossed the stream with great difficulty by working all night, going into the city at daylight.
Nearly all the houses were vacated, and, of course, the boys did not sleep out of doors at night nor suffer for provision. Meat and flour and meal and cooking utensils were there in abundance and the army feasted.
Before starting down the river a battery was planted and fired at a train in the city loaded with military stores and just ready to leave. A ball struck the engine and disabled it. This caused the rebels to burn the train and depot, filled with trunks and military stores.
They had a strong skirmish line on their side of the river, which caused the Thirtv-Seventh to hear the first whistle of rebel bullets. The exposure and marching had been too great for Sergeant John F. Lingenfelter, of Co. K, who took pneumonia and died Feb. 23, 1862. He was a noble and brave patriot, loved by all his comrades.
As one of the Regiments marched into town preceded by its band, a citizen asked Capt. Ward: "What are you'ns playing we'uns tune for?"
The Captain replied : "It is our tune; we are going down into Dixie, and intend to stay there."
From Bowling Green the Regiment marched on to Nashville, Tenn. The rebels had cut down the line suspension bridge that spanned the Cumberland River, which was high, and was crossed with great difficulty. But the weather was getting warm and delightful, and the beautiful southland, and Nashville — ^the home of Jackson and James K. Polk — seemed to inspire the men of the Thirty-Seventh with cheer and hope.
While in camp near Nashville, three men, W. D. Elrod, H. S. Lane and James Harper, were captured while outside of the lines by a force of cavalry. A battalion of Federal cavalry pursued, and while a lively skirmish was going on the three prisoners escaped. Lane having received a severe wound in the neck.
About March 5, 1862, Col. Hazzard received orders from the War Department to report for duty to his command in the Regular Army. Gen. Buell released him from arrest that he might obey the order, but instead of doing it he assumed command of the Regiment. Col. Ward, then Captain, being officer of the day, was ordered to tell our old Colonel to give up the command, which he did, and Col. Hazzard called for his horse, rode away and was never seen again by any one of the Regiment. He was Captain of a battery in the Eastern Army, to which he returned and was killed, it is said, in the seven days' battle before Richmond.
The brigade to which the Thirty-Seventh Ind. belonged at this time was composed of the following regiments: 19th Illinois, 24th Illinois, 18th Ohio, and the 37th Indiana.
About the last of March, 1862, the division to which this brigade was attached, commanded by Gen. O. M. Mitchell, the author of "Mitchell's Geography," which most of his soldiers had studied, was taken from Gen. Buel's army and sent south to Huntsville, Ala.
We marched south by easy stages, meeting an almost universal rebel sentiment until we reached Shelbyville, Tenn., where the citizens met us with our flag and welcomed us with great delight. The Union sentiment was so strong there that the rebels called it New Boston.
The friendship of these people made us feel like we were near home. They were like Northern people, and they dearly loved the old flag and the Union.
From Shelbyville we went to Fayetteville, Tenn., and remained there a few days, April 5, 1862, we started for Huntsville, Ala. It rained incessantly all day, and so we marched all day through mud and swollen streams. We doubt if there was anything on any one that day was dry but his powder. We were then in the heart of the enemy's country, with no friends but the poor negroes, and we had to be prepared all the time for battle.
About dusk the evening before we got to Huntsville we came to a stream, across which there was no bridge, and in which the water was fully four feet deep. Gen. Mitchell was in a hurry, and his army must cross, no matter how deep and cold the water was.
The men good naturedly took off their coats, shoes, stockings and pants (their shirts were not much longer than their vests, and there was no need to remove them), and holding up their guns, cartridge boxes, haversacks and clothing, plunged into the Avater with a whoop and came out on the other side. There they built fires, warmed and put on their clothing, ate a little supper and pushed forward, marching all night, and arrived at Huntsville at daylight the next morning, taking the citizens by surprise.
The first intimation they had of our presence was the heavy tramp of the soldiers on the streets. It is said that one old lady, hearing the noise, looked out of her window and exclaimed : "Oh, Lord ! what big men; no wonder we'uns can't light 'um."
The citizens received the soldiers civilly but coldly, while the colored people could not conceal their delight at seeing us, and did not seem to try to do so. One old colored woman came rushing along, and with tears running down her cheeks, shouted: "Glory to God! Glory to God! I'se been praying for dis dose many years."
The citizens were not friendly, but quite submissive. To swoop down on a large city, take charge of it and require the citizens to act as you dictate to them, gives one a good idea of the prerogatives of war.
We captured at Huntsville a large number of prisoners, nineteen locomotives and much rolling stock. The rebels disabled most of the captured engines, but there were plenty of machinists in our division, and in a short time they had these enjpnes in ofood order again.
Our brigade was soon put on a train of cars — platform and stock cars— and hurried to the railroad bridge that crossed the Tennessee River at Decatur, Ala. We were there in time to prevent the burning of it, and the next day we went west to Tuscumbia. That town is surrounded by a fine country and large plantations. Some of the negro quarters of a single plantation contained ten or fifteen little houses or homes for the slaves. At Huntsville we saw the first whipping post to which negroes were tied while being whipped.
At Tuscumbia we saw the first trained blood hounds. They were kept in a little pen, and looked as if they would, as a little darkey said, "Eat a niggah up in a minute, shore."
We made several raids on different parts of the country around Tuscumbia for several days, but nothing of importance occurred till one day a large force of the enemy moved onto us and we were ordered to fall back to Decatur.
In the meantime a barrel of whiskey was captured, and the Colonel Gazley, not being a strict temperance man, knocked in the barrels head and let the boys till their canteens with the stuff. Some of the boys, not many of them, got drunk, and it was believed that Capt. W. D. Ward, afterwards Colonel, was the maddest man in either army. After crossing a stream called Big Nance, some of the men were quite drunk and had to be cared for. Fortunately there were not many in that condition. Most men in the Regiment considered getting drunk almost as disgraceful as playing the coward in front of the enemy.
As we were the first Union soldiers those Southerners had seen, we had a good opportunity to learn something of the feeling of Southern people for Northern soldiers. And it is safe to say that most Southern people actually hated the Northern soldiers, and Northern people. The best citizens of the South would do all in their power to deceive our soldiers.
Women turned up their pretty noses at our men when they met them. One woman in Huntsville deliberately spit on a soldier one day, and he simply knocked her down. No more soldiers were spit on. But those ladies soon got over their prejudices, and soon afterwards the best-looking ladies of Huntsville were seen walking the streets escorted by some blue-coated officer or soldier, and in a number of instances those Southern ladies married those Northern soldiers; all of which goes to show that those Indies were not only good looking, but smart, and knew a good thing when they saw it.
While at Huntsville our boys captured the rebel mails two or three times, and reading those captured letters was pastime with some of us. Those letters showed just what the people down there were. While many of the writers of the letters were evidently illiterate and coarse, many of them were scholarly and refined. Some of the letters from parents to sons, and from sons to parents, showed that their writers were intelligent Christians, unfortunately engaged in a bad cause. As a sort of war measure the people at Huntsville had issued a large number of pasteboard cards on which were printed: '*Good for 10 cents;" sometimes for a larger amount, and when any one got $5 worth of such cards with some merchant's name on them, they were redeemed with a Confederate $5 bill. The 19th Illinois' boys got a printing press and some pasteboard, and expanded the circulation till no man's name on a card was worth a penny. While at Huntsville the 37th Regiment and the brigade received orders to go to the relief of the 18th Ohio, which had been attacked at Athens by a large force of rebels. Our Regiment, commanded by Major W. D. Ward, who had been recently promoted from Captain, and the rest of the brigade, all uuder command of Col. Turchin, took the cars and went to the nearest point to Athens. From there we marched all night toward that town, and at daylight met the 18th Ohio slowly falling back before a superior force of the enemy.
The brigade formed for action, and it was not long before the rebels were making a much more rapid retreat than the 18th Ohio had been making. They were driven several miles beyond Athens, when we returned to the town. Col. Turchin, who commanded the brigade, ordered Major Ward, of the 37th Ind., and Col. Mihilotski, of the 24th Ills., to take their commands to a position some distance from the town, which they did.
The 19th Ills, and the 18th Ohio were left in the town, and the men of those Regiments say that Col. Turchin rode among them and remarked to the boys : **I see nothing for two hours."
Whether he said that or not is not certainly known, but it is certain that at the expiration of the two hours there was not much of value to be seen in Athens. Not during all the remainder of the' war was such wanton destruction of property seen by those men.
Men who had been sleeping in the mud, laid tine broadcloth on the ground that night and slept on it. Everything of value was carried out of dry goods stores, jewelry stores and drug stores. Will Scott, of Co. K, bought a fine gold watch of one of the 19th Ills, men for a few dollars of Confederate scrip, which he got at Huntsville. The sidewalks of the town were almost covered with dry goods. A 19th Ills, man (not Gov. Chase, who belonged to the 19th), who evidently would not have pleaded not guilty to the charge of assisting in the sacking of Athens, is described as follows by a 37th Ind. soldier :
The "sucker" had evidently been at a drug store, he was tall and slender, and had dressed himself in a fine pair of cloth pants, a vest and boots, and a striped pigeon-tailed coat far too big for him at the shoulders, but too short, the tails of the coat only coming to his waist. He also wore a silk stove pipe hat, around which he had wrapped one end of a richly-colored ribbon, three inches in width, the rest of the bolt of ribbon streaming out behind him as he swaggered and staggered up the street singing "The girl I left behind me."
He had started out "to make treason odious, and to let the proud rebels of Athens know that while the soldiers of the Union were always obedient to orders and deferential to ladies, they could resent insults when so minded."
It is doubtful if any Northern soldier during the war, did more to offend and disgust Southern ladies than did this 19th Ills, soldier; and that was just what he wanted to do. The sacking of Athens has often been condemned even by men in the North, but whether it was right or wrong, it had a good effect on the rebels, and was about what those Athenian rebels deserved. For the first year or two our armies dealt entirely too leniently with them.
The 18th Ohio had been left there to guard the town, protect rebel property, which it most faithfully did. While doing this they were insulted in almost every conceivable way, even fired upon by citizens from houses that soldiers were guarding. News was sent to a large rebel force to come and kill and capture their protectors. After Athens was looted, no other Southern town mistreated any of the Regiments of Turchin's Brigade. Southerners simply called them "Turchin's thieves."
The Nineteenth Illinois Regiment did not do all the plundering that was done at Athens, for many men of the Thirty-seventh Indiana and Twenty-fourth Illinois, got into the town and took a hand in the work. Afterwards, when the General commanding called the officers of these Regiments to account for the conduct of their commands. Col. Gazley convinced him that the only part that the Thirty-seventh Regiment took in the business was the taking by a few men of a little molasses out of a store that was broken into.
Thus the 37th escaped with a slight reprimand, while the 24th Ills., and especially the 19th Ills., received pretty severe punishment. Ever afterwards when the 24th Ills, would meet the 37th, they would say in their soft German (it was a German Regiment), to the 37th : "Molasses."
While at Athens, most of the Brigade camped in the amphitheater of the race track for a few days, and the sports had great fun running the cavalry horses, which a general order promptly stopped. While at Athens the 37th started one morning to meet a provision train and escort it into camp. The distance from Athens was more than twenty miles.
We arrived at our destination that evening and ate supper just as the sun was sinking out of sight. Just then a messenger arrived on a horse fleaked with foam, with orders for the Regiment to march back with all haste to Athens, as an attack was expected the next morning. Back the tired men started, and after marching all night, got back to camp the next morning at sun up, having marched in twenty-four hours not much less than fifty miles. The whole Brigade was formed in line of battle waiting for Gen. Forest, who had wisely abandoned his contemplated attack. Perhaps no Regiment in either army made a longer march in twenty- four hours during the war than that. Of course a goodly number of men fell out of the ranks before reaching Athens ; some of them marched while sleeping, and becoming weary, unconsciously stepped aside and laid down to sleep.
About this time forty-nine men of Co. E,.of the 37th, were sent a few miles from the main camp to guard a railroad bridge, or rather a high trestle, at a place now called, I understand. Elkins — Lieut. Frank Hughes in command. After remaining there a few days, Capt. Connett, having joined his command, the Company was attacked by the 15th Kentucky Cavalry and 120 Texas Rangers, numbering in all 720 men, commanded by Col. Woodward, of Kentucky. After fighting fiercely half an hour they surrendered. The loss of the enemy had been so heavy that some of them, from excessive anger, perhaps, did not cease firing until they shot after the surrender and severely wounded B. C. Whitlow, causing him to lose an eye. Five men of Company E, James Jordon, John T. Morgan, J, R, Conner, A. O. Scull and Robert F. Heaton, were killed, and Capt. Connett, John F. Wolverton, Marion Garrett, James Hanger, James Tillison and perhaps others were wounded. Captain Connett was wounded seven times before he surrendered. Indeed, he did not surrender; he was simply overpowered. The rebels lost forty in killed and wounded, losing a man for every man they killed or wounded or captured. Thus it will be seen that the fight was very fierce, and creditable to Co. E, the Thirty-seventh Regiment, and all Indiana soldiers.
The captured men were taken to Tuscaloosa, thence to Montgomery, and thence to Macon, Ga., where they remained prisoners five months before they were exchanged, and returned to their Regiment All came back more determined than before to crush treason and rebellion, and restore the Union. It is seldom that greater bravery is displayed than was displayed by the men of that company on that occasion.
Sometime in May the Regiment returned to Fayetteville, Tenn. A number of Regiments besides those of our Brigade were collected there for a raid on Chattanooga, Tenn. The 37th was commanded by Col. Gazley and Col. Ward. We marched across the mountains to the Sequatchie Valley, and from thence across the Cumberland Mountains to the Tennessee river, and in sight of Chattanooga.
A battery was placed on a spur of the mountain and opened fire o» the city, and a body of Infantry formed on the bank of the river and fired across it at the troops on the other side. The next day we were ordered back to Stevenson, Ala., to which place we went, and the 37th was distributed along the railroad to guard bridges across Crow Creek, with headquarters at Stevenson. Occasionally detachments were sent to patrol and guard the banks of the Tennessee river.
I believe it was on the 3rd day of July, 1862, while Col. Ward was in command of one of these detachments, guarding the bank of the Tennessee river, that he was captured. He had learned that the Confederates had a large amount of corn and some horses on an island just below him, and he determined to capture them if possible. No boats being on the north side of the river, W. D, Elrod and another soldier swam the river after dark and brought over an old dug-out. Col. Ward and Elrod, with nothing on but pants and shirt, crossed the river. The Colonel crawled cautiously up the bank.
In attempting to return his boat struck an obstacle near the bank, and the noise aroused the guards, who captured him. He said his captors treated him kindly, gave him an old straw hat and a pair of shoes. The guard who captured him and an officer took him to Gen. Heath, at Chattanooga. While on the way there an old lady came running to see him, and after looking at him a few moments, said : "You can't fool me. He's no Yankee." Turning to the officer, who wore a blue coat, she said : "You are the Yankee," and would consent to nothing else.
He was placed in the guard house with some rebel soldiers. The next day his men on the north side of the river sent over to him his uniform under a flag of truce, after which the Colonel said he was given the liberty of the camp on his patrol. He was taken from there to Knoxville, to Gen. Kirby Smith. The Colonel said he got permission while at Knoxville to purchase a long linen coat and cap with which he concealed his identity, and thus escaped criticisms and many insults from citizens and soldiers.
From there he was taken to Madison, Ga., and his guards were ordered to protect him from all insults and injuries, which they did. This special favor, his captors informed him, was granted because of his kindness to citizens and prisoners at Huntsville while he was in command at that place of which they had heard. Several persons who had been the recipients of his kindness called on him and thanked him, and one old gentleman gave him a bottle of wine, which the Colonel accepted, but being a strict temperance man, turned over to Confederates to drink.
He remained in that prison till October, and was taken to Richmond, where he was exchanged. After spending some time with his family and friends, he returned to his command at Nashville, Tenn., about the middle of December.
As before stated, the Thirty -seventh Regiment was scattered along the river and railroads, and it would be impossible to give a history of its acts for some weeks without giving a history of each company. Meanwhile, the boys of the Regiment put in the time guarding the river, railroad bridges, saluting officers and passing trains, playing cards, catching, the ague and shaking til about Sept. 1, when the Regiment was collected at Cowan, and with the whole army marched back to Nashville, Tenn.
But before doing so, Cowan was badly, and, I thought, harshly treated. Many houses were set on fire, and much property destroyed, though I believe the commanding officers did what they could to prevent it.
The army was under strict discipline while at Nashville, and the guards' duty very heavy. For several weeks in October and November every able-bodied soldier was required to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and march out some distance from the city, and stand in the cold or rain till after daylight. Foraging and guard duty formed the daily and nightly routine of soldier life at Nashville ; and the genuine soldier dislikes guard duty about as much as he likes foraging
Not much of eatables for man or beast were left on the fine farms around Nashville when the army left for Murfreesboro. Comrade John Morton, of Co. C, gives the following humorous description of a foraging expedition in which he was engaged. He says :
"While the 37th was quartered in the railroad depot at Nashville during the fall of '62, doing garrison duty while Gen. Bragg made his famous raid into Kentucky, it was our custom to frequently make trips out into the country, sometimes by way of the "Grany White pike; but on this occasion we went out on the "Hardie" road. Our duties were to procure forage for both man and beast. It was my luck (you may call it good fortune — I don't) to capture a Billy goat ; also some cornmeal, and after returning to camp we managed to get one of those "Dutch ovens" with its heavy lid, in order to properly bake our cornmeal pone.
We accordingly prepared the batch, and to make it as rich as possible mixed in large quantities of the fat of the goat after baking, being very hungry. Oh, what a feast I You all know that one of the peculiarities of those Dutch ovens is to preserve all of the "aroma" of its contents. Suffice it to say I have not been subject to any contagious diseases since that memorable evening in the fall of 1862."
On Dec. 26, 1862, the Regiment and about all the army received orders to march on to Murfreesboro. That was understood by all to mean a battle, for it was well known that a large force of the enemy was there; Everything went on smoothly until about dark of December 29, when we found ourselves in close proximity to the enemy.
A strange and indescribably solemn feeling always pervades an army when it knows that it is in the immediate neighborhood of a strong and brave foe. Without knowing it, men converse in a lower tone of voice, and words and actions which on ordinary occasions would not be noticed, become exceedingly funny and ridiculous. The next day, Dec. 30, was spent in forming the battle lines and skirmishing with the enemy, which seemed rather to invite than evade the attack.
We lay that night in our cold, cheerless bivouac, and before daylight on the morning of the 31st, were up and in line of battle waiting for the enemy. Not long did we wait. It was scarcely clear daylight when on our right the awful roar of cannon, and the sharp rattle of thousands of rifles told us plainly that the battle had begun, and in a very short time the great crowd of demoralized soldiers running to the rear, announced that disaster had occurred on that part of our line.
Then the men were ordered to pile their knapsacks that they might be the better prepared for the fray, which was done. Then it was ordered into a cedar thicket to check, and hold in check the advancing enemy.
The Regiment had scarcely got into position, when the Confederates, flushed with their success on our right, assailed the Thirty-seventh with all the pride and determination of the Southern soldiers. The conflict was fierce, close and bloody. It seemed for a time that the enemy would sweep our brave men from the field, but the brave fellows stood and poured volley after volley into their lines, and taught them to approach more cautiously that part of the army of the Union.
Failing to drive our brave boys from their position, the enemy — a rebel brigade on our left, marched out of an open woods, and fronting on our left flank prepared to charge us. To meet this, the left company of the Thirty-seventh changed front to face the enemy, and the Seventy-fourth Ohio, commanded by Col. Granville Moody, formed on the left of this company, and gave the enemy such a reception as they had not expected, and such a one as made them move cautiously in the future. Col. Moody was an old Methodist preacher, and as they began the advance on the enemy, he, swinging his sword high over his head, shouted at the top of his voice: "Come on, christian brethern," and right gallantly did his men follow him.
Just about this time the rebel column in front of the Thirty-seventh renewed their attack most fiercely, and the battle also raged furiously on the left company and on the Seventy-fourth Ohio. Our brave men were falling fast, but the survivors would not yield a single inch.
The rebel brigade that moved on our left had passed on till it came to the front of the Twenty-first Ohio, which was armed with Colt's revolving rifles, and lay concealed in a thicket. When that Regiment opened on them they laid down, but not being able to endure the merciless fire, broke and ran in confusion, leaving many of their number on the field. While the fighting at this point was at the fiercest — when shot and shell and minnie balls were flying thickest, an Irishman of the Seventy-fourth Ohio said to Col. Moody : "Colonel, you have been fighting the devil for twenty years, and don't you think hell has broke loose now?"
The rebel line in our front was driven back two or three different times, and rallied and came again. Then the Thirty-seventh was ordered back for some reason, passing over ground that had been fought over by troops in its rear, unknown to the Regiment. As the Regiment was going back Col. Hull was wounded and Lieutenant-Colonel Ward took command, and led the Regiment back and supplied it with ammunition, and took position with the reserve.
Perhaps the Thirty-seventh never did harder fighting than it did at that time and place. Three times the rebels charged it, and three times were repulsed. Most men of the Thirty-seventh fired sixty rounds while there. The horses of Col. Hull, Lieutenant-Colonel Ward and Major Kimble were all killed or disabled there. As the rebels charged our line and received our fire, men could be seen stumbling and falling dead or wounded. The loss of the Thirty-seventh at that point was very heavy.
No Regiment in that great and good army behaved better than the Thirty-seventh did. Col. Ward says : "This was the gloomiest time I ever remember to have experienced. We had had a very bloody engagement ; we knew quite a number had been killed and many more had been wounded, but of the many not ^present' we could not tell who were killed or wounded. The right of the army had been broken; yes, routed, and not knowing how it happened, we did not know what to expect. The lines were reformed in the shape of an immense horse-shoe, but would not that part of the army which had been driven once, break again if assailed again? These reflections made the outlook gloomy, indeed."
The night passed with slight skirmishing, and the next day both armies seemed more cautious and the conflict was less deadly. But it was evident the next morning that the conflict would be fierce and perhaps decisive. A train arrived with rations, and the Thirty-seventh, which had little to eat for two days, the officers faring no better than the men, were supplied with flour. This was mixed in water into dough, and cooked on hot rocks as best it could be and eaten. Meat was roasted or eaten raw with a relish. While trying to satisfy the cravings of hunger the Regiment was ordered into line and to double quick over to the left to meet an expected charge. Arriving at that point the Regiment found about 60 cannon there and in position, behind which a short distance the Regiment took position.
In a few minutes the Confederates under Gen. Breckenridge fiercely assailed the Federal lines south of Stone River and drove them back to it. Here they were met by our division — Negley's, and some other troops, and after severe fighting were turned back, and driven by our forces until night closed the fighting.
During the night a rain set in, and Stone River rose rapidly and that part of our army that was on the south side of the river, being liable to be cut off, by reason of high water, from the rest of the army, and thus left to contend with the whole rebeled army, was moved back to the north side of the river. That was a dark, dismal night, the men without fire or covering, lying on the ground while a cold rain poured down upon them. But like true soldiers, they bore it manfully, and when daylight came, cheerfully ate their coarse food and stood ready for whatever duty or trial the day might have in store for them.
Desultory fighting continued throughout the day, and towards evening it was evident that the enemy was massing troops at some point preparatory to making a night attack. There was some lively skirmishing that night and the rebels were driven at many points, but there was no general engagement. The Thirty-seventh Ind. camped that night just south of town in a clover field, and the rebel army slipped away under cover of the darkness. The battle had been fought and won and the Federal Army was victorious, but at a fearful sacrifice of life.
The loss of the Thirty-seventh was heavy. It went into the battle with 456 officers and men, 156 of whom were either killed or wounded. The loss of the Federal Army was 1,500 killed and something over 7,000 wounded. The Confederate loss was even greater. Rosecrans said his army numbered 43,000, Bragg's army was larger, but just what the number was is not known.
The Thirty-seventh Ind. and the other Regiments of the State and of other States, proved in that battle that the citizen soldiers of the peace-loving North were not inferior to the best soldiers the world ever produced.
The Thirty-seventh was the first Regiment in Murfreesboro. Col. Hull, of the Thirty -seventh Ind., was severely wounded early in the engagement, and Lieutenant-Colonel Ward, who commanded the Regiment after the Colonel was disabled, had his horse shot from under him, got a bullet hole through his overcoat and had a minnie ball to graze his chin, but was not seriously hurt.
The 37th Regiment remained near town for some time, acting as provost guard. Provost duty — guarding houses and private property, policing camp, blacking old shoos, wearing white gloves at inspections is just what the hardy and honorable volunteer soldiers, especially Hoosier soldiers, abominates. But the Thirty-seventh did all these distasteful duties well, but was always glad when called to go on a scout or raid of some kind.
One time while the Regiment was at Murfreesboro, it and a Michigan Regiment were ordered out on a scout some 15 miles from that town. The Thirty -seventh took the advance going, and the Michigan Regiment was accorded that position as we returned. Nothing of any consequence came of the raid and after eating dinner, both Regiments started back to camp.
The Thirty -seventh took the advance on returning for a couple of miles, and stepped to one side of the road to give the Michigan Regiment a chance to move to the front. That Regiment had not seen much hard service ; the men were fat and unused to hardships, and the day was fearfully hot. As the men of that Regiment moved through the Thirty-seventh to the front, one of its men was sunstruck, and fell down by the roadside and struggled as if he were dying. One of his comrades, a large, fleshy man, who was stripped to his shirt, and red as a lobster, coming up and seeing the sunstruck man lying and gasping, asked "What's the matter with that man?
On being told "Sunstroke," he said, wiping his brow with his sleeve: "I wish to G— d I could git one of them things."
While at Murfreesboro Chaplain Lozier was acting as Division Postmaster. There was no regularity in the coming or going of the mails, and consequently the inquiries as to when the mail would go out became frequent and annoying. To answer this inquiry once and for all, the Chaplain placed on a piece of pasteboard in large letters: "The Chaplain does not know when the mail will go," and hung it in front of his tent.
Soon after, while he was out on business, a fun-loving, but not overly-pious soldier, wrote immediately under this, in the same kind of letters, "Neither does he care a damn."
One can readily imagine the surprise of the Chaplain when he returned and saw the amendment the witty soldier had made to his notice. He could not swear, and did not feel like praying, and simply took the notice down and afterwards answered all questions by the living voice.
Around this time, Private Benjamin Lewis DeMoss contracted pneumonia and died, June 4, 1863.
Benjamin Lewis DeMoss's Timeline
Indiana, United States
August 27, 1855
Sand Creek Township, Decatur County, Indiana, United States
May 4, 1863
Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee, United States
Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee, United States