February 21, 2012

From Munfordville to Bowling Green with William T. Clark

Location: Bowling Green, KY, USA
A Map of the March from Munfordville to Bowling Green
(Office of the Chief of Engineers, National Archives)

On February 14, 1862, the 79th Pennsylvania left its camp of two months at Munfordville to join the rest of the armies in the West, which were pretty much already in motion.  They would get one of their toughest marches of the war out of the early, trudging over very rough roads in deep mud.

The Lancaster County Regiment actually started by marching north, instead of southwest towards Bowling Green.  Buell had originally planned to support Grant's army by sending McCook's division north to Louisville where steamboats would be waiting to take them down the Ohio River and up the Tennessee River.  A day into this journey, however, after Buell became much more optimistic about an overload approach due to the fall of Bowling Green, the order was countermanded, and the 79th Pennsylvania returned to Munfordville.       

The regiment spent the next week traveling the fifty miles or so to Bowling Green using a combination of the railroad and turnpike, stopping occasionally to help repair the railroad or visit caves along the way.  Col. Hambright's regiment arrived just opposite Bowling Green on February 23, but it wouldn't be until February 28 that the regiment actually crossed the river to enter the town. 

To learn more about this movement, I turn to the diary of Sgt. William T. Clark of Company B, 79th Pennsylvania.  The following is excerpted from the transcription by William G. and Janet Davis at the Lancaster County Historical Society:


(Fri.) Tues., Feb. 14th

This morning at an early hour our Division began to move toward Louisville, Our Brigade moved at 11 a.m. The pike is in a bad condition, teams are continually stalling, one wagon upset & another with the tongue broken out. The marching was very hard & when we encamped there was but 12 men in line. We made fires on the left of the R. R. under shelter of a woods.

Weds., Feb. 15th (Sat.)

Our wagons are not here yet. Some of the men came in at 9 a.m. The ground is still covered with snow. Yesterday we met the cars, they were loaded with mules & wagons. Our wagon came up at noon, when there was a regular rush for meat. Receive orders at 3 p.m. to fall in & march back on the same road we came. Halted 2 miles north of Bacon Creek for the night.

Thurs., Feb. 16th (Sun.)

Started at 9 a.m. & marched 2 miles south of Green River. Wagons came up at 3 p.m. when we pitched our tents placed rails on the ground & covered them with straw. Tonight men & teams were detailed to go to Munfordsville for provisions.

Fri., Feb. 17th (Mon.)

This morning we were called early & told to have 3 days rations in our haversacks & be ready to march at 7 a.m. Left camp at 8 a.m. & marched down the pike to its end which was 4 miles. After that the road was very bad. Below Horse Cave we marched on the R. R. which was much better traveling. Stopped at Woodland Station to rest for half an hour. After we started down the R. R. we found the Rebels had torn up the ties & burned some of them when we had to take the mud for it. The Depot at Woodland as well as the hotel, stabling & Depot at Cave City were burned by Rebels. We came to Glasgow Junction & took the R.R. again. We soon came to where the pike commenced took it, marched 1 and ½miles, camped & called it Hambright. We were all nearly worn out & scattered so much that when they came to camp there was but 10 men to stack arms.

Sat., Feb. 18th (Tues.)

Last night I went to a cave close to camp. We went 50 feet down a ledge of broken rocks at the foot of which is a good spring of water, which runs into a trough, and buckets coming down by windlass from the top are filled with water, & drawn up on a wire. We went back ½ a mile into the cave but had to return as our light was burning low. Our wagons came in at 2 a.m. The men in some of the Regiments went out and shot some sheep, which was very disgraceful considering the cause for which we are fighting.

Wed., Feb. 19th

Last night after we had went to bed we were called out to cheer for the taking of Savannah with 15,000 prisoners. Our Brigade is detailed to work on the R.R.. Marched 2 miles back the pike where the order was countermanded on account of bad weather & we went to camp. I am on the Water Committee Received Forney’s War Press from Coz. R. L. Clark.

Thurs., Feb. 20th

Working on the R.R. leveling off the stones ready to lay the ties. Also cut a great many ties. Part of our force was cleaning out the tunnel which had been blown full of rocks from the sides by the Rebels. Two Brigades of us were at work today. 4 Batteries came today. Received 5 letters, one from Coz. Mattie, in which was one from Miss R. S. Neel of Reisterstown, Baltimore Co., Md., one from Coz. Maggie, one from Coz. Ele. Black, one from Aunt Lizzie Thompson & one from Bro. Robert.

Fri., Feb. 21st

Today we were marched 2 miles down the pike into a field where we were inspected (our Brigade) by Gen. Negley. Received the traveler’s guide this evening. Received letter from Coz. Lib.

Sat., Feb. 22nd

Wrote to Bro. John & Sister Rettie. This P.M. we worked at the tunnel, this nearly finished. Rained hard all day. We received orders to be ready to march at 7 A.M. tomorrow.

Sun., Feb. 23rd

Started at the time appointed with our knapsacks on our backs for Bowling Green, where we arrived at 5 P.M. Passed through very fine country, where there had been several encampments We had a fine day, marched 20 miles & were very tired & were glad to encamp, which we did on the right of the R.R. & on the bank of Barren River. This is the second time we have marched on Sunday.

Mon., Feb. 24th

Walked down the R.R. to R.R. bridge which had been blown up before Gen. Mitchell (who was in advance) reached here. It was a fine bridge, 200 yds. long. The Turnpike Bridge is burned also. As I came back I went to see a hill they had fortified on this side of the river. The works are well put up on the top of a hill. The banks are well sodded, from the top of this we have a fine view of the country & can see part of Bowling Green, which is on the opposite side of the river. We could also see another hill the Rebels had fortified further to the north. These fortifications would command the R. R., river, & turnpike & why they have abandoned what was considered one of their strongholds I cannot tell unless it was that they were afraid of being starved out. This evening a steamboat passed up the river by our camp.

Tues., Feb. 25th

This morning went out to drill & while there received orders to pack up & be ready to march at 3 P.M. We were soon ready & waiting. At 3 P.M. were ordered to unpack & pitch tents. While we were waiting there was a Brigade came here from Somerset & encamped on both sides of the R.R. Wrote to Bro. Robert.

Weds., Feb. 26th

Wrote to John Penny & Capt. Fulton. Received orders to be ready to march at daylight tomorrow with three days rations in our haversacks.

Thurs., Feb. 27th

Formed line just at sunrise. Our knapsacks are hauled for us. Marched to a flat piece of ground recently overflowed by high river where 9 teams & some artillery were swamped in the deep mud, horses sunk into their bellies in the mud & could not be got out. Others were lifted out with rails. We could hardly get to the river shore. There was 2 steam boats abreast in the river & flat boats from there to the shore. On these we crossed, then went ¼ of a mile, stacked arms & waited untill the teams crossed which took untill 1 P.M. We then took the pike through Bowling Green which is a small town with some fine buildings & at one time contained 35.00 inhabitants. Saw 3 other forts, one higher up the river & one lower down. The Rebels had stabling put up for their horses. Passed a very large spring called “Sinking Creek” which bubbles out of the ground over a short distance & passes out of sight in a cave. Saw some very fine buildings & were many times cheered by the sight of the Stars & Stripes flying to the breeze by Union Citizens. We passed through Franklin, a town, small, but well built. We encamped at 1 P.M. 1 mile south of Franklin.

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