Thursday, May 17, 2012
1862 May 18 Blue Stone River, Va.
[from the diary of Charles Hay of the 23rd Ohio]
Camp on Blue Stone River, 9 Miles
N. of Princeton, May 18th, 1862.
Yesterday morning early, peremptory orders
were given to get ready to leave at once.
We were in very poor condition for marching,
considering our almost starving condition
for the past 7 days. Nevertheless, orders must
be obeyed, & besides, our safety appeared to
depend upon a retrograde movement. From
reports in camp, we learned that Humphrey
Marshall with 3000 men had taken Princeton
on the 16th, three companies of the 34th
having fought & kept him back for several
hours, not without severe loss. A provision
train, well laden, & our only hope of
replenishing our haversacks & stomachs for
several days, narrowly escaped capture. Gen.
Cox with the 2nd Brigade preceded us last night,
and today cleared the enemy out of town after
severe fighting. We arrived at Princeton
about dark last evening. Here full rations
were issued for supper, and we fully
appeased our appetites, the first time in 8 days.
Our hard crackers and salty bacon were duly
appreciated, after we had so long been estranged,
and were devoured with a keen relish.
In consequence of a lack of transportation,
our tents were all left behind & destroyed,
so that we were obliged to sleep in the
open air. All lay down, fully convinced
that our next employment would embrace
some of the “stern realities of warfare,” vis: fighting,
as the enemy was in force but a little
outside of town. – After a few hours’ repose,
the troops were again on the alert. From
the movements, we all appeared to think it
certain that fighting was the order of the day.
The wagon train was moving out upon the
road, apparently seeking a position of safety in
a case of emergency, nor did we think otherwise
or dream of further retreat until Princeton had
been left far behind. It is seldom you see so
many indignant men as were to be bound today,
the state of their feelings being caused by what is
considered by most, a most inglorious and,
[transcription by Mary Roy Dawson Edwards]