Bygones of Monroe:
Letter From The 18th Mich. Infantry
Camp Austin Blair,
Nashville, Tenn., May 12th, 1863
Dear Editor: Our Regiment left Ky. on the 18th of April, and arrived at Nashville, on the 15th, since which time we have been stationed at this place. When we left Kentucky, we supposed we were going directly to Murfreesboro, but we were bound to be disappointed. The probability is that we shall remain here some time. We have a beautiful camp just west of the City. Our Major, who has always made every exertion possible that would add to the appearance of our camp, has exhibited admirable taste in the arrangement of our present one. The company streets are nicely graded, with a row of evergreens on either side. The same may be said of the Field and Line officers’ streets. Thus making two beautiful avenues the whole length of the camp. It is acknowledged by all to be the finest camp in the city.
Our Regiment was called out today to witness the execution of a soldier, belonging to the 10th Mich. He was sentenced to be shot; by a Court Martial, for desertion. The ground selected, was an open field, a short distance south of the city. At 10 A.M. our Regiment fell into line, and was the first on the field. All the troops at this post were called out. The Battalions in position,
formed three sides of a square, with the open side near a piece of woods. There was a small tree near the center of the square, under which the grave of the unfortunate man was dug. About one half hour before the appointed time for the execution, which was at 12 M., the prisoner was brought on the ground in an ambulance, which also contained his coffin. The coffin was placed near the tree mentioned, and the prisoner was placed upon it. Prayer was read, but he seemed perfectly indifferent to everything transpiring. After prayer the Clergymen addressed a few words to him, shook hands, and retired. In return, he arose and saluted them. He then addressed a few works to the guard, but owing to the distance was not understood by us—He then sat down, the cap was then placed upon his head, and the order given—“Ready”—“Aim”—“Fire” and sixteen guns were drawn upon his body, and in an instant he was dead. Six bullets passed through his body. He was then placed in his coffin and buried. Although it is hard to think of the horrors of such a death, yet all acknowledge the justice of the law, and I am sure that no man that witnessed the execution will ever forget the lesson. Desertions are becoming so numerous that stern measures must be resorted to. There have been several cases in our own Regiment.
Under the supervision of Surgeon Southworth, the Medical Department of the Regiment has undergone a decided improvement. The number sick are quite one-half less than formerly. I am sure the Governor could not have made a more worthy appointment. It must certainly be a satisfaction to those at home who have friends in the Regt, to know that he leaves nothing undone which will tend to their comfort. The Regt. has long needed just such a man.
Is it not the supposition at home, that the soldiers are becoming tired of the war, and would be glad to return to their homes, without regard to results? We are led to believe this to be the fact from reports received from home. Now, Mr. Editor, you may be assured that this is widely distant from the truth. We are all anxious for the day to come when the war having been successfully ended, we may return to our peaceful homes, and enjoy the blessings and immunities of a united and best of all, a free Government. But until then we have no desire to return. Our country must be saved, bright and untarnished as our fathers gave it to us. It is natural for one to wish an end to this cruel war, that is in abhorrence to the better feelings of our nature—that has rendered desolate so many hearth-stones, and that must make our nation mourn in coming time; but it is only the history of nations.
The banishment of the traitor, Vallandigham, pleases us soldiers “right well.” May all traitors suffer the same fate.
(Monroe Commercial, May 28, 1863, Page 3, Column 2)