On February 25, 1862 Nashville, Tennessee became the first Confederate state capital to fall into Federal hands. L.K. Harris and the 36th Indiana were among the first Union troops to enter the city on that beautiful spring day.
Robert Best, a private in Company H of the 36th, wrote in a letter to his brother that the 36th “had the fun of being the first brigade landed in Nashville.” In his diary entry for February 25th, he wrote that they had “run on up to Nashville and landed where Genl. Nelson had the honor of raising the ‘stars and stripes’ on the statehouse.”
The 36th had left their camp eleven days earlier on Friday, February 14th–a cold, snowy morning. They marched hard thinking they were perhaps bound for Louisville. When they stopped for the night, the wagon train had fallen behind and there were no tents. They slept exposed in the cold.
The next day, Saturday, February 15th was filled with yet more marching, during which the wagon train caught up with the tired soldiers. Best wrote in his diary, “after a weary days march pitched our tents on the snow in an open field and made ourselves as miserable as possible. weather cold.”
After one more day’s hard marching, they boarded the steamer Woodford on Monday the 17th and steamed out into the Ohio River “ready for a forced march of a different kind from that which we had just experienced.”
The Woodford joined eighteen other transports in steaming up the Ohio and down the Cumberland toward Nashville. Colonel Grose wrote after the war:
these waters were very high, all the valleys along the same being innundated. Frequently the steamers would for a shorter route leave the main channel and pass over farms, and by houses with the first story filled with water and the family in the upper, with their boats cabled to the building. The Woodford, in the advance, reached the landing at Nashville February 25, closely followed by the Diana, with the 6th Ohio, General Nelson and staff. The 36th Indiana and 6th Ohio were the first Federal troops that entered the city, driving out the few remaining rebel cavalry. General Nelson advanced to the State-house with the 6th Ohio and raised the stars and stripes thereon. The 36th Indiana advanced through the city by the court-house square and Main street, the rebel cavalry retiring before it at a respectable distance.
According to Best, the 36th “laid in the city until evening” when they “moved out about 1/2 mile and camped [and] laid on our guns most of the night on account of firing by our pickets.”
Bull Nelson situated his camp on the Murfreesboro Pike just outside of Nashville, and he called it Camp Andrew Jackson after his military hero. Here the 36th would stay for several weeks. Here, on March 1st, L.K. Harris was promoted to First Lieutenant.
General Nelson had the greatest respect for Andrew Jackson. On March 12th, Jackson’s ninety-fifth birthday, Nelson led his men on an 11-mile march to visit the former President’s home and final resting place. After a few hours of walking around the property and remembering Andrew Jackson, the soldiers marched the eleven miles back to their camp. Robert Best reported that they “reached home a short time after dark, tired, but not regretting the march for what was to be seen.”
Little did these soldiers know that in just a few weeks they would march to Shiloh where they would take part in a battle that one of their own said “will be long remembered as one of the hardest days fighting in this whole War.”
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Robert Best’s diary is at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.
Robert Best’s letters are found at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.
To see Maurice William’s letter to his brother see the American Heritage Center site.