Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Everett Rainey - Gone for a Soldier: Part 4

Federal troops in camp at Chattahoochee River, where 91st Regiment participated in fighting.
[Part 4 of selections from Pat Raney's novella "Everett," about our Great-great grandfather Everett Rainey's service in the Union army during the American Civil War. Part 3 ended with the Siege of Atlanta and Everett's B Company of the 91st Indiana Regiment afterward being sent with other troops into Tennessee to protect against Confederate raid. Listen to When This Cruel War is Over.  HERE

On September, 21st, General John Bell Hood moved his Confederate army from the Atlanta region.
Lt. General John Bell Hood
 [his bio HERE]
Hood's operation bogged down because rains turned the usually dusty red soil into a quagmire.  For two weeks his army sat, then moved north to attack in the same place battles had raged a year earlier.
Sherman gave chase, but Hood managed to vanish each time Union troops prepared to attack.  They moved about northern Georgia until Hood escaped into the rugged hills of Alabama.  Sherman said to hell with this and returned to his mission, to march his army from Atlanta to the Atlantic.

Hood moved west, pausing at Tuscumbia, Alabama, before crossing the Tennessee River. Grant ordered Schofield’s Army of the Ohio with several extra divisions to rein in Hood's and Forrest's rebel armies.  Various garrisons throughout Tennessee, including the 91st Regiment at Columbia, assisted.
Where Hood crossed the Tennessee River in Tuscumbia, Colbert County, Alabama, and began moving north into Tennessee
Union General George Thomas, stationed north in Nashville, knew Hood would target Nashville, where federal supplies of food, munitions and grain were piling up with daily river shipments from northern states.
The garrison at Columbia was on the alert. Forrest had made a shamble of Johnsonville and Everett and the men of B Company were braced for the worst, spread out on picket lines around the town. They and companies A and C relieved one another, insuring that well-rested reinforcements would be available if attacked.
The weather turned miserable in mid-November, the temperature plunging, turning road ruts rock hard and impassable or thawed to an ochre-colored gumbo.
Hood moved north, sending three columns toward Columbia.  Nearly 30,000 rebels moved resolutely forward with supplies and about 100 guns.  When they neared Columbia, Hood moved his artillery forward, attempting to keep the Union army in place.  Moving quickly from Pulaski, General Schofield reinforced the Union army.
Spring Hill straddling Maury and Williamson counties
Hood moved toward Spring Hill in a flanking movement to get at Schofield’s rear. Wide-sweeping Union cavalry warned of Hood’s intent and the Union army moved as well.  Leaving a division at Columbia as a covering force, on the last day of November Schofield headed the remainder of his army northward, forward units meeting diminishing resistance. The Confederate force failed to press any advantage and retired for the night.

B Company found itself on the march in the dark.  NCOs and junior officers moved through the ranks, quieting and encouraging the men.  Under a dusting of snow, they passed close by rebel bivouacs.  Later, they told stories of Union soldiers warming themselves at rebel campfires. Through a biting cold, sweating men kept up their rapid movement and daybreak found them securely dug in south of Franklin, Tennessee.
Franklin in Franklin County, Tennessee

These remnants of the 91st were attached to another division and ordered to throw up defensive berms near the end of a stone wall on the Carter place.  They ate a quick breakfast of hardtack and water, cleaned weapons, and leaned against their dirt and log wall to sleep while they could, knowing the enemy would come.

The loud sound of boards beating on empty barrels behind him interrupted Everett’s ragged sleep. Sitting up in panic, he asked a nearby lieutenant, “What's that sound, sir?”
“That,” replied the officer, “is the sound of our wagons crossing the Harpeth River.  Flooding took out the two wagon bridges, so our engineers laid planks over the rails on the railroad bridge.  Lucky it’s still standing.” The rumbling of the army’s many wagons continued for several hours, reaching safety while the Union army waited near the river for the Confederates. 
About three o’clock, a soldier on Everett’s left yelled, “There they are!” Scrambling to his feet, Everett looked south.  In the distance were lines of gray-clad men, cavalry evident far to their right. Everett and the others waited, checking bullets and powder, their earlier tired indifference now a tense alertness.  They conversed in low tones as though the rebs a mile away might overhear.  Some men wrote their names and unit number on pieces of paper and pinned them to their coats.
 Just before sundown the gray mass moved forward.  Everett and his comrades crouched behind their earthworks, cocked their rifles, inserted the primers and waited.  Astride behind them, quietly reassuring and relaying orders, their officers became their eyes as the enemy advanced. 

They watched in horror as a front-line unit, having fired a volley, sprinted for the barricades, only to have many cut down by the rebels’ first barrage.  The gray mass surged over meager fortifications, rebel yells piercing the battle’s din. Our Union soldiers braced for the attack, firing into the onrushing enemy.  Gray-clads rushed forward only to be beaten back time and again.  Captain Bogan rode back and forth, shouting encouragement, “Hold the line, men! Hold the line!”
Union soldiers at the center retreated from a full onslaught, but a reserve force filled their gap, sealing the Confederate defeat.  Rebel attacks on all sides appeared to falter and they fell back a short distance. Bedlam all around, Everett fired as fast as he could load. The winter sun was setting, a dark red sphere obscured by smoke and dust.  Targets now were only dimly seen.

When the next attack began, a fellow next to Everett shouted, “Ah see a sesh officer! Ahm goin’ a git him!” He stood, raised his rifle and fired.  Everett made out a gray-uniformed rider wielding a saber slump forward and fall from his horse.  The horse went down nearby. A bullet struck the soldier and he pitched into Everett, flattening him.  Everett wriggled out from under his friend, stunned to see him clasping his hands over a gaping bloody hole in his belly.

Everett grabbed his knapsack, but before he could retrieve rags to stem the blood flow, the soldier said weakly, “It ain’t no use.  Lick those rebs, Ev.” Then shut his eyes and died.  Everett had seen men die, but not this close and not a friend.  With tears streaming down his checks and resolve in his heart, he choked back sobs and resumed firing.

The battle continued into the night, but by seven, the shooting had become sporadic, aimed at flashes opposite the Union lines.  Everett heard a tumult to his left, later discovering the Confederates had slammed into another division at the center of the Union lines, but it held.
About ten o’clock, an NCO slid in near his group and told them to collect their things and follow him.
          “Corporal, what’ll we do with Eddie?” asked Everett in a whisper.
          “Leave him!”
          “But, corporal, he’s my friend.  I can’t leave him here.”
          “Listen, Rainey!  You stay with him . . . . and spend the rest of the war in Andersonville.  Get your stuff and move it!”
Everett looked at his fallen friend, tears welling. He looked at the others.  Averting their eyes, some turned away to get their equipment.  A few watched Everett with sympathetic expressions.  Everett took Eddie’s coat, covered his face and said a short prayer.
Company B stole away in the night, quietly crossed the railroad bridge over the river and marched up the Nashville pike.  Their pace was rapid, at times a quick trot, no one certain where Forrest’s cavalry was.  But there was no confusion, even in the dark.

 [Note: The 2nd Battle of Franklin was a major turning-point in the war. Wikipedia article and battle maps HERE]

At sunrise, December 1, 1864, the Union column was in Brentwood, halfway between Franklin and Nashville. 
Nashville is in Davidson County, Tennessee

 At noon they joined the entire army safely ensconced inside fortifications surrounding the Tennessee capital’s southern end.  Trenches stretched from the Cumberland River on Nashville's left, following the the river's arch to where it passed on Nashville's right. 
Nashville's imposing defense - Ft. Nagsby
The next day Nashville defenders watched from their positions as the Confederate army arrived before them.  Their numbers dwindled, Confederate trenches were dug shorter than the Union line. General Thomas, in command of Nashville, waited for scattered units.  While trains brought troops from Chattanooga and even Missouri, the cavalry was refitted. After three years of war, there weren’t enough horses to meet the demand. 

On December 8, a storm blew in and the previous mild temperatures plunged to around twelve above zero.  An ice storm coated the trees and shrubs. Neither army moved. The cold was the most severe Everett remembered as men struggled to stay warm, burning whatever they found.  Their misery lasted until December 13th.
On the 15th the Union army moved against the Confederates, Schofield’s two divisions again held in reserve.

 Well,” Everett mused, “they chased us all the way to Nashville.  Now we get to chase them all the way back to Atlanta.”
When a fog lifted that morning, the Union front moved on the left and on the right.  The two divisions on the right started forward and then turned to their left, assaulting three dug-in entrenchments.  It took time but eventually the Blues prevailed, overwhelming the defenders.
Near noon, as it began to rain, Schofield committed his two divisions to the battle between the two attacking forces.  The combined force drove the gray army from its positions, pushing them back about two miles by dark.
The blue juggernaut continued the assault the next morning, December 16th.

There were so many Confederate prisoners, Company B was ordered back to familiar duty - escorting prisoners to the rear.  They trudged through Tennessee mud, shepherding a column of disconsolate rebel soldiers in mostly cotton uniforms, many shoeless. The temperature not much above freezing, within his cloaked overcoat Everett shuddered in sympathy.

On a second trip to the holding area, Everett’s prisoners included a couple of Confederate colonels. A loud cry came from the front and blue and gray turned to watch a line of Union soldiers, spread out and running up the hill, dislodging Confederates entrenched before them.

As they watched, clusters of rebels thrust up their hands. The attacking Union infantry passed them by, leaving them to be gathered up and disarmed by the next wave.  The Confederate army had broken. Those that could, moved south to safety. On that day Union forces captured over four thousand Confederate soldiers.
That night, south of Nashville, where Hood’s army had camped that morning, white tents of the 91st Regiment blossomed with those of Schofield’s other divisions.  The rest of the Union force was moving south towards the Harpeth River, nearly retracing their steps of two weeks previous.

South of Nashville after Hood's retreat - note the mud.

Listen to Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground HERE

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