None of the available diarists or letter writers of the 13th Mississippi recorded their experiences of what it was like traveling home on furlough and back to the army.
But Private Robert A. Moore, a diarist of the Confederate Guards, of the brigade’s 17th Mississippi Regiment, did.
Moore left Fredricksburg at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, 1863, for Richmond in the company of several others, including Gen. Lee.
“Arrived at this place at 5 P.M. Have gotten transportation & passport – & will leave at 5 P.M. to-morrow.”
He left the city on Friday, March 13, but only got six miles before his train derailed.
“The cars ran off the tracks and tore everything to pieces,” he wrote on Saturday. “Only one severly wounded. Were brought back to Richmond at 101/2 P.M. & will try it again this evening.”
The second trip was successful. He reached Lynchburg, southwest of Richmond, at dawn on Sunday.
“…had to lie over all day, having failed to make connexion with the V[irginia] & T[ennesse] R.R. Very slow getting home. Have atttended church to-day. Lynchburg is a very old and dilapidated looking city, a fit dwelling place for free negroes only.”
It took him all day Monday to travel 204 miles aboard a “very much crowded” train south to Bristol, Tennessee and another full day’s ride southwest on Tuesday to reach Knoxville.
Moore left the next morning for Dalton, Georgia, via Chattanooga. From Dalton he had another long ride to Atlanta to make a connection to West Point, Georgia, and on to Montgomery, Alabama.
At Montgomery, on Thursday, March 20, he booked passage on the steamboat Southern Republic westward on the winding Alabama River to Selma and thence south to Mobile on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a long, circuitous route to Meridian, Mississippi, but there was no train connection for him between Montgomery and Meridian.
“As the boat steamed out we had some as fine music on the steam calipso [calliope] on board the boat as I ever listened to. [Below Selma they] tied up for the night as the boat has run into the woods & torn off the gambling room. Some were very much alarmed.”
Heavy rain accompanied him to Mobile and the boat swept through extensive flooding on both sides of the Alabama.
“The river is very high & the whole country is covered with water as far as the eye can reach. Some of the inhabitants are waving to have us land & take them on board but it is impossible.”
He made a train connection at Mobile, rode northwest through Meridian and reached Jackson to the west on Monday, March 24 on the worst railroad “I ever saw in my travels.”
The roadbed north to Water Valley (where he stayed overnight on Tuesday with friends) was better, but he was on foot on Wednesday. He walked thirty miles to Abbeville, feeling “very much fatigued indeed. Had no idea of walking so far when I started. The Yankees have taken nearly all of the horses out of the country.”
He still had twenty miles to go from Abbeville to Holly Springs and another eight miles beyond that to get home, which he finally reached at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 27—after sixteen tiring days of travel.
“I can see but little change. Everything looks very near as it did two years ago. Feel very much wearied.”
Moore must have been very busy over the next three weeks, seeing friends and family and discovering what the Union army’s invasion of the state had caused, for he made no more diary entries until he departed for Virginia on Thursday, April 16.
“Left home, relatives & friends this morning and know not when I shall meet them again. Were it not for hope how dark would look the future. The weather has been very hot.”
He apparently was again afoot, crossing the Tallahatchie River on Friday, passing through Oxford and finally reaching Water Valley on Saturday.
“Passed through Oxford, find that the place has been very much damaged by the Yankees. What a curse is war upon any nation. Weather very hot.”
He rode the train south to Jackson, discouraged by the news from his fellow passengers that Rebel forces at Vicksburg had been unable to stop the passage of Union gunboats and troop transports below it on the Mississippi River.
He rode another train, which had few other passengers, to Meridian and was able to forgo the lengthy ride to Mobile and up the Alabama River by steamboat by catching another train at Meridian direct to Selma, Alabama, where he arrived on Monday.
He spent Tuesday, April 21, in Selma, noticing “several government works here & others are being erected.” Selma was one of the few towns in the Confederacy where heavy cannon were made and there were also powder mills and arsenals.
He missed the train but “made connections with the omnibus [stagecoach],” arriving at Montgomery at dawn on Wednesday, the 22nd.
Moore was making much better time on his return trip so he spent the day “very pleasantly strolling over the city….Montgomery is elegantly shaded by various kinds of trees.”
He reached Atlanta near dawn on the 23rd and left immediately for Dalton, Georgia where he had a six hour layover before proceeding on well after midnight. He was back in Bristol, on the Tennessee-Virginia state lines, by 11 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 1863. He was in Richmond again a few hours before dawn on Sunday and had “to lie over” for the day.
But he was back with the Confederate Guards in Fredericksburg on Monday, April 27, picking up where he left off, after twelve days of travel, on provost guard duty: “I am very glad to see the boys again…Feel much wearied.”