26th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, page 2.
The War Continues
In November the Regiment was moved from Owensboro to Calhoun and was on duty until February 1862. It was attached to the 14th Brigade, Army of Ohio, General Don Carlos Buell.
On December 1 Captain Netter received orders to burn the bridge over the Whippoorwill Creek at Fulkerson’s Station on the Russellville and Clarksville Railroad, seven miles southeast of Russellville and eight miles from Calhoun. Captain Netter took eleven men from his company, ten privates from Company A, and eight privates a first and fifth sergeants and a Second Lieutenant from Company E. The thirty-three men march for three days to the bridge, arriving about 4:00 AM in the morning. They had marched over 200 miles of which 100 were in enemy held territory. After a brief fight, they burned the bridge to ashes.
In his report, Captain Netter wrote, "I surrounded the Rebels that guarded the bridge, forced them to surrender after a short but severe little fight. Five of my men received slight wounds…" (In his report Netter lists the name of all five men. No information on Hampton or Ward.) Netter’s report continued, "The guard of the bridge numbered twelve men, one of whom escaped; two were killed and one mortally wounded and eight were brought with us to camp and delivered up to Colonel Burbridge on December 8 in camp here. They [the Rebels] belong to Colonel Thomas (Hart) Hunt’s (formerly of Louisville, Kentucky) Regiment of the so-called Southern Confederacy. They behaved well during and after the fight. The men that were with me were all of Colonel Burbridge’s Regiment and acted well and nobly, both on the march and in the fight."
During this period, Confederate Lt. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forest and his cavalry attacked a battalion of the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. When this occurred the 26th was marched rapidly to the scene of action , arriving about midnight. The Regiment gathered up the bodies of five men killed, which were buried.
It was in January, while at camp at Calhoun, that William Hampton suffered his first epileptic seizure. After the war, Thomas J. Ward gave an affidavit that William was injured in the first engagement in which he fought. We do not know if all the exhaustive marching brought on the seizures or if he was struck in the head during the initial fighting. Indications are he was wounded either fighting Netter’s Mississippi cavalry or later. We know it was not at the bridge. Wherever it was it was his first and only combat in the war.
After his first epileptic attack, William’s brother-in-law, Thomas Ward, took care of him for two days, then the doctor, J. R. Baily, sent him to a private home to rest. William began to have seizures regularly. Consequently, he was never permitted to take part in battle again. William would serve the rest of the war as company cook, or as a cook for the officer’s mess, or as a hospital cook in Bowling Green.
While William was recovering, the Regiment, with Thomas Ward and the rest of the division, left Calhoun without him. It would be almost three months before William would rejoin his friends and be sworn into Federal service.
The Regiment arrived at South Carrollton on the south side of the Green River about 100-120 miles from its mouth. While encamped, General Buell ordered that both Company A and B of the Regiment give its 200 Colt revolving rifles to Colonel Jackson’s cavalry. Inferior Enfield rifles replaced the Colt rifles. This was were much resented by the men. The taking of the good rifles and replacing them with inferior one created much dissatisfaction because they had done good fighting with the Colts. All felt this had lessened the efficiency of the Regiment. General Buell was not a popular army commanding general with these men.
On February 16, 1862, the Regiment received orders to move which they met with great cheering. They marched to Owensboro, Kentucky where the citizens them a hearty welcome, but the most encouraging of all, "…was to see the fair damsels saluting us from every door and window with smiles of approbation and sympathy."
The Regiment was put on board the steamers Lady Franklin and Madison. An eight-vessel fleet set sail down the Ohio River to Smithland, Kentucky. On February 19 the Regiment was ordered back to the Green River, but upon arriving at Evansville, Indiana the orders were countermanded. They went back to and arrived at Paducah. On the 26th, the Regiment was ordered to sail up the Cumberland River. They reached Nashville, Tennessee on the evening of the 25th. The next day they went into camp three miles south of Nashville on the Murfreesboro Road. The Regiment was in the 14th Brigade, 5th Division, Army of Ohio. The health of the Regiment was reported to be the worst than ever before.
The Regiment was officially mustered into Federal service at Nashville, Tennessee on March 5, 1862, however, William was absent. By mid March, William Hampton had rejoined his Regiment, but he would not be mustered into Federal service until May 7, 1862 at Corinth, Mississippi. Upon returning, William was made Company cook and would not be permitted to fight. While the rest of the Regiment marched every where it went, William rode the wagons with the cooking equipment, and the stores and supplies.
The Regiment, on March 28, began moving to southwest Tennessee. The 26th was brigaded with the 11th Kentucky Infantry and the 13th Ohio Infantry in Crittenden’s division of Buell’s army. They moved to Pittsburgh Landing, arriving the night of the first day’s fighting at Shiloh Church on April 5, 1862, known as the Battle of Shiloh. The gunboats were "throwing bombs" at the Rebels. The Regiment crossed the river and marched up the hill in line and rested in mud and rain. They soon began to receive reports of that day’s fighting. The Rebels had been very successful with many killed and hurt. The men began to realize the danger they faced and that they ware a part of something bigger than themselves. Everything they had experienced so far was only a sideshow. This was not fun. This was serious and they knew it.
Small groups of messmates began gather and talk in low voices. Most were quite. Some began to pray, and some wrote letters so they could be identified if killed. Thomas Ward began to read the Bible aloud to his follow soldiers and he led them prayer. (After the battle the next day, Thomas Ward would become a chaplain to the entire Regiment.) After awhile the men began to lay down to rest, but sleep did not come to most of them. Thy though on the morrow. At daylight they made coffee and soon went into the battle and became engaged in heavy fighting.
The brigade commander wrote in his report that they were bivouacked on a hill the night they arrived. The next morning at 6 o’clock a.m. they moved on a prolongation of Nelson’s line, and were promptly and most hotly engaged. During the day they resisted attacks and made charges, fighting steadily for hours, and on the hole, pushing the enemy. The brigade commander compliments the conduct of the 26th Kentucky. All "bore themselves as true soldiers and officers through the dangers of the day." He also mentions the gallant conduct of several captains, including Captain Belt of Company A, Netter of company B, who was wounded, and Nattingly of Company C.
Sixty were wounded and seven were killed including Maj. John Davidson, "who behaved with the most undaunted bravery, and was killed instantly on the field while cheering the men in the charge." In this battle and thereafter, Lt. Colonel Cicero Maxwell commanded the Regiment.
The Regiment, under Lt. Colonel Maxwell, marched from Poplar Grove, Tennessee to Savannah, Tennessee, where they embarked on transports for Pittsburgh Landing and arrived there at midnight, Sunday, April 6. They took part in the battle on the second day, Monday, April 7, losing several officers killed and wounded and a large number of enlisted men.
After the battle the Regiment moved with the Army to Corinth, Mississippi, where they took part in the siege during April and May. While reconnoitering before Corinth, six Company B men under Captain Netter put to flight a company of Confederates. Two of Union men were wounded.
On May 30, the Confederates evacuate Corinth.
The 11th and 26th Kentucky Regiments, on June 10, were moved to Van Cleve’s brigade, but still in Crittenden’s division. During the month of June, they marched from Farmington, Mississippi to within about four miles of Booneville and from there to Athens, Alabama, a distance of about 160 miles.
"Many of the men were barefoot and their clothing was not sufficient to hide their nakedness. We have twice made requisitions for clothing this month but could not procure it. On the bank of the Tennessee River near Tuscumbia, by virtue of an order, we gave up all our overcoats and dress coats, they being, in some cases, all the coats we had. The weather has been generally hot. The roads have been dusty and the marches unpleasant."
The Regiment returned to Athens, Alabama before moving back into Tennessee by way of Huntsville, Bellefonte, Larkinsville and Stevenson to Battle Creek, Tennessee where they encamped before the Confederate forces. The Regimental report states, "The men are yet without clothing, not one-third of them having a shoe to their feet; in fact, some of the officers are entirely barefoot, having worn out their shoes marching over the mountainous country. We have not sufficient tents to shelter the men (were they even so good), and many have to be out in the rain and damp, causing a great deal of bowel disease. We have been living on half rations since July 17. All we ask is to let us go and fight for the freedom of our country, the preservation of the Union. Our motto is: Our country, free or slave, right or wrong, our country." While in camp at Battle Creek, the Regiment was issued new clothing and shoes.
Captain Netter resigned as captain, which was accepted. He became colonel of the 15th Cavalry, and was killed at Owensboro.
Fighting at Battle Creek, Tennessee occurred on June 21, July 5 and August 27, 1862; but the Regiment did not participate in August because it left Battle Creek on the 20th. It was marching back to Nashville arriving on September 10. In pursuit of Confederate General Bragg’s army into Kentucky, the Regiment was next marched to Bowling Green the north to Louisville, Kentucky arriving October 1, 1862, and then marched to Bardstown, then to Springfield.
By October 8, the Regiment participated in the fight against Bragg at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, forming a portion of the reserve forces, which were not called into action. "The 26th was but slightly engaged."
The Regiment left on the 9th by a circuitous route, marching to Danville, Kentucky then going by the Cumberland Gap Road to Mount Vernon to Camp Wild Cat, and back to Somerset. They were pursuing Confederate General Bragg until he was out of the state. By November 1 the Regiment was at Columbia.
The Regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Left Wing 14th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland. From Columbia, they went via Glasgow and Scottsville, Kentucky to Gallatin, Tennessee where they crossed the Tennessee River, arriving in Nashville on November 16. General Rosecrans replaced General Buell. While the army was encamped near Nashville, there was the utmost need for troops in Kentucky, not only to protect the country generally, but especially to guard every mile of the railroad from Louisville to Nashville, over which all Union supplies had to be transported. General Rosecrans wrote the General Wright, who commanded the District of Kentucky, saying: "I have some splendid fighting Regiments, which would be benefited by being stationed in Kentucky to recruit. I have sent the 15th and 26th to Bowling Green."
The 26th Regiment left Nashville with a barge of prisoners and went to Bowling Green, arriving on November 22. Most of the Regiment left there on the 24th for Russellville located in Logan County, Kentucky, arriving early on the day of the 26. Regimental reports or the period state, "Pursuant to this order, it [the Regiment] moved early in the morning on the roads to Russellville, passing over five…different dirt roads. It passed through the small Shaker village of South Union and camped at Auburn, a way station on the Louisville and Memphis Railroad, seventeen miles from Bowling Green. Our route, for the most part, lay through a very hilly, rocky and sterile country, though supporting a dense population and interspersed with several good farms and farm houses."
It was not until December 20 that the wagons of the Regiment caught up with them. During the month of January, the Regiment was employed as a guard to the railroad and as scouts along its line to prevent molestation by guerrillas and citizen sympathizers. The Regiment was responsible for 143 mile of the railroad from the Ohio River to the Tennessee State line.
A February 1863 report about Russellville state in part: "…Being situated in the very worst Rebel country in the state and one which has furnished many soldiers for the Confederate service, as well as for partisan warfare, the community affords a delightful lurking place for Rebel spies and Guerrilla bands. The labors of the Regiment have been, therefore, after the necessary amount of guarding, to hunt out the hiding places of the enemy, in which it has done valuable service. A considerable number of Rebel soldiers lurking around their former homes and among old associations have been captured, together with some guerrillas and (as we think) a few spies, all of whom have been handed over to the proper authorities. These duties (with occasional scouts up and down the railroad, that the channels of communications might be kept opened between Louisville and Clarksville on the Tennessee River) have been the object of the efforts of the Regiment since last report."
The March Regimental report says in part: "Russellville…has about 2,000 inhabitants, all of whom, but a few, are Rebels. The town is situated in a valley surrounded by high knobs extending for several miles back into the county, which would prevent it from being fortified and garrisoned successfully, save with a very large force. In consideration of the almost unanimity of Southern feelings at this place, it requires the utmost vigilance to prevent contrabanding….we have performed the customary guard duties in and around camp and scouted the country, picking up a considerable number of lurking Rebel soldiers, some Federal deserters, and a few thousand dollars worth of contraband goods."
In April William Hampton became cook to the officer’s mess of Company B. That month’s Regimental report states that one company is kept in Bowling Green to ride the railroad each morning to Clarksville, returning in the evening, and that Company G, continues to guard the railroad bride at Elk Fork, seven miles south of Russellville.
In April four companies of the 33rd Kentucky Infantry Regiment were consolidated with is seven companies, making the 26th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment an eleven company Regiment rather than a seven.. Several of the officers and non-coms of the 33rd were discharged or downgraded in rank. The reason is not known. Several officers of the 26th were promoted in June. The Regiment was made stronger by recruiting and the addition of the four new companies.
In June 1863 the Regiment was moved back to Bowling Green which was under the command of Colonel Hawkins. Company A was assigned provost guard duty, and Companies D. and F. were sent to Franklin, Kentucky. The other four companies of the Regiment were put on promiscuous post, such as guarding commissary and quartermaster stores, picket and camp guard duty, etc., and used for defense of railroad passing there. Trans from Russellville are with guards.
On July 5, Companies C. and F. surprised a party of guerrillas at Woodbury just as they were firing the depot and cutting the telegraph. They killed four Rebels and wounded several and saved the depot ant telegraph, while loosing one man missing.
On July 29, Company F. while on temporarily on duty in Franklin, pursued a party of guerrillas stealing horses. Giving chase for 25-miles, Company F. overtook the Rebels and after a sharp engagement, dispersed them killing and wounding several and recapturing sixteen horses and mules.
The Regiment stayed on duty at Bowling Green for over a year until September 1864. William Hampton and Thomas Ward were often able to go visit their wives and families in Woodbury, which is less than twenty miles from Bowling Green. Both had two children each born during the War. Sometime during this period, William Hampton served as a cook for the local hospital.
The 26th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment was moved in January 1964 to east of Bowling Green to Camp Nelson where mover than three fourths of the Regiment re-enlisted. William and Thomas's three-year enlistment was up in January 1864. They were paid a re-enlistment bounty in four installments paid over a year. The men were mustered out, and on the next day they were mustered in as veterans and shortly thereafter given a 30-day furlough until March 27.
Part of the Regiment was stationed at Louisville and part in Bowling Green. On September 17, 1864 both part of the Regiment were ordered to come together at Prestonburgh, Kentucky. William Hampton was left at Bowling Green where he was a cook for the hospital. Thomas Ward left with the Regiment.