Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill recorded that the 13th Regiment and the rest of Humphreys’ Brigade left Columbia, South Carolina at 8 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1863.
They traveled 130 miles, crossing the Savannah River and arrived at Augusta, Georgia about 11 p.m.
They left Augusta at 1 p.m. the next day, a clear and warm Wednesday. They rode 170 miles on the Georgia State Railroad, arriving in Atlanta, at sunrise on the 17th. After a layover of a few hours, they changed trains and headed north on the Western & Atlanta Railroad, for another 120 miles, arriving at Dalton, Georgia at 2 a.m. on Friday, the 18th.
The brigade continued on, finally arriving at their unloading point, according to independent historian Shelby Foote “four miles short of Ringgold and 965 circuitous miles” from where they began in Virginia. They marched to a bivouac a few miles east of Ringgold.
They were without their division commander for, as Foote wrote in his three-volume history of the war, General McLaws “was charged with hurrying the last infantry elements northward from Atlanta.” Indeed, McLaws was trying to stop Longstreet’s Georgia troops from dispersing.
“…my room has literally been besieged by applicants for leave of absence,” McLaws wrote his wife Sept. 19 from his Atlanta hotel room, “if but for one day, for husbands or sons to visit their parents & families, all of which I have had to refuse—many men I am sorry to say have gone off without permission, all of them however to return in a day or two. So I am told and sincerely hope.”
Meanwhile, Humphreys Brigade was to be paired with General Joseph Brevard Kershaw’s single brigade, in a light division commanded by Kershaw, whose date-of-rank was older.
Hill stayed in Dalton and spent the day with his brother Gus. He finally found the 13th regiment at 5 p.m. “at the first burnt bridge at Chickamauga Creek in Catoosa County.”
17th Regiment diarist Robert A. Moore, meanwhile, had left Columbia, South Carolina, “on the mail train at 6 a.m.” on the 16th to catch up with the brigade. He got to Augusta about sunset.
“This is a very beautiful city,” Moore wrote in his diary. “The ladies at Orangeburg & other places on our route to-day were very kind.”
He arrived in Atlanta about sunrise on Thursday, catching another train at 11 a.m. northeast to Marietta, Georgia. There he was surprised at what he found.
“Have been lying over here for some time waiting for the trains from above [i.e. farther northwest],” he recorded. “This town contains a great many exiles & refugees. There are a good many sick here.”
Moore finally caught a train ride to Dalton, arriving “sometime during the night” after midnight on Friday, the 18th. He stayed there until about 10 a.m. when he caught a ride to the brigade’s bivouac near Ringgold “which is as far as the cars run.”
“Are cooking up 1 days [sic] rations,” Moore added. “Cannonading in front all evening, suppose the cavalry are skirmishing.”
That night, Humphreys Brigade, including the 13th, 17th, 18th and 21st Mississippi regiments, rested in their bivouac a mile or so east of the railhead at Ringgold, listening to the sounds of battle in the west. Knowing they would be in it before long.