There are many accounts of the Civil War written by historians but there aren't many accounts written by the men who actually fought in that war. I found one such account, written in retrospect by  Lt. Spencer B. Talley, who served in the Confederate Infantry from the war's beginning to its end.

His home was thirty to forty miles west of John Dickens Jr.'s home. He joined the Confederate army within days of John's enlistment, they trained at the same camp under the same officers, endured the same hardships, fought the same battle of Fishing Creek, and both were in the subsequent retreat to Murfreesboro. That's where the similarity ends. John Dickens was reported to have died at Murfreesboro on February 24, 1862 and Lt. Talley continued to serve the Confederate cause until the war's end in 1865. 

If you have the slightest interest in a Confederate soldier's life during that war, please read all of Lt. Talley's account. When I located it, I was in a hurry - but I couldn't stop reading until I had read every page. A link is provided below.  

Since  Lt. Talley and John Dickens shared the same experiences in the first six months of the war,  I have added some excerpts from Lt. Talley's account of those days. You will find the excerpts below the map.
1. John Dickens' home.      2. Camps Zollicoffer and Myers. 
3. Battle of Fishing Creek.     4.  John Dickens' death reported.

"I and my brother Robert J. began making our preparations to enter the southern
service. We found there were several companies being formed in the county. ...

Johnathan Eatherly was raising a Company at Mt. Juliet. These squads soon
conferred and come together making a full company. ...

I think it was about the middle of September, 1861 when our company left
Lebanon. We took the Trousdale Ferry pike and being "foot men" or infantry
we only got as far as "Caney Fork" the first day. The next day we landed at
what we were pleased to call "Camp Jollycoper"a place about 1 1/2 miles west
of Livingston. ...

We had no one in camp capable to give the right and proper training for the
development of that physical strength and endurance so necessary in the warfare
in which we were about to engage. ...

We spent only about two hours in the forenoon and two in the afternoon
drilling. ...

The south had no arms or munitions of war and but little chance of obtaining
any from foreign countries on account of the blockade, consequently we were
hard put to get something to fight with.

Before long we got our old flintlock muskets, used last in the Battle of New
Orleans, and almost ruined by rust. ...

 

Fishing Creek

We were called a late hour of the night to rush up to camp"Myers" a distance
of about three or four miles where Colonel Sidney Stanton was forming a
regiment. The report said that a force of the enemies cavalry was approaching
and that we would be needed in their defense. Much excitement and great haste
was made in getting in line of march, all were anxious to get into the fight and it
was about good daylight on the morning of the 19th of January that we came to
the enemy camps. The night was very cold and it had been raining, sleeting or
snowing all night and many were the fences that we had to burn on the roadside to keep from freezing. Our old flintlock muskets were wet and water soaked, our
regiment spent about ten minutes in trying to dry out and be ready for the fray.
Battle's regiment, the 20th Tennessee, and the 15th Mississippi Rgt. brought on
the attack. ...

General Zollicoffer, in the mix-up owing to the smoke and fog, dashed into the
enemy's ranks and was killed before the battle had begun. Leaving his brigade
without a commander these two regiments were badly used up and gave way in
great confusion. Our regiment was on the extreme left while the fighting was all
on the right and when they were repulsed, our wing was about to be cut off and
captured. We were formed through a dense thicket of undergrowth and grape
vines, when our colonel gave order to retreat in haste or we would be cut off.
There was a rush to get out of this thicket. ...

  

This was our first scrap with the Yanks and I am sure we had a few days of as
much suffering and want as we experienced during the civil strife. We reached
the Cumberland river near our camp about sunset. The Yanks kept in close
pursuit all the way. Our few Cavalry men, who covered our retreat held them
back until we were in a somewhat fortified position where we held them in check until late in the night, when we crossed over to the south side of the river. When (we were) through crossing the little steamboat "Ella", which we used in crossing, was burned to prevent it's use by our enemy in it's pursuit.

Now we privates had no idea that the retreat would be continued. We thought
we were back at home in our old camp and would probably spend the 
remainder of the winter there. But early the next morning we were ordered in line of march. We had no orders to take our rations or anything save our guns and were expecting an engagement with the Yanks that were crossing over, but instead we took the Livingston road and never halted until night. We hadn't a thing to eat or cooking vessels of any kind, and out minds naturally reverted to the good coffee, bacon, flour, lard, etc. We had a bountiful supply of provisions that we could easily carried along had we known that we were on a long retreat. Our army officers were lacking in the first principles of army life. They had little if any conception of the vital points to be guarded in case of retreat. ... 
 

We rested for a day or so at and around Gainesboro and then began our march for a concentration of our armies. ...

On our retreat from Fishing Creek we camped a while at Murfreesboro leaving there sometime in February on our journey to Corinth, Mississippi."

(End excerpts from "The Diary of Lt. Spencer B. Talley.")

Note: Pvt. John Dickens did not make the journey to Mississippi. He was reported dead at 48 years of age on February 24, 1862 when his unit was still at Murfreesboro. 

The Excerpts below are only bits from the first six months of Lt. Talley's service.
Click the link above to read many of his experiences throughout the war. 
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