September 17, 1863. “It is trying on a mans nerves to be placed in this position.”

Down in McLemore’s Cove, both armies remained in close proximity. Reynolds’s Division, Thomas’s 14th Corps, was stationed at Pond Spring on September 17th – awaiting the arrival of McCook’s men from the south. William Miller belonged to the 75th Indiana, and described an uneasy night on picket: 

September 17, 1863

Orders came for a detail of twenty men from the company to go to the right and relieve Gen Turchin’s men who had a fight at Bailey’s Cross Roads. We started about noon and met our ambulances coming in with the dead and wounded. We relieved Turchin’s men about sunset. I was sent with Wm. Starr and J. C. Millihen on picket and it was dark where we was posted and we could not see what we have in front. Our orders were for one to stand while the other[s] slept as they could not relieve us. We could hear the Rebs in their camp and they are so close we can hear them talking and swearing. They are moving camp from the noise.

I stood my several tricks and tried to sleep while the others were on duty but I have too many things to think about. It is trying on a mans nerves to be placed in this position. Out in the woods with but two companions and them sleeping and in hearing of the enemy and not knowing what moment they may demonstrate. It causes a man to think of all the mean things he ever did in his life and he will keep his eyes and ears open.

A little circumstance occurred tonight that frightened me terribly. I was leaning against a Red Oak tree and everything was quiet when I thought I heard the brush rustle in my front. I was all attention as I could not see very far. Soon I heard it again. This time I am certain and finally a third time accompanied with a “Whee-Who Who-Who oh” and I felt my hair assume a perpendicular as I thought a Reb had me sure. I stepped back, and about ten feet up in the tree, a clear sky delineated the out line of a “screetch owl” perched on a limb, who was the innocent cause of my alarm. I “Smiled a Surole” and held my position manfully until relieved. I tell this to illustrate the nervous condition I was in and I don’t know if anybody else would done as I did. I knew what it was in an instant but his scream went through me like a shot.

Several miles to the northeast, a Union column from Granger’s Reserve Corps threatened the Confederates in Ringgold. Rebel Private W. J. Davidson, the 41st Tennessee, Gregg’s Brigade of Johnson’s Provisional Division, recorded that incident in his diary: 

September 17, 1863

During the day we heard that a battle was expected every day between Bragg and Rosecrans, and that we were now in seven miles of the enemy’s advance. General Bragg had increased his army by reinforcements from Virginia and Mississippi, and was supposed to have about sixty-five thousand men wherewith to match Rosecrans’ one hundred thousand hitherto victorious and well-armed troops.

Thursday evening a courier announced to General Gregg that the enemy’s cavalry had driven in our pickets beyond Ringgold, and were then in possession of the place. In a short time, the brigade was under arms and on the march. Had to wade the Chickamauga three times in going one half-mile. Heard artillery firing ahead, but, after taking position on a hill overlooking the town, learned that Bushrod Johnson’s Brigade had driven the enemy off. The brigade was then marched back to camps and ordered to cook four day’s rations, which consumed the greater part of the night.


One Response to “September 17, 1863. “It is trying on a mans nerves to be placed in this position.””

  1. Pat McCormick Says:

    Any idea what “Smiled a Surole” means?

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