In the first installment of this series, I introduced my fourth-great-grandfather, Hiram Scott, who died in New Orleans while serving the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War. On observation of this past Memorial Day, I wanted to honor his memory by learning as much as I can about him, with a eye towards uncovering his birth family and his early life. If you haven’t yet read the first and second posts in this series, you should read them (here and here) before continuing with this post.
In today’s post, I’ll be laying out what I know about Hiram Scott’s military service during the U.S. Civil War. I haven’t yet been able to find his Civil War Compiled Service Record, so I’ll be relying on inferences I can draw from his personal history and from the regimental history of the 95th Illinois Volunteers.
In compiling this account of the activities of the 95th Illinois Volunteers during Hiram Scott’s time with the regiment, I used research by modern scholars, contemporary news accounts, and a first-person contemporary history of the regiments, published in 1865 and written by the former Adjutant of the regiment, Wales Wood. It is A History of the Ninety-Fifth Regiment, Illinois Infantry Volunteer, From its Organization in the Fall of 1862, Until its Final Discharge from the United States Service, in 1865:
From the records I examined in part two of this series, I learned that while Hiram had enlisted for service on September 28th, 1864, he didn’t join up with the 95th Regiment until October 3rd, 1864, and was he was officially mustered in on October 4th, 1864.
Before I describe the activities of the 95th Illinois Infantry during Hiram’s time with them, let me bring you up to speed on the activities of the regiment with which Hiram would soon be rendezvousing.
Prologue: Activities of the 95th Illinois Volunteers before Hiram joined them
On June 10, 1864, Union forces that included the 95th Illinois Volunteers suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Guntown (now called the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads). Commander after commander was mortally wounded, Union volunteers and soldiers were suffering heavy casualties, and poor leadership at the very top resulted in the soldiers not being resupplied with the needed ammunition or leadership.
The Union forces were soundly defeated and put to rout, and pursuing Confederate soldiers were capturing men, supplies, guns, and artillery from the fleeing troops. Orderly retreat as a regiment was not possible and the surviving, uncaptured men of the 95th made their way back singly and in small groups to Memphis, Tennessee.
According to Wood (page 117),
On the return of the regiment from Guntown to Memphis, its organization had been so much shattered by recent misfortunes that it was relieved for a time from the performance of other than light duties, and was allowed a few weeks to recover from the severe shock it had received, before taking part in an expedition which was soon to set out from Memphis for Arkansas, under command of General Mower.
Two of the 95th’s commanding officers, who had been away on other business, including a recruiting trip to Illinois, returned to the regiment in late July and focussed on rebuilding and drilling the 95th.
On August 3rd, the men of the 95th boarded the steamer White Cloud and travelled down the Mississippi River and then up the White River to Saint Charles, Arkansas, arriving on August 5th, 1864. They stayed in St. Charles for nearly a month, building fortifications and performing picket duty. On September 1st, they travelled up the White River to August, where they had a small skirmish with a small band of Confederate soldiers. They were ordered to travel back down the river to DeVall’s Bluff, where they were told to take the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad to the Brownsville area (about three miles north of the main line, near the Lonoke station).
They camped next to the railroad that night and the very next day they learned that the Confederate General Price intended to invade Missouri with a large force, and that all the troops in Brownsville would be marching northeast across Arkansas to meet Price’s troops in eastern Missouri. This was a grueling march of about 300 miles that took them 18 days (from September 17th to October 4th), and was considered to have been the roughest march that the regiment had ever endured.
The 95th arrived in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, on October 4th, exhausted, footsore, and many of the men barefoot. Thankfully, they encountered no enemy opposition on their march or at their destination.
They remained in Cape Girardeau for two days of much-needed rest and then they were off again, being needed to defend Jefferson City, Missouri. On October 7th, they boarded the steam ship Omaha for St. Louis, where they arrived on October 10th, being immediately transferred to the transport ship Yellow Stone.
Hiram joins the 95th Illinois Volunteers
While the 95th was on their long march north from Brownsville to Cape Girardeau, their commanding officer Colonel Leander Blanden was away in Illinois on a recruiting trip. The 95th Illinois Volunteers had been formed entirely of men from Boone and McHenry Counties in September, 1862, so Col. Blanden’s recruiting trip was probably limited to these two counties. As Hiram enlisted for service on September 28th, it seems likely that he did so after hearing a rousing speech by Colonel Blanden in McHenry County, probably in either his home village of Alden, the neighboring village of Hebron, or in the nearby city of Harvard.
While Hiram signed up for service on September 28th, he was apparently given a week to get his affairs in order and report for duty. He reported for duty to Captain Coon in Marengo, McHenry County, Illinois, on October 3rd, and was mustered in to service on October 4th.
I do not know for certain how Hiram got from Marengo to wherever he joined the main body of the 95th Illinois Volunteers, but from what I’ve learned so far, I’m confident that that he went by rail to St. Louis, where the steamer Omaha was expected to arrive on October 10th.
From Marengo, Hiram would have taken the Galena & Chicago Railroad to the west, boarding at Marengo station. Just eight stops to the west was Freeport, where he would have changed trains to the Illinois Central Railroad’s Main Line (the left arm of the red Y in the map above). He would have ridden the Main Line down to Sandoval. At Sandoval station, he would have changed trains to the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, and taken this train all the way to Illinoistown (now called East St. Louis). Once across the Mississippi, he’d be in St. Louis and ready to rendezvous with the 95th regiment.
While a small portion of these 150+ year old railroad rights of way still exist and some of these are still in service, most of the railways along this route have long been abandoned or torn up. In some cases, the tracks still exist (for instance, around Mendota, where a railroad museum is built on the old tracks, or Heyworth, where they even have a caboose of the Illinois Central Railroad still on the tracks), while in others the trackways have been repurposed as roads or trails, while in other cases the rights of way no longer exist and now are almost indistinguishable under plowed fields.
I’ve reconstructed the entire rail route Hiram would have taken from Marengo to East St. Louis. You can see a short video of a portion of that reconstruction here, or you can download the entire route here and view it in Google Earth (free).
Because of his new Regiment’s tight transportation schedule, Hiram’s welcoming into the 95th would have been rushed and brief. The 95th had just arrived on the Omaha after steaming upriver from Cape Girardeau, and they needed to immediately transfer to the Yellow Stone to travel from St. Louis to Jefferson City.
Hiram’s first military mission
There would have been plenty of time to get to know his fellow soldiers from the 95th once the Yellow Stone was underway. According to Wood, the trip up the Missouri River was a slow one (page 123):
After much delay in ascending this muddy stream, on account of numerous sand-bars in the river, the regiment reached [Jefferson City] October 16th…
It took the Yellow Stone six full days to travel the 158 miles from St. Louis to Jefferson City—about 26 miles per day, on average.
They arrived in Jefferson City on October 16th, and stayed there until October 20th, when they were sent further west by rail to Sedalia. Once in Sedalia, the 95th was assigned to garrison duty as the campaign against General Price was going so well that there were large numbers of Confederate prisoners coming in that needed to be received and forwarded.
After the decisive Union victory over Price’s Confederate forces at the Battle of Westport in what is now Kansas City, the whole of the Union army in Missouri began moving back eastward to St. Louis by easy marches. The 95th returned to St. Louis with the rest of the troops under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson Smith, marching along the banks of the Missouri River and arriving back in St. Louis on November 11th.
On November 12th, Hiram and the 95th Illinois Volunteers—and all of the troops under General Smith’s command—were assigned temporary quarters at Benton Barracks, about five miles north of St. Louis city center (and now the site of the St. Louis Fairground Park). Here they were given a few days rest to collect their pay and obtain clothing in preparation for their upcoming departure to Nashville, where General Smith’s forces were needed.
Heading to Nashville
Taking advantage of General Sherman’s March to the Sea, the Confederate General John Bell Hood waged an aggressive and desperate campaign to march north through Tennessee and capture Nashville. General Smith was ordered to bring his troops to Nashville to join forces with Major General Henry Thomas and defend the city of Nashville against the expected attack by General Hood.
On November 23, 1864, Colonel J.B. Moore’s division of General Smith’s command (the division of the 17th Army Corps commanded by Moore, to which the 95th belonged) departed St. Louis in a flotilla of transport ships. The 95th Illinois Volunteers had been assigned to the steamer Isabella.
The photo above is not of the Isabella, but is an image of a ship of the same time period that I believe is about the same size and operated on the same stretch of the Mississippi.
To get to Nashville, the 95th would have to steam 180 miles down the Mississippi, past Cape Girardeau, to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. According to Wood, for this portion of the journey, the Mississippi “was filled with floating ice, making navigation somewhat difficult and dangerous.” The city of Cairo is just two miles up the Ohio River, and the Isabella stopped her for some time to take on coal for the rest of the journey.
After coaling, the Isabella continued up the Ohio River for 60 miles to Smithfield (now Smithland), Kentucky, where it arrived on Sunday, November 27th, 1864.
At Smithfield, Moore’s flotilla delayed for the day to let the rest of Union fleet headed to Nashville catch up. For the remaining 190 miles to Nashville, the fleet would be navigating the relatively narrow Cumberland River. The commanders were concerned that Confederate troops and/or batteries might ambush Union ships making their way upriver to Nashville, so the ships travelled in tighter formation, kept in communication with rehearsed steam whistle signals, and were escorted by gunboat.
The fleet left Smithfield on November 28th and travelled day and night without pause until they arrived safely in Nashville early in the morning of November 30th. That same day, the Confederate General Hood’s army reached Franklin (about 20 miles south of Nashville) and attacked the Union army’s fortified positions around that city, resulting in devastating losses for the Confederate forces in what is known as the Battle of Franklin.
Rather than counterattack the devastated Confederate forces, the Union commander, Major General John M. Schofeld ordered a continuation of the planned, orderly withdrawl of Union forces north to Nashville.
Hood’s army pursued the victorious but retreating Union forces north to Nashville, and on December 1, 1864—one day after the Union fleet arrived—Hood planted a battery and effected a blockade of the Cumberland River above and below Nashville.
Preparing for battle
As soon as the troops under General Smith’s command—which included Hiram and the 95th Illinois Volunteers—arrived in Nashville, they were assigned to defend the right side of General Thomas’ army. With the infusion of General Smith’s forces, the Union forces defending Nashville numbered about 55,000, while the Confederate forces under General Bell only numbered about 30,000.
Because of the rapid and reckless manner in which General Hood’s forces had attacked the Union fortifications at Franklin, however, the Union forces defending Nashville expected that Hood would be throwing his forces into an assault on Nashville as soon as he could. Because of this, the Union troops were required to dig trenches and build fortifications to protect their positions from the anticipated onslaught.
In its role of protecting the right of General Thomas’ army, the 95th was immediately assigned a position along the Charlotte Pike, approximately where the modern 440 freeway crosses over Charlotte Avenue. The 95th worked through the day and the night to build fortifications to protect their regiment’s position.
The expected rapid assault by Hood’s forces did not occur. Instead of a major assault, a series of small skirmishes occurred over the next several days.
President Lincoln told General Thomas to lead an attack on General Hood’s forces, but General Thomas chose instead to remain in position. Thomas’ strategy all along had been to draw Hood as far north as possible to stretch out and weaken Hood’s supply lines. Plus, Thomas personally knew Hood—he had been Hood’s instructor at West Point and knew Hood to be rash and impulsive. Thomas decided the strategically wiser course was to remain in their position of strength and wait for Hood to make his move.
After two weeks of nothing more than skirmishes, however, General Thomas did indeed decide to take the battle to Hood. On the evening of December 14th, 1864, orders were given for troops to be ready to move on the enemy at 5:30 am the next morning.
The Battle of Nashville
On the morning of December 15th, reveille was sounded at 5:00 am, but quietly. The troops were awake before first light and were ready to fight, but General Thomas wanted to keep his intentions hidden as long as possible from the Confederate force, so there was to be no playing on drums or fifes that was customary when proceeding into battle.
From Wood’s account of the 95th Regiment’s activities (page 137):
Thomas moved his main army out…with a large body of cavalry in advance and on the flanks, and immediately deployed it for action…. It was a magnificent sight to witness this vast army of infantry, cavalry and artillery move forward steadily and gallantly to the work in hand, confident that no opposing force could withstand its onward sweep.
Normally, the front lines of the opposing forces were in plain sight of each other, but on this mid-December morning, the Union forces were heading out at 5:30 am, a heavy fog covered the ground between the two armies. While the heavy fog obscured the advance of the main Union forces on the Confederate left flank, General Thomas launched a diversionary attack on the Confederate right flank. These tactics worked, and the Union forces caught the Confederate forces by surprise.
From Wood’s account (page 137):
Hood’s main works were but a few miles distant, and soon after the troops were formed in line, the battle opened lively between the skirmishers of both armies. By 11 A.M., the contest raged furiously along the whole lines, and the rebel batteries commenced playing upon the advancing columns.
From what I’ve been able to determine, the 95th Illinois Volunteers and the rest of General Smith’s forces marched first marched west for about one mile along the Charlotte Pike. They then arced southwest for about a mile, crossing Richland Creek and intersecting with the White Bridge Pike. They followed the White Bridge Pike for about ¾ of a mile. They departed the Pike and continued south for another two miles until they were confronted with the southernmost two redoubts (Redoubt #4 and Redoubt #5) of the five Confederate redoubts protecting the Confederate left.
At about 2:30 in the afternoon, Smith’s forces attacked the redoubts, first taking out Redoubt #4 and Redoubt #5, then overrunning Redoubt #3 and Redoubt #2, and finally joining in a three-front attack on Redoubt #1. The attack on Redoubt #3—and the resulting death of Union Colonel Sylvester Hill from cannon fire from Redoubt #2—was captured in a sketch made by George H. Ellsbury for Harper’s Weekly published the following month:
With the five redoubts silenced, General Thomas’ forces advanced on the main Confederate line. The short December day was drawing to a close, so Smith’s forces set to digging entrenchments in preparation for the next day’s battle.
Wood had the following to say about the taking of the redoubts and a casualty suffered by the 95th Regiment from the redoubts (pages 137–138):
The batteries on the enemy’s left were charged and carried by storm during the afternoon, by a portion of the cavalry, and by General McArthur’s division of infantry. On every part of the line General Thomas’ army was successful throughout the day, driving the enemy steadily back, taking battery after battery, many prisoners, and killing and wounding a large number of his men.
In the charge made by Colonel Blanden’s brigade, during the first day’s battle, across an open field, the Ninety-fifth became exposed to a raking fire from one of the enemy’s batteries, which it supposed had been taken by our troops on the left, and for a short time was in imminent danger of being severely cut up by the solid shot thrown from this unexpected source. This battery was soon in our possession, the regiment advanced rapidly over the field and escaped with the loss of only one man, Corporal John Kennedy, of Company “A,” whose left limb was taken off near the knee by a solid shot. In this charge, Colonel Moore’s division captured two or three hundred prisoners, who had taken position behind a stone fence, as sharp-shooters. Darkness only put an end to the struggle on this day, but when the curtain of night fell upon the contending hosts, hushing them to silence, it was plain that General Thomas, thus far, had been everywhere successful, and remained master of the situation. Yet the events of this day’s battle had not decided the fate of either army; there was yet disputed ground in front of the Federal lines, and during the night of the 15th every preparation was made, on both sides, to resume the contest early on the following day. Entrenching parties were busy all night long, with the axe, pick, and spade, and at early dawn, on the 16th, the battle opened again in all its fury.
That next morning, General Thomas repeated the tactics of the previous day. He had a diversionary force attack the Confederate right as a distraction, and then directed the bulk of his forces to attack the Confederate left.
Here is Wood’s description of the remainder of the Battle of Nashville (pages 139–140):
Hood having been driven back on the day previous, had withdrawn a short distance to an advantageous position, and the key-point of his whole line, on the second day’s battle, was located upon and near the Brentwood Hills. On the morning of the 16th, General A. J. Smith’s command occupied position directly in front of these works of the enemy, and now held the centre of General Thomas’ army, the 23rd Army Corps having been transferred to the right. Heavy canonading and musketry were kept up from morning until 3 o’clock P.M., without material advantage to either side. General Thomas had ordered a general charge at that hour upon the enemy’s works, and at the appointed time it commenced vigorously along his whole line. General McArthur’s division of General Smith’s command covered itself with glory on this occasion, and well earned the honor of carrying the enemy’s key-point by storm. Responding to the order for a charge with deafening yells, they swept up the steep heights under a murderous fire, regiment following and supporting regiment, and after a sharp and decisive assault, gained possession of the Brentwood Hills. As soon as these strong fortifications were thus gallantly carried, Hood’s army defeated now at all points, broke and fled in confusion toward Franklin. At the close of the second day’s battle nearly all of his artillery had been captured, a large proportion of his men taken prisoners, and his killed and wounded left strewn over the various battle-fields. It was a great day for the army under the brave and strategic Thomas, but a terrible one for the ambitious and fiery Hood and his forces, which he had supposed were invincible. After his defeat and flight, our cavalry moved forward in immediate pursuit, the same evening.
On the morning of December 17, 1864, the Chicago Tribune delivered the good news of the Union victory at Nashville:
Pursuing the retreating rebels
After bivouacking for the night in the Brentwood Hills, the Confederate’s last stronghold, General Smith’s forces pursued the rapidly retreating Confederate forces southwards.The 95th marched about 15 miles on this day. They first set out along the Granny White Pike, then cut west through the hills on what is now Murray Lane, then south again on Holly Tree Gap Road until they emerged from the hills and continued south on Franklin Road. They crossed the Harpeth River and passed through Franklin—the site of the penultimate Confederate defeat in Tennessee, two and a half weeks earlier, on November 30th.
The 95th camped for the night on December 17th near the site of the Battle of Franklin, and on the morning of December 18th, they resumed the pursuit of the fleeing Confederate forces. On this day, they travelled just a bit over 15 miles. They travelled south on the Columbia Pike, through the town of Spring Hill, and camped for the night about eight miles north of Columbia.
On the morning of December 19th, they woke but did not strike camp. They remained at this location for three days.
On the morning of December 22nd, the 95th continued south along the pike to the Duck River (a distance of about 8 miles), and made camp on the north side of the Duck River, just across the river from the city of Columbia, Tennessee. There were pontoon bridges built across the Duck River at this point, and General Smith’s troops were ordered to remain on the north side of the river until the 4th Army Corps crossed first, to lead the pursuit of Hood’s fleeing forces.
It apparently took two days for the 4th Army Corps to arrive and cross the pontoon bridge over the Duck River, as the 95th didn’t cross the Duck River until December 24th.
Wood gives a colorful account of the jostling of men and units on the march south from Nashville in pursuit of Hood’s forces (pages 141–142):
After the battles around Nashville, the different divisions and corps pushed forward vigorously, each desirous of being foremost in the pursuit. Such was the enthusiasm and zeal throughout the Union army over the recent victories, that its march from the Nashville battle-fields to Duck river was turned into an eager strife between the corps to precede each other. The 28rd Army Corps had fought along this same route on its retreat a short time previous, and now appeared to claim the road in preference to the detachment of the Army of the Tennessee, which had been ordered to follow immediately after the 4th Corps. On several occasions it endeavored to pass the troops of General Smith’s command, thereby somewhat confusing the order of march. This was not permitted, however, on the part of General Smith and his men, who, at all times, maintained their position in the column, and gave their friends of the 23rd to understand that “Smith’s Guerrillas” had performed trips of this nature before, were well posted as to their rights and duties, and were not to be jostled out of the designated order of moving. The 23rd were, therefore, obliged to march in rear of the detachment of the Army of the Tennessee, to Duck river, and all attempts to precede it were made in vain. There was considerable strife, also, at this stream, between these two commands as to which should first cross. The 4th Corps was already over, and General Smith was ordered to follow next. He commenced doing so, when a portion of the 23rd Corps desired to occupy the pontoon at the same time. The fiery old general seeing this, posted himself at one end of the bridge, and with drawn sword, swore that not a man of the other command should pass until his own force had crossed. On the 24th day of December, the Ninety-fifth passed over, marched through Columbia, and went into camp three miles beyond the town, where a halt was made until the wagon train, which was delayed at the bridge, could come up.
After walking only about three and a half miles from their campsite of the previous night, the men of the 95th made camp alongside the Pulaski Pike. Wood describes the Christmas of 1864 for the 95th regiment (pages 142–143):
The weather was now becoming very cold, snow had fallen, the ground was frozen, and many of the men, having worn their shoes through, marching on the hard Pike road, were in suffering condition.
The regiment spent Christmas, December 25th, a cold and disagreeable day, as cheerfully as possible in their camp near Columbia, waiting anxiously for the [wagon] train to arrive with the blankets and rations. Though the rebel army had been through this section twice within a short time, and nearly drained the country of supplies, yet the Union soldiers, by the exercise of their characteristic inquisitiveness, succeeded in securing from the neighboring plantations plenty of fowls and roasters, which, in connection with hard-tack and coffee, furnished the officers and privates with respectable Christmas dinners.
The march through frozen mud
On the morning of December 26th, the 95th regiment broke camp and was once again marching south on the Pulaski Pike. Over the course of this day and the next, they marched 28 miles. It is not recorded where they spent the first night on this march, but on December 27th, they reached the town of Pulaski and the end of the pike.
The pikes I’ve been describing were the paved highways of their day. These pikes were carefully engineered roads, made with the macadam technique. The macadam technique involved laying an 8-inch foundational layer of uniformly sized 3-inch-diameter stones, capped by a 3-inch thick road surface of uniformly sized ¾-inch-diameter stones, with the center of the road being three inches higher than its edges. The result was a smooth, cambered, hard, and well-drained road, capable of handling heavy foot and wheeled traffic in any weather. Below is an example of a contemporary macadam road, albeit in California in the 1850s:
While marching on the pike had been hard on the soldiers’ feet and boots, it had been relatively easy to walk on the road, and supply wagons could easily travel with the troops.
According to Wood (page 143):
[at] Pulaski… the solid Pike on which the troops had marched from near Nashville, terminated, and thence to the Tennessee river their course was to be over a dirt road, muddy, snowy, badly cut up, and difficult to travel at this inclement season of the year.
At Pulaski, the 95th regiment and the rest of the detachment of the Army of the Tennessee plus the 23rd Army Corps were pulled off of the pursuit of Hood’s troops. The cavalry and the 4th Army Corps would continue southwest, pursuing Hood into Florence, Alabama. The detachment of the Army of the Tennessee and the 23rd Army Corps were ordered to march west and reach the Tennessee River at Clifton, Tennessee.
From Nashville to Pulaski, the 95th Regiment had been marching along the western side of Tennessee’s Central Basin. In their western march to Clifton, the 95th would be climbing out of the Central Basin and up into the western portion of the Tennessee Highlands before dropping into the Western Valley, formed by the Tennessee River.
In addition to the climbs and descents, the march to Clifton would be nearly 65 miles long, over deeply rutted, muddy roads that were covered in snow and ice. From Wood’s account (pages 144–145):
On the 28th day of December, the Ninety-fifth started from Pulaski and marched ten miles. Owing to the bad condition of the roads the troops were obliged to move slowly, and much difficulty was experienced in bringing up the wagon trains. The portion of country through which the army was now passing was the poorest section of Tennessee, had long been desolated by the ravages of war, and was now deserted mostly of inhabitants..
This 10-mile march from Pulaski would have had them camping for the night along South Choate Creek, just past Choate Creek Church.
They still had nearly 55 miles to walk to get to Clifton, and under much worse conditions than the first day’s march. Lawrenceburg was only 8.4 miles further along the road, but it took the troops more than a day to reach that town (they left their Choate Creek camp on the morning of December 29th, but according to Wood the 95th “moved on through Lawrenceburg” at some point on the 30th). It is not clear where they camped on the nights of the 29th or 30th, but they clearly spent the night of the December 30th at some point west of Lawrenceburg. According to Wood (pages 145-146):
The following day [December 31] was the severest which the regiment ever experienced in the service. During the night of the 30th a rain set in, which, by morning, turned into a cold snow storm. The troops suffered bitterly that night, and were ordered to proceed, at 7 o’clock the next morning, over the frozen roads. Many of the soldiers had worn their shoes completely through, before leaving the Pike at Pulaski, and a new supply could not be obtained until the army should arrive at Clifton. In this pitiable condition, many a soldier could be seen tramping along during that bitter cold day, while the very blood reddened his footprints on the snowy ground, as he passed along! I remember seeing, on that frosty day’s march, a number of men belonging to the 44th Missouri Infantry, plodding along barefooted over the frozen roads, and there were similar instances in every regiment.
Probably because of the terrible conditions, Wood recorded no details about where they camped on New Year’s Eve, nor their march on New Year’s Day, nor where they camped at the end of that day. By the time he picks up the narrative again, on the morning of January 2, 1865, the 95th is near Waynesboro (28 miles west along the road from Lawrenceburg).
Waynesboro was still 16.9 miles away from Clifton on the dirt road, but according to Wood (page 146), the troops pushed themselves to make it to Clifton that day:
On the 2nd day of January, 1865, the Ninety-fifth started early from camp, near Waynesboro, and after a lengthy and fatiguing day’s march, arrived late in the evening at Clifton, the present destination of General Smith’s command. Thus finally ended the severest campaign in which the Ninety-fifth was ever engaged. When the suffering which prevailed in consequence of the extreme cold weather, and all the other circumstances are considered, it is believed there is no expedition in which the regiment participated during the service, which can compare with this one in point of suffering and fatigue.
I carefully reconstructed the exact route of this terrible march, using Wood’s descriptions, topographic clues from the landscape, features noted on the earliest possible USGS topographic maps (usually 1908–1937), and visible traces on aerial imagery (usually dating to 1980–2015).
To their winter quarters
After the bitter march of the last six days, the troops were given relief from marching, but not from the cold weather. According to Wood (page 147),
The regiments rested at Clifton for a few days, and meanwhile transports arrived from Nashville, bringing plenty of shoes, clothes and rations for the troops. The weather remained cold while here, and the men had hard work to keep warm around their camp fires and beneath the thin-roofed “dog tents.” In a few days General Smith’s whole command were on their way up the Tennessee river to Eastport, where they were ordered to go into their winter quarters.
On January 8th, 1864, the 95th Illinois volunteers broke camp in Clifton and proceeded to the southern bank of the Tennessee River to board a steamer that would take them south to their winter quarters in Eastport, Mississippi. Eastport was a relatively short trip—about 67 miles upriver from Clifton.
The boarding of the steamers and the subsequent journey to Eastport could have been an uneventful and relatively comfortable affair, but in part due to General Smith’s colorful leadership style on this day, it was anything but. According to Wood (pages 147-150):
The different boats assigned to the two brigades of Colonel Moore’s division were lying there, but were already heavily loaded with the transportation of the 2nd division, and a portion of the troops of the 1st. It seemed impossible to crowd another command of six regiments on the same transports. General Smith, in his characteristic manner, insisted that it could, and swore that it should be done. If any inferior officer attempted to argue with him the impossibility of carrying so large a force upon so few steamboats, at one trip, he would reply in his effective, though profane phraseology, that ” These boats, sir, by G-d, sir, can carry these troops, sir, and five thousand more, by G-d, sir.” Whether the brave old campaigner was worked up to this pitch of determination by a premeditated, sober intention and desire to debark his entire command that night, or whether he was laboring under certain other exciting influences on that occasion, it is unnecessary to consider here; but suffice it to say, that in-accordance with his emphatic commands, the regiments went aboard the transports in a lively manner, crowding every nook and corner of the heavily freighted crafts. The place of embarkation was disadvantageous, being by a very steep bank, where the steamboats could be reached only along a narrow roadway leading down to the river’s edge. A large quantity of the transportation belonging to another division, occupied this avenue of approach to the steamers, and had to be loaded before anything from Colonel Moore’s command could gain admission.
Long after dark the Ninety-fifth, much delayed by the confusion in which all things ·seemed to move, finally succeeded in getting aboard the steamer “Leni Leoti.” To realize the scene on this occasion, one needs to have been present and witnessed it. Such an operation by daylight is generally attended with much wearisomeness and clamor, but when performed in a dark night, as at Clifton, presents one of the roughest scenes in army life, and is characterized by nothing particularly pleasant and attractive. It seemed to matter little, how much inconvenience one party caused another, in the general disposition of everybody to look out for number one. Different commanders wrangled and claimed the same boats exclusively for their own commands; those persons versed and expert in the profane tongue, found it an admirable occasion for exercising their versatility in that respect with great force and profusion. Soldiers were crammed into places where they perhaps had room to stand, but not to lie down; mules were knocked around and severely beaten, when, in fact, they knew more than those who were beating them; everything was in uproar, everybody was mad, and somebody must have been drunk. Spurred on by General “A. J.’s” stem orders, the troops completed their rough and tumble embarkation late in the evening of January 8th, and thus was verified his forcible assertion, that “it could and should be done to-night, sir.”
The next day, after a rough night on the river, and about 40 miles upstream from Clifton, the men of the 95th encountered Confederate resistance. According to Wood (page 150):
The fleet moved up the river about midnight, passing Pittsburg Landing the 9th. Near this place guerrillas showed themselves, and delivered a few shots at the passing transports. The Ninety-fifth replied with volleys from the “Leni Leoti,” and the infestors of the river bank suddenly disappeared under cover of the neighboring thicket.
After about 30 hours on the Tennessee River, the 95th arrived at Eastport, Mississippi. Continuing with Wood’s account (pages 150–151):
January 10th, the transports arrived safely at Eastport, and Colonel Moore’s division commenced debarking early on the same day. The weather was stormy and cold, and the ground at the landing deep with mud. The regiments moved from the boats and remained near the river, on the wet and disagreeable low lands, until permanent camping-grounds could be selected, on the hills near by. In the afternoon camps were assigned, and the various regiments marched away to their respective encampments. The position occupied by General Smith’s troops on the Eastport heights, was important and commanding, and a strong line of fortifications was thrown up immediately on the arrival of his divisions at that place, each division being required to fortify its own front.
Orders were now received for the regiments to build winter quarters, and all were. soon busily employed in felling the thick timber and constructing the rude but substantial and warm log huts. In a few days the camp of the Ninety-fifth was changed into a miniature village, and the men were thus well protected from the cold, raw winds which, at that season of the year, continually sweep over those bleak hills.
At the same time Hiram and the 95th (and all of General Thomas’ forces) were in Eastport, so too was an artist from Harper’s Weekly. The following image shows how Eastport appeared in January, 1865. It was published on page 108 of the February 18th, 1865, edition of Harper’s Weekly:
Unfortunately, no story accompanies this illustration, only this caption:
We have engraved on page 108 a view of Eastport, Mississippi—General Thomas’s recent headquarters. The town is situated on the west side of the Tennessee River. General Thomas’s headquarters are on the hill to the left, and General A. J. Smith’s on the steamer Lilly. The Carondelet, Lexington, Neosho, and Gladiator are on the river. The main portion of the town is not disclosed in the sketch, it being situated behind the hill to the left. It is just at the mouth of Bear Creek.
The rebel army have gone into winter-quarters a few miles south of Eastport, at Tupelo. It will not be long before we shall again hear from General Thomas.
Hiram and the 95th had several apparently uneventful days in Eastport in which they built themselves winter shelters (the “rude but substantial and warm log huts” mentioned above by Wood) and otherwise settled in for winter. A week after arriving, however, an order was given for them to march west to Corinth, Mississippi, to scout for signs of a rebel presence there. The march would be about a day and a half in each direction if no rebels were encountered. Wood describes the march on pages 151–152:
On the 17th of January, the quiet and monotony of life in winter quarters was disturbed by an order for Colonel Moore’s division to make a reconnoisance in the direction of Corinth, which was reported to be still occupied by a brigade of rebel cavalry, commanded by Ross. The object of the present expedition was to feel of the enemy, and, avoiding a general engagement, to ascertain whether or not he intended to hold his position at Corinth. Accompanied by a brigade of Federal cavalry, under General Croxton, the infantry moved from camp at Eastport, at 6 o’clock A. M., on the 18th, provided with three days’ rations in haversacks and three in wagons, passed through the village of Iuka, and marched sixteen miles, camping fourteen from Corinth that night. Our cavalry during the day had some skirmishing with the enemy, who was easily driven back. The march was resumed early on the following day, and the head of the infantry column, then held by the Ninety-fifth, arrived in Corinth at noon, meeting with no resistance. The enemy, learning of our approach, had evacuated the place a few hours previous to our arrival, and had set fire to the “Tishiningo House,” which was filled with rebel commissary stores. The building was still burning as we entered the town, and could not be saved. The troops halted in Corinth an hour or two for the men to make their coffee, and the object of the reconnoisance having been accomplished, the expedition turned back the same day in the direction of Eastport, marching out nine miles. January 20th it reached Iuka, and on the following day the regiment came back and resumed their winter quarters at Eastport. This expedition took place during delightful though chilly weather. The roads were hard and in good condition, except when they led through intervening swamps. The men of the different regiments who had been lying in camp for some days without much exercise, were greatly benefited by this march. The troops now experienced severe winter weather at Eastport, but the glowing camp-fires within the soldiers’ snug log cabins, made everything comfortable and cheerful, and kept the men from freezing.
Having departed camp with six days’ rations, the 95th Regiment should have returned from their three-and-a-half day reconnaissance with two-and-a-half days’ rations. Those rations were now urgently needed, as the Eastport winter camp was running out of food. Wood described the ordeal on pages 152–155:
About this time, also, the rations for General Smith’s entire command commenced growing short. Boats containing commissary stores were daily expected up the river, but failed to arrive, and soon it became necessary to provide measures against impending suffering and starvation. It was severe to oblige the troops to encamp upon those cold, bleak hills in midwinter, but when the prospect of being pinched for food was added to this, they considered the condition of affairs unnecessary and outrageous. Still the boys did not grumble much at their lot, but were rather disposed make sport of their straightened and half-famished circumstances.
Several days passed, and the transports still failed to report with rations. There was something wrong somewhere down the river. Somebody was to blame, yet no one could tell where the responsibility for the delay rested. Finally the scant rations of the troops were all consumed, and immediately something had to be furnished the men for food. It happened that a large quantity of forage had been brought up the river for the horses and mules of the army. This was now used to prevent starvation among the troops, and as a dernier resort, shelled corn was issued to them by the bag full, in lieu of their regular rations. Some of the commissioned officers, whose messes had not been well supplied beforehand, were reduced to the same predicament with enlisted men, and were provided with the same article of subsistence as the soldiers. For a few days the troops had scarcely any other food to live upon, and corn-cake and popped corn were the only dishes afforded at the mess tables. Various jokes and hits were perpetrated by the boys upon those in authority, and they often wanted to know “when ‘Old A. J.’ was going to issue rations of hay, and draw halters for them.” It is but just to state here, however, that neither General Smith, nor any one else at Eastport, was blamable for the scarcity of provisions, though there must have been a great fault somewhere in the commissary department of the army. There was no excuse for the uncomfortable condition of affairs, as ever since the arrival of troops at this point the line of communication had been constantly open to Nashville, the depot of supplies for the Army and Department of the Cumberland.
There is nothing about which a soldier is more sensitive than his appetite, and he very much dislikes to have it restrained or interfered with, unless under some great and pressing military necessity. He will go months without receiving a dime of pay, without a murmur, but place him upon short rations for a day even, and you will hear from him immediately. If you expect him to march, fight, or perform well in any manner, you must keep his haversack well supplied with at least hard cracker and coffee, or give a good explanation why it cannot be done. He never expects luxuries to be dealt out to him, but always insists that his regular rations, under ordinary circumstances, shall be, and if they are not forthcoming, he is liable to indulge in some of the most emphatic, caustic and often irreverent remarks concerning those in authority, which can be found in the soldier’s vocabulary.
Finally, boats reached Eastport bringing large supplies of commissary stores, removing all fears on the subject of starvation, and thereafter the men had plenty to eat. It may be remarked here, that the story which appeared about this time in a Northern paper, representing that a transport having arrived at Eastport heavily laden with corn, the half-starved soldiers rushed violently on board and devoured the entire cargo, was wholly fictitious, having no foundation in fact.
Thankfully, the rest of the winter was apparently relatively uneventful—no more marches or famines or skirmishes. The only thing of note that Wood mentions is that Company K of the 95th rejoined the rest of the companies at Eastport after a prolonged absence on other assignments since the late Fall.
I’ll end the description of the 95th’s activities in Eastport with a letter written home from Eastport on February 12th, 1865, by fellow Illinois soldier Joseph Birdwell (Company I, 1st Illinois Artillery) to his friend Charles Butler of Michigan. Joseph Birdwell and Hiram Scott had apparently been part of the same operations since at least Nashville. The letter (or rather, a transcription of it) has been preserved in and made accessible by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan:
According to Wood (page 156):
The troops remained in winter quarters at Eastport until the fore part of February, 1865, when a large fleet of transports came up the river for the purpose of conveying General Smith’s command thence to New Orleans, where an expedition was then collecting and preparing, under General Canby, for a general movement against Mobile city.
Heading to New Orleans
As the worst of the winter was wrapping up, the Union was gathering its forces in New Orleans for the assault on Mobile, Alabama. According to Wood (pages 157–158), the 95th left Eastport for New Orleans on February 6th, 1865, at least a week before the author of the above letter left Eastport:
On the 6th day of February, 1865, the Ninety-fifth embarked at Eastport on the steamer “Adam Jacobs,” for the long journey to New Orleans. All the troops were aboard their respective transports by evening; and 6 o’clock the following morning was the hour set for departing. Promptly at the time ordered, the long whistle sounded from the general’s flag boat, the boats swung out into the stream, and following each other in the order assigned, steamed down the Tennessee for their place of destination. The fleet arrived safely at Paducah, Ky., on the morning of the 8th, and proceeded down the Ohio to Cairo, where the transports remained until the 10th, taking on coal. The first division, under General McArthur, and the third, under Colonel Moore, arrived here nearly at the same time.
Apparently, some of the commanders of the other units had a hard time getting their soldiers to not raid local houses and businesses on the trip down river. According to Wood (page 158):
Regimental, brigade and division commanders now experienced much difficulty in keeping their commands on the boats, and were unable to prevent the commission of depredations on the private property of citizens, by a few mischievous and unruly soldiers. It is believed, however, that the Ninety-fifth had nothing to do with these troubles, and that its men conducted themselves while at Cairo as good soldiers. The same may be said of the 81st Illinois, and the 44th Missouri infantry, the other regiments of Colonel Blanden’s brigade, whose men were likewise free from participation in the misconduct which may have occurred while the boats were stopping at that point.
The first part of their steamer trip to New Orleans would have taken the 95th down the Tennessee River north out of Mississippi, past Pittsburgh where they were shot by rebels when they last passed that place, past Clifton where their horrible week-long march through snow and mud and ice ended, through the rest of Tennessee, through western Kentucky to the Ohio River at Paducah, and then down the Ohio River to its confluence with the Mississippi just past Cairo, Illinois.
While winter may have been nearly over in Eastport, Mississippi, when the broke camp, it was still clearly winter when they began the Mississippi River portion of their voyage (Wood, pages 158–159):
At five o’clock A. M., February 10th, the fleet was again under way, and moved down the Mississippi, which was now full of large cakes of ice. After getting below Columbus the ice disappeared, the weather became mild, and the voyage was pleasant. The regiment arrived at Memphis, Feb. 11th, and on the following day resumed the journey. The fleet reached Vicksburg on the 13th, and landed below the city, by the flats. Instead of proceeding directly to New Orleans, orders came to disembark at this place, and General Smith, leaving his command at Vicksburg, proceeded to New Orleans, ascertained that an error had been made in transmitting the telegram, and that it was intended his troops should come directly to New Orleans.
This clerical error caused the whole of the 95th Regiment (and all of Smith’s forces) to remain in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for an entire week. Wood continues (pages 159–160):
Meanwhile, the regiments remained on the transports at Vicksburg until the 16th, when they moved off the boats, matched out in the rear of Vicksburg, and went into camp near the “four mile bridge,” between the city and the Big Black river. Here they remained until the 19th, when orders came from General Smith to strike tents, move to the landing at Vicksburg, and reëmbark upon the same transports, which had been retained until General Smith could return from New Orleans. By the 20th everything was ready for a continuation of the voyage. The 2nd division, under command of General Garrard, which was left at Eastport, had now arrived, and at 4 o’clock A. M., of that day, the whole fleet of twenty-four transports, conveying General Smith’s entire command, proceeded down the river. The steamer “Adam Jacobs” arrived at New Orleans, with the Ninety-fifth, February 21st, and landed just below the city.
Wood describes the 95th Regiment’s first encampment in New Orleans (page 160):
The regiment remained on the steamer until the following day, when it disembarked and went into camp several miles below the city, on the old battle-fields of Jackson and Packenham. The grounds assigned here for camping purposes were of the worst character, being low, wet and muddy. The rainy season had commenced, and it was almost impossible for teams or men to move over the miry ground. It was the most disagreeable encampment the regiment ever had in the service, and all were glad when the order came to leave it.
The “old battle-fields of Jackson and Packenham” refers to the Battle of New Orleans, fought 50 years earlier at the end of the War of 1812. It was the last major battle of the War of 1812, and was a series of engagements from December 14, 1864, to January 18, 1815. Major General Andrew Jackson successfully repelled an invading British army (commanded by General Edward Packenham) that was twice as large as the American forces. Furthermore, according to Robert V. Remini, the British forces comprised “8,000 to 9,000 “disciplined…regulars, including Royal Fusiliers, Highlanders, Light Infantry, and Light Dragoons, a West Indian Regiment, and sailors” from the anchored British fleet. Defending New Orleans, Jackson had only 4,000 “frontiersmen, militiamen, regular soldiers, free men of color, Indians, pirates, and townspeople.”
While the story of the Battle of New Orleans is a fascinating one in its own right, for now I only mention it because the site of that battle is the location of “the most disagreeable encampment the regiment ever had in the service,” and is almost certainly where Hiram Scott contracted the dysentery that was the cause of his death a month and a half later.
The “old battle-fields of Jackson and Packenham” almost certainly refers to the location of the battle of January 8th, 1815. Andrew Jackson’s victory over the larger, better trained, and better equipped British army was a point of immense pride for the young nation and the site has been preserved and memorialized since shortly after the war. It is now the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The battlefield is about 4½ miles downriver from central New Orleans, in St. Bernard’s Parish. At the time of the Battle of New Orleans, and presumably also the Civil War, it was a waterlogged ½-mile-wide piece of land between the Mississippi River to the southwest and the Cypress Swamps to the northeast. The Cypress Swamps have long since been reclaimed and developed as the suburban residential area that was so devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The “most disagreeable encampment”
The 95th Regiment camped in this boggy, muddy place for 18 days and nights. This is almost certainly where Hiram Scott contracted the dysentery that was the cause of his death a month and a half later.
Continuing with Wood’s narrative (page 161):
The regiments soon received orders to prepare for another active campaign, and early in the month of March, the troops began moving, some by the river and gulf, and others by way of Lake Pontchartrain, to Dauphine island, where the army, under General Canby, was assembling, preparatory to the general movement up the bay against Mobile. The Ninety-fifth was ordered to proceed to that point of rendezvous by the lake, and on the morning of March 11th, it cheerfully struck tents at the camp below New Orleans, and moved over to the old race course between the city and Lake Pontchartrain, where it was directed to obtain transportation and proceed directly to Dauphine island. The regiment bivouacked upon the track of the race course, which was perfectly dry and clean, and during the short delay here, the men enjoyed much more real comfort than they had experienced in the mud pastures below the city.
There is no race course shown on any of the pre-Civil-War maps of New Orleans that I’ve been able to find (because the earlier maps don’t include areas this far out of town), but I’m confident that this “old race course” is what is now the Fair Grounds Race Course (shown as a public park on maps from 1814 and 1849). According to the Wikipedia article on the race course, horse races were run here beginning on March 20, 1839, making it the second oldest horse racing track in the country.
The race track is as far as Hiram made it with his unit. By this point, his diarrhea had become so bad that he was admitted to the hospital on March 12th.
Before I proceed with Hiram’s story, I’ll present one more passage from Wood’s description about where the rest of his regiment went after he was admitted to the hospital (pages 161–162):
Four companies of the Ninety-fifth, F, G, H, and K, were here detailed to remain and accompany the transportation of the division, and reported. to Lieut. Nichols, A. A. Q. M., for that duty. On the 13th day of March, the remainder of the regiment, six companies, embarked at the Pontchartrain landing, on the steamer “Warrior,” and in the evening of the same day started on the voyage. Passing through lake Borgne, and along the coast, the steamer arrived safely at Grant’s Pass on the evening of the 14th, where she anchored for the night, it being a difficult place to navigate in the darkness. On the following morning she passed safely through, and landed at Fort Gaines, Dauphine island. The regiment disembarked and marched down the beach on the south side of the island, to the camp assigned. This was the healthiest locality which could have been selected for the encampment of troops. The men pitched their tents upon the clean sand, which was much preferable to New Orleans mud, were invigorated by the sea breezes, which came constantly from the gulf, and fared sumptuously on the oysters and fish, in which the island abounded.
I find it a cruel twist of fate that the place whose conditions caused him to become so ill prevented him from going to a place that sounds so very healthy and invigorating (not that it would have mattered, as mid-19th century medicine had not yet developed the microbiological diagnostics or antimicrobial treatments needed to prevent severe cases of dysentery from becoming fatal).
I know very little of Hiram’s last days other than he was admitted to the Jackson Barracks Hospital on March 12th, and died of “chronic diarrhea” on April 6th, 1865. On April 7, 1865, the day after his death, Hiram was buried in the cemetery of the Jackson Barracks Hospital.
On the day Hiram was buried, the New Orleans Times ran a three-column, detailed enumeration of all who were killed or wounded in the battle for Mobile. No one from the 95th was killed, but four members of the 95th were wounded:
This was specifically titled “List of Killed and Wounded in Front of Mobile,” so I didn’t really expect to see Hiram’s name there. Nevertheless, I was disappointed. Hiram gave his life for his country and never got a mention in the lists of killed and wounded that were published in any of the papers I examined, from Chicago to New Orleans. This was just the reality of the time—while an estimated two-thirds of all deaths in the Civil War were from disease (and most of these deaths were from dysentery), death by disease wasn’t viewed as on par with death from combat trauma.
Far from a final resting place, Hiram’s grave at the Barracks Hospital cemetery was only temporary. One final movement of his body took him back 1½ miles southeast to the exact place where he and the 95th were forced to camp in unsanitary conditions where he (and presumably many others) caught the microbial infection that led to his death.
In October, 1866, a year and a half after he was buried, Hiram and all of the people buried in that cemetery were disinterred by the Army and moved 1½ miles southeast to the National Soldiers Cemetery (aka Monument Cemetery) in Chalmette, now known as Chalmette Battlefield & National Cemetery. It is a last bit of cruel irony that Hiram’s final resting place is that very same “most disagreeable encampment” where Hiram probably contracted the disease that would take his life less than six weeks later.
Unlike many of the Civil War headstones at Chalmette that display the soldier’s name, unit, and rank, Hiram’s stone appears to either have been broken or toppled, or perhaps it was never more than a low, uninscribed stone. I’ve asked a local historian (the same man who took the photo shown below a few years ago) to visit Hiram’s grave soon to see if it’s still in the condition pictured below. If it is, I am told that I may be able to request a replacement headstone from the National Cemetery Administration. I’ll post an update if that happens.