The Civil War Diary of Henderson George
Diary 1863


  DECEMBER 1863  
Tuesday Dec. 1st.
Fourteenth day. Weather clear and cold; men suffering both from a lack of food and clothing. Many of the men are almost shoeless and in rags. Winter is upon us. This lack of proper supplies has been brought about because the rebels cut our line of communication with our base of supplies which must come by wagon train over the mountains via., Cumberland Gap from Crab Orchard. One of the last wagon trains to arrive was on Oct., 12th., in charge of myself. Since the battle on last Sabbath the enemy have been very quiet. Was at Fort Saunders to get a provision return signed. Report in the air that the enemy are about to retreat. The expedition sent from Chattanooga to relieve us must be well on the way. Something must happen soon. Brother Samuel all right.
Wednesday Dec. 2nd.
Fifteenth day of the seige. Order issued by General Porter complementing the troops on the late victory. Took a horse back ride over the city. Rumors that reinforcements sent from Chattanooga for our relief are near at hand.
Thursday Dec. 3d.
Sixteenth day of the seige. This P.M., was sent around to all the Regiments of our Division to get reports. Rebel sharp shooters made the trip interesting where it was necessary to expose ones self. Conditions at the front remain quiet and unchanged. Continued reports that the expeditionary force for our relief is near at hand.
Friday Dec. 4th.
Seventeenth day. We are sanguin that relief must be near at hand. report that General Burnside has resigned. Was on our firing line part of to-day. All quiet.
Saturday Dec. 5th.
Eighteenth day of the seige. The seige is ended; enemy retreated last night. Was over the battle ground; saw rows of the enemies dead lying side by side on top of the ground over which they had thrown some earth barely covering the bodies. The earth was so thin that the turned up feet were exposed and in some instances part of the head. It was a hasty funeral or rather burial. Our men threw additional earth over the bodies covering them more completely. The rebel line of retreat was in the direction of Virginia. During the seige our troops suffered bravely, subsisting a part of the time on chopped corn and molasses, at the same time were exposed to all kinds of weather much of it raw, rainy, and sleety, in worn out clothing and shoes.
Sabbath Dec. 6th.
All quiet; troops resting.
Monday Dec. 7th.
Troops march this A.M. at six o'clock. Move in the direction of Morristown. I am left behind in charge of the commissary office in Knoxville.
Tuesday Dec. 8th.
Dr. Taylor returned from the front to assist in forwarding head quarters wagon train and such supplies as we have. We must look to foraging off the country for our immediate subsistance.
Wednesday Dec. 9th.
Dr. Taylor returned to the front with one wagon. Our troops are now encamped at Strawbrry Plain. Lieut. Justice came in from the front. I still remain in Knoxville.
Thursday Dec. 10th.
Accompany Lieut. Justice to a small mountain flour mill. (Leas Mill.) Load two wagons with flour which the Lieutenant takes to the troops several miles distant, starting at dark making the trip at night in order to relieve the men from hunger as soon as possible. I remained in charge of the mill and kept it running all night.
Friday Dec. 11th.
This morning I leave Leas Mill with 1800 lbs. of flour in two wagons for the front. Road rough and mountainous. Drive until dark on the Rutledge road; corral for the night. Sleep in old deserted mountain shack.
Saturday Dec. 12th.
This morning cloudy raining. Move wagons with flour at sun-rise; arrive in camp near Rutledge noon.
Sabbath Dec. 13th.
Weather cloudy, raw, raining. Move head quarters to a building in Rutledge. arrival of a supply train from Knoxville. We are yet depending on foraging the surrounding for subsistance; this is our only recourse by which seven or eight thousand men are to be kept from starvation. The people of the country are poor and can ill afford to divide with us what little provision they have; the people are paid for what we take but money is not food. The commissary department is kept busy day and night foraging.
Monday Dec. 14th.
Turned over a post supply train to Captain Menting of the 23d. Army Corps. It was a Division of the 23d. that relieved us at Knoxville. These men are on the march to Chattanooga. No enemy at present near us. Third Brigade of our Division marched to-day to Beans Station a distance of about five miles.
Tuesday Dec. 15th.
Weather clear and cool. Troops ordered to be ready to move at any moment. Was sent with four teams to Smiths Mills on Clinch River for flour; load and return by the river road. drive until after mid-night and stop at Richland Creek in order to rest men and teams.
Wednesday Dec. 16th.
After three hours rest pull out and arrive on the main road about ten A.M., unhook feed teams. Move along slowly on account of a long wagon train on the road ahead of us belonging to another command who have just come through Cumberland Gap on its way south; could not learn to what command they belonged. We corral at the intersectoin of the road to Leas Mill.
Thursday Dec. 17th.
Raining this morning. Arrive in camp and leave at once for Leas Mill for camp arriving at sun-set. Leave immediately by train for Knoxville, arrive at two thirty mid-night. Sleep on the station floor until morning.
Friday Dec. 18th.
Weather cloudy and cool. Could not get transportation at once therefore forced to remain in Knoxville all day. Recognizing the fact that my pedal extremities were rebelling against worn out shoes, I invested in a pair of boots at fourteen dollars with a feeling of content that I was now well prepared for roughing it. Disappointment came in a day or two, when, to my dismay, I found the fourteen dollar boots mostly composed of paper veneered in imitation of leather. This was of course a glaring sutlers fraud; nothing can be done to right the wrong. I am now worse off than if I had the old shoes. Orders for all our men in hospital at Knoxville who are able, to be ready to go to the front to-morrow morning.
Saturday Dec. 19th.
Leave Knoxville at nine o'clock A.M., and arrive at Blains Cross Roads after dark.
Sabbath Dec. 20th.
This evening just as it was growing dark I was sent to Leas Mill to bring up two wagons loaded with flour. It is eight miles to theMill over a rough precipitous mountain road. The road was so dark that I had to depend on the instinct or sagacity of my horse to save riding over a precipice. The cries of wild cats and night birds only served to make the road seem more lonely.
Monday Dec. 21st.
Move from Leas Mill very early and arrive in camp about nine A.M. Lieut. Justice left by train for Knoxville.
Tuesday Dec. 22nd.
Lieut. Justice returned from Knoxville. Captain Johnston appointed chief commissary of Subsistance for the ninth Army Corps.
Monday Dec. 28th.
No diary record from Dec. 23d. to the 29th.
Tuesday Dec. 29th.
Weather clear and cold. Made a trip to Leas Mill and back mounted.

To-day December 29th. our regiment, the Roundheads, with the exception of twenty seven men, re-enlisted for a second term of three years including my brother and myself. The number of men re-enlisting was three hundred and sixty six; this was the full strength of the Regiment at this time, being reduced from battle casualties and sickness, in its two years and four months service.

When taken into full consideration te re-enlistment of our men at this time was a most commendable and patriotic movement. The men had been suffering much hardship for the last three months from severe campaigning, without sufficient shoes or clothing; part of the time on short rations of poor quality, (chopped corn and molasses in the seige of Knoxville,) and in rags and shoeless, signing the roll, giving themselves a second term of enlistment.

The subject or re-enlistment had been under discussion by the men for several days before they finally decided. They, as intelligent patriotic men, took into consideration the general military situation, with the movements and achievements accomplished during the year, the more important of which was the battle of Gettysburg, and the seige of Vicksburg, ending in its capitulation, and the opening of the Mississippi River throughout its length.

Our armies, during the year, have in a general way been successful, inspiring a hope of ulrtimate victory. In a spirit of patriotism the men decided to stand by our country in its terrible struggle, until the last foe shall be vanquished.

In connection with our re-enlistment we are to have a thirty day furlough. We immediately started north in mid-winter, over the Cumberland Mountains, at that time covered with snow; many of the men being practically bare-foot, some of them with green hide tied to their feet, and in rags, marching to Crab Orchard, a distance of over one hundred miles before they could receive proper outfitting.