Sam R. Watkins
Part 2 out of 5
sleeping soldiers were made to get up to let some general and his staff
pass by. But whenever that was the case, the general always got a worse
cursing than when Noah cursed his son Ham black and blue. I heard Jessee
Ely do this once.
We march on. The scene of a few days ago comes unbidden to my mind.
Tramp, tramp, tramp, the soldiers are marching. Where are many of my old
friends and comrades, whose names were so familiar at every roll call,
and whose familiar "Here" is no more? They lie yonder at Perryville,
unburied, on the field of battle. They lie where they fell. More than
three hundred and fifty members of my regiment, the First Tennessee,
numbered among the killed and wounded--one hundred and eighty-five slain
on the field of battle. Who are they? Even then I had to try to think
up the names of all the slain of Company H alone. Their spirits seemed
to be with us on the march, but we know that their souls are with their
God. Their bones, today, no doubt, bleach upon the battlefield. They
left their homes, families, and loved ones a little more than one short
twelve months ago, dressed in their gray uniforms, amid the applause and
cheering farewells of those same friends. They lie yonder; no friendly
hands ever closed their eyes in death; no kind, gentle, and loving mother
was there to shed a tear over and say farewell to her darling boy;
no sister's gentle touch ever wiped the death damp from off their dying
brows. Noble boys; brave boys! They willingly gave their lives to their
country's cause. Their bodies and bones are mangled and torn by the rude
missiles of war. They sleep the sleep of the brave. They have given
their all to their country. We miss them from our ranks. There are no
more hard marches and scant rations for them. They have accomplished all
that could be required of them. They are no more; their names are soon
forgotten. They are put down in the roll-book as killed. They are
forgotten. We will see them no more until the last reveille on the last
morning of the final resurrection. Soldiers, comrades, friends, noble
boys, farewell we will meet no more on earth, but up yonder some day we
will have a grand reunion.
The first night after crossing Cumberland Gap--I have forgotten the date,
but I know it was very early in the fall of the year; we had had no
frost or cold weather, and our marches all through Kentucky had been
characterized by very dry weather, it not having rained a drop on us
during the whole time--about four o'clock in the morning it began to snow,
and the next morning the ground was covered with a deep snow; the trees
and grass and everything of the vegetable kingdom still green.
When we got back to Knoxville we were the lousiest, dirtiest, raggedest
looking Rebels you ever saw. I had been shot through the hat and
cartridge-box at Perryville, and had both on, and the clothing I then had
on was all that I had in the world. William A. Hughes and I were walking
up the street looking at the stores, etc., when we met two of the
prettiest girls I ever saw. They ran forward with smiling faces, and
seemed very glad to see us. I thought they were old acquaintances of
Hughes, and Hughes thought they were old acquaintances of mine. We were
soon laughing and talking as if we had been old friends, when one of the
young ladies spoke up and said, "Gentlemen, there is a supper for the
soldiers at the Ladies' Association rooms, and we are sent out to bring
in all the soldiers we can find." We spoke up quickly and said, "Thank
you, thank you, young ladies," and I picked out the prettiest one and
said, "Please take my arm," which she did, and Hughes did the same with
the other one, and we went in that style down the street. I imagine we
were a funny looking sight. I know one thing, I felt good all over,
and as proud as a boy with his first pants, and when we got to that
supper room those young ladies waited on us, and we felt as grand as
kings. To you, ladies, I say, God bless you!
Almost every soldier in the army--generals, colonels, captains, as well
as privates--had a nick-name; and I almost believe that had the war
continued ten years, we would have forgotten our proper names. John
T. Tucker was called "Sneak," A. S. Horsley was called "Don Von One
Horsley," W. A. Hughes was called "Apple Jack," Green Rieves was called
"Devil Horse," the surgeon of our regiment was called "Old Snake,"
Bob Brank was called "Count," the colonel of the Fourth was called "Guide
Post," E. L. Lansdown was called "Left Tenant," some were called by
the name of "Greasy," some "Buzzard," others "Hog," and "Brutus," and
"Cassius," and "Caesar," "Left Center," and "Bolderdust," and "Old
Hannah;" in fact, the nick-names were singular and peculiar, and when a
man got a nick-name it stuck to him like the Old Man of the Sea did to
the shoulders of Sinbad, the sailor.
On our retreat the soldiers got very thirsty for tobacco (they always
used the word thirsty), and they would sometimes come across an old field
off which the tobacco had been cut and the suckers had re-sprouted from
the old stalk, and would cut off these suckers and dry them by the fire
and chew them. "Sneak" had somehow or other got hold of a plug or two,
and knowing that he would be begged for a chew, had cut it up in little
bits of pieces about one-fourth of a chew. Some fellow would say, "Sneak,
please give me a chew of tobacco." Sneak would say, "I don't believe
I have a piece left," and then he would begin to feel in his pockets.
He would pull that hand out and feel in another pocket, and then in his
coat pockets, and hid away down in an odd corner of his vest pocket he
would accidentally find a little chew, just big enough to make "spit
come." Sneak had his pockets full all the time. The boys soon found
out his inuendoes and subterfuges, but John would all the time appear as
innocent of having tobacco as a pet lamb that has just torn down a nice
vine that you were so careful in training to run over the front porch.
Ah, John, don't deny it now!
I JINE THE CAVALRY
When we got to Charleston, on the Hiwassee river, there we found the
First Tennessee Cavalry and Ninth Battalion, both of which had been made
up principally in Maury county, and we knew all the boys. We had a
good old-fashioned handshaking all around. Then I wanted to "jine the
cavalry." Captain Asa G. Freeman had an extra horse, and I got on him
and joined the cavalry for several days, but all the time some passing
cavalryman would make some jocose remark about "Here is a webfoot who
wants to jine the cavalry, and has got a bayonet on his gun and a
knapsack on his back." I felt like I had got into the wrong pen, but
anyhow I got to ride all of three days. I remember that Mr. Willis
B. Embry gave me a five-pound package of Kallickanick smoking tobacco,
for which I was very grateful. I think he was quartermaster of the First
Tennessee Cavalry, and as good a man and as clever a person as I ever
knew. None knew him but to love him. I was told that he was killed by
a lot of Yankee soldiers after he had surrendered to them, all the time
begging for his life, asking them please not kill him. But He that
noteth the sparrow's fall doeth all things well. Not one ever falls to
the ground with His consent.
We came from Knoxville to Chattanooga, and seemed destined to make a
permanent stay here. We remained several months, but soon we were on the
From Chattanooga, Bragg's army went to Murfreesboro.
The Federal army was concentrating at Nashville. There was no rest for
the weary. Marches and battles were the order of the day.
Our army stopped at Murfreesboro. Our advanced outpost was established
at Lavergne. From time to time different regiments were sent forward
to do picket duty. I was on picket at the time the advance was made by
Rosecrans. At the time mentioned, I was standing about two hundred yards
off the road, the main body of the pickets being on the Nashville and
Murfreesboro turnpike, and commanded by Lieutenant Hardy Murfree, of the
I had orders to allow no one to pass. In fact, no one was expected to
pass at this point, but while standing at my post, a horseman rode up
behind me. I halted him, and told him to go down to the main picket on
the road and pass, but he seemed so smiling that I thought he knew me,
or had a good joke to tell me. He advanced up, and pulling a piece of
paper out of his pocket, handed it to me to read. It was an order from
General Leonidas Polk to allow the bearer to pass. I read it, and looked
up to hand it back to him, when I discovered that he had a pistol cocked
and leveled in my face, and says he, "Drop that gun; you are my prisoner."
I saw there was no use in fooling about it. I knew if I resisted he
would shoot me, and I thought then that he was about to perform that
detestable operation. I dropped the gun.
I did not wish to spend my winter in a Northern prison, and what was
worse, I would be called a deserter from my post of duty.
The Yankee picket lines were not a half mile off. I was perfectly
willing to let the spy go on his way rejoicing--for such he was--but he
wanted to capture a Rebel.
And I had made up my mind to think likewise. There I was, a prisoner
sure, and no mistake about it.
His pistol was leveled, and I was ordered to march. I was afraid to
halloo to the relief, and you may be sure I was in a bad fix.
Finally says I, "Let's play quits. I think you are a soldier; you look
like a gentleman. I am a videt; you know the responsibility resting on
me. You go your way, and leave me here. Is it a bargain?"
Says he, "I would not trust a Secesh on his word, oath, or bond. March,
I soon found out that he had caught sight of the relief on the road,
and was afraid to shoot. I quickly made up my mind. My gun was at my
feet, and one step would get it. I made a quick glance over my shoulder,
and grabbed at my gun. He divined my motive, and fired. The ball missed
its aim. He put spurs to his horse, but I pulled down on him, and almost
tore the fore shoulder of his horse entirely off, but I did not capture
the spy, though I captured the horse, bridle and saddle. Major Allen,
of the Twenty-seventh Tennessee Regiment, took the saddle and bridle,
and gave me the blanket. I remember the blanket had the picture of a
"big lion" on it, and it was almost new. When we fell back, as the
Yankee sharpshooters advanced, we left the poor old horse nipping the
short, dry grass. I saw a Yankee skirmisher run up and grab the horse
and give a whoop as if he had captured a Rebel horse. But they continued
to advance upon us, we firing and retreating slowly. We had several
pretty sharp brushes with them that day. I remember that they had to
cross an open field in our front, and we were lying behind a fence,
and as they advanced, we kept up firing, and would run them back every
time, until they brought up a regiment that whooped, and yelled, and
charged our skirmish line, and then we fell back again. I think we must
have killed a good many in the old field, because we were firing all the
time at the solid line as they advanced upon us.
BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO
The next day, the Yankees were found out to be advancing. Soon they came
in sight of our picket. We kept falling back and firing all day, and
were relieved by another regiment about dark. We rejoined our regiment.
Line of battle was formed on the north bank of Stone's River--on the
Yankee side. Bad generalship, I thought.
It was Christmas. John Barleycorn was general-in-chief. Our generals,
and colonels, and captains, had kissed John a little too often. They
couldn't see straight. It was said to be buckeye whisky. They couldn't
tell our own men from Yankees. The private could, but he was no general,
you see. But here they were--the Yankees--a battle had to be fought.
We were ordered forward. I was on the skirmish line. We marched plumb
into the Yankee lines, with their flags flying.
I called Lieutenant-Colonel Frierson's attention to the Yankees, and he
remarked, "Well, I don't know whether they are Yankees or not, but if
they are, they will come out of there mighty quick."
The Yankees marched over the hill out of sight.
We were ordered forward to the attack. We were right upon the Yankee
line on the Wilkerson turnpike. The Yankees were shooting our men down
by scores. A universal cry was raised, "You are firing on your own men."
"Cease firing, cease firing," I hallooed; in fact, the whole skirmish
line hallooed, and kept on telling them that they were Yankees, and to
shoot; but the order was to cease firing, you are firing on your own men.
Captain James, of Cheatham's staff, was sent forward and killed in his
own yard. We were not twenty yards off from the Yankees, and they were
pouring the hot shot and shells right into our ranks; and every man was
yelling at the top of his voice, "Cease firing, you are firing on your
own men; cease firing, you are firing on your own men."
Oakley, color-bearer of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment, ran right up in
the midst of the Yankee line with his colors, begging his men to follow.
I hallooed till I was hoarse, "They are Yankees, they are Yankees; shoot,
they are Yankees."
The crest occupied by the Yankees was belching loud with fire and smoke,
and the Rebels were falling like leaves of autumn in a hurricane.
The leaden hail storm swept them off the field. They fell back and
re-formed. General Cheatham came up and advanced. I did not fall back,
but continued to load and shoot, until a fragment of a shell struck me on
the arm, and then a minnie ball passed through the same paralyzing my arm,
and wounded and disabled me. General Cheatham, all the time, was calling
on the men to go forward, saying, "Come on, boys, and follow me."
The impression that General Frank Cheatham made upon my mind, leading
the charge on the Wilkerson turnpike, I will never forget. I saw either
victory or death written on his face. When I saw him leading our brigade,
although I was wounded at the time, I felt sorry for him, he seemed so
earnest and concerned, and as he was passing me I said, "Well, General,
if you are determined to die, I'll die with you." We were at that time
at least a hundred yards in advance of the brigade, Cheatham all the time
calling upon the men to come on. He was leading the charge in person.
Then it was that I saw the power of one man, born to command, over a
multitude of men then almost routed and demoralized. I saw and felt that
he was not fighting for glory, but that he was fighting for his country
because he loved that country, and he was willing to give his life for
his country and the success of our cause. He deserves a wreath of
immortality, and a warm place in every Southron's heart, for his brave
and glorious example on that bloody battlefield of Murfreesboro. Yes,
his history will ever shine in beauty and grandeur as a name among the
brightest in all the galaxy of leaders in the history of our cause.
Now, another fact I will state, and that is, when the private soldier was
ordered to charge and capture the twelve pieces of artillery, heavily
supported by infantry, Maney's brigade raised a whoop and yell, and
swooped down on those Yankees like a whirl-a-gust of woodpeckers in a
hail storm, paying the blue coated rascals back with compound interest;
for when they did come, every man's gun was loaded, and they marched upon
the blazing crest in solid file, and when they did fire, there was a
sudden lull in the storm of battle, because the Yankees were nearly all
killed. I cannot remember now of ever seeing more dead men and horses
and captured cannon, all jumbled together, than that scene of blood and
carnage and battle on the Wilkerson turnpike. The ground was literally
covered with blue coats dead; and, if I remember correctly, there were
eighty dead horses.
By this time our command had re-formed, and charged the blazing crest.
The spectacle was grand. With cheers and shouts they charged up the hill,
shooting down and bayoneting the flying cannoneers, General Cheatham,
Colonel Field and Joe Lee cutting and slashing with their swords.
The victory was complete. The whole left wing of the Federal army was
driven back five miles from their original position. Their dead and
wounded were in our lines, and we had captured many pieces of artillery,
small arms, and prisoners.
When I was wounded, the shell and shot that struck me, knocked me
winding. I said, "O, O, I'm wounded," and at the same time I grabbed
my arm. I thought it had been torn from my shoulder. The brigade had
fallen back about two hundred yards, when General Cheatham's presence
reassured them, and they soon were in line and ready to follow so brave
and gallant a leader, and had that order of "cease firing, you are firing
on your own men," not been given, Maney's brigade would have had the
honor of capturing eighteen pieces of artillery, and ten thousand
prisoners. This I do know to be a fact.
As I went back to the field hospital, I overtook another man walking
along. I do not know to what regiment he belonged, but I remember of
first noticing that his left arm was entirely gone. His face was as
white as a sheet. The breast and sleeve of his coat had been torn away,
and I could see the frazzled end of his shirt sleeve, which appeared to
be sucked into the wound. I looked at it pretty close, and I said "Great
God!" for I could see his heart throb, and the respiration of his lungs.
I was filled with wonder and horror at the sight. He was walking along,
when all at once he dropped down and died without a struggle or a groan.
I could tell of hundreds of such incidents of the battlefield, but tell
only this one, because I remember it so distinctly.
ROBBING A DEAD YANKEE
In passing over the battlefield, I came across a dead Yankee colonel.
He had on the finest clothes I ever saw, a red sash and fine sword.
I particularly noticed his boots. I needed them, and had made up my mind
to wear them out for him. But I could not bear the thought of wearing
dead men's shoes. I took hold of the foot and raised it up and made one
trial at the boot to get it off. I happened to look up, and the colonel
had his eyes wide open, and seemed to be looking at me. He was stone
dead, but I dropped that foot quick. It was my first and last attempt
to rob a dead Yankee.
After the battle was over at Murfreesboro, that night, John Tucker and
myself thought that we would investigate the contents of a fine brick
mansion in our immediate front, but between our lines and the Yankees',
and even in advance of our videts. Before we arrived at the house we saw
a body of Yankees approaching, and as we started to run back they fired
upon us. Our pickets had run in and reported a night attack. We ran
forward, expecting that our men would recognize us, but they opened fire
upon us. I never was as bad scared in all my whole life, and if any
poor devil ever prayed with fervency and true piety, I did it on that
occasion. I thought, "I am between two fires." I do not think that a
flounder or pancake was half as flat as I was that night; yea, it might
be called in music, low flat.
It is a bad thing for an army to remain too long at one place. The men
soon become discontented and unhappy, and we had no diversion or pastime
except playing poker and chuck-a-luck. All the money of the regiment had
long ago been spent, but grains of corn represented dollars, and with
these we would play as earnestly and as zealously as if they were so much
money, sure enough.
A FOOT RACE
One of those amusing episodes that frequently occur in the army, happened
at this place. A big strapping fellow by the name of Tennessee Thompson,
always carried bigger burdens than any other five men in the army.
For example, he carried two quilts, three blankets, one gum oil cloth,
one overcoat, one axe, one hatchet, one camp-kettle, one oven and lid,
one coffee pot, besides his knapsack, haversack, canteen, gun, cartridge-
box, and three days' rations. He was a rare bird, anyhow. Tennessee
usually had his hair cut short on one side and left long on the other,
so that he could give his head a bow and a toss and throw the long hairs
over on the other side, and it would naturally part itself without a
comb. Tennessee was the wit and good nature of the company; always in
a good humor, and ever ready to do any duty when called upon. In fact,
I would sometimes get out of heart and low spirited, and would hunt up
Tennessee to have a little fun. His bye-word was "Bully for Bragg;
he's hell on retreat, and will whip the Yankees yet." He was a good and
brave soldier, and followed the fortunes of Company H from the beginning
to the end.
Well, one day he and Billy Webster bet twenty-five dollars, put up in
Bill Martin's hands, as to which could run the faster. John Tucker,
Joe Lee, Alf. Horsley and myself were appointed judges. The distance
was two hundred yards. The ground was measured off, and the judges
stationed. Tennessee undressed himself, even down to his stocking feet,
tied a red handkerchief around his head, and another one around his waist,
and walked deliberately down the track, eyeing every little rock and
stick and removing them off the track. Comes back to the starting point
and then goes down the track in half canter; returns again, his eyes
flashing, his nostrils dilated, looking the impersonation of the champion
courser of the world; makes two or three apparently false starts; turns
a somersault by placing his head on the ground and flopping over on his
back; gets up and whickers like a horse; goes half-hammered, hop, step,
and jump--he says, to loosen up his joints--scratches up the ground with
his hands and feet, flops his arms and crows like a rooster, and says,
"Bully for Bragg; he's hell on a retreat," and announces his readiness.
The drum is tapped, and off they start. Well, Billy Webster beat him one
hundred yards in the two hundred, and Tennessee came back and said, "Well,
boys, I'm beat; Billy Martin, hand over the stakes to Billy Webster.
I'm beat, but hang me if I didn't outrun the whole Yankee army coming out
of Kentucky; got away from Lieutenant Lansdown and the whole detail at
Chattanooga with half a hog, a fifty pound sack of flour, a jug of
Meneesee commissary whisky, and a camp-kettle full of brown sugar.
I'm beat. Billy Martin, hand over the stakes. Bully for Bragg; he's
hell on a retreat." Tennessee was trying bluff. He couldn't run worth a
cent; but there was no braver or truer man ever drew a ramrod or tore a
cartridge than Tennessee.
Reader, did you ever eat a mussel? Well, we did, at Shelbyville.
We were camped right upon the bank of Duck river, and one day Fred Dornin,
Ed Voss, Andy Wilson and I went in the river mussel hunting. Every one
of us had a meal sack. We would feel down with our feet until we felt a
mussel and then dive for it. We soon filled our sacks with mussels in
their shells. When we got to camp we cracked the shells and took out the
mussels. We tried frying them, but the longer they fried the tougher
they got. They were a little too large to swallow whole. Then we stewed
them, and after a while we boiled them, and then we baked them, but every
flank movement we would make on those mussels the more invulnerable they
would get. We tried cutting them up with a hatchet, but they were so
slick and tough the hatchet would not cut them. Well, we cooked them,
and buttered them, and salted them, and peppered them, and battered them.
They looked good, and smelt good, and tasted good; at least the fixings
we put on them did, and we ate the mussels. I went to sleep that night.
I dreamed that my stomach was four grindstones, and that they turned in
four directions, according to the four corners of the earth. I awoke
to hear four men yell out, "O, save, O, save me from eating any more
"POOR" BERRY MORGAN
One of those sad, unexpected affairs, that remind the living that even in
life we are in the midst of death, happened at Shelbyville. Our regiment
had been out to the front, on duty, and was returning to camp. It was
nearly dark, and we saw a black wind cloud rising. The lightning's flash
and the deep muttering thunders warned us to seek shelter as speedily as
possible. Some of us ran in under the old depot shed, and soon the storm
struck us. It was a tornado that made a track through the woods beyond
Shelbyville, and right through the town, and we could follow its course
for miles where it had blown down the timber, twisting and piling it in
every shape. Berry Morgan and I had ever been close friends, and we
threw down our blankets and were lying side by side, when I saw roofs of
houses, sign boards, and brickbats flying in every direction. Nearly
half of the town was blown away in the storm. While looking at the storm
without, I felt the old shed suddenly jar and tremble, and suddenly
become unroofed, and it seemed to me that ten thousand brickbats had
fallen in around us. I could hear nothing for the roaring of the storm,
and could see nothing for the blinding rain and flying dirt and bricks
and other rubbish. The storm lasted but a few minutes, but those minutes
seemed ages. When it had passed, I turned to look at "poor Berry."
Poor fellow! his head was crushed in by a brickbat, his breast crushed
in by another, and I think his arm was broken, and he was otherwise
mutilated. It was a sad sight. Many others of our regiment were wounded.
Berry was a very handsome boy. He was what everybody would call a
"pretty man." He had fair skin, blue eyes, and fine curly hair, which
made him look like an innocent child. I loved Berry. He was my friend--
as true as the needle to the pole. But God, who doeth all things well,
took his spirit in the midst of the storm to that beautiful home beyond
the skies. I thank God I am no infidel. We will meet again.
WRIGHT SHOT TO DEATH WITH MUSKETRY
I saw a young boy about seventeen or eighteen years old, by the name of
Wright, and belonging to General Marcus J. Wright's brigade, shot to
death with musketry at this place. The whole of Cheatham's division had
to march out and witness the horrid scene. Now, I have no doubt that
many, if not all, would have gone without being forced to do so, but then
you know that was Bragg's style. He wanted always to display his tyranny,
and to intimidate his privates as much as possible. The young man was
hauled in a wagon, sitting on his coffin, to the place where the grave
was to be dug, and a post was planted in the ground. He had to sit there
for more than two hours, looking on at the preparations for his death.
I went up to the wagon, like many others, to have a look at the doomed
man. He had his hat pulled down over his eyes, and was busily picking at
the ends of his fingers. The guard who then had him in charge told me
that one of the culprit's own brothers was one of the detail to shoot
him. I went up to the wagon and called him, "Wright!" He made no reply,
and did not even look up. Then I said, "Wright, why don't you jump out
of that wagon and run?" He was callous to everything. I was sorry for
him. When the division was all assembled, and the grave dug, and the
post set, he was taken out of the wagon, and tied to the post. He was
first tied facing the post, and consequently would have been shot in the
back, but was afterwards tied with his back to the post. The chaplain of
the regiment read a chapter in the Bible, sang a hymn, and then all knelt
down and prayed. General Wright went up to the pinioned man, shook
hands with him, and told him good-bye, as did many others, and then the
shooting detail came up, and the officer in charge gave the command,
"Ready, aim, fire!" The crash of musketry broke upon the morning air.
I was looking at Wright. I heard him almost shriek, "O, O, God!"
His head dropped forward, the rope with which he was pinioned keeping him
from falling. I turned away and thought how long, how long will I have
to witness these things?
DAVE SUBLETT PROMOTED
While at Shelbyville, a vacancy occurring in Captain Ledbetter's company,
the Rutherford Rifles, for fourth corporal, Dave Sublett became a
candidate for the position. Now, Dave was a genius. He was a noble and
brave fellow, and at one time had been a railroad director. He had a
distinguished air always about him, but Dave had one fault, and that was,
he was ever prone to get tight. He had been a Union man, and even now
he always had a good word for the Union. He was sincere, but eccentric.
The election for fourth corporal was drawing nigh. Dave sent off and got
two jugs of _spirits vini frumenti_, and treated the boys. Of course,
his vote would be solid. Every man in that company was going to cast his
vote for him. Dave got happy and wanted to make a speech. He went to
the butcher's block which was used to cut up meat on--he called it
Butchers' Hall--got upon it amid loud cheering and hurrahs of the boys.
He spoke substantially as follows:
"Fellow Citizens--I confess that it is with feelings of diffidence and
great embarrassment on my part that I appear before you on this occasion.
But, gentlemen and fellow-citizens, I desire to serve you in an humble
capacity, as fourth corporal of Company I. Should you see cause to elect
me, no heart will beat with more gratitude than my own. Gentlemen,
you well know that I was ever a Union man:
"'A union of lakes, and a union of lands,
A union that no one can sever;
A union of hearts, and a union of hands,
A glorious union forever.'
[Cheers and applause.]
"Fellow-citizens, I can look through the dim telescope of the past and
see Kansas, bleeding Kansas, coming like a fair young bride, dressed in
her bridal drapery, her cheek wet and moistened with the tears of love.
I can see her come and knock gently at the doors of the Union, asking
for admittance. [Wild cheering.] Looking further back, I can see our
forefathers of the revolution baring their bosoms to the famine of a
seven years' war, making their own bosoms a breastwork against the whole
hosts of King George III. But, gentlemen, as I before remarked, I desire
to ask at your hands the high, distinguished and lucrative office,
my fellow-citizens, and for which I will ever feel grateful--the office
of fourth corporal in your company." [Cheers.]
Now, Dave had a competitor who was a states' rights democrat. If I
mistake not, his name was Frank Haliburton. Now, Frank was an original
secessionist. He felt that each state was a separate, sovereign
government of itself, and that the South had the same rights in the
territories as they of the North. He was fighting for secession and
state rights upon principle. When Sublett had finished his speech,
Frank took the stand and said:
"Gentlemen and Fellow-Citizens--I am a candidate for fourth corporal,
and if you will elect me I will be grateful, and will serve you to the
best of my ability. My competitor seems to harp considerably upon his
Union record, and Union love. If I mistake not, my fellow-citizens,
it was old George McDuffie that stood up in the senate chamber of the
United States and said, 'When I hear the shout of "glorious Union,"
methinks I hear the shout of a robber gang.' McDuffie saw through his
prophetic vision the evils that would result, and has foretold them as
if by inspiration from above.
"Fellow-citizens, under the name of Union our country is invaded today.
"These cursed Yankees are invading our country, robbing our people,
and desolating our land, and all under the detestable and damning name
of Union. Our representatives in congress have been fighting them for
fifty years. Compromise after compromise has been granted by the South.
We have used every effort to conciliate those at the North. They
have turned a deaf ear to every plea. They saw our country rich and
prosperous, and have come indeed, like a gang of robbers, to steal our
property and murder our people. But, fellow-citizens, I for one am ready
to meet them, and desire that you elect me fourth corporal of Company I,
so that I can serve you in a more efficient manner, while we meet as a
band of brothers, the cursed horde of Northern Hessians and hirelings.
I thank you for your attention, gentlemen, and would thank you for your
Well, the election came off, and Dave was elected by an overwhelming
majority. But the high eminence of military distinction enthralled him.
He seemed to live in an atmosphere of greatness and glory, and was
looking eagerly forward to the time when he would command armies.
He had begun to climb the ladder of glory under most favorable and
auspicious circumstances. He felt his consequence and keeping. He was
detailed once, and only once, to take command of the third relief of camp
guard. Ah, this thing of office was a big thing. He desired to hold
a council of war with Generals Bragg, Polk, Hardee, and Kirby Smith.
He first visited General Polk. His war metal was up. He wanted a fight
just then and there, and a fight he must have, at all hazards, and to the
last extremity. He became obstreperous, when General Polk called a guard
and had him marched off to the guard-house. It was then ordered that he
should do extra fatigue duty for a week. The guard would take him to the
woods with an ax, and he would make two or three chops on a tree and look
up at it and say:
"Woodman, spare that tree; touch not a single bough;
In youth it sheltered me, and I'll protect it now."
He would then go to another tree; but at no tree would he make more than
two or three licks before he would go to another. He would hit a limb
and then a log; would climb a tree and cut at a limb or two, and keep
on this way until he came to a hard old stump, which on striking his ax
would bound and spring back. He had found his desire; the top of that
stump became fun and pleasure. Well, his time of misdemeanor expired
and he was relieved. He went back and reported to Colonel Field, who
informed him that he had been reduced to the ranks. He drew himself up
to his full height and said: "Colonel, I regret exceedingly to be so
soon deprived of my new fledged honors that I have won on so many a hard
fought and bloody battlefield, but if I am reduced to the ranks as a
private soldier, I can but exclaim, like Moses of old, when he crossed
the Red sea in defiance of Pharaoh's hosts, 'O, how the mighty have
fallen!'" He then marched off with the air of the born soldier.
DOWN DUCK RIVER IN A CANOE
"Ora pro nobis."
At this place, Duck river wended its way to Columbia. On one occasion it
was up--had on its Sunday clothes--a-booming. Andy Wilson and I thought
that we would slip off and go down the river in a canoe. We got the
canoe and started. It was a leaky craft. We had not gone far before the
thing capsized, and we swam ashore. But we were outside of the lines now,
and without passes. (We would have been arrested anyhow.) So we put our
sand paddles to work and landed in Columbia that night. I loved a maid,
and so did Andy, and some poet has said that love laughs at grates, bars,
locksmiths, etc. I do not know how true this is, but I do know that
when I went to see my sweetheart that night I asked her to pray for me,
because I thought the prayers of a pretty woman would go a great deal
further "up yonder" than mine would. I also met Cousin Alice, another
beautiful woman, at my father's front gate, and told her that she must
pray for me, because I knew I would be court-martialed as soon as I got
back; that I had no idea of deserting the army and only wanted to see the
maid I loved. It took me one day to go to Columbia and one day to return,
and I stayed at home only one day, and went back of my own accord.
When I got back to Shelbyville, I was arrested and carried to the
guard-house, and when court-martialed was sentenced to thirty days'
fatigue duty and to forfeit four months' pay at eleven dollars per month,
making forty-four dollars. Now, you see how dearly I paid for that trip.
But, fortunately for me, General Leonidas Polk has issued an order that
very day promising pardon to all soldiers absent without leave if they
would return. I got the guard to march me up to his headquarters and
told him of my predicament, and he ordered my release, but said nothing
of remitting the fine. So when we were paid off at Chattanooga I was
left out. The Confederate States of America were richer by forty-four
General Owleydousky, lately imported from Poland, was Bragg's inspector
general. I remember of reading in the newspapers of where he tricked
Bragg at last. The papers said he stole all of Bragg's clothes one day
and left for parts unknown. It is supposed he went back to Poland to act
as "Ugh! Big Indian; fight heap mit Bragg." But I suppose it must have
left Bragg in a bad fix--somewhat like Mr. Jones, who went to ask the
old folks for Miss Willis. On being told that she was a very poor girl,
and had no property for a start in life, he simply said, "All right;
all I want is the naked girl."
On one occasion, while inspecting the arms and accoutrements of our
regiments, when he came to inspect Company H he said, "Shentlemens,
vatfor you make de pothook out of de sword and de bayonet, and trow de
cartridge-box in de mud? I dust report you to Sheneral Bragg. Mine
gracious!" Approaching Orderly Sergeant John T. Tucker, and lifting the
flap of his cartridge box, which was empty, he said, "Bah, bah, mon Dieu;
I dust know dot you ish been hunting de squirrel and de rabbit. Mon
Dieu! you sharge yourself mit fifteen tollars for wasting sixty
cartridges at twenty-five cents apiece. Bah, bah, mon Dieu; I dust
report you to Sheneral Bragg." Approaching Sergeant A. S. Horsley,
he said, "Vy ish you got nodings mit your knapsack? Sir, you must have
somedings mit your knapsack." Alf ran into his tent and came back with
his knapsack in the right shape. Well, old Owleydousky thought he would
be smart and make an example of Alf, and said, "I vish to inspect your
clodings." He took Alf's knapsack and on opening it, what do you suppose
was in it? Well, if you are not a Yankee and good at guessing, I will
tell you, if you won't say anything about it, for Alf might get mad if
he were to hear it. He found Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Cruden's
Concordance, Macauley's History of England, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosset,
Les Miserables, The Heart of Midlothian, Ivanhoe, Guy Mannering, Rob Roy,
Shakespeare, the History of Ancient Rome, and many others which I have
now forgotten. He carried literature for the regiment. He is in the
same old business yet, only now he furnishes literature by the car load.
BACK TO CHATTANOOGA
Rosecrans' army was in motion. The Federals were advancing, but as yet
they were afar off. Chattanooga must be fortified. Well do we remember
the hard licks and picks that we spent on these same forts, to be
occupied afterwards by Grant and his whole army, and we on Lookout
Mountain and Missionary Ridge looking at them.
AM VISITED BY MY FATHER
About this time my father paid me a visit. Rations were mighty scarce.
I was mighty glad to see him, but ashamed to let him know how poorly off
for something to eat we were. We were living on parched corn. I thought
of a happy plan to get him a good dinner, so I asked him to let us go up
to the colonel's tent. Says I, "Colonel Field, I desire to introduce you
to my father, and as rations are a little short in my mess, I thought you
might have a little better, and could give him a good dinner." "Yes,"
says Colonel Field, "I am glad to make the acquaintance of your father,
and will be glad to divide my rations with him. Also, I would like you
to stay and take dinner with me," which I assure you, O kind reader,
I gladly accepted. About this time a young African, Whit, came in with a
frying-pan of parched corn and dumped it on an old oil cloth, and said,
"Master, dinner is ready." That was all he had. He was living like
ourselves--on parched corn.
We continued to fortify and build breastworks at Chattanooga. It was
the same drudge, drudge day by day. Occasionally a Sunday would come;
but when it did come, there came inspection of arms, knapsacks and
cartridge-boxes. Every soldier had to have his gun rubbed up as bright
as a new silver dollar. W. A. Hughes had the brightest gun in the army,
and always called it "Florence Fleming." The private soldier had to
have on clean clothes, and if he had lost any cartridges he was charged
twenty-five cents each, and had to stand extra duty for every cartridge
lost. We always dreaded Sunday. The roll was called more frequently on
this than any other day. Sometimes we would have preaching. I remember
one text that I thought the bottom had been knocked out long before:
"And Peter's wife's mother lay sick of fever." That text always did make
a deep impression on me. I always thought of a young divine who preached
it when first entering the ministry, and in about twenty years came back,
and happening to preach from the same text again, an old fellow in
the congregation said, "Mr. Preacher, ain't that old woman dead yet?"
Well, that was the text that was preached to us soldiers one Sunday at
Chattanooga. I could not help thinking all the time, "Ain't that old
woman dead yet?" But he announced that he would preach again at 3
o'clock. We went to hear him preach at 3 o'clock, as his sermon was
so interesting about "Peter's wife's mother lay sick of a fever." We
thought, maybe it was a sort of sickly subject, and he would liven us
up a little in the afternoon service.
Well, he took his text, drawled out through his nose like "small
sweetness long drawn out:" "M-a-r-t-h-a, thou art w-e-a-r-i-e-d and
troubled about many things, but M-a-r-y hath chosen that good part that
shall never be taken from her." Well, you see, O gentle and fair reader,
that I remember the text these long gone twenty years. I do not remember
what he preached about, but I remember thinking that he was a great
ladies' man, at any rate, and whenever I see a man who loves and respects
the ladies, I think him a good man.
The next sermon was on the same sort of a text: "And the Lord God caused
a deep sleep to fall on Adam and took out of"--he stopped here and said
_e_ meant out of, that _e_, being translated from the Latin and Greek,
meant out of, and took _e_, or rather out of a rib and formed woman.
I never did know why he expaciated so largely on _e_; don't understand it
yet, but you see, reader mine, that I remember but the little things that
happened in that stormy epoch. I remember the _e_ part of the sermon
more distinctly than all of his profound eruditions of theology, dogmas,
creeds and evidences of Christianity, and I only write at this time from
memory of things that happened twenty years ago.
"OUT A LARKING"
At this place, we took Walter Hood out "a larking." The way to go "a
larking" is this: Get an empty meal bag and about a dozen men and go to
some dark forest or open field on some cold, dark, frosty or rainy night,
about five miles from camp. Get someone who does not understand the game
to hold the bag in as stooping and cramped a position as is possible,
to keep perfectly still and quiet, and when he has got in the right fix,
the others to go off to drive in the larks. As soon as they get out of
sight, they break in a run and go back to camp, and go to sleep, leaving
the poor fellow all the time holding the bag.
Well, Walter was as good and as clever a fellow as you ever saw, was
popular with everybody, and as brave and noble a fellow as ever tore a
cartridge, or drew a ramrod, or pulled a trigger, but was the kind of a
boy that was easily "roped in" to fun or fight or anything that would
come up. We all loved him. Poor fellow, he is up yonder--died on the
field of glory and honor. He gave his life, 'twas all he had, for his
country. Peace to his memory. That night we went "a larking," and
Walter held the bag. I did not see him till next morning. While I was
gulping down my coffee, as well as laughter, Walter came around, looking
sort of sheepish and shy like, and I was trying to look as solemn as a
judge. Finally he came up to the fire and kept on eyeing me out of one
corner of his eye, and I was afraid to look at him for fear of breaking
out in a laugh. When I could hold in no longer, I laughed out, and said,
"Well, Walter, what luck last night?" He was very much disgusted,
and said, "Humph! you all think that you are smart. I can't see anything
to laugh at in such foolishness as that." He said, "Here; I have brought
your bag back." That conquered me. After that kind of magnanimous
act in forgiving me and bringing my bag back so pleasantly and kindly,
I was his friend, and would have fought for him. I felt sorry that we
had taken him out "a larking."
HANGING TWO SPIES
I can now recall to memory but one circumstance that made a deep
impression on my mind at the time. I heard that two spies were going to
be hung on a certain day, and I went to the hanging. The scaffold was
erected, two coffins were placed on the platform, the ropes were dangling
from the cross beam above. I had seen men shot, and whipped, and shaved,
and branded at Corinth and Tupelo, and one poor fellow named Wright shot
at Shelbyville. They had all been horrid scenes to me, but they were
Rebels, and like begets like. I did not know when it would be my time to
be placed in the same position, you see, and "a fellow feeling makes us
wondrous kind." I did not know what was in store in the future for me.
Ah, there was the rub, don't you see. This shooting business wasn't a
pleasant thing to think about. But Yankees--that was different. I
wanted to see a Yankee spy hung. I wouldn't mind that. I would like to
see him agonize. A spy; O, yes, they had hung one of our regiment at
Pulaski--Sam Davis. Yes, I would see the hanging. After a while I saw a
guard approach, and saw two little boys in their midst, but did not see
the Yankees that I had been looking for. The two little boys were rushed
upon the platform. I saw that they were handcuffed. "Are they spies?"
I was appalled; I was horrified; nay, more, I was sick at heart. One was
about fourteen and the other about sixteen years old, I should judge.
The ropes were promptly adjusted around their necks by the provost
marshal. The youngest one began to beg and cry and plead most piteously.
It was horrid. The older one kicked him, and told him to stand up and
show the Rebels how a Union man could die for his country. Be a man!
The charges and specifications were then read. The props were knocked
out and the two boys were dangling in the air. I turned off sick at
While stationed at this place, Chattanooga, rations were very scarce and
hard to get, and it was, perhaps, economy on the part of our generals and
commissaries to issue rather scant rations.
About this time we learned that Pemberton's army, stationed at Vicksburg,
were subsisting entirely on rats. Instead of the idea being horrid,
we were glad to know that "necessity is the mother of invention," and
that the idea had originated in the mind of genius. We at once acted
upon the information, and started out rat hunting; but we couldn't find
any rats. Presently we came to an old outhouse that seemed to be a
natural harbor for this kind of vermin. The house was quickly torn down
and out jumped an old residenter, who was old and gray. I suppose that
he had been chased before. But we had jumped him and were determined to
catch him, or "burst a boiler." After chasing him backwards and forwards,
the rat finally got tired of this foolishness and started for his hole.
But a rat's tail is the last that goes in the hole, and as he went in we
made a grab for his tail. Well, tail hold broke, and we held the skin of
his tail in our hands. But we were determined to have that rat. After
hard work we caught him. We skinned him, washed and salted him, buttered
and peppered him, and fried him. He actually looked nice. The delicate
aroma of the frying rat came to our hungry nostrils. We were keen to eat
a piece of rat; our teeth were on edge; yea, even our mouth watered to
eat a piece of rat. Well, after a while, he was said to be done.
I got a piece of cold corn dodger, laid my piece of the rat on it,
eat a little piece of bread, and raised the piece of rat to my mouth,
when I happened to think of how that rat's tail did slip. I had lost my
appetite for dead rat. I did not eat any rat. It was my first and last
effort to eat dead rats.
SWIMMING THE TENNESSEE WITH ROASTINGEARS
The Tennessee river is about a quarter of a mile wide at Chattanooga.
Right across the river was an immense corn-field. The green corn was
waving with every little breeze that passed; the tassels were bowing and
nodding their heads; the pollen was flying across the river like little
snowdrops, and everything seemed to say, "Come hither, Johnny Reb;
come hither, Johnny; come hither." The river was wide, but we were
hungry. The roastingears looked tempting. We pulled off our clothes
and launched into the turbid stream, and were soon on the other bank.
Here was the field, and here were the roastingears; but where was the
raft or canoe?
We thought of old Abraham and Isaac and the sacrifice: "My son, gather
the roastingears, there will be a way provided."
We gathered the roastingears; we went back and gathered more roastingears,
time and again. The bank was lined with green roastingears. Well,
what was to be done? We began to shuck the corn. We would pull up a few
shucks on one ear, and tie it to the shucks of another--first one and
then another--until we had at least a hundred tied together. We put the
train of corn into the river, and as it began to float off we jumped in,
and taking the foremost ear in our mouth, struck out for the other bank.
Well, we made the landing all correct.
I merely mention the above incident to show to what extremity soldiers
would resort. Thousands of such occurrences were performed by the
private soldiers of the Rebel army.
AM DETAILED TO GO FORAGING
One day I was detailed to go with a wagon train way down in Georgia on
a foraging expedition. It was the first time since I had enlisted as
a private that I had struck a good thing. No roll call, no drilling,
no fatigue duties, building fortifications, standing picket, dress parade,
reviews, or retreats, had to be answered to--the same old monotonous roll
call that had been answered five thousand times in these three years.
I felt like a free man. The shackles of discipline had for a time been
unfettered. This was bliss, this was freedom, this was liberty. The
sky looked brighter, the birds sang more beautiful and sweeter than I
remember to have ever heard them. Even the little streamlets and
branches danced and jumped along the pebbly beds, while the minnows
sported and frollicked under the shining ripples. The very flocks and
herds in the pasture looked happy and gay. Even the screech of the
wagons, that needed greasing, seemed to send forth a happy sound.
It was fine, I tell you.
The blackberries were ripe, and the roadsides were lined with this
delicious fruit. The Lord said that he would curse the ground for the
disobedience of man, and henceforth it should bring forth thorns and
briars; but the very briars that had been cursed were loaded with the
abundance of God's goodness. I felt, then, like David in one of his
psalms--"The Lord is good, the Lord is good, for his mercy endureth
PLEASE PASS THE BUTTER
For several days the wagon train continued on until we had arrived at the
part of country to which we had been directed. Whether they bought or
pressed the corn, I know not, but the old gentleman invited us all to
take supper with him. If I have ever eaten a better supper than that
I have forgotten it. They had biscuit for supper. What! flour bread?
Did my eyes deceive me? Well, there were biscuit--sure enough flour
bread--and sugar and coffee--genuine Rio--none of your rye or potato
coffee, and butter--regular butter--and ham and eggs, and turnip greens,
and potatoes, and fried chicken, and nice clean plates--none of your tin
affairs--and a snow-white table-cloth and napkins, and white-handled
knives and silver forks. At the head of the table was the madam, having
on a pair of golden spectacles, and at the foot the old gentleman.
He said grace. And, to cap the climax, two handsome daughters. I know
that I had never seen two more beautiful ladies. They had on little
white aprons, trimmed with jaconet edging, and collars as clean and white
as snow. They looked good enough to eat, and I think at that time I
would have given ten years of my life to have kissed one of them.
We were invited to help ourselves. Our plates were soon filled with the
tempting food and our tumblers with California beer. We would have liked
it better had it been twice as strong, but what it lacked in strength we
made up in quantity. The old lady said, "Daughter, hand the gentleman
the butter." It was the first thing that I had refused, and the reason
that I did so was because my plate was full already. Now, there is
nothing that will offend a lady so quick as to refuse to take butter
when handed to you. If you should say, "No, madam, I never eat butter,"
it is a direct insult to the lady of the house. Better, far better,
for you to have remained at home that day. If you don't eat butter,
it is an insult; if you eat too much, she will make your ears burn after
you have left. It is a regulator of society; it is a civilizer; it is
a luxury and a delicacy that must be touched and handled with care and
courtesy on all occasions. Should you desire to get on the good side of
a lady, just give a broad, sweeping, slathering compliment to her butter.
It beats kissing the dirty-faced baby; it beats anything. Too much
praise cannot be bestowed upon the butter, be it good, bad, or
indifferent to your notions of things, but to her, her butter is always
good, superior, excellent. I did not know this characteristic of the
human female at the time, or I would have taken a delicate slice of the
butter. Here is a sample of the colloquy that followed:
"Mister, have some butter?"
"Not any at present, thank you, madam."
"Well, I insist upon it; our butter is nice."
"O, I know it's nice, but my plate is full, thank you."
"Well, take some anyhow."
One of the girls spoke up and said:
"Mother, the gentleman don't wish butter."
"Well, I want him to know that our butter is clean, anyhow."
"Well, madam, if you insist upon it, there is nothing that I love so well
as warm biscuit and butter. I'll thank you for the butter."
I dive in. I go in a little too heavy. The old lady hints in a delicate
way that they sold butter. I dive in heavier. That cake of butter was
melting like snow in a red hot furnace. The old lady says, "We sell
butter to the soldiers at a mighty good price."
I dive in afresh. She says, "I get a dollar a pound for that butter,"
and I remark with a good deal of nonchalance, "Well, madam, it is worth
it," and dive in again. I did not marry one of the girls.
WE EVACUATE CHATTANOOGA
One morning while sitting around our camp fires we heard a boom, and a
bomb shell passed over our heads. The Yankee army was right on the other
bank of the Tennessee river. Bragg did not know of their approach until
the cannon fired.
Rosecrans' army is crossing the Tennessee river. A part are already on
Lookout Mountain. Some of their cavalry scouts had captured some of our
foraging parties in Wills valley. The air was full of flying rumors.
Wagons are being packed, camps are broken up, and there is a general
hubbub everywhere. But your old soldier is always ready at a moment's
notice. The assembly is sounded; form companies, and we are ready for
a march, or a fight, or a detail, or anything. If we are marched a
thousand miles or twenty yards, it is all the same. The private soldier
is a machine that has no right to know anything. He is a machine that
moves without any volition of his own. If Edison could invent a wooden
man that could walk and load and shoot, then you would have a good sample
of the private soldier, and it would have this advantage--the private
soldier eats and the wooden man would not.
We left Chattanooga, but whither bound we knew not, and cared not;
but we marched toward Chickamauga and crossed at Lee & Gordon's mill.
THE BULL OF THE WOODS
On our way to Lafayette from Lee & Gordon's mill, I remember a ludicrous
scene, almost bordering on sacrilege. Rosecrans' army was very near us,
and we expected before three days elapsed to be engaged in battle.
In fact, we knew there must be a fight or a foot race, one or the other.
We could smell, as it were, "the battle afar off."
One Sabbath morning it was announced that an eloquent and able LL. D.,
from Nashville, was going to preach, and as the occasion was an
exceedingly solemn one, we were anxious to hear this divine preach from
God's Holy Word; and as he was one of the "big ones," the whole army was
formed in close column and stacked their arms. The cannon were parked,
all pointing back toward Chattanooga. The scene looked weird and
picturesque. It was in a dark wilderness of woods and vines and
overhanging limbs. In fact, it seemed but the home of the owl and the
bat, and other varmints that turn night into day. Everything looked
solemn. The trees looked solemn, the scene looked solemn, the men looked
solemn, even the horses looked solemn. You may be sure, reader, that we
The reverend LL. D. had prepared a regular war sermon before he left home,
and of course had to preach it, appropriate or not appropriate; it was
in him and had to come out. He opened the service with a song. I did
remember the piece that was sung, but right now I cannot recall it to
memory; but as near as I can now recollect here is his prayer, _verbatim
"Oh, Thou immaculate, invisible, eternal and holy Being, the exudations
of whose effulgence illuminates this terrestrial sphere, we approach Thy
presence, being covered all over with wounds and bruises and putrifying
sores, from the crowns of our heads to the soles of our feet. And Thou,
O Lord, art our dernier resort. The whole world is one great machine,
managed by Thy puissance. The beautific splendors of Thy face irradiate
the celestial region and felicitate the saints. There are the most
exuberant profusions of Thy grace, and the sempiternal efflux of Thy
glory. God is an abyss of light, a circle whose center is everywhere and
His circumference nowhere. Hell is the dark world made up of spiritual
sulphur and other ignited ingredients, disunited and unharmonized,
and without that pure balsamic oil that flows from the heart of God."
When the old fellow got this far, I lost the further run of his prayer,
but regret very much that I did so, because it was so grand and fine that
I would have liked very much to have kept such an appropriate prayer for
posterity. In fact, it lays it on heavy over any prayer I ever heard,
and I think the new translators ought to get it and have it put in their
book as a sample prayer. But they will have to get the balance of it
from the eminent LL. D. In fact, he was so "high larnt" that I don't
think anyone understood him but the generals. The colonels might every
now and then have understood a word, and maybe a few of the captains and
lieutenants, because Lieutenant Lansdown told me he understood every
word the preacher said, and further informed me that it was none of your
one-horse, old-fashioned country prayers that privates knew anything
about, but was bang-up, first-rate, orthodox.
Well, after singing and praying, he took his text. I quote entirely from
memory. "Blessed be the Lord God, who teaches my hands to war and my
fingers to fight." Now, reader, that was the very subject we boys did
not want to hear preached on--on that occasion at least. We felt like
some other subject would have suited us better. I forget how he
commenced his sermon, but I remember that after he got warmed up a little,
he began to pitch in on the Yankee nation, and gave them particular fits
as to their geneology. He said that we of the South had descended from
the royal and aristocratic blood of the Huguenots of France, and of the
cavaliers of England, etc.; but that the Yankees were the descendents of
the crop-eared Puritans and witch burners, who came over in the Mayflower,
and settled at Plymouth Rock. He was warm on this subject, and waked up
the echoes of the forest. He said that he and his brethren would fight
the Yankees in this world, and if God permit, chase their frightened
ghosts in the next, through fire and brimstone.
About this time we heard the awfullest racket, produced by some wild
animal tearing through the woods toward us, and the cry, "Look out! look
out! hooie! hooie! hooie! look out!" and there came running right through
our midst a wild bull, mad with terror and fright, running right over and
knocking down the divine, and scattering Bibles and hymn books in every
direction. The services were brought to a close without the doxology.
This same brave chaplain rode along with our brigade, on an old
string-haltered horse, as we advanced to the attack at Chickamauga,
exhorting the boys to be brave, to aim low, and to kill the Yankees as if
they were wild beasts. He was eloquent and patriotic. He stated that if
he only had a gun he too would go along as a private soldier. You could
hear his voice echo and re-echo over the hills. He had worked up his
patriotism to a pitch of genuine bravery and daring that I had never
seen exhibited, when fliff, fluff, fluff, _fluff_, FLUFF, FLUFF--a whir,
a BOOM! and a shell screams through the air. The reverend LL. D. stops
to listen, like an old sow when she hears the wind, and says, "Remember,
boys, that he who is killed will sup tonight in Paradise." Some soldier
hallooed at the top of his voice, "Well, parson, you come along and take
supper with us." Boom! whir! a bomb burst, and the parson at that moment
put spurs to his horse and was seen to limber to the rear, and almost
every soldier yelled out, "The parson isn't hungry, and never eats
supper." I remember this incident, and so does every member of the First
PRESENTMENT, OR THE WING OF THE ANGEL OF DEATH
Presentment is always a mystery. The soldier may at one moment be in
good spirits, laughing and talking. The wing of the death angel touches
him. He knows that his time has come. It is but a question of time with
him then. He knows that his days are numbered. I cannot explain it.
God has numbered the hairs of our heads, and not a sparrow falls without
His knowledge. How much more valuable are we than many sparrows?
We had stopped at Lee & Gordon's mill, and gone into camp for the night.
Three days' rations were being issued. When Bob Stout was given his
rations he refused to take them. His face wore a serious, woe-begone
expression. He was asked if he was sick, and said "No," but added, "Boys,
my days are numbered, my time has come. In three days from today,
I will be lying right yonder on that hillside a corpse. Ah, you may
laugh; my time has come. I've got a twenty dollar gold piece in my
pocket that I've carried through the war, and a silver watch that my
father sent me through the lines. Please take them off when I am dead,
and give them to Captain Irvine, to give to my father when he gets back
home. Here are my clothing and blanket that any one who wishes them
may have. My rations I do not wish at all. My gun and cartridge-box I
expect to die with."
The next morning the assembly sounded about two o'clock. We commenced
our march in the darkness, and marched twenty-five miles to a little town
by the name of Lafayette, to the relief of General Pillow, whose command
had been attacked at that place. After accomplishing this, we marched
back by another road to Chickamauga. We camped on the banks of
Chickamauga on Friday night, and Saturday morning we commenced to cross
over. About twelve o'clock we had crossed. No sooner had we crossed
than an order came to double quick. General Forrest's cavalry had opened
the battle. Even then the spent balls were falling amongst us with that
peculiar thud so familiar to your old soldier.
Double quick! There seemed to be no rest for us. Forrest is needing
reinforcements. Double quick, close up in the rear! siz, siz, double
quick, boom, hurry up, bang, bang, a rattle de bang, bang, siz, boom,
boom, boom, hurry up, double quick, boom, bang, halt, front, right dress,
boom, boom, and three soldiers are killed and twenty wounded. Billy
Webster's arm was torn out by the roots and he killed, and a fragment of
shell buried itself in Jim McEwin's side, also killing Mr. Fain King,
a conscript from Mount Pleasant. Forward, guide center, march, charge
bayonets, fire at will, commence firing. (This is where the LL. D. ran.)
We debouched through the woods, firing as we marched, the Yankee line
about two hundred yards off. Bang, bang, siz, siz. It was a sort of
running fire. We kept up a constant fire as we advanced. In ten minutes
we were face to face with the foe. It was but a question as to who could
load and shoot the fastest. The army was not up. Bragg was not ready
for a general battle. The big battle was fought the next day, Sunday.
We held our position for two hours and ten minutes in the midst of a
deadly and galling fire, being enfiladed and almost surrounded, when
General Forrest galloped up and said, "Colonel Field, look out, you are
almost surrounded; you had better fall back." The order was given to
retreat. I ran through a solid line of blue coats. As I fell back,
they were upon the right of us, they were upon the left of us, they were
in front of us, they were in the rear of us. It was a perfect hornets'
nest. The balls whistled around our ears like the escape valves of ten
thousand engines. The woods seemed to be blazing; everywhere, at every
jump, would rise a lurking foe. But to get up and dust was all we could
do. I was running along by the side of Bob Stout. General Preston Smith
stopped me and asked if our brigade was falling back. I told him it was.
He asked me the second time if it was Maney's brigade that was falling
back. I told him it was. I heard him call out, "Attention, forward!"
One solid sheet of leaden hail was falling around me. I heard General
Preston Smith's brigade open. It seemed to be platoons of artillery.
The earth jarred and trembled like an earthquake. Deadly missiles were
flying in every direction. It was the very incarnation of death itself.
I could almost hear the shriek of the death angel passing over the scene.
General Smith was killed in ten minutes after I saw him. Bob Stout and
myself stopped. Said I, "Bob, you wern't killed, as you expected."
He did not reply, for at that very moment a solid shot from the Federal
guns struck him between the waist and the hip, tearing off one leg and
scattering his bowels all over the ground. I heard him shriek out, "O, O,
God!" His spirit had flown before his body struck the ground. Farewell,
friend; we will meet over yonder.
When the cannon ball struck Billy Webster, tearing his arm out of the
socket, he did not die immediately, but as we were advancing to the
attack, we left him and the others lying where they fell upon the
battlefield; but when we fell back to the place where we had left our
knapsacks, Billy's arm had been dressed by Dr. Buist, and he seemed to be
quite easy. He asked Jim Fogey to please write a letter to his parents
at home. He wished to dictate the letter. He asked me to please look in
his knapsack and get him a clean shirt, and said that he thought he would
feel better if he could get rid of the blood that was upon him. I went
to hunt for his knapsack and found it, but when I got back to where he
was, poor, good Billy Webster was dead. He had given his life to his
country. His spirit is with the good and brave. No better or braver man
than Billy Webster ever drew the breath of life. His bones lie yonder
today, upon the battlefield of Chickamauga. I loved him; he was my
friend. Many and many a dark night have Billy and I stood together upon
the silent picket post. Ah, reader, my heart grows sick and I feel sad
while I try to write my recollections of that unholy and uncalled for
war. But He that ruleth the heavens doeth all things well.
BATTLE OF CHICKAMAUGA
Sunday morning of that September day, the sun rose over the eastern hills
clear and beautiful. The day itself seemed to have a Sabbath-day look
about it. The battlefield was in a rough and broken country, with trees
and undergrowth, that ever since the creation had never been disturbed by
the ax of civilized man. It looked wild, weird, uncivilized.
Our corps (Polk's), being in the engagement the day before, were held in
reserve. Reader, were you ever held in reserve of an attacking army?
To see couriers dashing backward and forward; to hear the orders given
to the brigades, regiments and companies; to see them forward in line of
battle, the battle-flags waving; to hear their charge, and then to hear
the shock of battle, the shot and shell all the while sizzing, and
zipping, and thudding, and screaming, and roaring, and bursting, and
passing right over your heads; to see the litter corps bringing back the
wounded continually, and hear them tell how their command was being cut
to pieces, and that every man in a certain regiment was killed, and to
see a cowardly colonel (as we saw on this occasion--he belonged to
Longstreet's corps) come dashing back looking the very picture of terror
and fear, exclaiming, "O, men, men, for God's sake go forward and help
my men! they are being cut all to pieces! we can't hold our position.
O, for God's sake, please go and help my command!" To hear some of our
boys ask, "What regiment is that? What regiment is that?" He replies,
such and such regiment. And then to hear some fellow ask, "Why ain't
you with them, then, you cowardly puppy? Take off that coat and those
chicken guts; coo, sheep; baa, baa, black sheep; flicker, flicker;
ain't you ashamed of yourself? flicker, flicker; I've got a notion to
take my gun and kill him," etc. Every word of this is true; it actually
happened. But all that could demoralize, and I may say intimidate a
soldier, was being enacted, and he not allowed to participate. How we
were moved from one position to another, but always under fire; our
nerves strung to their utmost tension, listening to the roar of battle in
our immediate front, to hear it rage and then get dimmer until it seems
to die out entirely; then all at once it breaks out again, and you think
now in a very few minutes you will be ordered into action, and then all
at once we go double-quicking to another portion of the field, the battle
raging back from the position we had left. General Leonidas Polk rides
up and happening to stop in our front, some of the boys halloo out, "Say,
General, what command is that which is engaged now?" The general kindly
answers, "That is Longstreet's corps. He is driving them this way,
and we will drive them that way, and crush them between the 'upper and
nether millstone.'" Turning to General Cheatham, he said, "General,
move your division and attack at once." Everything is at once set in
motion, and General Cheatham, to give the boys a good send-off, says,
"Forward, boys, and give 'em h--l." General Polk also says a good word,
and that word was, "Do as General Cheatham says, boys." (You know he was
a preacher and couldn't curse.) After marching in solid line, see-sawing,
right obliqueing, left obliqueing, guide center and close up; commence
firing--fire at will; charge and take their breastworks; our pent-up
nervousness and demoralization of all day is suddenly gone. We raise
one long, loud, cheering shout and charge right upon their breastworks.
They are pouring their deadly missiles into our advancing ranks from
under their head-logs. We do not stop to look around to see who is
killed and wounded, but press right up their breastworks, and plant our
battle-flag upon it. They waver and break and run in every direction,
when General John C. Breckinridge's division, which had been supporting
us, march up and pass us in full pursuit of the routed and flying Federal
AFTER THE BATTLE
We remained upon the battlefield of Chickamauga all night. Everything
had fallen into our hands. We had captured a great many prisoners and
small arms, and many pieces of artillery and wagons and provisions.
The Confederate and Federal dead, wounded, and dying were everywhere
scattered over the battlefield. Men were lying where they fell, shot in
every conceivable part of the body. Some with their entrails torn out
and still hanging to them and piled up on the ground beside them, and
they still alive. Some with their under jaw torn off, and hanging by a
fragment of skin to their cheeks, with their tongues lolling from their
mouth, and they trying to talk. Some with both eyes shot out, with
one eye hanging down on their cheek. In fact, you might walk over the
battlefield and find men shot from the crown of the head to the tip end
of the toe. And then to see all those dead, wounded and dying horses,
their heads and tails drooping, and they seeming to be so intelligent as
if they comprehended everything. I felt like shedding a tear for those
innocent dumb brutes.
Reader, a battlefield, after the battle, is a sad and sorrowful sight
to look at. The glory of war is but the glory of battle, the shouts,
and cheers, and victory.
A soldier's life is not a pleasant one. It is always, at best, one of
privations and hardships. The emotions of patriotism and pleasure hardly
counterbalance the toil and suffering that he has to undergo in order
to enjoy his patriotism and pleasure. Dying on the field of battle and
glory is about the easiest duty a soldier has to undergo. It is the
living, marching, fighting, shooting soldier that has the hardships of
war to carry. When a brave soldier is killed he is at rest. The living
soldier knows not at what moment he, too, may be called on to lay down
his life on the altar of his country. The dead are heroes, the living
are but men compelled to do the drudgery and suffer the privations
incident to the thing called "glorious war."
A NIGHT AMONG THE DEAD
We rested on our arms where the battle ceased. All around us everywhere
were the dead and wounded, lying scattered over the ground, and in many
places piled in heaps. Many a sad and heart-rending scene did I witness
upon this battlefield of Chickamauga. Our men died the death of heroes.
I sometimes think that surely our brave men have not died in vain.
It is true, our cause is lost, but a people who loved those brave and
noble heroes should ever cherish their memory as men who died for them.
I shed a tear over their memory. They gave their all to their country.
Abler pens than mine must write their epitaphs, and tell of their glories
and heroism. I am but a poor writer, at best, and only try to tell of
the events that I saw.
One scene I now remember, that I can imperfectly relate. While a detail
of us were passing over the field of death and blood, with a dim lantern,
looking for our wounded soldiers to carry to the hospital, we came
across a group of ladies, looking among the killed and wounded for their
relatives, when I heard one of the ladies say, "There they come with
their lanterns." I approached the ladies and asked them for whom they
were looking. They told me the name, but I have forgotten it. We passed
on, and coming to a pile of our slain, we had turned over several of our
dead, when one of the ladies screamed out, "O, there he is! Poor fellow!
Dead, dead, dead!" She ran to the pile of slain and raised the dead
man's head and placed it on her lap and began kissing him and saying, "O,
O, they have killed my darling, my darling, my darling! O, mother,
mother, what must I do! My poor, poor darling! O, they have killed him,
they have killed him!" I could witness the scene no longer. I turned
and walked away, and William A. Hughes was crying, and remarked, "O,
law me; this war is a terrible thing." We left them and began again
hunting for our wounded. All through that long September night we
continued to carry off our wounded, and when the morning sun arose over
the eastern hills, the order came to march to Missionary Ridge.
After retreating from Chickamauga, the Yankees attempted to re-form their
broken lines on Missionary Ridge. We advanced to attack them, but they
soon fell back to Chattanooga. We knew they were in an impregnable
position. We had built those breastworks and forts, and knew whereof
we spoke. We stopped on Missionary Ridge, and gnashed our teeth at
Chattanooga. I do not know what our generals thought; I do not know what
the authorities at Richmond thought, but I can tell you what the privates
thought. But here we were on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain,
looking right down into Chattanooga. We had but to watch and wait.
We would starve them out.
The Federal army had accomplished their purpose. They wanted
Chattanooga. They laughed at our triumph, and mocked at our victory.
They got Chattanooga. "Now, where are you, Johnny Reb? What are you
going to do about it? You've got the dry grins, arn't you? We've got
the key; when the proper time comes we'll unlock your doors and go in.
You are going to starve us out, eh? We are not very hungry at present,
and we don't want any more pie. When we starve out we'll call on you for
rations, but at present we are not starving, by a jug full; but if you
want any whisky or tobacco, send over and we'll give you some. We've
got all we wanted, and assure you we are satisfied."
The above remarks are the supposed colloquy that took place between the
two armies. Bragg, in trying to starve the Yankees out, was starved out
himself. Ask any old Rebel as to our bill of fare at Missionary Ridge.
In all the history of the war, I cannot remember of more privations and
hardships than we went through at Missionary Ridge. And when in the very
acme of our privations and hunger, when the army was most dissatisfied
and unhappy, we were ordered into line of battle to be reviewed by
Honorable Jefferson Davis. When he passed by us, with his great retinue
of staff officers and play-outs at full gallop, cheers greeted them,
with the words, "Send us something to eat, Massa Jeff. Give us something
to eat, Massa Jeff. I'm hungry! I'm hungry!"
SERGEANT TUCKER AND GENERAL WILDER
At this place the Yankee outpost was on one side of the Tennessee river,
and ours on the other. I was on the detail one Sunday commanded by
Sergeant John T. Tucker. When we were approaching we heard the old guard
and the Yankee picket talking back and forth across the river. The new
guard immediately resumed the conversation. We had to halloo at the top
of our voices, the river being about three hundred yards wide at this
point. But there was a little island about the middle of the river.
A Yankee hallooed out, "O, Johnny, Johnny, meet me half way in the river
on the island." "All right," said Sergeant Tucker, who immediately
undressed all but his hat, in which he carried the Chattanooga Rebel and
some other Southern newspapers, and swam across to the island. When he
got there the Yankee was there, but the Yankee had waded. I do not know
what he and John talked about, but they got very friendly, and John
invited him to come clear across to our side, which invitation he
accepted. I noticed at the time that while John swam, the Yankee waded,
remarking that he couldn't swim. The river was but little over waist
deep. Well, they came across and we swapped a few lies, canteens and
tobacco, and then the Yankee went back, wading all the way across the
stream. That man was General Wilder, commanding the Federal cavalry,
and at the battle of Missionary Ridge he threw his whole division of
cavalry across the Tennessee river at that point, thus flanking Bragg's
army, and opening the battle. He was examining the ford, and the
swapping business was but a mere by-play. He played it sharp, and Bragg
had to get further.
Maney's brigade fortified on top of Lookout Mountain. From this position
we could see five states. The Yankees had built a fort across the river,
on Moccasin Point, and were throwing shells at us continually. I have
never seen such accurate shooting in my life. It was upon the principle
of shooting a squirrel out of a tree, and they had become so perfect in
their aim, that I believe they could have killed a squirrel a mile off.
We could have killed a great many artillery men if we had been allowed to
shoot, but no private soldier was ever allowed to shoot a gun on his own
hook. If he shot at all, it must by the order of an officer, for if just
one cartridge was shot away or lost, the private was charged twenty-five
cents for it, and had to do extra duty, and I don't think our artillery
was ever allowed to fire a single shot under any circumstances. Our
rations were cooked up by a special detail ten miles in the rear, and
were sent to us every three days, and then those three days' rations were
generally eaten up at one meal, and the private soldier had to starve the
other two days and a half. Never in all my whole life do I remember of
ever experiencing so much oppression and humiliation. The soldiers were
starved and almost naked, and covered all over with lice and camp itch
and filth and dirt. The men looked sick, hollow-eyed, and heart-broken,
living principally upon parched corn, which had been picked out of the
mud and dirt under the feet of officers' horses. We thought of nothing
The battle of Missionary Ridge was opened from Moccasin Point, while
we were on Lookout Mountain, but I knew nothing of the movements or
maneuvers of either army, and only tell what part I took in the battle.
BATTLE OF MISSIONARY RIDGE
One morning Theodore Sloan, Hog Johnson and I were standing picket at the
little stream that runs along at the foot of Lookout Mountain. In fact,
I would be pleased to name our captain, Fulcher, and Lieutenant Lansdown,
of the guard on this occasion, because we acted as picket for the whole
three days' engagement without being relieved, and haven't been relieved
yet. But that battle has gone into history. We heard a Yankee call, "O,
Johnny, Johnny Reb!" I started out to meet him as formerly, when he
hallooed out, "Go back, Johnny, go back; we are ordered to fire on you."
"What is the matter? Is your army going to advance on us?" "I don't
know; we are ordered to fire." I jumped back into the picket post,
and a minnie ball ruined the only hat I had; another and another followed
in quick succession, and the dirt flew up in our faces off our little
breastworks. Before night the picket line was engaged from one end to
the other. If you had only heard it, dear reader. It went like ten
thousand wood-choppers, and an occasional boom of a cannon would remind
you of a tree falling. We could hear colonels giving commands to their
regiments, and could see very plainly the commotion and hubbub, but what
was up, we were unable to tell. The picket line kept moving to our
right. The second night found us near the tunnel, and right where two
railroads cross each other, or rather one runs over the other high enough
for the cars to pass under. We could see all over Chattanooga, and it
looked like myriads of blue coats swarming.
Day's and Mannigault's brigades got into a night attack at the foot of
Lookout Mountain. I could see the whole of it. It looked like lightning
bugs on a dark night. But about midnight everything quieted down.
Theodore Sloan, Hog Johnson and myself occupied an old log cabin as
vidette. We had not slept any for two nights, and were very drowsy,
I assure you, but we knew there was something up, and we had to keep
awake. The next morning, nearly day, I think I had dropped off into a
pleasant doze, and was dreaming of more pretty things than you ever saw
in your life, when Johnson touched me and whispered, "Look, look, there
are three Yankees; must I shoot?" I whispered back "Yes." A bang;
"a waugh" went a shriek. He had got one, sure. Everything got quiet
again, and we heard nothing more for an hour. Johnson touched me again
and whispered, "Yonder they come again; look, look!" I could not see
them; was too sleepy for that. Sloan could not see them, either.
Johnson pulled down, and another unearthly squall rended the night air.
The streaks of day had begun to glimmer over Missionary Ridge, and I
could see in the dim twilight the Yankee guard not fifty yards off.
Said I, "Boys, let's fire into them and run." We took deliberate aim and
fired. At that they raised, I thought, a mighty sickly sort of yell and
charged the house. We ran out, but waited on the outside. We took a
second position where the railroads cross each other, but they began
shelling us from the river, when we got on the opposite side of the
railroad and they ceased.
I know nothing about the battle; how Grant, with one wing, went up the
river, and Hooker's corps went down Wills valley, etc. I heard fighting
and commanding and musketry all day long, but I was still on picket.
Balls were passing over our heads, both coming and going. I could not
tell whether I was standing picket for Yankees or Rebels. I knew that
the Yankee line was between me and the Rebel line, for I could see the
battle right over the tunnel. We had been placed on picket at the foot
of Lookout Mountain, but we were five miles from that place now. If
I had tried to run in I couldn't. I had got separated from Sloan and
Johnson somehow; in fact, was waiting either for an advance of the
Yankees, or to be called in by the captain of the picket. I could see
the blue coats fairly lining Missionary Ridge in my head. The Yankees
were swarming everywhere. They were passing me all day with their dead
and wounded, going back to Chattanooga. No one seemed to notice me;
they were passing to and fro, cannon, artillery, and everything. I
was willing to be taken prisoner, but no one seemed disposed to do it.
I was afraid to look at them, and I was afraid to hide, for fear some
one's attention would be attracted toward me. I wished I could make
myself invisible. I think I was invisible. I felt that way anyhow.
I felt like the boy who wanted to go to the wedding, but had no shoes.
Cassabianca never had such feelings as I had that livelong day.
Say, captain, say, if yet my task be done?
And yet the sweeping waves rolled on,
And answered neither yea nor nay.
About two or three o'clock, a column of Yankees advancing to the attack
swept right over where I was standing. I was trying to stand aside to
get out of their way, but the more I tried to get out of their way,
the more in their way I got. I was carried forward, I knew not whither.
We soon arrived at the foot of the ridge, at our old breastworks.
I recognized Robert Brank's old corn stalk house, and Alf Horsley's fort,
an old log house called Fort Horsley. I was in front of the enemy's line,
and was afraid to run up the ridge, and afraid to surrender. They were
ordered to charge up the hill. There was no firing from the Rebel lines
in our immediate front. They kept climbing and pulling and scratching
until I was in touching distance of the old Rebel breastworks, right on
the very apex of Missionary Ridge. I made one jump, and I heard Captain
Turner, who had the very four Napoleon guns we had captured at Perryville,
halloo out, "Number four, solid!" and then a roar. The next order was
"Limber to the rear." The Yankees were cutting and slashing, and the
cannoneers were running in every direction. I saw Day's brigade throw
down their guns and break like quarter horses. Bragg was trying to
rally them. I heard him say, "Here is your commander," and the soldiers
hallooed back, "here is your mule."
The whole army was routed. I ran on down the ridge, and there was our
regiment, the First Tennessee, with their guns stacked, and drawing
rations as if nothing was going on. Says I, "Colonel Field, what's the
matter? The whole army is routed and running; hadn't you better be
getting away from here? The Yankees are not a hundred yards from here.
Turner's battery has surrendered, Day's brigade has thrown down their
arms; and look yonder, that is the Stars and Stripes." He remarked very
coolly, "You seem to be demoralized. We've whipped them here. We've
captured two thousand prisoners and five stands of colors."
Just at this time General Bragg and staff rode up. Bragg had joined the
church at Shelbyville, but he had back-slid at Missionary Ridge. He was
cursing like a sailor. Says he, "What's this? Ah, ha, have you stacked
your arms for a surrender?" "No, sir," says Field. "Take arms, shoulder
arms, by the right flank, file right, march," just as cool and deliberate
as if on dress parade. Bragg looked scared. He had put spurs to his
horse, and was running like a scared dog before Colonel Field had a
chance to answer him. Every word of this is a fact. We at once became
the rear guard of the whole army.
[ Author's Note: I remember of General Maney meeting Gary. I do not
know who Gary was, but Maney and Gary seemed to be very glad to see each
other. Every time I think of that retreat I think of Gary. ]
I felt sorry for General Bragg. The army was routed, and Bragg looked so
scared. Poor fellow, he looked so hacked and whipped and mortified and
chagrined at defeat, and all along the line, when Bragg would pass,
the soldiers would raise the yell, "Here is your mule;" "Bully for Bragg,
he's h--l on retreat."
Bragg was a good disciplinarian, and if he had cultivated the love and
respect of his troops by feeding and clothing them better than they were,
the result would have been different. More depends on a good general
than the lives of many privates. The private loses his life, the general
GOOD-BYE, TOM WEBB
As soon as the order was given to march, we saw poor Tom Webb lying on
the battlefield shot through the head, his blood and brains smearing his
face and clothes, and he still alive. He was as brave and noble a man as
our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, ever made. Everybody loved
him. He was a universal favorite of the company and regiment; was brave
and generous, and ever anxious to take some other man's place when there
was any skirmishing or fighting to be done. We did not wish to leave
the poor fellow in that condition, and A. S. Horsley, John T. Tucker,
Tennessee Thompson and myself got a litter and carried him on our
shoulders through that livelong night back to Chickamauga Station.
The next morning Dr. J. E. Dixon, of Deshler's brigade, passed by and
told us that it would be useless for us to carry him any further, and
that it was utterly impossible for him ever to recover. The Yankees were
then advancing and firing upon us. What could we do? We could not carry
him any further, and we could not bury him, for he was still alive.
To leave him where he was we thought best. We took hold of his hand,
bent over him and pressed our lips to his--all four of us. We kissed
him good-bye and left him to the tender mercies of the advancing foe, in
whose hands he would be in a few moments. No doubt they laughed and
jeered at the dying Rebel. It mattered not what they did, for poor
Tom Webb's spirit, before the sun went down, was with God and the holy
angels. He had given his all to his country. O, how we missed him.
It seemed that the very spirit and life of Company H had died with the
death of good, noble and brave Tom Webb.
I thank God that I am no infidel, and I feel and believe that I will
again see Tom Webb. Just as sure and certain, reader, as you are now
reading these lines, I will meet him up yonder--I know I will.
THE REAR GUARD
When we had marched about a mile back in the rear of the battlefield,
we were ordered to halt so that all stragglers might pass us, as we were
detailed as the rear guard. While resting on the road side we saw Day's
brigade pass us. They were gunless, cartridge-boxless, knapsackless,
canteenless, and all other military accoutermentsless, and swordless,
and officerless, and they all seemed to have the 'possum grins, like
Bragg looked, and as they passed our regiment, you never heard such fun
made of a parcel of soldiers in your life. Every fellow was yelling at
the top of his voice, "Yaller-hammer, Alabama, flicker, flicker, flicker,
yaller-hammer, Alabama, flicker, flicker, flicker." I felt sorry for
the yellow-hammer Alabamians, they looked so hacked, and answered back
never a word. When they had passed, two pieces of artillery passed us.
They were the only two pieces not captured at Missionary Ridge, and they
were ordered to immediately precede us in bringing up the rear. The
whole rear guard was placed under the command of the noble, generous,
handsome and brave General Gist, of South Carolina. I loved General Gist,
and when I mention his name tears gather in my eyes. I think he was the
handsomest man I ever knew.
Our army was a long time crossing the railroad bridge across Chickamauga
river. Maney's brigade, of Cheatham's division, and General L. E. Polk's
brigade, of Cleburne's division, formed a sort of line of battle, and had
to wait until the stragglers had all passed. I remember looking at them,
and as they passed I could read the character of every soldier. Some
were mad, others cowed, and many were laughing. Some were cursing Bragg,
some the Yankees, and some were rejoicing at the defeat. I cannot
describe it. It was the first defeat our army had ever suffered, but the
prevailing sentiment was anathemas and denunciations hurled against Jeff
Davis for ordering Longstreet's corps to Knoxville, and sending off
Generals Wheeler's and Forrest's cavalry, while every private soldier in
the whole army knew that the enemy was concentrating at Chattanooga.
When we arrived at Chickamauga Station, our brigade and General Lucius
E. Polk's brigade, of Cleburne's division, were left to set fire to the
town and to burn up and destroy all those immense piles of army stores
and provisions which had been accumulated there to starve the Yankees out
of Chattanooga. Great piles of corn in sacks, and bacon, and crackers,
and molasses, and sugar, and coffee, and rice, and potatoes, and onions,
and peas, and flour by the hundreds of barrels, all now to be given to
the flames, while for months the Rebel soldiers had been stinted and
starved for the want of these same provisions. It was enough to make the
bravest and most patriotic soul that ever fired a gun in defense of any
cause on earth, think of rebelling against the authorities as they then
were. Every private soldier knew these stores were there, and for the
want of them we lost our cause.
Reader, I ask you who you think was to blame? Most of our army had
already passed through hungry and disheartened, and here were all these
stores that had to be destroyed. Before setting fire to the town,
every soldier in Maney's and Polk's brigades loaded himself down with
rations. It was a laughable looking rear guard of a routed and
retreating army. Every one of us had cut open the end of a corn sack,
emptied out the corn, and filled it with hard-tack, and, besides, every
one of us had a side of bacon hung to our bayonets on our guns. Our
canteens, and clothes, and faces, and hair were all gummed up with
molasses. Such is the picture of our rear guard. Now, reader, if you
were ever on the rear guard of a routed and retreating army, you know how
tedious it is. You don't move more than ten feet at furthest before you
have to halt, and then ten feet again a few minutes afterwards, and so
on all day long. You haven't time to sit down a moment before you are
ordered to move on again. And the Yankees dash up every now and then,
and fire a volley into your rear. Now that is the way we were marched
that livelong day, until nearly dark, and then the Yankees began to crowd
us. We can see their line forming, and know we have to fight.
THE BATTLE OF CAT CREEK
About dark a small body of cavalry dashed in ahead of us and captured and
carried off one piece of artillery and Colonel John F. House, General
Maney's assistant adjutant-general. We will have to form line of battle
and drive them back. Well, we quickly form line of battle, and the
Yankees are seen to emerge from the woods about two hundred yards from
us. We promptly shell off those sides of bacon and sacks of hard-tack
that we had worried and tugged with all day long. Bang, bang, siz, siz.
We are ordered to load and fire promptly and to hold our position.
Yonder they come, a whole division. Our regiment is the only regiment
in the action. They are crowding us; our poor little handful of men are
being killed and wounded by scores. There is General George Maney badly
wounded and being carried to the rear, and there is Moon, of Fulcher's
battalion, killed dead in his tracks. We can't much longer hold our
position. A minnie ball passes through my Bible in my side pocket.
All at once we are ordered to open ranks. Here comes one piece of
artillery from a Mississippi battery, bouncing ten feet high, over brush
and logs and bending down little trees and saplings, under whip and spur,
the horses are champing the bits, and are muddied from head to foot.
Now, quick, quick; look, the Yankees have discovered the battery and
are preparing to charge it. Unlimber, horses and caisson to the rear.
No. 1 shrapnel, load, fire--boom, boom; load, ablouyat--boom, boom.
I saw Sam Seay fall badly wounded and carried to the rear. I stopped
firing to look at Sergeant Doyle how he handled his gun. At every
discharge it would bounce, and turn its muzzle completely to the rear,
when those old artillery soldiers would return it to its place--and it
seemed they fired a shot almost every ten seconds. Fire, men. Our
muskets roll and rattle, making music like the kettle and bass drum
combined. They are checked; we see them fall back to the woods, and
night throws her mantle over the scene. We fell back now, and had to
strip and wade Chickamauga river. It was up to our armpits, and was as
cold as charity. We had to carry our clothes across on the points of
our bayonets. Fires had been kindled every few yards on the other side,
and we soon got warmed up again.
I had got as far as Ringgold Gap, when I had unconsciously fallen asleep
by a fire, it being the fourth night that I had not slept a wink.
Before I got to this fire, however, a gentleman whom I never saw in my
life--because it was totally dark at the time--handed me a letter from
the old folks at home, and a good suit of clothes. He belonged to
Colonel Breckinridge's cavalry, and if he ever sees these lines, I wish
to say to him, "God bless you, old boy." I had lost every blanket and
vestige of clothing, except those I had on, at Missionary Ridge. I laid
down by the fire and went to sleep, but how long I had slept I knew not,
when I felt a rough hand grab me and give me a shake, and the fellow said,
"Are you going to sleep here, and let the Yankees cut your throat?"
I opened my eyes, and asked, "Who are you?" He politely and pleasantly,
yet profanely, told me that he was General Walker (the poor fellow was
killed the 22nd of July, at Atlanta), and that I had better get further.
He passed on and waked others. Just then, General Cleburne and staff
rode by me, and I heard one of his staff remark, "General, here is a
ditch, or gully, that will make a natural breastwork." All I heard
General Cleburne say was, "Er, eh, eh!" I saw General Lucius E. Polk's
brigade form on the crest of the hill.
I went a little further and laid down again and went to sleep. How long
I had lain there, and what was passing over me, I know nothing about,
but when I awoke, here is what I saw: I saw a long line of blue coats
marching down the railroad track. The first thought I had was, well,
I'm gone up now, sure; but on second sight, I discovered that they were
prisoners. Cleburne had had the doggondest fight of the war. The ground
was piled with dead Yankees; they were piled in heaps. The scene looked
unlike any battlefield I ever saw. From the foot to the top of the hill
was covered with their slain, all lying on their faces. It had the
appearance of the roof of a house shingled with dead Yankees. They were
flushed with victory and success, and had determined to push forward and
capture the whole of the Rebel army, and set up their triumphant standard
at Atlanta--then exit Southern Confederacy. But their dead were so
piled in their path at Ringgold Gap that they could not pass them. The
Spartans gained a name at Thermopylae, in which Leonidas and the whole
Spartan army were slain while defending the pass. Cleburne's division
gained a name at Ringgold Gap, in which they not only slew the victorious
army, but captured five thousand prisoners besides. That brilliant
victory of Cleburne's made him not only the best general of the army
of Tennessee, and covered his men with glory and honor of heroes, but
checked the advance of Grant's whole army.
We did not budge an inch further for many a long day, but we went into
winter quarters right here at Ringgold Gap, Tunnel Hill and Dalton.
GENERAL JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON
General Joseph E. Johnston now took command of the army. General Bragg
was relieved, and had become Jeff Davis' war adviser at Richmond,
Virginia. We had followed General Bragg all through this long war.
We had got sorter used to his ways, but he was never popular with his
troops. I felt sorry for him. Bragg's troops would have loved him,
if he had allowed them to do so, for many a word was spoken in his behalf,
after he had been relieved of the command. As a general I have spoken of
him in these memoirs, not personally. I try to state facts, so that you
may see, reader, why our cause was lost. I have no doubt that Bragg ever
did what he thought was best. He was but a man, under the authority of
But now, allow me to introduce you to old Joe. Fancy, if you please,
a man about fifty years old, rather small of stature, but firmly and
compactly built, an open and honest countenance, and a keen but restless
black eye, that seemed to read your very inmost thoughts. In his dress
he was a perfect dandy. He ever wore the very finest clothes that could
be obtained, carrying out in every point the dress and paraphernalia of
the soldier, as adopted by the war department at Richmond, never omitting
anything, even to the trappings of his horse, bridle and saddle. His
hat was decorated with a star and feather, his coat with every star and
embellishment, and he wore a bright new sash, big gauntlets, and silver
spurs. He was the very picture of a general.
But he found the army depleted by battles; and worse, yea, much worse,
by desertion. The men were deserting by tens and hundreds, and I might
say by thousands. The morale of the army was gone. The spirit of the
soldiers was crushed, their hope gone. The future was dark and gloomy.
They would not answer at roll call. Discipline had gone. A feeling of
mistrust pervaded the whole army.
A train load of provisions came into Dalton. The soldiers stopped it
before it rolled into the station, burst open every car, and carried off
all the bacon, meal and flour that was on board. Wild riot was the order
of the day; everything was confusion, worse confounded. When the news
came, like pouring oil upon the troubled waters, that General Joe
E. Johnston, of Virginia, had taken command of the Army of Tennessee,
men returned to their companies, order was restored, and "Richard was
himself again." General Johnston issued a universal amnesty to all
soldiers absent without leave. Instead of a scrimp pattern of one day's
rations, he ordered two days' rations to be issued, being extra for
one day. He ordered tobacco and whisky to be issued twice a week. He
ordered sugar and coffee and flour to be issued instead of meal. He
ordered old bacon and ham to be issued instead of blue beef. He ordered
new tents and marquees. He ordered his soldiers new suits of clothes,
shoes and hats. In fact, there had been a revolution, sure enough.
He allowed us what General Bragg had never allowed mortal man--a
furlough. He gave furloughs to one-third of his army at a time, until
the whole had been furloughed. A new era had dawned; a new epoch had
been dated. He passed through the ranks of the common soldiers, shaking
hands with every one he met. He restored the soldier's pride; he
brought the manhood back to the private's bosom; he changed the order
of roll-call, standing guard, drill, and such nonsense as that. The
revolution was complete. He was loved, respected, admired; yea, almost
worshipped by his troops. I do not believe there was a soldier in his
army but would gladly have died for him. With him everything was his
soldiers, and the newspapers, criticising him at the time, said, "He
would feed his soldiers if the country starved."
We soon got proud; the blood of the old Cavaliers tingled in our veins.
We did not feel that we were serfs and vagabonds. We felt that we had a
home and a country worth fighting for, and, if need be, worth dying for.
One regiment could whip an army, and did do it, in every instance,
before the command was taken from him at Atlanta. But of this another
Chaplains were brought back to their regiments. Dr. C. T. Quintard and
Rev. C. D. Elliott, and other chaplains, held divine services every
Sabbath, prayer was offered every evening at retreat, and the morale of
the army was better in every respect. The private soldier once more
regarded himself a gentleman and a man of honor. We were willing to do
and die and dare anything for our loved South, and the Stars and Bars
of the Confederacy. In addition to this, General Johnston ordered his
soldiers to be paid up every cent that was due them, and a bounty of
fifty dollars besides. He issued an order to his troops offering
promotion and a furlough for acts of gallantry and bravery on the field
The cloven foot of tyranny and oppression was not discernible in the acts
of officers, from general down to corporal, as formerly. Notwithstanding
all this grand transformation in our affairs, old Joe was a strict
disciplinarian. Everything moved like clockwork. Men had to keep their
arms and clothing in good order. The artillery was rubbed up and put in
good condition. The wagons were greased, and the harness and hamestrings
oiled. Extra rations were issued to negroes who were acting as servants,
a thing unprecedented before in the history of the war.
Well, old Joe was a yerker. He took all the tricks. He was a commander.
He kept everything up and well in hand. His lines of battle were
invulnerable. The larger his command, the easier he could handle it.
When his army moved, it was a picture of battle, everything in its place,
as laid down by scientific military rules. When a man was to be shot,
he was shot for the crimes he had done, and not to intimidate and cow the
living, and he had ten times as many shot as Bragg had. He had seventeen
shot at Tunnel Hill, and a whole company at Rockyface Ridge, and two
spies hung at Ringgold Gap, but they were executed for their crimes.
No one knew of it except those who had to take part as executioners of
the law. Instead of the whipping post, he instituted the pillory and
barrel shirt. Get Brutus to whistle the barrel shirt for you. The
pillory was a new-fangled concern. If you went to the guard-house of
almost any regiment, you would see some poor fellow with his head and
hands sticking through a board. It had the appearance of a fellow taking
a running start, at an angle of forty-five degrees, with a view of
bursting a board over his head, but when the board burst his head and
both his hands were clamped in the bursted places. The barrel shirt
brigade used to be marched on drill and parade. You could see a fellow's
head and feet, and whenever one of the barrels would pass, you would hear
the universal cry, "Come out of that barrel, I see your head and feet
sticking out." There might have been a mortification and a disgrace in
the pillory and barrel shirt business to those that had to use them,
but they did not bruise and mutilate the physical man. When one of them
had served out his time he was as good as new. Old Joe had greater
military insight than any general of the South, not excepting even Lee.
He was the born soldier; seemed born to command. When his army moved it
moved solid. Cavalry, artillery, wagon train, and infantry stepped the
same tread to the music of the march. His men were not allowed to be
butchered for glory, and to have his name and a battle fought, with the
number of killed and wounded, go back to Richmond for his own glory.
When he fought, he fought for victory, not for glory. He could fall back
right in the face of the foe as quietly and orderly as if on dress parade;
and when his enemies crowded him a little too closely, he would about
face and give them a terrible chastisement. He could not be taken by
surprise by any flank movement of the enemy. His soldiers were to him
his children. He loved them. They were never needlessly sacrificed.
He was always ready to meet the attack of the enemy. When his line of
battle was formed it was like a wall of granite. His adversaries knew
him, and dreaded the certain death that awaited them. His troops were
brave; they laughed in the face of battle. He had no rear guard to
shoot down any one who ran. They couldn't run; the army was solid. The
veriest coward that was ever born became a brave man and a hero under his
manipulation. His troops had the utmost confidence in him, and feared no
evil. They became an army of veterans, whose lines could not be broken
by the armies of the world. Battle became a pastime and a pleasure,
and the rattle of musketry and roar of cannon were but the music of
victory and success.
Before General Joseph E. Johnston took command of the Army of Tennessee,
the soldiers were very poorly fed, it is true, but the blame was not
entirely attributable to General Bragg. He issued enough and more than
enough to have bountifully fed his army, but there was a lot of men in
the army, generally denominated commissaries, and their "gizzards,"
as well as fingers, had to be greased. There was commissary-general,
then corps commissary, then division commissary, then brigade commissary,
then regimental commissary, then company commissary. Now, you know were
you to start a nice hindquarter of beef, which had to pass through all
these hands, and every commissary take a choice steak and roast off it,
there would be but little ever reach the company, and the poor man among
the Johnnies had to feast like bears in winter--they had to suck their
paws--but the rich Johnnies who had money could go to almost any of
the gentlemen denominated commissaries (they ought to have been called
cormorants) and buy of them much nice fat beef and meal and flour and
sugar and coffee and nice canvassed hams, etc. I have done it many
times. They were keeping back the rations that had been issued to the
army, and lining their own pockets. But when General Johnston took
command, this manipulating business played out. Rations would "spile"
on their hands. Othello's occupation was gone. They received only one
hundred and forty dollars a month then, and the high private got plenty
to eat, and Mr. Cormorant quit making as much money as he had heretofore
done. Were you to go to them and make complaint, they would say, "I have
issued regular army rations to your company, and what is left over is
mine," and they were mighty exact about it.
We went into winter quarters at Dalton, and remained there during the
cold, bad winter of 1863-64, about four months. The usual routine of
army life was carried on day by day, with not many incidents to vary the
monotony of camp life. But occasionally the soldiers would engage in
a snow ball battle, in which generals, colonels, captains and privates
all took part. They would usually divide off into two grand divisions,
one line naturally becoming the attacking party, and the other the
defensive. The snow balls would begin to fly hither and thither, with
an occasional knock down, and sometimes an ugly wound, where some mean
fellow had enclosed a rock in his snow ball. It was fun while it lasted,
but after it was over the soldiers were wet, cold and uncomfortable.
I have seen charges and attacks and routes and stampedes, etc., but
before the thing was over, one side did not know one from the other.
It was a general knock down and drag out affair.
SHOOTING A DESERTER
One morning I went over to Deshler's brigade of Cleburne's division to
see my brother-in-law, Dr. J. E. Dixon. The snow was on the ground,
and the boys were hard at it, "snow balling." While I was standing
looking on, a file of soldiers marched by me with a poor fellow on
his way to be shot. He was blindfolded and set upon a stump, and the
detail formed. The command, "Ready, aim, fire!" was given, the volley
discharged, and the prisoner fell off the stump. He had not been killed.
It was the sergeant's duty to give the _coup d'etat_, should not the
prisoner be slain. The sergeant ran up and placed the muzzle of his gun
at the head of the poor, pleading, and entreating wretch, his gun was
discharged, and the wretched man only powder-burned, the gun being one
that had been loaded with powder only. The whole affair had to be gone
over again. The soldiers had to reload and form and fire. The culprit
was killed stone dead this time. He had no sooner been taken up and
carried off to be buried, than the soldiers were throwing snow balls as
hard as ever, as if nothing had happened.
TEN MEN KILLED AT THE MOURNERS' BENCH
At this place (Dalton) a revival of religion sprang up, and there was
divine service every day and night. Soldiers became serious on the
subject of their souls' salvation. In sweeping the streets and cleaning
up, an old tree had been set on fire, and had been smoking and burning
for several days, and nobody seemed to notice it. That night there was
service as usual, and the singing and sermon were excellent. The sermon
was preached by Rev. J. G. Bolton, chaplain of the Fiftieth Tennessee
Regiment, assisted by Rev. C. D. Elliott, the services being held in the
Fourth Tennessee Regiment. As it was the custom to "call up mourners,"
a long bench had been placed in proper position for them to kneel down
at. Ten of them were kneeling at this mourners' bench, pouring out their
souls in prayer to God, asking Him for the forgiveness of their sins,
and for the salvation of their souls, for Jesus Christ their Redeemer's
sake, when the burning tree, without any warning, fell with a crash right
across the ten mourners, crushing and killing them instantly. God had
heard their prayers. Their souls had been carried to heaven. Hereafter,
henceforth, and forevermore, there was no more marching, battling,
or camp duty for them. They had joined the army of the hosts of heaven.
By order of the general, they were buried with great pomp and splendor,
that is, for those times. Every one of them was buried in a coffin.
Brass bands followed, playing the "Dead March," and platoons fired over
their graves. It was a soldier's funeral. The beautiful burial service
of the Episcopal church was read by Rev. Allen Tribble. A hymn was sung,
and prayer offered, and then their graves were filled as we marched sadly
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