Monday, July 15, 1861.—Started on our dreary march through the mountainous wilderness of laurel at daylight this morning. All weak and tottering from hunger. We have marched through this wilderness for thirty-six hours, without discovering any mark or sign to indicate that man had ever trod the soil before; and I have not idea that this region was ever before penetrated by any man living. For nearly two days we have marched without so much as hearing a bird. No game! Nothing in this region for game to live on. The growth consists of laurel, laurel, laurel, with occasional spruce-pine and birch. The boys are eating birch-bark—some are eating spruce-pine bark. As for myself, I cannot bear to look at them as they eat it. I ate it freely yesterday, but to-day I am sick—sick, I suppose, from eating it yesterday. We are marching in profound silence, no man having strength or energy to converse with his companion. Many of the boys are throwing away their guns, &c., not being able to carry them. Early in the morning we crossed a creek, and are passing on the side of a mountain, the surface of which is covered with laurel. At 11 o’clock, A. M. the word is passed from rear to front, that we are overtaken by a mountaineer, named James R. Parsons, accompanied by a young named John B. Irons, who says it is impossible for us to pass through the mountains in the direction we are going. A halt is ordered. A consultation is held. Although many are unwilling to return, looking upon the old gentleman who has tracked us from the battle field, with suspicion, we are ordered to follow our new friends, who say they will take us to a point on the creek we have crossed, in which beeves can be driven and killed, thus saving us from starvation, which is at this moment staring us in the face, in its most hideous and distressing form. We return to the creek, and travel down the stream all day, with our new guides in front. Some are becoming almost desperate. Many times during the day halts are made by different Captains and Lieutenants, who almost determine to return with their commands; declaring Mr. Parsons and young Irons to be traitors, taking us into the hands of the enemy. Some said they had suspicioned them from the time we were overtaken in the morning, and now, late in the afternoon, their suspicions are confirmed by their conduct and conversation—that we will be taken by traitors to the enemy’s camp and annihilated.
Capt. Crump boldly, openly and fearlessly defends the accused. Should he and a few others concur with the murmurers and accusers, no doubt the whole band would have returned to our old route, with Parsons and Irons prisoners, and all probably die of starvation in the mountains—not one being left to tell the tale.
Myself and many others having implicit confidence in Capt. Crump’s knowledge of human nature, and good judgment, feel encouraged and keep on down the rocky stream. Just before dark we came to a little opening in the woods. Here we are halted by our guides, where we build the first fires we have had since the morning of the battle. Our guides, with some members of our company go in search of cattle. By the fires we lie down to sleep, perfectly exhausted from hunger and the rough road over which we have been travelling. We sleep till morning.
Tuesday, July 16.—We awake at day light—have scarcely enough strength or energy to move. One of our boys who accompanied the guides has just arrived with a small cake of corn bread, which he offers to Captain Crump. Although the Captain has not eaten anything for four or five days, and is so near exhausted that he can scarcely walk, he says, “excuse me, I will not eat a mouthful until my company are supplied with food; if my men eat nothing, I will eat nothing myself.” The magnanimous conduct of Captain Crump, throughout our journey, has won for him the love and esteem of the whole band. For the past few days we have been looking to him for consolation, as a child in early youth looks to its father in time of trouble. He is a noble Captain. This is the exclamation of all.
About eight o’clock, three fine, large beeves are driven up from across the mountains. I will not attempt a description of the manifestations of joy from that band of three hundred starving Georgians. The beeves are killed, roasted and eaten in short order, and without ceremony; and we are started on our march down the creek. Late in the evening we come to a bridle-path. We receive new consolation and encouragement by the sight of a path which has signs of being travelled before. The Walker Light Infantry, with their Captain, stop a little after dark, build up a fire, and lie down to sleep, the rain falling hard and heavy.