The division quartermaster had made no provisions for such an emergency and was caught totally unprepared for the interruption of supplies. Utilizing connections outside of normal channels however, Regiment Quartermaster Captain Edward Mueller managed to keep the 32nd Indiana well supplied while other regiments did without. The route from Elizabethtown provided the daily subsistence for Nevin as reserve supplies coming by rail accumulated for an impending move south. Willich offered the services of his pontoniers to make repairs as the loss of the bridge put the division on short rations. Lack of organization and vacillation on the part of command resulted in Willich's offer being accepted too late for the regiment to begin the work. Other construction talents honed by the men had the added benefit of providing comfort to the regiment in their soggy encampment.
During the periods when the weather or ground would not permit organizational training, Willich motivated the men of the 32nd to make their camp as livable as possible by erecting log cabins. This two-fold purpose kept the men occupied and taught those without the knowledge a new skill that would prove necessary in the following years. The season's first deep snow the week of December 1 spurred the soldiers to sacrifice off duty hours to construct even more substantial shelters with the prospect of winter quarters at Nevin. This bustle of free time activity raised an amused retort from one 32nd Indiana officer. He, "did not know that they should ever occupy them but perhaps some one else would and at any rate it kept the men busy and out of mischief." 
If the regiment enjoyed the fruits of their labors, it was for a limited time. On December 9, 1861 Buell ordered Second Division Commander Brigadier General Alexander McDowell McCook, commanding the four brigades of nearly 14,000 men assembled at Camp Nevin, to lead the advance of 50,000 Union troops toward Bowling Green. The goal of forcing the Confederates from Kentucky took highest precedence in the Department of the Ohio.
Months of continuous drill, fortified by the military routine of discipline and regulation, produced rapid response as evident from the professional manner in which the men of the 32nd broke camp, packed, and assembled under the colors for the march south. A chance to finally move against the foe added extra zeal to preparations. Of course, a true desire to quit the stench of Camp Nevin proved to be a major incentive for eagerness. Regimental camps became unbearably foul and nearly all fresh water sources tainted. Responding to directions from McCook, General Johnson ordered the Sixth Brigade forward to Munfordville with Colonel Willich's 32nd Indiana Infantry in the vanguard on the morning of December 10.
The regiment marched out of Camp Nevin at 8:30 flanked by troopers of the First Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry Regiment and followed by the guns of Battery A, First Ohio Artillery. Willich received authority to send forward a detail the day before to choose suitable campgrounds for the planned eight-mile march. Company A First Lieutenant William G. Mank, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon Jean Allard Jeancon, could not find an appropriate site at the designated mileage. Sufficient water needs for the brigade increased the distance of the first day of march.
After a slow and painful trek of twelve miles, the brigade established bivouac that evening on the south side of Bacon Creek, eight miles from Munfordville. Many of the young, overburdened soldiers of the brigade, unaccustomed to long marches under a loaded knapsack, contributed to delays. The youngsters had not yet learned to emulate the old campaigners wisdom of carrying only what was necessary. That night they rested their weary feet in the cool waters of Bacon Creek, relaxing to the sweet, drawn out German melody sounded by Willich's bugler at regiment 'Tattoo'.
Upon halting for the night, Willich posted Companies A and B forward as the outer picket guard. Rebel cavalry led by John Hunt Morgan had completely destroyed the bridge over the creek on the evening of December 5, and repairs would be required in order for the artillery and supply wagons of the army to pass. That responsibility fell to Willich along with a reconnaissance mission into the country ahead. Buell's orders to McCook stated, "Send forward a brigade and a battery to Munfordville, to take a good position and protect the bridge."  Johnson wished to expedite those orders despite delays. Lieutenant-Colonel von Trebra, leading two companies detached from the 32nd, was ordered on to Munfordville.
<< previous page next page >>
Notes: Alexis Cope, The Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers and Its Campaigns (1916), Columbus, Ohio, 46.