Camp near Winchester, Tennessee, August 8, 1862

We left Tuscumbia July 26th and crossed the Tennessee river and camped near Florence and left there July 29th. The day was very hot but the soldiers held out remarkably well.

On this trip we have gone one hundred and twenty miles.

A sad thing happened to us on the trip. General McCook, who was commandant over the 9th Ohio and over our brigade, was sick when we left Tuscumbia and lay in an ambulance which was brought along and guarded by a dozen soldiers.

The 5th of August the 35th regiment was in the lead, next the 9th regiment. Between those regiments was a space of about one or two miles. In that space was the ambulance with General McCook. They were overtaken by robbers who had the intention to take them all as prisoners, but General McCook was not able to go with them on horse-back. In the wagon they could not transport him fast enough, therefore they shot him. He died the next day.

The Rebels kept one of our men who was a captain of McCook’s staff. We did not see him again, they certainly will kill him.

Our men killed two Rebels and burned up all houses over a distance of several miles. It looked like the whole country was in flames until the next day. We left as soon as McCook was dead, took him body along, and I think it was sent off on the railroad last night.

The soldiers mourn his death more than if it had been any other officer in the brigade.

Wherever we camp we have a guard over the Rebels’ property so it shall not be destroyed by our soldiers.

Often we ask the slaves, “Where is your boss?” They answer, “Back in the mountains,” and it is the truth.

Thousands of cavalry men and bandits come in to the railroad when they have a chance to take our soldiers who are on guard duty. They get the news from the farmers around here. This way they can, after a while, have taken a whole division as prisoners.

If we let the railroad go then we could hold our army closer together and take our provisions wherever we go through, but where there are no provisions naturally we would have to have the railroad.

In these states here there is plenty of everything which gives the Rebels a chance to hold an army all around us.

On our way here Col. Gorg gave us strict orders not to leave the camp when we were here, but our meals were just crackers and coffee, and we liked very much to have some meat. We went to a slave-owner and killed seven steers and heifers, a lot of pigs and sheep, and all the chickens he had. McCook was then still in command over our brigade. The slave-owner went to McCook with his troubles and demanded pay for the cattle.

McCook answered, “You have fed the Rebels long enough, now you can feed us a while.”

In the neighborhood where McCook was shot we took all we could make use of. We took three or four hundred horses and mules, a lot of slaves, all this we took without any orders from the officers. We let the slaves have some of our old clothes. We have two in our company. They help with such work as to carry water and wood.

It is said that in the 9th Ohio regiment there are nine black women in mens’ clothes.

If the soldiers got freedom to visit these states they would soon give up, but the officers are holding back.

Many of our company are out among the farmers today selling horses. If you were here you could buy a team, the regular price is ten dollars each.

This will be all for this time. I am writing, with the paper on my knee, on a hill, among small stones, in the shade, under a black oak, and am very thirsty but too lazy to walk a mile for water.

Evening by the Campfire

In the evenings it is a pleasant time
When the moon is shining so clear and fine
We smoke our pipe, and a drink in hand,
Often we sing about Dixie land.

We all talk about home and friends so fair
If it should happen that we do get there—
We ahve to start again a new life,
For here is used neither fork nor knife.

Our tooth is our knife, our fork are the five
Which we will use until at home we arrive.
The ground our seat and our bedstead too,
Here we now live as the Indians do.

Governor Ramsey to us one day came
To give his wisdom a little more fame.
Our bread was as hard as horn and lead.
We asked for new teeth, that’s all we said.

The time has run out, the drums are sounding for picket duty so I have to stop.

It is the 8th of August, 1862, by Winchester, Tennessee.

Bernt Olmanson