Saturday, July 13th, 1861.—At daylight this morning, our “rear guard” arose, almost shivering with cold, caused by the rain which had been steadily falling on us during the night. After a march of a mile and a half, or two miles, we came up with the brigade, and found many of the boys eating parched corn, with a relishing and greedy appetite, most of our provision wagons being upset in the mountains during the previous night. Here, I was reminded of the march of the children of Israel, under the command of Moses and Aaron, when the children began to murmur for bread, &c., &c. Every exertion was made by Capt. Crump and Lieut. Wheeler, (who came to the camp the night previous,) to procure something for their company to eat, but with little success.
After the three Virginia regiments of infantry were placed in front, and the 1st Georgia regiment bringing up the rear, we started on our weary march, the rain still pouring in torrents, and every man as wet as water could make him. We had marched but a short distance, when the Lincoln army came up in the rear, and gave us battle. The fighting continued until evening, during which we lost our commanding General. A braver or more noble and worthy man never fell on the field of battle. That he was brave and daring, we need no better proof than his conduct during this engagement. During this battle, a portion of the Georgian regiment was cut off from the main body of the army, and being among that number myself, I can speak in my future notes, only of that unfortunate squad, which consisted of Maj. Thompson, of the Field Staff, Capt. Crump and Lieut. Russell of the Walker Light Infantry, with about half their company; Capt. Pinckard, of the Quitman Guards, Capt. Jones of the Washington Rifles; Capt. Evans, of the Bainbridge Independents, and Capt. Ezzard of the Gate City Guards, together with a portion of every company in the regiment, numbering in all about three hundred. Late in the evening after we had retired some distance from the battlefield, on the side of the mountain, a council was held by the commissioned officers present to come to some determination as to our mode of getting out of the mountains, and joining our comrades. It was here determined to make our way across the mountains, through the wilderness, in search of the turn-pike leading to Staunton—Capt. Crump and Lieut. Russell, of the Walker Light Infantry, only, voting to return and fight our way through a desperate foe to our boys, being ignorant of their fate. As to the relative strength of the two armies here, I will only say that the Lincolnites out-numbered us, two to one. Maj. Thompson taking the bridle, saddle, &c., off his horse, throwing them in the bushes and turning the horse loose, we crossed the mountains, and slept during the night in a glade some two or three miles from the battle field, not, however, out of hearing of the guns of the enemy.
Sunday, July 14, 1861.—This morning at day light we started on our march through the hills, weak from hunger, and somewhat discouraged with the gloomy prospect of finding food to-day. It is thought by those of our company having maps in their possession that we are within twelve miles of the turn pike, and that we will reach it this evening. Marching through a laurel range of mountains, almost impassable, nearly all day, we halted in the afternoon, and ate freely of birch bark, and a kind of grass of week called “sheep-sorrel.” It will be remembered that a large number of our company have had nothing to eat since Thursday morning, and have been on a tedious and tiresome march since that time.
After a brief rest, we renew our gloomy march, eating bark and grass as we journey. Night finds us in a rough, rocky ravine near one of the many small, swift mountain streams that course their way through the laurel forests of this cold, dismal, and uninhabited portion of the mountains of northern Virginia. It is raining. Who can imagine our condition? our feelings? We are only kept from suffering severely from the cold, during the day by the most active exercise; and now night is upon us, and such a night! Nothing heard except the falling of the rain drops, the running of the aforesaid brook, and the croaking of a raven in some hollow tree farther up the mountains. Here we must rest for the night. We cannot move, or we might pitch from the top of a precipice into eternity. How shall we sleep? We have no blankets! We have divested ourselves of everything except what we wear, and many have had their clothes nearly torn from them by the brush in passing through the laurel thicket.
What would our mothers and sisters think, and say, if they knew our condition? I have just heard a member of the Walker Light Infantry say that he would not have his wife know of his present sufferings for a million of dollars; another said he would not have his mother made acquainted with his present situation for twice that amount. I feel around in the dark for a place to sleep. I prop myself against a tree to prevent my rolling down the mountain, and soon I am asleep. I dream—but not of HOME. Here I shiver with cold, half sleep, and half awake, until morning.