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The Movement from Grand Junction - A tedious Day's March —
Fatigue of the Men — Iron Accessions to Knapsacks - Crossing the Tallahatchie — Halt at Abbeville – Advance to Yockena –
News of Van Dorn's Raid into Holly Springs - Return of the Army - Expedition to Salem, Miss. - Anecdote of a Jug March of the Regiment to Memphis.
At an early hour on the morning of November 26th, 1862, the camps were aroused at Grand Junction by the familiar reveille, tents struck, knapsacks packed, coffee and hard-cracker partaken of, and everything made ready for a seasonable departure. Following the practice instituted at Camp Fuller, the Ninety-fifth made bonfires of boxes, barrels, mess tables and other camp furniture for which there was no transportation, and which were of no further military importance. There were no barracks at this point for the troops, and no occasion was, therefore, offered for the happening of mischievousness similar to that which has already been related in connection with the return of the regiment to camp from the dépot at Rockford, Illinois. The custom of disposing by fire of all articles and rubbish of old camps prevails universally in the army, and whatever the soldier has used in camp for his own comfort, if it cannot be transported at the time of moving, must suffer unceremonious consignment to the devouring flames, or be otherwise destroyed. In other words, nothing useful to a human being in rebeldom must at such times be left behind to fall into the enemy's hands for his aid and comfort. The route taken by this portion of General Grant's army was through the northern part of the State of Mississippi, moving on the road leading to Holly Springs, Abbeville and Oxford. After the decisive battles of Shiloh and the seige of Corinth, the Confederates had retreated to their new line of operations and thrown up strong fortifications on the south side of the Tallahatchie river, a short distance north of Abbeville. The main traveled road and the Mississippi Central Railroad crossed the river at this point, and here General Pemberton was stationed in force, to resist the passage of the large Federal army which was now sweeping forward, with the rebel stronghold on the Tallahatchie as the objective point.
The first day's march out from Grand Junction was long and tedious, continuing far into the night before bivouacking. The distance traveled must have been
full twenty-five miles. Some of the men, overcome with fatigue and troubled with sore feet, were obliged to fall out of the ranks and come up afterward as best they could. This was the first real march the regiment had ever undertaken, and it was not expected that they would perform it with the same endurance as those who were enured to such duty by long service in the field. Yet a small number only was found absent from roll-call after arriving in camp that night, though all were tired, sorefooted and hungry, and well prepared for relishing the contents of their haversacks and for the enjoyment of sleep.
The men, before starting from camp that morning, had filled their knapsacks to their fullest capacity, putting in articles and material more weighty than old soldiers would have deemed advisable under the circumstances. For a few miles these burdens seemed light, the march progressed lively, and the boys were cheerful and talkative, even to witticism. Now and then along the road horse-shoes were discovered which had been relieved from further duty on the hoof, and a few of the men, disliking to pass by and abandon such articles, undertook to transport a number of them, thinking they would be productive of good luck, and be useful, perhaps, to some one in the future. The knapsacks, increased in weight by such metallic accessions, grew heavier and more irksome, until finally the horse-shoes were willingly cast away, and the question began to be seriously agitated whether the regulation bulk of the knapsack itself should not be overhauled, lightened and materially decreased, retaining little else therein except what was actually needful on the march.
On the following day the march was resumed, and the column moved on through Holly Springs and seven miles beyond, to near Lumpkin's Mills, where the whole army halted for the night. There were now indications that we were nearing the enemy, as there had been lively skirmishing by our cavalry in front, and the occasional booming of artillery suggested that active work might be at hand. We were only a few miles from the Tallahatchie, where the main force of the enemy was supposed to be, and the Federal column rested in camp, November 28th, with orders to regimental commanders to keep their men well in hand, while the First Kansas and the Eleventh Illinois, of Colonel Deitzler's brigade, made a reconnoisance in the direction of the crossing at the river, felt of the enemy and ascertained his position, preparatory to a general engagement. On the 29th, information was received that the enemy was evacuating his fortifications at the Tallahatchie, and General Grant ordered his army forward immediately. General McArthur's was the advance division, and Colonel Deitzler's the advance brigade. The column moved in the afternoon of that day, and the advance arrived at the recently evacuated fort on the north side of the river after dark, the Ninety-fifth being the second regiment of infantry to occupy it. The bridge at this point had been burned by the retreating rebels, and only the Eleventh Illinois Infantry, and companies “A” and “F," of the Ninety-fifth, succeeded in crossing on the remaining stringers. The cavalry had already forded the stream and passed on in pursuit of the enemy. The bridge had to be repaired before the artillery and army wagons could pass over, and the army was delayed here for that purpose until the following day. That night, therefore, the Ninety-fifth bivouacked around the fort, on the north side of the river, except the two companies mentioned, which crossed the river and occupied the works there. Officers and men lay down to sleep behind the large trees which had been felled by the Confederates to give their artillery range, and during the night heavy details from the regiment were busy at work on the bridge. The work was continued all night long, and early on the following day (30th,) it was in readiness for the army to cross.