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          SPECIALIZING IN ORIGINAL CIVIL WAR MEMORABILIA        
A Great “Diary Type” Item from the 101st Indiana Infantry – John H. Gray Writes a 36 Page Summary of his War Experiences from August 1861 through September 1863 – “STILL THEY POURED THEIR SHELL INTO US BURSTING ON EVERY SIDE.” – “WE DROVE OUR CARRIAGES OVER THE DEAD AND DYING AS IT WAS TOO HOT TO TURN ASIDE FOR THEM.”

 NOTE: John Gray’s descriptions are so detailed about camp life that this material could (and should) be used in a magazine article or be included in a regimental history… it’s that good!
We recently sold the John H. Gray collection of letters in Cowan’s Auction. Gray wrote fantastic letters. The item we are offering really did not “fit” in a collection of letters as it is closer to a diary. This 36 page summary of Gray’s war experience was done in September 1863, and includes his activities up to September 20th. He entitled this long summary “The Life of a Soldier”. Perhaps he wanted his wife to submit it to the local newspaper. It is definitely war date… not some reminiscence done after the war. Like his letters the content is excellent. All pages are in ink with some staining and toning, overall fine.


Here are some of the highlights of Gray’s 36 page “The Life of a Soldier”:


• The Life of a Soldier - To begin to write “the Life of a Soldier” is as perplexing and difficult for a “soldier in the field” as is learning the first step of a Military Life. Citizens impelled by the usual “Patriotic feelings” which pervade the souls of “volunteer Soldiers” enlist to “fight in defense of their beloved country.” Thinking it their duty and knowing that they merit honor, with the hope that some “Deed of noble daring“ will settle the applause and shouts of a grateful Nation on them, they enter the ranks cheerfully and freely lay aside the pleasures and comforts of a “home life.”

• The day has arrived. They bid farewell to all that is dear and lovely. They pass into camp. Now begins a new career, a new kind of life. Your full name is taken and placed Alphabetically on the Roll. You are informed that you will have to attend “Roll Call” twice a day. But as one soldier is not always a fair sample and an indefinite number too uninteresting, I will confine myself to “Mess No. 2” of which the writer was a fortunate member.

• It was late at night and we had just entered “Camp Wabash,” each of (us) had a blanket. No shelter presented itself. We were half mad that we had not been permitted to stop at the Hotel that night, but it would not do. So we picked our ground under a spreading beech tree and laying aside our “bundles” of clothing, food, and other things necessary to camp comfort, half of us started after “straw” at a stack distant one half mile. Soon we came to a “guard.” Halt, halt, and we stopped. After explaining our errand, he permitted us to pass, having secured our bundle of straw we returned to camp and strewing it on the earth, each picked his bed and after preparing to sleep as “thick as three in a bed,” we spread our blankets and then unwrapping our dainties, prepared by kind effeminate hands, we partook of our “first meal in Camp.” After a hearty meal and many a “dry joke,” we retired to our “bed of straw” all fearing we would catch cold!! Before daylight we were aroused by the din and noise of camp as a Regiment was to leave at 5 A.M. The Regiment moved out and as they vacated good barracks, we moved in. The sun had now risen and no breakfast on hand. A detail of twenty men was immediately started for Wabash to “Draw Rations.” In the course of two hours, it returned, bringing crackers, great thick pieces of fat, Mess Pork, two buckets of sugar, two camp kettles of nicely browned coffee, a kettle of “Orleans” Molasses, two or three coffee mills, several buckets and kettles and mess pans and frying pans, knives, forks, spoons, plates and tin cups. How abundantly Government furnishes her soldiers!!!

• We breakfasted on dry crackers since called “Hard tack.” Then the business of dividing the company into messes came up. I was placed as Mess Captain of Mess No. 2. Thomas R. Shannon, Captain of Mess No. 1. Andrew J. Sharp, Captain of Mess No. 3, making 30 or more in each mess. The next business was to appoint a cook, but as it was thought degrading to cook, we detailed one to get dinner and two to wash the dishes. The water was handy but no one wanted to carry it, each one said “I came to fight not to work.” Dinner time came and all we had was hot coffee. But as all was still novelty, we each took a cup of coffee, and as we had plenty sugar and crackers, we ate “coffee soup” for dinner and were satisfied as “hunger is a good cook.”

• In the afternoon we were called out to drill, forming into Company. We marched to the “Drill ground” when we were divided into squads and drilled for two hours to the time of Left! Left! Recall was sounded and we “Left” the field on “Double quick” but alas, many a man’s poor heels felt the keen blow of his comrade’s toe, or if your “file leader” happened to falter, you were sure to break your shins. Hence arose a general complaint of certain awkward ones who cared little whether they ever made soldiers or not.

• At supper we had coffee and bean soup. We being hungry as “woodchoppers” ate and were loud in praise of the cook. That night at “tattoo” we “fell out” for “Roll Call” and the orderly sergeant reported. “All present or accounted for.” We retired to bed, but a merry set were we. “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Glory Hallelujah,” or “Ellsworth Knapsack” and several other pieces were sung loud and long. Then some began the solemn hymns commonly sung by religious assemblies. Taps were sounded and all was still as death. The lights were extinguished and silence reigned. Morn came and with it the usual “Roll call” all present but one. He was marked for extra duty.

• This morning we had to report (10) ten men for guard. The guard was mounted. The Sentinels posted with “Clubs for arms” with orders. “Let all in and none out,” then modified so as to let “citizens pass in and out.” But we were all dressed in citizen’s clothes and so we were all free to go and come. Then were the orders changed again. “Pass none except by order of Commissioned Officers.” As most of the officers had no uniforms, we all played officers and many a good tale was told of “privates being taken for officers.” We soon began to improve in drill so that we could “keep the Step” or if necessary “Change the Step” or “Get the Step.” But “Left. Left,” was not disbanded with. The next was the facings and many a good laugh did we have when the command was given. “Right Face,” half would be sure to turn to the left!

• We soon began to make great advancement in the line of cooking, as we drew beef and potatoes and flour and soon each man was his own best cook. In one week we left camp Wabash for Indianapolis, where we turned over our Clubs and got guns, drew “Soldier clothes,” and came out in full trim in blue uniform, though not so neat, tidy and fine as a citizen’s dress, yet it is very good and serviceable. While here a party of “Young Ladies” brought us a “good dinner” and to them we told how we had got so as to eat fat meat without swallowing it whole. How we ground coffee and washed dishes and made beds and washed our own clothes and cooked our own victuals and we had a notion to tell them that “we often spoke of the Ladies as well as other things.”

• Time flew and we left for the seat of war. WE ARRIVED AT CINCINNATI WHILE THE “SQUIRREL HUNTERS” WERE THERE BOARDING AT THE HOTELS. We arrived at twelve at night and accepted an invitation to partake of supper prepared at fifth St. Market House, so we marched up there and having to wait until the table was arranged, we lay down in the street and took a nap. Grumbling that we were compelled to march a couple miles out of the road in order to let the Citizens bestow the cold hand of generosity on us poor tired soldiers in the shape of “a cup of cold water and a little cold light bread,” we were indignant. Such a supper was a mockery to us who had come to defend their homes from invasion. After a few bites which nobody relished, we were again marched out and led over the Great Ohio. Arriving in Covington, Ky. WE REPORTED TO GEN. LEWIS WALLACE and bivouacked on the side walk and dusty street for the night. Next morning we awoke early and sought places of refreshment. After getting what we could, we moved to “Camp Shaler” in New Port Graveyard.

• Here begins the famous history of Mess. No. 2 Proper. It was composed of Aaron Shoemaker, Daniel Bush, Thomas Collier, Andrew Fry, Orpheus Brattain, John Potts, George S. Martin, Jefferson Hurlock, Thomas Guilkey, John Metsker, Jerry Wall and John H. Gray. We constructed two sheds of fence boards to answer instead of tents. We hired Nicholas Gardener to cook for us. We were daily exercised in the manual of arms until it was a drag to drill. We spent the evenings in singing and the nights in discussing “Compromises” of which Potts and Fry always had an abundant supply. I furnished the hymn books. Bush, Martin, Shoemaker and Collier furnished an occasional “goose whenever they found one hissing at the “Star Spangled.” Some got us an occasional mess of grapes of which the hills afforded plenty.

• Wall was taken sick and sent to the Hospital. In fact we were all sick of the service but then we were in for “three years or during the war” and consequently we desired Peace right soon. At breakfast we had coffee and meat. At dinner beans or hominy. Potatoes, beef, and coffee and at night we had meat and coffee with an abundance of crackers. But for every bite of cracker, our Quarter Master was blamed for not giving us light bread. The trouble was we had too much to be content, we always wanted some of Mother’s butter or hot biscuits!!

• We were not permitted to remain here long for soon we were hastened to Louisville, Ky. where we began to want for something to eat. It was raining and we had no tents so we had to take the rain. Now we began soldiering aright. We were ordered on Picket with three days rations, so filling our haversacks and taking frying pans and coffee kettles, we marched boldly out, relieved the old pickets, and placed ourselves on duty. Fortune favored us. We were between an Irish and Sweet Potato Patch, of course we had fried potatoes, roasted and boiled ones. It was the last day of August. We filled our haversacks and knapsacks with the truck of the soil and were relieved at evening. We hastened to camp and on arriving there we found things all new. We had new tents and everything neat. So eagerly we threw our armor down and ran to the tents designated as our “future home.” That night we did not go to bed till late as we were admiring our new home and comparing it with our “parlors” at home. The Stars and Stripes were much talked of, and occasionally a doubt expressed in regard to the spread Eagle being of sufficient strength to continue her flight until Secession would cease from the land and the Union continue as ever to be praised and applauded by those now in arms against its loved interest and prosperity. After a few religious hymns and a patriotic song we sunk to sleep. At (2 1/2) half after two a.m. we were aroused and ordered to breakfast in order to be ready for marching at five a.m. So we jumped up, though not cheerfully and began to prepare for our morning meal. We were ordered to leave everything except blanket, haversack, and canteen. At half past four we were in line.

• Gen. Terrill rode up and ordered us to “fall in” in rear of the 105th Ohio. Here began that march so cruel and disastrous to New Troops from Louisville to Perrysville. Oct. 1st, ’62. We continued our march until dark. Sometimes on “double quick” so dusty as to scarcely let a person get a pure breath and to add to its hours, no water. The result was we were almost dead when we went into Camp. After getting a cup of coffee, we sunk to sleep, careless whether we ever rose again.

• At midnight we were aroused to go on picket. Great God, can man stand all things? Ah, how cruel war seems!! Next day we resumed our march in the afternoon. It rained wetting our blankets and clothes. Thus we marched along. Already Potts had been left in hospital and Martin was just ready to go. All were as near done out as mortals can be to live. Up every morning at three a.m. and marching all day was more than we could stand. We had kept up with the Army living in parch corn and muddy water, even that out of “hogs wallows,” until WE ARRIVED WITHIN EIGHT MILES OF PERRYSVILLE, where we were detached with the wagon train. The grand army marched on the 8th of Oct. and we marched to Springfield. The army met Gen. Bragg and defeated him. We lay at Springfield for one week during which time we saw starvation staring us in the face. We eat at each meal every morsel we had, not knowing where the next was to come from. At this rate, we sent nearly half of our Regiment to the Hospital. Shoemaker and Brattain were among those left behind. Wall had got well and joined us. We marched to Perrysville and I was left sick. The remainder went on to Crab Orchard and returned in a week.

• I joined them and on we went to Mumfordsville where we arrived the last of Oct., making a march of over five hundred miles in less than a month. Hardships innumerable had been endured. Thirst, hunger, cold, pain, weariness, united had characterized our trip and no wonder that most of us were sad and dreary and not a few unpatriotic, yet none had deserted. After a day or two of rest, we received our tents and began to recruit our wasted strength. Shoemaker and Brattain came up. Clark joined our mess and our spirits revived, cheerfulness returned and again we enjoyed ourselves. The prospects of a long war were talked of. Guard duty fell upon us as often as twice a week. Guard is an unpleasant task for whether wet or dry, cold or warm, a guard has his duty to perform, even mid the dark dreary cold nights he walks his “lonely beat” thinking his duty useless, unless he sees the object of his attention in danger. Picket duty though unpleasant is more agreeable on account of the post of danger, for should he neglect his duty, he perils his own life and endangers the safety of the whole force.

• We love picket on account of giving us a change of place and sights for a day and enables us to secure the many nice things which the country affords. Of all things a soldier loves, a good big meal, though it be all of one thing. By three sleeping together, we get along tolerably warm. One blanket under and two blankets over composes the “Soldier couch.” The bare ground or hard board being his feather bed or straw tick.

• We began to march again. Our way lay along a mud road. The rain fell in torrents. The deep dust suddenly turned to mud, and then through slop, shoe top deep and clothes all wet, we marched eighteen long miles to the bank of a small creek where we turned into camp, pitched our tents, tore down the fences, and made good cheerful fires, despite the inclement elements. Supper over. Roll call attended to, we enter our tents to repose for the night. It was a cornfield. The rain had caused the furrows to flow with water. By laying on the ridges we managed to get to sleep. The winds rose and blew our “muslin house” over. Mid torrents of rain, we raised it again, but no sleep came to our weary bodies. The ground grew wetter and more disagreeable. It became cold and there we lay or sat or stood half freezing, shivering, and sometimes uttering such expressions as these. “Who wouldn’t sell a farm and go soldiering?” “Who wouldn’t be a soldier?” “A man who would not soldier ought to be shot.”

• Awaiting the day or for the rain to cease, we passed the time if anything but comfortable, “and all for the sake of the Stars and Stripes.” Next morning the rain ceased and having eaten our breakfast, we resumed our march for Glasgow. Guard and Picket Duty came much oftener than formerly. Soldiering was all that was hard. We remained about Glasgow about a week when we were ordered to Gallatin, Tenn. We left the comfortable quarters we had made and marched over the snow and ice to the above named place where we began to have good times, as there was plenty in the surrounding country.

• While here we experienced a happy change. Gen. Reynolds “detailed our Company temporarily with the 19th” Indiana Battery. At the time we regretted it and even shed tears over it. We were almost to a man opposed to it. But military rule is supreme over “Privates.” So we were to change our names and hopes and desires. We expressed our feelings freely on the subject but to no purpose. We had to come under. We soon began to see the benefit of the change. Instead of its being hard work to march and carry a rifle, a blanket, a knapsack, an overcoat, and our rations, we could here carry enough blankets to make a good bed, and as for Rations, we fared much better than in the Regiment. So we began gradually to become pacified and at length satisfied and at length rejoiced at the change.

• WHILE HERE WE WERE UP FROM THREE A.M. TILL DAYLIGHT IN ORDER NOT TO BE SURPRISED BY GEN. JOHN H. MORGAN WHO HAD SURPRISED A BRIGADE AT HARTSVILLE. We were on the alert much to the annoyance of a soldier as sleep is dear to him. When we began to march again, we were free to run and skip along, the burdens always indispensable to the soldier were hauled on our guns and caisson carriages. In fact soldiering in artillery and in Infantry are not alike. When it rained we had dry blankets and a dry suit of clothes. When it was cold, we had good warm blankets in abundance. We always had plenty to eat because when it was necessary to throw away provision on account of having too much to carry in Infantry, we now hauled it. When we were tired, we rode or we could be teamsters and ride all the time, but we had to take good care of our horses. Thus WE TOOK A MARCH UP THROUGH KENTUCKY AFTER MORGAN, but we hardly knew what it was to be tired. Infantry soldiers came to us and offered ten cents a piece for crackers, whereas we did not know that any body was hungry.

• The battle of Stone River had been fought. We were hurried to Murfreesboro but too late for the bloody scenes which had occurred the week before. We went into camp. Mess No. 2 was again together somewhat changed. Fry had been discharged. Shoemaker left at hospital with the “stiff neck.” Potts was down with the small pox. Colborn had joined us. Rations grew scarce. We were hungry by day and night. We became dissatisfied. Most of us unpatriotic. We would do anything for a furlough or discharge in order to get where plenty once more reigned. All to no purpose. Deserting was named but none liked the name each would go “without leave.” We got a little corn meal and made mush.

• Metsker was our faithful wood cutter. When we run out of fire wood and no one would go, then he good fellow would pick up the axe and get enough to keep us lazy fellows warm. Bush procured some “mixed vegetables” and made some soup, and if every one did not get to a spoonful of his right rations, he would make things roar. Thus we lived, grumbled, did what duty we had to and managed to winter. Our evenings were spent in discussing some topic or talking of home.

• The most amazing conversations were when we got to repeating the supposed meeting of two or three old women who undertake to do every body’s business. Old women you had better believe suffer with us. But our kitchen furniture has not been described. Our cupboard is made of two cracker boxes, one set on the other. Each man has a cup or can, two or three knives to the bun or tent, one or two forks. Each man, unless some one pockets it, has a spoon, generally of the best of iron, four or five plates suffice for all us, two eat off of a plate. A frying pan, a mess pan, and as for the kettles, the cook takes care of them to cook beans, beef or coffee, occasionally letting them go to boil clothes in!!! At meal time each one seizes his table ware and runs to the pot or kettle and holds out for his rations, which as soon as he received, he returns to his tent and in the common expression “Goes in.” Sugar and meat is almost always divided as soon as drawn, but the rest is left with the cook. We eat, sleep, have our cupboard and wardrobe altogether. The haversack generally answers for the cupboard. The knapsack for wardrobe. When the mail comes, if it is cold or rainy, only one goes from a bunk, but if it is clear, all go and if you look around, you will see those who get no letters by the sad countenance. The lucky ones being exceedingly cheerful.

• Old times are talked over and over again, but always with apparently new interests. Any strange thing that happened, while somebody always known by that name was robbing a “hen roost” or taking the hot biscuits out of some body’s stove oven, while another somebody was talking to the old woman. Once in a while a soldier is cut to the quick as follows. “He was trying to catch some nice young chickens. Said the lovely lady of the house. “Take some corn and you can toll them into the coop where you can catch them easy,” but not intending to give up his supper, he soon knocked one over and “cut out.”

• The time having come to advance from Murfreesboro where we lay over six months, we destroyed our surplus baggage and prepared for a “touch time” such as we had, for it rained and we expected a fight at Tullahoma, but the Rebels evacuated and we advanced living on the fat of the country and the fullness thereof. Of all persons, the soldier is the most “Prodigal” for what he cannot eat nor use he generally destroys.

• We saw hard times when we crossed University Mountain. Still harder when we crossed the Raccoon Mountain, but Lookout Mountain over topped them all and although we had to try and pull to help our tired horses carry the carriages safely over, yet the distant roar of cannon spoke to us that our help was needed. Onward we urged and at last we crowned the summit of all these and ARRIVED ANXIOUS FOR THE BATTLE IN THE VALLEY OF THE CHICKAMAUGA. We had not met the enemy before except at Milton and Hoover’s Gap. But as we there got a taste for fighting, we were anxious to try them another “pull.” In a few days we had the chance. Our Brigade was ordered up to the support of VanCleve on Saturday, 19 Sept. They charged the Rebels back but not being strong enough were compelled to fall back when WE OPENED OUR BATTERY AND PLAYED BRISKLY FOR HALF AN HOUR WHEN THE REBELS HAD “FLANKED” US AND GEN. REYNOLDS ORDERED US OFF THE FIELD. WE RETIRED WITH THE LOSS OF SIXTEEN KILLED AND WOUNDED.

• We fell back about half a mile where we rallied and took another stand. The Rebels did not pursue their victory and we returned to the front. Lay in line of battle all night and slept well, notwithstanding our loss and rout in the evening. Next morning after breakfast we were as near ready as ever. Some had not got entirely over their scare, but enough of us to renew the battle if the Rebels saw fit. We did not intend to attack as it was Sunday and our troops were not properly arranged. But while we were half wishing they would not come today and wondering if they would, the skirmishers began to fire and soon were driven in. Then began another day’s hard fighting. WE GAVE THEM GRAPE, CANISTER, SHOT, AND SHELL AS WE FELT THAT ON THEM OUR SAFETY DEPENDED. WE FOUGHT HARD REPELLING THREE CHARGES OF THE ENEMY. The musketry was a continual roar. The thunder of artillery rolled tremendously and to stand a moment without doing anything was sufficient to tell of the work of death. Enough to shed terror to any soul, but to fight right & hard and keep the bodily form busy, one does not hear so much and kept fear from taking possession of his soul.

• We did not lose so heavily Sunday as we did Saturday, but we disabled four pieces, and now that we had no ammunition nor guns either, we began to wish to be sent to the rear. Soon the right gave way and that exposed our “right flank” so we “changed front to rear” and although we ceased firing, yet we heard the awful rage of battle over where Gen. Thomas was leading the “Reserve Corps.”

• As soon as we were in communication with Gen. Thomas, we left the field for Rossville, but AS WE WERE GOING THE REBELS PURSUED US WITH “GRAPE AND CANISTER SHOT AND SHELL AND THE COLD STEEL.” Our infantry halted and run the enemy back, but STILL THEY POURED THEIR SHELL INTO US BURSTING ON EVERY SIDE. “The moral effort was great.” A skedaddle was begun but successfully checked. WE DROVE OUR CARRIAGES OVER THE DEAD AND DYING AS IT WAS TOO HOT TO TURN ASIDE FOR THEM. THE WOUNDED FILLED THE FENCE CORNERS AND THE DEAD WERE LEFT WHERE THEY DROPPED. SUCH A SIGHT AS APPEARED ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON OF SEP. 20TH, 1863, MAY I NEVER AGAIN WITNESS.

• How did I happen to come out without injury, I cannot tell. After I was out safe, I was seized with horror at what we had passed through during those two terrible days!! Bush had fallen in the battle of Sunday. Shoemaker was badly wounded on Saturday. We had longed for a “hard battle to gain us laurels,” but now we are contented. We would as like not be in another Chickamauga. We fell back to Chattanooga where we threw up breast works and even dared the Rebs to “come at us” again. Like the kid on the house top, we were bold and saucy when the Lion passed by. Next to the rage of bullets, starvation stared us in the face. We began to draw full rations, then cut down to two-thirds, then to half and part of the time only quarter rations, but if we can but hold Chattanooga, we are willing to go hungry for two months. In order to give a better idea of our mode of living, I will chronicle our daily records for a few days in succession.

• Up on the reconstruction of the formation of the Army of Gen. Rosecrans, we were placed in the 3rd Div. 14 A. C. under Gen. Baird and Gen. Geo. Thomas. Our position was assigned on the right, so we began moving camp on Saturday night. I was on detail to move the Captain’s tents and affairs. So we began about dark and carried everything about quarter of a mile, and it being very late, we put up the tents and each stake had to be driven “just so.” After doing everything they asked and getting two or three “good cussings” for pay, we were let off at midnight, so retiring to our couches we slept well until about half past four when we were ordered up to move our own “duds” so getting them ready we carried them to our new camp. We soon placed the guns in position and were set free to fix up our “Bunks.” Having collected a good many boards, we began to build small houses big enough for two and before we got our shelter tents stretched over for roof, it began to rain and then we stopped, took a bite of cracker and a little raw side meat. It continued raining and for fear of having to lay out all night, we went to work to finish their “miniature houses.” Most of them built fire places and beds and fixed as comfortable as a “dog house.” We at supper sat down to eat a dry cracker and drink a cup of coffee while our officers partook freely of biscuits, hams, molasses, coffee, and a few other articles such as beef steak, etc.

• Night came. We crawled into our cozy nests like “warm kittens” and slept sound for we had worked hard and were tired. Long before the break of day on Monday, we were aroused to stand at our posts, to be ready to meet the enemy if he should happen to come upon us. But we knew what was up. Gen. Baird was to ride by that morning and to “show off.” We must be aroused and “stand at arms.” The General came. He remarked. “You are the only troops I have found out of bed this morning.” Capt. answered, “Yes, Gen. we are always ready.” We were then dismissed. We went to our hard bread and coffee. The officers to their biscuits. At this breakfast we wondered how to return thanks for “plenty” for scarcely two bites apiece awaited us. Ration time came at 9 o’clock, and we drew six small crackers a piece for two day’s rations. In fact, I could have eaten all of mine at one meal and still been hungry!! But with a cheerful heart and a “hungry stomach,” I put them away carefully with the vain wish for more. We went to work with the understanding that tomorrow we would have to work on the breast works. So we finished our tents and at noon, we each ate a cracker and a small bit of boiled beef and a cup of coffee.

• The afternoon passed away and supper time came. Hunger would hardly allow me to satisfy myself with one cracker, but having bought a pound of “corn starch,” what will I do with starch? I boiled my cracker and dissolved a spoonful of starch in a pint of water and poured it over my cracker and cooked them together. I never ate such a good supper. Hunger is a good cook. After dark I heard that I had been ordered to Gen. Reynold’s Head Quarters so next morning after my “starchy” breakfast, I started through the rain wondering what I was wanted for. Upon arriving there, I was asked in and General Reynolds was so kind and gentle. I hardly knew what to do. In a few moments I was told where Capt. Floyd was who wanted me. I found him and he wished me to do some writing for him, which I did. I wrote all day until dark when Gen. Reynolds came in asking how we got along. Supper was ready. The General and his staff ate supper and then I was sent to the table. I found bread, butter, vegetable soup, potato cakes, beef, and potatoes, molasses, and apple sauce. I ate hearty for I was hungry as I had a light breakfast and no dinner as they have but two meals a day. After supper we resumed work and the General went to his office where he remained until twelve o’clock. When he returned to his quarters and I was released from work and upon receiving this countersign, “2”, I started for camp, but not having gone far when a “guard” said “which way,” “what’s up.” Nothing, I am just going home. “Have you the countersign?” I whispered “two” and went on. I got to camp and hopped in bed and was soon dreaming of Major General’s.

• Next morning I got my breakfast, all the time telling my bunk mate what I had for supper. As soon as the morning meal was over, I went again to Head Qrs. and put in another day and night of writing, getting supper, as usual. This night I finished and got the Countersign, H, and started. After being halted as before, I soon reached camp. Next morning I was put on guard and though the rain fell, yet all went along well. We ate up all our crackers for noon, “trusting to providence for supper.” A little before supper time we started out begging and having succeeded in getting one cracker, we both took a sparse meal of it and lay down to sleep.

• In the morning before breakfast, we drew our Rations. Half rations for two days. Consisting of a small piece of side meat and six crackers, a spoonful of sugar, and some coffee. On these we tried to live but hungry all the time, little did we enjoy ourselves as we filed out to work on the breast works. Sunday came. The church bells rang inviting us to attendance but “soldiers in the front” are not allowed to go to Chattanooga for anything. My heart sank within me, but of no good does it do to pine for a soldier cannot do as he pleases. He must obey his officers and render present circumstances. It is best, for the enemy is at our doors and might have another to come in.


With this letter is a small sheet that states:

“Soldier Life – A letter by John H. Gray – Sept 1862 joined – Letter takes in Chattanooga Sept 20 1863” 


 We believe that this is easily an $800-$1,200 valued archive. We would love to see it in a magazine article… but you must purchase it. No other use granted. 

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