The object of the expedition we were about to make was to drive from Virginia General W. S. Hancock's forces, which had crossed the Potomac on pontoon at Sir John's Run and taken up their camp at Berkely Springs, not far from the Potomac. General Jackson's plan was to pass General Hancock's right flank, get in his rear between the army and the Potomac, and kill or capture as many as he could. His plans were similar to the Chancellorsville movement, but we shall see that the weather knocked us out. We struck tents at 8 a.m. Wednesday, January 1, 1862, and the wind struck a good many of them, blowing them down before we had a chance to draw the pegs. It was a blustery day, but not very cold. We moved eight miles to Pughtown, and bivouacked there. On the morning of January 2 reveille sounded at five o'clock, and before daylight we were on the move, but made little headway, as the weather had turned intensely cold, with a light snow. If a man was at the head of the column he was all right; but after a few companies had passed over, the snow became as slick as ice, and skating would have been good if a fellow had had skates. I bivouacked on three cedar rails and built a rail fire on each side, and the red cedar popped sparks on the cape of my overcoat, and when I woke up I was afire.
Colonel Maney said that he thought we would get in the fight the next day. We were ordered to cook up all our rations. On the morning of the fourth we were formed in line and each man supplied with forty rounds of cartridges. We marched thirteen miles and reached a point three miles from Bath, or Berkely Springs, and camped in the woods. It snowed heavily that night, and was extremely cold. There was little sleep for us. On the morning of the 5th we moved on Bath, and as we formed a line a short distance from the town, which was situated on a hill of considerable proportions, the enemy's battery opened fire upon us. Gen. Stonewall Jackson rode up on Old Sorrel. The General wore a skull cap, a blouse, gray jacket and the reins hung loosely on Old Sorrel's neck; he looked more like a plow horse than a warrior. With a twinkle in his eye General Jackson said to Colonel Maney "Colonel Maney, I want the Virginians [alluding to his old regiment] to take that battery. They have had some rations since your men." We yelled out: "General, we do not want any rations; let us capture the battery." General Jackson replied: "Colonel Maney, move your regiment by companies to the right." We made a gallant charge, but when we reached the guns only two of the enemy were in sight. It was a feint to cover General Hancock's retreat across the Potomac on his pontoon, but he could have crossed on the ice, as it was nearly twelve inches thick.
While we moved to the capture of the battery, Turner Ashby with his black horse cavalry charged into the town, capturing a few prisoners. It was a grand sight to see the black horses of Ashby as he charged down the valley. We captured some rations. which we devoured in short order. The next day (Sunday) we moved six miles from Bath, and took up our position opposite Hancock, Md., a beautiful little town on the mountain side, and General Hancock had occupied the town; but alas! the Potomac River separated us, and it was filled with floating ice. The next day about 9 a.m. General Jackson sent a courier across the river. We watched the horse struggling through the floating ice, and cheered as it brought the rider safely the other side. General Jackson's order was to move the non-combatants out of town, as he would commence to bombard at 12 M. At the hour named our batteries opened up a brisk fire, and General Hancock rushed some batteries behind the Methodist church and replied furiously. At intervals the duelling was kept up into the night, and it was a grand sight to see the solid shot moving as balls of fire. During a part of the cannonading in the daytime I stood near General Jackson and Col. Robert Hatton, of the Seventh Tennessee. Both sat upon their horses as immovable as statues. It was said of General Jackson that he was a predestinarian. The Presbyterian boys might have explained the meaning of the term. It was also said that he was a fatalist. This was a term that I think would have been difficult for any of the boys to explain. I believe, however, that General Stonewall Jackson had that faith in God that lifted him above the field of battle, and, living or dying, he was the Lord's; then why should he be disturbed by the roar of cannon or the bursting of shells? That night a detail was to be made to picket the Potomac, with orders not to light any fires because the enemy might fire at us from the opposite bank. Serg. J. W. Carter, of Company B, commenced near the head of roster for a detail, and many of the boys were sick. Captain Patterson said: "I cannot excuse any more; the sick must go to Doctor Buist and get an excuse." The roll call was continued, and I was a long way down the list; yet my name was reached, and I answered: "Am always on hand." Captain Patterson turned to Sergeant Carter and said: "How many roll calls has Toney missed since leaving Big Sewell Mountain?" He replied: "Seventeen." Captain Patterson said: "Tonight's duty on picket wipes them all out." Gallant, chivalrous John S. Patterson, how I loved him! He was as gentle and modest as a woman. How my heart ached when I buried him the following October at Perryville. KY.! In regard to the missing of roll call, I never regarded it as a dereliction of duty, therefore on the march from Sewell Mountain frequently when roll was called I was off foraging. In army parlance foraging was to send one of the mess out to buy something to eat, provided he had the money; if he did not have the money, he was to take it. It was related of two comrades who lived near Murfreesboro, and who were sent out by their mess with $1 to purchase supplies, that they returned with five cents' worth of bread and ninety-five cents' worth of whisky, and those that liked to imbibe complained of the purchase of so much bread. In regard to the roll call, it is a breach of duty to neglect when any service is to be performed, because it puts an extra and more frequent burden on your comrades. If I should use the army parlance term, and say stood picket that night, I should have missed it. I ran picket for four hours around and around a big tree; I had to do it to keep from freezing. I did not have anything to eat the previous day but some raw corn taken from artillery horses, and chewed the springs of sassafras bushes.
Capt. F. S. Harris told me that he had travelled in that section much since the war, and that a citizen of Hancock, Md., had told him that the two nights we were there it was sixteen degrees below zero, and I do not doubt it. Many of our boys would get in that stupor which precedes death by freezing, and we would have to seize them roughly and keep them moving to prevent freezing. When relieved. about 3 a.m., by another detail, I crawled in under an oilcloth and blanket and got a few hours sleep. A fall of snow during the latter part of the night served to keep us warm. Looking from under the blankets next morning, we could see many of the boys sleeping under their snowy couches, which resembled graves. A detail of Company C was made to guard the medical stores of General Jackson, which were in wagons. The boys found in one of the wagons a cask of brandy. Getting hold of an auger, they notified the boys in camp to have some camp kettles ready. Going under the wagon, they bored through the body into the cask, and thus filled their vessels. General Jackson relieved them from duty, but did not punish them. I presume he thought they were excusable under the weather conditions. We were sorely disappointed in not being able to engage the enemy. It is true that we forced them across the river, but they could return in a few days after we left. General Jackson succeeded in destroying a dam in the Potomac River which fed the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and cut off canal communication between Cumberland, Md., and Washington, D.C.
On the morning of January 8 reveille sounded very early, and we moved slowly to Bath over a very slick, icy pike. The next morning another early reveille, and we made only seven miles that day on account of the condition of the pike and blockade of wagons. On the 10th we were at Munger's Cross Roads awaiting orders. Sunday, January 12, Dr. Quintard preached for us.
On my way to the post office tent to mail a letter home Gen. S. R. Patterson hailed me, and asked where I was going. I told him, whereupon he reached into his pocket and gave me a letter, saying earnestly: "I wish I could put myself into that letter and be sent home."
On the morning of January 13 we had early reveille, struck tents, and moved down to headquarters. Many of our boys were on the sick list, and when we went into Winchester we had only twenty five able bodied men left in Company B; and other companies were depleted in proportion. Out of my mess of ten only two of us were ready for duty, and we had the extra blankets of eight men. The town of Winchester was overrun with soldiers, and all the houses filled to overflowing.
On January 14 we started to Romney Va., which was situated on the bank of the beautiful south branch of the Potomac. On account of the ice and sleet we made only a few miles. On the 15th we crossed Capon River. and made only six miles during the day. The 16th of January we made only nine miles, and camped within eleven miles of Romney, which the enemy evacuated, leaving a lot of stores. On January 17 we were within four miles, and bivouacked with the regiments of Colonels Hatton and Forbes. Our cavalry occupied Romney, and we had nothing to do except go into the town and get some rations, and we were given a lot of provisions and drew quantities of butter, the first and only rations of butter I had seen issued during the war.
I went into Romney and took dinner at a private house on January 21. I met Major Yost, our quartermaster, and he said that he had heard that our brigade was going to Hanging Rock, some three miles from Romney, to winter quarters. Was the First Tennessee Regiment to go into winter quarters ? We shall see.
Friday, January 24, we moved through Romney and reached Hanging Rock, and camped one-quarter of a mile from the Potomac. On January 25 Colonel Hatton's regiment moved down to Suspension Bridge, and camped near there. Some of our boys who went back to Winchester commenced to come into camp January 26. They thought we would have a fight, and did not wish to miss it. On January 29, I crossed the south branch of the Potomac in a skiff, and saw the residence of Colonel Washington, who was on General Lee's staff, and who was killed in the Cheat Mountain campaign. Colonel Washington was the nearest living relative of General George Washington.
We got too near the enemy's pickets, and had to wait until nightfall to recross the river. At eleven o'clock at night our camp was aroused by the beating of the long roll, and we tumbled out of our tents in quick order. After the regiment was formed, my company was detailed to picket the ford. January 31 closed a very disagreeable week; it had snowed or hailed during the entire week.
On February 2 we had orders to be ready to move on a moment's notice, as the enemy were preparing to cut us off. On the fourth we moved from camp as rapidly as the weather and the wagons would permit. On February 5 we camped one mile from Capon Bridge, and on February 7 we reached our old camp at Winchester, which we left on January 1.
On February 8, I went into Winchester to get some clothing from Nashville brought by Lieutenant Van Leer. I heard that my package was lost at Manassas Junction. On February 9 we heard of the fall of Fort Henry, and this made us fear the loss of Fort Donelson. On the 14th of February my mess built a chimney to our tent, and we were prepared for the six inch snow that fell on the 15th.
Colonel Maney had been to Richmond, and had the regiment detached from the Virginia army, and ordered returned to Tennessee to support Fort Donelson. The fatalities of the campaign were three soldiers frozen to death.