"a right smart of sickness" - A Last Letter From Mill Springs


Andrew M. Aston

Andrew M. Aston was a thirty-four year old living in Marion County, Alabama when the Civil War erupted. In August of 1861 he joined, as a second lieutenant, Company K of the Sixteenth Alabama Infantry, which was organizing in Courtland under the command of Colonel William B. Wood. The Sixteenth joined Felix Zollicoffer's command after the battle at Wild Cat Mountain, and moved with Zollicoffer to a place along the Cumberland River called Mill Springs. On January 18th the Sixteenth, part of Brigadier General William H. Carroll's brigade, was encamped on the north side of the Cumberland at what was known as Beech Grove, where Aston penned this letter to his wife back home in Alabama.



Mills Springs, Ky. Jan. 18, 1862 Dear Mrs. Manurva Aston, It is with great pleasure that I can inform you that I and Bob are in good health yet and trust God at the reception of these lines you and family will be in good health. Bob received a letter last night that bore the date of the 3rd of this instant from Hugh that stated that you were all well, which gave me much satisfaction. It was the first letter we had received in six weeks from any of you.[1] Hugh wrote to Bob that he was coming to the war. I want you to tell him that I want him to stay right there with you until I come home as he promised to do and then if we can make any other arrangements he can come then. I am going to come home some time in next month if I can possibly get off and I sort o' think I can. We can't start here and go home any time we want to go. Manurva, you may be sure that I would be glad to come home to see you and the children, altho' I have stood it first rate, so far. If the boats would start to running up here regular I think there would be a chance to get to go home at most any time. I have no more news to write to you that would interest you at all. I suppose you have heard that we have had a big fight at Montasilo. That is all a mistake. We have not had a one yet and I don't think we will have one this winter unless it is by the Pickets.[2] There is a right smart of sickness here amongst the boys. Tell Thomas Berryhill that Bob has the fever, but I don't think very dangerous. Also Parker Spann has it, Sam Harris and John Gann, tho' the most of them are on the mend. There are some others complaining but not down. Of our neighbors boys tell their parents that I will do all I can for the boys. I don't think any of them are dangerous.[3] Give my respects to all of the friends and reserve a good portion for yourself. Write soon to me. I must close for breakfast is ready, so farewell, my dear, for this time. A. M. Aston



Early the next morning Aston, along with his comrades of the Sixteenth, was marching along the Mill Springs Road, heading north towards what was thought an enemy force about a third of their size, located near Logan's Crossroads. The skies were darkened with a heavy mist, and this ever present moisture would cause many of the Confederate weapons to malfunction, considering that many were carrying flintlocks.

Carroll's Brigade was behind Zollicoffer's during the movement to what would become the battlefield, and hence the Sixteenth Alabama took on mostly a reserve role early in the battle, positioned on the heights south of current Zollicoffer Park. Later in the morning, near 11:00 a.m., as elements of Zollicoffer's brigade were retreating along both sides of the Mill Springs Road, the Sixteenth advanced from their reserve position and faced the Second Minnesota Infantry. The regiment also took some oblique fire from a portion of the Tenth Indiana. It was most likely in this action that Andrew Aston was killed, in this, his first battle.


Buried in the Zollicoffer Park Confederate Cemetery is Andrew M. Aston, along with nearly three hundred of his brothers-in-arms. Destined to never see Alabama or his family again, he rests in the row farthest south, along the fenceline.


At home in Alabama was Manurva, now a widow, with two children to raise, twelve year-old John Thomas and nine year-old Martha Jane. A third child, Isabella, had died on March 24th, 1861, which could explain why Andrew did not join the Confederate army until later that summer.

Notes

[1] Sergeant Robert A. Morton, also of Company K.

[2] Monticello, Kentucky.

[3] Privates Parker M. R. Spann, Samuel W. Harris, and John Gann.

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