While the battle of Chickamauga was fought between September 18 and 20, 1863; Union General William Starke Rosecrans’s campaign to capture Chattanooga and (if possible) capture or destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee really began on August 16th. Federal infantry closed down to the north bank of the Tennessee River on a broad front, ranging from well above Chattanooga into East Tennessee all the way down into Northern Alabama.
The first real warning Braxton Bragg received of this effort, however, came on August 22, when Union artillery shells began dropping into the streets of Chattanooga, causing a panic.
Since 2009, I have been posting material related to this fascinating campaign on my own blog (Chickamaugablog.com) Now I have begun a new project, an effort to track the campaign on a near-daily basis, drawing on the letters and diaries of the men involved.
Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Private John Franklin Roberts of the 7th Mississippi Infantry. Born in 1828, Roberts was 35 years old that summer of 1863, Already a married man twice over. (He married Nancy Dunn in 1848, and Elizabeth Freeman in 1856.) He was wounded and captured at Shiloh; spending time in Camp Douglas Illinois, until exchanged.
Roberts was literate, but his letters are rife with misspellings and colloquialisms. I find I value such errors a great deal. Why? I think because they offer us clues as to how folks actually talked, and sounded, in 1863 – something we would not really have a window into otherwise.
That is because many of the misspellings are phonetic. “Whipt” instead of whipped, for example. In an upcoming post, one Confederate refers to the city of “Atlanter,” for Atlanta. As I read these passages, I sound them out in my head, (sometimes even out loud, if it takes a moment or two to figure out the meaning.) If you don’t already do that, give it a try, and see if it opens a new window onto the past for you, as well.