Civil War Memories
11th Indiana Regiment
After following the fortunes of Gen. Grant through the Battles of Ft. Donelson, [Tennessee, Feb 7-16, 1862], Shiloh [Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee, April 2, 1862] and siege of Vicksburg, [Mississippi, May 1-July 4, 1863], & Jackson, Mississippi, our regiment (11th Indiana) was ordered to New Orleans to join [Gen. Nathaniel] Bankís Army, which was to make an expedition into western Louisiana, when the Regiment received marching orders the later part of Sept 1863. I was unable to follow on account of a severe attack of malarial fever with several other of the old Division was placed in the Convalescent Camp at Carlton, Louisiana, which is a suburb of New Orleans, nine miles north of the city on the Mississippi River. Here we had to answer to the Opium & Dover [powder] call every morning and receive our allowance
of what ----- or is a general prescription for all complaints that soldiers are subject to Quinine & Dover.
After a few weeks treatment of the aforesaid prescriptions I recovered and was able to take my turn on detail going to the Hospital and helping prepare for burial the unfortunate comrades that give up their lives for the preservation of the Union. This was a sad duty and one that would often bring to memory friends that were at home. For often among the dead you would see a gray haired father who had left family friends and home to Battle for his Country and had passed through many battles coming out without a scratch, but reserved for a more dreaded fate of dying by inches with some lingering disease which soldiers in the field exposed to storms and ______ated places are subject to.
Then you would see a beardless youth, cold in death, who had given up his life. With no dear mother to place her hand upon his brow and with her mother love help to soothe with words of hope his last moments on Earth. But such is the fate of cruel war. It desolates homes, makes widows and orphans, brings misery & grief, beggars & cripples, debts & taxes, all of which today we have among us.
I was getting very tired of Convalescent Camp life and was anxious to go to the front and join my old mess, when one morning we were called up by the Commander of the camp and all that was able was ordered to make preparations to join their commands,
which was then in Western Louisiana. The next day some 4 or 5 hundred composed of men from 3 or 4 divisions and representing 10 or 12 regiments all anxious to join their old comrades took the train at Carlton for the City, where we crossed the river on the Ferry for Algiers [Louisiana]. From there we took train to Brasier City 80 miles west of New Orleans. Here we were detained 3 or 4 days, after which we took a boat for New Iberia, about 80 miles north of Brasier on the Bayou Teche where we landed. The next day from there we marched to Vermillionville, 20 miles distance. Here we were detained again for
4 or 5 days waiting orders from the Colonel of the 16 Indiana Cavalry, who was in Command of the place. While here we spent the time foraging and hunting squirrels. The country was a rich place for our business and we had no trouble of finding plenty to eat. Our boys never stole anything. As Gen. McGinnes remarked at our last reunion, but could beat any regiment he ever saw for finding things.
While waiting for orders to go forward and join our commands the Army commenced falling back and two or three Divisions had already passed on their way to New Orleans.
Orders came to us thus. We should join our respective commands as they passed so that our "squad" was growing smaller every day. But the 3rd Division had not yet returned and our numbers had been reduced to about 30 men.
On the 3rd day of November we had orders to march out to Carrion Crow Bayou and join our Division, which had been platooned at that place about 15 miles from Vermillionville. 6 of us had formed a mess representing 4 nationalities: Raulie Laudaurance (French), John Fenton (Irish), Lew Miller & Harry Berbower (German), Mose Waterman and myself (American). And we represented 4 different companies of the regiment: Laudaurane & Fenton - Co.A; myself -Co.D; Mose Waterman Co-I; Berbower & Miller Co.K.
When we started for Carrion Crow Bayou on the morning of the 13th day of November, 1863, we had not gone more than a mile when one of our mess spied an old horse that had been turned loose to either hunt his own living or give up the ghost and furnish a feast for the buzzards and Carrion Crows. We had no trouble catching him and from his movement you would have thought the balance of trade was in favor of the buzzards. But we thought he would be able to render us some aid as a pack horse, so we strapped our knapsacks together, put them on his back, and with a chain around his neck we managed to keep up with the rest of the squad. We had traveled about ten miles when we come to a fine grove. The boys thought it about time for refreshments
and the head of the column filed left into the grove. We could see a house about a half mile ahead in the prairie and our mess concluded to go on to the house before we halted for dinner where we could get some water for man and beast. So we drove ahead and halted at the house and eat dinner.
While we were eating, several wagons passed us going to Vermillionville for supplies. We made inquiries of the drivers how far it was to the camp of the 3rd Division and the informed us that it was about 5 miles. This made us all very anxious to move and get there ahead
of the rest of the squad. So we rounded up Old Bones and started and had gone about 3 hundred yards when we saw what seemed to be a company of cavalry coming down the road from the direction that we were going. When they had come up within about 100 yards of us, one of the boys said, "I believe them are rebels." We were all of the same opinion about that time, for they commenced deploying and I heard their Lieutenant in Command give the order to charge. We were not prepared to receive a charge. Mose Waterman thought he could out run a horse but he failed and was brought to a halt
after two or three shots had been fired at him. We made no fight as it would have been folly with the odds against us and not a gun loaded. Besides three of the guns were tied on the Old Horse and we had felt as safe almost as in camp and about the first thing that made me realize my position was a Reb shoving the muzzle of his gun to my face and told me to drop that gun. "I DROPPED" it. The Lieutenant in command rode up about this time and asked me how many men we had coming up, meaning them men in the grove.
I do not know what made me say it. I was sorry for it awhile afterwards. Thus I said what I did. I told him we had 500 Cavalry coming up, and he whirled his horse and said to his men, "This is no place for us! Take these men on behind you as quick as you can. We must get!" I saw that I had made him believe there was a big force coming up and I did not feel like running his horse down to tell him different for it had saved the rest from capture.
I had not mounted behind anyone yet and felt rather slighted as all of the rest had, and were leaving me without any ceremony.
My time came after all had been accommodated. A Reb rode up to me on a very nervous horse and extended me an invitation to take a ride behind his saddle. I did not stop to ask him the pedigree of his steed but at once took a seat behind him, which I came very near loosing before I had time to ask the Reb how far I could ride with him. That horse was a thoroughbred. You can always tell one. They are
high kickers. This was one of them. He commenced before I had taken my seat and kept it up till I finally give it up and jumped off. I lit on my feet, but fell and threw my leg out of place. After the Reb had his horse under control, he came riding back and drew his gun on me and said get up you dód Yank or I will shoot you. I told him I could not get up for my leg was broken.
Another Reb that had been going through our knapsacks that had been taken from Old Bones said I will help him up. He brought Old Bones
and helped me to mount. When one of them led him and the other whipped him with all his whipping he could not get him out of a trot, and I think he was the hardest trotting horse I was ever on. And the sharpest backbone I ever saw on a horse. My leg was hurting me so I could scarcely sit on the horse.
We went about 5 miles without halting him. We came up to the regiment the 2nd Louisiana Cavalry of which the detachment belonged that had taken us prisoners. They were in line of battle
expecting an attack from our forces that I had told the Lieutenant were coming up. As soon as we arrived as we were the last getting in the Col give orders to move back to Carrion Crow Bayou, which was 3 or 4 miles further west. Here we halted and took our first meal with them which consisted of corn dough nuts fried in grease and pork and yams. After we had eat the Colonel said we would have to go to Opalousas 20 miles away that night. When about ready to start, I asked what they was going to do with me
as I could not walk. One of them said they would have to put me on Old Bones. So they brought him up and mounted me once more on what was the poorest excuse of a horse I had ever met, but fortunately one of the boys had a blanket and let me have it for a saddle. About dark we took our departure under the escort of a small detachment from the regiment.
We had not gone far until I recognized the voice of one of our guards. I said to him, "Was you a prisoner
at Cold Water, Mississippi about a year ago?" He said he was. I said if he would let me relate to him the circumstances under which he was captured, he could judge whether I was there. Well, he said, you must know something about it. I told him I had received my information from him as I was one of the guards that had escorted him along with 3 other prisoners from Mitchells Crossroads to Cold Water and guarded him then 3 or 4 days
until the Army fell back to that place where he was taken to Helena Ark and paroled. He says, "You are right," and as he had received good treatment from us, he would try and do the best he could for me.
I had a long talk with him on our way to Opelousas that night. He told me he had been captured twice since and had been paroled on both occasions, but had never been exchanged, and had joined different regiments afterwards. He seemed to be a regular Jay Hawker
and said he was fighting for what he could make out of it. He was riding a very fine white horse that he had taken from one of our signal corps officers that they had captured the same day that we were. I never saw him but once after that night and that was about 3 weeks afterwards at our camp near Alexandria. He rode up and called for me. I had a talk with him. His name was Lancy.
We arrived at Opelousas next morning about daylight and stopped at a house
awhile and then went through the town. And while going along the street, a fellow passed along on horseback that I recognized as a deserter from Company C of our regiment, who had deserted about a year before, and had joined the Rebel Army. I said to him, "Hello Co. C" he looked around and rode on. He was one of the five Point N.Y. boys that had been sent west and had enlisted in Co. C but soon tired of soldiering and deserted our army and joined the rebels.
When we had passed through the town we came to a camp of about 500 prisoners
that had been captured the day before from Gen Burbridges Command who had a fight in front of our army. We were turned in with them here. Our escort left us and new guards belonged to a Texas Regiment. They were making preparations to march for Alexandria. I told one of the guards my condition that I was not able to march. He very generously offered me his mule to ride, which I accepted. We marched all that day till evening when a halt was made and a small piece of fresh beef was issued to each man.
We build fires and broiled out meat, which we eat without bread or salt, and went on a few miles further and went in to camp near a cotton gin. The next morning I found myself without transportation for the man that had furnished the mule the day before did not show up. I asked the Officer in Command for transportation. He told me I could ride on one horse wagon they had pressed into service to gather up corn bread to feed us. And I rode all day and held the horse for the driver while he went in to the houses along the road and took up contributions of bread for our benefit.
That night our men had an extra loaf of bread along with a small ration of fresh beef.
This lasted but one day the next day we had for a supply wagon a 4-mule team to a wagon with two sugar hogsheads full of unbotled corn meal. I rode the rest of the way in the wagon and managed to have a haversack full of meal. Every night for our mess with a small allowance of fresh beef issued to each man was our regular bill of fair after several days march we arrived at our destination which was 4 miles south of Alexandria, La, on Red River. Here we went into quarters in a large Sugar House called the Willow Glen Sugar Mill and is surrounded with a find country here. We were kept for about a month until the weather was getting pretty cold.
While here we had very good health and received instead of raw meal, corn bread baked in sections, about 2 feet wide by 3 ft long and 4 to 6 inches thick. Some of it raw in the middle. This we made toast of and had beef on toast, which is quite an improvement over Quail or Snipe. Within our guard lines was about 5 acres of seed cane which had been cut and laid length ways with the furrows and enough dirt thrown on it to keep off the frost. This the boys soon discovered, dug up and chewed up and when we left, there was not a stalk left of the whole five acres.
We had a novel way of sleeping as we were not supplied with blankets, we would take sugar hogsheads, lay them with open end to the fire, fill them half full of sugar can blades. Two and three men to each hogshead would crawl in and leave their feet to the fire, pull down the blinds and lie down to pleasant dreams, which was very often disturbed by ones feet coming in too close contact with the fire. After we had been here about a month, we was removed to a camp 4 miles north of Alexandria across Red River. Here they had some temporary barracks for quarters
which was located in the pine woods. We was furnished axes and had to chop our own wood and as there was no stoves or fire places in the barracks, we had to build fires out doors and stay close to them to keep warm as we had some very cold weather. We had not been more than a week when we were all paroled and expected to start for Vicksburg, but owing to some trouble existing between the Prisoner Commissioners of the C.S.A. and U.S. we were held until the last of December, when arrangements was made with General Burks for an exchange for about the same number of prisoners he had in New Orleans.
Our guards here was mostly young men and conscripts.
We found among them a great many Union men. They treated us as well as circumstances would permit and as there was not much discipline among them, we would talk with the guards while on duty and many of them did not hesitate to tell us that the were there against their will and would rather be on the other side. We amused ourselves by establishing what we called the Grapevine Dispatches which was manufactured and produced every day or so by some of the boys who would call up a crowd and read the Grapevine Dispatch, then we would give three cheers and a cigar. The rebs would come in and want to know
what was up. We would read them the Grapevine and tell them that Richmond was taken, or Jeff Davis had been captured, or 3 miles of the Mississippi River had burned up, or Lee had surrendered and various other things, all of which seemed to worry some of them. Whether they did not give credit to the Dispatches, their looks told that it was only a question of time that they might be true and their hopes were not on par with the good open countenance of Colored Man toten a fat possum.
We had our Character among us. His Name was Balum. He belonged
to some New York Regt. He had become so onry and filthy that the Regiment he belonged to tied him up to a tree and went off and left him, knowing the rebs would get him. Which they did. He was a near a hog as any one in the shape of a human I ever saw. He could eat more than anyone I ever say, and was always having troubles with some of the boys. The consequence was the boys was always playing pranks on him. He had a big black bottle that he carried water in. He used to fire at any one
who came in contact with him. But he always give the warning and when Balum said "look out Iíll hit you with this bottle" the one so addressed would get out of range and the old bottle went sailing through the air on its mission of destruction. But an empty bottle is harmless compared with one filled with what bottles are generally filled with and this old bottle always fell short of the mark and never done anyone any injury, and as old Balum was too lazy to get around, the fight generally ended in one round according to Queens of Goosberry rules.
The rebs were not well supplied with all the articles necessary to a well regulated household. One article in particular was that of soap. We could not get it for any price and our last month with them was in camp in the pine woods where we were smoked about as black as we could be and we looked more like a lot of street crabs than anything I could compare us to. But with all this incumbrance of real estate, we enjoyed our corn bread and beef which was our daily rations served up one day with ala-turnip soup and for a change we would have yam pie old fashioned turnovers which cost $1.00 per pie in confederate money, for which we could buy at 10 cents on the dollar for greenbacks.
To give a price list of the commodities of this Confederacy, flour was worth three hundred dollars per bbl, yams $4.00 per bushel, corn $5.00 per bushel; turnips $1.00 per dozen, red leather shoes $20 per pair; cotton socks $4.00 a pair. And other things accordingly.
The day came at last for us to return to Gods Country. We arrived at New Iberia Jan 1st. Here we meet the Escort with the prisoners that was to be exchanged for us. There was a great difference in the looks of the men in the two parties. The balance of trade was against us. We had been in a very highly protected tariff country where it did not pay to import soap and the natives
were too lazy to manufacture the article, and we had been
the sufferers and had all the colors for good black & tans. While on the
other hand, the Rebs had been kept in New Orleans among their friends where they
had been supplied with all the necessary articles and each one of them carried a
bundle of clothing and looked neat and clean. If the looks of the two parties
had been considered by the Prisoners Commission, I think our chances would have
been slim for an exchange. Man for man, the exchange was made and we returned to
New Orleans and joined our commands.
~~~ The End ~~~
Abraham Shewmaker was then sent to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, where he was mustered out of the Army on August 30, 1864.
This original, handwritten document was discovered among the possessions of Ida OíConnor Wilmering, who died in 1993 at Muscatine, Iowa.
Presently, it is not known why she was in possession of this document, as well as several other original documents relating to the Shewmaker family history.