View Full Version : Fort Negley Account

08-27-2008, 04:39 PM
Find below, extracts from the Diary of Sgt John H. Ferguson, of the 10 Illinois Infantry. The extracts are form his journal which unfortunately is not in publication. it is however in microfische form at the Tennessee State Archives, microfilm No. 1744.

(See the Events folder for the Fort Negley LH event, 7-9 Nov. 2008)

John Hill Ferguson (1829-1910)
Born in Newton-Stewart, Scotland, in Dumphrieshire, one of at least 5 brothers and 2 sisters
Emigrated to the Unites States in 1840 with several of his siblings, his parents and at least 1 sibling remained in Scotland
First lived in Morristown, New Jersey, but eventually moved to Clark County, Illinois and became a U.S. citizen in 1856, worked as a farmer and single
Enlisted in Union Army in fall of 1861 at age of 33, belonged to 10th Illinois Infantry, Company G, quickly obtained rank of Sergeant and mustered out as second lieutenant.
Stationed in Nashville from Sept. 1862 to July 1863
After the war he married Jan Coryell Rogers and had one daughter, lived in Hutsonville, Illinois and worked as a farmer for the rest of his life

Sept 19, 1862- Visited the graveyard [Nashville City Cemetery] and took mention of a few noted names and monuments. Visited the family burying ground of Felix K. Zolicoffer, fell at Mill Springs, he was considered a noble rebel General. He lay beside his wife. No strong marker yet marked his head. His wife died in ’57. She had a splendid monument at her head and around the small family burying ground was a very fancy and costly iron fence. We also visited Robert Baxter’s monument. He was born 1785 aged 65 years. His monument is one of the largest in Nashville’s burying ground. Whether it was his wealth or his standing that caused this monument to be erected I cannot tell. Also visited the graves of General William Carroll and Felix Grundy

Sept 20, 1862- Our regiment went out on picket. We had no sugar or coffee along for the reason we have not drawed any for a week. There is none to be found. We dine on sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, beans, and beef. We do not starve in a rebel country.

Sept 22, 1862- Went out on a foraging expedition accompanied with parts of the 22nd, 60th, and 51st regiment with about 150 army wagons. We went east about 12 miles on the Lebanon Turnpike road. We crossed Mill Creek about 3 miles from town. We left one company there to guard the bridge until we returned. About 5 miles from town we crossed Stones River. It has a splendid bridge over it about 200 yards in length. It is double-tracked and roofed over like a barn and weather boarded up the sides. We also left a company there to guard it. One mile from this river we passed through a little loading town. About a mile east of that place was a rebel camp. We expected a little fight there but they had gotten wind of our coming time enough to pull stakes and get out of the way. We continued our course unmolested until we got 12 miles from Nashville where our guide led us up to a large planter’s house where there was plenty of corn, oats, and hay. Although they were on different parts of the farm, the teams were loaded. 70 wagons I counted loaded with oats and hay, all the rest were loaded with corn. The gent from which we took our supplies was a captain in the Secesh army and had raised 2 companies in that neighborhood. The lady had a fine dinner set for part of the guerrilla squad camped near there, but our unexpected visit spoiled their dinner. Our boys went into the house before there could be a guard placed at the house and ate up the dinner and the bread and meat in the house. Then went to catching chickens. The daughter, a young and handsome girl, when she heard a chicken squawk raised up from her feet and saw. She wanted to see a Yankee catch a chicken, but before we left she had lots of chances for I do not believe there was a duck, goose, or chicken left on the place. The wagons were soon all loaded by the darkies and strung out on the road ready to move towards Nashville. The darkies on the place told us there were lots of rebels in the woods. As soon as we would go away they would be back to the house. We told them if they did they would not find dinner ready! The country along on that road appears to be a good country. It is nearly all in cultivation. It has all been timberland. The water is not good on that road as the springs taste of sulpher and where there is a stream the sulpher lays bedded in the bottom. We got back to camp a little after sun down.

September 28, 1862- Five companies went on picket. Left camp half past 6 p.m. We could see rebel pickets out within ¾ a mile of our picket. Some of the boys went out to a sweet potato patch and outside of our pickets the rebels mounted their horses and tried to ride around and cut them off from getting back, as they had no guns they thought to take them prisoners, but the boys knew their intensions and run like race horses. By starting in time they saved themselves from falling into the hands of the enemy. We did not think there was any force of rebels out there and supposed it to be a squad of guerrillas. Along towards evening a flag of truce came in to General Negley demanding an immediate surrender of the town. Rebel General Samuel Anderson [who is now buried in the city cemetery] only grants 24 hours to surrender the town or to get out. Our pickets are strengthened; our right wing stays in the fort in case of an attack. General Negley sent back word for them to come on. They will find us ready. That we would give them the best turn in the wheel. Rebel General Anderson reports his forces at 30,000. They have no more than they need to take this place. They will have a tough time. Work is carried on at the fort all night. Our regiment is to take possession in the fort would we be attacked. Once we get in we defy all Jeff Davises forces to put us out.

September 30, 1862- We came into camp from the fort as soon as it was day. We had monthly inspection at 10:00. The day is very warm and nights cool. Work is going on at the fort night and day. There are over 1000 Negroes to work on the fort and blasting rock. It will be the best fort when completed that can be got up! Times are rather hard with us here now. We do not get much over half rations of bread and a little beef is all we have. No coffee, tea, or sugar. No pork of any kind. The report of the rebel forces is not as large as General Anderson reported when he wanted a surrender of the town. From the best authority that I can get, Gen Anderson has only 3000 infantry and 600 cavalry. We will have to go out and take them in or make them skedaddle so we can go out foraging and have something more to eat.

October 6, 1862- We went out on picket at 6 this morning. We had no rations of any kind to take along. Only bread alone. We have had no meat of any kind for nearly a week. Coffee and sugar is played out long ago and everything else that we used to draw. When on picket we fair a little better. We had about 200 hogs killed and cleaned before dinner and plenty of sweet potatoes and cabbage. Company B of our regiment have stood picket on our left. Sent out 7 or 8 of the boys to a potato patch about ¾ mile out in advance of the pickets. While digging potatoes a body of guerrillas 125 strong charged on them hollering to them to surrender. It happened so that they were close to a fence amongst the rebels raising a cloud of smoke that hid them from the advancing enemy until they got a good ways off. The enemy kept firing after them but luckily done no harm. Some of the balls passed over where we were. We fell in our company quickly around an orchard fence, but before we go there they were gone. We could hear the horses feet just letting down to it and seen the dust raise like a cloud of smoke. It is believed that Company B killed one and 2 of them were wounded. We were told this by some Negroes that saw them.

October 16, 1862- After breakfast went through the most important parts of the town. We visited an old gentleman’s house to see his gold and silver fish. The first thing that drawed our attention was two lions that were cast iron and looked as natural as if alive. One sat on each side of his front door or porch. Then along the side of a graveled path stood a large Newfoundland dog of full size and looked as natural as life. A little further along was a very fancy greyhound laying down on his hind legs with his fore legs stretched out in front of him. He had his neck stretched up and his head fixed as if he was looking at something while we were taking particular notice of these things. The old gentleman came out. He was a very friendly old man. He told us to come along and see his fish. The first we seen were in a large stone basin about 12 feet wide and 4 or 5 feet deep. It was supplied with water from the reservoir. One pipe feeding the water in and another letting it out. The basin first got so full and no fuller then he took us to another he had for fish. It was a large glass tank about 4 feet long and 3 feet wide and 3 high with an iron bottom with gravel stones and some oyster shells laying in the bottom. This tank stood about 3 feet from the ground. The top of the tank was covered with fine wire; worked like the bottom of a fiddle; the pipe supplying the vat with water forced the water up into a glass globe on top of the vat. Then the water run back into the vat. Another larger pipe stood up within 2 inches of the top. The water rose that high and no higher. The fish were shaped like a sunfish only the gold fish were yellow and glistened when they would move around in the clear water. The silver fish were about the same shape and size only they were off the color and glistened like silver. They were from the size of a minnow up to half a pound. Where this vat was placed was inside of a nice summer house with seats all around it at each side of the door. On the inside was a woman cut out of marble her hair hanging down over her shoulders. Her shoulders and breasts was apparently bare with the form of a white sheet draped around this lady. On the outside of the door stood a little darky holding a key out in his hand. He resembled the works of nature as much as anything I ever saw. From there we went to the state prison. The clerk in the office took us all through where the prisoners were to work. The State prison occupies a whole block. There is a stonewall all around on three sides about 15 feet high. Inside of this wall there is a 2 story building that extends all around the three sides. Upon the upper story wood work of all kinds was carried on. Also tailoring and stove making on the lower story. Blacksmithing and hewing and dressing freestone and marble was carried on and a variety of other employments. Everyone seemed to be hard at work. The front side was the jail; 3 stories high with large iron doors and dark cells. That was where murderers were kept in close confinement. It is mostly filled at the present time with Secesh prisoners. After having a good view of this place we went back up town and visited the grave of President James K. Polk. He is buried inside of a house lot in front of a large house, I suppose the house he lived in when he died. The monument over his grave was small but very nice. It was supported on 4 pillars.

October 17, 1862- We lay in camp all day. The weather is fine and pleasant. I did some washing in the forenoon. In the afternoon we had orders to have company drill. At 3:00 the orders were countermanded and orders given to clean the side hill behind the fort so as to be ready to move our tents to that place where we will be convenient to the fort as we have to take turns about with the right wing in guarding the fort at nights. We have to take our possession in the fort in time of action. Our officers say they expect to be attacked at any hour.

October 18, 1862- Still pleasant and warm. Our company was in the fort last night. There was great excitement among the officers. Last night they expected to be attacked. Our spy says there is 8000 rebel cavalry within 5 miles to town and some infantry. He did not learn how many, but he saw several batteries of artillery. The work in the fort was carried on all night. A telegraph wire was put up after night from the fort to General Negley’s headquarters and branches running to General Morgan’s headquarters telegraph was carried on all night. They got it all ready for operation before day. We had orders at 3:00 to get up and for every man to remain inside of the fort with all his equipments on until they received further orders. At 5:00, we heard firing amongst the pickets. We expected the war coming, but the firing only lasted a short time.

We learned afterwards that a squad of about 40 rebel cavalry passed through our lines. Our pickets supposed it was our cavalry as some of our cavalry had just passed through a few minutes before it was dark at the time and pretty hard to tell by the color of the clothes. After they were through some distance, our men suspected it was the enemy and hollered, “Who are you?” The enemy for the first time found where they were. They replied by firing on our pickets. Our regiment were on picket a little to the right road. They double quicked it to cut off the rebel retreat. The enemy being mounted made good head way. Our boys gave them one good volley. Killed one and wounded several. There was none of our men hurt. About 7:00 we got leave to go to camp and get breakfast and return immediately, but when breakfast was over, we had other orders to move our tents and tent equipment to the side hill next to the fort. That has been the work of the day. The work on the fort is carried on rapidly. Today all the Negroes in town, barbers and all are pressed in to work on the fort and all citizens are pressed in to work with their teams both in town and country. All the regimental teams are employed to work hauling timber and rock and such like there has been a great deal of cotton hauled into town today to use for breastworks in the streets. The ends of all the street are fortified with cotton. The 4 right companies of our regiment put their tents inside of the fort today. We will be relieved from guarding it anymore at night.

November 2, 1862- Company B was arrested and taken before General Negley for taking 7 sacks of sweet potatoes from an old secesh lady and abusing her also. Someone of the company kicked her because she threatened them with the aid of the rebels.

November 4, 1862- This morning cold with white frost. The day pleasant and warm. Report just came in that Rosecrans has engaged rooms in the Saint Cloud hotel and will be hear tomorrow with 30,000 men. His advance guard is expected tonight. It is reported in the Nashville Union that the telegraph will be in operation between Nashville and Evansville by the middle of the week if so we may live in hopes of getting some mail yet and also something to eat besides hard crackers that is so full of worms that they can not lay still. But as we get little meat probably worms are better than none. The officer of the day reported to us after night that one division had got in with Rosecrans advance guard also that a heavy mail had arrived for our division. The boys are all in good spirits expecting to hear from home as soon as the return to camp.

November 6, 1862- This is the coldest morning we have had this season. Large 64 pound cannon are placed in different places along the breastworks. Several large stone houses are blowed down today in town in order to full view across the river from the fort. Learned today that the citizens in Edgefield, a little town across the river where the 16th and 60th Illinois were camped, fired on our men in the streets. When they were attacked by the enemy, the 16th surrounded the houses that they were fired on from and set fire to them and killed five citizens that came out of one when it got too hot inside for them to stay. I heard also that they killed 7 in another house. They shot 3 of our men dead in the streets. This will probably be a lesson to them.

November 19, 1862- We had orders after breakfast to get ready to move from the fort. So we got our things packed up and moved down to the foot of the hill on the west side to guard a large camp of about 2000 contrabands. We have to be on duty every other day. It takes nearly all of our company. Our company officers are quartered in a large brick house. I think they will do fine. We pitched our tents in snow and mud not over 6 or 8 inches deep. Our company was detailed for guard. Lieutenant Wilson was officer of the guard. I was sergeant. Along in the afternoon I chanced to go up into a large hall where I beheld for the first time in my life an overseer over the Negros- flogging a great big darkey. The darky lay on his belly across a chest with his head hanging over on the side next to the whipper his coat was pulled up to his shoulders. He lay and took upwards of 100 lashes with a black whip. The darkey never said a word. He would only raise his head once in a while and look up. The whipper would turn the butt end of the whip and strike him on the head and damn him to keep his head down. I had no opportunity of seeing his back after the flogging, but his head was cut in different places with the butt of the whip. I thought it rather severe after the darkies flying from bondage and coming to us for protection.

Description of Fort Negley in November, 1862 part of journal-
The fort is situated on a large hill about ½ mile from the center of the city. This draft shows a sketch of the foundation of the fort. Figer No. 1 is a large 64 pounder. No. 2
12 pounds No. 3-4-5-&-6 32 pounders Nos is the guns belonging to H battery. The will be replaced with 32 pounders as soon as the can be got hear. There will be a 32 pounder placed on each of these outside points. The main fort will be mounted with 164 pounders. No 15 and 16 is cisterns. The are very large and kept filled up. The are calculated to supply the regts in the fort at the time of action.
17 is a well not finished yet. The are drilling it through the solid rock by horse power. It is none abought 60 feet deep. They expect to run it down abought 200 feet. It is 5 in. wide at top. No. 18 is the only entrance into the fort. It will have a large iron gate between the walls when finished. No 19 is the entrance into the stockade. 20 and 21 is a magazine on each side of the stockade. 22,23,24,25 are sentry posts on top of the corners of the stockade. 26 of the tent wherein the telegraph operates. 27 is a large tree which supports the over the works. On the top of this tree there is a platform built. It is used as a lookout post. 28 & 29 are wings where artillery may be used. This stockade is built of large hewed timber 2 feet square set up on end about 12 feet above ground. There is a large plate on top about 2 ½ feet wide spiked down with large iron spikes so that it is perfectly solid. There is holes cut through these logs about 5 feet from the ground for infantry to shoot through. Those wings are made in the same manner so as to command the main entrances. The walls around the main fort in the out side is about 12 feet high and about
The same inside. Nos. 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 is fortifications on the side hill for infantry. They can all be all in operation at one time as the one is above the other. They are faced out on both sides with hewed rock then filled in with dirt. Some 3 or 4 feet above the walls along in the center of these walls where the numeral is placed, there is a tunnel running through under each of these walls to the main fort so that infantry can get to them or from them without exposing themselves to the enemy. These outside points are about 14 feet high on the extreme points and about 6 on the inside corners on the fort side. The fall of the hill makes the difference as the walls are about level on top. In the inside they are filled up with rock and dirt within 4 or 4 ½ feet of the top all around.

January 1, 1863- At 1:00 today we mustered for pay. Rumors of all kinds afloat today in regard to the battle still raging at Murfreesboro. In the afternoon we seen what we supposed to be a body of rebel prisoners coming in. We went across to the Murfreesboro Pike to see them and learn what new we could from the field of action in the advance. A train of wagons and ambulances came in with wounded men. Then a squad of rebel prisoners said to be 325. They were guarded by about 4 companies of the 42nd Illinois. They were a miserable set of men. They had no uniform. They were dressed in every style imaginable yet they were generally big raw boned stout men. Some seemed very well satisfied that they were taken prisoners. Some said we would get well flogged this time; that Bragg would be possession of Nashville by tomorrow night; that they would not have long to lay in prison. Some said they did not expect to spend New Years in Nashville, although they expected to be in it soon afterwards. I was more taken on with the actions of the citizens than any thing else as I thought it was a good time to judge from appearance the real feelings that existed in the people. The men generally kept in groups by themselves. When a soldier would step forward, they would be silent or change their subject. The women showed more clearly the party which they favored. Some young ladies would say “they would have turkeys prepared for Bragg and his army when he came to Nashville,” while other young ladies would crowd around us where we stood to get all the news they could in regard to the welfare of the Union Army. Some would make the remark that they were a dirty degraded set of people, but they could not expect anything better. They believed they were cursed for the cruel deeds they were guilty of. The road was lined with wounded men coming in. Some had their heads done up with their handkerchief; the ladies who were friends to the Union soldiers would walk out and inquire into the nature of their wound and how the battle was likely to go and would sympathize with the poor sufferers and would call them cowards and traitors and everything but gentlemen. They would inquire if they were hungry; if they could give them something to eat. We learned that our left wing was in Murfreesboro but could get no information in regard to which army was most likely to be victorious. We were informed that our army was reinforced by 30,000 just arrived from Kentucky. We also heard it reported that Stanley went around in the rear of the enemy and destroyed some railroad bridges which will certainly be a great injury to the rebels in recovering supplies and reinforcements. If the report is true, our pickets captured a suspicious citizen today going out to the rebels leaving in his possession a draft of Fort Negley and a letter to Bragg saying if they drive the Yankees at Murfreesboro the citizens can surprise and take Fort Negley. The man was delivered up to General Mitchell. There he was taken to the State Prison.

March 26,1863- Had dress parade and battalion drill at half past 4 pm. Part of our company and Company F volunteered to go out with the sergeant major of the contraband camp to gather up a squad of Negros. They went up town. Had some brandy pressed. Some city stage coaches road out some 3 miles. Pressed an Irish man. The Irish man was mad. Struck at the sergeant major. The sergeant major hit him a few times with the butt of his whip cutting his head up pretty badly. 3 or 4 of the boys leveled their guns and would a shot him only for the sergeant. They had to use the bayonet to force the Negros along the fortifications. Sergeant major treated the boys to the amount of 7 dollars in something to drink, tobacco, cigars, etc, and gave them a 5 dollar green back to treat themselves at another time. They brought into camp about 30 darkies to work on our fortifications.

June 1, 1863- Target shooting was practiced today from 1 to 2 by the siege guns in the fort and from the large guns at the state house, the distance nearly 2 miles.

John of the Skulkers Mess
08-28-2008, 08:20 AM
Really neat stuff!
May I ask, do you know how early in the war his diary starts? I'm always looking for 90-day/1861 stuff from Illinois soldiers.

Thanks for your time,

08-28-2008, 11:06 PM

Sorry, but I do not know when his diary starts. So far, all I have been able to acquire from his writings, is what I've posted. This came from a parks program director that is working to develop a one day, one man presentation of this soldiers accounts while serving In Nashville, and at Fort Negley specifically, so these are the parts that have been transcribed so far. (The program is scheduled for presentation at Fort Negley on 10 September of this year. It looks as though either John duffer, or I will be portraying this soldier in a post war setting, discussing his memories of service at Fort Negley)

I hope to have the opportunity to get the Sate Archives soon, and actually look at the microfiche and hopefully print out a number of pages.