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Before the Storm: The Tuttle Diary During the Stones River Campaign

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Kentucky lawyer John W. Tuttle was commissioned a lieutenant in the Federal 3rd Kentucky Infantry in the fall of 1861, one of the first regiments raised in the eastern, and heavily Unionist, part of the state. By 1862, he was promoted to captain. The 3rd Kentucky's service in the war had, thus far, consisted of heavy campaigning without combat. The regiment arrived too late on April 7, 1862 to participate in the fighting at Shiloh, and the same occurred at Perryville in October. At Stones River, however, the regiment would suffer quite the mauling near the Round Forest. Fortunately for Tuttle, he became too ill to take the field in December and was sent back to Nashville to recuperate before the start of the battle, and consequently missed the fighting. In this part one of a two part series featuring Tuttle's diary, you will see through his perspective how the Union army prepared for the campaign before it moved out of Nashville. Part of his preparation was drinking, reading, and entertainment.

Postwar image of John W. Tuttle (History of Wayne County, Kentucky)

Friday November 14: Drilled a little this morning. In the evening Capt. Bernard and I with our companies went out on picket. Smart firing on the outposts to our left.

November 15: Were relieved this morning about 8 o'clock and ordered to repair with all possible dispatch to camp as our regt. would move immediately. Arrived at camp found the brigade in line ready to move. At a few mouthfuls, joined my company to the regiment and struck out. Marched to Lebanon by a very devious route, it being about 18 miles the way we went and only 12 by the most direct route. Reached Lebanon a little before sundown. Here we met with the rest of our division. We were about half an hour too late to catch Morgan. Rested half an hour and returned to Silver Springs where we arrived about 11 p.m. Having marched 31 miles since 9 this morning and all for no purpose. Was considerably worsted by this little jaunt.

November 16: This has been a cold rainy day so I remained closely in my tent all day.

November 17: Attempted to drill this morning but we were driven in by the rain. Played euchre and seven up most of the day for fruit.

November 18: Our regiment went out on picket this morning. Being in rather bad health I did not go out.

November 19: Our division received marching orders this morning. Our Regiment was not relieved until 10 a.m. When it came in we had the tents struck, the wagons loaded, an on the road. Our regiment was rear-guard and though we marched but 8 miles we did not get into camp until 10 p,m. It rained on us all day. Encamped near the Hermitage the former residence of President Jackson.

November 20: Marched about 3 1/2 miles crossed Stone's River and encamped.

November 21: Drilled in the forenoon and spent the evening preparing for general inspection tomorrow.

November 22: The morning was devoted to the general inspection. Did some reading and writing during the evening. Made preparations to go to Nashville tomorrow.

Sunday November 23: As I would not probably been able to attend to the business I wished I did not go to the city today. Attended church this morning and heard an excellent sermon by Prof. Cooper. Spent the remainder of the day reading and writing. Tasted for the first time bug brandy.

November 24: Made preparation to go to the city this morning, but did not get off. Was unwell and stayed close in my tent all day.

November 25: Marched at 11 a.m. in the direction of Nashville. Encamped a little after dark on the Nashville and Chattanooga R.R., about 3 miles from the city. Distance traveled today about 8 miles. Was officer of the day.

November 26: Spent the day arranging camp policing ground, etc. Capt. Alexander 1st KY Cav. visited me today.

November 27: Stayed in my tent most of the day reading various works. Lt. Hardin who had previously been detailed as commander of regimental Pioneer party was ordered to report in the city with his squad of 20 men and 2 sergts. He left about sunset.

November 28: Capt. Collier and I after obtaining proper passes went to the city for the purpose of purchasing our necessary outfit for a winter campaign. Dined at the city Hotel. Returned to camp about dark.

November 29: Read novels most of the day. At night Capt. Collier, Capt. Dunlap, Lt. Tracy and I played a few hands of poker. Quit early.

Sunday November 30: Remained in camp all day doing nothing.

December 1: Spent the principal part of the morning writing a letter to Mary. Held myself in readiness to go on picket it being my turn upon the roster but our regiment was not called upon to furnish a company. A heavy skirmish took place somewhere out front today or at least I judge on from the cannonading we heard.

December 2: Was brigade officer of the day today and was busy all day attending to the duties of that position except an h our or so spent in writing to Uncle Braxton Carter. Gen. Rosecrans was to have reviewed our Division today but did not come. Each brigade was reviewed by its commandant.

December 3: After I was relieved this morning did some desultory reading until 2 p.m. when I went on picket with my company. When I was established on my post read on of Longfellow's works until bed time.

General Rosecrans addressing men of the 32nd Indiana near Murfreesboro (Library of Congress).

December 4: About 11 this morning our Division marched out to where I was on picket and formed for review. About 2 p.m. salvoes of artillery announced the arrival of General Rosecrans. He rode slowly along in front of the line and then through the opened ranks carefully examining the condition of the soldiers, asking questions, giving advice and doing the agreeable generally to perfection. Quite a brilliant staff followed him and with them a young lady who I am informed was his daughter. Inspection ended he took his position upon an eminence and the Division marched in review before him. In consequence of the review I was not relieved until after dark.

December 5: A violent snow storm came up this morning and continued until noon. The snow did cover the ground more than an inch deep, but the day has been so raw and blistering as to keep me closely within doors. Read a novel most of the day.

December 6: Spent the day reading novels and such other idle pursuits as my fancy suggested. My company wagon and teamster Lewis Bailey while out on a foraging expedition today were captured by the rebels. Capt. Taylor also lost his wagon and team and three men: Ruben Razor, Peter Bouger, and Tommy Winfry. The rest of the party arrived safely in camp a little after dark.

Sunday December 7: Was mistaken in estimating yesterday's disaster. Shelby Coffey and Ruben Pierce of my company and three or four others, belonging to companies A, C, and D were also captured. Bailey is reported killed. Read a little today and lounged the remainder of the time. Col. W.T. Scott's resignation was accepted today. In the absence of Lt. Col Mckee and Maj. Spencer, Captain Taylor is in command of the regiment.

December 8: Spent the day in masterly inactivity. At night a meeting of the line officers of this regiment was held in my tent at which resolutions were passed expressive of the sentiments with which we viewed the departure of our late Colonel. At the same meeting Capt. Taylor was recommended for Lt. Col. over Maj. Spencer.


Part two of this series will offer readers a different perspective on the Battle of Stones River, that of an officer stuck in Nashville desperately trying to get back to his men after news of the battle reached the city.


Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released in Spring 2023. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.

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