Sam R. Watkins
Part 1 out of 5
This eBook was produced by Ken Reeder
Eighteen years ago, the first edition of this book, "Co. H., First
Tennessee Regiment," was published by the author, Mr. Sam. R. Watkins,
of Columbia, Tenn. A limited edition of two thousand copies was printed
and sold. For nearly twenty years this work has been out of print and
the owners of copies of it hold them so precious that it is impossible to
purchase one. To meet a demand, so strong as to be almost irresistable
the Chattanooga Times has printed a second edition of 2000 copies,
which to soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the
Cumberland, between whom many battles were fought, it will prove of
intense interest, serving to recall many scenes and incidents of battle
field and camp in which they were the chief actors. To them and to all
other readers we respectfully commend this book as being the best and
most impersonal history of any army ever written.
THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES.
Chattanooga, Tenn., Oct. 1, 1900.
FIRST TENNESSEE REGIMENT;
A SIDE SHOW OF THE BIG SHOW.
By SAM. R. WATKINS,
"Quaeque ipse miserima vidi,
Et quorum pars magna fui."
TO THE MEMORY
OF MY DEAD
THE MAURY GRAYS,
AND THE FIRST TENNESSEE REGIMENT, WHO
DIED IN DEFENSE OF SOUTHERN HOMES AND
LIBERTIES: ALSO TO MY LIVING COMRADES,
NEARLY ALL OF
WHOM SHED THEIR
BLOOD IN DEFENSE
OF THE SAME
CAUSE, THIS BOOK
DEDICATED BY THE
AUTHOR . . . . .
WE ARE ONE AND UNDIVIDED
THE BLOODY CHASM
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE
ON THE ROAD
STANDING PICKET ON THE POTOMAC
SCHWARTZ AND PFIFER
THE DEATH WATCH
ROWLAND SHOT TO DEATH
KILLING A YANKEE SHARPSHOOTER
CAPTAIN JOE P. LEE
THE COURT-MARTIAL AT TUPELO
RAIDING ON ROASTINGEARS
WE GO INTO KENTUCKY
THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE
THE RETREAT OUT OF KENTUCKY
I JINE THE CAVALRY
BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO
ROBBING A DEAD YANKEE
A FOOT RACE
POOR BERRY MORGAN
WRIGHT SHOT TO DEATH WITH MUSKETRY
DAVE SUBLETT PROMOTED
DOWN DUCK RIVER IN A CANOE
BACK TO CHATTANOOGA
AM VISITED BY MY FATHER
OUT A LARKING
HANGING TWO SPIES
SWIMMING THE TENN. WITH ROASTINGEARS
AM DETAILED TO GO FORAGING
PLEASE PASS THE BUTTER
WE EVACUATE CHATTANOOGA
THE BULL OF THE WOODS
THE WING OF THE "ANGEL OF DEATH"
BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA
AFTER THE BATTLE
A NIGHT AMONG THE DEAD
CHAPTER X--MISSIONARY RIDGE
SERGEANT TUCKER AND GEN. WILDER
BATTLE OF MISSIONARY RIDGE
GOOD-BYE, TOM WEBB
THE REAR GUARD
THE BATTLE OF CAT CREEK
GEN. JOE JOHNSTON TAKES COMMAND
SHOOTING A DESERTER
TEN MEN KILLED AT MOURNER'S-BENCH
DR. C. T. QUINTARD
Y'S YOU GOT MY HOG?
UNCLE ZACK AND AUNT DAPHNE
I GET A FURLOUGH
CHAPTER XII--HUNDRED DAYS BATTLE
ROCKY FACE RIDGE
BATTLE OF RESACCA
ADAIRSVILLE OCTAGON HOUSE
DETAILED TO GO INTO ENEMY'S LINES
DEATH OF GENERAL LEONIDAS POLK
GENERAL LUCIUS E. POLK WOUNDED
BATTLE OF NEW HOPE CHURCH
BATTLE OF DALLAS
BATTLE OF ZION CHURCH
ON THE BANKS OF THE CHATTAHOOCHEE
REMOVAL OF GEN. JOE E. JOHNSTON
GEN. HOOD TAKES COMMAND
KILLING A YANKEE SCOUT
AN OLE CITIZEN
AN ARMY WITHOUT CAVALRY
BATTLE OF JULY 22ND, 1864
28TH OF JULY AT ATLANTA
I VISIT MONTGOMERY
THE BRAVE CAPTAIN
HOW I GOT BACK TO ATLANTA
THE DEATH OF TOM TUCK'S ROOSTER
OLD JOE BROWN'S PETS
WE GO AFTER STONEMAN
DEATH OF A YANKEE LIEUTENANT
BATTLE OF JONESBORO
DEATH OF LIEUT. JOHN WHITTAKER
THEN COMES THE FARCE
JEFF DAVIS MAKES A SPEECH
ARMISTICE ONLY IN NAME
WHAT IS THIS REBEL DOING HERE?
LOOK OUT, BOYS
CHAPTER XV--ADVANCE INTO TENNESSEE
GEN. HOOD MAKES A FLANK MOVEMENT
WE CAPTURE DALTON
A MAN IN THE WELL
EN ROUTE FOR COLUMBIA
CHAPTER XVI--BATTLES IN TENNESSEE
CHAPTER XVII--THE SURRENDER
THE LAST ACT OF THE DRAMA
"WE ARE ONE AND UNDIVIDED"
About twenty years ago, I think it was--I won't be certain, though--
a man whose name, if I remember correctly, was Wm. L. Yancy--I write only
from memory, and this was a long time ago--took a strange and peculiar
notion that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and that the
compass pointed north and south. Now, everybody knew at the time that
it was but the idiosyncrasy of an unbalanced mind, and that the United
States of America had no north, no south, no east, no west. Well,
he began to preach the strange doctrine of there being such a thing.
He began to have followers. As you know, it matters not how absurd,
ridiculous and preposterous doctrines may be preached, there will be some
followers. Well, one man by the name of (I think it was) Rhett, said it
out loud. He was told to "s-h-e-e." Then another fellow by the name (I
remember this one because it sounded like a graveyard) Toombs said so,
and he was told to "sh-sh-ee-ee." Then after a while whole heaps of
people began to say that they thought that there was a north and a south;
and after a while hundreds and thousands and millions said that there was
a south. But they were the persons who lived in the direction that the
water courses run. Now, the people who lived where the water courses
started from came down to see about it, and they said, "Gents, you are
very much mistaken. We came over in the Mayflower, and we used to burn
witches for saying that the sun rose in the east and set in the west,
because the sun neither rises nor sets, the earth simply turns on its
axis, and we know, because we are Pure(i)tans." The spokesman of the
party was named (I think I remember his name because it always gave me
the blues when I heard it) Horrors Greeley; and another person by the
name of Charles Sumner, said there ain't any north or south, east or west,
and you shan't say so, either. Now, the other people who lived in the
direction that the water courses run, just raised their bristles and
continued saying that there is a north and there is a south. When those
at the head of the water courses come out furiously mad, to coerce those
in the direction that water courses run, and to make them take it back.
Well, they went to gouging and biting, to pulling and scratching at a
furious rate. One side elected a captain by the name of Jeff Davis,
and known as one-eyed Jeff, and a first lieutenant by the name of Aleck
Stephens, commonly styled Smart Aleck. The other side selected as
captain a son of Nancy Hanks, of Bowling Green, and a son of old Bob
Lincoln, the rail-splitter, and whose name was Abe. Well, after he
was elected captain, they elected as first lieutenant an individual of
doubtful blood by the name of Hannibal Hamlin, being a descendant of the
generation of Ham, the bad son of old Noah, who meant to curse him blue,
but overdid the thing, and cursed him black.
Well, as I said before, they went to fighting, but old Abe's side got
the best of the argument. But in getting the best of the argument they
called in all the people and wise men of other nations of the earth,
and they, too, said that America had no cardinal points, and that the sun
did not rise in the east and set in the west, and that the compass did
not point either north or south.
Well, then, Captain Jeff Davis' side gave it up and quit, and they, too,
went to saying that there is no north, no south, no east, no west.
Well, "us boys" all took a small part in the fracas, and Shep, the
prophet, remarked that the day would come when those who once believed
that the American continent had cardinal points would be ashamed to own
it. That day has arrived. America has no north, no south, no east,
no west; the sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains,
the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd
notion of there being a north and a south.
Well, reader, let me whisper in your ear. I was in the row, and the
following pages will tell what part I took in the little unpleasant
misconception of there being such a thing as a north and south.
THE BLOODY CHASM
In these memoirs, after the lapse of twenty years, we propose to fight
our "battles o'er again."
To do this is but a pastime and pleasure, as there is nothing that so
much delights the old soldier as to revisit the scenes and battlefields
with which he was once so familiar, and to recall the incidents, though
trifling they may have been at the time.
The histories of the Lost Cause are all written out by "big bugs,"
generals and renowned historians, and like the fellow who called a turtle
a "cooter," being told that no such word as cooter was in Webster's
dictionary, remarked that he had as much right to make a dictionary as
Mr. Webster or any other man; so have I to write a history.
But in these pages I do not pretend to write the history of the war.
I only give a few sketches and incidents that came under the observation
of a "high private" in the rear ranks of the rebel army. Of course,
the histories are all correct. They tell of great achievements of great
men, who wear the laurels of victory; have grand presents given them;
high positions in civil life; presidents of corporations; governors of
states; official positions, etc., and when they die, long obituaries are
published, telling their many virtues, their distinguished victories,
etc., and when they are buried, the whole country goes in mourning and is
called upon to buy an elegant monument to erect over the remains of so
distinguished and brave a general, etc. But in the following pages I
propose to tell of the fellows who did the shooting and killing, the
fortifying and ditching, the sweeping of the streets, the drilling,
the standing guard, picket and videt, and who drew (or were to draw)
eleven dollars per month and rations, and also drew the ramrod and tore
the cartridge. Pardon me should I use the personal pronoun "I" too
frequently, as I do not wish to be called egotistical, for I only write
of what I saw as an humble private in the rear rank in an infantry
regiment, commonly called "webfoot." Neither do I propose to make this
a connected journal, for I write entirely from memory, and you must
remember, kind reader, that these things happened twenty years ago,
and twenty years is a long time in the life of any individual.
I was twenty-one years old then, and at that time I was not married.
Now I have a house full of young "rebels," clustering around my knees and
bumping against my elbow, while I write these reminiscences of the war
of secession, rebellion, state rights, slavery, or our rights in the
territories, or by whatever other name it may be called. These are all
with the past now, and the North and South have long ago "shaken hands
across the bloody chasm." The flag of the Southern cause has been furled
never to be again unfurled; gone like a dream of yesterday, and lives
only in the memory of those who lived through those bloody days and times.
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE
Reader mine, did you live in that stormy period? In the year of our Lord
eighteen hundred and sixty-one, do you remember those stirring times?
Do you recollect in that year, for the first time in your life, of
hearing Dixie and the Bonnie Blue Flag? Fort Sumter was fired upon
from Charleston by troops under General Beauregard, and Major Anderson,
of the Federal army, surrendered. The die was cast; war was declared;
Lincoln called for troops from Tennessee and all the Southern states,
but Tennessee, loyal to her Southern sister states, passed the ordinance
of secession, and enlisted under the Stars and Bars. From that day on,
every person, almost, was eager for the war, and we were all afraid it
would be over and we not be in the fight. Companies were made up,
regiments organized; left, left, left, was heard from morning till night.
By the right flank, file left, march, were familiar sounds. Everywhere
could be seen Southern cockades made by the ladies and our sweethearts.
And some who afterwards became Union men made the most fiery secession
speeches. Flags made by the ladies were presented to companies, and to
hear the young orators tell of how they would protect that flag, and that
they would come back with the flag or come not at all, and if they fell
they would fall with their backs to the field and their feet to the foe,
would fairly make our hair stand on end with intense patriotism, and we
wanted to march right off and whip twenty Yankees. But we soon found out
that the glory of war was at home among the ladies and not upon the field
of blood and carnage of death, where our comrades were mutilated and torn
by shot and shell. And to see the cheek blanch and to hear the fervent
prayer, aye, I might say the agony of mind were very different indeed
from the patriotic times at home.
After being drilled and disciplined at Camp Cheatham, under the
administrative ability of General R. C. Foster, 3rd, for two months, we,
the First, Third and Eleventh Tennessee Regiments--Maney, Brown and Rains--
learned of the advance of McClelland's army into Virginia, toward
Harper's Ferry and Bull Run.
The Federal army was advancing all along the line. They expected to
march right into the heart of the South, set the negroes free, take our
property, and whip the rebels back into the Union. But they soon found
that secession was a bigger mouthful than they could swallow at one
gobble. They found the people of the South in earnest.
Secession may have been wrong in the abstract, and has been tried and
settled by the arbitrament of the sword and bayonet, but I am as firm in
my convictions today of the right of secession as I was in 1861. The
South is our country, the North is the country of those who live there.
We are an agricultural people; they are a manufacturing people. They are
the descendants of the good old Puritan Plymouth Rock stock, and we of
the South from the proud and aristocratic stock of Cavaliers. We believe
in the doctrine of State rights, they in the doctrine of centralization.
John C. Calhoun, Patrick Henry, and Randolph, of Roanoke, saw the venom
under their wings, and warned the North of the consequences, but they
laughed at them. We only fought for our State rights, they for Union and
power. The South fell battling under the banner of State rights, but
yet grand and glorious even in death. Now, reader, please pardon the
digression. It is every word that we will say in behalf of the rights of
secession in the following pages. The question has been long ago settled
and is buried forever, never in this age or generation to be resurrected.
The vote of the regiment was taken, and we all voted to go to Virginia.
The Southern Confederacy had established its capital at Richmond.
A man by the name of Jackson, who kept a hotel in Maryland, had raised
the Stars and Bars, and a Federal officer by the name of Ellsworth tore
it down, and Jackson had riddled his body with buckshot from a double-
barreled shotgun. First blood for the South.
Everywhere the enemy were advancing; the red clouds of war were booming
up everywhere, but at this particular epoch, I refer you to the history
of that period.
A private soldier is but an automaton, a machine that works by the
command of a good, bad, or indifferent engineer, and is presumed to know
nothing of all these great events. His business is to load and shoot,
stand picket, videt, etc., while the officers sleep, or perhaps die on
the field of battle and glory, and his obituary and epitaph but "one"
remembered among the slain, but to what company, regiment, brigade or
corps he belongs, there is no account; he is soon forgotten.
A long line of box cars was drawn up at Camp Cheatham one morning in July,
the bugle sounded to strike tents and to place everything on board the
cars. We old comrades have gotten together and laughed a hundred times
at the plunder and property that we had accumulated, compared with our
subsequent scanty wardrobe. Every soldier had enough blankets, shirts,
pants and old boots to last a year, and the empty bottles and jugs would
have set up a first-class drug store. In addition, every one of us had
his gun, cartridge-box, knapsack and three days' rations, a pistol on
each side and a long Bowie knife, that had been presented to us by
William Wood, of Columbia, Tenn. We got in and on top of the box cars,
the whistle sounded, and amid the waving of hats, handkerchiefs and flags,
we bid a long farewell and forever to old Camp Cheatham.
Arriving at Nashville, the citizens turned out _en masse_ to receive us,
and here again we were reminded of the good old times and the "gal we
left behind us." Ah, it is worth soldiering to receive such welcomes as
The Rev. Mr. Elliott invited us to his college grove, where had been
prepared enough of the good things of earth to gratify the tastes of the
most fastidious epicure. And what was most novel, we were waited on by
the most beautiful young ladies (pupils of his school). It was charming,
I tell you. Rev. C. D. Elliott was our Brigade Chaplain all through the
war, and Dr. C. T. Quintard the Chaplain of the First Tennessee Regiment--
two of the best men who ever lived. (Quintard is the present Bishop of
ON THE ROAD
Leaving Nashville, we went bowling along twenty or thirty miles an hour,
as fast as steam could carry us. At every town and station citizens and
ladies were waving their handkerchiefs and hurrahing for Jeff Davis and
the Southern Confederacy. Magnificent banquets were prepared for us all
along the entire route. It was one magnificent festival from one end of
the line to the other. At Chattanooga, Knoxville, Bristol, Farmville,
Lynchburg, everywhere, the same demonstrations of joy and welcome greeted
us. Ah, those were glorious times; and you, reader, see why the old
soldier loves to live over again that happy period.
But the Yankees are advancing on Manassas. July 21st finds us a hundred
miles from that fierce day's battle. That night, after the battle is
fought and won, our train draws up at Manassas Junction.
Well, what news? Everyone was wild, nay, frenzied with the excitement
of victory, and we felt very much like the "boy the calf had run over."
We felt that the war was over, and we would have to return home without
even seeing a Yankee soldier. Ah, how we envied those that were wounded.
We thought at that time that we would have given a thousand dollars to
have been in the battle, and to have had our arm shot off, so we could
have returned home with an empty sleeve. But the battle was over,
and we left out.
From Manassas our train moved on to Staunton, Virginia. Here we again
went into camp, overhauled kettles, pots, buckets, jugs and tents,
and found everything so tangled up and mixed that we could not tell
tuther from which.
We stretched our tents, and the soldiers once again felt that restraint
and discipline which we had almost forgotten en route to this place.
But, as the war was over now, our captains, colonels and generals were
not "hard on the boys;" in fact, had begun to electioneer a little for
the Legislature and for Congress. In fact, some wanted, and were looking
forward to the time, to run for Governor of Tennessee.
Staunton was a big place; whisky was cheap, and good Virginia tobacco was
plentiful, and the currency of the country was gold and silver.
The State Asylums for the blind and insane were here, and we visited all
the places of interest.
Here is where we first saw the game called "chuck-a-luck," afterwards
so popular in the army. But, I always noticed that chuck won, and luck
Faro and roulette were in full blast; in fact, the skum had begun to come
to the surface, and shoddy was the gentleman. By this, I mean that civil
law had been suspended; the ermine of the judges had been overridden by
the sword and bayonet. In other words, the military had absorbed the
civil. Hence the gambler was in his glory.
WARM SPRINGS, VIRGINIA
One day while we were idling around camp, June Tucker sounded the
assembly, and we were ordered aboard the cars. We pulled out for
Millboro; from there we had to foot it to Bath Alum and Warm Springs.
We went over the Allegheny Mountains.
I was on every march that was ever made by the First Tennessee Regiment
during the whole war, and at this time I cannot remember of ever
experiencing a harder or more fatiguing march. It seemed that mountain
was piled upon mountain. No sooner would we arrive at a place that
seemed to be the top than another view of a higher, and yet higher
mountain would rise before us. From the foot to the top of the mountain
the soldiers lined the road, broken down and exhausted. First one
blanket was thrown away, and then another; now and then a good pair of
pants, old boots and shoes, Sunday hats, pistols and Bowie knives strewed
the road. Old bottles and jugs and various and sundry articles were
lying pell-mell everywhere. Up and up, and onward and upward we pulled
and toiled, until we reached the very top, when there burst upon our
view one of the grandest and most beautiful landscapes we ever beheld.
Nestled in the valley right before us is Bath Alum and Warm Springs.
It seemed to me at that time, and since, a glimpse of a better and
brighter world beyond, to the weary Christian pilgrim who may have been
toiling on his journey for years. A glad shout arose from those who had
gained the top, which cheered and encouraged the others to persevere.
At last we got to Warm Springs. Here they had a nice warm dinner waiting
for us. They had a large bath-house at Warm Springs. A large pool of
water arranged so that a person could go in any depth he might desire.
It was a free thing, and we pitched in. We had no idea of the enervating
effect it would have upon our physical systems, and as the water was but
little past tepid, we stayed in a good long time. But when we came out
we were as limp as dishrags. About this time the assembly sounded and we
were ordered to march. But we couldn't march worth a cent. There we had
to stay until our systems had had sufficient recuperation. And we would
wonder what all this marching was for, as the war was over anyhow.
The second day after leaving Warm Springs we came to Big Springs.
It was in the month of August, and the biggest white frost fell that I
ever saw in winter.
The Yankees were reported to be in close proximity to us, and Captain
Field with a detail of ten men was sent forward on the scout. I was on
the detail, and when we left camp that evening, it was dark and dreary
and drizzling rain. After a while the rain began to come down harder
and harder, and every one of us was wet and drenched to the skin--guns,
cartridges and powder. The next morning about daylight, while standing
videt, I saw a body of twenty-five or thirty Yankees approaching, and I
raised my gun for the purpose of shooting, and pulled down, but the cap
popped. They discovered me and popped three or four caps at me; their
powder was wet also. Before I could get on a fresh cap, Captain Field
came running up with his seven-shooting rifle, and the first fire he
killed a Yankee. They broke and run. Captain Field did all the firing,
but every time he pulled down he brought a Yankee. I have forgotten the
number that he did kill, but if I am not mistaken it was either twenty
or twenty-one, for I remember the incident was in almost every Southern
paper at that time, and the general comments were that one Southern man
was equal to twenty Yankees. While we were in hot pursuit, one truly
brave and magnanimous Yankee, who had been badly wounded, said,
"Gentlemen, you have killed me, but not a hundred yards from here is the
main line." We did not go any further, but halted right there, and after
getting all the information that we could out of the wounded Yankee,
we returned to camp.
One evening, General Robert E. Lee came to our camp. He was a fine-
looking gentleman, and wore a moustache. He was dressed in blue
cottonade and looked like some good boy's grandpa. I felt like going up
to him and saying good evening, Uncle Bob! I am not certain at this late
day that I did not do so. I remember going up mighty close and sitting
there and listening to his conversation with the officers of our
regiment. He had a calm and collected air about him, his voice was kind
and tender, and his eye was as gentle as a dove's. His whole make-up
of form and person, looks and manner had a kind of gentle and soothing
magnetism about it that drew every one to him and made them love, respect,
and honor him. I fell in love with the old gentleman and felt like going
home with him. I know I have never seen a finer looking man, nor one
with more kind and gentle features and manners. His horse was standing
nipping the grass, and when I saw that he was getting ready to start I
ran and caught his horse and led him up to him. He took the reins of the
bridle in his hand and said, "thank you, my son," rode off, and my heart
went with him. There was none of his staff with him; he had on no sword
or pistol, or anything to show his rank. The only thing that I remember
he had was an opera-glass hung over his shoulder by a strap.
Leaving Big Springs, we marched on day by day, across Greenbrier and
Gauley rivers to Huntersville, a little but sprightly town hid in the
very fastnesses of the mountains. The people live exceedingly well in
these mountains. They had plenty of honey and buckwheat cakes, and
they called buttermilk "sour-milk," and sour-milk weren't fit for pigs;
they couldn't see how folks drank sour-milk. But sour-kraut was good.
Everything seemed to grow in the mountains--potatoes, Irish and sweet;
onions, snap beans, peas--though the country was very thinly populated.
Deer, bear, and foxes, as well as wild turkeys, and rabbits and squirrels
abounded everywhere. Apples and peaches were abundant, and everywhere
the people had apple-butter for every meal; and occasionally we would
come across a small-sized distillery, which we would at once start to
doing duty. We drank the singlings while they were hot, but like the old
woman who could not eat corn bread until she heard that they made whisky
out of corn, then she could manage to "worry a little of it down;"
so it was with us and the singlings.
From this time forward, we were ever on the march--tramp, tramp, tramp--
always on the march. Lee's corps, Stonewall Jackson's division--I refer
you to the histories for the marches and tramps made by these commanders
the first year of the war. Well, we followed them.
One evening about 4 o'clock, the drummers of the regiment began to beat
their drums as hard as they could stave, and I saw men running in every
direction, and the camp soon became one scene of hurry and excitement.
I asked some one what all this hubbub meant. He looked at me with utter
astonishment. I saw soldiers running to their tents and grabbing their
guns and cartridge-boxes and hurry out again, the drums still rolling and
rattling. I asked several other fellows what in the dickens did all this
mean? Finally one fellow, who seemed scared almost out of his wits,
answered between a wail and a shriek, "Why, sir, they are beating the
long roll." Says I, "What is the long roll for?" "The long roll, man,
the long roll! Get your gun; they are beating the long roll!" This was
all the information that I could get. It was the first, last, and only
long roll that I ever heard. But, then everything was new, and Colonel
Maney, ever prompt, ordered the assembly. Without any command or bugle
sound, or anything, every soldier was in his place. Tents, knapsacks and
everything was left indiscriminately.
We were soon on the march, and we marched on and on and on. About night
it began to rain. All our blankets were back in camp, but we were
expected every minute to be ordered into action. That night we came
to Mingo Flats. The rain still poured. We had no rations to eat and
nowhere to sleep. Some of us got some fence rails and piled them
together and worried through the night as best we could. The next
morning we were ordered to march again, but we soon began to get hungry,
and we had about half halted and about not halted at all. Some of the
boys were picking blackberries. The main body of the regiment was
marching leisurely along the road, when bang, debang, debang, bang,
and a volley of buck and ball came hurling right through the two advance
companies of the regiment--companies H and K. We had marched into a
All at once everything was a scene of consternation and confusion;
no one seemed equal to the emergency. We did not know whether to run or
stand, when Captain Field gave the command to fire and charge the bushes.
We charged the bushes and saw the Yankees running through them, and we
fired on them as they retreated. I do not know how many Yankees were
killed, if any. Our company (H) had one man killed, Pat Hanley, an
Irishman, who had joined our company at Chattanooga. Hugh Padgett and
Dr. Hooper, and perhaps one or two others, were wounded.
After the fighting was over, where, O where, was all the fine rigging
heretofore on our officers? They could not be seen. Corporals,
sergeants, lieutenants, captains, all had torn all the fine lace off
their clothing. I noticed that at the time and was surprised and hurt.
I asked several of them why they had torn off the insignia of their rank,
and they always answered, "Humph, you think that I was going to be a
target for the Yankees to shoot at?" You see, this was our first battle,
and the officers had not found out that minnie as well as cannon balls
were blind; that they had no eyes and could not see. They thought that
the balls would hunt for them and not hurt the privates. I always shot
at privates. It was they that did the shooting and killing, and if I
could kill or wound a private, why, my chances were so much the better.
I always looked upon officers as harmless personages. Colonel Field,
I suppose, was about the only Colonel of the war that did as much
shooting as the private soldier. If I shot at an officer, it was at long
range, but when we got down to close quarters I always tried to kill
those that were trying to kill me.
From Cheat Mountain we went by forced marches day and night, over hill
and everlasting mountains, and through lovely and smiling valleys,
sometimes the country rich and productive, sometimes rough and broken,
through towns and villages, the names of which I have forgotten, crossing
streams and rivers, but continuing our never ceasing, unending march,
passing through the Kanawha Valley and by the salt-works, and nearly back
to the Ohio river, when we at last reached Sewell Mountain. Here we
found General John B. Floyd strongly entrenched and fortified and facing
the advance of the Federal army. Two days before our arrival he had
charged and captured one line of the enemy's works. I know nothing of
the battle. See the histories for that. I only write from memory,
and that was twenty years ago, but I remember reading in the newspapers
at that time of some distinguished man, whether he was captain, colonel
or general, I have forgotten, but I know the papers said "he sought the
bauble, reputation, at the cannon's mouth, and went to glory from the
death-bed of fame." I remember it sounded gloriously in print. Now,
reader, this is all I know of this grand battle. I only recollect what
the newspapers said about it, and you know that a newspaper always tells
the truth. I also know that beef livers sold for one dollar apiece in
gold; and here is where we were first paid off in Confederate money.
Remaining here a few days, we commenced our march again.
Sewell Mountain, Harrisonburg, Lewisburg, Kanawha Salt-works, first four,
forward and back, seemed to be the programme of that day. Rosecrans,
that wiley old fox, kept Lee and Jackson both busy trying to catch him,
but Rosey would not be caught. March, march, march; tramp, tramp, tramp,
back through the valley to Huntersville and Warm Springs, and up through
the most beautiful valley--the Shenandoah--in the world, passing towns
and elegant farms and beautiful residences, rich pastures and abundant
harvests, which a Federal General (Fighting Joe Hooker), later in the war,
ordered to be so sacked and destroyed that a "crow passing over this
valley would have to carry his rations." Passing on, we arrived at
Winchester. The first night we arrived at this place, the wind blew a
perfect hurricane, and every tent and marquee in Lee's and Jackson's army
was blown down. This is the first sight we had of Stonewall Jackson,
riding upon his old sorrel horse, his feet drawn up as if his stirrups
were much too short for him, and his old dingy military cap hanging well
forward over his head, and his nose erected in the air, his old rusty
sabre rattling by his side. This is the way the grand old hero of a
hundred battles looked. His spirit is yonder with the blessed ones that
have gone before, but his history is one that the country will ever be
proud of, and his memory will be cherished and loved by the old soldiers
who followed him through the war.
Our march to and from Romney was in midwinter in the month of January,
1862. It was the coldest winter known to the oldest inhabitant of these
regions. Situated in the most mountainous country in Virginia, and away
up near the Maryland and Pennsylvania line, the storm king seemed to rule
in all of his majesty and power. Snow and rain and sleet and tempest
seemed to ride and laugh and shriek and howl and moan and groan in
all their fury and wrath. The soldiers on this march got very much
discouraged and disheartened. As they marched along icicles hung from
their clothing, guns, and knapsacks; many were badly frost bitten,
and I heard of many freezing to death along the road side. My feet
peeled off like a peeled onion on that march, and I have not recovered
from its effects to this day. The snow and ice on the ground being
packed by the soldiers tramping, the horses hitched to the artillery
wagons were continually slipping and sliding and falling and wounding
themselves and sometimes killing their riders. The wind whistling with
a keen and piercing shriek, seemed as if they would freeze the marrow
in our bones. The soldiers in the whole army got rebellious--almost
mutinous--and would curse and abuse Stonewall Jackson; in fact, they
called him "Fool Tom Jackson." They blamed him for the cold weather;
they blamed him for everything, and when he would ride by a regiment they
would take occasion, _sotto voce_, to abuse him, and call him "Fool Tom
Jackson," and loud enough for him to hear. Soldiers from all commands
would fall out of ranks and stop by the road side and swear that they
would not follow such a leader any longer.
When Jackson got to Romney, and was ready to strike Banks and Meade in a
vital point, and which would have changed, perhaps, the destiny of the
war and the South, his troops refused to march any further, and he turned,
marched back to Winchester and tendered his resignation to the
authorities at Richmond. But the great leader's resignation was not
accepted. It was in store for him to do some of the hardest fighting
and greatest generalship that was done during the war.
One night at this place (Romney), I was sent forward with two other
soldiers across the wire bridge as picket. One of them was named
Schwartz and the other Pfifer--he called it Fifer, but spelled it with a
P--both full-blooded Dutchmen, and belonging to Company E, or the German
Yagers, Captain Harsh, or, as he was more generally called, "God-for-dam."
When we had crossed the bridge and taken our station for the night,
I saw another snow storm was coming. The zig-zag lightnings began to
flare and flash, and sheet after sheet of wild flames seemed to burst
right over our heads and were hissing around us. The very elements
seemed to be one aurora borealis with continued lightning. Streak after
streak of lightning seemed to be piercing each the other, the one from
the north and the other from the south. The white clouds would roll up,
looking like huge snow balls, encircled with living fires. The earth and
hills and trees were covered with snow, and the lightnings seemed to be
playing "King, King Canico" along its crusted surface. If it thundered
at all, it seemed to be between a groaning and a rumbling sound. The
trees and hills seemed white with livid fire. I can remember that storm
now as the grandest picture that has ever made any impression on my
memory. As soon as it quit lightning, the most blinding snow storm fell
that I ever saw. It fell so thick and fast that I got hot. I felt like
pulling off my coat. I was freezing. The winds sounded like sweet
music. I felt grand, glorious, peculiar; beautiful things began to play
and dance around my head, and I supposed I must have dropped to sleep or
something, when I felt Schwartz grab me, and give me a shake, and at the
same time raised his gun and fired, and yelled out at the top of his
voice, "Here is your mule." The next instant a volley of minnie balls
was scattering the snow all around us. I tried to walk, but my pants and
boots were stiff and frozen, and the blood had ceased to circulate in my
lower limbs. But Schwartz kept on firing, and at every fire he would
yell out, "Yer is yer mool!" Pfifer could not speak English, and I
reckon he said "Here is your mule" in Dutch. About the same time we were
hailed from three Confederate officers, at full gallop right toward us,
not to shoot. And as they galloped up to us and thundered right across
the bridge, we discovered it was Stonewall Jackson and two of his staff.
At the same time the Yankee cavalry charged us, and we, too, ran back
across the bridge.
STANDING PICKET ON THE POTOMAC
Leaving Winchester, we continued up the valley.
The night before the attack on Bath or Berkly Springs, there fell the
largest snow I ever saw.
Stonewall Jackson had seventeen thousand soldiers at his command.
The Yankees were fortified at Bath. An attack was ordered, our regiment
marched upon top of a mountain overlooking the movements of both armies
in the valley below. About 4 o'clock one grand charge and rush was made,
and the Yankees were routed and skedaddled.
By some circumstance or other, Lieutenant J. Lee Bullock came in command
of the First Tennessee Regiment. But Lee was not a graduate of West
Point, you see.
The Federals had left some spiked batteries on the hill side, as we
were informed by an old citizen, and Lee, anxious to capture a battery,
gave the new and peculiar command of, "Soldiers, you are ordered to go
forward and capture a battery; just piroute up that hill; piroute, march.
Forward, men; piroute carefully." The boys "pirouted" as best they
could. It may have been a new command, and not laid down in Hardee's or
Scott's tactics; but Lee was speaking plain English, and we understood
his meaning perfectly, and even at this late day I have no doubt that
every soldier who heard the command thought it a legal and technical term
used by military graduates to go forward and capture a battery.
At this place (Bath), a beautiful young lady ran across the street.
I have seen many beautiful and pretty women in my life, but she was
the prettiest one I ever saw. Were you to ask any member of the First
Tennessee Regiment who was the prettiest woman he ever saw, he would
unhesitatingly answer that he saw her at Berkly Springs during the war,
and he would continue the tale, and tell you of Lee Bullock's piroute
and Stonewall Jackson's charge.
We rushed down to the big spring bursting out of the mountain side,
and it was hot enough to cook an egg. Never did I see soldiers more
surprised. The water was so hot we could not drink it.
The snow covered the ground and was still falling.
That night I stood picket on the Potomac with a detail of the Third
Arkansas Regiment. I remember how sorry I felt for the poor fellows,
because they had enlisted for the war, and we for only twelve months.
Before nightfall I took in every object and commenced my weary vigils.
I had to stand all night. I could hear the rumblings of the Federal
artillery and wagons, and hear the low shuffling sound made by troops on
the march. The snow came pelting down as large as goose eggs. About
midnight the snow ceased to fall, and became quiet. Now and then the
snow would fall off the bushes and make a terrible noise. While I was
peering through the darkness, my eyes suddenly fell upon the outlines of
a man. The more I looked the more I was convinced that it was a Yankee
picket. I could see his hat and coat--yes, see his gun. I was sure
that it was a Yankee picket. What was I to do? The relief was several
hundred yards in the rear. The more I looked the more sure I was.
At last a cold sweat broke out all over my body. Turkey bumps rose.
I summoned all the nerves and bravery that I could command, and said:
"Halt! who goes there?" There being no response, I became resolute.
I did not wish to fire and arouse the camp, but I marched right up to it
and stuck my bayonet through and through it. It was a stump. I tell the
above, because it illustrates a part of many a private's recollections
of the war; in fact, a part of the hardships and suffering that they go
One secret of Stonewall Jackson's success was that he was such a strict
disciplinarian. He did his duty himself and was ever at his post,
and he expected and demanded of everybody to do the same thing. He would
have a man shot at the drop of a hat, and drop it himself. The first
army order that was ever read to us after being attached to his corps,
was the shooting to death by musketry of two men who had stopped on the
battlefield to carry off a wounded comrade. It was read to us in line
of battle at Winchester.
SCHWARTZ AND PFIFER
At Valley Mountain the finest and fattest beef I ever saw was issued to
the soldiers, and it was the custom to use tallow for lard. Tallow made
good shortening if the biscuits were eaten hot, but if allowed to get
cold they had a strong taste of tallow in their flavor that did not
taste like the flavor of vanilla or lemon in ice cream and strawberries;
and biscuits fried in tallow were something upon the principle of 'possum
and sweet potatoes. Well, Pfifer had got the fat from the kidneys of
two hind quarters and made a cake of tallow weighing about twenty-five
pounds. He wrapped it up and put it carefully away in his knapsack.
When the assembly sounded for the march, Pfifer strapped on his knapsack.
It was pretty heavy, but Pfifer was "well heeled." He knew the good
frying he would get out of that twenty-five pounds of nice fat tallow,
and he was willing to tug and toil all day over a muddy and sloppy road
for his anticipated hot tallow gravy for supper. We made a long and hard
march that day, and about dark went into camp. Fires were made up and
water brought, and the soldiers began to get supper. Pfifer was in a
good humor. He went to get that twenty-five pounds of good, nice,
fat tallow out of his knapsack, and on opening it, lo and behold! it was
a rock that weighed about thirty pounds. Pfifer was struck dumb with
amazement. He looked bewildered, yea, even silly. I do not think he
cursed, because he could not do the subject justice. He looked at that
rock with the death stare of a doomed man. But he suspected Schwartz.
He went to Schwartz's knapsack, and there he found his cake of tallow.
He went to Schwartz and would have killed him had not soldiers interfered
and pulled him off by main force. His eyes blazed and looked like those
of a tiger when he has just torn his victim limb from limb. I would
not have been in Schwartz's shoes for all the tallow in every beef in
Virginia. Captain Harsh made Schwartz carry that rock for two days to
One incident came under my observation while in Virginia that made a deep
impression on my mind. One morning, about daybreak, the new guard was
relieving the old guard. It was a bitter cold morning, and on coming to
our extreme outpost, I saw a soldier--he was but a mere boy--either dead
or asleep at his post. The sergeant commanding the relief went up to him
and shook him. He immediately woke up and seemed very much frightened.
He was fast asleep at his post. The sergeant had him arrested and
carried to the guard-house.
Two days afterwards I received notice to appear before a court-martial at
nine. I was summoned to appear as a witness against him for being asleep
at his post in the enemy's country. An example had to be made of some
one. He had to be tried for his life. The court-martial was made up
of seven or eight officers of a different regiment. The witnesses all
testified against him, charges and specifications were read, and by the
rules of war he had to be shot to death by musketry. The Advocate-
General for the prosecution made the opening speech. He read the law in
a plain, straightforward manner, and said that for a soldier to go to
sleep at his post of duty, while so much depended upon him, was the most
culpable of all crimes, and the most inexcusable. I trembled in my boots,
for on several occasions I knew I had taken a short nap, even on the very
outpost. The Advocate-General went on further to say, that the picket
was the sentinel that held the lives of his countrymen and the liberty
of his country in his hands, and it mattered not what may have been his
record in the past. At one moment he had forfeited his life to his
country. For discipline's sake, if for nothing else, you gentlemen that
make up this court-martial find the prisoner guilty. It is necessary for
you to be firm, gentlemen, for upon your decision depends the safety of
our country. When he had finished, thinks I to myself, "Gone up the
spout, sure; we will have a first-class funeral here before night."
Well, as to the lawyer who defended him, I cannot now remember his
speeches; but he represented a fair-haired boy leaving his home and
family, telling his father and aged mother and darling little sister
farewell, and spoke of his proud step, though a mere boy, going to defend
his country and his loved ones; but at one weak moment, when nature,
tasked and taxed beyond the bounds of human endurance, could stand no
longer, and upon the still and silent picket post, when the whole army
was hushed in slumber, what wonder is it that he, too, may have fallen
asleep while at his post of duty.
Some of you gentlemen of this court-martial may have sons, may have
brothers; yes, even fathers, in the army. Where are they tonight?
You love your children, or your brother or father. This mere youth has
a father and mother and sister away back in Tennessee. They are willing
to give him to his country. But oh! gentlemen, let the word go back to
Tennessee that he died upon the battlefield, and not by the hands of his
own comrades for being asleep at his post of duty. I cannot now remember
the speeches, but one thing I do know, that he was acquitted, and I was
glad of it.
"THE DEATH WATCH"
One more scene I can remember. Kind friends--you that know nothing of a
soldier's life--I ask you in all candor not to doubt the following lines
in this sketch. You have no doubt read of the old Roman soldier found
amid the ruins of Pompeii, who had stood there for sixteen hundred years,
and when he was excavated was found at his post with his gun clasped in
his skeleton hands. You believe this because it is written in history.
I have heard politicians tell it. I have heard it told from the sacred
desk. It is true; no one doubts it.
Now, were I to tell something that happened in this nineteenth century
exactly similar, you would hardly believe it. But whether you believe
it or not, it is for you to say. At a little village called Hampshire
Crossing, our regiment was ordered to go to a little stream called
St. John's Run, to relieve the 14th Georgia Regiment and the 3rd
Arkansas. I cannot tell the facts as I desire to. In fact, my hand
trembles so, and my feelings are so overcome, that it is hard for me to
write at all. But we went to the place that we were ordered to go to,
and when we arrived there we found the guard sure enough. If I remember
correctly, there were just eleven of them. Some were sitting down and
some were lying down; but each and every one was as cold and as hard
frozen as the icicles that hung from their hands and faces and clothing--
dead! They had died at their post of duty. Two of them, a little in
advance of the others, were standing with their guns in their hands,
as cold and as hard frozen as a monument of marble--standing sentinel
with loaded guns in their frozen hands! The tale is told. Were they
true men? Does He who noteth the sparrow's fall, and numbers the hairs
of our heads, have any interest in one like ourselves? Yes; He doeth
all things well. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His consent.
After having served through all the valley campaign, and marched through
all the wonders of Northwest Virginia, and being associated with the army
of Virginia, it was with sorrow and regret that we bade farewell to "Old
Virginia's shore," to go to other fields of blood and carnage and death.
We had learned to love Virginia; we love her now. The people were kind
and good to us. They divided their last crust of bread and rasher of
bacon with us. We loved Lee, we loved Jackson; we loved the name,
association and people of Virginia. Hatton, Forbes, Anderson, Gilliam,
Govan, Loring, Ashby and Schumaker were names with which we had been long
associated. We hated to leave all our old comrades behind us. We felt
that we were proving recreant to the instincts of our own manhood,
and that we were leaving those who had stood by us on the march and
battlefield when they most needed our help. We knew the 7th and 14th
Tennessee regiments; we knew the 3rd Arkansas, the 14th Georgia, and 42nd
Virginia regiments. Their names were as familiar as household words.
We were about to leave the bones of Joe Bynum and Gus Allen and Patrick
Hanly. We were about to bid farewell to every tender association that we
had formed with the good people of Virginia, and to our old associates
among the soldiers of the Grand Army of Virginia. _Virginia, farewell!_
Away back yonder, in good old Tennessee, our homes and loved ones are
being robbed and insulted, our fields laid waste, our cities sacked,
and our people slain. Duty as well as patriotism calls us back to our
native home, to try and defend it, as best we can, against an invading
army of our then enemies; and, Virginia, once more we bid you a long
This was the first big battle in which our regiment had ever been
engaged. I do not pretend to tell of what command distinguished itself;
of heroes; of blood and wounds; of shrieks and groans; of brilliant
charges; of cannon captured, etc. I was but a private soldier, and if
I happened to look to see if I could find out anything, "Eyes right,
guide center," was the order. "Close up, guide right, halt, forward,
right oblique, left oblique, halt, forward, guide center, eyes right,
dress up promptly in the rear, steady, double quick, charge bayonets,
fire at will," is about all that a private soldier ever knows of a
battle. He can see the smoke rise and the flash of the enemy's guns,
and he can hear the whistle of the minnie and cannon balls, but he has
got to load and shoot as hard as he can tear and ram cartridge, or he
will soon find out, like the Irishman who had been shooting blank
cartridges, when a ball happened to strike him, and he halloed out,
"Faith, Pat, and be jabbers, them fellows are shooting bullets." But I
nevertheless remember many things that came under my observation in this
battle. I remember a man by the name of Smith stepping deliberately
out of the ranks and shooting his finger off to keep out of the fight;
of another poor fellow who was accidentally shot and killed by the
discharge of another person's gun, and of others suddenly taken sick with
colic. Our regiment was the advance guard on Saturday evening, and did a
little skirmishing; but General Gladden's brigade passed us and assumed
a position in our immediate front. About daylight on Sunday morning,
Chalmers' brigade relieved Gladden's. As Gladden rode by us, a courier
rode up and told him something. I do not know what it was, but I heard
Gladden say, "Tell General Bragg that I have as keen a scent for Yankees
as General Chalmers has."
On Sunday morning, a clear, beautiful, and still day, the order was
given for the whole army to advance, and to attack immediately. We
were supporting an Alabama brigade. The fire opened--bang, bang, bang,
a rattle de bang, bang, bang, a boom, de bang, bang, bang, boom, bang,
boom, bang, boom, bang, boom, bang, boom, whirr-siz-siz-siz--a ripping,
roaring boom, bang! The air was full of balls and deadly missiles.
The litter corps was carrying off the dying and wounded. We could hear
the shout of the charge and the incessant roar of the guns, the rattle
of the musketry, and knew that the contending forces were engaged in a
breast to breast struggle. But cheering news continued to come back.
Every one who passed would be hailed with, "Well, what news from the
front?" "Well, boys, we are driving 'em. We have captured all their
encampments, everything that they had, and all their provisions and army
stores, and everything."
As we were advancing to the attack and to support the Alabama brigade in
our front, and which had given way and were stricken with fear, some of
the boys of our regiment would laugh at them, and ask what they were
running for, and would commence to say "Flicker! flicker! flicker!"
like the bird called the yellowhammer, "Flicker! flicker! flicker!"
As we advanced, on the edge of the battlefield, we saw a big fat colonel
of the 23rd Tennessee regiment badly wounded, whose name, if I remember
correctly, was Matt. Martin. He said to us, "Give 'em goss, boys.
That's right, my brave First Tennessee. Give 'em Hail Columbia!"
We halted but a moment, and said I, "Colonel, where are you wounded?"
He answered in a deep bass voice, "My son, I am wounded in the arm,
in the leg, in the head, in the body, and in another place which I have
a delicacy in mentioning." That is what the gallant old Colonel said.
Advancing a little further on, we saw General Albert Sidney Johnson
surrounded by his staff and Governor Harris, of Tennessee. We saw some
little commotion among those who surrounded him, but we did not know at
the time that he was dead. The fact was kept from the troops.
About noon a courier dashed up and ordered us to go forward and support
General Bragg's center. We had to pass over the ground where troops had
been fighting all day.
I had heard and read of battlefields, seen pictures of battlefields,
of horses and men, of cannon and wagons, all jumbled together, while the
ground was strewn with dead and dying and wounded, but I must confess
that I never realized the "pomp and circumstance" of the thing called
glorious war until I saw this. Men were lying in every conceivable
position; the dead lying with their eyes wide open, the wounded begging
piteously for help, and some waving their hats and shouting to us to go
forward. It all seemed to me a dream; I seemed to be in a sort of haze,
when siz, siz, siz, the minnie balls from the Yankee line began to
whistle around our ears, and I thought of the Irishman when he said,
"Sure enough, those fellows are shooting bullets!"
Down would drop first one fellow and then another, either killed or
wounded, when we were ordered to charge bayonets. I had been feeling
mean all the morning as if I had stolen a sheep, but when the order to
charge was given, I got happy. I felt happier than a fellow does when he
professes religion at a big Methodist camp-meeting. I shouted. It was
fun then. Everybody looked happy. We were crowding them. One more
charge, then their lines waver and break. They retreat in wild
confusion. We were jubilant; we were triumphant. Officers could not
curb the men to keep in line. Discharge after discharge was poured into
the retreating line. The Federal dead and wounded covered the ground.
When in the very midst of our victory, here comes an order to halt.
What! halt after today's victory? Sidney Johnson killed, General Gladden
killed, and a host of generals and other brave men killed, and the whole
Yankee army in full retreat.
These four letters, h-a-l-t, O, how harsh they did break upon our ears.
The victory was complete, but the word "halt" turned victory into defeat.
The soldiers had passed through the Yankee camps and saw all the good
things that they had to eat in their sutlers' stores and officers'
marquees, and it was but a short time before every soldier was rummaging
to see what he could find.
The harvest was great and the laborers were not few.
The negro boys, who were with their young masters as servants, got rich.
Greenbacks were plentiful, good clothes were plentiful, rations were not
in demand. The boys were in clover.
This was Sunday.
On Monday the tide was reversed.
Now, those Yankees were whipped, fairly whipped, and according to all the
rules of war they ought to have retreated. But they didn't. Flushed
with their victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and the capture of
Nashville, and the whole State of Tennessee having fallen into their
hands, victory was again to perch upon their banners, for Buell's army,
by forced marches, had come to Grant's assistance at the eleventh hour.
Gunboats and transports were busily crossing Buell's army all of Sunday
night. We could hear their boats ringing their bells, and hear the puff
of smoke and steam from their boilers. Our regiment was the advance
outpost, and we saw the skirmish line of the Federals advancing and then
their main line and then their artillery. We made a good fight on Monday
morning, and I was taken by surprise when the order came for us to
retreat instead of advance. But as I said before, reader, a private
soldier is but an automaton, and knows nothing of what is going on among
the generals, and I am only giving the chronicles of little things and
events that came under my own observation as I saw them then and remember
them now. Should you desire to find out more about the battle, I refer
you to history.
One incident I recollect very well. A Yankee colonel, riding a fine gray
mare, was sitting on his horse looking at our advance as if we were on
review. W. H. rushed forward and grabbed his horse by the bridle,
telling him at the same time to surrender. The Yankee seized the reins,
set himself back in the saddle, put the muzzle of his pistol in W. H.'s
face and fired. About the time he pulled trigger, a stray ball from some
direction struck him in the side and he fell off dead, and his horse
becoming frightened, galloped off, dragging him through the Confederate
lines. His pistol had missed its aim.
I have heard hundreds of old soldiers tell of the amount of greenback
money they saw and picked up on the battlefield of Shiloh, but they
thought it valueless and did not trouble themselves with bringing it off
One fellow, a courier, who had had his horse killed, got on a mule he had
captured, and in the last charge, before the final and fatal halt was
made, just charged right ahead by his lone self, and the soldiers said,
"Just look at that brave man, charging right in the jaws of death."
He began to seesaw the mule and grit his teeth, and finally yelled out,
"It arn't me, boys, it's this blarsted old mule. Whoa! Whoa!"
On Monday morning I too captured me a mule. He was not a fast mule,
and I soon found out that he thought he knew as much as I did. He was
wise in his own conceit. He had a propensity to take every hog path he
came to. All the bombasting that I could give him would not make him
accelerate his speed. If blood makes speed, I do not suppose he had a
drop of any kind in him. If I wanted him to go on one side of the road
he was sure to be possessed of an equal desire to go on the other side.
Finally I and my mule fell out. I got a big hickory and would frail
him over the head, and he would only shake his head and flop his ears,
and seem to say, "Well, now, you think you are smart, don't you?"
He was a resolute mule, slow to anger, and would have made an excellent
merchant to refuse bad pay, or I will pay your credit, for his whole
composition seemed to be made up the one word--no. I frequently thought
it would be pleasant to split the difference with that mule, and I would
gladly have done so if I could have gotten one-half of his no. Me and
mule worried along until we came to a creek. Mule did not desire to
cross, while I was trying to persuade him with a big stick, a rock in his
ear, and a twister on his nose. The caisson of a battery was about to
cross. The driver said, "I'll take your mule over for you." So he got a
large two-inch rope, tied one end around the mule's neck and the other to
the caisson, and ordered the driver to whip up. The mule was loath to
take to the water. He was no Baptist, and did not believe in immersion,
and had his views about crossing streams, but the rope began to tighten,
the mule to squeal out his protestations against such villainous
proceedings. The rope, however, was stronger than the mule's "no,"
and he was finally prevailed upon by the strength of the rope to cross
the creek. On my taking the rope off he shook himself and seemed to say,
"You think that you are mighty smart folks, but you are a leetle too
smart." I gave it up that that mule's "no" was a little stronger than my
determination. He seemed to be in deep meditation. I got on him again,
when all of a sudden he lifted his head, pricked up his ears, began to
champ his bit, gave a little squeal, got a little faster, and finally
into a gallop and then a run. He seemed all at once to have remembered
or to have forgotten something, and was now making up for lost time.
With all my pulling and seesawing and strength I could not stop him until
he brought up with me at Corinth, Mississippi.
Well, here we were, again "reorganizing," and after our lax discipline
on the road to and from Virginia, and after a big battle, which always
disorganizes an army, what wonder is it that some men had to be shot,
merely for discipline's sake? And what wonder that General Bragg's name
became a terror to deserters and evil doers? Men were shot by scores,
and no wonder the army had to be reorganized. Soldiers had enlisted for
twelve months only, and had faithfully complied with their volunteer
obligations; the terms for which they had enlisted had expired, and they
naturally looked upon it that they had a right to go home. They had
done their duty faithfully and well. They wanted to see their families;
in fact, wanted to go home anyhow. War had become a reality; they were
tired of it. A law had been passed by the Confederate States Congress
called the conscript act. A soldier had no right to volunteer and to
choose the branch of service he preferred. He was conscripted.
From this time on till the end of the war, a soldier was simply a machine,
a conscript. It was mighty rough on rebels. We cursed the war, we
cursed Bragg, we cursed the Southern Confederacy. All our pride and
valor had gone, and we were sick of war and the Southern Confederacy.
A law was made by the Confederate States Congress about this time
allowing every person who owned twenty negroes to go home. It gave us
the blues; we wanted twenty negroes. Negro property suddenly became very
valuable, and there was raised the howl of "rich man's war, poor man's
fight." The glory of the war, the glory of the South, the glory and the
pride of our volunteers had no charms for the conscript.
We were directed to re-elect our officers, and the country was surprised
to see the sample of a conscript's choice. The conscript had no choice.
He was callous, and indifferent whether he had a captain or not. Those
who were at first officers had resigned and gone home, because they were
officers. The poor private, a contemptible conscript, was left to howl
and gnash his teeth. The war might as well have ended then and there.
The boys were "hacked," nay, whipped. They were shorn of the locks of
their glory. They had but one ambition now, and that was to get out
of the army in some way or other. They wanted to join the cavalry or
artillery or home guards or pioneer corps or to be "yaller dogs," or
[The average staff officer and courier were always called "yaller dogs,"
and were regarded as non-combatants and a nuisance, and the average
private never let one pass without whistling and calling dogs. In fact,
the general had to issue an army order threatening punishment for the
ridicule hurled at staff officers and couriers. They were looked upon
as simply "hangers on," or in other words, as yellow sheep-killing dogs,
that if you would say "booh" at, would yelp and get under their master's
heels. Mike Snyder was General George Maney's "yaller dog," and I
believe here is where Joe Jefferson, in Rip Van Winkle, got the name of
Rip's dog Snyder. At all times of day or night you could hear, "wheer,
hyat, hyat, haer, haer, hugh, Snyder, whoopee, hyat, whoopee, Snyder,
here, here," when a staff officer or courier happened to pass. The
reason of this was that the private knew and felt that there was just
that much more loading, shooting and fighting for him; and there are the
fewest number of instances on record where a staff officer or courier
ever fired a gun in their country's cause; and even at this late day,
when I hear an old soldier telling of being on some general's staff,
I always think of the letter "E." In fact, later in the war I was
detailed as special courier and staff officer for General Hood, which
office I held three days. But while I held the office in passing a guard
I always told them I was on Hood's staff, and ever afterwards I made
those three days' staff business last me the balance of the war. I could
pass any guard in the army by using the magic words, "staff officer."
It beat all the countersigns ever invented. It was the "open sesame"
of war and discipline. ]
Their last hope had set. They hated war. To their minds the South was
a great tyrant, and the Confederacy a fraud. They were deserting by
thousands. They had no love or respect for General Bragg. When men were
to be shot or whipped, the whole army was marched to the horrid scene to
see a poor trembling wretch tied to a post and a platoon of twelve men
drawn up in line to put him to death, and the hushed command of "Ready,
aim, fire!" would make the soldier, or conscript, I should say, loathe
the very name of Southern Confederacy. And when some miserable wretch
was to be whipped and branded for being absent ten days without leave,
we had to see him kneel down and have his head shaved smooth and slick as
a peeled onion, and then stripped to the naked skin. Then a strapping
fellow with a big rawhide would make the blood flow and spurt at every
lick, the wretch begging and howling like a hound, and then he was
branded with a red hot iron with the letter D on both hips, when he was
marched through the army to the music of the "Rogue's March." It was
enough. None of General Bragg's soldiers ever loved him. They had no
faith in his ability as a general. He was looked upon as a merciless
tyrant. The soldiers were very scantily fed. Bragg never was a good
feeder or commissary-general. Rations with us were always scarce.
No extra rations were ever allowed to the negroes who were with us as
servants. No coffee or whisky or tobacco were ever allowed to be issued
to the troops. If they obtained these luxuries, they were not from the
government. These luxuries were withheld in order to crush the very
heart and spirit of his troops. We were crushed. Bragg was the great
autocrat. In the mind of the soldier, his word was law. He loved to
crush the spirit of his men. The more of a hang-dog look they had about
them the better was General Bragg pleased. Not a single soldier in the
whole army ever loved or respected him. But he is dead now.
Peace to his ashes!
We became starved skeletons; naked and ragged rebels. The chronic
diarrhoea became the scourge of the army. Corinth became one vast
hospital. Almost the whole army attended the sick call every morning.
All the water courses went dry, and we used water out of filthy pools.
Halleck was advancing; we had to fortify Corinth. A vast army, Grant,
Buell, Halleck, Sherman, all were advancing on Corinth. Our troops
were in no condition to fight. In fact, they had seen enough of this
miserable yet tragic farce. They were ready to ring down the curtain,
put out the footlights and go home. They loved the Union anyhow, and
were always opposed to this war. But breathe softly the name of Bragg.
It had more terror than the advancing hosts of Halleck's army. The shot
and shell would come tearing through our ranks. Every now and then a
soldier was killed or wounded, and we thought what "magnificent" folly.
Death was welcome. Halleck's whole army of blue coats had no terror now.
When we were drawn up in line of battle, a detail of one-tenth of the
army was placed in our rear to shoot us down if we ran. No pack of
hounds under the master's lash, or body of penitentiary convicts were
ever under greater surveillance. We were tenfold worse than slaves;
our morale was a thing of the past; the glory of war and the pride of
manhood had been sacrificed upon Bragg's tyrannical holocaust. But
enough of this.
ROWLAND SHOT TO DEATH
One morning I went over to the 23rd Tennessee Regiment on a visit to
Captain Gray Armstrong and Colonel Jim Niel, both of whom were glad to
see me, as we were old ante-bellum friends. While at Colonel Niel's
marquee I saw a detail of soldiers bring out a man by the name of Rowland,
whom they were going to shoot to death with musketry, by order of a
court-martial, for desertion. I learned that he had served out the term
for which he had originally volunteered, had quit our army and joined
that of the Yankees, and was captured with Prentiss' Yankee brigade
at Shiloh. He was being hauled to the place of execution in a wagon,
sitting on an old gun box, which was to be his coffin. When they got to
the grave, which had been dug the day before, the water had risen in it,
and a soldier was baling it out. Rowland spoke up and said, "Please hand
me a drink of that water, as I want to drink out of my own grave so the
boys will talk about it when I am dead, and remember Rowland." They
handed him the water and he drank all there was in the bucket, and
handing it back asked them to please hand him a little more, as he had
heard that water was very scarce in hell, and it would be the last he
would ever drink. He was then carried to the death post, and there he
began to cut up jack generally. He began to curse Bragg, Jeff. Davis,
and the Southern Confederacy, and all the rebels at a terrible rate.
He was simply arrogant and very insulting. I felt that he deserved
to die. He said he would show the rebels how a Union man could die.
I do not know what all he did say. When the shooting detail came up,
he went of his own accord and knelt down at the post. The Captain
commanding the squad gave the command, "Ready, aim, fire!" and Rowland
tumbled over on his side. It was the last of Rowland.
KILLING A YANKEE SHARPSHOOTER
In our immediate front, at Corinth, Mississippi, our men were being
picked off by sharpshooters, and a great many were killed, but no one
could tell where the shots came from. At one particular post it was
sure death. Every detail that had been sent to this post for a week had
been killed. In distributing the detail this post fell to Tom Webb and
myself. They were bringing off a dead boy just as we went on duty.
Colonel George C. Porter, of the 6th Tennessee, warned us to keep a good
lookout. We took our stands. A minnie ball whistled right by my head.
I don't think it missed me an eighth of an inch. Tom had sat down on an
old chunk of wood, and just as he took his seat, zip! a ball took the
chunk of wood. Tom picked it up and began laughing at our tight place.
Happening to glance up towards the tree tops, I saw a smoke rising above
a tree, and about the same time I saw a Yankee peep from behind the tree,
up among the bushes. I quickly called Tom's attention to it, and pointed
out the place. We could see his ramrod as he handled it while loading
his gun; saw him raise his gun, as we thought, to put a cap on it.
Tom in the meantime had lain flat on his belly and placed his gun across
the chunk he had been sitting on. I had taken a rest for my gun by the
side of a sapling, and both of us had dead aim at the place where the
Yankee was. Finally we saw him sort o' peep round the tree, and we moved
about a little so that he might see us, and as we did so, the Yankee
stepped out in full view, and bang, bang! Tom and I had both shot.
We saw that Yankee tumble out like a squirrel. It sounded like distant
thunder when that Yankee struck the ground. We heard the Yankees carry
him off. One thing I am certain of, and that is, not another Yankee went
up that tree that day, and Colonel George C. Porter complimented Tom and
I very highly on our success. This is where I first saw a jack o'lantern
(ignis fatui). That night, while Tom and I were on our posts, we saw a
number of very dim lights, which seemed to be in motion. At first we
took them to be Yankees moving about with lights. Whenever we could get
a shot we would blaze away. At last one got up very close, and passed
right between Tom and I. I don't think I was ever more scared in my
life. My hair stood on end like the quills of the fretful porcupine;
I could not imagine what on earth it was. I took it to be some hellish
machination of a Yankee trick. I did not know whether to run or stand,
until I heard Tom laugh and say, "Well, well, that's a jack o'lantern."
Before proceeding further with these memoirs, I desire to give short
sketches of two personages with whom we were identified and closely
associated until the winding up of the ball. The first is Colonel
Hume R. Field. Colonel Field was born a soldier. I have read many
descriptions of Stonewall Jackson. Colonel Field was his exact
counterpart. They looked somewhat alike, spoke alike, and alike were
trained military soldiers. The War Department at Richmond made a
grand mistake in not making him a "commander of armies." He was not
a brilliant man; could not talk at all. He was a soldier. His
conversation was yea and nay. But when you could get "yes, sir," and "no,
sir," out of him his voice was as soft and gentle as a maid's when she
says "yes" to her lover. Fancy, if you please, a man about thirty years
old, a dark skin, made swarthy by exposure to sun and rain, very black
eyes that seemed to blaze with a gentle luster. I never saw him the
least excited in my life. His face was a face of bronze. His form was
somewhat slender, but when you looked at him you saw at the first glance
that this would be a dangerous man in a ground skuffle, a foot race,
or a fight. There was nothing repulsive or forbidding or even
domineering in his looks. A child or a dog would make up with him on
first sight. He knew not what fear was, or the meaning of the word fear.
He had no nerves, or rather, has a rock or tree any nerves? You might as
well try to shake the nerves of a rock or tree as those of Colonel Field.
He was the bravest man, I think, I ever knew. Later in the war he was
known by every soldier in the army; and the First Tennessee Regiment,
by his manipulations, became the regiment to occupy "tight places."
He knew his men. When he struck the Yankee line they felt the blow.
He had, himself, set the example, and so trained his regiment that all
the armies in the world could not whip it. They might kill every man in
it, is true, but they would die game to the last man. His men all loved
him. He was no disciplinarian, but made his regiment what it was by his
own example. And every day on the march you would see some poor old
ragged rebel riding his fine gray mare, and he was walking.
CAPTAIN JOE P. LEE
The other person I wish to speak of is Captain Joe P. Lee. Captain Henry
J. Webster was our regular captain, but was captured while on furlough,
sent to a northern prison and died there, and Joe went up by promotion.
He was quite a young man, about twenty-one years old, but as brave as
any old Roman soldier that ever lived. Joe's face was ever wreathed in
smiles, and from the beginning to the end he was ever at the head of his
company. I do not think that any member of the company ever did call him
by his title. He was called simply "Joe Lee," or more frequently "Black
Perch." While on duty he was strict and firm, but off duty he was "one
of us boys." We all loved and respected him, but everybody knows Joe,
and further comment is unnecessary.
I merely mention these two persons because in this rapid sketch I may
have cause occasionally to mention them, and only wish to introduce them
to the reader, so he may understand more fully my ideas. But, reader,
please remember that I am not writing a history at all, and do not
propose in these memoirs to be anybody's biographer. I am only giving my
own impressions. If other persons think differently from me it is all
right, and I forgive them.
One morning a detail was sent to burn up and destroy all the provisions
and army stores, and to blow up the arsenal. The town was in a blaze
of fire and the arsenal was roaring and popping and bellowing like
pandemonium turned loose as we marched through Corinth on the morning of
the evacuation. We bade farewell to Corinth. Its history was black and
dark and damning. No little speck of green oasis ever enlivened the dark
recesses of our memory while at this place. It's a desert that lives
only in bitter memories. It was but one vast graveyard that entombed
the life and spirit of once brave and chivalrous men. We left it to
the tender mercies of the Yankees without one tear of sorrow or regret,
and bade it farewell forever.
We went into summer quarters at Tupelo. Our principal occupation at this
place was playing poker, chuck-a-luck and cracking graybacks (lice).
Every soldier had a brigade of lice on him, and I have seen fellows so
busily engaged in cracking them that it reminded me of an old woman
knitting. At first the boys would go off in the woods and hide to louse
themselves, but that was unnecessary, the ground fairly crawled with
lice. Pharaoh's people, when they were resisting old Moses, never
enjoyed the curse of lice more than we did. The boys would frequently
have a louse race. There was one fellow who was winning all the money;
his lice would run quicker and crawl faster than anybody's lice. We
could not understand it. If some fellow happened to catch a fierce-
looking louse, he would call on Dornin for a race. Dornin would come and
always win the stake. The lice were placed in plates--this was the race
course--and the first that crawled off was the winner. At last we found
out D.'s trick; he always heated his plate.
Billy P. said he had no lice on him.
"Did you ever look?"
"How do you know then?"
"If ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise," said Billy.
"Why, there is one crawling on your bosom now."
Billy took him and put him back in his bosom and said to the louse,
"You stay there now; this makes the fourth time I have put you back,
and if I catch you out again today I'll martyr you."
Billy was philosophic--the death of one louse did not stop the breed.
THE COURT MARTIAL AT TUPELO
At this place was held the grand court-martial. Almost every day we
would hear a discharge of musketry, and knew that some poor, trembling
wretch had bid farewell to mortal things here below. It seemed to be
but a question of time with all of us as to when we too would be shot.
We were afraid to chirp. So far now as patriotism was concerned, we had
forgotten all about that, and did not now so much love our country as we
feared Bragg. Men were being led to the death stake every day. I heard
of many being shot, but did not see but two men shot myself. I do not
know to what regiment they belonged, but I remember that they were mere
beardless boys. I did not learn for what crime or the magnitude of their
offenses. They might have deserved death for all I know.
I saw an old man, about sixty years old, whose name was Dave Brewer,
and another man, about forty-five, by the name of Rube Franklin, whipped.
There was many a man whipped and branded that I never saw or heard tell
of. But the reason I remembered these two was that they belonged to
Company A of the 23rd Tennessee Regiment, and I knew many men in the
These two men were hung up by the hands, after having their heads shaved,
to a tree, put there for the purpose, with the prongs left on them,
and one hand was stretched toward one prong and the other hand to another
prong, their feet, perhaps, just touching the ground. The man who did
the whipping had a thick piece of sole-leather, the end of which was cut
in three strips, and this tacked on to the end of a paddle. After the
charges and specifications had been read (both men being stark naked),
the whipper "lit in" on Rube, who was the youngest. I do not think he
intended to hit as hard as he did, but, being excited himself, he
blistered Rube from head to foot. Thirty-nine lashes was always the
number. Now, three times thirty-nine makes one hundred and seventeen.
When he struck at all, one lick would make three whelps. When he had
finished Rube, the Captain commanding the whipping squad told him to lay
it on old man Brewer as light as the law would allow, that old man Brewer
was so old that he would die--that he could not stand it. He struck old
man Dave Brewer thirty-nine lashes, but they were laid on light. Old
Dave didn't beg and squall like Rube did. He j-e-s-t did whip old man
Dave. Like the old preacher who caught the bear on Sunday. They had him
up before the church, agreed to let him off if he did not again set his
trap. "Well," he said, "brethren, I j-e-s-t did set it."
RAIDING ON ROASTINGEARS
At this place General Bragg issued an order authorizing citizens to
defend themselves against the depredations of soldiers--to shoot them
down if caught depredating.
Well, one day Byron Richardson and myself made a raid on an old citizen's
roastingear patch. We had pulled about all the corn that we could carry.
I had my arms full and was about starting for camp, when an old citizen
raised up and said, "Stop there! drop that corn." He had a double-
barreled shotgun cocked and leveled at my breast.
"Come and go with me to General Bragg's headquarters. I intend to take
you there, by the living God!"
I was in for it. Directed to go in front, I was being marched to Bragg's
headquarters. I could see the devil in the old fellow's eye. I tried to
beg off with good promises, but the old fellow was deaf to all entreaty.
I represented to him all of our hardships and suffering. But the old
fellow was inexorable. I was being steadily carried toward Bragg's
headquarters. I was determined not to see General Bragg, even if the old
citizen shot me in the back. When all at once a happy thought struck me.
Says I, "Mister, Byron Richardson is in your field, and if you will go
back we can catch him and you can take both of us to General Bragg."
The old fellow's spunk was up. He had captured me so easy, he no doubt
thought he could whip a dozen. We went back a short distance, and there
was Byron, who had just climbed over the fence and had his arms full,
when the old citizen, diverted from me, leveled his double-barrel at
Byron, when I made a grab for his gun, which was accidentally discharged
in the air, and with the assistance of Byron, we had the old fellow and
his gun both. The table was turned. We made the old fellow gather as
much as he could carry, and made him carry it nearly to camp, when we
dismissed him, a wiser if not a better and richer man. We took his gun
and bent it around a black jack tree. He was at the soldiers' mercy.
WE GO INTO KENTUCKY
After being thoroughly reorganized at Tupelo, and the troops had
recovered their health and spirits, we made an advance into Kentucky.
We took the cars at Tupelo and went to Mobile, from thence across Mobile
Bay to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Atlanta, from there to Chattanooga,
and then over the mountains afoot to the blue-grass regions of Kentucky--
the dark and bloody ground. Please remember, patient reader, that I
write entirely from memory. I have no data or diary or anything to go by,
and memory is a peculiar faculty. I find that I cannot remember towns
and battles, and remember only the little things. I remember how gladly
the citizens of Kentucky received us. I thought they had the prettiest
girls that God ever made. They could not do too much for us. They had
heaps and stacks of cooked rations along our route, with wine and cider
everywhere, and the glad shouts of "Hurrah for our Southern boys!"
greeted and welcomed us at every house. Ah, the boys felt like soldiers
again. The bands played merrier and livelier tunes. It was the patient
convalescing; the fever had left him, he was getting fat and strong;
the old fire was seen to illuminate his eyes; his step was buoyant and
proud; he felt ashamed that he had ever been "hacked"; he could fight
now. It was the same old proud soldier of yore. The bands played "Dixie"
and the "Bonnie Blue Flag," the citizens cheered, and the ladies waved
their handkerchiefs and threw us bouquets. Ah, those were halcyon days,
and your old soldier, kind reader, loves to recall that happy period.
Mumfordsville had been captured with five thousand prisoners. New
recruits were continually joining our ranks.
Camp Dick Robinson, that immense pile of army stores, had fallen into our
hands. We rode upon the summit of the wave of success. The boys had got
clean clothes, and had their faces washed. I saw then what I had long
since forgotten--a "cockade." The Kentucky girls made cockades for us,
and almost every soldier had one pinned on his hat. But stirring events
were hastening on, the black cloud of battle and war had begun then to
appear much larger than a man's hand, in fact we could see the lightning
flash and hear the thunder roar.
We were at Harrodsburg; the Yankees were approaching Perryville under
General Buell. The Yankees had been dogging our rear, picking up our
stragglers and capturing some of our wagon trains.
This good time that we were having was too good to last. We were in an
ecstasy akin to heaven. We were happy; the troops were jubilant; our
manhood blood pulsated more warmly; our patriotism was awakened; our
pride was renewed and stood ready for any emergency; we felt that one
Southern man could whip twenty Yankees. All was lovely and the goose
hung high. We went to dances and parties every night.
When General Chalmers marched to Perryville, in flanking and surrounding
Mumfordsville, we marched the whole night long. We, the private soldiers,
did not know what was going on among the generals. All that we had to do
was march, march, march. It mattered not how tired, hungry, or thirsty
we were. All that we had to do was to march that whole night long,
and every staff officer who would pass, some fellow would say, "Hey,
mister, how far is it to Mumfordsville?" He would answer, "five miles."
It seemed to me we traveled a hundred miles and were always within five
miles of Mumfordsville. That night we heard a volley of musketry in our
immediate front, and did not know what it meant, but soon we came to
where a few soldiers had lighted some candles and were holding them
over the body of a dead soldier. It was Captain Allison, if I remember
rightly, of General Cheatham's staff. He was very bloody, and had his
clothes riddled with balls. I heard that he rode on in front of the
advance guard of our army, and had no doubt discovered the Yankee picket,
and came galloping back at full speed in the dark, when our advance guard
fired on and killed him.
We laid down in a graveyard that night and slept, and when we awoke the
sun was high in the heavens, shining in our faces. Mumfordsville had
surrendered. The next day Dr. C. T. Quintard let me ride his horse
nearly all day, while he walked with the webfeet.
THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE
In giving a description of this most memorable battle, I do not pretend
to give you figures, and describe how this general looked and how that
one spoke, and the other one charged with drawn sabre, etc. I know
nothing of these things--see the history for that. I was simply a
soldier of the line, and I only write of the things I saw. I was in
every battle, skirmish and march that was made by the First Tennessee
Regiment during the war, and I do not remember of a harder contest and
more evenly fought battle than that of Perryville. If it had been two
men wrestling, it would have been called a "dog fall." Both sides claim
the victory--both whipped.
I stood picket in Perryville the night before the battle--a Yankee on
one side of the street, and I on the other. We got very friendly during
the night, and made a raid upon a citizen's pantry, where we captured
a bucket of honey, a pitcher of sweet milk, and three or four biscuit.
The old citizen was not at home--he and his whole household had gone
visiting, I believe. In fact, I think all of the citizens of Perryville
were taken with a sudden notion of promiscuous visiting about this time;
at least they were not at home to all callers.
At length the morning dawned. Our line was drawn up on one side of
Perryville, the Yankee army on the other. The two enemies that were soon
to meet in deadly embrace seemed to be eyeing each other. The blue coats
lined the hillside in plain view. You could count the number of their
regiments by the number of their flags. We could see the huge war dogs
frowning at us, ready at any moment to belch forth their fire and smoke,
and hurl their thunderbolts of iron and death in our very midst.
I wondered why the fighting did not begin. Never on earth were our
troops more eager for the engagement to open. The Yankees commenced to
march toward their left, and we marched almost parallel to our right--
both sides watching each other's maneuvers and movements. It was but the
lull that precedes the storm. Colonel Field was commanding our brigade,
and Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson our regiment. About 12 o'clock, while
we were marching through a corn field, in which the corn had been shocked,
they opened their war dogs upon us. The beginning of the end had come.
Here is where Captain John F. Wheless was wounded, and three others,
whose names I have forgotten. The battle now opened in earnest, and from
one end of the line to the other seemed to be a solid sheet of blazing
smoke and fire. Our regiment crossed a stream, being preceded by
Wharton's Texas Rangers, and we were ordered to attack at once with
vigor. Here General Maney's horse was shot. From this moment the battle
was a mortal struggle. Two lines of battle confronted us. We killed
almost every one in the first line, and were soon charging over the
second, when right in our immediate front was their third and main line
of battle from which four Napoleon guns poured their deadly fire.
We did not recoil, but our line was fairly hurled back by the leaden hail
that was poured into our very faces. Eight color-bearers were killed at
one discharge of their cannon. We were right up among the very wheels
of their Napoleon guns. It was death to retreat now to either side.
Our Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson halloed to charge and take their guns,
and we were soon in a hand-to-hand fight--every man for himself--using
the butts of our guns and bayonets. One side would waver and fall back a
few yards, and would rally, when the other side would fall back, leaving
the four Napoleon guns; and yet the battle raged. Such obstinate
fighting I never had seen before or since. The guns were discharged
so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar.
The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to
pieces. The very air seemed full of stifling smoke and fire which seemed
the very pit of hell, peopled by contending demons.
Our men were dead and dying right in the very midst of this grand havoc
of battle. It was a life to life and death to death grapple. The sun
was poised above us, a great red ball sinking slowly in the west, yet the
scene of battle and carnage continued. I cannot describe it. The mantle
of night fell upon the scene. I do not know which side whipped, but I
know that I helped bring off those four Napoleon guns that night though
we were mighty easy about it.
They were given to Turner's Battery of our brigade and had the name of
our Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson and our color-bearer, Mitchell, both of
whom were killed, inscribed on two of the pieces. I have forgotten the
names inscribed on the other two pieces. I saw these very four guns
surrendered at Missionary Ridge. But of this another time.
The battle of Perryville presented a strange scene. The dead, dying,
and wounded of both armies, Confederate and Federal, were blended in
inextricable confusion. Now and then a cluster of dead Yankees and close
by a cluster of dead Rebels. It was like the Englishman's grog--'alf and
'alf. Now, if you wish, kind reader, to find out how many were killed
and wounded, I refer you to the histories.
I remember one little incident that I laughed at while in the very midst
of battle. We were charging through an old citizen's yard, when a big
yellow cur dog ran out and commenced snapping at the soldiers' legs--
they kicking at him to keep him off. The next morning he was lying near
the same place, but he was a dead dog.
I helped bring off our wounded that night. We worked the whole night.
The next morning about daylight a wounded comrade, Sam Campbell,
complained of being cold, and asked me to lie down beside him. I did so,
and was soon asleep; when I awoke the poor fellow was stiff and cold in
death. His spirit had flown to its home beyond the skies.
After the battle was over, John T. Tucker, Scott Stephens, A. S. Horsley
and I were detailed to bring off our wounded that night, and we helped
to bring off many a poor dying comrade--Joe Thompson, Billy Bond, Byron
Richardson, the two Allen boys--brothers, killed side by side--and
Colonel Patterson, who was killed standing right by my side. He was
first shot through the hand, and was wrapping his handkerchief around it,
when another ball struck and killed him. I saw W. J. Whittorne, then a
strippling boy of fifteen years of age, fall, shot through the neck and
collar-bone. He fell apparently dead, when I saw him all at once jump up,
grab his gun and commence loading and firing, and I heard him say,
"D--n 'em, I'll fight 'em as long as I live." Whit thought he was killed,
but he is living yet. We helped bring off a man by the name of Hodge,
with his under jaw shot off, and his tongue lolling out. We brought off
Captain Lute B. Irvine. Lute was shot through the lungs and was vomiting
blood all the while, and begging us to lay him down and let him die.
But Lute is living yet. Also, Lieutenant Woldridge, with both eyes shot
out. I found him rambling in a briar-patch. About fifty members of the
Rock City Guards were killed and nearly one hundred wounded. They were
led by Captains W. D. Kelley, Wheless, and Steele. Lieutenant Thomas
H. Maney was badly wounded. I saw dead on the battlefield a Federal
General by the name of Jackson. It was his brigade that fought us so
obstinately at this place, and I did hear that they were made up in
Kentucky. Colonel Field, then commanding our brigade, and on his fine
gray mare, rode up almost face to face with General Jackson, before
he was killed, and Colonel Field was shooting all the time with his
seven-shooting rifle. I cannot tell the one-half, or even remember at
this late date, the scenes of blood and suffering that I witnessed on
the battlefield of Perryville. But its history, like all the balance,
has gone into the history of the war, and it has been twenty years ago,
and I write entirely from memory. I remember Lieutenant Joe P. Lee and
Captain W. C. Flournoy standing right at the muzzle of the Napoleon guns,
and the next moment seemed to be enveloped in smoke and fire from the
discharge of the cannon. When the regiment recoiled under the heavy
firing and at the first charge, Billy Webster and I stopped behind a
large oak tree and continued to fire at the Yankees until the regiment
was again charging upon the four Napoleon guns, heavily supported by
infantry. We were not more than twenty paces from them; and here I was
shot through the hat and cartridge-box. I remember this, because at
that time Billy and I were in advance of our line, and whenever we saw
a Yankee rise to shoot, we shot him; and I desire to mention here that
a braver or more noble boy was never created on earth than was Billy
Webster. Everybody liked him. He was the flower and chivalry of our
regiment. His record as a brave and noble boy will ever live in the
hearts of his old comrades that served with him in Company H. He is up
yonder now, and we shall meet again. In these memoirs I only tell what I
saw myself, and in this way the world will know the truth. Now, citizen,
let me tell you what you never heard before, and this is this--there were
many men with the rank and pay of general, who were not generals; there
were many men with the rank and pay of privates who would have honored
and adorned the name of general. Now, I will state further that a
private soldier was a private.
It mattered not how ignorant a corporal might be, he was always right;
it mattered not how intelligent the private might be (and so on up);
the sergeant was right over the corporal, the sergeant-major over the
sergeant, the lieutenant over him, and the captain over him, and the
major over him, and the colonel over him, and the general over him,
and so on up to Jeff Davis. You see, a private had no right to know
anything, and that is why generals did all the fighting, and that is
today why generals and colonels and captains are great men. They fought
the battles of our country. The privates did not. The generals risked
their reputation, the private soldier his life. No one ever saw a
private in battle. His history would never be written. It was the
generals that everybody saw charge such and such, with drawn sabre,
his eyes flashing fire, his nostrils dilated, and his clarion voice
ringing above the din of battle--"in a horn," over the left.
Bill Johns and Marsh Pinkard would have made Generals that would have
distinguished themselves and been an honor to the country.
I know today many a private who would have made a good General. I know
of many a General who was better fitted to be excused from detail and
fights, to hang around a camp and draw rations for the company. A
private had no way to distinguish himself. He had to keep in ranks,
either in a charge or a retreat. But now, as the Generals and Colonels
fill all the positions of honor and emoluments, the least I say, the
THE RETREAT OUT OF KENTUCKY
From Perryville we went to Camp Dick Robinson and drew three days'
rations, and then set fire to and destroyed all those great deposits of
army stores which would have supplied the South for a year. We ate those
rations and commenced our retreat out of Kentucky with empty haversacks
and still emptier stomachs.
We supposed our general and commissaries knew what they were doing,
and at night we would again draw rations, but we didn't.
The Yankee cavalry are worrying our rear guards. There is danger of an
attack at any moment. No soldier is allowed to break ranks.
We thought, well surely we will draw rations tonight. But we didn't.
We are marching for Cumberland Gap; the country has long ago been made
desolate by the alternate occupation of both armies. There are no
provisions in the country. It has long since been laid waste. We wanted
rations, but we did not get them.
Fourth day out--Cumberland Gap in the distance--a great indenture in the
ranges of Cumberland mountains. The scene was grand. But grand scenery
had but little attraction for a hungry soldier. Surely we will get
rations at Cumberland Gap. Toil on up the hill, and when half way up
the hill, "Halt!"--march back down to the foot of the hill to defend the
cavalry. I was hungry. A cavalryman was passing our regiment with a
pile of scorched dough on the pummel of his saddle. Says I, "Halt!
I am going to have a pattock of that bread." "Don't give it to him!
don't give it to him!" was yelled out from all sides. I cocked my gun
and was about to raise it to my shoulder, when he handed me over a
pattock of scorched dough, and every fellow in Company H made a grab
for it, and I only got about two or three mouthfuls. About dark a wild
heifer ran by our regiment, and I pulled down on her. We killed and
skinned her, and I cut off about five pounds of hindquarter. In three
minutes there was no sign of that beef left to tell the tale. We ate
that beef raw and without salt.
Only eight miles now to Cumberland Gap, and we will get rations now.
But we didn't. We descended the mountain on the southern side. No
Well, says I, this won't do me. I am going to hunt something to eat,
Bragg or no Bragg. I turned off the road and struck out through the
country, but had gone but a short distance before I came across a group
of soldiers clambering over something. It was Tom Tuck with a barrel of
sorghum that he had captured from a good Union man. He was selling it
out at five dollars a quart. I paid my five dollars, and by pushing and
scrouging I finally got my quart. I sat down and drank it; it was bully;
it was not so good; it was not worth a cent; I was sick, and have never
loved sorghum since.
Along the route it was nothing but tramp, tramp, tramp, and no sound or
noise but the same inevitable, monotonous tramp, tramp, tramp, up hill
and down hill, through long and dusty lanes, weary, wornout and hungry.
No cheerful warble of a merry songster would ever greet our ears.
It was always tramp, tramp, tramp. You might, every now and then,
hear the occasional words, "close up;" but outside of that, it was but
the same tramp, tramp, tramp. I have seen soldiers fast asleep, and no
doubt dreaming of home and loved ones there, as they staggered along in
their places in the ranks. I know that on many a weary night's march I
have slept, and slept soundly, while marching along in my proper place
in the ranks of the company, stepping to the same step as the soldier
in front of me did. Sometimes, when weary, broken down and worn out,
some member of the regiment would start a tune, and every man would join
in. John Branch was usually the leader of the choir. He would commence
a beautiful tune. The words, as I remember them now, were "Dear Paul,
Just Twenty Years Ago." After singing this piece he would commence on a
lively, spirit-stirring air to the tune of "Old Uncle Ned." Now, reader,
it has been twenty years ago since I heard it, but I can remember a part
of it now. Here it is:
"There was an ancient individual whose cognomen was Uncle Edward.
He departed this life long since, long since.
He had no capillary substance on the top of his cranium,
The place where the capillary substance ought to vegetate.
His digits were as long as the bamboo piscatorial implement of the
He had no oculars to observe the beauties of nature.
He had no ossified formation to masticate his daily rations,
So he had to let his daily rations pass by with impunity."
Walker Coleman raises the tune of "I'se a gwine to jine the rebel band,
a fightin' for my home."
Now, reader, the above is all I can now remember of that very beautiful
and soul-stirring air. But the boys would wake up and step quicker and
livelier for some time, and Arthur Fulghum would holloa out, "All right;
go ahead!" and then would toot! toot! as if the cars were starting--
puff! puff! puff and then he would say, "Tickets, gentlemen; tickets,
gentlemen." like he was conductor on a train of cars. This little
episode would be over, and then would commence the same tramp, tramp,
tramp, all night long. Step by step, step by step, we continued to plod
and nod and stagger and march, tramp, tramp, tramp. After a while we
would see the morning star rise in the east, and then after a while the
dim gray twilight, and finally we could discover the outlines of our file
leader, and after a while could make out the outlines of trees and other
objects. And as it would get lighter and lighter, and day would be about
to break, cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, would come from Tom Tuck's rooster.
[Tom carried a game rooster, that he called "Fed" for Confederacy,
all through the war in a haversack.] And then the sun would begin to
shoot his slender rays athwart the eastern sky, and the boys would wake
up and begin laughing and talking as if they had just risen from a good
feather bed, and were perfectly refreshed and happy. We would usually
stop at some branch or other about breakfast time, and all wash our hands
and faces and eat breakfast, if we had any, and then commence our weary
march again. If we were halted for one minute, every soldier would drop
down, and resting on his knapsack, would go to sleep. Sometimes the
Back to Full Books