How It Began
you were to say that this website began with the Battle of Stones River (or "Stone River," as
it was called then), you would be partially right. Those three terrible days from 31 December 1862 through
2 January 1863, resulted in the deaths of nearly 25,000 men--roughly
13,000 from the North and roughly 12,000 from the South. (Scholars
still quibble over the exact numbers.) When you consider that over 75,000
men stood on the battlefield when the fighting began, this means that
roughly one out of every three of those men lay dead when the battle ended.
While not the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, it was perhaps the battle with the
highest percentage of casualties (killed or wounded) of any of the major battles
of the War. This terrible carnage is made even worse by the fact that, in the end,
there was no clear winner. True, the Confederate forces pulled back, leaving the area around Nashville in Union hands once and for all. Still, the Confederates only went as far as Tullahoma, Tennessee--close enough for minor skirmishes on the outskirts of what was now Union territory. For President Lincoln, who had been
waiting for a Union victory to occur before announcing his Emancipation Proclamation, the outcome of Stones River was a reasonable facsimile. The Federals wasted no time in fortifying their position in Middle Tennessee
and the Rebels would never regain the tenuous foothold they
had had in the mid-state before Stones River. Consequently,
if this bloody battle had not occurred near Murfreesboro, TN,
population 2,861 in 1860, there might not have been a reason for several thousand soldiers (both Federal and Confederate) to go
into winter encampment in the area I would one day call home--
which is where the story really begins.
In the summer of 1983, I was a young wife and expectant first-time mother. My parents had just moved to Murfreesboro from Florida (how often do people retire to Tennessee from Florida, instead of the other way around?) and my loving husband was indulging my desire to live closer to my parents. None of us had any previous ties to Murfreesboro or Middle Tennessee, and we were eager to explore its rolling hills and local history. The road we lived on (then and now) in Eastern Rutherford County, could boast its share of both.
Early settlers to the area had made this road when they first came here in the late 1700s. Of particular importance was a point along the road that was higher than most of the surrounding country. This point became known as Pilot Knob. Rising to an elevation of over 1300 feet, Pilot Knob commanded a clear view of the area for several miles around. While not the highest point in Rutherford County, it nevertheless became an important landmark and provided a lookout for approaching danger.
A remarkable map drawn up by the Army circa 1865 showing the area along our wonderful road between Murfreesboro and points east (including Cripple Creek, Pilot Knob, Readyville, and Woodbury) can be found here:
By the early 1800s, this important road of ours was used as a stagecoach route between Murfreesboro and Knoxville, both of which had served as the capital of Tennessee before that honor finally fell to Nashville in 1826. In 1838, our road was part of the route taken by thousands of displaced Cherokee families when they were forced to leave their homes in the name of American greed--our road became part of The Trail of Tears.
During the summer before the Battle of Stones River, Confederate General
Nathan Bedford Forrest used our road in a successful cavalry raid, resulting in the tem-
porary possession of the area by the Confederates. Locals said that the sound of
Forrest's approach could be heard along the paving stones of what, by then, was a
turnpike, or toll road. After the Union occupation of the area following the Battle of
Stones River, our road provided access to Fort Transit, located on the top of Pilot Knob.
Aerial telegraphy messages (what I mistakenly called "semaphore" when I first learned of Pilot Knob's use in the War) could be easily relayed between Fort Transit and the dome of the Murfreesboro Courthouse, roughly 10 miles away. These became part of a network of Army signal stations. This method of communication was just as fast as using a regular telegraph and there were no wires that could be torn down or tampered with by the enemy. Thus, Pilot Knob and the road it sat on became even more important after the Battle of Stones River.
With the advent of modern paving techniques in the 1920s, our road was designated as part of Highway 70S. However, by the time my family moved here in the 1980s, our road saw mostly local traffic, and the interstate highways provided the main routes between
Murfreesboro and surrounding cities. Our part of the county was (and still is) outside the city limits, giving us the feel of country living with the luxury of "the big city" only a few minutes
Fast forward to 2013: We still live on our historic rural road. Our third child has now
left the nest and I will soon be retired. Santa brings me a metal detector that Christmas
and I begin to learn about my new hobby, one of the main tenets of which is to research
the area you plan to explore with your "toy". Given the rich history of our area, I felt I
had a good spot for relic hunting in our own front yard. At our local historical center,
I learned of the presence in 1863 of two nearby Union outposts. Both of these encamp-
ments had been tasked with (among other things) protecting Pilot Knob to keep it from
falling into Confederate hands. One of these outposts was in Readyville, the other along the banks of a seasonal stream called Cripple Creek. Did I mention that Cripple Creek is just a mile from our house? Suddenly, our front yard was not as exciting as the creek bed down the road.
For a few weeks, I could learn nothing more about Camp Cripple Creek. People knew it had existed where the road crosses over the creek, but where exactly? On which side of the road? On which side of the creek? How big a camp were we talking about? How many men were here? Who was stationed at Cripple Creek? Where were the men from? I began looking for clues in diaries and letters that were written from Camp Cripple Creek, many of which are available today online. I soon learned that there were about a dozen Union camps in the area around Murfreesboro after the Battle of Stones River. These would be staffed for a week or two by different regiments or detachments of regiments, tasked with reconnaisance, foraging, guarding supply trains, building fortifications, and other duties that go along with the military occupation of an area. Most of these camps saw a constantly-changing collection of soldiers who would take up temporary quarters until they were moved to the next location. However, the camps at Readyville and Cripple Creek maintained a more-or-less permanent set of soldiers who were tasked to "hold down the fort", in this case Fort Transit. An interesting aside: only one of the letters (and none of the diaries) I have come across so far actually refer to it as "Fort Transit." It was usually called "Pilot Knob" or simply "The Knob."
The regiments stationed at Camp Cripple Creek were the 31st Indiana, the 90th Ohio, and the 1st and 2nd Kentucky. During the Battle of Stones River, these four regiments of infantrymen had fought side-by-side to hold a crucial area of ground called the Round Forest. During the six months that followed the Battle, the men of these four regiments shared the cedar groves and rocky outcroppings that lined Cripple Creek. Then, as now, the Creek could be quickly swollen with melting snow and spring rains only to be reduced to a few rocky pools and muddy puddles at other times. Thus, the Creek provided a source of water for the Camp, but not one that could be counted on. These Infantry regiments would be joined by Battery B (Standart's Battery) of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. Eventually they would be joined by a detachment of two companies from the 5th Tennessee Cavalry, a regiment of Union men that were originally designated the 1st Middle Tennessee Cavalry. In all, a contingent of approximately 2,000 men would take up residence along the banks of Cripple Creek between 18 January and 24 June 1863. These men would be joined from time-to-time by men from other regiments, particularly as the time for departure on the Tullahoma Campaign drew closer. It is still very hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of so many men living in such close quarters for nearly six months!
In time, I felt like I knew some of the men of Camp Cripple Creek very well: John Chilcote of the 90th Ohio, a practical joker who "went into the dairy business" while at Cripple Creek. Sgt. William Busbey, the sensitive and gifted writer from the 1st Kentucky whose diary revealed much, both good and bad, about the men in camp. "Little Johnny" Moore, an underage soldier of the 90th Ohio, who was captured by the enemy and rescued by his comrades. Lt. George Crow, the topographical engineer whose drawing finally helped me picture how "all those men" could have possibly fit into such a small area. John Schockman, the deserter and bounty jumper who was executed by firing squad the afternoon before the camp was vacated, and Lt. Louis Hoeke whose haunting fife playing touched many a heart, even Schockman's as he marched to his death. I began to think of these men as "my guys" and I wanted some way to share their stories with others.
I started a Pinterest page for each regiment and began adding pictures or stories of the men of Cripple Creek as I came across them. When that became too unwieldly, I decided it was time to create a website to contain what I learned (and continue to learn) about my guys. And here we are.
If I haven't put you to sleep with my rambling tale so far, let me explain how this website is organized. Each regiment has a page showing things such as the battle flag, a brief regimental history, statistics about the regiment, and other interesting facts. I include on this page the Field Officers and Staff who were assigned to the regiment at any time during the existence of Camp Cripple Creek. This is followed by a page for each company within the regiment. I try to include some interesting facts about each company, including the officers assigned to the company. However my main objective is to provide a list, as complete as I can determine, of which men were present at Camp Cripple Creek at any time between 18 January and 24 June of 1863. My goal is to have a short biography and a photograph of each man. Think of this website as a kind of virtual scrapbook of Camp Cripple Creek.
I have tried to account for all of the men listed on the official muster rolls--even the ones who never saw Cripple Creek due to their having died before their regiment was posted here or because they had already been discharged or because they were in hospital or taken prisoner or deserted or simply hadn't joined the regiment yet. While I may have a short bio or even a photograph of these other men, my main emphasis is on the ones who were actually at Cripple Creek. Some of the company pages are already filled out as completely as possible, based upon genealogical sources such as Ancestry.com, Find-A-Grave, and Fold3. Some pages are little more than a list of the soldiers in a given company whose bios and photos will be added eventually. If you are seeking information on a particular man and I have yet to add his bio or picture, please check back again. Or, better yet, perhaps you could share with me what you know about the man in question. In fact, I am hoping that some of you who visit my website will be able to help me fill in some of the blanks in my information.
It has taken me almost a year to create the website for Camp Cripple Creek that you see here. If I were to wait to "launch it" until I had researched every man to the fullest extent, I fear it would never be launched. And those of you who have worked on your family's genealogy know that you can never have every blank on your family tree filled in--there will always be more that could be added to your family chart. And so it is with the men of Camp Cripple Creek--consequently, this website shall always be a "work-in-progress".
In addition to the pages for each regiment and company, I also include a page where I list Others who played a part in the lives of the men at Camp Cripple Creek--visitors to camp, men from other regiments who were assigned temporarily at Cripple Creek, even civilians who interacted with the men.
I have also included a Calendar section featuring a day-to-day account of the happenings within the camp, compiled from the men's letters, journal entries, and military reports. Mundane things like picket duty and inspections and weather reports are interspersed with special events such as the day a famous writer visited the camp. Some events, like the execution of John Schockman, are mentioned in the writings of several men. Within each calendar entry, I list any man who was celebrating his birthday on that day, giving his age, name, and unit. With so many men stationed at Cripple Creek, I would imagine that each day saw at least one man celebrating his birthday while the regiments were there. Unfortunately, for many of the men,I have yet to find the actual date of birth--only the year
You will find still more pages on my site. There is a handy-dandy Index of all the men who were at Cripple Creek. There is also a page of Frequently Asked Questions--not that I have actually been asked any questions about my website--at least, not yet. I am simply anticipating the types of questions I might be asked by inquiring minds desiring to know the answers. I have a page showing Places the men of Cripple Creek might have seen during the War. There is a Spotlight page where I will introduce you to a different soldier each month. I have a page labeled simply Etc. containing miscellaneous info regarding Cripple Creek I also have an interesting feature called Sgt. Busbey's Bookshelf. I hope you will visit all of the pages on my website.
If you have a connection to any of the men listed here and have information or pictures you would like to add, please e-mail me. Likewise if you have questions, corrections, or suggestions on how to improve the site, please let me know.
I hope you will enjoy exploring this website as much as I have enjoyed creating it!
EASTER SUNDAY 27 MARCH 2016
Ready or not, my long-awaited "baby" has been born, albeit a little sooner than I had intended. (If you hit the "Publish" button by mistake, there is no way to "un-do" it!) So, we are now "live"! Please excuse all the typos, unverified information, and other glitches. Be patient! This is still very much a "work in progress"! And check back often to see what's new.