Sam R. Watkins
Part 4 out of 5
to go up on a high place with your sweetheart, and hear her say, "La!
ain't it b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l," "Now, now, please don't go there," and how
you walk up pretty close to the edge and spit over, to show what a brave
man you are. It's "bully," I tell you. Well, I wanted to go to the top
of the capitol--I went; wanted to go up in the cupola. Now, there was
an iron ladder running up across an empty space, and you could see two
hundred feet below from this cupola or dome on top. The ladder was about
ten feet long, spanning the dome. It was very easy to go up, because
I was looking up all the time, and I was soon on top of the building.
I saw how far I could see, and saw the Alabama river, winding and turning
until it seemed no larger than a silver thread. Well, I am very poor
at describing and going into ecstacies over fancies. I want some abler
pen to describe the scene. I was not thinking about the scene or the
landscape--I was thinking how I was going to get down that ladder again.
I would come to that iron ladder and peep over, and think if I fell,
how far would I have to fall. The more I thought about going down that
ladder, the more I didn't feel like going down. Well, I felt that I had
rather die than go down that ladder. I'm honest in this. I felt like
jumping off and committing suicide rather than go down that ladder.
I crossed right over the frightful chasm, but when forbearance ceased to
be a virtue, I tremblingly put my foot on the first rung, then grabbed
the top of the two projections. There I remained, I don't know how long,
but after awhile I reached down with one foot and touched the next rung.
After getting that foot firmly placed, I ventured to risk the other foot.
It was thus for several backward steps, until I come to see down--away
down, down, down below me--and my head got giddy. The world seemed to be
turning round and round. A fellow at the bottom hallooed, "Look up! look
up, mister! look up!" I was not a foot from the upper floor. As soon as
I looked at the floor, everything got steady. I kept my eyes fixed on
the top of the building, and soon made the landing on _terra firma_.
I have never liked high places since. I never could bear to go upstairs
in a house. I went to the capitol at Nashville, last winter, and
McAndrews wanted me to go up in the cupola with him. He went, and paid a
quarter for the privilege. I stayed, and--well, if I could estimate its
value by dollars--I would say two hundred and fifty million dollars is
what I made by staying down.
The next day, while the ferryboat was crossing the river, I asked the
ferryman to let me ride over. I was halted by a soldier who "knowed"
"Your pass, sir!"
"Well, I have no pass!"
"Well, sir, I will have to arrest you, and take you before the provost
"Very well, sir; I will go with you to the provost or anywhere else."
I appear before the provost marshal.
"What command do you belong to, sir?"
"Well, sir, I belong to Company H, First Tennessee Regiment. I am a
wounded man sent to the hospital."
"Well, sir, that's too thin; why did you not get a pass?"
"I did not think one was required."
"Give me your name, sir."
I gave my name.
"Sergeant, take this name to the hospital and ask if such name is
registered on their books."
I told him that I knew it was not. The sergeant returns and reports no
such name, when he remarks:
"You have to go to the guard-house."
Says I, "Colonel (I knew his rank was that of captain), if you send me
to the guard-house, you will do me a great wrong. Here is where I was
wounded." I pulled off my shoe and began to unbandage.
"Well, sir, I don't want to look at your foot, and I have no patience
with you. Take him to the guard-house."
Turning back I said, "Sir, aye, aye, you are clothed with a little brief
authority, and appear to be presuming pretty heavy on that authority; but,
sir"--well I have forgotten what I did say. The sergeant took me by the
arm, and said, "Come, come, sir, I have my orders."
As I was going up the street, I met Captain Dave Buckner, and told him
all the circumstances of my arrest as briefly as I could. He said,
"Sergeant, bring him back with me to the provost marshal's office."
They were as mad as wet hens. Their faces were burning, and I could see
their jugular veins go thump, thump, thump. I do not know what Captain
Buckner said to them, all I heard were the words "otherwise insulted me."
But I was liberated, and was glad of it.
I then went back to the river, and gave a fellow two dollars to "row me
over the ferry." I was in no particular hurry, and limped along at my
leisure until about nightfall, when I came to a nice, cosy-looking farm
house, and asked to stay all night. I was made very welcome, indeed.
There were two very pretty girls here, and I could have "loved either
were 'tother dear charmer away." But I fell in love with both of them,
and thereby overdid the thing. This was by a dim fire-light. The next
day was Sunday, and we all went to church in the country. We went in an
old rockaway carriage. I remember that the preacher used the words, "O,
God," nineteen times in his prayer. I had made up my mind which one of
the girls I would marry. Now, don't get mad, fair reader mine. I was
all gallantry and smiles, and when we arrived at home, I jumped out and
took hold the hand of my fair charmer to help her out. She put her foot
out, and--well, I came very near telling--she tramped on a cat. The cat
But then, you know, reader, that I was engaged to Jennie and I had a
talisman in my pocket Bible, in the way of a love letter, against the
charms of other beautiful and interesting young ladies. Uncle Jimmie
Rieves had been to Maury county, and, on returning to Atlanta, found out
that I was wounded and in the hospital at Montgomery, and brought the
letter to me; and, as I am married now, I don't mind telling you what
was in the letter, if you won't laugh at me. You see, Jennie was my
sweetheart, and here is my sweetheart's letter:
My Dear Sam.:--I write to tell you that I love you yet, and you alone;
and day by day I love you more, and pray, every night and morning for
your safe return home again. My greatest grief is that we heard you were
wounded and in the hospital, and I cannot be with you to nurse you.
We heard of the death of many noble and brave men at Atlanta; and the
death of Captain Carthell, Cousin Mary's husband. It was sent by Captain
January; he belonged to the Twelfth Tennessee, of which Colonel Watkins
The weather is very beautiful here, and the flowers in the garden are in
full bloom, and the apples are getting ripe. I have gathered a small
bouquet, which I will put in the letter; I also send by Uncle Jimmie a
tobacco bag, and a watch-guard, made out of horse hair, and a woolen hood,
knit with my own hands, with love and best respects.
We heard that you had captured a flag at Atlanta, and was promoted for it
to corporal. Is that some high office? I know you will be a general yet,
because I always hear of your being in every battle, and always the
foremost man in the attack. Sam, please take care of yourself for my
sake, and don't let the Yankees kill you. Well, good-bye, darling,
I will ever pray for God's richest and choicest blessings upon you.
Be sure and write a long, long letter--I don't care how long, to your
loving and sincere
THE BRAVE CAPTAIN
When I got back to the Alabama river, opposite Montgomery, the ferryboat
was on the other shore. A steamboat had just pulled out of its moorings
and crossed over to where I was, and began to take on wood. I went on
board, and told the captain, who was a clever and good man, that I would
like to take a trip with him to Mobile and back, and that I was a wounded
soldier from the hospital. He told me, "All right, come along, and I
will foot expenses."
It was about sunset, but along the line of the distant horizon we could
see the dark and heavy clouds begin to boil up in thick and ominous
columns. The lightning was darting to and fro like lurid sheets of fire,
and the storm seemed to be gathering; we could hear the storm king in his
chariot in the clouds, rumbling as he came, but a dead lull was seen and
felt in the air and in nature; everything was in a holy hush, except the
hoarse belchings of the engines, the sizzing and frying of the boilers,
and the work of the machinery on the lower deck. At last the storm burst
upon us in all its fury; it was a tornado and the women and children
began to scream and pray--the mate to curse and swear. I was standing by
the captain on the main upper deck, as he was trying to direct the pilot
how to steer the boat through that awful storm, when we heard the alarm
bell ring out, and the hoarse cry of "Fire! fire! fire!" Men were
running toward the fire with buckets, and the hose began throwing water
on the flames. Men, women, and children were jumping in the water,
and the captain used every effort to quiet the panic, and to land his
boat with its passengers, but the storm and fire were too much, and down
the vessel sank to rise no more. Many had been saved in the lifeboat,
and many were drowned. I jumped overboard, and the last thing I saw was
the noble and brave captain still ringing the bell, as the vessel went
down. He went down amid the flames to fill a watery grave. The water
was full of struggling and dying people for miles. I did not go to
HOW I GET BACK TO ATLANTA
When I got to Montgomery, the cars said toot, toot, and I raised the
hue and cry and followed in pursuit. Kind friends, I fear that I have
wearied you with my visit to Montgomery, but I am going back to camp now,
and will not leave it again until our banner is furled never to be again
I, you remember, was without a pass, and did not wish to be carried a
second time before that good, brave, and just provost marshal; and
something told me not to go to the hospital. I found out when the cars
would leave, and thought that I would get on them and go back without any
trouble. I got on the cars, but was hustled off mighty quick, because
I had no pass. A train of box-cars was about leaving for West Point,
and I took a seat on top of one of them, and was again hustled off;
but I had determined to go, and as the engine began to puff, and tug,
and pull, I slipped in between two box-cars, sitting on one part of one
and putting my feet on the other, and rode this way until I got to West
Point. The conductor discovered me, and had put me off several times
before I got to West Point, but I would jump on again as soon as the cars
started. When I got to West Point, a train of cars started off, and I
ran, trying to get on, when Captain Peebles reached out his hand and
pulled me in, and I arrived safe and sound at Atlanta.
On my way back to Atlanta, I got with Dow Akin and Billy March. Billy
March had been shot through the under jaw by a minnie ball at the octagon
house, but by proper attention and nursing, he had recovered. Conner
Akin was killed at the octagon house, and Dow wounded. When we got back
to the regiment, then stationed near a fine concrete house (where Shepard
and I would sleep every night), nearly right on our works, we found
two thirty-two-pound parrot guns stationed in our immediate front, and
throwing shells away over our heads into the city of Atlanta. We had
just begun to tell all the boys howdy, when I saw Dow Akin fall. A
fragment of shell had struck him on his backbone, and he was carried back
wounded and bleeding. We could see the smoke boil up, and it would be
nearly a minute before we would hear the report of the cannon, and then a
few moments after we would hear the scream of the shell as it went on to
Atlanta. We used to count from the time we would see the smoke boil up
until we would hear the noise, and some fellow would call out, "Look
out boys, the United States is sending iron over into the Southern
Confederacy; let's send a little lead back to the United States."
And we would blaze away with our Enfield and Whitworth guns, and every
time we would fire, we would silence those parrot guns. This kind of fun
was carried on for forty-six days.
DEATH OF TOM TUCK'S ROOSTER
Atlanta was a great place to fight chickens. I had heard much said about
cock pits and cock fights, but had never seen such a thing. Away over
the hill, outside of the range of Thomas' thirty-pound parrot guns,
with which he was trying to burn up Atlanta, the boys had fixed up a cock
pit. It was fixed exactly like a circus ring, and seats and benches were
arranged for the spectators. Well, I went to the cock fight one day.
A great many roosters were to be pitted that day, and each one was
trimmed and gaffed. A gaff is a long keen piece of steel, as sharp as
a needle, that is fitted over the spurs. Well, I looked on at the fun.
Tom Tuck's rooster was named Southern Confederacy; but this was
abbreviated to Confed., and as a pet name, they called him Fed. Well,
Fed was a trained rooster, and would "clean up" a big-foot rooster as
soon as he was put in the pit. But Tom always gave Fed every advantage.
One day a green-looking country hunk came in with a rooster that he
wanted to pit against Fed. He looked like a common rail-splitter.
The money was soon made up, and the stakes placed in proper hands.
The gaffs were fitted, the roosters were placed in the pit and held until
both were sufficiently mad to fight, when they were turned loose, and
each struck at the same time. I looked and poor Fed was dead. The other
rooster had popped both gaffs through his head. He was a dead rooster;
yea, a dead cock in the pit. Tom went and picked up his rooster, and
said, "Poor Fed, I loved you; you used to crow every morning at daylight
to wake me up. I have carried you a long time, but, alas! alas! poor Fed,
your days are numbered, and those who fight will sometimes be slain.
Now, friends, conscripts, countrymen, if you have any tears to shed,
prepare to shed them now. I will not bury Fed. The evil that roosters
do live after them, but the good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it not be with Confed. Confed left no will, but I will pick him,
and fry him, and dip my biscuit in his gravy. Poor Fed, Confed,
Confederacy, I place one hand on my heart and one on my head, regretting
that I have not another to place on my stomach, and whisper, softly
whisper, in the most doleful accents, Good-bye, farewell, a long
"Not a laugh was heard--not even a joke--
As the dead rooster in the camp-kettle they hurried;
For Tom had lost ten dollars, and was broke,
In the cock-pit where Confed was buried.
"They cooked him slowly in the middle of the day,
As the frying-pan they were solemnly turning;
The hungry fellows looking at him as he lay,
With one side raw, the other burning.
"Some surplus feathers covered his breast,
Not in a shroud, but in a tiara they soused him;
He lay like a 'picked chicken' taking his rest,
While the Rebel boys danced and cursed around him.
"Not a few or short were the cuss words they said,
Yet, they spoke many words of sorrow;
As they steadfastly gazed on the face of the dead,
And thought 'what'll we do for chicken tomorrow?'
"Lightly they'll talk of the Southern Confed. that's gone,
And o'er his empty carcass upbraid him;
But nothing he'll reck, if they let him sleep on,
In the place where they have laid him.
"Sadly and slowly they laid him down,
From the field of fame fresh and gory;
They ate off his flesh, and threw away his bones,
And then left them alone in their glory."
When, cut, slash, bang, debang, and here comes a dash of Yankee cavalry,
right in the midst of the camp, under whip and spur, yelling like a band
of wild Comanches, and bearing right down on the few mourners around the
dead body of Confed. After making this bold dash, they about faced,
and were soon out of sight. There was no harm done, but, alas! that
cooked chicken was gone. Poor Confed! To what a sad end you have come.
Just to think, that but a few short hours ago, you was a proud rooster--
was "cock of the walk," and was considered invincible. But, alas! you
have sunk so low as to become food for Federals! _Requiescat in pace_
you can crow no more.
OLD JOE BROWN'S PETS
By way of grim jest, and a fitting burlesque to tragic scenes, or, rather,
to the thing called "glorious war," old Joe Brown, then Governor of
Georgia, sent in his militia. It was the richest picture of an army I
ever saw. It beat Forepaugh's double-ringed circus. Every one was
dressed in citizen's clothes, and the very best they had at that time.
A few had double-barreled shotguns, but the majority had umbrellas and
walking-sticks, and nearly every one had on a duster, a flat-bosomed
"biled" shirt, and a plug hat; and, to make the thing more ridiculous,
the dwarf and the giant were marching side by side; the knock-kneed by
the side of the bow-legged; the driven-in by the side of the drawn-out;
the pale and sallow dyspeptic, who looked like Alex. Stephens, and who
seemed to have just been taken out of a chimney that smoked very badly,
and whose diet was goobers and sweet potatoes, was placed beside the
three hundred-pounder, who was dressed up to kill, and whose looks seemed
to say, "I've got a substitute in the army, and twenty negroes at home
besides--h-a-a-m, h-a-a-m." Now, that is the sort of army that old Joe
Brown had when he seceded from the Southern Confederacy, declaring that
each state was a separate sovereign government of itself; and, as old
Joe Brown was an original secessionist, he wanted to exemplify the grand
principles of secession, that had been advocated by Patrick Henry,
John Randolph, of Roanoke, and John C. Calhoun, in all of whom he was a
firm believer. I will say, however, in all due deference to the Georgia
militia and old Joe Brown's pets, that there was many a gallant and noble
fellow among them. I remember on one occasion that I was detailed to
report to a captain of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment (Colonel Farquharson,
called "Guidepost"); I have forgotten that captain's name. He was a
small-sized man, with a large, long set of black whiskers. He was the
captain, and I the corporal of the detail. We were ordered to take a
company of the Georgia militia on a scout. We went away around to our
extreme right wing, passing through Terry's mill pond, and over the old
battlefield of the 22nd, and past the place where General Walker fell,
when we came across two ladies. One of them kept going from one tree to
another, and saying: "This pine tree, that pine tree; this pine tree,
that pine tree." In answer to our inquiry, they informed us that the
young woman's husband was killed on the 22nd, and had been buried under a
pine tree, and she was nearly crazy because she could not find his dead
body. We passed on, and as soon as we came in sight of the old line of
Yankee breastworks, an unexpected volley of minnie balls was fired into
our ranks, killing this captain of the Fourth Tennessee Regiment and
killing and wounding seven or eight of the Georgia militia. I hallooed
to lay down, as soon as possible, and a perfect whizz of minnie balls
passed over, when I immediately gave the command of attention, forward,
charge and capture that squad. That Georgia militia, every man of them,
charged forward, and in a few moments we ran into a small squad of
Yankees, and captured the whole "lay out." We then carried back to camp
the dead captain and the killed and wounded militia. I had seen a great
many men killed and wounded, but some how or other these dead and wounded
men, of that day, made a more serious impression on my mind than in any
previous or subsequent battles. They were buried with all the honors of
war and I never will forget the incidents and scenes of this day as long
as I live.
WE GO AFTER STONEMAN
One morning our regiment was ordered to march, double-quick, to the depot
to take the cars for somewhere. The engine was under steam, and ready
to start for that mysterious somewhere. The whistle blew long and loud,
and away we went at break-neck speed for an hour, and drew up at a little
place by the name of Jonesboro. The Yankees had captured the town,
and were tearing up the railroad track. A regiment of Rebel infantry
and a brigade of cavalry were already in line of battle in their rear.
We jumped out of the cars and advanced to attack them in front. Our line
had just begun to open a pretty brisk fire on the Yankee cavalry, when
they broke, running right through and over the lines of the regiment of
infantry and brigade of cavalry in their rear, the men opening ranks
to get out of the way of the hoofs of their horses. It was Stoneman's
cavalry, upon its celebrated raid toward Macon and Andersonville to
liberate the Federal prisoners. We went to work like beavers, and in a
few hours the railroad track had been repaired so that we could pass.
Every few miles we would find the track torn up, but we would get out
of the cars, fix up the track, and light out again. We were charging a
brigade of cavalry with a train of cars, as it were. They would try to
stop our progress by tearing up the track, but we were crowding them a
little too strong. At last they thought it was time to quit that
foolishness, and then commenced a race between cavalry and cars for Macon,
Georgia. The cars had to run exceedingly slow and careful, fearing a
tear up or ambuscade, but at last Macon came in sight. Twenty-five or
thirty thousand Federal prisoners were confined at this place, and it was
poorly guarded and protected. We feared that Stoneman would only march
in, overpower the guards, and liberate the prisoners, and we would
have some tall fighting to do, but on arriving at Macon, we found that
Stoneman and all of his command had just surrendered to a brigade of
cavalry and the Georgia militia, and we helped march the gentlemen inside
the prison walls at Macon. They had furnished their own transportation,
paying their own way and bearing their own expenses, and instead of
liberating any prisoners, were themselves imprisoned. An extra detail
was made as guard from our regiment to take them on to Andersonville,
but I was not on this detail, so I remained until the detail returned.
Macon is a beautiful place. Business was flourishing like a green bay
tree. The people were good, kind, and clever to us. Everywhere the
hospitality of their homes was proffered us. We were regarded as their
liberators. They gave us all the good things they had--eating, drinking,
etc. We felt our consequence, I assure you, reader. We felt we were
heroes, indeed; but the benzine and other fluids became a little
promiscuous and the libations of the boys a little too heavy. They
began to get boisterous--I might say, riotous. Some of the boys got to
behaving badly, and would go into stores and places, and did many things
they ought not to have done. In fact, the whole caboodle of them ought
to have been carried to the guard-house. They were whooping, and yelling,
and firing off their guns, just for the fun of the thing. I remember of
going into a very nice family's house, and the old lady told the dog to
go out, go out, sir! and remarked rather to herself, "Go out, go out!
I wish you were killed, anyhow." John says, "Madam, do you want that dog
killed, sure enough?" She says, "Yes, I do. I do wish that he was dead."
Before I could even think or catch my breath, bang went John's gun,
and the dog was weltering in his blood right on the good lady's floor,
the top of his head entirely torn off. I confess, reader, that I came
very near jumping out of my skin, as it were, at the unexpected discharge
of the gun. And other such scenes, I reckon, were being enacted
elsewhere, but at last a detail was sent around to arrest all stragglers,
and we were soon rolling back to Atlanta.
Well, after "jugging" Stoneman, we go back to Atlanta and occupy our same
old place near the concrete house. We found everything exactly as we had
left it, with the exception of the increased number of graybacks, which
seemed to have propagated a thousand-fold since we left, and they were
crawling about like ants, making little paths and tracks in the dirt
as they wiggled and waddled about, hunting for ye old Rebel soldier.
Sherman's two thirty-pound parrot guns were in the same position, and
every now and then a lazy-looking shell would pass over, speeding its way
on to Atlanta.
The old citizens had dug little cellars, which the soldiers called
"gopher holes," and the women and children were crowded together in these
cellars, while Sherman was trying to burn the city over their heads.
But, as I am not writing history, I refer you to any history of the war
for Sherman's war record in and around Atlanta.
As John and I started to go back, we thought we would visit the hospital.
Great God! I get sick today when I think of the agony, and suffering,
and sickening stench and odor of dead and dying; of wounds and sloughing
sores, caused by the deadly gangrene; of the groaning and wailing.
I cannot describe it. I remember, I went in the rear of the building,
and there I saw a pile of arms and legs, rotting and decomposing; and,
although I saw thousands of horrifying scenes during the war, yet today
I have no recollection in my whole life, of ever seeing anything that I
remember with more horror than that pile of legs and arms that had been
cut off our soldiers. As John and I went through the hospital, and were
looking at the poor suffering fellows, I heard a weak voice calling, "Sam,
O, Sam." I went to the poor fellow, but did not recognize him at first,
but soon found out that it was James Galbreath, the poor fellow who had
been shot nearly in two on the 22nd of July. I tried to be cheerful,
and said, "Hello, Galbreath, old fellow, I thought you were in heaven
long before this." He laughed a sort of dry, cracking laugh, and asked
me to hand him a drink of water. I handed it to him. He then began to
mumble and tell me something in a rambling and incoherent way, but all
I could catch was for me to write to his family, who were living near
Mt. Pleasant. I asked him if he was badly wounded. He only pulled down
the blanket, that was all. I get sick when I think of it. The lower
part of his body was hanging to the upper part by a shred, and all of his
entrails were lying on the cot with him, the bile and other excrements
exuding from them, and they full of maggots. I replaced the blanket as
tenderly as I could, and then said, "Galbreath, good-bye." I then kissed
him on his lips and forehead, and left. As I passed on, he kept trying
to tell me something, but I could not make out what he said, and fearing
I would cause him to exert himself too much, I left.
It was the only field hospital that I saw during the whole war, and I
have no desire to see another. Those hollow-eyed and sunken-cheeked
sufferers, shot in every conceivable part of the body; some shrieking,
and calling upon their mothers; some laughing the hard, cackling laugh
of the sufferer without hope, and some cursing like troopers, and some
writhing and groaning as their wounds were being bandaged and dressed.
I saw a man of the Twenty-seventh, who had lost his right hand, another
his leg, then another whose head was laid open, and I could see his brain
thump, and another with his under jaw shot off; in fact, wounded in every
Ah! reader, there is no glory for the private soldier, much less a
conscript. James Galbreath was a conscript, as was also Fain King.
Mr. King was killed at Chickamauga. He and Galbreath were conscripted
and joined Company H at the same time. Both were old men, and very poor,
with large families at home; and they were forced to go to war against
their wishes, while their wives and little children were at home without
the necessaries of life. The officers have all the glory. Glory is not
for the private soldier, such as die in the hospitals, being eat up with
the deadly gangrene, and being imperfectly waited on. Glory is for
generals, colonels, majors, captains, and lieutenants. They have all
the glory, and when the poor private wins battles by dint of sweat, hard
marches, camp and picket duty, fasting and broken bones, the officers get
the glory. The private's pay was eleven dollars per month, if he got it;
the general's pay was three hundred dollars per month, and he always got
his. I am not complaining. These things happened sixteen to twenty
years ago. Men who never fired a gun, nor killed a Yankee during the
whole war, are today the heroes of the war. Now, I tell you what I
think about it: I think that those of us who fought as private soldiers,
fought as much for glory as the general did, and those of us who stuck
it out to the last, deserve more praise than the general who resigned
because some other general was placed in command over him. A general
could resign. That was honorable. A private could not resign, nor
choose his branch of service, and if he deserted, it was death.
THE SCOUT AND DEATH OF A YANKEE LIEUTENANT
General Hood had sent off all his cavalry, and a detail was made each day
of so many men for a scout, to find out all we could about the movements
of the Yankees. Colonel George Porter, of the Sixth Tennessee, was in
command of the detail. We passed through Atlanta, and went down the
railroad for several miles, and then made a flank movement toward where
we expected to come in contact with the Yankees. When we came to a skirt
of woods, we were deployed as skirmishers. Colonel Porter ordered us
to re-prime our guns and to advance at twenty-five paces apart, being
deployed as skirmishers, and to keep under cover as much as possible.
He need not have told us this, because we had not learned war for
nothing. We would run from one tree to another, and then make a careful
reconnoiter before proceeding to another. We had begun to get a little
careless, when bang! bang! bang! It seemed that we had got into a Yankee
ambush. The firing seemed to be from all sides, and was rattling among
the leaves and bushes. It appeared as if some supernatural, infernal
battle was going on and the air was full of smoke. We had not seen the
Yankees. I ran to a tree to my right, and just as I got to it, I saw
my comrade sink to the ground, clutching at the air as he fell dead.
I kept trying to see the Yankees, so that I might shoot. I had been
looking a hundred yards ahead, when happening to look not more than ten
paces from me, I saw a big six-foot Yankee with a black feather in his
hat, aiming deliberately at me. I dropped to the ground, and at the
same moment heard the report, and my hat was knocked off in the bushes.
I remained perfectly still, and in a few minutes I saw a young Yankee
lieutenant peering through the bushes. I would rather not have killed
him, but I was afraid to fire and afraid to run, and yet I did not wish
to kill him. He was as pretty as a woman, and somehow I thought I had
met him before. Our eyes met. He stood like a statue. He gazed at me
with a kind of scared expression. I still did not want to kill him,
and am sorry today that I did, for I believe I could have captured him,
but I fired, and saw the blood spurt all over his face. He was the
prettiest youth I ever saw. When I fired, the Yankees broke and run,
and I went up to the boy I had killed, and the blood was gushing out of
his mouth. I was sorry.
One morning about the break of day our artillery opened along our
breastworks, scaring us almost to death, for it was the first guns that
had been fired for more than a month. We sprang to our feet and grabbed
our muskets, and ran out and asked some one what did that mean. We were
informed that they were "feeling" for the Yankees. The comment that was
made by the private soldier was simply two words, and those two words
were "O, shucks." The Yankees had gone--no one knew whither--and our
batteries were shelling the woods, feeling for them. "O, shucks."
"Hello," says Hood, "Whar in the Dickens and Tom Walker are them Yanks,
hey? Feel for them with long-range 'feelers'." A boom, boom. "Can
anybody tell me whar them Yanks are? Send out a few more 'feelers.'
The feelers in the shape of cannon balls will bring them to taw."
Boom, boom, boom.
"For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the general was lost,
For the want of a general the battle was lost."
Forrest's cavalry had been sent off somewhere. Wheeler's cavalry had
been sent away yonder in the rear of the enemy to tear up the railroad
and cut off their supplies, etc., and we had to find out the movements
of the enemy by "feeling for them" by shelling the vacant woods. The
Yankees were at that time twenty-five miles in our rear, "a hundred
thousand strong," at a place called Jonesboro. I do not know how it was
found out that they were at Jonesboro, but anyhow, the news had come and
Cheatham's corps had to go and see about it.
Stewart's corps must hold Atlanta, and Stephen D. Lee's corps must be
stretched at proper distance, so that the word could be passed backward
and forward as to how they were getting along. As yet it is impossible
to tell of the movements of the enemy, because our cannon balls had not
come back and reported any movements to us. We had always heard that
cannon balls were blind, and we did not suppose they could see to find
their way back. Well, our corps made a forced march for a day and a
night, and passed the word back that we had seen some signs of the
Yankees being in that vicinity, and thought perhaps, a small portion--
about a hundred thousand--were nigh about there somewhere. Says he,
"It's a strange thing you don't know; send out your feelers." We sent
out a few feelers and they report back very promptly that the Yankees are
here sure enough, or that is what our feelers say. Pass the word up the
line. The word is passed from mouth to mouth of Lee's skirmish line
twenty-five miles back to Atlanta. Well, if that be the case, we will
set fire to all of our army stores, spike all our cannon, and play "smash"
generally, and forsake Atlanta.
In the meantime, just hold on where you are till Stewart gets through his
job of blowing up arsenals, burning up the army stores, and spiking the
cannon, and we will send our negro boy Caesar down to the horse lot to
see if he can't catch old Nance, but she is such a fool with that young
suckling colt of hers, that it takes him almost all day to catch her,
and if the draw-bars happen to be down, she'll get in the clover patch,
and I don't think he will catch her today. But if he don't catch her,
I'll ride Balaam anyhow. He's got a mighty sore back, and needs a shoe
put on his left hind foot, and he cut his ankle with a broken shoe on
his fore foot, and has not been fed today. However, I will be along
by-and-by. Stewart, do you think you will be able to get through with
your job of blowing up by day after tomorrow, or by Saturday at twelve
o'clock? Lee, pass the word down to Cheatham, and ask him what he thinks
the Yankees are doing. Now, Kinlock, get my duster and umbrella, and
bring out Balaam.
Now, reader, that was the impression made on the private's mind at that
THE BATTLE OF JONESBORO
Stewart's corps was at Atlanta, Lee's corps was between Atlanta and
Jonesboro, and Cheatham's corps, then numbering not more than five
thousand men--because the woods and roads were full of straggling
soldiers, who were not in the fight--was face to face with the whole
Yankee army, and he was compelled to flee, fight, or surrender. This
was the position and condition of the grand Army of Tennessee on this
If I am not mistaken, General Cleburne was commanding Cheatham's corps at
that time. We expected to be ordered into action every moment, and kept
see-sawing backward and forward, until I did not know which way the
Yankees were, or which way the Rebels. We would form line of battle,
charge bayonets, and would raise a whoop and yell, expecting to be dashed
right against the Yankee lines, and then the order would be given to
retreat. Then we would immediately re-form and be ordered to charge
again a mile off at another place. Then we would march and counter march
backward and forward over the same ground, passing through Jonesboro away
over the hill, and then back through the town, first four forward and
back; your right hand to your left hand lady, swing half round and
balance all. This sort of a movement is called a "feint." A feint is
what is called in poker a "bluff," or what is called in a bully a "brag."
A feint means anything but a fight. If a lady faints she is either
scared or in love, and wants to fall in her lover's arms. If an army
makes a feint movement, it is trying to hide some other movement.
"Hello, Lee, what does Cleburne say the Yankees are doing at Jonesboro?"
"They are fanning themselves."
"Well keep up that feint movement until all the boys faint from sheer
"Hello, Stewart, do you think you will be able to burn up those ten
locomotives, and destroy those hundred car loads of provisions by day
"Lee, ask Cleburne if he feels feinty? Ask him how a fellow feels when
Cleburne says: "I have feinted, feinted, and feinted, until I can't feint
"Well," says Hood, "if you can't feint any longer, you had better flee,
fight, or faint; Balaam gets along mighty slow, but I'll be thar after
At one o'clock we were ordered to the attack. We had to pass through
an osage orange hedge that was worse than the enemy's fire. Their
breastworks were before us. We yelled, and charged, and hurrahed,
and said booh! booh! we're coming, coming, look out, don't you see us
coming? Why don't you let us hear the cannon's opening roar? Why don't
you rattle a few old muskets over there at us? Booh! booh! we are
coming. Tag. We have done got to your breastworks. Now, we tagged
first, why don't you tag back? A Yankee seems to be lying on the other
side of the breastworks sunning himself, and raising himself on his elbow,
says, "Fool who with your fatty bread? W-e are too o-l-d a-birds to be
caught with that kind of chaff. We don't want any of that kind of pie.
What you got there wouldn't make a mouthful. Bring on your pudding and
pound-cake, and then we will talk to ye."
General Granberry, who, poor fellow, was killed in the butchery at
Franklin afterwards, goes up to the breastworks, and says, "Look here,
Yank, we're fighting, sure enough."
Meynheer Dutchman comes out; and says, "Ish dot so? Vel I ish peen von
leetle pit hungry dish morning, und I yust gobble you up for mein lunch
pefore tinner dime. Dot ish der kind of mans vot I bees!"
Now, reader, that is a fine description of this memorable battle.
That's it--no more, no less. I was in it all, and saw General Granberry
captured. We did our level best to get up a fight, but it was no go,
any way we could fix it up. I mean no disrespect to General Hood.
He was a noble, brave, and good man, and we loved him for his many
virtues and goodness of heart. I do not propose to criticize his
generalship or ability as a commander. I only write of the impression
and sentiment that were made upon the private's mind at the time, and
as I remember them now. But Atlanta had fallen into the hands of the
Yankees, and they were satisfied for the time.
DEATH OF LIEUTENANT JOHN WHITTAKER
At this place we built small breastworks, but for what purpose I never
knew. The Yankees seemed determined not to fight, no way we could fix
it. Every now and then they would send over a "feeler," to see how we
were getting along. Sometimes these "feelers" would do some damage.
I remember one morning we were away over a hill, and every now and then
here would come one of those lazy-looking "feelers," just bouncing along
as if he were in no hurry, called in military "ricochet." They were
very easy to dodge, if you could see them in time. Well, one morning as
before remarked, Lieutenant John Whittaker, then in command of Company H,
and myself were sitting down eating breakfast out of the same tin plate.
We were sopping gravy out with some cold corn bread, when Captain
W. C. Flournoy, of the Martin Guards, hallooed out, "Look out, Sam;
look! look!" I just turned my head, and in turning, the cannon ball
knocked my hat off, and striking Lieutenant Whittaker full in the side
of the head, carried away the whole of the skull part, leaving only the
face. His brains fell in the plate from which we were sopping, and
his head fell in my lap, deluging my face and clothes with his blood.
Poor fellow, he never knew what hurt him. His spirit went to its God
that morning. Green Rieves carried the poor boy off on his shoulder, and,
after wrapping him up in a blanket, buried him. His bones are at
Jonesboro today. The cannon ball did not go twenty yards after
accomplishing its work of death. Captain Flournoy laughed at me, and
said, "Sam, that came very near getting you. One-tenth of an inch more
would have cooked your goose." I saw another man try to stop one of
those balls that was just rolling along on the ground. He put his foot
out to stop the ball but the ball did not stop, but, instead, carried the
man's leg off with it. He no doubt today walks on a cork-leg, and is
tax collector of the county in which he lives. I saw a thoughtless boy
trying to catch one in his hands as it bounced along. He caught it,
but the next moment his spirit had gone to meet its God. But, poor John,
we all loved him. He died for his country. His soul is with his God.
He gave his all for the country he loved, and may he rest in peace under
the shade of the tree where he is buried, and may the birds sing their
sweetest songs, the flowers put forth their most beautiful blooms,
while the gentle breezes play about the brave boy's grave. Green Rieves
was the only person at the funeral; no tears of a loving mother or gentle
sister were there. Green interred his body, and there it will remain
till the resurrection. John Whittaker deserves more than a passing
notice. He was noble and brave, and when he was killed, Company H was
without an officer then commanding. Every single officer had been killed,
wounded, or captured. John served as a private soldier the first year
of the war, and at the reorganization at Corinth, Mississippi, he,
W. J. Whitthorne and myself all ran for orderly sergeant of Company H,
and John was elected, and the first vacancy occurring after the death
of Captain Webster, he was commissioned brevet second lieutenant. When
the war broke out, John was clerking for John L. & T. S. Brandon, in
Columbia. He had been in every march, skirmish, and battle that had
been fought during the war. Along the dusty road, on the march, in the
bivouac and on the battlefield, he was the same noble, generous boy;
always, kind, ever gentle, a smile ever lighting up his countenance.
He was one of the most even tempered men I ever knew. I never knew him
to speak an unkind word to anyone, or use a profane or vulgar word in
One of those ricochet cannon balls struck my old friend, N. B. Shepard.
Shep was one of the bravest and best soldiers who ever shouldered a
musket. It is true, he was but a private soldier, but he was the best
friend I had during the whole war. In intellect he was far ahead of most
of the generals, and would have honored and adorned the name of general
in the C. S. A. He was ever brave and true. He followed our cause to
the end, yet all the time an invalid. Today he is languishing on a bed
of pain and sickness, caused by that ball at Jonesboro. The ball struck
him on his knapsack, knocking him twenty feet, and breaking one or two
ribs and dislocating his shoulder. He was one of God's noblemen, indeed--
none braver, none more generous. God alone controls our destinies,
and surely He who watched over us and took care of us in those dark and
bloody days, will not forsake us now. God alone fits and prepares for us
the things that are in store for us. There is none so wise as to foresee
the future or foretell the end. God sometimes seems afar off, but He
will never leave or forsake anyone who puts his trust in Him. The day
will come when the good as well as evil will all meet on one broad
platform, to be rewarded for the deeds done in the body, when time shall
end, with the gates of eternity closed, and the key fastened to the
girdle of God forever. Pardon me, reader, I have wandered. But when my
mind reverts to those scenes and times, I seem to live in another age and
time and I sometime think that "after us comes the end of the universe."
I am not trying to moralize, I am only trying to write a few scenes and
incidents that came under the observation of a poor old Rebel webfoot
private soldier in those stormy days and times. Histories tell the great
facts, while I only tell of the minor incidents.
But on this day of which I now write, we can see in plain view more than
a thousand Yankee battle-flags waving on top the red earthworks, not
more than four hundred yards off. Every private soldier there knew that
General Hood's army was scattered all the way from Jonesboro to Atlanta,
a distance of twenty-five miles, without any order, discipline, or spirit
to do anything. We could hear General Stewart, away back yonder in
Atlanta, still blowing up arsenals, and smashing things generally,
while Stephen D. Lee was somewhere between Lovejoy Station and Macon,
scattering. And here was but a demoralized remnant of Cheatham's corps
facing the whole Yankee army. I have ever thought that Sherman was a
poor general, not to have captured Hood and his whole army at that time.
But it matters not what I thought, as I am not trying to tell the ifs and
ands, but only of what I saw. In a word, we had everything against us.
The soldiers distrusted everything. They were broken down with their
long days' hard marching--were almost dead with hunger and fatigue.
Every one was taking his own course, and wishing and praying to be
captured. Hard and senseless marching, with little sleep, half rations,
and lice, had made their lives a misery. Each one prayed that all this
foolishness might end one way or the other. It was too much for human
endurance. Every private soldier knew that such things as this could not
last. They were willing to ring down the curtain, put out the footlights
and go home. There was no hope in the future for them.
THEN COMES THE FARCE
From this time forward until the close of the war, everything was a farce
as to generalship. The tragedy had been played, the glory of war had
departed. We all loved Hood; he was such a clever fellow, and a good man.
Well, Yank, why don't you come on and take us? We are ready to play
quits now. We have not anything to let you have, you know; but you can
parole us, you know; and we'll go home and be good boys, you know;--
good Union boys, you know; and we'll be sorry for the war, you know;
and we wouldn't have the negroes in any way, shape, form, or fashion,
you know; and the American continent has no north, no south, no east,
no west--boohoo, boohoo, boohoo.
Tut, tut, Johnny; all that sounds tolerable nice, but then you might
want some favor from Uncle Sam, and the teat is too full of milk at the
present time for us to turn loose. It's a sugar teat, Johnny, and just
begins to taste sweet; and, besides, Johnny, once or twice you have put
us to a little trouble; we haven't forgot that; and we've got you down
now--our foot is on your neck, and you must feel our boot heel. We want
to stamp you a little--"that's what's the matter with Hannah." And,
Johnny, you've fought us hard. You are a brave boy; you are proud and
aristocratic, Johnny, and we are going to crush your cursed pride and
spirit. And now, Johnny, come here; I've something to whisper in your
ear. Hold your ear close down here, so that no one can hear: "We want
big fat offices when the war is over. Some of us want to be presidents,
some governors, some go to congress, and be big ministers to 'Urup,' and
all those kind of things, Johnny, you know. Just go back to your camp,
Johnny, chase round, put on a bold front, flourish your trumpets, blow
your horns. And, Johnny, we don't want to be hard on you, and we'll tell
you what we'll do for you. Away back in your territory, between Columbia
and Nashville, is the most beautiful country, and the most fertile,
and we have lots of rations up there, too. Now, you just go up there,
Johnny, and stay until we want you. We ain't done with you yet, my boy--
O, no, Johnny. And, another thing, Johnny; you will find there between
Mt. Pleasant and Columbia, the most beautiful country that the sun of
heaven ever shone upon; and half way between the two places is St. John's
Church. Its tower is all covered over with a beautiful vine of ivy; and,
Johnny, you know that in olden times it was the custom to entwine a
wreath of ivy around the brows of victorious generals. We have no doubt
that many of your brave generals will express a wish, when they pass by,
to be buried beneath the ivy vine that shades so gracefully and
beautifully the wall of this grand old church. And, Johnny, you will
find a land of beauty and plenty, and when you get there, just put on as
much style as you like; just pretend, for our sake, you know, that you
are a bully boy with a glass eye, and that you are the victorious army
that has returned to free an oppressed people. We will allow you this,
Johnny, so that we will be the greater when we want you, Johnny. And now,
Johnny, we did not want to tell you what we are going to say to you now,
but will, so that you'll feel bad. Sherman wants to 'march to the sea,
while the world looks on and wonders.' He wants to desolate the land
and burn up your towns, to show what a coward he is, and how dastardly,
and one of our boys wants to write a piece of poetry about it. But that
ain't all, Johnny. You know that you fellows have got a great deal of
cotton at Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, Mobile, and other places,
and cotton is worth two dollars a pound in gold, and as Christmas is
coming, we want to go down there for some of that cotton to make a
Christmas gift to old Abe and old Clo, don't you see? O, no, Johnny,
we don't want to end the war just yet awhile. The sugar is mighty sweet
in the teat, and we want to suck a while longer. Why, sir, we want to
rob and then burn every house in Georgia and South Carolina. We will get
millions of dollars by robbery alone, don't you see?"
"Hark from the tomb that doleful sound,
My ears attend the cry."
General J. B. Hood established his headquarters at Palmetto, Georgia,
and here is where we were visited by his honor, the Honorable Jefferson
Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and the Right
Honorable Robert Toombs, secretary of state under the said Davis.
Now, kind reader, don't ask me to write history. I know nothing of
history. See the histories for grand movements and military maneuvers.
I can only tell of what I saw and how I felt. I can remember now General
Robert Toombs' and Hon. Jeff Davis' speeches. I remember how funny
Toombs' speech was. He kept us all laughing, by telling us how quick we
were going to whip the Yankees, and how they would skedaddle back across
the Ohio river like a dog with a tin oyster can tied to his tail.
Captain Joe P. Lee and I laughed until our sides hurt us. I can remember
today how I felt. I felt that Davis and Toombs had come there to bring
us glad tidings of great joy, and to proclaim to us that the ratification
of a treaty of peace had been declared between the Confederate States of
America and the United States. I remember how good and happy I felt when
these two leading statesmen told of when grim visaged war would smooth
her wrinkled front, and when the dark clouds that had so long lowered
o'er our own loved South would be in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
I do not know how others felt, but I can say never before or since did I
feel so grand. (I came very near saying gloomy and peculiar). I felt
that I and every other soldier who had stood the storms of battle for
nearly four long years, were now about to be discharged from hard marches,
and scant rations, and ragged clothes, and standing guard, etc. In fact,
the black cloud of war had indeed drifted away, and the beautiful stars
that gemmed the blue ether above, smiling, said, "Peace, peace, peace."
I felt bully, I tell you. I remember what I thought--that the emblem of
our cause was the Palmetto and the Texas Star, and the town of Palmetto,
were symbolical of our ultimate triumph, and that we had unconsciously,
nay, I should say, prophetically, fallen upon Palmetto as the most
appropriate place to declare peace between the two sections. I was sure
Jeff Davis and Bob Toombs had come there for the purpose of receiving the
capitulation of and to make terms with our conquered foes. I knew that
in every battle we had fought, except Missionary Ridge, we had whipped
the Yankees, and I knew that we had no cavalry, and but little artillery,
and only two corps of infantry at Missionary Ridge, and from the way Jeff
and Bob talked, it was enough to make us old private soldiers feel that
swelling of the heart we ne'er should feel again. I remember that other
high dignitaries and big bugs, then the controlling spirits of the
government at Richmond, visited us, and most all of these high
dignitaries shook hands with the boys. It was all hands round, swing the
corner, and balance your partner. I shook hands with Hon. Jeff Davis,
and he said howdy, captain; I shook hands with Toombs, and he said howdy,
major; and every big bug that I shook hands with put another star on my
collar and chicken guts on my sleeve. My pen is inadequate to describe
the ecstasy and patriotic feeling that permeated every vein and fiber of
my animated being. It was Paradise regained. All the long struggles we
had followed the Palmetto flag through victory and defeat, through storms
and rains, and snows and tempest, along the dusty roads, and on the weary
marches, we had been true to our country, our cause, and our people;
and there was a conscious pride within us that when we would return to
our homes, we would go back as conquerors, and that we would receive the
plaudits of our people--well done, good and faithful servants; you have
been true and faithful even to the end.
JEFF DAVIS MAKES A SPEECH
"Sinner come view the ground
Where you shall shortly lie."
I remember that Hon. Jeff Davis visited the army at this place, and our
regiment, the First Tennessee, serenaded him. After playing several airs,
he came out of General Hood's marquee, and spoke substantially as follows,
as near as I can remember:
"SOLDIERS OF THE FIRST TENNESSEE REGIMENT:--I should have said captains,
for every man among you is fit to be a captain. I have heard of your
acts of bravery on every battlefield during the whole war, and
'captains,' so far as my wishes are concerned, I today make every man
of you a captain, and I say honestly today, were I a private soldier,
I would have no higher ambition on earth than to belong to the First
Tennessee Regiment. You have been loyal and brave; your ranks have never
yet, in the whole history of the war, been broken, even though the army
was routed; yet, my brave soldiers, Tennesseans all, you have ever
remained in your places in the ranks of the regiment, ever subject to the
command of your gallant Colonel Field in every battle, march, skirmish,
in an advance or a retreat. There are on the books of the war department
at Richmond, the names of a quarter of a million deserters, yet, you,
my brave soldiers, captains all, have remained true and steadfast.
I have heard that some have been dissatisfied with the removal of General
Joe E. Johnston and the appointment of General Hood; but, my brave and
gallant heroes, I say, I have done what I thought best for your good.
Soon we commence our march to Kentucky and Tennessee. Be of good cheer,
for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward, and your
feet will press Tennessee soil, and you will tread your native heath,
amid the blue-grass regions and pastures green of your native homes.
We will flank General Sherman out of Atlanta, tear up the railroad and
cut off his supplies, and make Atlanta a perfect Moscow of defeat to
the Federal army. Situated as he is in an enemy's country, with his
communications all cut off, and our army in the rear, he will be
powerless, and being fully posted and cognizant of our position, and of
the Federal army, this movement will be the _ultima thule_, the grand
crowning stroke for our independence, and the conclusion of the war."
ARMISTICE IN NAME ONLY
About this time the Yankees sent us a flag of truce, asking an armistice
to move every citizen of Atlanta south of their lines. It was granted.
They wanted to live in fine houses awhile, and then rob and burn them,
and issued orders for all the citizens of Atlanta to immediately abandon
the city. They wanted Atlanta for themselves, you see.
For weeks and months the roads were filled with loaded wagons of old and
decrepit people, who had been hunted and hounded from their homes with a
relentless cruelty worse, yea, much worse, than ever blackened the pages
of barbaric or savage history. I remember assisting in unloading our
wagons that General Hood, poor fellow, had kindly sent in to bring out
the citizens of Atlanta to a little place called Rough-and-Ready about
half way between Palmetto and Atlanta. Every day I would look on at the
suffering of delicate ladies, old men, and mothers with little children
clinging to them, crying, "O, mamma, mamma," and old women, and tottering
old men, whose gray hairs should have protected them from the savage acts
of Yankee hate and Puritan barbarity; and I wondered how on earth our
generals, including those who had resigned--that is where the shoe
pinches--could quietly look on at this dark, black, and damning insult
to our people, and not use at least one effort to rescue them from such
terrible and unmitigated cruelty, barbarity, and outrage. General
Hood remonstrated with Sherman against the insult, stating that it
"transcended in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before
brought to my attention in the dark history of war."
In the great crisis of the war, Hardee, Kirby Smith, Breckinridge,
and many brigadiers, resigned, thus throwing all the responsibility upon
[Author's note: In the Southern army the question was, who ranked?
Not who was the best general, or colonel, or captain--but "who ranked?"
The article of rank finally got down to corporals; and rank finally
bursted the government.]
I desire to state that they left the army on account of rank. O, this
thing of rank!
Many other generals resigned, and left us privates in the lurch. But the
gallant Cheatham, Cleburne, Granberry, Gist, Strahl, Adams, John C. Brown,
William B. Bate, Stewart, Lowery, and others, stuck to us to the last.
The sinews of war were strained to their utmost tension.
At this place I was detailed as a regular scout, which position I
continued to hold during our stay at Palmetto. It was a good thing.
It beat camp guard all hollow. I had answered "hear" at roll-call ten
thousand times in these nearly four years. But I had sorter got used
to the darn thing.
Now, reader, I will give you a few chapters on the kind of fun I had for
awhile. Our instructions were simply to try and find out all we could
about the Yankees, and report all movements.
One dark, rainy evening, while out as a scout, and, after traveling
all day, I was returning from the Yankee outposts at Atlanta, and had
captured a Yankee prisoner, who I then had under my charge, and whom I
afterwards carried and delivered to General Hood. He was a considerable
muggins, and a great coward, in fact, a Yankee deserter. I soon found
out that there was no harm in him, as he was tired of war anyhow, and was
anxious to go to prison. We went into an old log cabin near the road
until the rain would be over. I was standing in the cabin door looking
at the rain drops fall off the house and make little bubbles in the drip,
and listening to the pattering on the clapboard roof, when happening to
look up, not fifty yards off, I discovered a regiment of Yankee cavalry
approaching. I knew it would be utterly impossible for me to get away
unseen, and I did not know what to do. The Yankee prisoner was scared
almost to death. I said, "Look, look!" I turned in the room, and found
the planks of the floor were loose. I raised two of them, and Yank and I
slipped through. I replaced the planks, and could peep out beneath the
sill of the house, and see the legs of the horses. They passed on and
did not come to the old house. They were at least a half hour in
passing. At last the main regiment had all passed, and I saw the rear
guard about to pass, when I heard the captain say, "Go and look in that
old house." Three fellows detached themselves from the command and came
dashing up to the old house. I thought, "Gone up, sure," as I was afraid
the Yankee prisoner would make his presence known. When the three men
came up, they pushed open the door and looked around, and one fellow said
"Booh!" They then rode off. But that "Booh!" I was sure I was caught,
but I was not.
"WHAT IS THIS REBEL DOING HERE?"
I would go up to the Yankee outpost, and if some popinjay of a tacky
officer didn't come along, we would have a good time. One morning I was
sitting down to eat a good breakfast with the Yankee outpost. They were
cavalry, and they were mighty clever and pleasant fellows. I looked down
the road toward Atlanta, and not fifty yards from the outpost, I saw a
body of infantry approaching. I don't know why I didn't run. I ought
to have done so, but didn't. I stayed there until this body of infantry
came up. They had come to relieve the cavalry. It was a detail of negro
soldiers, headed by the meanest looking white man as their captain,
I ever saw.
In very abrupt words he told the cavalry that he had come to take their
place, and they were ordered to report back to their command. Happening
to catch sight of me, he asked, "What is this Rebel doing here?" One of
the men spoke up and tried to say something in my favor, but the more he
said the more the captain of the blacks would get mad. He started toward
me two or three times. He was starting, I could see by the flush of
his face, to take hold of me, anyhow. The cavalrymen tried to protest,
and said a few cuss words. The captain of the blacks looks back very
mad at the cavalry. Here was my opportunity, now or never. Uncle negro
looked on, not seeming to care for the cavalry, captain, or for me.
I took up my gun very gently and cocked it. I had the gentleman.
I had made up my mind if he advanced one step further, that he was a dead
man. When he turned to look again, it was a look of surprise. His face
was as red as a scalded beet, but in a moment was as white as a sheet.
He was afraid to turn his head to give a command. The cavalry motioned
their hands at me, as much as to say, "Run, Johnny, run." The captain of
the blacks fell upon his face, and I broke and ran like a quarter-horse.
I never saw or heard any more of the captain of the blacks or his guard
"LOOK OUT, BOYS."
One night, five of us scouts, I thought all strangers to me, put up at an
old gentleman's house. I took him for a Catholic priest. His head was
shaved and he had on a loose gown like a lady's dress, and a large cord
and tassel tied around his waist, from which dangled a large bunch of
keys. He treated us very kindly and hospitably, so far as words and
politeness went, but we had to eat our own rations and sleep on our own
At bedtime, he invited us to sleep in a shed in front of his double log
cabin. We all went in, lay down, and slept. A little while before day,
the old priest came in and woke us up, and said he thought he saw in the
moonlight a detachment of cavalry coming down the road from toward the
Rebel lines. One of our party jumped up and said there was a company of
cavalry coming that way, and then all four broke toward the old priest's
room. I jumped up, put on one boot, and holding the other in my hand,
I stepped out in the yard, with my hat and coat off--both being left in
the room. A Yankee captain stepped up to me and said, "Are you No. 200?"
I answered very huskily, "No, sir, I am not." He then went on in the
house, and on looking at the fence, I saw there was at least two hundred
Yankee cavalry right at me. I did not know what to do. My hat, coat,
gun, cartridge-box, and knapsack were all in the room. I was afraid to
stay there, and I was afraid to give the alarm. I soon saw almost every
one of the Yankees dismount, and then I determined to give the alarm and
run. I hallooed out as loud as I could, "Look out, boys," and broke and
run. I had to jump over a garden picket fence, and as I lit on the other
side, bang! bang! bang! was fired right after me. They stayed there but
a short time, and I went back and got my gun and other accouterments.
When I left the old priest's house, it was then good day--nearly sun up--
and I had started back toward our lines, and had walked on about half a
mile, not thinking of danger, when four Yankees jumped out in the middle
of the road and said, "Halt, there! O, yes, we've got you at last."
I was in for it. What could I do? Their guns were cocked and leveled
at me, and if I started to run, I would be shot, so I surrendered. In
a very short time the regiment of Yankee cavalry came up, and the first
greeting I had was, "Hello, you ain't No. 200, are you?" I was taken
prisoner. They, I thought, seemed to be very gleeful about it, and I had
to march right back by the old priest's house, and they carried me to the
headquarters of General Stephen Williams. As soon as he saw me, he said,
"Who have you there--a prisoner, or a deserter?" They said a prisoner.
From what command? No one answered. Finally he asked me what command
I belonged to. I told him the Confederate States army. Then, said he,
"What is your name?" Said I, "General, if that would be any information,
I would have no hesitancy in giving it. But I claim your protection as a
prisoner of war. I am a private soldier in the Confederate States army,
and I don't feel authorized to answer any question you may ask." He
looked at me with a kind of quizical look, and said, "That is the way
with you Rebels. I have never yet seen one of you, but thought what
little information he might possess to be of value to the Union forces."
Then one of the men spoke up and said, "I think he is a spy or a scout,
and does not belong to the regular army." He then gave me a close look,
and said, "Ah, ah, a guerrilla," and ordered me to be taken to the
provost marshal's office. They carried me to a large, fine house,
upstairs, and I was politely requested to take a seat. I sat there some
moments, when a dandy-looking clerk of a fellow came up with a book in
his hand, and said, "The name." I appeared not to understand, and he
said, "The name." I still looked at him, and he said, "The name."
I did not know what he meant by "The name." Finally, he closed the book
with a slam and started off, and said I, "Did you want to find out my
name?" He said, "I asked you three times." I said, "When? If you ever
asked me my name, I have never heard it." But he was too mad to listen
to anything else. I was carried to another room in the same building,
and locked up. I remained there until about dark, when a man brought me
a tolerably good supper, and then left me alone to my own meditations.
I could hear the sentinels at all times of the night calling out the
hours. I did not sleep a wink, nor even lay down. I had made up my
mind to escape, if there was any possible chance. About three o'clock
everything got perfectly still. I went to the window, and it had a heavy
bolt across it, and I could not open it. I thought I would try the door,
but I knew that a guard was stationed in the hall, for I could see a dim
light glimmer through the key-hole. I took my knife and unscrewed the
catch in which the lock was fastened, and soon found out that I could
open the door; but then there was the guard, standing at the main
entrance down stairs. I peeped down, and he was quietly walking to and
fro on his beat, every time looking to the hall. I made up my mind by
his measured tread as to how often he would pass the door, and one time,
after he had just passed, I came out in the hall, and started to run down
the steps. About midway down the steps, one of them cracked very loud,
but I ran on down in the lower hall and ran into a room, the door of
which was open. The sentinel came back to the entrance of the hall,
and listened a few minutes, and then moved on again. I went to the
window and raised the sash, but the blind was fastened with a kind of
patent catch. I gave one or two hard pushes, and felt it move. After
that I made one big lunge, and it flew wide open, but it made a noise
that woke up every sentinel. I jumped out in the yard, and gained the
street, and, on looking back, I heard the alarm given, and lights began
to glimmer everywhere, but, seeing no one directly after me, I made
tracks toward Peachtree creek, and went on until I came to the old
battlefield of July 22nd, and made my way back to our lines.
ADVANCE INTO TENNESSEE
GENERAL HOOD MAKES A FLANK MOVEMENT
After remaining a good long time at Jonesboro, the news came that we were
going to flank Atlanta. We flanked it. A flank means "a go around."
Yank says, "What you doing, Johnny?"
Johnny says, "We are flanking."
Yank says, "Bully for you!"
We passed around Atlanta, crossed the Chattahoochee, and traveled back
over the same route on which we had made the arduous campaign under Joe
Johnston. It took us four months in the first instance, and but little
longer than as many days in the second, to get back to Dalton, our
starting point. On our way up there, the Yankee cavalry followed us
to see how we were getting along with the flanking business. We had
pontoons made for the purpose of crossing streams. When we would get
to a stream, the pontoons would be thrown across, and Hood's army would
cross. Yank would halloo over and say, "Well, Johnny, have you got
everything across?" "Yes," would be the answer. "Well, we want these
old pontoons, as you will not need them again." And they would take them.
We passed all those glorious battlefields, that have been made classic in
history, frequently coming across the skull of some poor fellow sitting
on top of a stump, grinning a ghastly smile; also the bones of horses
along the road, and fences burned and destroyed, and occasionally the
charred remains of a once fine dwelling house. Outside of these
occasional reminders we could see no evidence of the desolation of the
track of an invading army. The country looked like it did at first.
Citizens came out, and seemed glad to see us, and would divide their
onions, garlic, and leek with us. The soldiers were in good spirits,
but it was the spirit of innocence and peace, not war and victory.
Where the railroads would cross a river, a block-house had been erected,
and the bridge was guarded by a company of Federals. But we always
flanked these little affairs. We wanted bigger and better meat.
WE CAPTURE DALTON
When we arrived at Dalton, we had a desire to see how the old place
looked; not that we cared anything about it, but we just wanted to take
a last farewell look at the old place. We saw the United States flag
flying from the ramparts, and thought that Yank would probably be asleep
or catching lice, or maybe engaged in a game of seven-up. So we sent
forward a physician with some white bandages tied to the end of a long
pole. He walked up and says, "Hello, boys!" "What is it, boss?"
"Well, boys, we've come for you." "Hyah, ha; hyah, ha; hyah, ha; a hee,
he, he, he; if it ain't old master, sho." The place was guarded by negro
troops. We marched the black rascals out. They were mighty glad to see
us, and we were kindly disposed to them. We said, "Now, boys, we don't
want the Yankees to get mad at you, and to blame you; so, just let's get
out here on the railroad track, and tear it up, and pile up the crossties,
and then pile the iron on top of them, and we'll set the thing a-fire,
and when the Yankees come back they will say, 'What a bully fight _them
nagers_ did make.'" (A Yankee always says "nager"). Reader, you should
have seen how that old railroad did flop over, and how the darkies did
sweat, and how the perfume did fill the atmosphere.
But there were some Yankee soldiers in a block-house at Ringgold Gap,
who thought they would act big. They said that Sherman had told them not
to come out of that block-house, any how. But General William B. Bate
begun to persuade the gentlemen, by sending a few four-pound parrot
"feelers." Ah! those _feelers_!
They persuaded eloquently. They persuaded effectually--those feelers
did. The Yanks soon surrendered. The old place looked natural like,
only it seemed to have a sort of graveyard loneliness about it.
A MAN IN THE WELL
On leaving Dalton, after a day's march, we had stopped for the night.
Our guns were stacked, and I started off with a comrade to get some wood
to cook supper with. We were walking along, he a little in the rear,
when he suddenly disappeared. I could not imagine what had become of
him. I looked everywhere. The earth seemed to have opened and swallowed
him. I called, and called, but could get no answer. Presently I heard
a groan that seemed to come out of the bowels of the earth; but, as yet,
I could not make out where he was. Going back to camp, I procured a
light, and after whooping and hallooing for a long time, I heard another
groan, this time much louder than before. The voice appeared to be
overhead. There was no tree or house to be seen; and then again the
voice seemed to answer from under the ground, in a hollow, sepulchral
tone, but I could not tell where he was. But I was determined to find
him, so I kept on hallooing and he answering. I went to the place where
the voice appeared to come out of the earth. I was walking along rather
thoughtlessly and carelessly, when one inch more and I would have
disappeared also. Right before me I saw the long dry grass all bending
toward a common center, and I knew that it was an old well, and that
my comrade had fallen in it. But how to get him out was the unsolved
problem. I ran back to camp to get assistance, and everybody had a great
curiosity to see "the man in the well." They would get chunks of fire
and shake over the well, and, peeping down, would say, "Well, he's in
there," and go off, and others would come and talk about his "being in
there." The poor fellow stayed in that well all night. The next morning
we got a long rope from a battery and let it down in the well, and soon
had him on _terra firma_. He was worse scared than hurt.
We arrived and remained at Tuscumbia several days, awaiting the laying of
the pontoons across the Tennessee river at Florence, Alabama, and then we
all crossed over. While at Tuscumbia, John Branch and I saw a nice sweet
potato patch, that looked very tempting to a hungry Rebel. We looked all
around, and thought that the coast was clear. We jumped over the fence,
and commenced grabbling for the sweet potatoes. I had got my haversack
full, and had started off, when we heard, "Halt, there." I looked around,
and there was a soldier guard. We broke and run like quarter-horses,
and the guard pulled down on us just as we jumped the fence. I don't
think his gun was loaded, though, because we did not hear the ball
We marched from Decatur to Florence. Here the pontoon bridges were
nicely and beautifully stretched across the river. We walked over this
floating bridge, and soon found ourselves on the Tennessee side of
In driving a great herd of cattle across the pontoon, the front one got
stubborn, and the others, crowding up all in one bulk, broke the line
that held the pontoon, and drowned many of the drove. We had beef for
supper that night.
EN ROUTE FOR COLUMBIA
"And nightly we pitch our moving tent
A day's march nearer home."
How every pulse did beat and leap, and how every heart did throb with
emotions of joy, which seemed nearly akin to heaven, when we received the
glad intelligence of our onward march toward the land of promise, and of
our loved ones. The cold November winds coming off the mountains of the
northwest were blowing right in our faces, and nearly cutting us in two.
We were inured to privations and hardships; had been upon every march,
in every battle, in every skirmish, in every advance, in every retreat,
in every victory, in every defeat. We had laid under the burning heat of
a tropical sun; had made the cold, frozen earth our bed, with no covering
save the blue canopy of heaven; had braved dangers, had breasted floods;
had seen our comrades slain upon our right and our left hand; had heard
guns that carried death in their missiles; had heard the shouts of the
charge; had seen the enemy in full retreat and flying in every direction;
had heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying; had seen the
blood of our countrymen dyeing the earth and enriching the soil; had
been hungry when there was nothing to eat; had been in rags and tatters.
We had marked the frozen earth with bloody and unshod feet; had been
elated with victory and crushed by defeat; had seen and felt the pleasure
of the life of a soldier, and had drank the cup to its dregs. Yes,
we had seen it all, and had shared in its hopes and its fears; its love
and its hate; its good and its bad; its virtue and its vice; its glories
and its shame. We had followed the successes and reverses of the flag of
the Lost Cause through all these years of blood and strife.
I was simply one of hundreds of thousands in the same fix. The tale is
the same that every soldier would tell, except Jim Whitler. Jim had
dodged about, and had escaped being conscripted until "Hood's raid,"
he called it. Hood's army was taking up every able-bodied man and
conscripting him into the army. Jim Whitler had got a position as
over-seer on a large plantation, and had about a hundred negroes under
his surveillance. The army had been passing a given point, and Jim was
sitting quietly on the fence looking at the soldiers. The conscripting
squad nabbed him. Jim tried to beg off, but all entreaty was in vain.
He wanted to go by home and tell his wife and children good-bye, and to
get his clothes. It was no go. But, after awhile, Jim says, "Gentlemen,
ay, Ganny, the law!" You see, Jim "knowed" the law. He didn't know
B from a bull's foot in the spelling-book. But he said, _the law_.
Now, when anyone says anything about the "law," every one stops to
listen. Jim says, "Ah, Ganny, _the law_" (laying great stress upon the
law)--"allows every man who has twenty negroes to stay at home. Ah,
Ganny!" Those old soldiers had long, long ago, forgotten about that old
"law" of the long gone past; but Jim had treasured it up in his memory,
lo! these many years, and he thought it would serve him now, as it had,
no doubt, frequently done in the past. The conscript officer said,
"Law or no law--you fall into line, take this gun and cartridge-box,
and _march_!" Jim's spirits sank; his hopes vanished into air. Jim was
soon in line, and was tramping to the music of the march. He stayed with
the company two days. The third day it was reported that the Yankees
had taken position on the Murfreesboro pike. A regiment was sent to
the attack. It was Jim's regiment. He advanced bravely into battle.
The minnie balls began to whistle around his ears. The regiment was
ordered to fire. He hadn't seen anything to shoot at, but he blazed
away. He loaded and fired the second time, when they were ordered to
retreat. He didn't see anything to run from, but the other soldiers
began to run, and Jim run, too. Jim had not learned the word "halt!"
and just kept on running. He run, and he run, and he run, and he kept
on running until he got home, when he jumped in his door and shouted,
"Whoopee, Rhoda! Aye, Ganny, _I've served four years in the Rebel army_."
BATTLES IN TENNESSEE
"This is my own, my native land."
Once more the Maury Grays are permitted to put their feet upon their
native heath, and to revisit their homes and friends, after having
followed their tattered, and torn, and battle-riddled flag, which they
had borne aloft for four long years, on every march, and in every battle
that had been fought by the Army of Tennessee. We were a mere handful of
devoted braves, who had stood by our colors when sometimes it seemed that
God himself had forsaken us. But, parents, here are your noble and brave
sons; and, ladies, four years ago you gave us this flag, and we promised
you "That we would come back with the flag as victors, or we would come
not at all." We have been true to our promise and our trust. On every
battlefield the flag that you entrusted to our hands has been borne aloft
by brave and heroic men, amid shot and shell, bloody battle, and death.
We have never forsaken our colors. Are we worthy to be called the sons
of old Maury county? Or have we fought in vain? Have our efforts been
appreciated, or have four years of our lives been wasted, while we were
battling for constitutional government, the supremacy of our laws over
centralization, and our rights, as guaranteed to us by the blood of our
forefathers on the battlefields of the Revolution? It is for you to make
up your verdict. If our lives as soldiers have been a _failure_, we can
but bow our heads on our bosoms, and say, "Surely, four years of our
lives have been given for naught, and our efforts to please you have been
Yet, the invader's foot is still on our soil, but there beats in our
bosoms the blood of brave and patriotic men, and we will continue to
follow our old and war-worn and battle-riddled flag until it goes down
The Maury Grays, commanded by Captain A. M. Looney, left Columbia,
four years ago, with 120 men. How many of those 120 original members
are with the company today? Just twelve. Company H has twenty members,
but some of this number had subsequently enlisted. But we twelve will
stick to our colors till she goes down forever, and until five more of
this number fall dead and bleeding on the battlefield.
When we arrived in sight of Columbia, we found the Yankees still in
possession of the town, fortified and determined to resist our advance.
We send forward a "feeler," and the "feeler" reports back very promptly,
"Yes, the Yankees are there." Well, if that be the case, we'll just make
a flank movement. We turn off the main turnpike at J. E. R. Carpenter's,
and march through the cedars, and cross Duck river at Davis' ferry,
on pontoon bridges, near Lowell's mill. We pass on, and cross Rutherford
creek, near Burick's mill, about three o'clock in the afternoon. We had
marched through fields in the heavy mud, and the men, weary and worn out,
were just dragging themselves along, passing by the old Union Seminary,
and then by Mr. Fred Thompson's, until we came to the Rally Hill turnpike--
it being then nearly dark--we heard some skirmishing, but, exhausted as
we were, we went into bivouac. The Yankees, it seems to me, might have
captured the whole of us. But that is a matter of history. But I desire
to state that no blunder was made by either Generals Cheatham or Stewart,
neither of whom ever failed to come to time. Jeff Davis is alone
responsible for the blunder. About two hours after sun up the next
morning we received the order to "Fall in, fall in, quick, make haste,
hurrah, promptly, men; each rank count two; by the right flank, quick
time, march; keep promptly closed up." Everything indicated an immediate
attack. When we got to the turnpike near Spring Hill, lo! and behold;
wonder of wonders! the whole Yankee army had passed during the night.
The bird had flown. We made a quick and rapid march down the turnpike,
finding Yankee guns and knapsacks, and now and then a broken down
straggler, also two pieces of howitzer cannon, and at least twenty broken
wagons along the road. Everything betokened a rout and a stampede of
the Yankee army. Double quick! Forrest is in the rear. Now for fun.
All that we want to do now is to catch the blue-coated rascals, ha! ha!
We all want to see the surrender, ha! ha! Double quick! A rip, rip, rip;
wheuf; pant, pant, pant. First one man drops out, and then another.
The Yankees are routed and running, and Forrest has crossed Harpeth river
in the rear of Franklin. Hurrah, men! keep closed up; we are going to
capture Schofield. Forrest is in the rear; never mind the straggler and
cannon. Kerflop we come against the breastworks at Franklin.
"The death-angel gathers its last harvest."
Kind reader, right here my pen, and courage, and ability fail me.
I shrink from butchery. Would to God I could tear the page from these
memoirs and from my own memory. It is the blackest page in the history
of the war of the Lost Cause. It was the bloodiest battle of modern
times in any war. It was the finishing stroke to the independence of
the Southern Confederacy. I was there. I saw it. My flesh trembles,
and creeps, and crawls when I think of it today. My heart almost ceases
to beat at the horrid recollection. Would to God that I had never
witnessed such a scene!
I cannot describe it. It beggars description. I will not attempt to
describe it. I could not. The death-angel was there to gather its last
harvest. It was the grand coronation of death. Would that I could turn
the page. But I feel, though I did so, that page would still be there,
teeming with its scenes of horror and blood. I can only tell of what I
Our regiment was resting in the gap of a range of hills in plain view of
the city of Franklin. We could see the battle-flags of the enemy waving
in the breeze. Our army had been depleted of its strength by a forced
march from Spring Hill, and stragglers lined the road. Our artillery had
not yet come up, and could not be brought into action. Our cavalry was
across Harpeth river, and our army was but in poor condition to make an
assault. While resting on this hillside, I saw a courier dash up to our
commanding general, B. F. Cheatham, and the word, "Attention!" was given.
I knew then that we would soon be in action. Forward, march. We passed
over the hill and through a little skirt of woods.
The enemy were fortified right across the Franklin pike, in the suburbs
of the town. Right here in these woods a detail of skirmishers was
called for. Our regiment was detailed. We deployed as skirmishers,
firing as we advanced on the left of the turnpike road. If I had not
been a skirmisher on that day, I would not have been writing this today,
in the year of our Lord 1882.
It was four o'clock on that dark and dismal December day when the line of
battle was formed, and those devoted heroes were ordered forward, to
"Strike for their altars and their fires,
For the green graves of their sires,
For God and their native land."
As they marched on down through an open field toward the rampart of blood
and death, the Federal batteries began to open and mow down and gather
into the garner of death, as brave, and good, and pure spirits as the
world ever saw. The twilight of evening had begun to gather as a
precursor of the coming blackness of midnight darkness that was to
envelop a scene so sickening and horrible that it is impossible for me to
describe it. "Forward, men," is repeated all along the line. A sheet of
fire was poured into our very faces, and for a moment we halted as if in
despair, as the terrible avalanche of shot and shell laid low those brave
and gallant heroes, whose bleeding wounds attested that the struggle
would be desperate. Forward, men! The air loaded with death-dealing
missiles. Never on this earth did men fight against such terrible odds.
It seemed that the very elements of heaven and earth were in one mighty
uproar. Forward, men! And the blood spurts in a perfect jet from the
dead and wounded. The earth is red with blood. It runs in streams,
making little rivulets as it flows. Occasionally there was a little lull
in the storm of battle, as the men were loading their guns, and for a few
moments it seemed as if night tried to cover the scene with her mantle.
The death-angel shrieks and laughs and old Father Time is busy with his
sickle, as he gathers in the last harvest of death, crying, More, more,
more! while his rapacious maw is glutted with the slain.
But the skirmish line being deployed out, extending a little wider than
the battle did--passing through a thicket of small locusts, where Brown,
orderly sergeant of Company B, was killed--we advanced on toward the
breastworks, on and on. I had made up my mind to die--felt glorious.
We pressed forward until I heard the terrific roar of battle open on our
right. Cleburne's division was charging their works. I passed on until
I got to their works, and got over on their (the Yankees') side. But in
fifty yards of where I was the scene was lit up by fires that seemed like
hell itself. It appeared to be but one line of streaming fire. Our
troops were upon one side of the breastworks, and the Federals on the
other. I ran up on the line of works, where our men were engaged.
Dead soldiers filled the entrenchments. The firing was kept up until
after midnight, and gradually died out. We passed the night where we
were. But when the morrow's sun began to light up the eastern sky with
its rosy hues, and we looked over the battlefield, O, my God! what did we
see! It was a grand holocaust of death. Death had held high carnival
there that night. The dead were piled the one on the other all over
the ground. I never was so horrified and appalled in my life. Horses,
like men, had died game on the gory breastworks. General Adams' horse
had his fore feet on one side of the works and his hind feet on the other,
dead. The general seems to have been caught so that he was held to the
horse's back, sitting almost as if living, riddled, and mangled, and torn
with balls. General Cleburne's mare had her fore feet on top of the
works, dead in that position. General Cleburne's body was pierced with
forty-nine bullets, through and through. General Strahl's horse lay by
the roadside and the general by his side, both dead, and all his staff.
General Gist, a noble and brave cavalier from South Carolina, was lying
with his sword reaching across the breastworks still grasped in his hand.
He was lying there dead. All dead! They sleep in the graveyard yonder
at Ashwood, almost in sight of my home, where I am writing today.
They sleep the sleep of the brave. We love and cherish their memory.
They sleep beneath the ivy-mantled walls of St. John's church, where they
expressed a wish to be buried. The private soldier sleeps where he fell,
piled in one mighty heap. Four thousand five hundred privates! all
lying side by side in death! Thirteen generals were killed and wounded.
Four thousand five hundred men slain, all piled and heaped together at
one place. I cannot tell the number of others killed and wounded.
God alone knows that. We'll all find out on the morning of the final
Kind friends, I have attempted in my poor and feeble way to tell you of
this (I can hardly call it) battle. It should be called by some other
name. But, like all other battles, it, too, has gone into history.
I leave it with you. I do not know who was to blame. It lives in the
memory of the poor old Rebel soldier who went through that trying and
terrible ordeal. We shed a tear for the dead. They are buried and
forgotten. We meet no more on earth. But up yonder, beyond the sunset
and the night, away beyond the clouds and tempest, away beyond the stars
that ever twinkle and shine in the blue vault above us, away yonder by
the great white throne, and by the river of life, where the Almighty
and Eternal God sits, surrounded by the angels and archangels and the
redeemed of earth, we will meet again and see those noble and brave
spirits who gave up their lives for their country's cause that night
at Franklin, Tennessee. A life given for one's country is never lost.
It blooms again beyond the grave in a land of beauty and of love.
Hanging around the throne of sapphire and gold, a rich garland awaits the
coming of him who died for his country, and when the horologe of time has
struck its last note upon his dying brow, Justice hands the record of
life to Mercy, and Mercy pleads with Jesus, and God, for his sake,
receives him in his eternal home beyond the skies at last and forever.
A few more scenes, my dear friends, and we close these memoirs. We march
toward the city of Nashville. We camp the first night at Brentwood.
The next day we can see the fine old building of solid granite, looming
up on Capitol Hill--the capitol of Tennessee. We can see the Stars and
Stripes flying from the dome. Our pulse leaps with pride when we see the
grand old architecture. We can hear the bugle call, and the playing of
the bands of the different regiments in the Federal lines. Now and then
a shell is thrown into our midst from Fort Negley, but no attack or
demonstrations on either side. We bivouac on the cold and hard-frozen
ground, and when we walk about, the echo of our footsteps sound like the
echo of a tombstone. The earth is crusted with snow, and the wind from
the northwest is piercing our very bones. We can see our ragged soldiers,
with sunken cheeks and famine-glistening eyes. Where were our generals?
Alas! there were none. Not one single general out of Cheatham's division
was left--not one. General B. F. Cheatham himself was the only surviving
general of his old division. Nearly all our captains and colonels were
gone. Companies mingled with companies, regiments with regiments,
and brigades with brigades. A few raw-boned horses stood shivering under
the ice-covered trees, nibbling the short, scanty grass. Being in range
of the Federal guns from Fort Negley, we were not allowed to have fires
at night, and our thin and ragged blankets were but poor protection
against the cold, raw blasts of December weather--the coldest ever known.
The cold stars seem to twinkle with unusual brilliancy, and the pale moon
seems to be but one vast heap of frozen snow, which glimmers in the cold
gray sky, and the air gets colder by its coming; our breath, forming
in little rays, seems to make a thousand little coruscations that
scintillate in the cold frosty air. I can tell you nothing of what was
going on among the generals. But there we were, and that is all that
I can tell you. One morning about daylight our army began to move.
Our division was then on the extreme right wing, and then we were
transferred to the left wing. The battle had begun. We were continually
moving to our left. We would build little temporary breastworks, then
we would be moved to another place. Our lines kept on widening out, and
stretching further and further apart, until it was not more than a
skeleton of a skirmish line from one end to the other. We started at a
run. We cared for nothing. Not more than a thousand yards off, we could
see the Yankee cavalry, artillery, and infantry, marching apparently
still further to our left. We could see regiments advancing at
double-quick across the fields, while, with our army, everything seemed
confused. The private soldier could not see into things. It seemed to
be somewhat like a flock of wild geese when they have lost their leader.
We were willing to go anywhere, or to follow anyone who would lead us.
We were anxious to flee, fight, or fortify. I have never seen an army
so confused and demoralized. The whole thing seemed to be tottering and
trembling. When, _Halt! Front! Right dress!_ and Adjutant McKinney reads
us the following order:
"SOLDIERS:--The commanding general takes pleasure in announcing to his
troops that victory and success are now within their grasp; and the
commanding general feels proud and gratified that in every attack and
assault the enemy have been repulsed; and the commanding general will
further say to his noble and gallant troops, 'Be of good cheer--all is
"GENERAL JOHN B. HOOD,
I remember how this order was received. Every soldier said, "O, shucks;
that is all shenanigan," for we knew that we had never met the enemy or
fired a gun outside of a little skirmishing. And I will further state
that that battle order, announcing success and victory, was the cause of
a greater demoralization than if our troops had been actually engaged in
battle. They at once mistrusted General Hood's judgment as a commander.
And every private soldier in the whole army knew the situation of
affairs. I remember when passing by Hood, how feeble and decrepit he
looked, with an arm in a sling, and a crutch in the other hand, and
trying to guide and control his horse. And, reader, I was not a
Christian then, and am but little better today; but, as God sees my heart
tonight, I prayed in my heart that day for General Hood. Poor fellow,
I loved him, not as a General, but as a good man. I knew when that army
order was read, that General Hood had been deceived, and that the poor
fellow was only trying to encourage his men. Every impulse of his nature
was but to do good, and to serve his country as best he could. Ah!
reader, some day all will be well.
We continued marching toward our left, our battle-line getting thinner
and thinner. We could see the Federals advancing, their blue coats and
banners flying, and could see their movements and hear them giving their
commands. Our regiment was ordered to double quick to the extreme left
wing of the army, and we had to pass up a steep hill, and the dead grass
was wet and as slick as glass, and it was with the greatest difficulty
that we could get up the steep hill side. When we got to the top, we,
as skirmishers, were ordered to deploy still further to the left.
Billy Carr and J. E. Jones, two as brave soldiers as ever breathed the
breath of life--in fact, it was given up that they were the bravest and
most daring men in the Army of Tennessee--and myself, were on the very
extreme left wing of our army. While we were deployed as skirmishers,
I heard, "Surrender, surrender," and on looking around us, I saw that
we were right in the midst of a Yankee line of battle. They were lying
down in the bushes, and we were not looking for them so close to us. We
immediately threw down our guns and surrendered. J. E. Jones was killed
at the first discharge of their guns, when another Yankee raised up and
took deliberate aim at Billy Carr, and fired, the ball striking him below
the eye and passing through his head. As soon as I could, I picked up my
gun, and as the Yankee turned I sent a minnie ball crushing through his
head, and broke and run. But I am certain that I killed the Yankee who
killed Billy Carr, but it was too late to save the poor boy's life.
As I started to run, a fallen dogwood tree tripped me up, and I fell over
the log. It was all that saved me. The log was riddled with balls,
and thousands, it seemed to me, passed over it. As I got up to run again,
I was shot through the middle finger of the very hand that is now penning
these lines, and the thigh. But I had just killed a Yankee, and was
determined to get away from there as soon as I could. How I did get back
I hardly know, for I was wounded and surrounded by Yankees. One rushed
forward, and placing the muzzle of his gun in two feet of me, discharged
it, but it missed its aim, when I ran at him, grabbed him by the collar,
and brought him off a prisoner. Captain Joe P. Lee and Colonel
H. R. Field remember this, as would Lieutenant-Colonel John L. House,
were he alive; and all the balance of Company H, who were there at the
time. I had eight bullet holes in my coat, and two in my hand, beside
the one in my thigh and finger. It was a hail storm of bullets. The
above is true in every particular, and is but one incident of the war,
which happened to hundreds of others. But, alas! all our valor and
victories were in vain, when God and the whole world were against us.
Billy Carr was one of the bravest and best men I ever knew. He never
knew what fear was, and in consequence of his reckless bravery, had been
badly wounded at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, the octagon house,
Dead Angle, and the 22nd of July at Atlanta. In every battle he was
wounded, and finally, in the very last battle of the war, surrendered up
his life for his country's cause. No father and mother of such a brave
and gallant boy, should ever sorrow or regret having born to them such a
son. He was the flower and chivalry of his company. He was as good as
he was brave. His bones rest yonder on the Overton hills today, while I
have no doubt in my own mind that his spirit is with the Redeemer of the
hosts of heaven. He was my friend. Poor boy, farewell!
When I got back to where I could see our lines, it was one scene of
confusion and rout. Finney's Florida brigade had broken before a mere
skirmish line, and soon the whole army had caught the infection, had
broken, and were running in every direction. Such a scene I never saw.
The army was panic-stricken. The woods everywhere were full of running
soldiers. Our officers were crying, "Halt! halt!" and trying to rally
and re-form their broken ranks. The Federals would dash their cavalry
in amongst us, and even their cannon joined in the charge. One piece of
Yankee artillery galloped past me, right on the road, unlimbered their
gun, fired a few shots, and galloped ahead again.
Hood's whole army was routed and in full retreat. Nearly every man in
the entire army had thrown away his gun and accouterments. More than ten
thousand had stopped and allowed themselves to be captured, while many,
dreading the horrors of a Northern prison, kept on, and I saw many, yea,
even thousands, broken down from sheer exhaustion, with despair and pity
written on their features. Wagon trains, cannon, artillery, cavalry,
and infantry were all blended in inextricable confusion. Broken down
and jaded horses and mules refused to pull, and the badly-scared drivers
looked like their eyes would pop out of their heads from fright. Wagon
wheels, interlocking each other, soon clogged the road, and wagons,
horses and provisions were left indiscriminately. The officers soon
became effected with the demoralization of their troops, and rode on in
dogged indifference. General Frank Cheatham and General Loring tried to
form a line at Brentwood, but the line they formed was like trying to
stop the current of Duck river with a fish net. I believe the army
would have rallied, had there been any colors to rally to. And as the
straggling army moves on down the road, every now and then we can hear
the sullen roar of the Federal artillery booming in the distance.
I saw a wagon and team abandoned, and I unhitched one of the horses and
rode on horseback to Franklin, where a surgeon tied up my broken finger,
and bandaged up my bleeding thigh. My boot was full of blood, and my
clothing saturated with it. I was at General Hood's headquarters.
He was much agitated and affected, pulling his hair with his one hand
(he had but one), and crying like his heart would break. I pitied him,
poor fellow. I asked him for a wounded furlough, and he gave it to me.
I never saw him afterward. I always loved and honored him, and will ever
revere and cherish his memory. He gave his life in the service of his
country, and I know today he wears a garland of glory beyond the grave,
where Justice says "well done," and Mercy has erased all his errors and
I only write of the under _strata_ of history; in other words, the
_privates' history_--as I saw things then, and remember them now.
The winter of 1864-5 was the coldest that had been known for many years.
The ground was frozen and rough, and our soldiers were poorly clad,
while many, yes, very many, were entirely barefooted. Our wagon trains
had either gone on, we knew not whither, or had been left behind.
Everything and nature, too, seemed to be working against us. Even the
keen, cutting air that whistled through our tattered clothes and over
our poorly covered heads, seemed to lash us in its fury. The floods of
waters that had overflowed their banks, seemed to laugh at our calamity,
and to mock us in our misfortunes.
All along the route were weary and footsore soldiers. The citizens
seemed to shrink and hide from us as we approached them. And, to cap the
climax, Tennessee river was overflowing its banks, and several Federal
gunboats were anchored just below Mussel Shoals, firing at us while
The once proud Army of Tennessee had degenerated to a mob. We were
pinched by hunger and cold. The rains, and sleet, and snow never ceased
falling from the winter sky, while the winds pierced the old, ragged,
grayback Rebel soldier to his very marrow. The clothing of many were
hanging around them in shreds of rags and tatters, while an old slouched
hat covered their frozen ears. Some were on old, raw-boned horses,
Hon. Jefferson Davis perhaps made blunders and mistakes, but I honestly
believe that he ever did what he thought best for the good of his
country. And there never lived on this earth from the days of Hampden to
George Washington, a purer patriot or a nobler man than Jefferson Davis;
and, like Marius, grand even in ruins.
Hood was a good man, a kind man, a philanthropic man, but he is both
harmless and defenseless now. He was a poor general in the capacity
of commander-in-chief. Had he been mentally qualified, his physical
condition would have disqualified him. His legs and one of his arms had
been shot off in the defense of his country. As a soldier, he was brave,
good, noble, and gallant, and fought with the ferociousness of the
wounded tiger, and with the everlasting grit of the bull-dog; but as a
general he was a failure in every particular.
Our country is gone, our cause is lost. "_Actum est de Republica_."
THE LAST ACT OF THE DRAMA
On the 10th day of May, 1861, our regiment, the First Tennessee, left
Nashville for the camp of instruction, with twelve hundred and fifty men,
officers and line. Other recruits continually coming in swelled this
number to fourteen hundred. In addition to this Major Fulcher's
battalion of four companies, with four hundred men (originally), was
afterwards attached to the regiment; and the Twenty-seventh Tennessee
Regiment was afterwards consolidated with the First. And besides this,
there were about two hundred conscripts added to the regiment from time
to time. To recapitulate: The First Tennessee, numbering originally,
1,250; recruited from time to time, 150; Fulcher's battalion, 400;
the Twenty-seventh Tennessee, 1,200; number of conscripts (at the lowest
estimate), 200--making the sum total 3,200 men that belonged to our
regiment during the war. The above I think a low estimate. Well,
on the 26th day of April, 1865, General Joe E. Johnston surrendered his
army at Greensboro, North Carolina. The day that we surrendered our
regiment it was a pitiful sight to behold. If I remember correctly,
there were just sixty-five men in all, including officers, that were
paroled on that day. Now, what became of the original 3,200? A grand
army, you may say. Three thousand two hundred men! Only sixty-five
left! Now, reader, you may draw your own conclusions. It lacked just
four days of four years from the day we were sworn in to the day of the
surrender, and it was just four years and twenty four days from the
time that we left home for the army to the time that we got back again.
It was indeed a sad sight to look at, the Old First Tennessee Regiment.
A mere squad of noble and brave men, gathered around the tattered flag
that they had followed in every battle through that long war. It was so
bullet-riddled and torn that it was but a few blue and red shreds that
hung drooping while it, too, was stacked with our guns forever.
Thermopylae had one messenger of defeat, but when General Joe E. Johnston
surrendered the Army of the South there were hundreds of regiments, yea,
I might safely say thousands, that had not a representative on the 26th
day of April, 1865.
Our cause was lost from the beginning. Our greatest victories--
Chickamauga and Franklin--were our greatest defeats. Our people were
divided upon the question of Union and secession. Our generals were
scrambling for "_Who ranked_." The private soldier fought and starved
and died for naught. Our hospitals were crowded with sick and wounded,
but half provided with food and clothing to sustain life. Our money was
depreciated to naught and our cause lost. We left our homes four years
previous. Amid the waving of flags and handkerchiefs and the smiles of
the ladies, while the fife and drum were playing Dixie and the Bonnie
Blue Flag, we bid farewell to home and friends. The bones of our brave
Southern boys lie scattered over our loved South. They fought for their
"_country_," and gave their lives freely for that country's cause:
and now they who survive sit, like Marius amid the wreck of Carthage,
sublime even in ruins. Other pens abler than mine will have to chronicle
their glorious deeds of valor and devotion. In these sketches I have
named but a few persons who fought side by side with me during that long
and unholy war. In looking back over these pages, I ask, Where now are
many whose names have appeared in these sketches? They are up yonder,
and are no doubt waiting and watching for those of us who are left
behind. And, my kind reader, the time is coming when we, too, will be
called, while the archangel of death is beating the long roll of eternity,
and with us it will be the last reveille. God Himself will sound the
"assembly" on yonder beautiful and happy shore, where we will again have
a grand "reconfederation." We shed a tear over their flower-strewn
graves. We live after them. We love their memory yet. But one
generation passes away and another generation follows. We know our loved
and brave soldiers. We love them yet.
But when we pass away, the impartial historian will render a true verdict,
and a history will then be written in justification and vindication of
those brave and noble boys who gave their all in fighting the battles of
their homes, their country, and their God.
"The United States has no North, no South, no East, no West." "_We are
one and undivided_."
My kind friends--soldiers, comrades, brothers, all: The curtain is rung
down, the footlights are put out, the audience has all left and gone
home, the seats are vacant, and the cold walls are silent. The gaudy
tinsel that appears before the footlights is exchanged for the dress of
the citizen. Coming generations and historians will be the critics as
to how we have acted our parts. The past is buried in oblivion. The
blood-red flag, with its crescent and cross, that we followed for four
long, bloody, and disastrous years, has been folded never again to be
unfurled. We have no regrets for what we did, but we mourn the loss of
so many brave and gallant men who perished on the field of battle and
honor. I now bid you an affectionate adieu.
But in closing these memoirs, the scenes of my life pass in rapid review
before me. In imagination, I am young again tonight. I feel the flush
and vigor of my manhood--am just twenty-one years of age. I hear the
fife and drum playing Dixie and Bonnie Blue Flag. I see and hear our
fire-eating stump-orators tell of the right of secession and disunion.
I see our fair and beautiful women waving their handkerchiefs and
encouraging their sweethearts to go to the war. I see the marshaling of
the hosts for "glorious war." I see the fine banners waving and hear
the cry everywhere, "_To arms! to arms!_" And I also see our country at
peace and prosperous, our fine cities look grand and gay, our fields rich
in abundant harvests, our people happy and contented. All these pass
in imagination before me. Then I look and see glorious war in all its
splendor. I hear the shout and charge, the boom of artillery and the
rattle of small arms. I see gaily-dressed officers charging backwards
and forwards upon their mettled war horses, clothed in the panoply of
war. I see victory and conquest upon flying banners. I see our arms
triumph in every battle. And, O, my friends, I see another scene.
I see broken homes and broken hearts. I see war in all of its
desolation. I see a country ruined and impoverished. I see a nation
disfranchised and maltreated. I see a commonwealth forced to pay
dishonest and fraudulent bonds that were issued to crush that people.
I see sycophants licking the boots of the country's oppressor. I see
other and many wrongs perpetrated upon a conquered people. But maybe
it is but the ghosts and phantoms of a dreamy mind, or the wind as it
whistles around our lonely cabin-home. The past is buried in oblivion.
The mantle of charity has long ago fallen upon those who think
differently from us. We remember no longer wrongs and injustice done us
by anyone on earth. We are willing to forget and forgive those who have
wronged and falsified us. We look up above and beyond all these petty
groveling things and shake hands and forget the past. And while my
imagination is like the weaver's shuttle, playing backward and forward
through these two decades of time, I ask myself, Are these things real?
did they happen? are they being enacted today? or are they the fancies of
the imagination in forgetful reverie? Is it true that I have seen all
these things? that they are real incidents in my life's history? Did
I see those brave and noble countrymen of mine laid low in death and
weltering in their blood? Did I see our country laid waste and in ruins?
Did I see soldiers marching, the earth trembling and jarring beneath
their measured tread? Did I see the ruins of smouldering cities and
deserted homes? Did I see my comrades buried and see the violet and
wild flowers bloom over their graves? Did I see the flag of my country,
that I had followed so long, furled to be no more unfurled forever?
Surely they are but the vagaries of mine own imagination. Surely my
fancies are running wild tonight. But, hush! I now hear the approach of
battle. That low, rumbling sound in the west is the roar of cannon in
the distance. That rushing sound is the tread of soldiers. That quick,
lurid glare is the flash that precedes the cannon's roar. And listen!
that loud report that makes the earth tremble and jar and sway, is but
the bursting of a shell, as it screams through the dark, tempestuous
night. That black, ebon cloud, where the lurid lightning flickers and
flares, that is rolling through the heavens, is the smoke of battle;
beneath is being enacted a carnage of blood and death. Listen! the
soldiers are charging now. The flashes and roaring now are blended with
the shouts of soldiers and confusion of battle.
But, reader, time has brought his changes since I, a young ardent and
impetuous youth, burning with a lofty patriotism first shouldered my
musket to defend the rights of my country.
Lifting the veil of the past, I see many manly forms, bright in youth and
hope, standing in view by my side in Company H, First Tennessee Regiment.
Again I look and half those forms are gone. Again, and gray locks and
wrinkled faces and clouded brows stand before me.
Before me, too, I see, not in imagination, but in reality, my own loved
Jennie, the partner of my joys and the sharer of my sorrows, sustaining,
comforting, and cheering my pathway by her benignant smile; pouring the
sunshine of domestic comfort and happiness upon our humble home; making
life more worth the living as we toil on up the hill of time together,
with the bright pledges of our early and constant love by our side while
the sunlight of hope ever brightens our pathway, dispelling darkness and
sorrow as we hand in hand approach the valley of the great shadow.
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