Luther Mesnard's canteen

Luther Mesnard's canteen was traded for coffee during the battle of Lookout Creek. His diary has no mention of the trade but he and his troops had no rations. Then partway through the battle he is either drinking coffee or looking for wood to make a fire to make coffee. This is what Luther had to say about Lookout Creek.

 

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children, usually two or three women and men at each house. The people were very ignorant. About the second day we reached a point near Brown's Ferry below (?) Chattancoga, which had been captured or occupied the night or morning before by troops from Chattanooga. Our friend, E. G. Boughton, was among them. Well, most of our regiment was detailed for picket, leaving only about 50 members, mostly commissioned and non-commissioned officers in camp. Just after taps, the pickets began firing. The firing soon became brisk and the "long roll" was sounded. The call was sounded not only by the drum corps, but by the buglers of every command, and being in a valley among the mountains, you may be sure it was grand, with the rattle of musketry and the roar of cannon which soon opened. It seems that Longstreet ts corps had crossed Lookout Creek and attempted to cut off and capture Geary's Brigade of Hooker's force, and we were hustled back perhaps a half-mile or more to help. Our brigade had the advance, and our 55th Ohio was in front, but the commanding officer seeing how small or few in number it was, ordered other troops of our brigade to the front , and while we were soon under fire, we were not in the hottest of it. We had a very hot sharp fight and drove Longstreet's forces back in a hurry, this in the dark and in a strange place. It was certainy one of the most trying and "skeery" times I ever saw. The rebs left, picks, shovels, haversacks, muskets, and wounded, and fell back. Our losses were considerable. I saw three of our dead in one tree top where they had become delayed in charging up a hill and there were many more to be seen as daylight came the next morning. We occupied a low range of hills or hog-backs between the valley and the river and were busy all day for several days erecting

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breastworks. The day before the fight as we were marching past about where the battle came off, in plain sight from Lookout mountain, two miles in a direct line, the rebs shelled us quite vigorously. Gen. Hooker happened to be right opposite or with our company, as a twenty pound Parrot shell plunged into the ground right under his horse. Of course the boys dodged some (when too late for any good) Gen. Hooker noticing that the shell did not explode said, "Never mind boys, there's nothing there that 'll hurt you." Our regiment was moved three times, building breastworks in each place, the rebs were throwing shell at us about an hour each day .We kept a man on the watch all the time and when a shell was coming our way we took to cover. We could tell by the snake of the gun whether the shell was for us or not. In fact if it were aimed say twenty rods to right or left no alarm would be given, but when we saw a plain round puff --no elongation --then look out. One day I was cook- ing some coffee in a tin just back of the breastworks when the alarm was given and I jumped behind the works. A piece of the shell hit my coffee dish. We were visited by many of the officers from the army at Chattanooga. I saw five major generals at one time, among them was Gen. Thomas to whom I handed a drink of water. We had just brought a fresh pail full and he asked for some. We were very short of rations. During ten days drew but ten crackers, 1 lb. or one days ration. I never was so hungry before or since. After fasting all day I remember I dreamed all night about Mother's cupboard, and all the good things to eat I had ever had. We lay behind the

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breastworks with accouterments all on. I got up at break of day and looked down into my haversack. Now the worst thing a hungry soldier can look at is the bottom of an empty haversack. I just broke down and as the tears came, I thought, "This will not do ," and tried to brace up. I soon saw a fellow skipping along in the rear with an armful of corn. I learned where he got it --about a half mile across the valley from a crib up in the bush. I soon started Ashbolt, our most successful for- ager, after some. He brought nearly a half bushel of ears of corn and it was about the best grub we ever tasted. We were finally allowed to go into camp or put up our tents down on the side hill leaving a strong picket in the works but we had to fall in line a half hour before daylight and remain till half an hour after daylight. This was one of the most disagreeable duties I ever had to perform. The coms'd officers did not have to get out. My! but the men were cross. The mornings were cold, and the things seemed so useless. One morning a Shell from Lookout burst in the corner of camp and the pieces swept through killing a man about twenty feet from me. The latter part of Nov. the battle of Chattanooga opened. Our llth corps under Howard, were sent across to Chattanooga just at night of the lst day. I remember that I had a long search to collect enough bits of wood to cook a cup of coffee, and that some boys came around and offered me a dollar for one hardtack. One of the most heroic things of the war was the way this army held onto Chattanoog in its starving condition.

 

Permission by Howard Mesnard Jr and Kurt Stein

In 2012 the Canteen, the diary and the diaguerreotype are held by the Mesnard family

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