| BLAINS CROSS ROADS TENNESSEE |
The following verses, a Parody on one of Longfellows poems, was written by Dr. William Taylor at Blains Cross Roads Tennessee.
It was one evening soon after our forces had been held in Knoxville, beseiged eighteen days by a rebel army under command of Gen. Longstreet, by which our troops had been reduced to half rations consisting mostly of chopped corn and molasses. The siege ended Dec. 5th. 1863 by a Union force sent up from Chattanooga which arrived just in time to save us from being starved into surrender.
During the investment of Knoxville by Gen. Longstreet and previous to it, Commissary and Quartermaster supplies came to us by wagon train from Kentucky via. Cumberland Gap; this source of supply had been cut off, and when the siege was raised our men were suffering not only from lack of food (hard tack and salt pork), but also from a lack of shoes and clothing.
After the raising of the siege our troops were moved to Blains Cross Roads, and the Commissary Department under the command of Lieutenant Jefferson Justice with whom Dr. Taylor and the writer were acting as assistants, were under the necessity of foraging off the country, (a rather lean country) to keep our troops from starvation. Two or three flouring mills of small capacity were found in the mountains which we kept busy day and night grinding flour and corn meal, with a sufficient number of mule teams to carry the out put to our soldiers in camp. These flouring mills were situated in the Mountains within a radius of ten to twenty miles of the camp, and over almost impassible rough Mountain roads.
Winter in the latitude of Tennessee is not to say severe. Cold sleety rains woth occasional snow prevail; but notwithstanding there was much suffering, both to our troops and to our horses and mules, who of necessity were exposed to its rigors.
The 9th. of December was one of those dark, cloudy lowering days; it was in the evening; the wind was blowing cold and cheerless, moaning and soughing in the leafless trees, and flapping tent flys in the camp. There seemed to be an unusual depressing blueness affecting our spirits occasioned by the prevailing weather conditions. We are deeply in sympathy with our suffering men, and our thoughts are with our pickets posted along the ridge of Clinch Mountain, exposed and shivering in cold and rags, with feet clouted in green hide.
And there is the corral near by and the restless braying of several hundred mules slowly starving, and the quiet patient suffering of our equines as they are of necessity exposed day and night to the inclement weather.
These are some of the conditions prevailing about four o'clock on that evening, under which the following lines were written. They do not of course aspire to literary merit but only as an incident of war times.
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through our picket lines there passed
A youth, encased in rags and lice,
Who bore a scroll with this device
His eyes were sunk, his feet beneath
Passed from a nameless leather sheath,
And in a hollow voice he sung
With mournful tone and trembling tongue,
Oh stay, the Commissary said,
To-morrow we'll have lots of bread,
The Youth, he slowly shut one eye
And onward passing, heaved a sigh,
Beware of Dobson, Wells, and Jones,
Instead of beef who give you bones,
This was the butchers last good night,
The youth replied far out of sight,
At break of day, as several boys
From Maine, New York, and Illinois
Were eating "slap jacks" through the air
They heard the accent of despair,
The youth was found and by his side
An empty haversack was tied,
Still holding in his hand of ice
That banner of a strange device,
There in the twilight, dark and gray,
A living skeleton he lay,
And from a place he dare not tell,
There came one last unearthly YELL!
Blains Cross Roads Tennessee, December 9th. 1863.
By Dr. William Taylor, Co. G. 100dth. P.V. (Roundhead) Reg.