Bygones of Monroe:
Letters from the Eleventh Regiment
Camp Morton, near Bardstown, KY,
January 19, 1862
Ed. Commercial—Day after day and week after week roll by and still a seeming inactivity every- where prevails. The enemy still point their fingers derisively at us from behind their entrenchments at Bowling Green, and we can only wait and long for the command “forward march.” And yet, amid all this seeming sloth and inaction, the undercurrent of preparation moves steadily onward. All of the regiments in this vicinity except our own, have been ordered on to Green River, where a powerful force is gathering. The march of our regiment has been temporarily delayed by the presence of contagious diseases in our camp. But we hope soon to be ordered to join our comrades who have preceded us, and be ready to partake in the stirring scenes to be enacted. The expedition which has been fitting out at Cairo has been reported to have left there and proceeded down the Mississippi. It is supposed here that this expedition will enter Tennessee, march upon Memphis, take possession of that city and rid the loyal men of Tennessee of the unprincipled vagabonds who have so long been outraging persons and devouring their property with impunity.
In conjunction with this movement it is thought that the army in Kentucky will make an advance, finally purging this State of her persecutors, and then the two columns united will be prepared for such operations as may seem expedient.
In the mean time there is very little occurring here which will interest your readers. We remained in camp at Louisville for about a week when we struck our tents and took up our line of march for Bardstown, a small town situated upon a branch of the Louisville and Nashville R.R., and distant from the former city about forty miles. A finer country than that through which we passed on our first day’s march it has rarely been my fortune to see. The surface was gently rolling, the soil evidently rich, and a sight of the shocks of corn which we saw standing in the fields would astonish a Michigan farmer, if it did not drive him to utter despair. We reached Bardstown at about 3 p.m. on the third day of our march, not a little footsore and weary, and thinking that verily these are the days that “try men’s soles.”
Bardstown is a small town about one-third the size of Monroe and was formerly a strong secession proclivity and supported a secession paper entitled the “Bardstown Gazette.” About the time the Union troops began to come in, however, a sudden and unaccountable “change came over the spirit of their dreams.” The conductors of the aforesaid paper became dissatisfied with the climate and emigrated. The inhabitants suddenly discovered new beauties in the Constitution and new advantages to be derived from remaining in the Union, and their zeal for the maintenance of the former, and their devotion to the latter are just now really quite affecting.
We have arrived at a tolerable degree of perfection in Hardee’s Tactics, and have been until quite lately, drilling on Hard Tacks. For the benefit of the uninitiated I would explain that these latter are an edible compound made as supposed, of a pulverized sandstone and stone lime, judiciously mixed. In shape and appearance they are not unlike the soda crackers sold in the bakeries at the North and are issued to us under the head of “rations,” but are very useful for a variety of purposes. A soldier who has been fed for a sufficient length of time upon these is supposed to be proof against a musket ball or indeed any kind of shot except perhaps a rifled cannon ball. They would prove very serviceable in the event of its being necessary to erect hasty fortifications, and are also very useful as targets, as the balls striking against them fall flattened to the ground, and are afterwards gathered up, thus preventing an unnecessary waste of lead.
The winter thus far has been extremely mild. Last week we had a light fall of snow, the first of which we have seen since we left Michigan, but it soon disappeared under the influence of a shower of rain by which it was followed. The companies have all provided stoves for their tents, and as there is no scarcity of fuel here, our situation is very comfortable. Still we are exceedingly anxious to join the advance, as we have become heartily tired of lying idle in our tents, when the services of every man is so much needed in the field.
(Monroe Commercial, January 30, 1862, Page 2, Column 2)