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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st
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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
LC Subject Headings:
Lieutenant-Colonel First Mississippi Cavalry,
Mississippi Brigade; Member of Legislature, 1880, 1882, 1884, 1896,
and one term Judge of Fourth Circuit Court District of Miss.
COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY
FRANK A. MONTGOMERY
Press of The Robert Clarke Co.
Cincinnati, O., U.S.A.
To my surviving comrades of
Armstrong's Old Mississippi Cavalry Brigade
and to the memory of its gallant dead
I dedicate this book.
Most people who read books look first at the Preface to see what the author has to say about himself or about his book, and often this contains an excuse for writing it. I have no excuse to offer for what I have written, and since the book itself is an autobiography will here say nothing about myself; but I think it proper to give some of the reasons which have induced me at this late day to become an author.
It has been my fortune to have lived for seventy years in my native state, Mississippi, and until within the last few months to have led an active life from boyhood to my present age, never without some occupation which was congenial to me. But time which has brought me age has also brought me leisure, and I have availed myself of it to write my recollections of so much of the war between the states in which my own immediate cavalry command took part. In the following pages, however, I have not confined myself to this, but have allowed my memory to carry me back to the days when I was a young man, and to speak of Mississippi life as it then was. So also I have dwelt upon the reconstruction era in the state and brought my memoirs down to the present time, with, however, only a passing reference to the civil offices I have held.
So far as the war is concerned I have felt it almost a duty, it certainly has been a pleasure, to recall the incidents of that stirring time and to rescue from oblivion, as far as I can, the names and deeds of some Mississippi soldiers, and commands, to whom history in the state has done but scant justice.
If I have succeeded in this, if I have contributed, in ever so slight a degree, to the history of the state or of the war, I will be amply repaid for the work I have done.
FRANK A. MONTGOMERY.
county--Captain Herrin Reports to me--Fights with General Hovey in Coahoma county--Congressman Hal. Chambers--His duel with Mr. Lake--Fight at Driscoll's gin--Rejoin regiment. . . . . 74
Joseph E. Johnston, move to relieve Vicksburg--Brigade ordered forward to the attack--Surrender of Pemberton--Fall back on Jackson--Confederacy cut asunder--How General Dick Taylor crossed river--Effect of fall of Vicksburg--Pemberton blamed severely--Loyalty doubted--siege of Jackson--Evacuation of Jackson--Judge Sharkey--"Camp near Brandon"--Letters to my wife--Captain Herrin's dash at Federals--Captain Herrin captures foraging party--Lightning kills man in camp--scout into Jefferson county, General Clark--"Count Wallace". . . . . 122
enthusiasm of troops--Cross the Etowah, brigade in rear--Fight at creek--Soldier's dream--Battle of Dallas, assault Federal intrenchments--Repulsed with severe loss in regiment and brigade--Letter to my wife describing the battle. . . . . 160
Introduction--Birth place--Old Natchez trace--Lost villages of seventy years ago--Territory of Mississippi--Ancestors--Country school--Oakland College--Its president--His lecture one day--Political speech of Dr. Duncan, of Ohio--Whig party--Excitement in Mississippi in 1851--Senators Jefferson Davis and Henry S. Foote--Speeches by them--Tragic death of Dr. Chamberlain--Fate of Oakland College.
For some years past I have purposed if I lived to the age of seventy to write the story of my life. That time has now come, and I have the leisure for the first time in my life since I have been grown, for, though active and vigorous still and capable of work congenial to me, I have nothing to do except to amuse myself with my pen.
I have lived through the greatest part of the most eventful century in the world's history, and while I have filled no great place in the history which I, in common with all other men living during this time, have helped to make, yet my story may not prove uninteresting to those who read it, and it will at least serve while I am writing it to recall the past, the friends I have known, the pleasures of my youth, the stirring events of my manhood, till age has now come to warn me that my time is short, and that what I do I must do quickly.
Though not a great man in the events I record, yet
what I did and what I saw I can tell, and there are those still living who will be glad to read what I write; and it may even be that it will be of some value to some great historian of my state and of the war who is yet to come. For true history is gathered from small details by comparatively obscure men who write of their times, as well as by men who filled larger places in the eye of the world. In writing this story of my own life I must of necessity have something to say of the men I have known who filled far more important places than I did, and who now with few exceptions have "passed over the river." When I have occasion to speak of them, while I do so freely, I will I hope do so kindly.
But one great purpose I have in writing, is to give as far as I can the details of the operations of the cavalry command to which I was attached during the great war between the states, for these are never given in the reports of the great commanders or in the histories which are compiled from them, except when some great exploit by a Forest, or Wheeler, or Stuart, is mentioned. The busy and constant service of the cavalry, its innumerable fights, and constant loss of life, is rarely if ever mentioned.
It is to supply to some extent this omission as to my immediate cavalry command, as well as for other reasons, that I write this story. I am not, I think, either a vain man or a boastful one, and I regret that I must of necessity use the personal pronoun "I" many times in what I write, but my purpose is to tell a continuous story, and I cannot otherwise do it, at least not so well; so I hope I may be pardoned by my readers. It is not so much what I did that I want to tell as it is what the brave men with whom I served did.
It is a source of deep regret to me that I have not every name and that I will not even be able to give the
names of all who died in the various affairs of which I will tell, for it is these men whose names I would gladly make live as far as I can. The great men who commanded our armies with few exceptions deserve the honors they won, but it is the unknown and forgotten who won their honors for them.
Some of the great commanders on each side have told their stories, and these are of more or less value in making up the history of the war, but few, if any who held subordinate places have recorded their observations or their experiences as soldiers either of the Federal or Confederate armies, and this is to be regretted, for there were men in the ranks who could if they would have told interesting stories, and even yet there are many who can do it if they will, and I hope others may yet do it. But whatever is done must be done soon, for a few more years and there will be none left to tell, for especially what Mississippi and Mississippians did in that great war, and thus aid the historian who is to come in writing the history of the war and of the state.
Our brave foes have been more fortunate than we have been, for there is probably not a name of any man who served in their ranks or who died for their cause whose name has not been preserved, and their dead lie in well-cared-for cemeteries guarded with jealous care, that future generations may see how brave men died for the Union and how a grateful people have honored their memories.
We of the south, whose dead nearly all lie on the battlefields where they fell, grudge not these honors to the gallant dead, who while they lived were our foes; we only ask that history may truly tell our side of that time "when Greek met Greek." This will be done, though the time may not have fully come.
But now to my own story.
I was born January 7, 1830, in Adams county, Mississippi, within about a mile of a place called Selsertown, and which, though there is now no town, still I believe retains the name. The place is twelve miles from Natchez, and a tavern was kept there for a long time, perhaps still is, though the railroad which now runs near it from Jackson to Natchez has nearly destroyed the usefulness of the celebrated highway upon which it was situated except for local purposes. This was the road cut in the earliest history of the territory of Mississippi from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, along which General Jackson rode when he sought and found his bride at the home of his friend, Colonel Thomas M. Green, on the banks of Coles creek, and along which he marched his victorious troops when returning after the battle of New Orleans. It was then the great thoroughfare for all travel north from Natchez, and most of that south to Natchez, for few cared to risk the dangers of river travel in those days. At intervals of about six miles along this road, in the early settlement of the territory, little villages had been located as I remember, between Natchez and Port Gibson, first Washington, once the capital of the state, then Selsertown, Uniontown, Greenville, Raccoon Box, and one other, the name of which I have forgotten, Red Lick, I believe, and then Port Gibson. All of these villages are gone save only their names, and these forgotten except by a few old men like myself, and except that Washington still remains, a small village preserved perhaps by the college located there. The history of this part of the state always possessed and still does, a romantic interest for me, because perhaps, when a boy I knew many of those who had either been among its earliest settlers, or were their descendants then grown, and who loved to talk of their trials, of the Indians, of the Spaniards who owned the
country when it first began to be settled by American pioneers, and of highway robbers who sometimes waylaid the solitary traveler. Some of the stories I may tell as I recall them. The story of the ill-fated tribe of the Natchez, of the French occupation, then of the English, then of the Spanish, and last, its cession to the United States, all combine to make the history of this part of Mississippi of absorbing interest, and growing up at the time and place I did, it is little wonder that it still possesses a charm for me, and that I love to dwell even now upon it.
From the south boundary line of what is now Claiborne county, to Natchez, I know every hill and spring and stream, for twenty-five years of my life, the days of my youth, were spent midway between Natchez and Port Gibson, and memory often takes me back to those scenes of my youth. But if I dwell too long on these things I will never tell my story.
While still an infant my father moved into Jefferson county, and soon after died. He was James Jefferson Montgomery, son of Alexander Montgomery, one of the pioneer settlers of the territory, of whom Claiborne in his history of Mississippi, makes honorable mention as one of the leading citizens of the territory and of the state till his death, a few years after its admission into the Union. My mother was the youngest daughter of Colonel Cato West, also a pioneer, who became secretary of the territory under Governor Claiborne, and for some time the acting governor when Claiborne went to New Orleans as governor of the newly-acquired territory of Louisiana.
Colonel West was an intimate acquaintance and friend of General Jackson, and I have now in my possession a long autograph letter written to him by General Jackson in the year 1801, devoted to personal matters and politics, and directed to "Colonel Cato West, Coles Creek, Mississippi Territory." After my father's death, my
mother went to live on our place on Coles creek, about two miles from Uniontown, which was at the time still a little village, and not far from the Maryland settlement, so called because some of the earliest settlers were from Maryland. The old highway spoken of ran through our place. Here after some years my mother married a Mr. Malloy, a Presbyterian minister, but she died while still a young woman, and the plantation and negroes then fell to me. In my early boyhood, and while she lived, I spent much of my time with my uncle Charles West, near Fayette, in Jefferson county, and went to school to a Mr. Roland, a Welshman, who certainly did not spare the rod, or rather the ferule, which was his favorite instrument of torture. That was the rule in those days; all teachers whipped their scholars, and indeed parents all approved it. We live now in a better day, for the best teachers rarely, if ever, resort to corporal punishment, which only tends to degrade a child and harden him.
After a few years with Mr. Roland, who was an educated man, becoming afterwards an Episcopal minister, I was sent to Oakland College, when about twelve years old, and remained about five years and till after the death of my mother. Oakland College deserves more than a passing notice, both because of the tragedy in the year 1851, when its venerable president was slain at his own door in open day by a neighbor, and because of its singular destiny in after years, at least its undreamed of destiny, by those who founded and supported it. Oakland College as I first knew it, and before the war between the states (I have not seen the place since), had an ideal situation for a college. In the southwestern part of Claiborne county not far from the line, the nearest town was Rodney, five miles away in Jefferson county. The cottages in which the students roomed formed a semi-circle on the crest of the ridge, with the main college
near the center, and close to this the president's house. In front was a campus covered with oak trees, and sloping down to the common boarding-house, and at each end of the semi-circle the halls of the literary societies, the Belleslettre and the Adelphic. I belonged to the first. The college was founded mainly by Mr. David Hunt, of Jefferson county, supposed to be the wealthiest planter of his time, and the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain, who was its president. Dr. Chamberlain was an eminent divine of the Presbyterian Church, and was a most lovable character. Genial and whole-souled, the boys and young men all loved as well as respected him. He had also quite a vein of humor in his nature, and this would crop out at unexpected times. I remember once when he was hearing a class in rhetoric or logic, in his lecture to the class he repeated the following lines, which I at least have never seen in print, but which though it is more than fifty years ago I have never forgotten:
"Could we with ink the ocean fill,
Were earth of parchment made,
Were every single stick a quill,
Each man a scribe by trade,
To write the tricks of half the sex
Would drink that ocean dry.
Gallants, beware, look sharp, take care,
The blind eat many a fly."
I don't remember what else was in that lecture, but that caught me and has staid. It was well known that the doctor was an ardent Whig of the Henry Clay and Daniel Webster school, and the boys sometimes took advantage of it to tease him if they could. I recollect in the campaign when Mr. Polk was the candidate of the Democrats, I came across a speech made by a Dr. Duncan, of Ohio, which was a red-hot Democratic speech, and as my time to declaim before the president and
students was near at hand, I committed some of the most eloquent parts to memory to speak, counting in advance on the good doctor's indulgence. I was urged, too, by many boys who said I was afraid to do it.
It seems that in some parade of the Whigs in some Northern state they had a banner with this inscription: "We stoop to conquer." This excited the ire of some poetical Democrat who wrote a piece with which Dr. Duncan closed his speech. Two verses I remember yet:
" 'We stoop to conquer!' who are 'We'
That from our mountain height descending
With golden bribe and treacherous smile,
With the sons of freemen blending,
Sow the seeds of vile corruption?
Poor nurselings of the Federal 'style,'
Fed on the husks of aristocracy--
'We' quail in fear beneath the eye
Of nature's true and tried Democracy."
The last verse I gave with all my power, turning to the doctor and pointing at him. When I got through, he asked me where I had got the speech, and when I had told him, only said as I had spoken better than usual, he had not stopped me. In fact, though a boy, I was myself a Whig, and I did not loose my faith and hope in that most glorious of all political parties this country has ever seen, till the election which gave us Mr. Lincoln and bloody war.
Dr. Chamberlain was not only a Whig, he was an uncompromising unionist, and to something growing out of this he owed his death.
At the time, the summer of 1851, during the vacation, I was married and living on my plantation some twenty miles from the college.
The compromise measures as they were called, under which I believe California was admitted to the Union,
had excited a great deal of feeling in the South, higher in Mississippi and South Carolina than in any other states. The two senators from Mississippi, the somewhat erratic, but brilliant, Henry S. Foote, supported the compromise, while Mr. Jefferson Davis had opposed it in congress. A convention of the people had been called, and feeling ran high. During the canvass I heard both those distinguished men, and candor compels me to say I thought Mr. Foote the superior of Mr. Davis on the stump. I remember one thing Mr. Davis said which was applauded both by those who supported him and those who did not. It was thought by many that South Carolina would secede then, and Mr. Davis said, if that state did secede and the Federal government attempted to coerce her, he for one would shoulder his musket and go to her aid. The sentiment was loudly applauded, for none in this country at that time denied the right of a state to secede and set up a government of its own if its people desired, with or without reason.
Among the members of Dr. Chamberlain's church a wealthy gentleman living near the college, named Batcheldor, was as ardent a secessionist as the doctor was a union man. It was reported to this gentleman by a Mr. Briscoe, himself a secessionist, that Dr. Chamberlain had said that no man could be a secessionist and a Christian. They had met by accident in the town of Rodney, and with other gentlemen were discussing the all-absorbing topic of the day, when Mr. Briscoe made this statement, not as I remember as a fact, but as something he had heard. Without a thought Mr. Batcheldor said to him, "You may tell the doctor I am a secessionist."
Mr. Briscoe was a member of a prominent family living near the college, and had to pass through the
college grounds on his way home. He was seen to stop at Dr. Chamberlain's gate and get off his horse, and the doctor walked from his porch to his gate, only a few feet away. No one heard what passed, but the doctor was seen to open the gate and pass through, and then turn and walk back to his house and, in the presence of his horrified wife and daughters, saying "I am killed," fell dead. He had been stabbed to the heart, a heart whose every impulse in his long and useful life had been for the good of his fellow-men.
The news spread like wild fire, the prominence of the doctor and his blameless life, the prominence of the family of the unfortunate who in a moment of madness without conceivable motive had slain him, all combined to excite the people to madness. Hundreds hastened to the college and dire threats of vengeance were made, but Mr. Briscoe could not be found. After striking the fatal blow he had mounted his horse and gone in the direction of his home, and for some five or six days this was all that was known of him. Then he was found by a negro in a pasture not far from the house of a relative, a Mr. Harrison, in a dying condition from poison. He was taken to the house unconscious and soon died. After the war between the states, Oakland College was sold to the state and became Alcorn University, a college for negroes, and is now the Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, devoted to the education of that race. Who of its founders or those who supported it, or the proud young men who filled its halls, could ever have dreamed of a fate so strange, and to me so sad, for this college, once the pride of South Mississippi! And yet this change in Oakland College is a small thing compared to that upheaval and destruction of southern homes and southern society caused by that bloody war for the preservation of that Union which Doctor Chamberlain
and thousands of others in his day loved so well, even in Mississippi, which a few years later was to be one of the first of the states of the South to break or try to break the bonds which bound it to the Union.
The names of Dr. Chamberlain and Mr. Hunt have been perpetuated in the name of the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy at Port Gibson, and long may they live, though few perhaps know of the tragic fate of Dr. Chamberlain or the unostentatious life of the ante bellum millionaire, Mr. Hunt.
I remained at Oakland College till I had gone through the junior class, and then the Mexican war having broke out, though under age, having no one to restrain me, I left the college to become a soldier. In this hope I was disappointed, as the result of my efforts will show.
Mexican war--Jefferson troop--General Thomas Hinds--Natchez fencibles, Captain Clay--Vicksburg--Mustering officer, General Duffield--Company rejected--Trip to Jackson--Governor Brown--General McMackin--Alleghany College, Meadville, Pennsylvania--Concert--Escaped slave--Copper cents--Skating, sleigh riding--Militia muster--Home again--Cotton planter of those days--The negro as he then was--As he is now.
My first effort to be a soldier was to join a cavalry company, gotten up by Charles Clark, then a lawyer living in Fayette, Jefferson county. This was a great man, and in another place, when I shall have occasion to mention him, I will pay a tribute of love and admiration to his character and services to his state. Our company was to be called the Jefferson Troop, after the celebrated company commanded by General Thomas Hinds in the battle of New Orleans, of whom General Jackson, speaking of its charge upon the British lilies, said: "It was the wonder of one army and the admiration of the other." I knew General Hinds in my boyhood days, and remember him as a fine old gentleman of the olden time. For him the county of Hinds was named, and thus his name will live as long as the state does. After some weeks of drilling, it being found no cavalry was wanted from Mississippi, we disbanded, and I went to Natchez and joined a company commanded by a Captain Clay, and called, I believe, the Natchez Fencibles. Captain Clay took, as he supposed, a full company to Vicksburg to be mustered into service. Certainly, as I remember, it was a fine company, but there was politics in those days as well as
now, for it was charged openly it was due to the desire of the state administration to keep a place open for a company from some other part of the state, which was always true to the Democratic party of the time, that Captain Clay's company was not mustered in, it being from a staunch Whig county. Anyway we got to Vicksburg and were assigned quarters in the old depot building, where, after remaining a few days, we were brought out by General Duffield, to be, as we supposed, mustered into service.
I recollect him well as dressed in a gorgeous uniform, with a cocked hat and waving plume, a long saber by his side, he strutted along our line. Since that time I have seen "Captain Jinks, of the Horse Marines," on the stage, and I at once thought of General Duffield, and when I think of one now the other comes before me. As he came to me he stopped and asked how old I was, and when I told him he ordered me out of the ranks. There was another young fellow of my age in the ranks whose name was Fauntleroy, and heal so was ordered out; and having thus reduced the company below the minimum, he promptly rejected it. We were all indignant, as were many prominent citizens, and it was decided to go to Jackson and lay our case before Governor Brown. We succeeded in getting an engine and some box cars, and got to Jackson late in the afternoon, but the governor was reported sick and could not be seen. He had not gone on a distant fishing excursion, as I have known one governor to do, in order to avoid an unpleasant interview. We did not get to see him, but we had a high time. Any number of speeches were made, and it was openly charged that he was keeping a place for a favored company for political purposes. There was great excitement and danger of personal difficulties, but happily these were avoided.
After a while we were taken to supper at a hotel kept by General McMackin, whom I then saw for the first time. I took him to be some intoxicated man as he went around crying out his bill of fare: "The ham and the lamb and the jelly and jam and blackberry pie, like mama used to make." The reason he gave for this habit was that when he first opened a hotel in Jackson, so many members of the legislature could not read, he had to do it in order to let them know what his bill of fare was. Long after this when the carpet-baggers, who had swooped down on the state "like a wolf on the fold," had got full control, I was at a hotel kept by the General in Vicksburg, the old Prentiss House, and to my surprise I found bills of fare on the table. He had just commenced this usual mode of letting his guests know what there was to eat, but he was still from the force of habit walking up and down the dining-room calling his bill. As he passed near me, I called to him and he came at once, for no host was ever more polite and attentive to his guests. I said to him: "General, I am sorry to see those bills of fare on your table." "Why, why?" he said. "Because," I replied, "it would seem to intimate that you thought the state had become more intelligent under this carpet-bag rule than it was in the good old days before the war."
In a voice that could be heard all over the dining-room, he cried: "I'll burn 'em every one up; I'll burn 'em every one up!" and I believe he did, for I never saw them on his table afterwards.
We got back to Vicksburg the same night (tired out I slept all the way back on a pile of muskets), without having seen the governor, or got any satisfaction as to whether our company would be received. We staid in Vicksburg a few days, and the company gradually broke up, some of the men joining other companies, and
some going home. For myself, I was disgusted and went home, for I would not join a company where I did not know either the men or officers.
My guardian advised me to return to college for at least another year, and this I was willing to do, but I was unwilling to go back to Oakland College, as I preferred to go north. I did not care what place so it was in the north. To this he consented, and at his request I concluded to go to Alleghany College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He knew nothing of the college, except a young man from the north who had taught school for him and who had kept up a correspondence with him was then a student at it. Meadville was ninety miles west of Pittsburg, and the trip from my home in those days was a long and tedious one. I embarked at Rodney on a steamboat named the Ringgold, after Major Ringgold who had been recently killed in the battle of Palo Alto or Resaca, I forget which, and after a long trip got to Louisville, there took another boat to Cincinnati, and then another to Pittsburg, where I took the stage to Meadville, arriving at that place after an all day and all night ride, a little before day. My first care after breakfast was to look up my guardian's friend, whose name was Mills. I found him at the college and was at once made at home with him. He was some years older than I was, but he was a fine fellow, and we became and remained great friends, though he played me a little trick that night. Except Mills, there was not a human being in the town I knew, and he I had only seen that morning for the first time. Meadville had at the time about twenty-five hundred inhabitants, and had its very exclusive set in society as I afterwards found out. There was a concert to be given at the hotel at which I was staying that night. A young man was to sing, and I proposed to Mills to come and take supper with me and
go with me, and he agreed, but said he knew some young ladies and proposed we should take them, to which of course I made no objection.
He introduced me to his friends, two sisters, who I saw at once were two very respectable girls, as indeed they were, but I could see were not much accustomed to society. However, I did not know anything about the people we were to meet at the concert, so I did not much care.
Neither of the girls was pretty, and both were much older than I was, but Mills took the youngest and prettiest one and left me the other. It was a long walk to the hotel and I was very much bored by my company, but I took care not to show it. I could see at once from the company assembled that the elite of the town were there, and that our girls were out of place, and I felt sorry for them and somewhat ashamed for myself. I don't think Mills had ever been to an entertainment before, and I never knew him to be afterwards where ladies were to be present. How it was he ever became acquainted with these girls I don't know. Their father owned an apple cider mill and a distillery, as I found later. I did not desert my charge, but paid her marked attention, till I had got her safely back home, but after one formal call for politeness, I never saw her again, though I remained in Meadville a year.
When I became acquainted as I did with most of the young ladies who had been at the concert, I was often teased about my first appearance in society. The singer's name was Sloan, and he sang well, and for the first time I heard Napoleon's grave, a fine old song.
I was a young man fresh from a southern state and had never been north before, but I was treated with extreme kindness, and before I left had many warm friends. There was a great deal of curiosity about the south and
about slaves, and I was surprised at the ignorance of those whom it seemed to me ought to have been better informed, but there was little travel between that section of the country and mine. Indeed, I don't remember to have seen but two men from the south, and one of those was a relative of my own who came on and joined me after a few months, and the other a young student from Maryland, which was called a southern state because it was a slave state. There were not very many avowed Abolitionists in town, but they were very bitter. The general feeling then was that slavery was a matter for the south to deal with, but if a runaway negro happened to come through the town, he was helped along by everybody, and sometimes one did come escaping from Maryland or Virginia. One came while I was there and advertised to give a lecture. To everybody's surprise, I did not go, for two reasons: one that I had no desire to see the negro, and the other because I was pretty sure the wild young fellows would raise a row, as actually happened. I was told by some who went that he was a very ignorant negro. There were very few of that race in town, some barbers and one old fellow who said he was an escaped slave from Maryland a good many years before, were all that I knew anything about. The latter soon took a liking to me and waited on my room, though every now and then he would get a little tipsy and tell me I couldn't whip him like I could in Mississippi. Sometimes I would pretend to be angry and start towards him when he run, and once fell downstairs being a little fuller than usual, and I had to go down and help him up. I reckon the old fellow liked me chiefly because I was free with my dimes and quarters, and did not put him off with copper cents. These copper cents were the old fashioned kind, as big as a half
dollar, and at first when offered me in change I would not take them; but I soon found that would not do, as they were a very useful coin in that country and are no doubt to this day; and it will be a good thing for the south when they come into general use here. Everything seemed to me to be cheap in that country; my board with a room to myself, fires, lights and washing furnished, was only two dollars a week. After the battle of Buena Vista, where the Mississippi regiment saved the day, Mississippians were at a premium, and being the only one in town, I shared in the glory without having been in danger, as I would have been had Captain Clay's company been received.
At Alleghany College, in Meadville, I found that the vacation was in the winter for three months, commencing the first of December, so I was not there long before the vacation commenced. One reason for this was, as I was informed, that the young men might teach school in the country schools at a time when the children could be spared from the work of the farm to go to school. I was in my room one day when a farmer came in and introduced himself as the trustee of a school a few miles away, and desired to engage me to teach it. I have always regretted I did not take the school. This left me nothing to do but to frolic, and I soon had friends enough among the young people to keep me busy at this entertaining, if not profitable, business. French creek (I believe that is the name) ran through the town, and when it froze over I got me a pair of skates--I paid two dollars and a half for them-- and went down to join a crowd and learn this exhilarating amusement, but after several severe falls I concluded it would not pay a Mississippi boy to learn, and I gave my skates away. I got along much better with sleigh riding though my first ride was disastrous, for the horse ran away with the cutter and threw my friend, a
young man named Fleury, and myself out and broke the cutter, for which I had to pay.
What with sleigh rides and dances every week, and sometimes twice a week, besides other amusements, time did not drag slowly, but soon brought the opening of the college, and I devoted myself to it till I concluded to quit and go home.
The arsenal for North-western Pennsylvania was located at Meadville, and while I was there a muster of the militia was had, and all the students attended, of course. There were hundreds of country people, and the natural result followed, a number of fights between the students and those people, in which no greater damage was done than black eyes or bloody noses. I carried the signs of the battle for some days myself.
Next door to my boarding house lived a Dr. Yates, whose wife was a sister of James Buchanan, then the secretary of the navy, I believe, and afterwards president of the United States. The doctor had a very pretty daughter, who married a young man, a friend of mine, named Dunham, and I was a frequent visitor at their house, as I had also made the acquaintance of the doctor's son, a midshipman, who was at home a good deal on leave.
When the civil war broke out I always looked to see if this young man ever arose to any distinction, but I never saw his name mentioned; perhaps he died before the war.
I spent a year in Meadville, but I can't dwell on that time, pleasant as is the retrospect.
I returned to my home and, with the consent of my guardian, went at once to live on my plantation, which was under the care of an overseer. I wished to learn the duties of my station, and fully made up my mind to spend my life as a cotton planter. I think looking back
to that olden time the most delightful existence, and the most iudependent a gentleman could have.
The highest ambition of all men in the south at that time, so far as occupation was concerned, was to be a planter, and to spend the most if not all his time on his plantation. For this, the merchant invested his profits, the lawyer his earnings, and indeed everybody saved all he could to attain to this ideal life. The planter living upon his own lands, surrounded by his slaves, a happy and childlike race in that day, dispensed a broad and generous hospitality; no one was ever turned from his door. For even the lowliest a place was found. His neighbors were everybody within a day's ride from his home, and frequent visits were made, the planter mounted on his splendid saddle horse, his favorite mode of travel, and his wife and children in the carriage. He was a proud man, proud of his wife and children, proud of his plantation and slaves, proud of his stainless honor, and ready to exact or give satisfaction for wrongs fancied or real, suffered or done, not by the deadly pistol concealed in the hip pocket, but by a meeting upon the field of honor, with mutual friends to see fair play. These were the halcyon days of the south, gone never to return, but the stories of those days, the sacred traditions, have preserved, and will, I hope, continue to preserve the same spirit in the descendants of those noble men, and keep them pure in race and upright and honorable. In this lies the hope of the south to-day. But what pen can do justice to southern society as it was before the war, its wide influence for good all over the land; mine cannot. I speak of a class and not of individuals, for there were rare exceptions who were coarse and rude, as there are to-day men who, forgetting the traditions of the past, destitute of gratitude and honor, flaunt themselves in
high places, scheming only how best they may deceive the credulous and achieve their ends.
I have said that the negro of that day was a happy and child-like creature. He had no wants not willingly supplied; he had no care; his day's work done, he slept secure. Crime was literally unknown to him. The planter left his wife and children on his place surrounded by his slaves; sure that they were safe from harm.
Now, what is his condition? I speak not of a few bright exceptions. Ask the jails, the penitentiaries, the lunatic asylums, which are filled not from the ranks of the old slaves, but their sons and daughters. No white man will now leave his family on his place, surrounded by negroes alone, and often when I have been on the bench, I have been constrained to excuse jurors for this reason.
Insanity was as unknown among negroes before the war as homicides; each was extremely rare. I don't remember in those days but one really crazy negro, though there were occasionally idiots, and though we have now two large asylums, the jails are filled with those who cannot be received. The homicides now committed by negroes upon each other constitute the most frightful chapter in the history of crime ever known among any people. This is easy to prove. What is to be his ultimate destiny, no man can tell, but his only hope at last is in the white people of the south. I take no account of the comparatively few negroes in the north, nor do I here speak of the negro in politics. This will come later.
Railroads--Shinplasters--Customs of the times--Barbecues--Camp meetings--Militia drills--Shooting matches--Music of the times--The preacher and the robber--Indians--S. S. Prentiss--Dueling.
Before I proceed with my story, I must pause to indulge in some reminiscences of that far away time when I was a boy in Jefferson county, and give some account of the manners and customs of the people and of their amusements, and this chapter may be taken by way of parenthesis. There were in those days no railroads, the first in the state being the short line from Jackson to Vicksburg, over which I made my memorable trip to interview Governor Brown. One other was projected north from Natchez, and was actually finished for some seven or eight miles, but this fell through for want of funds. It had a bank, too, I remember, for those were the days of shinplasters as the paper money of the numerous banks in the state was then called. The mode of travel for gentlemen was on horseback; for ladies, on horseback or in carriages.
The first thing when a gentleman arrived on a visit, if it were not before eleven o'clock, was to invite him to the sideboard to take a drink. This was the universal custom except at the homes of preachers or very strict members of the Methodist Church, and intoxication was rare except at barbecues or assemblies to hear speeches when politics ran high. The old fashioned barbecue of that time has passed away, for those we have now-a-days are unlike them in many particulars.
The men did not go to them loaded down with pistols, for the deadly hip pocket was not then invented, and the pistol of the day, with its long barrel and ugly flintlock, was too troublesome to be carried. If arms were carried, and this was rare, it was the bowie knife or dirk, and no body ever got hurt except the combatants. Fights were common on those occasions, but they were almost always fisticuffs, a word and a blow. There was always a dance on the ground, and at night an adjournment to the nearest house, when daylight put an end to it the next morning. The music was the fiddle, played usually by a negro and such music! old men forgot their age to join in the dance, for it was almost impossible to hear it and keep still. It makes me young again to think of it; not the long-drawn-out music of these days, but such soul-stirring, heel-rocking tunes as "Arkansaw Traveler," "Mississippi Sawyer," "Sugar in the Gourd," "Jennie, put the Kittle on," "Nigger in the Woodpile," "Natchez under the Hill," and others too numerous to mention. Almost every plantation had its negro fiddler as well as negro preacher, usually the biggest scamp on the place, and the happy darkeys would dance to the one and shout to the other some times the livelong night. The planter and his family often went to look on.
Those were the days also of militia drills and of shooting matches, usually following the drill. Everybody between eighteen and forty-five was required to attend and bring his gun and such a motley crowd and such an assortment of arms can never be seen again.
But those were happy days, for if the daily paper could not be had the good people never felt its loss, for they knew nothing of it. In these days we can't live without it, for we must hear the news from all the world every day, and twice a day if we live where we can get an evening paper.
The shooting matches were trials of skill with the long rifle, sometimes at the head of a turkey and sometimes at a small mark for beef, and there were many who could rival the skill of the Leather-stocking.
Camp meetings were another feature of those days, which have passed away before the advancing civilization of the times; for if one is held now, I am told, a restaurant is attached where meals are sold. In the days I speak of a shady grove was selected near a good spring, and the well-to-do members of the church--Methodist--for camp meetings, as far as I know, was a distinct feature of that church, though preachers of other denominations often helped--would build rude but comfortable shanties, each large enough to accommodate from twenty to sometimes forty guests, and to this the owner would move his whole family and his house servants and keep open house with old fashioned hospitality.
And then the preaching. With power and zeal sinners were warned to repentance, and a vivid imagination could almost see the fiery billows as they enveloped the hopeless, doomed ones who cried too late for mercy where mercy never came. One sermon I remember by the Rev. B. M. Drake, the father of a prominent lawyer now living in Port Gibson. A man of stately presence, his text was: "Hear, oh heavens, give ear, oh earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me; the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." Conceive the effect which a sermon from this sublime text from the prophecies of the royal prophet would have upon a congregation already wrought up to the highest pitch of religious fervor by prayers and hymns, when the preacher was eloquent and full of zeal for the salvation of the souls of those who
heard him, and which he firmly believed would be lost forever if they did not repent.
The pioneer Methodist preachers in that territory were an interesting class. Some I recall--the Rev. John G. Jones, whose adventures when he was a young man were thrilling to hear; and another, the Rev. Mr. Cotton, who, when I was a boy, was often at our house; and I heard him tell of his adventure with a robber, a story which Mr. Shields, in his Life of Prentiss, tells, I believe, but a little differently from the way I had it from Mr. Cotton. He was riding along a lonely road, when suddenly a man with a gun stepped from behind a tree, and ordered him to halt. He then made him ride into the woods, and demanded his money. He was like the apostle, for "silver and gold" he had none. The robber, enraged, told him to dismount, as he intended to kill him. Mr. Cotton asked leave to pray before being put to death, and it was granted him. He kneeled down by the side of a log, and, with closed eyes, prayed fervently for his own reception into heaven, for the salvation of the world, and, above all, for the pardon and salvation of the sinful man who was about to imbrue his hands in his blood. When, at last, he had finished, he arose, and, lo! the robber had gone. But, I might fill pages with stories of that time without ever finishing my own.
These were the days, also, of quilting bees, and each house had its frame; the wealthiest as well as the poorest planter's wife would save her scraps and sew them into squares, stars and diamonds, until enough were gotten to make a quilt, and then the neighboring ladies would come and gather round the frame while the busy needles flew, and the busy tongues kept time till the work was done. This was a source of great pleasure and amusement to the married ladies, nor were the negro seamstresses, of which there were always one or more on each
plantation, permitted to aid in this work. Now and then, in these days, one of these old patch-work quilts may be found, a relic of other days, but then piles of them were in every house. Sewing machines were not even dreamed of; indeed, long after this, when my wife began to talk of getting a machine, I laughed at the idea, for I did not believe one could be made which would work. In those days, too, cooking stoves were unknown in the south; it was not until I had been married seven or eight years that I would consent to buy one. The kitchen was never in the house, always at a distance from it, and the fireplace, a huge affair, with an iron crane to hang the pots over the fire in which boiling was done, while upon a great wide hearth the coals would be raked out, upon which the skillets were put to do the baking, while heaps of coal were put on their lids. These were the days of hoe cakes, ash cakes and Johnnie cakes, and no such cooking has ever been done since, and it makes my mouth water now to think of it. But, good-bye to those good old times, though memory still often brings them back.
In my earliest recollection, there were a good many Indians still to be seen in the country; these belonged to the Choctaws, for the brave but ill-fated Natchez had disappeared from the face of the earth. They made their last stand on a place known, perhaps, yet as Cicily Island in what is now Louisiana, not far from Natchez, and the few who were not killed or captured were dispersed and lost forever as a tribe. It has been said that the dead Indian is the only good Indian, and it may be so. But their story is a melancholy one, and it is a pity a better fate was not reserved for them. They had the vices of the barbarian, but they had virtues which none of the other barbarous races ever had. The Indians I knew were a peaceful people, the women making baskets from cane and the men subsisting by hunting and making
and selling to the white boys blow-guns, a favorite weapon with the boys to shoot birds with in those times.
While I was still a small boy, the great Prentiss was often in the county, sometimes attending the courts and sometimes speaking at the political barbecues.
I remember to have heard him in two of his great speeches, noticed specially by his biographer, Shields. One was near Natchez and the other was at Rodney. I was too young to appreciate his arguments, but I remember well the words seemed to flow from his lips in a torrent and with what enthusiasm they were received by his audience, and his face and figure still dwell in my memory. He was a wonderful man, an unrivaled orator.
Coming from the land "of steady habits" to Mississippi, he became in a little while a typical Mississippian of the olden time, when that name implied all that was honorable and true. After I grew up and became acquainted with the life and writings of Byron, I always associated the two together, for each had the same lameness, and to this physical likeness there were many things in their temperaments which were alike. Each died in his prime. The name of Prentiss occurred to me here as I remembered another custom of that time among gentlemen, an "imperious custom," as it was called by a noted divine in his eloquent funeral sermon at the burial of Alexander Hamilton, who had fallen in his duel with Aaron Burr--the custom of dueling.
Mr. Prentiss fought two duels with Henry S. Foote, but it is no part of my plan to give an account of these duels, but only to mention the fact that in those days no man who had any regard for his honor or character could refuse to fight if insulted or if he had insulted another. The custom is just as "imperious" now as it was then, for while the laws condemn it, yet public sentiment will
condemn any man in public life, or whose business or profession makes him prominent, who dares to refuse, to demand, or give satisfaction on the field of honor in those cases where custom has made it proper, if not imperative. But I must leave those old times and hasten on.
Marriage--Move to Bolivar county--Old town of Napoleon--The hunter--Money--State banks--Overflows and levees-- Battle of Armageddon--John Brown's raid--Effect in the south-- Election of Mr. Lincoln.
On the 12th day of January, 1848 when I was but little past eighteen and my wife not quite that age, I was married to Miss Charlotte Clark, or, as she was always affectionately called, Lottie Clark. She was the daughter of James Clark, who had when she was an infant moved from Lebanon, Ohio, where she was born, and a sister of General Charles Clark. We had been sweethearts as long as I could remember, and she also had just returned from school at Georgetown in the District of Columbia, having while there made her home with an uncle living in Washington City. The family were Marylanders, having originally come over with or as a part of Lord Baltimore's colony, and her father had been born in Maryland, moving when a young man into Ohio, where he lived till he was induced by his son Charles, who had preceded him some years, to move his whole family to Mississippi, becoming a cotton planter. He was not a large planter, but he prided himself on the knowledge he had acquired of the business, and especially on the cultivation of his crop, which was always clean. He took special care in the neatness with which his cotton was handled in preparing it for market, and it always brought the highest market price. After I was married I was riding one day with him through his field and to my surprise he said it had
always seemed singular to him that there were red and white blooms on the same stalk. I explained it to him; but the fact was he had always been puzzled over it, but would not inquire. Peace to his ashes; he was a good man and lived to a good old age.
We were young to marry, I especially, but I had for some years been my own master; no objection was made by any one, I had a home prepared to go to and ample support assured, and I took my bride to our home. Our house was large and old fashioned, but comfortable, and it was our delight to fill it with young people and have the fiddler from the quarter, as the place where the negroes lived was called, almost every night, though on set occasions we would have the music from the towns, Fayette, Rodney, and sometimes Natchez. In those days we knew no care, but were as light hearted as our negroes who loved to crowd around the doors and windows of the great house, as they called the residence in which their owner lived, to see the fun. I usually kept an overseer, as most planters did, and had ample time for amusements and reading, of which I was always fond. I read everything, novels, history and that wonderful book the Bible, of which I have been a student all my life. I read also the usual text-books on law, though at the time I little thought I would ever put this to any use. I had a good library for the time, of books now out of print, if not also entirely useless, at least many of them, in these days. My wife always had her hands full, for what with company, the care of her household affairs, and the looking after a half dozen servants and more on extraordinary occasions, about which there was often a dispute if the crop was in the grass, to which was soon added the care of a family, her time was fully occupied. And so we passed the days happy when we lived in Jefferson county.
We lived on our plantation in that county for seven years, when I sold the lands I owned in that county and in Hinds and moved to Bolivar county to a plantation I had bought and partly improved a year before. I had been largely influenced to this move by my brother-in-law and friend General Clark, who, having given up the practice of law in Jefferson county, had already moved his family to a plantation he owned on the banks of the river, not far above the old town of Napoleon, a live town in those days, too much so for quiet people. It was the port at which almost all the boats which plied their trade on the White and Arkansas rivers made and received transhipments of freight, and there was always a large and tough floating population. I remember a curious adventure I had on one occasion. I had gone there to get a boat to go down the river, as boats always landed there, while it was not always easy to get one to land at other places. I had to wait all day as it happened, and in one of my walks from the tavern to the wharfboat, where I could see a long way up the river, I met a man I had previously seen come into town with a cart loaded with venison. There was no one near, it being some distance either to the town or to the wharfboat. This man was in his shirt sleeves and bloody from his occupation and was talking to himself. He was a tough-looking customer and I proposed to give him a wide berth, but seeing me he came directly to me. He had in his hand a five dollar bill and he asked me to tell him whether it was, good money or not. He said he had just sold a venison to a steamboat which was at the landing and got it in payment. It was a bill of some bank in one of the northwestern states (for every state had its own banking system), and as I had never heard of the bank I told him I did not know.
All along the river the country was flooded so to speak
with bills from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and states too numerous to mention. No man could tell not only whether the bills were genuine or not, but whether they were worth a copper if they were genuine. Mississippi alone had no banks of issue, the days of the shinplasters had cured that state. Some of the banks of Memphis, Tennessee, were supposed to be good and the bills were taken freely. The banks of New Orleans were always solvent up to the war, and was the only paper money which every body in this country would take without question.
I politely excused myself to the man and desired to pass on, but he would not let me go till I had heard him through, which was his life from the time he was a little boy when his father married a second time, when he quarreled with his stepmother and ran away, to that time. He told me of his success as a hunter, how much he made and was in the highest degree confidential, that he intended soon to quit his business and go back to his old home in Tennessee, join the church and be always a good man. I did not know whether the man was crazy or drunk, but in either case thought it best to humor him. At last he admitted my excuses and permitted me to go, but he had evidently taken a strong fancy to me for he wanted to know if I wanted any money. I told him no, but he insisted, and pulling out an old buckskin purse full of gold, evidently several hundred dollars, told me to take what I wanted. The strange thing about it was, that in a town like Napoleon then was, a man seemingly so free with his money should have had any at all. I got away from him and though I noticed him afterwards on the street I kept out of his way. Not a vestige remains now of the old town of Napoleon, the insatiable river has long since swept it away. The county of Bolivar when I came to it, in January 1855, was an unknown wilderness
save a few plantations on lake Bolivar and Egypt ridge, so called because in the high water of 1844 it was not overflowed, and a great deal of corn was made on it, and save also a few plantations along the bank of the river. These plantations were all partly protected by small private levees, for the entire country was annually inundated by floods which came down the river every spring, thus showing the absurdity of the idea some have that the great overflows we sometimes have are due to the levees. The truth is, this magnificent country is worthless without protection from levees, and while we have not yet perhaps complete protection, yet it is now settled that before many years have passed the great government of the United States will assume control of the work and protect the country. Already we have received and do receive great aid through the river commission, and it is certain that this is largely due to the persistent and untiring energy, zeal and tact of one man, the Hon. Thomas C. Catchings, for so many years the member of congress from the district where the levees are situated.
When General Catchings first became a candidate for congress the vote of the district was largely, in fact, a majority, a negro vote, for we had then no franchise law as now, which to a great extent curbs and curtails the ignorant vote. I recollect in the first speech he made in Rosedale in his first canvass, and when his audience was mostly composed of negroes, in speaking of what he hoped to do for the levees, his opponent being a negro, he told them that much of the success which a member of congress could hope to achieve would be due to his social standing with other members; and this is true, for no matter how able a member might be, his social qualities, his ability to make friends, his tact, were sure to accomplish more than all the speeches he would make, no
matter how eloquent he might be; and these qualities General Catchings possesses in an eminent degree, and though experience has shown that he is a man of ability, and well able to hold his own in debate, yet his success is no doubt largely due to them.
When I came to Bolivar the levee system was in its infancy; each county had its own system, and this in Bolivar had just been put in operation, and levee building had just begun, and has continued till now, and I suppose must continue for some time, because it is admitted that the levees are not yet high and strong enough to control the mighty floods which sometimes sweep down the great river. Under the protection of the levees, imperfect as it yet is, the wilderness to which I came in 1855, has now, in the year 1900 been made to "blossom as the rose," railroads traverse the county, and towns, and villages have sprung up everywhere. We settled on our place on the river below Napoleon, and lived there for three years, and which during that time I greatly improved, but was then tempted by a big price and sold the land to a gentleman from South Carolina. About that time there was a great demand for the fertile lands of the Delta by planters from all parts of the south. I bought immediately another tract of land on the river, where the town of Beulah is now situated. The town takes its name from the name I gave my landing. This place I handsomely improved with a fixed purpose of making it my home as long as I lived; but this hope was not to be realized. The time was fast approaching when devastating war was to overshadow the land, and when the torch of an enemy was to be applied to every house upon the place, except one insignificant shanty.
I remember to have read a few years before the war a book which created some talk, called "Armageddon,"
written by a Methodist preacher named Baldwin. This book purported to be an exposition of the United States in prophecy. He attempted to show from the ancient prophecies that the United States was to be engaged in war with a great northern power, which he said was Russia, and that the battle-ground was to be in the valley of the Mississippi. The country to be invaded was a country of unwalled villages, a term that certainly applied with great force to the south of that day, for every plantation was a village. I could not but smile at the thought of a hostile force, even if the country was ever to be at war with a great nation, ever penetrating to my peaceful home, five hundred miles from the coast, and yet a great northern power was in a few years to sweep over the south as with a besom of destruction. Was Baldwin a prophet, or was the great war between the states indeed foretold in ancient scriptures, but not fully understood by Baldwin when he wrote the book? I have the book yet, I think, but have mislaid it and cannot find it; but certain it is that he published the book some five or six years before the war commenced, and in it he said the United States was to be engaged in the war, and that it would commence in about 1861. I hope before I finish this to find the book and correct this statement if I am wrong. He died before the war as I remember, as was reported in the papers, and had been described to me by one who knew him as a strange and peculiar character, indeed thought by some to be deranged.
Until the John Brown raid I had never for a moment lost my loyalty to the union, but after that I became a secessionist; not because of the attempt of this fanatic to bring on a war between the races in the south, these things were to be expected, and were to be met and defeated as was done in his case. But the manner in which his death was received in the north, for he was looked
upon as a martyr to the cause of freedom and was almost deified by many, convinced me as it did thousands of other union men in the state, that if our liberties were to be preserved and the rights of the states held sacred, we must endeavor to defend them out of and not in the union.
The election of Mr. Lincoln by the votes of the northern states, in the minds of most people in the south, settled the question that safety could no longer be found in the union, and all began to prepare for secession. I believe Mr. Lincoln to have been a good man, and I think the course of events proved him to be a great man, and I am sure if there had been no secession that there would have been no interference by him, or with his consent, with the rights of the southern states. But he was undeniably a sectional candidate and elected upon a sectional issue, and this, in my opinion then, and in my opinion now, fully justified the southern states in secession, if as was claimed and believed by almost every one in the south, this right existed under the constitution which bound all the states together. Much has been said and written, both before and after the war, on this question, and it remains unsettled to-day, for the constitutional question was not settled by the war; the only thing settled was that we of the south did not have the power to exercise the right if it did exist, nor the power to win our independence in a revolution, which right is acknowledged always to be with all people when they think their liberties or rights are in danger, of which they, and they alone, must be the judges. I do not think Mr. Lincoln ought to be blamed in the south for the course he took, for he could not do otherwise, and as for the south, no other course with honor was left than to secede and leave the result to the God of battles, if war should come, which most doubted and few wanted.
Excitement--Elections before the war--Formation of companies--Bolivar troop--Secession of the state--Mississippi a nation--Army and custom houses--General Charles Clark--Anecdote.
I am not writing a history of the state, or of the war, though perhaps it may be a little of both, at least as far as I was personally concerned in events that occurred in the state, or in the army, of which, to some extent, I was a part. Hence, I have passed rapidly by many matters of interest in the history of the state to the time when I became a resident of Bolivar county, even touching lightly on the exciting campaign of 1851, in which the issue even then was secession or union, though secession was not openly advocated or avowed, except by a few extremists. I was deeply interested in this, though too young to take a very active part for I had not long become of age. I was then a unionist, and voted for General Clark, who was the union candidate for the convention which had been called, and afterwards for Mr. Foote, who, though a Democrat, was the union candidate for governor, and was supported generally by the Whigs. But the time had now come when I was to take an active part in public matters, and in an election held in the fall of 1855 I was elected a member of the board of police (now supervisors) and its president, which office I held till the secession of the state, when other and more exciting duties devolved upon me. I recollect in this election less than ninety votes were cast, and it was the full vote of the county. Less than fifteen years afterwards, nearly or quite four thousand votes were cast in the
county, a surprising change and a sad and humiliating one to the proud men who now looked on in utter helplessness, while their emancipated slaves crowded them from the polls. Elections before the war were simple affairs to what they have since become in Mississippi. In the election of county officers, politics was unknown; Whigs and Democrats ran as they pleased, and were voted for without regard to their politics. The same was true of judges, who were then elective. Only in the election of state officers, members of the legislature, congress and in presidential elections was the line drawn. The river counties of the state, and most, if not all, of the large slave-holding counties, were Whigs; the others, Democrats. In general elections, the Whig counties would be first heard from, and the Whigs be often sanguine of success; but wait, the Democrats would say, till you hear from Tishomingo; and, sure enough, the Whigs would nearly always be beaten.
As soon as the result of the presidential election of 1860 was known, Governor Pettus called the legislature together, and that body at once called a convention. Excitement ran high, and General Clark, now an open and avowed secessionist, was a candidate for the convention, his opponent being Mr. Miles H. McGenhee. There was only one question in the canvas, whether there should be separate state action or whether the State of Mississippi should await the action of other southern states, for all were agreed that the time for decisive action had come. On this issue, General Clark, who was for separate action, was defeated, but the convention, when it met, was overwhelmingly his way, and every school boy now knows the result.
All over the state military companies were formed, and in Bolivar a splendid cavalry company, called the Bolivar troop, was organized, General Clark being the captain,
and I the 1st lieutenant. Our captain alone knew anything about drilling the company, for he had served in the Mexican war as colonel of the Second Mississippi regiment. He was away a great deal, and the work devolved on me. I applied myself with zeal to my new duties, bought books on military tactics, and was soon able to put up a pretty good drill. Later, when the state had seceded, the company was reorganized as a part of the army of Mississippi, and I was elected and commissioned its captain. It is a fact overlooked, or, at least, not noticed, as far as I have seen, that Mississippi enjoyed for a time the honor and distinction of being an independent nation. She dissolved her connection with the union on the 9th of January, 1861, and formed no new ties till she entered the Southern Confederacy by the act of a convention of delegates from the state and other southern states at Montgomery, Alabama, in February, 1861.
She had her own army, commanded for a short time by Major-General Jefferson Davis, with four brigadier generals, Earl Van Dorn, Charles Clark, J. L. Alcorn and C. H. Mott. She also established a custom house at Commerce on the river below Memphis; perhaps in other places which I do not recall. All of these great men are gone, Mott being killed early in the war. The life of Mr. Davis is known of all men; of Generals Van Dorn and Alcorn, I will speak in other places, but will here give a brief sketch of the life and services of that distinguished citizen Charles Clark.
Elsewhere I have said he was a great man, and so he was held by all who knew him. Of an indomitable will, with a courage which never quailed, with an intellectual capacity of the highest order, trained and polished, but always subservient to his will, and with a devotion to his state which was absolutely unselfish, no truer patriot ever lived and no more gallant soldier ever drew
his sword. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, of, as I have said elsewhere, an ancestry which came from Maryland, and came to the State of Mississippi when a very young man, teaching school at first, but reading law at the same time. As soon as he received his license, he opened an office in Fayette, and rose at once to the front ranks of his profession, the cotemporary and equal of the great lawyers of that day. He served in the legislature both from Jefferson county and afterwards from Bolivar.
He was colonel of the Second Mississippi regiment in Mexico, and though the regiment was never in action, he returned with the reputation of being a thorough soldier. He was early appointed by Mr. Davis a brigadier-general in the Confederate army, and commanded a division in the battle of Shiloh, where he was wounded in the shoulder, carrying the bullet with him to the grave. He also commanded a division at the battle of Baton Rouge. In this battle he received the wound which confined him to his bed for many months, and from which he never recovered. He has often told me that both he and General Breckenridge, who commanded in the battle, disapproved of the attack at Baton Rouge, believing the place untenable, if the assault were successful, but it was ordered and a soldier must obey. General Clark was left on the field too desperately wounded to be moved. He was carried into the city by the federals, and at his request was placed on a boat and sent to New Orleans, where he could have the services of his old friend, Dr. Stone, an eminent surgeon of that day. His wife was permitted to go to him, and under their joint care in a few months he was exchanged and able to return to Mississippi, though it was long before he was able to walk even on crutches; indeed, as long as he lived he had to use one at least. At the election of 1863, he was elected governor, and this trying position he held till
forced by federal bayonets to yield. He was literally ejected from his office by force, refusing to give it up on demand, for he said he had received it from the people of the state and to them alone would he surrender it. General T. J. Wharton, not long since gone to his reward, then the attorney-general of the state, has often described to me the scene when the federals marched into the office, and the old hero, tall and commanding even on his crutches, stood in the door and denounced the outrage, as one worthy a painter's highest skill. He was taken to Fort Pulaski and there confined with other distinguished southerners, but was finally permitted to return home. He resumed the practice of his profession, and continued in the quiet pursuits of private life till the summer of 1875, when he took an active part in the redemption of the state from the blighting effects of carpet bag rule. The people of the state had almost lost hope, but gathering courage from despair, a tax-payers' convention was called and held in Jackson the summer of that year, and General Clark, a delegate from Bolivar, was elected chairman. This was the entering wedge; the people then rose in their might and white supremacy was restored forever in the state by the election of that year. General Clark was then appointed chancellor of his district, and held this office till his death about two years later. It was my privilege to be with him in his last hours, for it is a privilege to see a brave and good man die. He could not speak when I arrived at his house, but his clear, bright eyes showed the conscious soul within, and as he turned them on me, I would have given worlds if he could then have spoken. He sleeps his last sleep on a high mound, built by some ancient and long forgotten race, but as long as the history of the state is read, his name and fame will live.
Two or three years after the war had ended he had
occasion to visit Natchez and was accompanied by his son-in-law, Major W. E. Montgomery. They took passage on a Cincinnati boat. Among the passengers happened to be a gentleman who had been a federal officer, and in the battle of Baton Rouge. This gentleman and General Clark soon became known to each other, and were talking about that battle when some northern man on the boat who had been imbibing too freely interrupted them by contradicting a statement the General made in a very insulting manner, saying, "old man, that aint true." The General then could walk with one crutch and a cane, a heavy lignum vitae, and he rose suddenly to his feet and before the fellow could get out of reach brought the cane down on his head with such force as to shiver it, and for a while render him senseless. There was great excitement for a time, but it was generally agreed that the punishment was well deserved, and the rest of the trip was pursued in peace. I have this account from Major Montgomery who saw it. Some years later there was a sequel to it. In the summer of 1876, Gen. Clark paid a visit to a daughter then living in California, and on return changed cars, I believe, at Omaha. After he had got his seat and made himself comfortable on the sleeper, the conductor told him he must change his seat, which he refused to do. The conductor got angry and insulting, and said he would make him do it, and went off to get the help. The negro porter on the car who had been looking on, now came up and asked him if he were not Governor Clark of Mississippi. The General was a good deal surprised, but told him he was, whereupon the porter told him that he was a porter on the steamboat, when he knocked the man down and remembered him. The porter then went off in search of the conductor and told him what he knew, and he was not further disturbed but was kindly treated, especially by the porter who could not do
too much for him. I asked the General when he told me the incident, what he would have done if the conductor had tried to put his threat into execution, and he said he would have made the best fight he could with his crutches; he had them both on this trip, and no cane, and of course carried no arms. He certainly would have made the fight if it had cost him his life.
Trip to New Orleans--Company in camp--An old soldier's popularity and final fate--Take company to Memphis-- Roster of company--General Pillow--General William T. Martin--Anecdote--Whether negro or white man--Life dependent on the question--Ordered to Union City.
My company was for the times well armed, the arms
furnished by the state. We had sabers, Colt's revolvers, and
Maynard rifles, a breech-loading gun with a metal cartridge.
Each man furnished his own horse, and it was splendidly
mounted. I wanted only tents, for I was anxious to get the men
into camp and learn some of the practical duties of soldier life.
The state did not have them to spare, but there was no lack of
means to buy them; for besides that many of the officers and
men were well to do, the board of police gave us five thousand
dollars, for which it must be confessed they had no warrant, but
they had the money and everybody approved it. While the
state was still a nation, in the month of January I went to New
Orleans to see if I could get tents, and on this trip my wife went
with me. When we got to Vicksburg she for a time wished she
had stayed at home, for it looked warlike indeed. As our boat
got in front of the city a cannon was fired across the bows,
perhaps two, to gently remind us that the state authorities
desired to know what we were after in that part of the river. The
boat was going to land any way, and the powder had as well
have been saved for more urgent need in the days which were
to come. This gun, as I learned afterwards, was under
the command of Colonel Horace Miller, as he afterwards became, a gentleman I knew well and esteemed highly. We got to New Orleans without further interruption. I got my tents, and very fine ones, by the aid of that splendid gentleman and afterwards gallant soldier, General Wirt Adams, who was a banker in Vicksburg and also, I believe, was in business in New Orleans. My funds were deposited with him, and he finally got me the tents. While there I found and bought handsome officers sabers for myself and lieutenants, and later on in this story I will tell what became of mine. I also got handsome cavalry saddles for myself and officers, but could not get them for the men.
When I got my tents home I at once ordered the company into camp, and they came promptly. But an amusing difficulty presented itself: none of us had ever pitched a tent, except one man, and he had not yet come. He was not long, however, and when he came soon set us all straight. His name was Milford Coe, and he had been a member of the second Mississippi regiment in Mexico, hence knew something about army camp life. He was at the time an overseer in the county, and was very well liked by those who knew him. His knowledge of camp life made him for a time very popular, but after he had been in service a few months he was so much disliked that I procured a discharge for him. He returned home, and early in the next year located himself on Island Seventy-Six, opposite the town of Bolivar, and gathered around him a gang of desperadoes, negroes and whites, and began systematically to prey upon the people on the main land, who finally organized a force, and, after capturing him, brought him over and shot him to death in a cane brake, where his bones were left to bleach, a well deserved fate. I kept my men in camp, in fact, never broke it, till I finally got away. Meantime
events were rapidly drawing to a crisis between the United States and the young confederacy, and the hope of peace which many had entertained was being fast dispelled. Some infantry regiments had been organized and were ordered to Pensacola and to Charleston, where General Beauregard was in command, and where it was supposed the first collisions would occnr.
My men were getting impatient to be away, and I was myself, for about that time some business took me to Jackson, and while there several companies passed through on their way to Pensacola, and it was all I could do under the excitement, and the influence of the inspiring music of the fife and drum (to me yet the most exciting music in the world), to refrain from getting on the cars and going with them. I sent Lieutenant Bell, of my company, to Montgomery to see if I could get the company ordered into service, but the authorities were not yet ready to receive cavalry. Lieutenant Bell was a nephew of John Bell, the last Whig candidate for president, which great party was lost and destroyed forever in the great campaign of 1860. Meantime war had actually commenced by the reduction of Fort Sumter and the call by Mr. Lincoln for seventy-five thousand volunteers. The capital of the confederacy had been moved to Richmond, and many troops were being hurried to that place, but still there was no special demand for cavalry. The State of Tennessee had seceded and was raising an army, though it had not yet joined the confederacy. General Gideon J. Pillow was placed in command of it, and had his headquarters in Memphis. I went to see him and offered him my company with the understanding, when the army of Tennessee was turned over to the confederacy, it should be distinctly recognized as part of Mississippi's troops, and to this he readily agreed.
I returned at once, and soon had the company ready to
embark on a boat I had engaged to take us to Memphis. I took my leave of home and wife and children, then six in number, the eldest about eleven years old, to which number was to be added in about two months another. I do not suppose it would have made any difference, but I did not dream when I left that I was not to see them again except on brief visits and at rare intervals for four long years. How could I? Each side went into that long and bloody war with a supreme contempt for the courage and resources of the other, though of course on both sides there were thoughtful and well-informed men, who knew that when once the sword was unsheathed, only complete victory for one side or the other would end the war. I got my men to together mostly at the town of Prentiss, the county site, there to take boat, I myself to join them a few miles above at my own landing, Beulah. I wish I had a complete roster of the company as it was mustered into service a few days later at Memphis, but this I have not, but fortunately I have, in a clipping from the county paper of that day, a list of all those who embarked at Prentiss and Beulah, sixty-eight in number at those two points. These names I here record, and will add others who joined me at other landings in the county or in Memphis, bringing the company up to about one hundred officers and men. I deeply regret that I cannot recall the names of each one of these last, of whom I have no written memoranda. But this was thirty-nine years ago, and it is surprising to myself that I remember so many. The names follow:
Others of the original company whose names I recall, absent at the time, or who joined immediately afterwards, were Clay Kingsley and David Reinach, of Bolivar, J. M. and Will. Montgomery and Will. Mason Worthington, Bert, Will. W., Ed. and Ben. Worthington,
from Washington county, and Alf. Saunders, Charley Saunders and--Trawick, from Arkansas. To these were soon added Charles C. Farrar, then of Ohio, a nephew of my wife, who made haste to join me, and W. A. Alcorn, from Coahoma county; also, Charley Worthington, of Washington. It may be I may remember others of the original company, but there were but few more, since the names I have given made almost or quite a full company, according to the army regulations of those days as I remember them.
Of the officers and non-commissioned officers of this splendid company who went out with me, I alone am left to linger for a short while longer on the shores of time. Of the men, not a dozen now survive. Many were killed in battle; some died with disease during the war, and the remains of these lie in half a dozen different states. They gave their lives for the cause they loved, and shame on the man who would now say they were wrong. Of the remnant who returned home, one by one they have gone to join the majority, till as I have said not a dozen now survive. Bolivar county furnished other companies to the confederacy--the McGehee Rifles, Captain, afterwards Colonel Brown, commanding; a cavalry company, Captain Mason, afterwards Captain Shelby, a splendid company officered by young planters of the county, and composed of light-hearted sons of the Emerald Isle, Captain Martin, who was killed at the battle of Sharpsburg. Lieutenant Miller, of that company, and one old, disabled soldier, Mike Monahan, now the care of the kind-hearted, are all of that company living here, perhaps the only two now living.
We reached Memphis one morning in May, 1861, and I at once reported to General Pillow, who ordered me to put my command in camp at the fair grounds, and gave
me transportation for my tents and baggage. I went to the boat and directed Lieutenant Jones to take the company to the camp, First Lieutenant Herndon having his family with him to look after. I was myself detained looking after quartermaster and commissary matters. But few of the men had saddles, as I expected to be able to get a uniform saddle for the whole company, and therefore had instructed them not to bring their saddles. As soon as I could I hastened to follow them, and overtook them just as they turned out of Main street. They formed a long, straggling column, some mounted bare-back, others leading their horses, all encumbered with baggage besides their arms, and presented a ludicrous appearance. Lieutenant Jones was riding at the head of the column, mounted on a fine gray horse, and just as I got in sight of him he turned in his saddle and gave the command, "draw saber," and a scene of confusion ensued which provoked me to laughter, though I was vexed and mortified. The men tried to obey, and every man began to tug at his saber, whether mounted or unmounted. I, of course, put an end to the scene as soon as I could, and the truth was the lieutenant wholly forgot for the time being the condition of his command and what he was ordered to do, and thought he was on drill. We soon arrived at our camping ground, and in a short time had tents pitched, rations and forage issued, guards stationed, and for the first time we felt we were soldiers.
I found already in camp at the grounds a fine cavalry company from Natchez, commanded by Captain, afterwards Major-General, William T. Martin. I had known and admired him when I lived in Jefferson county, as a fine lawyer, and once just as I was of age served on a jury where he was employed for the prosecution, and which was of so much interest to me that I will briefly state the case. It has never been reported, for in fact
only one question in the case was ever settled and that was the issue tried before my jury. There was a free mulatto negro named Johnson living in Natchez, a barber that every one liked, and he acquired a little property somewhere on the river, not far from Natchez, and near a plantation owned by a man named Wynn. This man was quite well-to-do, owning a plantation and about thirty slave hands, as it was said. Johnson went one day to his little place accompanied by a mulatto boy about sixteen years old he had in his shop. This boy returned to town saying that Wynn had, as they were riding along the road stepped, from behind a tree and shot Johnson, and his body was found where the boy said it was. Wynn was arrested and put in jail and soon after indicted for the murder. The indictment described him as a mulatto, and though he had married a white woman, that he had in some other county persuaded to marry him, he had generally been considered of African descent, where he was best known. To this indictment a plea in abatement had been interposed, the defense claiming that he was not a negro, under the law, as it was claimed he had less than one-fourth negro blood in his veins. If this was true there was no direct evidence against him, as he would be a white man under the law, and the testimony of the mulatto boy who saw the shot could not be taken--the testimony of negroes not then being admissible against white people. There was a change of venue to Jefferson county on this issue. The jury was kept together for a week and there was a great deal of testimony, but Judge Posey, one of the able judges of the olden time, instructed the jury that the burden of proof was on the state, and the jury found for the defendant.
General Martin's speech was one of the ablest I ever heard, and though it took, as I remember, three or more
hours in the delivery, the attention of the jury never wavered. The indictment was quashed and Wynn afterwards indicted as a white man, but I believe got bail and was never brought to trial.
We remained at this camp about two weeks, and I succeeded in getting pretty fair saddles for the company, so that when we left we made a very soldier-like appearance. I devoted all the time I could to drilling the com-company, but beyond this nothing of any special interest occurred while we remained at that camp. I was ordered to Union City, Tennessee, and Captain Martin's company to Richmond, Virginia, about the same time, so we were never together again during the war.
General Frank Cheatham--First Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, Major Miller--General Cheatham's staff--Battle of Manassas, war over--Occupation of New Madrid--Brigadier-General M. Jeff. Thompson, Missouri State Guard--His army--Evacuate New Madrid--Return next day--Scout to Charleston--Lose a man, captured--Great excitement at home over this--Hickman, Kentucky--Gunboats--Captain Marsh Miller and the Grampus--Columbus, battalion increased.
My baggage, or most of it, I sent by rail to Union City, and, with a squad under a lieutenant with a few sick, marched with the main body of the company to my destination. General Pillow supplied me with what wagons and, indeed, all I needed in profusion, and I made the march leisurely, arriving on the fifth day. I found a place selected for my camp and occupied by the men I had sent before. I was ordered to report to General Frank Cheatham, who was in command of the Tennessee forces at that place, of whom there were at the time several thousand, as were also several infantry regiments from Mississippi belonging to the confederate army, but these were under the command of General Clark, whose headquarters was then at Corinth. I found also several companies of cavalry from Mississippi, which were attached to General Cheatham's command, with the same agreement I had. One of these companies and a very large one from Pontotoc county, was commanded by Captain Miller, and the other from Lafayette county commanded by Captain Jack Bowles. These companies with mine were organized into a battalion, and Captain Miller was elected its major. Very soon
after this the Tennessee forces were turned over to the confederacy, and our battalion was known as the First Battalion of Mississippi Cavalry, which number it retained as other companies were from time to time in the course of the next few months added till there were ten, and from that time on for all time was to be known as the First Mississippi Cavalry regiment. But this is anticipating. Major Miller was a Presbyterian divine about I think fifty years old, but as full of military ardor as the youngest man of his command. When the Tennessee forces were turned over to the confederacy, General Pillow received a commission as brigadier-general in the confederate army, but remained for a time at Memphis, while General Cheatham received the same rank and remained in command of the army at Union City. General Cheatham was a veteran of the Mexican war, and I found him to be a frank and genial soldier, and for him and his staff, Colonel Porter and Captain Frank McNairy, those with whom I had most to do, I formed from the first the highest opinion, and among my most pleasant recollections of the war is my association with them, which was to continue closely till after the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky, early in March as I remember, or the last of February in 1862, after the fall of Fort Donelson.
Our time at Union City was occupied with constant drills and reviews, with much impatience among the men to be closer to the enemy. But this was by no means time lost, for neither officers nor men with the rarest exceptions knew anything whatever about the duties they had to perform. The camp was in a constant state of excitement from news of fights in different parts of the country, in Virginia, South Carolina and Missouri, and in fact all along our border.
At last came the news of the first battle of Manassas
and the utter rout of the federal forces, and the almost universal opinion among the men at Union City was that the war was over, and that they would be compelled to go home without having seen an enemy or having fired a shot, and there was general disgust at the thought.
We little knew the grim determination of the northern people, and they as little understood the fixed purpose of the south. In fact, in neither north nor south was any thought given to that bull dog tenacity which belongs to the Anglo-Saxon race, to which both sides belonged. Like Paul Jones, when summoned to surrender by the captain of the Serapis, we had but "just begun to fight."
At last, one day early in August (I write from memory, for such memoranda as I once had were destroyed in the burning of my office some years ago, and so far as I have been able to find, history makes no mention of the movement I am now to describe), all baggage, including tents and most of the ammunition, was ordered placed on the cars for Memphis. The men were ordered to take three or four days' cooked rations, and a fixed number of rounds of ammunition to the man, and prepare to move. Many were the speculations indulged in, but except at headquarters none knew the purpose of the move or the destination of the army. At last we moved almost due west, and in a few days found ourselves on the banks of the Mississippi river a few miles below New Madrid, Missouri, and then embarking on boats waiting for us, in a few hours were landed at that place. Here in a few days was concentrated a force of about ten thousand men of all arms (rumor made them many more), and here we felt we were close to the enemy, for every day we had rumors of fights between what was said to be a large force of men composed of Indians and Missourians under Brigadier-General M. Jeff. Thompson, of the Missouri state guards, and the federal troops. He was said to be sometimes near
Charleston and sometimes near Sykeston, one place about twenty-five miles north and the other same distance west of New Madrid, but we never saw his forces, though a few men without uniform of any kind, and armed with double-barreled guns, would now and then be seen about the camp, who were said to be Jeff. Thompson's men. General Thompson, I one day saw, as he was riding through the camp on his way, as it was said, to his own forces. The stories told about him and his army and fights were many and curious, and the fiction as to his Indian soldiers was kept up for a long time, and even when in the summer of 1862 he was in Mississippi, where I came directly into association with him under peculiar circumstances.
General Pillow came to New Madrid, and assumed personal command of the army, and it was supposed we were about to march from that place on St. Louis. To give more color to this rumor, Major Miller was ordered with all the cavalry, except my company, which was retained for picket and scouting, to join General Thompson a short distance west of Sykeston, and a brigade of infantry and a battery of artillery, with an ammunition train of some twenty wagons, with my company to guard them, was ordered to Sykeston. However, we remained only a few days in Sykeston, when we were ordered back, and in a day or two Major Miller was also ordered back. There were constant alarms in camp, and we were kept on the qui vive all the time, it being said the enemy was preparing to bring a large force down the river, supported by gunboats, and whenever a smoke was seen up the river everybody was on the alert. And now occurred a curious move for which there was no doubt good reasons, though no one knew what they were.
The tents were struck and with the baggage put on boats, of which there were quite a number, the infantry and artillery embarked, and the cavalry ordered to march
down the river. We went some twelve or fifteen miles and then bivouaced on the bank of the river for the night with the boats tied up near us. Next morning we were ordered back, boats and all. It reminded me of the king of France, who with "twenty thousand men marched up the hill and then marched down again."
Soon after we got back Captain Bowles proposed to me that we should each take a squad of twenty-five men and make a scout to Charleston. He said he had formed the acquaintance of two lieutenants of Jeff Thompson's men who lived in that place or near it and would guide us. His idea was that the federals at Birds' Point opposite Cairo, and some ten or twelve miles from Charleston, had no doubt heard of our move down the river, but had not heard of our return and that we might succeed in surprising a scouting party, as it was known federal scouts often came to that place. I was willing and Major Miller consenting I went to see General Pillow, who was pleased with the idea, and giving me his instructions, especially to bring him back some prisoners, we got away at once. We marched nearly all that night, and next day lay in a secluded place not far from Charleston all day, though it was not easy to find in that open country, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, a good hiding place. Our plan was at night each to take one of the Missouri lieutenants and picket two roads leading into Charleston from Birds' Point, along either of which, according to our guides, a party was likely to come, and which we hoped to surprise.
While we were waiting for night to come I heard one of my men, Frank Gayden, talking about what he intended to do if he met the Yankees, as he called them. He never intended to take a prisoner, he would kill every one he got hold of. I remonstrated with him for his blood-thirsty talk, and asked him how he would like to
have his intentions carried out against himself if he should be captured. That he said would never be, he would never be taken alive. Twelve hours more was to put him to the test. Nothing happened to disturb the quiet of my watch on the road I was guarding, and after waiting for some hours after daylight I concluded if a scout had that morning come out it must have taken the other road, and that perhaps Captain Bowles had been more fortunate, and so I directed the lieutenant I had with me (I remember his name was Gooden) to take me to a quiet place not far from Charleston, into which place I proposed to go later in the day, and where we could get some sleep, for we had but little for two nights. He guided me to a skirt of woods about a mile from Charleston, which was in full view across an open field, and then proposed with two or three men he had with him to picket the roads for me. Having confidence in him I consented, directing him if he got any news of the enemy to let me know at once. Feeling secure I went to sleep, as did, I thought, all the men, but after some time I was awakened by Frank Gayden, who said there was a squad of men on the road whose actions he did not like. I went to a fence where I could see, three or four hundred yards away across the field on the road leading from Charleston, and which ran by my bivouac, three men on horseback, all in citizen's clothes, and one of them I recognized as Lieutenant Gooden. by his horse. They were all sitting quietly on their horses and seemed to be talking. I told Gayden it was Gooden and, I supposed, some citizens, but to mount his horse and go and see what news there was, if any, and come back at once and report, and then went to sleep again. I did not wake for some time, but when I did, and inquired for Gayden, I found he had not returned. Some of the men said they saw him ride up to the three men in the
road and then all had ridden off briskly towards Charleston. About that time seeing a citizen in the road I had him brought to me, and to my surprise and chagrin learned Gayden and Gooden were prisoners, and by that time nearly to Birds' Point. I got away at once from what I began to feel was a dangerous place, as indeed it was, for I was twenty-five miles from camp, and even with Captain Bowles I felt I would be too weak for such a force as could be brought against me. I soon joined Bowles, and together we made our way back to camp. When I reported to General Pillow that instead of bringing him a prisoner I had one of my own men taken, and the manner in which it was done, he said he did not see how a soldier could allow himself to be taken in the manner described, and neither could I, especially my bloodthirsty young friend Gayden. The worst of it was the news at home, it created more excitement than the killing and wounding of fifty men two years later. His brother came to see about it, and strange to say I was very much censured, and great sympathy was extended to the silly fellow who deliberately walked into a trap with his eyes open in broad daylight. It made him a hero, and Lieutenant Bell resigning a short time after, Gayden was elected in his place. He was exchanged in a few days, some unlucky fellow on the other side having been taken prisoner. From Gayden I learned that Gooden had been taken prisoner by two scouts in plain clothes; that he seeing Gooden thought everything all right and rode up to the men. One of them leveled Gooden's shotgun on him and told him to surrender, which he promptly did. I asked him why he did not attempt to escape, as he was well mounted as well as armed, and he knew help was at hand. He said the fellow looked like he would shoot--and this was the man
who the day before did not intend to take prisoners and would die before he would be taken!
Early in September, 1861, the cavalry was put across the river opposite New Madrid, and ordered to march to Hickman, Kentucky. Major Miller being absent with a flag of truce which had gone to see about the exchange of Gayden, I was the senior officer in command, and made a rapid march to Hickman, going light, without wagons or baggage of any kind. When we got there, I found General Cheatham with several regiments of infantry and some artillery, he having gone by boat. In a little while afterward, and while I was awaiting orders, occurred what was described in an almanac published in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for 1862, but giving a synopsis of the war for 1861, as an engagement between the federal and confederate forces, in which the former were repulsed. The same almanac contained also a reference to an engagement between confederates and federals at Charleston, on August 21st, which, I suppose, refers to my scout and the capture of Gayden, as it was said the confederates were defeated, since there was nothing else to which it could refer. But, to the Hickman affair. Dense volumes of smoke were seen up the river, and there was great excitement in town, women and children running in every direction, the long roll beat and cavalry bugles sounded, and guns placed in commanding positions to resist a landing, for we all thought a large force was coming to attack the place. First came in sight a little stern-wheel boat owned by the confederates, painted black, with a six-pound gun on her bow, and named the Grampus, commanded by Captain Marsh Miller, an old river pilot whom I had long known. He was running for dear life from two huge and to us, then, formidable looking gun-boats. These were firing occasional shots as
they came on, and truly, to new soldiers, as we all were, except General Cheatham, it looked serious. Captain Marsh Miller, as soon as he got opposite to the command on the bank, turned his boat in midstream and began firing at the gun-boats, though I could see his shots fell far short. General Cheatham had planted a twelve-pound rifle gun on the bank, and, after a few shots were exchanged, the gun-boats retired. A little longer delay and they would probably have been taken at Columbus, for a force under Pillow, with guns, reached that place while the smoke was still visible above the city. The flurry over, and Major Miller having about that time caught up with the command, bringing with him my missing man Gayden, the cavalry was ordered forward to Columbus.
We found that place already occupied by our troops, and it was not long before a large force was concentrated there, for awhile under the command of General Pillow, but a little later General Polk arrived and took command. I saw but little of General Pillow after this, but I had for several months been in a position to observe him closely, and I had formed a very favorable opinion of him, both as a man and officer. He was a courteous gentleman, with some vanity, perhaps, and with a high and noble ambition for distinction in the army, but he failed, for, after the battle of Fort Donelson, from which place he escaped, he was but little heard of in the army; at least, I believe, never again had any prominent place of command.
Soon after the occupation of Columbus, by the division of Major Miller's old company, and the addition of another, the battalion had five companies, and Major Miller was elected lieutenant-colonel, and First Lieutenant D. C. Herndon, of my company, elected
major. R. A. Pinson, of Pontotoc county, was elected captain of the new company from Pontotoc, and with him my fortunes were to be intimately connected till the end of the war. But this is not the place to do justice to him.
Gunboats and Grampus--Ordered with squadron to Belmont--Colonel Tappan in command--Watson's Battery--Old college mate--Dashing poker player of old times, one of the Watsons--Scouting--First fight--Federal sergeant killed--Leave of absence, battle of Belmont--Winter quarters--State troops under General Alcorn--New orderly sergeant--Old acquaintance from California--Runaway negroes--Detailed on recruiting service--Battle of Shiloh--Battalion increased to regiment--Colonel Lindsay in command--His habits--Army falls back to Tupelo.
For some weeks the chief excitement of the camp was to gather on the bluff, and see the federal gunboats pursue Captain Marsh Miller, as he would return from his daily scout up the river. There was a long stretch in the river above Columbus, without a bend, and the captain with his little boat would sometimes be gone so long, that it was feared he had been captured, but presently his boat would be seen coming under all the steam it could bear, and its whistles screaming as it came, while behind would come the gunboats firing as they came. When finally he got under our guns on the bluff, he would stop and turn and pop away with his six pounder. Meantime the guns on the bluff would be manned and the fire of the gunboats returned. No damage was ever done on either side for they never came near enough. At last we got a big gun, but it burst, killing and wounding several of our own men. It was great sport to watch the Grampus, which was really handled in a daring manner by Captain Miller, who is still living, an honored citizen of Memphis. The cavalry made frequent scouts to the
north without, however, ever seeing an enemy, going sometimes almost to Paducah.
These things, with the inevitable drills and reviews and exciting news from other places, where there were occasional skirmishes, called sometimes battles, together with daily rumors of the intended approach of the federal army from Cairo, kept us busy all the time. But about the last of September, Colonel Tappan's Arkansas regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery, known as Watson's battery, were stationed across the river at Belmont, and I was ordered to take Captain Jack Bowles' company and my own, the two forming a squadron under my command as senior captain, and report to Colonel Tappan. I found him to be all that could be desired in a commanding officer and he afterwards rose to the rank of brigadier general, a deserved promotion, and is living at this writing in Helena, Arkansas, enjoying the esteem and love of his fellow citizens.
My business was to scout and picket the roads on that side of the river, and the colonel left me to my own discretion as to how to do it, a confidence which I highly appreciated. I here met Gus. Watson of Watson's battery, who was an old friend and college mate of Oakland College, but whom I had not seen for years. He was one of several brothers, all wealthy, and all of whom I had known while at the college and for some years after. They were all gentlemen of character and standing, and all were dashing poker players, and I had played many a game with them. It was quite common in those days for gentlemen to play, and frequent trips were made on the fine steamers of those days to New Orleans, ostensibly on business by parties of gentlemen, but really oftener to play poker. From the dashing play of these men came the phrase "to play it like the Watsons", which is still heard, I am told, almost everywhere among poker
players, to this good day. Gus. Watson had bought and equipped this battery at his own expense, and was with but not holding any command or place. I had with me a gentleman who was also along for the excitement and not mustered into the service. He wanted to be, but I persuaded him not to be, as I wanted him to stay at home. This was Dr. J. J. Ross, a planter and physician of Bolivar county.
He and Watson became great friends and both always went with me on my scouts. My first care was to examine all the roads leading to our position and all the country around for some miles so as to know where to station my pickets. The county was mostly open woods and one could ride anywhere. My next was to secure a competent guide, and I was fortunate in finding a good one. I wish I could remember his name for he certainly knew the country well, all the way up the river to Bird's Point, and it was he who first discovered the enemy were landing for the battle of Belmont, his house being on the river some distance outside of my picket lines. In Columbus before I crossed to Belmont and afterwards when I had got there, I heard the usual rumors about Jeff. Thompson and his men who were said to be constantly fighting, a little further up the river, and I determined to find them if they were to be found, so I began to scout almost every day, going with my guide a little further every time. It was on one of these scouts I first heard that to me curious provincialism, "we-uns" and "u-uns." I rode up to a house in the woods and inquired of a girl who came to the door, when she had seen any soldiers about there. She wanted to know if "u-uns was the yankee cavalry," a somewhat mortifying question, but in a little while she said we-uns had not seen any soldiers since Jeff Thompson's men had been there, and when I inquired for them she knew nothing of them. This was as near as I ever
came to seeing them and I began to think they were a myth, but my guide said before I came over there really had been a company who called themselves Jeff Thompson's men, but who had gone, no one knew where.
My constant scouts without ever seeing an enemy began to tire the men as well as myself; indeed we never had been able so far to find any positive signs of them. I knew they were in considerable force at Bird's Point, and that scouts were made down the river from that place, but this was about all. I was anxious to come in contact with them, for I wanted to know how I would feel, and had some little anxiety as to whether I could stand fire with any degree of coolness. There was about fifteen miles above us on the banks of the river a large plantation or farm owned by a Mr. Hunter, a strong southern man, who had abandoned it and came to a smaller place he owned near Columbus to be out of the way of federal raids. There was a large amount of forage left on the place, and Colonel Tappan decided to send and get it. He sent five companies of his regiment, a section of Watson's battery, all the wagons he could get and my entire squadron. I had already been many times to the farm and beyond it, so I knew the country pretty well. I went now about a mile or more above the farm, guarding the roads leading to it until the wagons were loaded and well under way down the river with the infantry and artillery. Then selecting thirty of the best mounted men I had, I ordered the balance of the cavalry back to camp. With my guide I then continued on up the river till we came to a road which the guide said led across the country to Bird's Point, a shorter route than by the river, about five miles away. Here I discovered unmistakable signs of the enemy, for the cross-roads as well as the river road going up the river was full of innumerable shod horse tracks.
Deciding to explore the cross-road with a view to returning with the entire squadron and not expecting to meet any enemy, for it was then late in the afternoon and so many of the tracks were fresh seemingly having just been made, I started on it in the direction of Bird's Point, sending eight men ahead as an advance, and with these went my friends, Ross and Watson. My guide said about a mile away there was a farm and family living on it, and my purpose was to go that far and return, as it was fully twenty-five miles to camp. We had gotten nearly to this farm, which could be seen across a narrow strip of woods, when my advance, which had gotten through the woods, were seen suddenly to halt then turn and gallop back. I ordered the men to form in line, which was promptly done, and then looked to see what the matter was. The road where it left the wood on the other side made a short turn, and on one side was a clump of papaw bushes just where it turned, so that I could not see far down it. I did not have long to wait for the cause of the retreat of the advance, for before they could reach me a body of blue coats in column of fours at full gallop came into sight. They were in fast pursuit of the advance and could not see my line till in about a hundred yards of it, when they promptly halted and formed a line. I never saw before and I don't think I ever saw afterwards a prettier sight. I estimated them to be about fifty strong as their line was longer than mine. As they were forming, I ordered my men to fire, and thirty Maynard rifles cracked together. I knew my men were all good shots, and as they fired I looked to the enemy and fully expected to see a dozen saddles emptied by the fire, but I saw none fall, and they coolly formed, and then occurred the liveliest fusilade which had ever up to that time been heard in that country. Both sides stood their ground well, and I began to be seriously
uneasy lest I should get the worst of it, but presently I could see them dropping out of line two or three at a time and then all turned and got away as fast as possible. I forbade pursuit as I apprehended the firing would bring other forces to their aid, and I was too far away from my base to get any help I rode up to where their line had been, and there stretched out in death lay a fine looking young man wearing the chevrons of a sergeant. His carbine--they were armed with Burnsides, a better gun than mine--lay by his side and his saber was still belted to him. This was the first man killed in open fight, while the armies lay opposing each other at Cairo and Columbus, and, indeed, this was the first fight between opposing forces of the two armies. I left him where he lay, giving his body in charge of the citizen whose house was near. His saber I gave to my friend Watson and the carbine to Ross. My own loss was five horses killed and one man wounded in the right arm, which had to be amputated. His name was Smith, and I fear he is now dead, since within the last year I have heard nothing from him, and prior to that time he often wrote me, and I always replied to his letters from Louisville, Kentucky, where he has lived since the war. I sent couriers forward at once to announce my successful fight to Colonel Tappan, while I followed more slowly with my wounded man and dismounted men.
We got back to camp late at night tired and hungry, but proud of the fact that at last we had met the enemy face to face and came off victorious. The whole camp was up to see us come in; the news of our fight had been sent over the river and telegraphed to Memphis, and for some days the squad who had participated in the skirmish were the heroes of the hour. After this I made many scouts to the same place with the squadron but did not again meet the enemy. In a few weeks I
got a leave of absence for a week and hastened home, and, to my regret at the time, the reconnoissance in force was made by General Grant, which resulted in the battle of Belmont, while I was absent. I hastened back, to find the whole command brought back from Belmont and all concentrated at Columbus. Soon after this the army went into winter quarters, and my company was retained in camp at Columbus, while Colonel Miller was kept outside, north of the town, guarding the roads leading north, or most of them, while I had one special road to picket, along with such other duties as from time to were required of me. There were numerous false alarms during the winter, and one which brought several thousand Mississippi state troops, under the command of General Alcorn, when it was supposed the enemy intended to attack Columbus from Paducah, but after a few weeks these were sent back, and everything became quiet again. Just after the battle of Belmont I became aware of the fact that the men had become very much dissatisfied with Orderly Sergeant S. H. Starke, and he himself desiring to give up the place, I decided to appoint some one in his place.
Sergeant Starke was a son of the Hon. Peter B. Starke, of Bolivar county, a prominent citizen, and afterwards colonel of the Twenty-eighth Mississippi Cavalry, with whose regiment we were at a later date brigaded, and of whom I may have much to say. The office of orderly sergeant is the most important in a company, except that of captain, or the commanding officer of the company, and I was greatly troubled to think whom to appoint. While sitting at the door of my tent, just before the hour of evening parade, and considering the matter, I happened to look at a young man sitting some distance away by himself and seeming to be in a deep study. His name was Gadi Herrin, and he was a native of Attala county;
had been teaching school in Bolivar, and had just become of age and received a license to practice law about the time we had organized the company. I knew he was a very ambitious boy, and at once, on the impulse of the moment, I called him to me and told him I had determined to appoint him orderly sergeant. He told me afterwards he had been sitting wishing for the place, but without hope or expectation of getting it.
He did not disappoint my expectations, and his gallant services and death will later on be told.
While recalling the incidents of my stay in Columbus that winter I ought not to pass by one old acquaintance, who came across the continent from California to cast in his lot with the people of his native state, Mississippi, in their struggle for independence. His name was Ned Saunders. I had not seen him for ten years, when unexpectedly I came across him one day at General Cheatham's quarters.
His father had been a leading criminal lawyer in Natchez, and was a pronounced secessionist in 1851, and after the triumph of the union sentiment in the campaign of that year, declared he would leave and did leave the state, going to California. My friend, Ned Saunders, had soon after becoming of age formed the acquaintance of General Walker, the celebrated filibuster, who undertook to conquer Nicaraugua, and had accompanied him to that country and been raised to the command of major-general in Walker's army. While Walker was, or claimed to be, the president of that country, Saunders was married, Walker performing the ceremony. In some way, when Walker's army was overthrown, Saunders escaped, and thus did not share the fate which befell Walker, who, after holding his own for nearly two years, was driven out of the country, but was afterwards taken and shot. Ned Saunders wanted to raise an independent company
of scouts, which he afterwards succeeded in doing, and I believe did good service, though he was seldom with my command. With him came a brother, a frail and delicate man, Louis Saunders, and both remained in the confederate service till the close of the war.
I do not remember, while in winter quarters at Columbus, ever being ordered to take my company across the river to my old scouting ground but once, and this was upon an inglorious service, but I could not disobey. Some negroes, four or five in number, had escaped from the army and crossed the river. I was ordered to take my company and try and recapture them. I had little difficulty in doing this, as I knew the country thoroughly, and knew just where to send men to head the poor creatures off. I confess I felt very much ashamed of the work, and could not but be sorry for the poor fellows when they were brought to me.
Just before the army evacuated Columbus, and when, so far as I knew, there was no thought of its doing so, under a special detail from General Polk, I went to Jefferson and Franklin counties to aid in the formation of companies, and indeed to hurry up their formation. While so engaged I learned the army had left Columbus, and all our forces in this department were being rapidly concentrated at Corinth under that man of high hopes and great promise to the confederacy, General Albert Sidney Johnston. This splendid soldier I had met several times in Columbus, and felt that he was a man formed to command. How soon our hopes were cut short in his glorious death, in the moment of victory at Shiloh, history has recorded. I hastened to rejoin my command as rapidly as possible, but was too late for the battle of Shiloh. My company was engaged under the command of Lieutenant Jones, who received a severe flesh wound in
the arm, but he was the only man wounded in the company and so far as I now remember, in the regiment, for just a few days before that battle enough companies had been added to form a regiment. This regiment was commanded in the battle by Colonel Lindsay, an old army officer with, I believe, the rank of captain, who had been on duty for many years on the frontier. When I got back to the command I found him still commanding the regiment, but Colonel Miller and Major Herndon were not with it. These gentlemen, and justly I think, were offended at his being appointed to supersede them, and soon after the battle, for they would not do so sooner, tendered their resignations, which, however, were not accepted, though they were relieved from duty for a time. This left me the second in command as senior captain, and as in duty bound I hastened to report myself to Colonel Lindsay for duty. He was a southern man, but I do not remember from what state, and I found him to be a very reticent, but agreeable, gentleman. He was, according to my impression of him, some forty-five or may be fifty years old. His whole life had been passed on the frontier and mostly in forts, and, while I do not doubt he was a gallant man and a competent officer, he seemed to have no energy, and devolved on me very largely the duties be ought to have performed. His chief pleasure and only occupation, so far as I know, was in playing solitaire, for I never went to his tent that I did not find him engaged in this game, for the few weeks we were together. What became of him after he left the regiment I am not certain, but think he went to the western department. While with him the regiment was on the left of the army while it remained in Corinth. Nothing of any special interest occurred, save one day a company under the command of Lieutenant Beasely, of Noxubee county,
was attacked on picket and driven in. Colonel Lindsay ordered me to take the regiment and re-establish the line. His men reported that the lieutenant had been killed. I re-established the line, but the enemy had already gone, and, as we could not find the lieutenant's body, I supposed he had been wounded and taken prisoner.
The place where the picket was stationed was very hilly and wooded, and the next day some of the men on picket found him down a hill some distance from where he had fallen, still living, but unconscious. A bullet had hit him fair in the center of his forehead, but he had evidently walked to where he was found, for he had unbuckled his saber, which with his pistol was lying by his side. He lived some hours, but died a soldier's death. He left a son, a gallant boy, afterwards adjutant of the regiment, and destined to meet his father's fate on the battle field.
The army under General Bragg fell back to Tupelo, and there the regiment enlisted for the war, and was reorganized, and an election held for all company and regimental officers, and here Colonel Lindsay, after having superintended this election, took his leave of us.
Reorganization of regiment--Report to General Villipigue--Ordered to Senatobia, Jeff. Thompson again--His Indian army--Mrs. M. C. Galloway, of Memphis--Ordered to Bolivar county--Captain Herrin reports to me--Fights with General Hovey in Coahoma county--Congressman Hal. Chambers--His duel with Mr. Lake--Fight at Drisdoll's gin--Rejoin regiment.
From the reorganization of the regiment at a camp near Tupelo in May, 1862, commenced its real history as the First Mississippi Cavalry Regiment. Both Lieutenant-Colonel Miller and Major Herndon were present, but neither were candidates for any position. Major Herndon went into the service of the government in a civil capacity, and Colonel Miller returned to his home near Pontotoc. He left with the esteem of all the men and officers, but he did not live many months to enjoy the honor which he had gained by his year of arduous service. While living quietly at home a few months later he was taken prisoner by the federals, and while being carried away by them he made a daring attempt to escape. They were at the time passing through a broken and wooded country, between Pontotoc and Ripley, Mississippi, and, riding along by the side of the officer in command, he suddenly wheeled his horse and dashed down a steep hill and was fired on and killed.
I wish I could remember the names of all the officers elected
at the election, the last ever held, for after this as vacancies
occurred they were filled by promotion, and when necessary by
appointments from the ranks, and I wish I had the names of all
the gallant men who filled
the ranks at that time and who fought so bravely through the war, though very many were to give their lives to the cause they all held sacred. Where they fell their bodies lie scattered in many places over the soil they loved and defended, for this is the soldier's fate.
Captain R. A. Pinson was elected colonel; Captain F. A. Montgomery, lieutenant-colonel; Captain--Wheeler, major; Lucian M. Sykes, adjutant; William Beasley, sergeant-major; Captain T. B. Dillard, quartermaster; Captain Robert Ligon, commissary; Dr. C. L. Montgomery, surgeon; Dr. A. C. Ferrel, assistant. The captains of companies were J. R. Taylor, of Panola, J. L. Simmons, of Carrol,--Beall, of Noxubee, --King, of Noxubee, Charles Marshall, of Tallahatchie, --Turner, of Pontotoc, W. V. Lester, of Tallahatchie, Gadi Herrin, of Bolivar,--Wheeler, a brother of the major, of Calhoun, and J. R. Chandler, of Lafayette.
I do not remember the names of all the lieutenants, though some I will recall in appropriate places, except those in my old company, the Bolivar troop. These were J. M. Montgomery, first, Will Mason Worthington, second, and William Bridges, second, as in those days there were two second lieutenants in each company. I went to headquarters with a list of the officers elected, and they were all approved. In a few days Colonel Pinson was ordered to report with his regiment to General Villipigue, whose headquarters were then at Abbeville, Mississippi, and almost immediately on our arrival at that place I received a written order from the general to take four companies of the regiment and proceed to Senatobia and there "co-operate with Brigadier-General M. Jeff Thompson of the M. S. G.," to be plain, as I knew it to mean, Missouri State Guards. I was very much puzzled over the order, as I had heard nothing of General Thompson since I had left Columbus, and if I
had ever thought of him at all supposed him still in the Woods of Missouri.
However, my business was to obey orders, and find out afterwards what it all meant. I knew, of course, he was not to command me, but what he was doing, or what force he had, or how I was to co-operate with him, I could not conceive. I marched across to the Mississippi and Tennessee railroad, as it was then called, and which was still open from Grenada to Senatobia and used as occasion required, striking the road at Batesville. Here I heard much of General Thompson, who was said to be at or north of Senatobia with a force of Indians and other men. I got to Senatobia late one afternoon and inquired for General Thompson, but no one seemed to know much about him or where he and his men were, so I went into camp. The next morning he rode into camp about ten o'clock, and had with him one Indian. He said that knowing I was coming he had gone up the road to picket for me that night, and in fact he had ridden up the road five or six miles and spent the night with some planter, quietly and comfortably. This was all the force he had on this side of the river, or ever did have, whatever he may have had on the other side. I established a camp two miles north of town, at a creek called Hickahaly, I believe, and at once sent scouts up the road and put out pickets, and then sent a courier to General Villipigue, announcing my arrival and requesting him to be more explicit in his instructions. He merely reiterated his first order to co-operate with General Thompson. I found upon inquiry that the general was acting as a sort of aid or adjutant of General Villipigue, and had power to give passes into Memphis, or to those coming out of Memphis, if they could pass my lines. I remained at this camp some weeks "co-operating" with General Thompson, and during this time saw much of him and grew to like him
very much. He was a peculiar man, of marked eccentricity, but educated and a gentleman. He was ambitious to hold a commission in the confederate army, but this, was never, I believe, gratified. I never saw him after I left Senatobia or heard of him in the army, but learned after the war he was in New Orleans in business, and where I hope he prospered better than he did during the war. During this time I saw refugees from Memphis every day, and once I recall Mrs. Galloway, the wife of the brilliant editor of the Appeal, who was then at Grenada, to which place she was going. I would not have remembered this, but some ten years after the war, looking over some letters which I had written my wife, and which she had preserved, I found I had written her of this meeting, and of how angry Mrs. Galloway was, for she had been literally forced to leave. When I found the letters I was engaged in writing a memoir of the war, and they helped me much. Unfortunately this memoir and nearly all these letters were destroyed by fire in the burning of my office. From some remaining I may hereafter quote. After this I told the Colonel and Mrs. Galloway, the first time I met them, of my find, and she was very much amused at the recollection of her banishment from her home. One day I received from General Villipigue an order to send a sergeant and ten men to Bolivar county to investigate certain charges which had been made to him against Mr. Miles H. McGehee, the wealthy planter I have mentioned as having defeated General Clark for the convention.
These charges were, that Mr. McGehee was selling cotton to the federals, for they already had possession of the river to Vicksburg, and also in discouraging enlistments in the army. My own company from Bolivar was not with me, but with Colonel Pinson, and I disliked to send a stranger of that rank, to make such an investigation
about a man of Mr. McGehee's prominence, especially as I knew he had enemies, who would only be too glad to do what they could to annoy him. I told General Thompson my fears and that I would like to make the investigation myself, besides I wanted a chance to see my family, whom I had not seen for months. He very promptly said he would give me the order, but I doubted his authority to do so, and requested him to go and see General Villipigue, and explain the matter to him, which he at once did and brought me back an order to take the squad myself. I lost no time, and in a few days got to. the town of Concordia, where I left the squad in good quarters, with orders to wait till they had heard from me. They did not know for what purpose we had come. I hurried on home the same day but found when I got there that my wife had become alarmed at living on the river and refugeed to a place ten miles back. It was dark, but I went on and reached them before bed time. I spent the next day with them, and then sent an order to the sergeant to take his men to Mr. McGehee's place and wait for me there. The squad had been there two hours when I got there, and Mr. McGehee was very uneasy. He had about two negroes to each man waiting on him, and the men were in clover.
He had already sent for some of his neighbors, and they soon came. I told him at once what charges there were against him, but these were disproved by his neighbors, who were known to me to be reputable citizens, as well as by his own statements which would have been sufficient for me, and I at once wrote out a statement exonerating him from the charges, and sent it by courier to General Villipigue. Mr. McGehee had, however, several hundred bales of cotton hid out in the cane, as he frankly admitted to me, and this I told him I must have burned as the orders were that all cotton must be burned, except
what was necessary for spinning and weaving, for already spinning wheels and looms were being set up everywhere. But of these makeshifts, with other devices to supply the necessaries of life in this part of the confederacy, I will try to find occasion to speak hereafter. I left Mr. McGehee some twenty or thirty bales of cotton which he aid he needed, but directed the sergeant to burn all the rest of his cotton, and gave the men all permission when this duty was performed, to go by way of their homes, on the way back to camp. I have just remembered as I write this, that one of that squad was James Townes, now one of the wealthiest planters in the Delta, now living in Tallahatchie county, near Minter City. He was one of the most daring and gallant soldiers of the regiment, and well deserves the success he has met in life. I proposed to stay two or three days with my family and then return, but just as I was ready to go, to my surprise, Captain Herrin with his company reported to me. He had been ordered to report to me at Senatobia and got there a few days after I had left, and General Thompson kindly gave him an order to follow and report to me in Bolivar.
The men were wild to get a chance to come home, and Herrin did not stop to question General Thompson's authority, which I suppose he made all right with General Villipigue, as I never heard anything about it afterwards. I gave the company permission to disband a day or two and visit their homes, and then started with them back to the army. Upon reaching Coahoma county I camped the first night on a plantation owned by a gentleman named, or rather called, General Grant, at about where the Robinsonville landing now is. I don't know how the gentleman got his title, he was not related to the great man who was now fast coming to the front as the most conspicuous figure in the war on
the federal side. This gentleman had a son, a mere boy at the time, who had joined the Bolivar troop, Captain Herrin's company, and who because he was so young became the pet of the company, with which he served throughout the war. After the war he became, and at this writing still is, a prominent physician, living at Terry, in the state he helped to defend. I learned at this camp that a federal force of several thousands under General, afterwards governor, Hovey of Illinois was in camp on the McMahon place, about ten miles north of me, and that he had gone regularly into the cotton business, sending out his teams and gathering up cotton, of which there was a good deal in that neighborhood. If I am not mistaken there was some scandal about this when General Hovey was a candidate for governor, and I was strongly tempted to write to him at the time and recall myself and the operations of my command in trying to prevent his getting cotton to his memory, but I did not do it.
I determined at all events to stop him if I could, and though my force was much inferior to his I hoped from my acquaintance with the country to do a great deal in preventing him from getting cotton. I found that he was taking cotton from a place some distance from his camp, the McNeil place and neighborhood, and I moved at once to a place where I hoped to intercept him on his return to his camp, choosing a point in the cane not far from his camp on the road he was using. I got my position all right, and was snugly concealed in fifty yards of the road, and could plainly hear the noise of his men and wagons on the road, but I could not tell where they were. Just then I saw Father McMahon, as he was called, on whose place the enemy were encamped, riding along the road, and sending out had him brought to me. His first words were, "There are thousands of
enemies within a mile of you," but I learned from him they had all passed my ambuscade, and with a caution to him to say nothing of having seen us I withdrew. There was a gin house not far from me on a plantation, whose owner's name I have forgotten, but it adjoined one owned then by General Forrest, and this gin house was full of cotton, ginned and unginned, and with a good deal bailed up. From this place there was another road, leading directly to General Hovey's quarters, and I at once went there to destroy the cotton. The gin house was situated very near the woods, and I sent pickets at once up the road and had commenced to have the cotton moved, as I did not wish to burn the house. But almost immediately my pickets began to fire, and were driven in by a force I knew to be larger than mine, and who had besides the advantage of the shelter of the woods within easy range, while in the rear for two miles was an open field to the houses on General Forrest's place, but the gin house and cotton gave us some shelter, and I determined not to let them have the cotton without a fight for it.
In the fight which ensued I had several men wounded, but not severely; what the enemy's loss was, if any, I never learned, but in the fight the gin house took fire and burned to the ground with all the cotton in and around it. I then fell slowly back to General Forrest's place, the enemy pursuing about half way and keeping up a running fight. On the Forrest place there was a good deal of cotton, but there was a manager and some negroes on the place, and I had all the cotton moved out of the gin and houses and burned. Here, on the next morning after this skirmish, I was visited by Hal. Chambers, the member of the confederate congress from the district, who owned a plantation near by, and who had heard the firing of the day before. This gentleman had been elected
in the fall of 1861, his opponent at first being Mr.-- Lake, a prominent Whig lawyer and citizen of Vicksburg. In the canvass at old Greenville, in Washington county, I think it was, a difficulty occurred and a blow was given, and then a challenge. They met at Memphis to arrange for the fight, and Colonel M. C. Galloway was Chambers' second, and from him I learned after the war the details of the duel. I do not recall the name of Mr. Lake's second, but he with Colonel Galloway endeavored, as was their duty under the much abused code, to accommodate the difficulty, but without success. The parties met in Arkansas just across the river. Chambers and his second were first on the ground, and Colonel Galloway told Chambers that the etiquette of the occasion required him to salute his antagonist politely when he arrived, and this he did, but Mr. Lake passed him with a haughty stare without returning the salute. They fought with what were then known as Mississippi rifles (because it was the gun used by Colonel Davis' regiment in the battle of Buena Vista) at forty paces. Three shots were fired without result, and after each shot the seconds tried to stop it, but without success. At the fourth fire Mr. Lake was shot dead. He was a noble specimen of manhood, and his death was much regretted, but Chambers was never blamed, and though some one took Mr. Lake's place in the canvass, he was elected by a handsome majority. My next encounter with Hovey's force was at Drisdoll's gin, almost at his camp. The gin was situated in a field which I was told went up to his camp, but the field was a cornfield, then in roasting ear, and afforded a complete screen from view. The federals, I learned, had taken possession of the gin, and were ginning and bailing cotton on it. I had been joined by about fifty citizens, mostly from Bolivar county, armed with shotguns, and I determined to try and surprise the guard at the gin. Going
by paths through the woods, I got to the field without the federals being any the wiser, and sent Captain Herrin in with his company to make the attack, while I remained with the citizen force, who were without organization. He made it successfully, returning after a sharp skirmish with five prisoners, two of them wounded. One of his men threw fire into the lint room, but by mischance it did not burn. The place was too near the main camp of the enemy to remain, and I fell back some five or six miles. I could not afford to be encumbered with prisoners, and paroled them, and sent them under a flag of truce to General Hovey, who expressed his sense of the courtesy, and later, as I heard, sent me by a citizen a box of Catawba wine which I never got. There being no more cotton in that neighborhood which General Hovey could get, I moved my camp to where now stands the town of Clarksdale, camping on west side of Sunflower river. Here I learned that Colonel Pinson, with the regiment, was in the county, and I soon joined him, and the regiment then left the Delta, burning cotton as it went, for the gathering up of cotton had become a great industry on the part of the federals, and well it might, for it was then very valuable.
Brigaded with Colonel W. H. Jackson, Tennessee cavalry--Brigadier General Frank C. Armstrong--Raid into Tennessee--Fight near Bolivar--Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Hogg, of Federal cavalry, his gallant charge-- Attack Medon, repulsed--Battle of Denmark or Brittain's Lane--Severe loss--Captain Beall's presentiment and death--Gallant charge of Colonel Wirt Adams--His unfortunate fate after the war--Back in Mississippi--Move towards Corinth--Rout Federal Cavalry at Hatchie river--Colonel Pinson wounded--General Van Dorn's advance on Corinth--Battle of Corinth--Raid around Corinth--Narrow escape--Van Dorn's retreat--In the rear--Back to Ripley.
Our regiment was now brigaded with Colonel W. H. Jackson's Tennessee cavalry regiment and was either the same brigade or the same division with this gallant regiment till near the close of the war, and was under the command of colonel, soon promoted to be brigadier general, Jackson, till the reorganization of all the cavalry in this department, at Columbus, Mississippi, just before the fall of Selma. We now joined him not far from Holly Springs, and there was soon concentrated the largest force of cavalry I had yet seen together. In addition to Jackson's and Pinson's regiments there was Colonel Wirt Adams' regiment and one or two more. General Frank C. Armstrong, who had been a short time before made a brigadier general in the army, arrived and took the command, and proceeded to cut the railroad, the Mobile and Ohio, upon which the federal army at Corinth depended for its supplies. We crossed the Memphis and Charleston, at or near the Grand Junction and moved toward the town of Bolivar, but were met by a strong force from
that place, almost in sight of it, and a severe skirmish ensued, with some loss on our side and considerable to the federals. A gallant charge was made on our line by a cavalry regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hogg, who was killed in the charge as he passed through our line in his impetuous onslaught. After the federals had retired, one of the men informed me that a hog was trying to mutilate his face, and I had his body picked up and put on a fence, as I knew it would soon be recovered by his friends. We learned his name from some prisoners, and he was a gallant man, and died no doubt, in what was to him a righteous cause. This affair I suppose satisfied General Armstrong that it would be impracticable to attempt anything against the Mobile and Ohio road, if indeed the project had ever been seriously entertained, and we turned our attention to the road between Bolivar and Jackson. This road we cut in many places, but seeing no enemy except some trestle guards who were captured with little difficulty, until we got to a station not far from Jackson, called I think, after looking over the map, Medon. This place was pretty strongly garrisoned, but after some skirmishing the enemy retired to the depot which they hastily fortified, as they were determined to make a brave resistance. Late in the afternoon, Colonel Jackson sent for me and ordered me to take five companies of the regiment and charge the depot on horseback. To go to go down the principal and almost the only street would, I knew, expose the men to certain slaughter, and to an inevitable repulse, as we would be exposed to an unseen enemy for at least two hundred yards, without shelter and unable to fire a shot. I therefore suggested to him before making the attack, that I should reconnoiter the ground and see if I could not find a better place from which to make the assault, to which he agreed. Leaving the command and screened by some houses, I got to within
fifty or seventy-five yards of the depot, and from here I determined to make the attack. While looking at the depot, I observed several hundred men approaching it from the direction of Jackson, my first thought being they were a part of our force about to attack from that direction, but I was soon undeceived, for before I could get back to the line the cheers of the force in the depot, as well as those advancing, gave notice of reinforcements, which compelled us to retire. It was now dusk and we retired to the first creek we could find, and there bivouacked for the night. Early next morning we started on our return to camp in Mississippi, having accomplished all we could by our raid, and took a road leading towards a place or town called Denmark. The whole command was worn out, and decidedly hungry, since we had been out nearly a week, and away from our wagon trains, and all were glad to get back. No one expected any further fighting, and all anticipated a quiet though fatiguing march to camp. While marching along, it so happened I was riding by the side of Captain Beall, and I observed he was unusually quiet. He was always the life of the camp, a genial, jovial gentleman. At last he told me he was impressed by a presentiment he would be killed before we got back to Mississippi. I laughed at him and told him his presentiment would come to nothing, and that he himself would laugh at it on the morrow, that there would be no more fighting on this raid, but even as we were talking, firing was heard a mile in front, and we were ordered forward at a gallop. Colonel Jackson's regiment had, I think, been the first in the column of march, Pinson's second and Wirt Adams third. At a place called Brittain's Lane, and not far from Denmark, a force from Jackson, two regiments of infantry, a section of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry had advantageously posted themselves across our line of march.
The first regiment charged them at once and dispersed their cavalry which made off in the direction of Jackson and was not again seen in the fight, but the infantry were too many and too strongly posted, and stood their ground. Our regiment came up on the run, and were ordered to dismount and charge on foot, and were gallantly led by Pinson straight to the enemy. It was intensely hot, and the men suffered much, but there was no faltering. It was the first baptism of fire which most of them had ever received, and they gave promise then of that courage which they were afterwards to display on many a battle field. The ground was broken and full of gullies, but we got over in short order, and drove the enemy from their first position. As we charged on foot, Colonel Wirt Adams charged in column along the road straight at the enemy's guns, which were on a hill in the road. The guns were taken and carried to the rear, but his regiment was compelled to retire from the withering fire of the enemy, who had taken a new and strong position on a ridge the woods, but little in the rear of their first one, which for the time was held by the First Mississippi. Colonel Adams' charge was a brilliant one, and as I write I can see him as I saw him then, charging at the head of his regiment straight at the guns; we were not one hundred feet apart. Splendid gentleman, chivalric soldier, how sad a fate was his, to be killed in a street duel by a young man he ought never to have noticed, and who, fast rising to distinction as the editor of a paper, used it as some of his class do, to personally attack the character of better men to their own shame and disgrace, and to the reproach of the noblest and most useful of all occupations of modern times. He also was killed in the duel. When we got to the enemy's line, or near to it, before they gave way, I was near enough to use my revolver (I had two fine Tranters given me by my friend,
Judge Burrus of Bolivar county), but when we were first ordered forward I had drawn my saber, and forgot, when I sprang from my horse, to take them out of the holsters, where up to that time I had always carried them. I never made the same mistake again, for I discarded holsters and always carried one pistol in a scabbard at my belt. The loss of the whole command was considerable in this affair, but especially so in the First Mississippi, for we had fifty men killed and wounded. Among the killed was the gallant Captain Beall, whose presentiment was realized, the first and only one I have ever known, though I have read and heard of many. By my side was killed Lieutenant Mathews, of Captain Marshall's company as he was cheering his men to the fight. Hearing his voice I turned to look at him just in time to see him fall. Captain Chandler was severely wounded, and afterwards was made a surgeon, and his company was commanded by his first lieutenant, promoted to be captain, Berry. Other names I do not now recall. Captain Marshall I had not noticed in the fight, but when the firing had ceased, after the enemy fell back, he came to me and said he was too much exhausted to remain longer on the field, and requested permission to retire to the horses, which I readily gave him, for I was nearly broken down myself. While Colonel Pinson and myself were consulting as to the advisability of renewing the assault on the enemy by a flank movement, which could easily have been done, as we believed, we were ordered back to the horses.
To my surprise then and now, the attack was not renewed, for I am sure they were defeated, but we left them in possession of the field, and by a circuitous route got into the road again some miles from the field of the battle, which has been known as the battle of Denmark or sometimes Brittain's Lane. We got back to camp without
further trouble, the only incident I recall being Colonel Adams sharing with me a cantaloupe which by some means he had got hold of the day after the fight and which was very acceptable as well as palatable, for we were all getting anxious for our rations.
When we got back to our wagon trains in Mississippi, in a few days General Armstrong left us, for it was said that his assumption of the command as brigadier-general was premature, it being some months after this, and after Colonel Jackson had been promoted, that he received his commission. All of the cavalry also was ordered to other places, except Jackson's and Pinson's regiment which remained together under the command of Colonel Jackson as senior colonel.
About the middle of September our brigade began to move in the direction of Corinth, going by way of Ripley, Mississippi, and there turning north till we had reached the main road to Corinth, which ran parallel with the railroad, and then going directly east on this road, intending to cross the Hatchie river near where the railroad crossed it. Late in an afternoon, the sun was just setting, we reached an old village, Pocahontas, I think it was called, on a high hill from which the road sloped gradually to the river, perhaps half a mile away.
The village seemed almost entirely abandoned, but we caught a federal cavalry-man, and from him learned that a regiment of federal cavalry had just gone into camp on the other side of the river, that he had succeeded in passing the guard and was out on a private scouting expedition. I knew the ground of their camp well, for we had occupied it for some days while the army was still at Corinth, and there was a certain big beech tree under which I had had my quarters, and was looking forward to as a place of rest that night. Colonel Pinson notified Colonel Jackson, who was with his regiment a short
distance in the rear, and his reply was to charge them. He at once ordered the regiment to form column of fours and to charge, leading the way himself at full speed. The country was perfectly open on both sides of the road from the place where we left the village to the river, and the bottom on the other side of the river was heavily wooded About two hundred yards from the bridge was a two-story dwelling-house, and I had known the name of the family living there, but now to my great regret, have forgotten it. There had been no confederates in the neighborhood for a long time, but frequent federal scouts, and the occupants were at first uncertain who we were, but when they knew, just as I passed the gate, three ladies came running from the house, crying: "Oh, I am so glad to see you, but don't cross the river, the woods are full of Yankees!" It was dusk as we reached the bridge, or nearly so, a miserable concern, that only two men could cross on abreast, but over we went, the enemy firing wildly, and evidently panic stricken. The bridge could have been defended against our horseback charge by a dozen resolute men, but as we learned aftewards, all the officers had gone over to this dwelling-house to get supper, and were in it when we passed, at least many of them, including the commanding officer. These all escaped but one major, who was with the men, who told me next day he was under arrest for overstaying a leave of absence. We captured fifty prisoners and over two hundred horses, and would have no doubt got more but they escaped in the darkness. The only man wounded in the regiment was the gallant Pinson, who was severely wounded and did not recover for some months. Riding up in the gloom to a squad of men he saw, thinking they were some of his own men, but finding them to be federals, he ordered them to surrender, and some one of them fired on him. Colonel Jackson
determined to get away at once with the prisoners, and we marched nearly all night in the direction of Ripley, and next evening got safely away to that place. Colonel Pinson was sent home under the care of a surgeon.
We remained some days at Ripley and in the vicinity, until the head of the column of the army under General Van Dorn marching to the attack on Corinth had reached that place, when Colonel Jackson moved with the cavalry in the advance. We soon reached the Hatchie river, where we had so completely routed the enemy a short time before, and moved directly towards Corinth. We had gone only a few miles when we met a cavalry force, my regiment being in advance, and Colonel Jackson ordered a charge, an order that it seemed to me he was getting very fond of giving, and I must say he kept up those sort of orders for some years after. This time the enemy did not stand to fight, but we kept up a running fight with them for two or three miles, without any loss on either side so far as I know. General Van Dorn's army consisted as I remember of General Price's division and two splendid brigades under Generals Villipigue and Bowen, with sufficient artillery, but I remember no cavalry except Colonel Jackson's brigade. The cavalry took no active part in the assault on the town, though we were close in support of General Price when he gained the position at the depot. It is not my purpose or a part of my plan to describe this battle, or any other in which my regiment was engaged during the war. No one man who takes a part in a battle can do this. Only the commander-in-chief in a fight can do it, and this not because he sees it all, but because he knows the position of the various troops taking part in it and receives constant reports of what is going on. I can only tell what I actually saw myself and what part I
or the command with me actually took in a battle or fight.
The army held the position it got and at night bivouacked on the field, and early the next morning, the 5th of October, the fight recommenced with renewed fury. About noon Colonel Jackson was ordered to go round Corinth to the Iuka road, which was on the directly opposite side to that upon which the attack had been made, it being, I think, either to make a demonstration on that side or because, as was reported, that the enemy were preparing to retreat in that direction. Whatever was the reason, he went with his whole brigade, and we circled round the town, passing many deserted picket posts and not seeing an enemy. Meantime the roar of guns and small arms was incessant, until we reached a road running east, which I suppose was the Iuka road.
Here suddenly all firing between the armies ceased, not a shot was heard, and the silence after such a furious battle was almost oppressive. We could come to but one conclusion, and that was that the enemy had surrendered, for we could get no information at all.
Colonel Jackson at once marched back over the route we had come, till we came to a road leading directly from the south into Corinth, and here he turned into this road and marched straight for the town, from which we were not more than a mile away, and had not been at any time in this movement around the town, though it was never visible because of intervening woods. Where we turned into this road it entered a valley some two or three hundred yards wide, and in which all the timber had been felled as far as the eye could see on either side, making it wholy impassable except along the narrow road we were traversing.
Passing though this narrow valley, we came out on a
beautiful wooded plateau invisible before, and upon which there were hundreds of tents as it seemed to me. One solitary soldier was found in them, and no others were visible in any direction. It was still as silent as the grave. Moving on, a squadron of my regiment being in advance under Captain Herrin, we suddenly came in full view of the enemy's works on the south of Corinth with flags flying and bristling with guns.
Not a shot was fired by us or the enemy, who were perhaps not so much surprised as we were, for though we did not know it our army had retired from the west side, and it was evident from our cavalry demonstration that they anticipated we were about to attack from the south, and this kept them quiet in their works. Colonel Jackson ordered me to form my regiment, and this I did, while he slowly and deliberately countermarched the balance of the command. It was not till he had reached the narrow road in the valley, and the head of his column was well in it, that I received an order to follow, which I lost no time in doing. Nothing saved my regiment from utter rout and annihilation, except the uncertainty of the enemy as to what our demonstration meant, for there would have been no chance to escape across this narrow valley, but I determined if attacked to go directly east in hope of finding a way out. However, we got back through the valley safely and without the enemy ever having left their work. The whole thing occupied but a little while, but it seemed hours to me while I waited in line an attack which I could not have successfully resisted, and from which I saw no means of escape. Colonel Jackson pursued his way until we reached the road by which we had advanced on Corinth, and there found the army in full retreat. Our brigade covered the retreat, but the enemy were too much surprised, and, indeed, had been too badly cut up to commence a vigorous pursuit.
We were in more danger from a force which came from Bolivar, and had occupied the position at the Hatchie river, where we had crossed. This compelled us to seek another crossing lower down the river after some severe fighting at the old crossing, but at last the whole command, with all our wagon trains, were safely on the west side of the river. In this disastrous assault on Corinth, General Price's division suffered most heavily. The enemy made a vigorous pursuit almost to Ripley, and my regiment was kept continually in the rear without wagons or rations. I remember one of my boys had succeeded in getting at a farm house some cold sweet potatoes, and gave me one, a large one. I was very hungry and I began on it in earnest as I rode along, but the first thing I knew I was choking, and would have choked then and there if I had not fortunately have had some water in my canteen. It took me a long time to eat that potato, but I at last got through with it. If any of my readers have never tried to eat a cold sweet potato and see how hard it is to swallow it, I recommend them to try it. In this retreat to Ripley, a dozen times in a day I was ordered to halt and hold the position assigned me till further orders, but always as the enemy advanced, and just as the skirmishing became brisk, I would receive an order to retire to another position, a little in rear.
Finally, within a few miles of Ripley, the enemy ceased their pursuit and to my great relief retired. I was then permitted to go to our wagon trains which I found at Ripley, and for the first time in many days we all had a much needed rest, and what was more to the purpose an abundance of rations.
The army retired to Holly Springs; in fact by the time I reached Ripley, was perhaps already there, and we soon followed. General Van Dorn was a gallant soldier,
but as the commander of the department was singularly unfortunate. Within the short space of two months, he had assaulted Baton Rouge and Corinth with disastrous results in both places, and lost thousands of good men killed and wounded. But this good came from these assaults: it made veterans of the soldiers, both men and officers, and prepared them for the arduous services and the bloody battles that were to come in the next three years.
Army at Holly Springs--General Pemberton--Fight with Grierson in Coldwater Bottom--Two nameless heroes--Old Lamar, enemy advances--Evacuation of Holly Springs--Report to General Pemberton at Jackson--General Gregg of Texas--Trouble with General Jackson--Correspondence with General Pemberton and secretary of war--Grenada, court martial--Charges preferred by General Jackson-- Acquitted and ordered back to the Regiment--President Davis reviews army at Grenada.
The army lay at Holly Springs some weeks, and during that time General Pemberton arrived and took command of the department, with headquarters at Jackson. Colonel Jackson's regiment and my own went into camp about ten miles northwest of Holly Springs, while Colonel Jackson took up his quarters in that place, as a convenient place to command the cavalry, there being other regiments and some artillery at that time under his command, but not with our two regiments, where I was the senior officer in command. It was about that time and I believe before the army left Holly Springs, that Colonel Jackson was promoted to be brigadier general. While at this camp Colonel Jackson, for at the date of the order he had not been promoted, sent me an order to take four companies of his regiment and four of my own and go on a scout in the direction of Hernando, and look out for a raid by the afterward celebrated Grierson, who report said had left Memphis and was scouting in our direction.
Captain, afterwards Colonel, W. F. Taylor of Jackson's regiment was the senior officer in command of the two squadrons of that regiment, and Captain Wheeler the
senior captain of the Mississippi squadrons. Taking three or four days cooked rations without wagons, I moved as rapidly as possible and crossed the Coldwater river on a bridge not very far from Hernando, with scouts out in every direction to see if I could hear of Colonel Grierson. I could not locate him, and as I had been out about as long as was contemplated, I recrossed the river at the same bridge to return to camp. I had gone perhaps two miles from the bridge and had gotten out of the bottom and into the hills, when Captain Jack Bowles, who had formerly commanded the Lafayette county company, the first year of the war, overtook me and reported that he had a small force of scouts and had been skirmishing with Grierson on the other side of the Coldwater, about five miles from the bridge at which I had crossed, and that he was coming in that direction. I at once countermarched and went to find him, which I did, much sooner than I expected. The Coldwater bottom, where I re-entered it, was all woods and we could see but little ways. We had proceeded but a short distance and to within about half a mile of the bridge, when our advance guard after firing a shot or two, came back in hot haste. I had barely time to form, in fact my lines were not fully formed, when I found that Grierson's whole regiment was impetuously charging. My men after an ineffectual volley gave way for a time with the loss of two killed in Wheeler's company, and several wounded in the command. The confusion lasted only a short time for the men were easily rallied, and in our turn we advanced. Colonel Grierson finding, I suppose, a larger and better organized force than he had expected, retired immediately, and before we could reach the Coldwater, had crossed and torn up the bridge. I had no means of repairing it, and besides could not have overtaken him, so after
remaining on the ground that night and giving the two brave fellows who had fallen, a soldier's burial in a soldier's grave, I returned to camp. They fell in no great battle, but they were heroes of the war, and deserve all the honors which have been or can be paid to our heroic dead, most of whom sleep as do these in unknown and forgotten graves, remembered perhaps in this instance only by me, and even I have forgotten their names. They came from the hills and valleys of Calhoun county, whence many other brave men in the regiment and army had come, and many of these also gave their lives to the sacred cause of southern rights. But what are names in a military story! they die and are forgotten save in the rare cases where transcendent genius has made them a part of great events in the world's history; but the deeds of those brave but nameless men, whose heroic constancy is the rock upon which great names are built, never die; they live ever the guiding star of future generations, to incite them to like heroic deeds.
Shortly after this little affair in the Coldwater bottom, Colonel Jackson came out to the two regiments, and after a full inquiry into it in the presence of all the officers of both regiments, not only acquitted me of all blame, but praised my conduct of the affair. I would not mention this, but there is a sequel to it. We were now moved nearer to Holly Springs, and to one of the roads leading directly north from that place, for it was now known that General Grant was concentrating a large force at Grand Junction, where he had two railroads to supply him, one going north and the other to Memphis, and was preparing to invade the state from that base of supplies. Here we found Colonel Slemmons' Arkansas cavalry regiment and a battery of artillery attached to Jackson's command. The enemy having commenced their advance as was evident, Colonel, or as I will hereafter name him, General
Jackson, as he was then or very shortly afterwards promoted, sent an order to Colonel Slemmons to move the command towards old Lamar, an old village which had been built before the railroad, but afterwards abandoned for a newer place directly on the road, of the same name, I believe. Colonel Slemmons sent the order to me, as he was sick or feeling too unwell to take the command out, and as I was the officer next in rank, I took the command and moved out.
Parallel to the road I was traversing was another road also leading to Holly Springs, the two coming together some mile and a half from old Lamar, as I now remember, and it was plain from a great cloud of dust to be seen on the other road, or rather rising high above the trees which hid the road, that a large body of troops was on that road. I was under the impression that this probably was at least a cavalry force moving from Holly Springs on that road. When I arrived at the place where my road turned almost at right angles towards the other road, I halted awhile and sent forward a squadron, under Captain King, one of the most careful officers I had, with directions to keep out flankers and go as far as he safely could, and after had gotten perhaps a mile in advance, moved forward with the command. The road was now a lane between two open fields, with fences on each side, and very much cut up by gullies. I advanced slowly for nearly a mile, when I saw Captain King coming back. I at once halted till he came up, and he reported he had gone to the other road and found that a large force of the enemy had gone along it towards Holly Springs, and had passed the point of intersection before he had reached it. I immediately ordered the command, being in column of fours, to wheel by fours, and began to move back. About that time several of the enemy's scouts appeared, just as an aide from the general, whose name was Jones
reached me. These scouts had come directly across the field from their column on the other road, and were near enough to fire at my column, though without doing any damage. I could not where I was deploy the command, and therefore made haste to get out of my dangerous position. A little ways back General Jackson had halted with his body guard and the artillery, and on my reaching him at once began to move towards Holly Springs, but left the road we were on and took a circuitous route around it. We reached that place late at night, and it was evacuated by all our forces, the army going to Grenada, the cavalry remaining in the rear. Holly Springs was at once occupied by the enemy and made the base of supplies for their further advance.
In a day or two after this, and while the cavalry was at Waterford, south of Holly Springs, I received an order from General Jackson to report to General Pemberton at Jackson. The order was a great surprise for I could not conceive its purpose, but I at once proceeded to obey.
Some changes had taken place in the regiment since its reorganization; Major Wheeler had been relieved from active service in the field because of ill health, and Captain Simmons, the senior captain, promoted to major, Lieutenant Tom Kennedy succeeding him in command of the Carroll county company; Lieutenant Cravens succeeding Captain Beall, and that brave old soldier Lieutenant William Steele commanding the Tallahatchie company, Captain Marshall being sick at home and not rejoining his company for a long time and soon after resigning, when Steele was promoted to be captain. I turned over the regiment to Major Simmons, Colonel Pinson not having as yet recovered sufficiently to resume command. I went at once to Jackson and reported to General Pemberton, who wanted to know why I was ordered to report to him. Of course I was surprised at
this, as I did not know, and he requested me to call the next morning. I did so, and he gave me an order to report to General Gregg, of Texas, who was in command of the post at that time. I found General Gregg to be a true southern gentleman, and I shall always cherish his memory as long as I live, for his advice saved me from doing what afterwards would have been a life long regret.
After a long talk with him, we both came to the conclusion that the course General Jackson had taken was an indirect way of censuring me for what he may have thought was carelessness in the advance towards old Lamar, and he agreed with me that I ought not to submit without a protest. My first thought was to resign, but this he so strongly advised me not to do, and gave me so many good reasons why I should not, among others that I ought not to allow a West Pointer to drive me from the army, that I saw he was right. I was very indignant at what I conceived to be, as it was, unjust treatment to be charged with I knew not what and convicted without a trial. By General Gregg's advice I addressed through him a respectful communication to General Pemberton, setting out my rank and regiment, and requesting that I be returned to it, or if there was any complaint against me that charges should be regularly preferred, that I might have a chance to meet them. After waiting some days and no satisfactory reply being made, I addressed through General Gregg a similar communication to the secretary of war, and about ten days or two weeks later received an order from General Pemberton to report at Grenada to a court martial, a general court martial, organized at that place to answer certain charges preferred against me by General Jackson. To Grenada I repaired immediately, and found upon inquiry that General Jackson had preferred two charges of
neglect of duty, one in connection with the Coldwater affair, at which I was extremely surprised, and the other the affair near Lamar. The specifications charged me in each instance with having failed to send out a proper advance. I never knew till long after the war whether this order came from the secretary of war or from General Pemberton. But after the war my friend, General Marcus Wright, who was in Washington City in charge of the confederate war records, sent me my original letters to General Pemberton and the secretary of war with his endorsement on it to give me a trial, or for instant action if there were any charges against me. I took a copy of this and returned the original to General Wright, and I suppose it is in Washington now. I defended myself before the court martial, and I could not help being amused, while vexed, at the procedure.
General Jackson was himself a witness, and it may be supposed I was not in a very good humor with him. His testimony was fair, but when it came my time to cross-examine him I had to write my question on a slate and submit it to the court before it was propounded. Two of the questions the court hesitated about, and while they consulted we were both requested to retire, and this we did, to a gallery adjoining the room, and there walked solemnly up and down, without speaking, till we should be recalled.
The same thing happened with his aide, Jones, to whom in fact I attributed all the trouble. I was acquitted by the court on all the charges and ordered to rejoin my regiment. It was during this trouble that Van Dorn made his brilliant dash on Holly Springs, and compelled the retreat of General Grant, and this greatly to my regret I missed.
So far as I know, there is only one member of this
court now living, and that is my fried, Captain, now Judge E. O. Sykes, of Aberdeen.
It was long before I forgave General Jackson, and for a long time our relations were of the most formal kind, but he was really a good officer, and as such I greatly respected him, and the time came when it was all forgotten, as a little incident which I will relate in its proper place, if I do not forget, will show.
My gallant friend, General Gregg, to whom I owed the fact that I did not resign, was ordered to the command of a brigade in Virginia, and there died gloriously upon the field of battle, but as long as I live I will revere his memory, and I hope when I cross over the river to meet him among the first of the brave comrades whom I hope to greet on that other shore.
The following is the correspondence alluded to:
JACKSON, MISS., November 14, 1862.
LIEUT.-GEN. PEMBERTON, Comd'g, D. M. & E. La.:
General--On the 11th of this month, by order of Colonel W. H. Jackson, Chief of Cavalry A. W. Tennessee, I was relieved from command of my regiment and ordered to report to you. This I lost no time in doing, and to my surprise was informed on yesterday by Major Waddy, A. A. Gen. this department, that I would be ordered to report to General Gregg and assigned to duty here. I have been, General, for the past seventeen months in active cavalry service, for twelve months as senior captain of the regiment to which I am now attached, and for the balance of the time in my present position, and so far as I know have never been so unfortunate as to incur either the censure or displeasure of my superiors in either position. Under the circumstances I cannot but feel that the order relieving me from my command, without notice and without charges, is an imputation upon my character,
and does me great injustice as an officer. I therefore respectfully and earnestly protest against being separated from my regiment. I respectfully ask to be ordered back to my regiment, and that Colonel Jackson be required to place his reasons for thus removing me in such a form that I can meet them in a manner becoming an officer in the confederate army. I confidently appeal, General, to your sense of justice and right in this matter, and will cheerfully submit to any investigation and shrink from no inquiry you may see proper to order.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
F. A. MONTGOMERY,
Lieut.-Col. First Mississippi Cavalry.
The following is the answer:
HEADQUARTERS DEPT. MISS. & E. LA.
JACKSON, Nov. 11, 1862.
LT.-COL. F. A. MONTGOMERY, 1st Miss. Cavalry:
Colonel--In answer to your communication, I am instructed by lieutenant-general commanding to inform you that you were relieved from the command of your regiment, and ordered to this point, for the want of proper activity in the exercise of the command of your regiment. If you desire a court of inquiry, it will be ordered as soon as the interest of the service will admit of it, but at this time you cannot be ordered back to duty with your regiment.
I am, Colonel, very respectfully,
J. R. WADDY, A. A. Gen'l.
I at once addressed another communication to General Pemberton, requesting to be relieved from post duty pending an investigation, a copy of which I have not, but the answer, which I append a copy of, indicates what it was.
HEADQUARTERS DEPT. M. & E. LA.
JACKSON, MISS., Nov. 18,1862.
LT.-COL. F. A. MONTGOMERY, 1st Miss. Cav.:
Colonel--In reply to your communication of this day's date, requesting that you be relieved from duty, I am directed by the lieutenant-general commanding to say that you cannot be relieved from duty. A board of examiners will be instituted as soon as practicable, who will determine whether you are competent to command First Mississippi Cavalry. The lieutenant-general commanding is not acquainted with the particulars of your case, not having seen Colonel Jackson; he was, however, informed that such proceedings would best promote the good of the service.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. W. MENNINGER, A. A Gen.
Determined not to submit to this, and be quietly shelved as a scapegoat for another's negligence, I then addressed the following communication to the secretary of war, through the adjutant-general of the army:
JACKSON, MISS., Nov. 20, 1862.
GENERAL S. COOPER, Adjt.-Gen'l Con. Army:
General--I beg leave respectfully to ask the attention of the secretary of war to the following facts: On the 11th of this month I was relieved from the command of my regiment (the colonel being absent wounded), by order of Colonel W. H. Jackson, commanding cavalry, army of west Tennessee, and ordered to report to Lieutenant-General Pemberton. Upon reporting to General Pemberton I was assigned to duty here, whereupon I addressed to him a respectful protest against being separated from my regiment, a copy of which I send herewith, as also the answer to the protest informing me I
was relieved from command for want of the exercise of proper activity in command of my regiment. I then respectfully asked that a court of inquiry might be ordered to investigate my case, and also that I might be relieved from duty till the court could meet. In the reply, which is also submitted, I am informed that as soon as practicable a board of examiners would be instituted, who would decide whether I was competent to command my regiment.
This board, as I suppose, is to be appointed under an act of congress to relieve the army of incapable and incompetent officers, and before which I must appear as already judged incompetent by my commanding officers. I solemnly aver that I believe myself to have been unjustly and without cause relieved from my command, and I demand as a right guaranteed to me by the articles of war of the confederate army that a court of inquiry shall be ordered to investigate whether it be so or not. I respectfully state that I am a native of Mississippi; that I took up arms at the commencement of this war from no desire except that of doing my duty, as became a southern man; that I have continued in the service to the present time without ever having incurred the censure of my commanding officers; that at this time the state is invaded, and my regiment is in the face of the enemy, while I am deterred from striking a blow in its defense, and I respectfully ask, in view of the fact that no charge is preferred against me, as will appear from the statement of Lieutenant-General Pemberton that he is not acquainted with the particulars of my case, that the secretary of war would cause me to be returned to my regiment to await the action of the court of inquiry, and I respectfully ask, as an act of justice to myself, that an
investigation shall be ordered at the earliest posssible moment.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
F. A. MONTGOMERY,
Lieut.-Col. First Miss. Cav.
Upon this letter are the following indorsements:
This officer was relieved from the command of his regiment for alleged incompetency. He protests against his removal and applies for a court of inquiry, and in the meantime appeals to the secretary of war to be returned to his regiment till the result before the court is ascertained. Nothing is known of the case here, except as it is presented within. The commanding general is competent to decide on the propriety of the removal and to order the court demanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery.
Respectfuliy submitted to secretary of war.
S. Cooper Asst. In.-Gen.December
These papers are returned to Lieutenant-General Pemberton. The act of the 13th act authorizes a general commanding a department when the good of the service and the efficiency of his command requires it, and it is his duty, to appoint an examining board, and to be composed of officers of a rank as high as that of the officer complained of, to inquire of the qualifications of the officer to discharge the duties of his rank. The act proceeds: "That when such board determines the officer clearly unfit to perform his legitimate and proper duties, or careless and inattentive in their discharge, they shall make a full report of their proceedings to the general commanding, who shall, if he approve the finding of the
board, suspend the officer who has been found unfit, and shall transmit the decision and finding to the secretary of war with the action thereon. Provided, that the officer shall be entitled to be heard and have witnesses in his defense." The action in this case seems to have commenced with the measure with which it should have ended after trial and conviction. The measure of calling an examining board belongs to the general alone, and a subordinate commander has no authority to discharge from his rank and position an officer on the ground of incompetency in advance of the sentence of the board, and the judgment of the commanding general. This review of the papers is not made with any intention of prejudicating the case, nor of deciding whether the facts be accurately stated, or to question the propriety of any officer's conduct, but simply to say that upon the face of this statement, there is matter proper for instant action.
By order of secretary of war.
J. A. CAMPBELL, Asst. Sec.Dec.
Respectfully referred to Lieut.-Gen. J. C. Pemberton.
By command of secretary of war.
C. H. LEE,
Major and A. A. Gen.
As I have before said General Jackson chose to prefer charges against me regularly before a general court martial, and I was promptly acquitted and restored at once to my regiment in consequence of this action of the secretary of war ordering "instant action" in my case, for his suggestion was equivalent to an order. I have long since forgiven the men who treated me unjustly in this matter, and have refrained from giving the real reasons for it, with the names of those chiefly
responsible, for I cannot find it in my heart to say anything unkindly of any true confederate soldier. It is enough for me that I was vindicated and that I never lost the confidence and respect of my comrades by reason of this prosecution.
While the army was at Grenada, President Davis paid us a visit, the first he had paid to the state after he was elected president of the confederacy and the last till he had been released from Fortress Monroe. All the infantry and artillery were in line, and were estimated to be twenty thousand men. They presented a splendid appearance, and received Mr. Davis with the greatest enthusiasm as he rode along the long line, halting in front of each regiment as he reached its center and returning its salute. He presented a fine soldierly appearance and looked to me as young as he had when I heard him speak in 1851 in Fayette, as elsewhere related. Mr. Davis and my father had been classmates at the same college in Kentucky, and I had for a long time a letter written by my father's guardian, in 1823, from Natchez, now lost, but in which special mention was made of Mr. Jefferson Davis. This old letter would be interesting to publish if I now had it, though it has once been published in the "Greenville Times," when that paper was controlled and edited by that distinguished editor, Captain J. S. McNeilly. Only once did I ever make known to Mr. Davis that I was the son of his old friend and schoolmate, and that was when he came to Jackson after the war as a guest of the state upon the invitation of the legislature, of which at the time I was a member. He was then bowed down with age and infirmities, but his mental faculties were not impaired. It was while addressing the legislature on this occasion that he said, "My friends, I have been asked why I never have sought a pardon, the reason is I have never
repented." For him this was right; the high place he had held, the indignities to which he had been subjected while a prisoner in Fortress Monroe, all, in my opinion, justified him in living and dying an unrepentant rebel, as the government chose to consider him--a consistent and uncompromising confederate as he lives in the hearts of his own loved people of the south. Again, once more, if not oftener, I must speak of him before these memoirs, close.
Columbia, Tennessee--General Forrest--Van Dorn--Sick leave--Faithful servant Jake Jones--Cross delta in dug-out--Methodist preacher and his wife--Lost for day and night--Home--"Featherbeds"--Anecdotes--Fight of "Featherbeds" at my place--Houses all burned by Federals--Privations of the people--Return to army--Incidentals of trip--Rejoin regiment at Mechanicsburg.
General Grant having abandoned his attempt to march through the state to Vicksburg, proceeded to concentrate his forces on the river above that city, and our army was withdrawn from Grenada, and mostly concentrated in and around Jackson, Mississippi; but our cavalry brigade was sent to Columbia, Tennessee, where a large cavalry force was assembled under General Van Dorn, whose brilliant exploit at Holly Springs had given promise of greater usefulness as a cavalry commander than as the commander of a department. This was early in 1863, and this was to be a busy year for our cavalry brigade. As well as I recall it, we reached Columbia early in February of that year, and here found also General Forrest, so that we had with us the two most distinguished cavalry commanders who had yet gained fame on the left of our line of defense in the west. My health had been bad for some time, and I was compelled while at Columbia to ask for a leave of absence, and this was very difficult to obtain. I could not have gotten it if it had not been for the strong personal recommendations of Generals Van Dorn and Forrest, for orders had been issued by General Bragg that no furloughs or leaves of absence should be granted, but all sick, whether officers or men, should be sent to the
hospital. I had known General Forrest before the war, but had not before met him since the war began; and both he and General Van Dorn interested themselves so much for me that General Bragg signed my leave for sixty days. I never met the gallant Van Dorn again, for not long after his capture of Spring Hill he was killed in a private difficulty with a gentleman whose name I do not mention, in the very midst of his army, and whose daring deed and dashing escape were long the talk of the command. What General Van Dorn might have become as a cavalry commander if he had lived, can only be surmised; but all believed that he would have become among the greatest, if not the greatest, of our cavalry leaders. He had won distinction in the Mexican war, and in a fight afterwards with Indians, and the legislature of Mississippi had voted him a sword. But peace to his ashes; let his faults be buried with him, and his virtues and devotion to his cause alone be remembered.
In the affair at Spring Hill my regiment, under the command of Colonel Pinson, won new honors for him and itself; but as I did not participate in it, I attempt no description of this battle. I made my way slowly towards my home, and when I reached Carrollton, some time in March, I found that it was impossible to get home on horseback, the delta being almost entirely under water from the Mississippi river.
I had with me a favorite servant, whose name was Jake Jones, and I determined to cross the Yazoo river, and buy a canoe (or dug-out, as these little boats are called in the delta), and make my way home by water. I had purchased Jake Jones a year or two before the war, for a house-servant and carriage-driver, and he was a very bright boy, though without education of any kind. I had had him with me during the war up to that time, and kept him with me for some months longer; but so
many of my negroes had gone to the federals before the end of that year, leaving only a few old men and boys and women and children, that I determined to send him home and take a younger boy. I knew that he could if he would, and I believed he would, be of great use in taking care of my family and of the other negroes. I told him that if the south was conquered in the war he would be free; if the south was successful and he was faithful to his trust I would give him his freedom. He was faithful to the end, and without him I don't know how my wife could have managed and provided for those who were dependent on her.
Poor fellow, after the war he fell into bad habits, drinking and using that horrible drug, morphine, and one night murdered a negro woman. The proof was clear, it was a cold-blooded murder, but the jury was merciful and gave him a life sentence. Three days later he committed suicide in jail, and I was glad he had the courage to do it. Jake Jones was like many other negroes in the south, faithful to their owners and protecting and preserving their families while the owner was away in the army, but whom freedom ruined. Not many, however, of the old slaves of the south have been found in the criminal class; few of them have committed crimes, and this unfortunate one's crime was due to that which makes a fiend of any man, whether he be white or black.
I crossed the Yazoo river at or near Sidon, and for a mile or two on the other side had high and dry land on the plantation of a gentleman, whose name I forget; but he kindly consented to care for my horses till the water went down, and then sent me on in a dug-out to Mr. Waites', the old, and I believe, at that time, sheriff of Sunflower county. The water surrounded Mr. Waites house on all sides, but his yard was dry. Here I found a Methodist preacher, who was on his way to his circuit
in the Delta, just on the other side of Sunflower river, and on my route home. His name was Flower, and he had his wife with him. He had procured a very large dug-out, and when I got to Mr. Waites' he was busy trying to make it lighter, and as it was big enough for us all, including his wife's trunk, not one of the huge affairs of these days, we soon agreed to be companions as far as he intended to go, and Jake Jones went to work with him and they soon had the dug-out all right. The next morning after breakfast, and with a lunch for each, we started across the bottom to make Sunflower river before dark. When we started I inquired of Mr. Flower if he was certain he knew the way, as I wished to stop at an old bear hunter's house a little off the road, and not far from Mr. Waites', and hire him to pilot us across to the river. But Flower said he was certain there was no trouble; he had come over the road a few days before, and that we just followed the road which had been plainly cut out till we came to a cane ridge which the road crossed, where the water was too shallow to float our boat, and there we went round the ridge till we came to the road on the other side, and then it was plain sailing to the river. I let him have his way, though I was not satisfied. We got along all right till we got to the ridge and then started round it. We never did get round it, but we paddled till dark. Mr. Flower lost his head completely, as men always do when they find they are lost, and he finally agreed to give up the direction of the trip to me. I was a good woodsman, though I had never been there before. At dark we pulled up by the side of a big log, and there passed the night as well as we could. It was a lonely night, with the water deep enough to float a steamboat, and I never before or since heard as many unearthly noises, but I did not feel at all uneasy, for I knew we must ultimately strike either the Sunflower
or Yazoo river. Next morning I determined to follow an old float road in which we found ourselves, knowing that it would bring us to the brake from which the timber had been floated, when we could turn and follow it out, or to one or the other of the rivers. About eleven o'clock we found ourselves at the very place where we had turned to go round the ridge, and we recognized the place by a fence which was partly visible. It was not far to the bear hunter's, and we made for the place and found him at home. His wife got us some breakfast and he went with us to the Sunflower. We went on to where Mr. Flower had his home, and I there spent the night, leaving early next morning in a lighter boat. I had no further trouble, as by keeping in bayous I knew, on the fifth day after I had crossed the Yazoo I found myself at home, or at the temporary home which my wife was occupying, to her surprise and joy as well as my own.
Here for some weeks I enjoyed a delightful rest, and rapidly recruited my health. The water was falling and the roads to the river, some ten miles off, were open, and there was some little danger from federal raids, but not much, for I had timely notice when they were out. The federals had a camp at the mouth of White river and would now and then cross cavalry to this side, but they soon returned when they came, and, except on one or two occasions, did no damage. Once they had come to where my family was staying, and inquired for me, but were told that I was in the army; and, except looking through the house for arms, which they did not find, they gave no trouble. My neighbor and kinsman, Major W. E. Montgomery, did not fare so well; they burned his house to the ground, though his family was living in it at the time. This was about two miles from where my wife was living, and the fire could plainly be seen, and this, of course, added to the apprehensions my wife felt.
Mrs. Montgomery (the major's wife) succeeded in saving some of her furniture, and, I believe, some of the good-natured federals even helped her.
Major Montgomery commanded the state troops in the county, and had a commission from the state, but his command was considered by the federals as guerrillas. They were nicknamed by the people and soldiers "featherbeds," because they always scattered at night and slept in their own or other people's houses, and were usually safe in doing so, as raids were seldom made at night. However, on one occasion, the major and two or three of his men were captured at night. They were sleeping soundly when a raid guided by a negro, came on them. A small guard was left with them while the raid went on to another house. The house in which they had caught the major was in a small clearing surrounded by cane. They did not know who they had caught, and when the main body went on the major pretended to have something the matter with him, and asked one of the guards to walk round the yard with him, which he agreed to do. The major took care to walk in the direction of the cane, and his guard asked him about the game in the country, and if there were any bear, and if they were ever dangerous. The major told him, as was at that time true, that there were plenty of bear, but they seldom attacked men. Just then a noise was made by a cow or mule in the cane, and the major said: "There's one now." His guard turned with his gun presented towards the noise, and the major made a bold dash to the cane in another place, and, though he was fired on, escaped.
The first lieutenant of the "featherbeds" was my brother-in-law (we had married sisters), and nearest friend, Joseph Sillers. This gentleman, at the breaking out of the Mexican war, was living near Vicksburg, and joined a company from that place which was in Mr.
Davis's regiment in Mexico, and was in the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista. He was to me a brother, and, when I went into the army, to him I entrusted my family and all my affairs. Two or three months before the close of the war, he was taken prisoner at my house, where he had stopped to take dinner, and carried first to Cairo, but soon taken to Vicksburg, where he was taken sick and died. Just as I got home from the war, news of his death came to the county, and his wife sent to Vicksburg at once, but his grave could not be located, This company of home guards did a great deal of good, for they overawed the lawless element in the county, and there were, the last two years of the war, many who now and then passed through it. They cost me, however, a great loss, for it happened I had an abundance of forage on my place on the river, and they made it a frequent stopping place. One day, a transport with a regiment of soldiers on it landed at my landing, and a skirmish ensued, which enraged the federals, and they burned every house on the place, except one shanty in which an old negro, and his wife were living. Perhaps, they might not have done this, but according to the old negro's account, they had a man killed in the skirmish, while the "featherbeds" got away without harm.
I found at home this time several old fashioned spinning wheels and a loom, and spinning and weaving going on all the time. Very good cloth was made not only for the negro wear, but some really nice weaving was done for the children and ladies. Sugar, coffee and wheat flour were luxuries seldom indulged in, though when I was at home I had coffee if it was to be had, for to me it was more than a luxury, and still is. Indeed, I managed, or my wife did, to keep me in coffee even in the army, and I would often make it myself in a tin cup, first boiling the water, then putting in coffee, let it boil again,
and if I had sugar, as I generally had, stirring it all up together and when it settled drink it. All these are trivial matters, but all go to make up the history of the times when the delicate and refined women of the south cheerfully submitted to hardships and privations, to which they had been unaccustomed, while they gave their husbands and sons to a cause they deemed holy. And it was holy, for any cause which brought these virtues so conspicuously to the front, and which was consecrated by the blood of so many of our best and bravest must needs be holy, though the sacrifices were made and the blood was shed in vain. But no, I will not say that, for in the years which are to come, when the men and women who took part in the great events of that time are all gone, they will still live in song and story, and be among the treasured memories of the nation. The want of medicine was among the great privations of that time, and all sorts of substitutes were sought, especially for quinine regarded as indispensable in chills and fever, then much more prevalent than now. For this, willow bark tea and cobweb pills, and some other specific I have forgotten, were used, and would break chills.
While I was at home a raid came within two miles of me, and from a secure place in a cane break, with an impassable bayou between us, I had a good view of the whole force while they remained in a neighbor's yard, and wished for a company or two from the first Mississippi. As to the "featherbeds," I don't know where they were, all I know is the raid came and went in peace.
The waters had fallen, my health was restored and my leave about to expire, I prepared to leave. I sent for my horses and found they had been well cared for, and took leave of my wife and family. I found when I reached the hills that my brigade had been recalled to Mississippi, and had just gone to Mechanicsburg on the extreme right
of the army which General Johnston was assembling at Jackson to relieve Vicksburg, after General Pemberton had allowed himself to be shut up in that city. This was about the last days of May, 1863, or early in June, the exact date not being remembered.
Some pleasant incidents of that trip back to the command I recall, and here record for my own pleasure, if not that of my readers.
Halting one night just at dark after a long day's ride in the hills which I had reached that morning, I requested permission of a gentleman who came to his gate at my call, to stay all night and for food for my horses and servant. He expressed regret but said his house was full of friends who had refugeed to get out of the way of the enemy, and he could not possibly entertain me. I told him I wanted nothing but food and forage, and would make my bed under a tree in his lawn. But to this he was unwilling, insisting that a ride of half a mile more would bring me to a house where he knew I would be entertained I had made up my mind to go no further, and told him I was too tired and would camp where was. He was evidently perplexed, as he did not wish to be inhospitable, but while we were talking a little girl some ten or eleven years old came from the gallery of the house not far away, and whispered to him. He looked at me with a smile and said his little daughter insisted room could be made for me, and requested me to dismount.
I followed him to the gallery where there were a number of ladies and children, and took a seat. I saw at once unless his house was larger than it looked his excuse was a good one. After being seated awhile and having said where I was going, one of the young ladies asked me if I knew Colonel Montgomery of the First Mississippi Cavalry. On my replying that I was the man,
she introduced herself as Miss Grant, a daughter of my friend, General Grant, of Coahoma county, and a brother of my young friend Everhard, or as he was called in his company Leb. Grant. She was not at home when I was in that county interfering with the laudable efforts of General Hovey to get cotton. The gentleman at whose house she was now staying, Dr. Thomas L. Meade, was a relative, and the whole family, when they learned who I was, were glad I had not been turned from the door, as they all fancied themselves under some obligations to me for supposed kindness to her brother. I spent a pleasant night with this estimable family and was especially charmed with the sweet little daughter of my host, to whose intercession I owed my entertainment.
The next day at noon I came to a nice looking cottage by the road side, and hailed from the gate to know if I could get dinner and rest awhile, and was invited by the servant who came to the door to come in.
I went to the gallery and spread my blanket and laid down, but in a few moments a charming young lady came to the door and invited me into the parlor to rest on the sofa. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, she left me to prepare dinner, but not before she had informed me she was the daughter of Dr. Tradewell, and that her father was absent on professional business. I enjoyed the sofa, an old fashioned one, and was sleeping soundly when she called me to a dinner such as soldiers seldom had a chance to eat. During the meal I made inquiries as to certain families who once I knew had lived in that section of the country, who were related to me, and who had been visited by my mother, taking me with her, when I was a small boy. She knew all about them, and on her mother's side was related to them, and one of them I learned, a Mrs. Deloach, was living a few miles further on my road. She had, when a girl, lived
with my mother, and I remembered her well. My charming hostess had a good deal to ask about a certain lieutenant, afterwards Captain Johnson, of Colonel Starke's regiment, and fortunately I was enabled to give him truly a high character as a soldier. She knew him well as a man as he was a near neighbor, and as a matter of fact they were engaged to be married, and were married after the war. I left in time to get to my cousin's, Mrs. Deloach, where I spent the night. I have never seen these good people since; most of them are dead, but Captain Johnson and his wife were living a few years ago and I hope still are. The next night I stopped at a wayside tavern a few miles from Yazoo City, kept as I found, by a Methodist preacher named Pearce, whom I had known years before in Jefferson county, an earnest and sincere man. I attended his family prayers night and morning, and I was impressed with the earnestness with which he prayed that "God would deliver us from our remorseless enemies." It is a curious thing in the history of Christian nations when at war with each other, that devout men and women on either side invoke with zeal and faith the aid of Deity, and when victory comes to one, Te Deums are sung, while to the other sorrow and humiliation and often oppression are brought. I believe it to be true that out of all great wars good has come to the common cause of humanity, for "He maketh even the wrath of man to praise Him."
Another day brought me to my command, from whom I had been separated about two months, and I was delighted to be back, and received both from men and officers a cordial welcome.
General Cosby--Skirmishing--Letter to wife--Son of General Thomas Hinds--Letter to wife 4th of July, 1863--General Joseph E. Johnston, move to relieve Vicksburg--Brigade ordered forward to the attack--Surrender of Pemberton--Fall back on Jackson--Confederacy cut asunder--How General Dick Taylor crossed river--Effect of fall of Vicksburg--Pemberton blamed severely--Loyalty doubted--Siege of Jackson--Evacuation of Jackson--Judge Sharkey--"Camp near Brandon"--Letters to my wife--Captain Herrin's dash at federals--Captain Herrin captures foraging party--Lightning kills man in camp--Scout into Jefferson county, General Clark--"Count Wallace."
The brigade was commanded by Brigadier-General Cosby, who had been recently assigned to it, but whom I had never seen or even heard of till now. There were four regiments and King's Missouri battery under his command, and constituted the first brigade of General W. H. Jackson's cavalry division. The following regiments composed our brigade at that time: 1st Mississippi, Colonel Pinson; Colonel Gordon, 2d, I believe; Colonel Starke, 28th, and Ballentine's regiment, Colonel Ballentine, which regiment was composed partly of Tennessee companies and one, at least, Mississippi company, commanded by Captain R. H. Taylor, of Sardis, Panola county (who at this writing is still living), a splendid company and gallantly commanded.
The other brigade was not far away, and was, as well as I remember, commanded by Colonel (afterwards brigadier-general) Ross, the gallant Texan. Colonel Jackson's old regiment, and at the time Colonel Wirt
Adams', Colonel Ross', and some other cavalry, I don't remember, made the second brigade.
In my regiment Adjutant Sykes had been compelled to retire from active service on account of ill health, and that brave boy, William Beasley, the sergeant-major, had been promoted in his place, and Tom Wilson, a nephew of Colonel Pinson, had been made sergeant-major.
Captain Herrin's squadron, his own company and Captain Lester's, which had been detached for some time on duty near Ponchatoula, here rejoined the regiment. Soon after my arrival I paid my respects to General Cosby, and was very unfavorably impressed with his capacity as a commander, which subsequent knowledge, while he had the command, several months, only confirmed, but adhering to my purpose to say as little as possible in adverse criticism of confederate officers, I will say no more about him on that line.
We were in touch with the enemy, and frequent skirmishes occurred on the picket line with small loss to either side, except on one occasion, which I find referred to in a letter to my wife (one of the two or three I have) and from which I here make some extracts:
CAMP NEAR MECHANICSBURG, June 27, 1863.
. . . A few days ago two regiments from the command were sent out on a scout, and had a pretty sharp fight with the Yankees, capturing about thirty and killing as many more, our loss about twenty killed and wounded. Howell Hinds, who is here attached to Wirt Adams' regiment (one of those engaged) as a sort of free fighter, I suppose, was dangerously wounded. A few days later General Cosby went out with several regiments, mine among the rest, but we saw no Yankees. Colonel Pinson was out of camp sick, I expect him back
to day. . . . It is impossible to say when and where General Johnston will move, no one knows but himself.
. . . We can hear at this camp every cannon fired at Vicksburg, and some days, and even nights, the firing has been terrific. I have heard no guns yesterday or to-day. I confess I have my fears whether we will be able to save the place, but hope for the best. If there is abundance of supplies there, and it is said there is, I have no fears but the garrison can hold out some time yet, and I suppose General Johnston will certainly move against the enemy in time to save the place. But Johnston's plans are only known to himself. There is a story in camp that he told a lady the other day who asked him some questions that "if he thought his hat knew the thoughts of his head he would burn it up."
. . . This was an old story told of some eminent commander of a former age which I had read somewhere, but it served to amuse the camp, and did not lessen the confidence the army already began to feel in General Johnston. The Howell Hinds mentioned in the letter was a son of the famous General Thomas Hinds of Mississippi's early history, and was now well advanced in years, had been my neighbor when I lived in Jefferson county, and was a man of large property in that county and Washington, and I was surprised to hear he was with the army.
Learning that he was at a house a few miles only from camp, I went to see him, and he said his reason for coming into the army was that he thought the time had come when every man who could shoulder a gun should turn out and fight for his home. He was badly wounded, but he recovered from the wound only to be killed in a private difficulty not his own, in the city of Greenville, within two years after the war, while trying to separate two friends who were fighting.
Every day we were anxiously waiting for orders to advance, and expecting them at any moment, and ready at a moment's notice. The fateful 4th of July came and found us still in camp; and on that morning I wrote again to my wife, having a chance to send the letter, which is one of those preserved, and I make some extracts from that, as showing the feeling which prevailed, for the sentiments I expressed were not only my own, but those which prevailed among the soldiers.
CAMP NEAR MECHANICSBURG, July 4, 1863.
. . . We are living pretty hard at present; some days we have tolerably good fare, and others pretty bad. Every day nearly some of the boys bring me a pint or so of fine blackberries, of which there are great quantities in this country, and I enjoy them very much. Roasting ears are also ripe now, and we will not starve.
Time still drags on, and we have not yet attacked the Yankees; but I think, from the signs of the times, it will not be much longer postponed. The attack may at any moment commence, and I hope and believe we will be able to whip them and relieve our gallant army in Vicksburg, who for so many weeks have been shut up in their works, exposed to an incessant storm of shot and shell. I saw extracts the other day from the "Vicksburg Evening Citizen" of the 23d, and up to that time it was estimated fifty thousand shells had been thrown into the city. We lose about fifty men killed and wounded every day, among whom I notice the names of several valuable officers. If we do succeed in either whipping Grant or in compelling him to raise the siege, it will be a terrible blow to the enemy, one from which they will not recover during the war, and will, I believe, compel them to make peace with us.
The signs of the times are very favorable. I read an
article from an influential New York paper--[I am sorry I did not mention in the letter the name of the paper]--a few days ago advocating, in bold and plain terms, peace upon the terms of recognizing the independence of the south, the division of the territories, and the right of the border slave states to choose which section of the old Union they will attach themselves to. Nothing can now reanimate the war spirit in the north, except some great and decisive success, which will be at the same time a severe loss to us. Such would be the capture of Vicksburg. But even with the loss of Vicksburg no true southerner would despair. It would only prolong the war. A few short weeks will settle the question, and determine whether the brave little city, which has stood like a wall of fire between the Yankees and their hopes, will still stand proudly defiant or be compelled to yield to the foe. I have strong hopes--nay, I am almost confident--in our ability to drive them back. May God grant it, and peace soon be restored. . . .
This old letter, written on the very day Vicksburg fell, is of priceless value to me now. Even while it was being written negotiations were going on for the surrender, and the great and decisive success to the federals, with severe loss to the south, was an accomplished fact, though it was several hours later before I knew it.
Our command was on the west side of the Big Black river, so we did not have to cross in order to join in the advance of the army, and on the day of the surrender, and not long after I had finished my letter and started it on its way homeward, we were ordered to move. I remember that we marched till after dark, some ten or twelve miles from our camp, and there bivouacked, not far from the banks of the river. My recollection is that pontoons were laid, and the infantry and artillery were
to begin crossing at daylight the next morning, and we were to be in advance and first meet the enemy. But it was not to be.
"Alas for the Southron the struggle was o'er,
Our banners were waiving o'er Vicksburg no more;
The stripes of the Yankees were floating instead,
And the hearts of Mississippians were broken and dead."
It is thirty-seven years since this humiliating and disastrous surrender, but I cannot recall it now without anger and indignation at the incompetent man who had its destiny in his hands. Some thought he was a traitor then; God forgive him if he was; they may have done him wrong, for only God can read the hearts of men. But he could not more surely have done a greater wrong to his cause if he had been. Surrendering on the 4th day of July, the day of all others which would most fire the northern heart, and nerve it to new efforts to conquer the confederacy, when he knew that a few hours would bring an attack from General Johnston, which would enable him, if he were a brave man, to cut his way through and save his army, if they could not save the place. But it sickens me to think of it; never but once again before the final surrender did I feel such gloom and so much despair But of that time in its place. Just before the close of the war at Columbus, Mississippi, I heard Mr. Davis freely criticised by a member of the confederate congress, in an open speech, for the appointment of General Pemberton among other things, and ably defended by an eminent lawyer who was present. In its proper place I will refer to this again, and give the names of these gentlemen.
The fall of Vicksburg, and of Port Hudson a little later, cut the confederacy in two, and henceforth intercourse between the two parts could only he had by stealth. The following quotation from General Dick Taylor's book, the
only one about the war which I have read with pleasure, "Destruction and Reconstruction," will give an idea of the way communication between the two sections of the confederacy was kept up. He had been promoted to lieutenant-general, and ordered to command the Department of Mississippi, early in 1864, and was on his way to his new command from the town of Natchitoches in Louisiana:
"A grand old oak on the east bank of the Black river, the lower Washita, protected my couch, and in the morning, with two guides, the faithful Tom following, I threaded my way through swamp and jungle to the Mississippi, which was reached at sunset. A light canoe was concealed some distance from the river bank, and after the short twilight faded into night, this was borne on the shoulders of the guides and launched. One of the guides embarked to paddle, and Tom and I followed, each leading a horse. A gunboat was lying in the river a short distance below, and even the horses seemed to understand the importance of silence, swimming quietly alongside of our frail craft. The eastern shore reached, we stopped for a time to rub and rest the cattle, exhausted by long continued exertion in the water, then pushed on to Woodville, some five and twenty miles east." With such difficulties as this described by General Taylor, and his is no fancy sketch to my certain knowledge, no wonder that the fall of Vicksburg discouraged our men for a time--discouraged, but did not daunt them--for nearly two years more of bloody war, with untold hardships, was yet to come before the south was conquered. Before daylight of the morning of the fifth of July a courier reached us with news of the fall of Vicksburg, and with orders to cross the Big Black river. We crossed that day, and our wagon trains were sent towards Jackson, while the
command proceeded to the railroad, which we struck somewhere between Edwards and Bovina.
This we destroyed as much as we could, burning crossties and heating the rails, twisted them into every imaginable shape.
This we continued to do, falling back towards Jackson all the time, for the enemy lost no time in following up their victory, and marched straight on to Jackson, of which place they commenced the investment on the ninth. The city was well protected with intrenchments, defended by the army which General Johnston had gathered for the relief of Vicksburg, but we were ordered through, and crossed Pearl river, encamping in the bottom on the other side. There we remained till the city was evacuated on the night of the sixteenth, when we also fell back to take a position on the railroad between Jackson and Brandon.
While we were in the Pearl river bottom, General Pemberton rode through the camp on his way to a point where he could take the railroad for Richmond. I saw him plainly, Colonel Pinson being with me at the time, and we both pitied the man who had so signally failed when in high command. He looked sorrowful. He went to Richmond, where he resigned his commission as lieutenant-general, and retained his regular rank as lieutenant-colonel of artillery. I never heard of him again during the war, but after the war saw a notice of his death in a paper, and he died, I believe, poor and obscure, which goes far to relieve him of the suspicion of treason, which many entertained.
From the ninth to the sixteenth inclusive, Jackson was besieged, and all day long and every day, there was continual firing of small arms as well as cannonading, but we took no part in the fighting, being held in reserve to cover
the retreat of the army, for there was no purpose to try and hold Jackson.
I do not think many assaults were ever made on any part of the works with any serious intent to carry them by the enemy, who were far too wary to risk this with so great a soldier as General Johnston in command, and our loss, I think, was small, but all assaults made were repulsed, the most serious being on the twelfth of July.
Almost every day either Colonel Pinson or myself would ride into the city and observe the course and progress of the siege, and once I remember as I sat on my horse in front of the Capitol, a shell exploded immediately over my head. It is surprising what little damage was done to the city or Capitol. Nearly all the citizens had refugeed to the surrounding country till the siege was over, and many of these were in our camp every day.
Once I remember that distinguished jurist, Judge Sharkey, afterwards provisional governor of the state by appointment of President Johnson, paid us a visit, which was appreciated, for no man in the state was more honored. He was a great lawyer and a Whig, but true to his state.
The army, infantry and artillery, were moved on to Meridian, while our brigade was left near Brandon, and here we remained till the enemy some weeks later of their own accord left Jackson, their troops being mostly sent to more important places, though a strong force was left in Vicksburg. I don't know, or at least do not now recall, where General Jackson with the other brigade was at this time.
While at this camp near Brandon, General Cosby took a notion to divide his four regiments into two brigades, giving Colonel Pinson the command of one, and thus giving me the command of my own regiment.
We were inactive most of the time, but I was nearest the enemy, and one day heard of a raid which came boldly within about three miles of camp. My scouts informed me there was only one company of infantry (I suppose cavalry would not or could not cross the Pearl river), with three or four wagons. They were evidently on a marauding exposition, and I ordered Captain Herrin to take his squadron and if possible intercept them. He was gone about four hours when he returned with about sixty prisoners and four wagons filled with every conceivable kind of plunder. They made a fight, but were too much taken by surprise to do much, and he lost no men, but they had one poor fellow killed, and learning this, I sent out next day and had him burried where he fell, on the side of the road, and there I expect his remains lie till this day.
While at this camp I witnessed one day a death by lightning. A mess from Captain Turner's Pontotoc company had its quarters under a spreading oak just in front of the abandoned dwelling in which I had my quarters, when a thunder storm came up and a bolt struck the tree. There were at the time three or four men under the tree, all were shocked, but one young High, a brave soldier, was killed. He and his companions were at once brought to the house where the surgeon also was, but life was extinct. At the time, we were operating the railroad from Brandon east, and I sent his remains home with a detail from his company, and he had a Christian's burial, surrounded by his family. His father and mother were living and I received a warm letter of thanks from them. In this, he and they were happier than most of the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the war. He was a private soldier, but like nearly all the men in our army, a young gentleman of good family, and I am glad I
remember his name, and it may be there are yet living those who will be glad to see it here.
I find two letters written home from this camp, one on the fourth and the other on the ninth of August, and I quote from the first, to show what the feelings and hopes of our men then were, as well as the fixed determination which prevailed in the army.
NEAR BRANDON, August 4th 1863.
. . . "The people from all parts of Mississippi are fleeing to Alabama and Georgia, and I don't know what is to become of them all or how they are to live. I am convinced some effort ought to be made to save some negro property by sending it off, yet it is best for families in the present state of affairs to remain at home, as they will lose less, besides saving themselves the annoyance and trouble they must inevitably meet in attempting to run off. Besides, the very place they run to for safety may in the end prove unsafe. I have no doubt, Mobile will soon be invested, and it may probably fall, if the war last long. So may every stronghold we have got, still we will not be conquered, and never will we be while our army remains in the field, and our people are unwhipped.
"Never despair, we will yet have peace on terms honorable to the south. The news from Europe is by no means unfavorable. I am satisfied that Mr. Yancey's views were correct, when, on his return from Europe, soon after the war commenced, he said: 'England and France would interfere whenever they thought there was danger of our being conquered.' Although there never was danger of that, still there is danger now that the war may last a long while unless they interfere, and this they will do before the winter is over. Louis Napoleon has brought his war with Mexico to a close, and, as certain
as the sun rises and sets, he will recognize our independence, whether any other nation joins him or not.
"I believe a great battle will be fought in Virginia before long, and it will be important in its results, for just now the north is bouyed up by the hope that, if Lee's noble army could be whipped, the war would substantially be closed. . . . But, even should Lee be defeated and Richmond be taken, there are tens of thousands of southern men who never will lay down their arms or give up the contest until they have wrested victory from their enemy, and among that number, if life and health be spared, I know my wife, while she may mourn the necessity, will yet be proud to number me; for this is a struggle for all we hold most dear on earth, and eternal shame and dishonor await those who refuse to do all they can in defense of their country and liberty. . . ."
From this letter it will be seen I was pretty sanguine at that time, even without foreign recognition, the hopes of which proved to be like the "stuff that dreams are made of." I quote a single sentence from my letter of the 9th: ". . . I am interrupted by an order to march in the morning at six o'clock. The whole brigade moves, and we go towards Jackson, and I presume intend to wake the Yankees up somewhere. . . ."
The enemy had retired from Jackson, and we continued our march through the country, as far as Fayette, but saw no enemy on the way, though the enemy were known to occupy Natchez in considerable force.
Camping one night within three miles of Fayette, near which had been my old home, I solicited and obtained permission to go on that night, as I wanted to see General Clark, who was there, having been but a short time before exchanged. I found him still unable to walk, even on crutches, but able to sit up, and still unconquered. It was understood that, being unable to take
the field again, he was willing to accept the office of governor, and there was little doubt he would be elected. I met, of course, many old friends, for it had only been about eight years since I had moved from the county, but most of those of my age or younger were in the army. Among others that I met was 'Count Wallace,' as he was called, a free negro barber, a fine player on the violin of the music of that day, and to whose music I had danced the night through many a time. The 'count' had been in Port Hudson, when that place was taken, as a servant to some officer, and amused me very much with his description of the efforts made by the federals to induce him to stay with them when the command was paroled. Being a negro as black as the ace of spades, they supposed he would be glad to do it, but he told them he was a free man, and a southern man, and insisted on having a parole, which at last they gave him, and which he showed with great pride.
We did not stay long in Fayette, but moved east from that place, giving me a chance to see my uncle and former guardian, Prosper K. Montgomery, near whose house our route led. His eldest son, Jefferson, had been killed the year before, early in the year, in an affair near Charleston, South Carolina, and he had several other sons in the army, all of whom, I believe, lived through the war.
After going some distance east, we again turned north, and struck the railroad near Terry, and then again moved north to beyond Jackson, where we went into camp for some days. The whole object of our scout, I suppose, was to encourage the people, naturally discouraged at the loss of Vicksburg, for we saw no enemy on the entire route.
Camp near Lexington--Colonel Ross' Texas regiment--Camp near Richland--General Reuben Davis, candidate for governor-- Anecdote--New issue and old issue, Confederate money-- Assault on sutler's tent--Letter to my wife--Presentation of flag--Ross' Texas and First Mississippi regiments move to Tennessee valley--General Sherman advancing through valley to Chattanooga--Fights in the valley--Adjutant Beasly killed-- Ordered back to Mississippi--General Stephen D. Lee in command-- Night march after Federals, skirmish--Battle at Wolfe river, near Moscow--Severe loss in regiment and by Federals.
We moved on to Canton, and from there to Lexington, Mississippi, at or near which place the whole division for a time was encamped. While here a grand review of the division was had, and certainly it was a splendid body of soldiers and made a fine appearance. A short time before I had sent the faithful Jake Jones home with letters, the only way I frequently had of communicating with my family. I usually had two or three of my servants with me in camp, but he was the only one I could trust to make the trip safely and back. This time when he returned my wife sent with him my eldest son, a boy about thirteen years old, and he had a chance to witness this review, something few boys in the Delta ever saw. It was only about three days' ride home, and I kept him with me several weeks, and only sent him home when I thought we were about to be ordered on a distant march.
All these things helped to reanimate the spirits of the people, for however much they were discouraged, they could not fail to see that the soldiers were still undismayed, so that our time was not really lost. Meantime
men and horses were being recruited, if not in numbers at least in strength, for the severe labors of the fall and winter which were before us.
Winter quarters were unknown to the cavalry since the first winter of the war, even tents had long since become only a memory; but no matter how severe the weather, the men had learned to improvise shelter, when a halt would be made, that protected them well.
After this there was a period of inactivity on the part of General Jackson's division, and the brigades and regiments were somewhat scattered, for convenience of subsistence for both men and horses, for we had to live entirely off the country; but all stationed where the enemy could best be watched, and all always in easy reach of division headquarters, so that the command could be got together at any time without delay. This lasted in the part of the command to which I was then attached, some five or six weeks, during which time we had little to do except to keep out pickets and send out now and then small scouting parties to see what the enemy were doing.
The enemy seemed inclined to be quiet also in Mississippi, but they held the river, and also the Yazoo river, and we were on the lookout for raids all the time, and this kept us from getting too dull in camp. Some time in September, 1863, Colonel Pinson's and Colonel Ross' Texas regiments were temporarily brigaded together, and were camped near Richland, in Holmes county, picketing towards Yazoo City and other points on the Yazoo river. Colonel Ross was in command as senior colonel, and we remained together several months, and our regiment became very fond of him and rejoiced at his promotion later to brigadier general, and those who survived the war were specially pleased at the high honor paid him by his state when it elected him governor.
While at this camp the monotony was broken one day
in October by a visit from General Reuben Davis, who was a candidate for governor, and who sought the camp to advocate his claims before our regiment. By an act of the legislature, Mississippi soldiers in the state were permitted to vote for governor, and I believe all state officers. General Davis had his title from having been for a time commander of the state troops, in 1861 and 1862. He was a distinguished lawyer, and especially as a criminal lawyer, and was the colonel of the Second Mississippi regiment for a few months during the Mexican war, but resigned, and then Captain Clark of the regiment was elected its colonel, and was now, with General A. M. West, opposiug him for the office. General Clark could not make a canvass, even if he had wished, and I never heard of General West doing so, at least among the soldiers.
The regiment was unmistakably for General Clark, but it was assembled and General Davis made it a speech, which was courteously listened to. I saw General Davis for the last time in the winter of 1896 in Jackson, where he was personally canvassing for subscribers to a second volume of his reminiscences. The first had been published and is very interesting, and I had and have it, and willingly subscribed for the second. The general was as straight as an arrow and showed few signs of age, and I said to him one day, "General, I have read your book and I see you do not mention when you were born. I have known you a long time and known of you longer and I think I know about your age, but would be glad to know if you don't mind telling." His reply was, "Montgomery, it does me no good to tell my age, but I will tell you. I am now in my eighty-third year." A few months later in Huntsville, Alabama, he fell suddenly dead in the hotel at which he way staying.
While at this camp, near Richland, an amusing
incident occurred one night. Our regimental sutler, whose name was Reuff (he had been a lieutenant in the Lafayette county company the first year of the war, but was much better suited to the place he now held), had come into camp with, for a sutler to a southern regiment, a pretty good supply of sundries. He had been absent a long time and the boys were at first all glad to see him and eager to buy. But it so happened that not long before the confederate congress had authorized a new issue of money, and there was very little, if any, of it in camp, as we had not been paid off in some time. Why Reuff took a notion it was any better than the old issue I don't know, but that was his idea, and he refused to sell except for new issue.
This incensed the men very much, and they made many threats about it. A few nights after he came he went out of camp into the country and left in charge of his tent a small boy he had with him. I happened to sit up late that night, having some of the officers with me, and my fire was not far from Reuff's tent. Looking towards it I saw a group of men approaching it, and knowing the feeling there was in the camp I suspected mischief, and sprang to my feet and started to it. All at once I heard one of the men give the order to charge, and a rush was made for the tent, and I also started at a run, calling "halt" as I ran. I was nearer the tent and got to it first, but only just in time. The boys manfully admitted they intended to destroy it because Reuff would not take their money, but they dispersed at my command and did not try any further to molest the tent. Reuff returned to camp next morning, and when he found what a narrow escape he had made he became a wiser man. He took any money that was offered, and soon sold out, and had all the money in camp.
While at this camp, near Richland, the citizens got us
up a barbecue, and we had a review of the two regiments in their honor. They also presented the 1st Mississippi with a new battle flag. I quote from a letter to my wife at this place describing the flag:
CAMP NEAR RICHLAND, September 13, 1863.
. . .The ladies at Richland, a little village near where we are camped, sent us a very nice battle flag yesterday. It is the first flag we have ever had (regimental). It is, a blue flag with a red cross extending clear across the flag from the four corners, with white stars in the cross, and a yellow border all round it. It makes a very pretty appearance. . . .
It was not long before it was to wave in the face of the enemy, and before the year closed I saw two brave boys lose their lives while holding it aloft. It was our battle flag till the last battle we fought, at Selma, Alabama, when disaster overtook us, and almost the entire regiment was killed, wounded and captured.
Some time in the last days of October our quiet was broken by an order to Colonel Ross to move with his regiment and Colonel Pinson's to the Tennessee Valley, and from that time to the close of the war there was not much rest to the cavalry either winter or summer.
It was known that General Sherman was preparing to march from Corinth to reinforce General Grant at Chattanooga, and we were ordered to the valley to hinder and delay his march. We moved across the country to Pontotoc, and reached that place or its vicinity on or about the day of the election, and the regiment voted almost, though not quite, unananimously for General Clark for governor, and returns were duly made and certified by the officers who held it, and no doubt they were duly counted, for this was before the days of trickery and false
counting were ever charged. We left our wagon trains at Pontotoc, and moved, with a few days' cooked rations, by the nearest route to the Tennessee valley and struck the railroad (then Memphis and Charleston), first near Prides' station, about ten miles west of Tuscumbia. I remember the place, and that we camped several days on Mr. Prides' place, because after the war he had a son who owned a place near where I now live, and because he was an uncle of our old adjutant, L. M. Sykes.
General Sherman's advance had not reached the point we were at as yet, but our scouts soon located him not many miles away swiftly advancing. There is or was, not far from Mr. Prides' place, and about six miles west of Tuscumbia, a country church, situated on a high hill which was rocky and wooded. Along the base of the hill on the north ran the railroad, and a mile in rear of it, towards Tuscumbia, a creek. Colonel Ross determined to make his first stand at this church, and here, late one evening, we first came into contact with the enemy. Our pickets were stationed on a hill about a mile away, but the country was open between the hill we were on and the hill the pickets held. We could plainly see the attack made on the pickets, a company or squadron from Ross' regiment, who held their own gallantly till forced to retire by the increasing force of the enemy, which they did safely with the loss of a few horses and a few men wounded.
The enemy occupied the hill they had left, and brought up artillery (we had none), and soon made the hill we were on lively with shells. We had no casualties, but many narrow escapes. I remember, as I was lying on the side of the hill and looking at the enemy, a large piece of shell buried itself in the ground within an inch of my thigh, but a miss was "as good as a mile."
It was late at night, and the enemy did not advance
that night, and after dark Colonel Ross withdrew to the east bank of the creek I have spoken of. We there bivouacked for the night, and made out as best we could. It was a good line of defense if we had been strong enough, but Ross was determined to contest every foot of the ground, and he was well seconded by his command.
Our pickets occupied our old position on the hill, and were unmolested during the night. But as soon as it was day a sharp firing announced the advance of the enemy, but the picket was a strong one, and did not easily give way. The sun was well up before they withdrew, and they did it in good order and without loss, having had a strong position and being well protected. A part of the First Mississippi was placed on a hill in rear of our main line, and I was directed to take command of this and cover the retreat of the command when forced to retire, as it was certain to be obliged to do. The command at the ford in the creek bottom was somewhat sheltered by a fringe of trees and bushes along the creek, and could not see or be seen by the enemy till they had advanced into the bottom on the other side, but from the position I occupied on a hill I could see them as they came down the hill on the other side, and they advanced in considerable force of infantry. Meantime they also could see the line I held, and planted a battery on a hill a mile away and began to shell my line.
After one or two rounds they got the exact range, and shells burst all round us, but strange to say, without doing any damage. At the same time the infantry had got within range of our force at the creek. and soon engaged it, and for a time the firing was fast and furious. Ross and Pinson held the place as long as they could, but finally retired, our loss being a few killed and some twenty-five or thirty wounded. The killed and wounded were all brought off, the dead being burried near Tuscumbia
late that evening, and the wounded placed in an improvised hospital at that place. Among the wounded, was our gallant Adjutant William Beasley, but he, Colonel Pinson sent through the country to his home near Macon, a doctor going with him, and it was supposed he could stand the trip. But his wound was mortal and some days after he got home he died. He was a mere boy not yet twenty-one, as modest as a maiden, but as fearless as the bravest man in the army, and his death was long mourned by his comrades.
As Colonel Ross fell back, I advanced, but the enemy had now crossed the creek and I was compelled to retire, after a short skirmish without loss. What the enemies loss in this affair was I do not know, but it must have been at least equal to ours, and I think greater. We fell slowly back to Tuscumbia and bivouacked that night near the biggest spring I ever saw, big enough to water almost all the horses of a regiment at one time. We had no other severe skirmish, but fell slowly back, sometimes in front of Sherman and sometimes on his flank, until we had reached to near Decatur, where he crossed the river and continued his march on the other side.
As there was nothing more to do in the valley we were recalled to Mississippi, and marching across the mountain we reached Pontotoc some time in the last days of November. We found our wagon trains at Pontotoc and it was a great relief to the whole command, for we had been for weeks without regular rations, and I hardly see how we subsisted, but give the cavalry forage for the horses and the men would find subsistence somehow. For myself, I chiefly felt while we were gone, the loss of my coffee, for the small supply I took with me was soon exhausted, and the first thing I did at night was to make a large pot full and invited a few friends to help me drink it. If there is such a thing as getting tipsy on coffee, I
got tipsy that night, for after drinking it I could not sleep a wink all night. We remained in Pontotoc several days and I had many courtesies shown me, especially I remember by Mr. R. L. Coffin, then a very young man attached to our quartermaster's department, whose home was there. He is now one of the leading merchants of that growing and progressive city, Memphis. This was also the home of Colonel Pinson, and of the lovely lady who a few months later became his bride, so we did not see much of the colonel while we were there.
In a few days we were ordered to move, and went north to New Albany, and there found General Stephen D. Lee in command, with several regiments beside ours and Colonel Ross'. From there we went on to Ripley, and near that place one dark and stormy night, on the first or second day of December, we were roused from such shelter as we had been able to get, and ordered out to meet a raid advancing from Pocahontas. Colonel Ross' regiment, the First Mississippi, and Colonel Slemmons' Arkansas regiment were ordered to go. I will never forget that night if I were to live to be a hundred years old. Colonel Ross was sick, Colonel Pinson had not yet caught up, and Colonel Slemmons was the ranking officer and took command. We had not gone two miles when Slemmons sent me word that he was taken sick, and had stopped at a convenient house on the road, and as the officer next in rank, the command devolved on me.
A cold, hard rain was falling, and it was as dark as the fabled Erebus. Still I went on, sending in advance a squadron of Colonel Ross' regiment, in command of a Captain Mike, as he was familiarly known in the command, and that is all I remember as to his name. He was an Irishman, and a brave soldier, I know. We were compelled to move very slowly on account of the darkness, but at last the day began to dawn, and soon after
Captain Mike sent me word that he had come in sight of the enemies' camp, and I halted the command till I could ride forward and see it. The road was here in the woods, and I found Captain Mike had halted on the brow of a high hill which overlooked an open country for several miles, as well as I could see, and on a hill about three-quarters of a mile away the enemy were plainly visible, in camp at a farm-house. We could not be seen, nor do I think they had any knowledge of our presence. Not far from the foot of the hill where we were, was an ugly bayou, with steep, impassable banks, the only crossing, as far as I could see or learn, being a bridge.
I ordered up the command, and at the same time ordered Captain Mike to advance, and as soon as he crossed the bridge to move forward rapidly. But when he reached the bridge he found it impossible to cross without repairing it, and before he could do this the head of the column of the main body was in the valley and exposed us to the enemy. They had no mind, however, to stay and wait our attack, but immediately began to move off. I judged them to be about our force or larger, but before we could cross they had gotten well under way. I followed for about two miles and kept up a running fight with their rear guard, but could never bring them to a stand. At daylight--as I am just reminded by a letter from Sergeant-major T. B. Wilson of the First Mississippi, who is still living in Pontotoc-- it quit raining and turned bitterly cold, even freezing the clothes on the men. Finding I could not bring them to a stand, I turned back, halting a while that the men might build fires and dry their clothes.
When we got back to camp Colonel Pinson rejoined the regiment, and the whole command, under General Lee, moved on to the Memphis and Charleston railroad. General Forrest was with us, with a small force, and the
prime object of our move was to assist him across into Tennessee, whither he was going to re-arouse the people and gather recruits, in which he was successful. I think we struck the railroad near Middleton or Saulsbury, or perhaps between those places, and General Forrest having crossed, General Lee moved west along that road, destroying it as we went; and this not only for the purpose of doing damage to the enemy, but also to draw attention from General Forrest. After passing LaGrange the command left the railroad, and passing around Moscow, which was strongly garrisoned, struck the road again a few miles west of Moscow, and there tore it up again, to prevent reinforcements from Memphis. General Lee then turned and proceeded towards Moscow, with a view to making an attack on that place. The First Mississippi was in advance, with General Lee, when we reached the top of a hill overlooking the Wolfe river bottom between us and Moscow. The country was open for two hundred yards, and then a fringe of woods along the river, only perhaps a hundred yards wide.
Wolfe river was impassable, except by the bridge, for it was here a deep stream. When we reached the top of the hill, we found a strong force of the enemy from Moscow had already crossed it, and General Lee at once ordered Colonel Pinson to charge them. With General Lee at the time, I remember, was the bugler of Ross' regiment, and he sounded the charge, and went with us. I cannot but remember the brave fellow as he went, neck and neck with the foremost, down the hill and across the open, at headlong speed, doing his best to sound his bugle as we went.
We were exposed to a severe fire, but nothing could check our assault. We drove the enemy into the river, and many were drowned; some few escaped across the bridge; but never was victory more complete, for their
loss was not less than forty prisoners and one hundred and seventy-five killed, wounded and drowned, besides a large number of horses killed and forty captured. Re-enforcements from Moscow held the bridge, and we could not cross, but for a time a fierce fire was kept up, with the narrow river between us.
Our victory was not gained without severe loss in our regiment. Lieutenant Miller, a son of our old Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, was killed, carrying our flag; another brave boy seized it, and was killed; but a third who took it escaped, and bore it triumphantly through the fight. We had, I think, about thirty killed and wounded in the First Mississippi, but I only remember the name of one other killed, perhaps because he was from my county--Nat. McCollough. While the fight was going on in the bottom, the men had dismounted, and many sheltered themselves behind trees. Colonel Pinson and myself were sitting on our horses, for he would not dismount, and I would not as long as he did not, and near by was a boy from the colonel's own county of Pontotoc--I knew his name, but have forgotten it--who was snugly ensconsed behind a tree, not a very large one. He was a mere boy, but Pinson observed him, and ordered him to get from behind the tree. He did so, and was hit, not very badly; but, looking at Pinson, he said: "Now,-- you, I hope you are satisfied." I never will forget the expression of the boy's face, for he was mad. Our regiment bore the brunt of this fight; in fact, there was not time to bring another into it.
The last time I had the pleasure of meeting General Lee he was talking to me of it, and said we were just a little too soon, for, if the enemy had gotten a little further from the river, we could have gotten them all. I hope I may be pardoned the vanity of here recording another thing he said to me, and that was that he never
saw me, that he did not think of me again as he saw me charging at the head of my regiment that day. This was a few years ago, when I met him in Jackson.
General Lee is too well known in Mississippi, and, indeed, in all the south, to need a eulogy at my hands. It is enough to say that he earned and deserved the high rank he gained in the army, and that since the war he has been a citizen of the state, without stain and without reproach, and now has his reward in the love and honor of his people.
This fight ended our operations on that raid, and the command was withdrawn to the south, and I find by an old letter I have, that on the 22d of December we were again in the neighborhood of Jackson, the division being again together under General Jackson, and encamped on that date near Raymond. General Cosby had been relieved from the command of the brigade, and Colonel Peter B. Starke, of the Twentieth Mississippi, as senior colonel, commanded it.
Opening of the year 1864--Gloomy prospects--General Sherman's march through Mississippi--Skirmish on Joe Davis' place--Sharp skirmish at Clinton--Jackson driven through place--Enter Meridian--Ordered to reinforce Forrest--Forrest victorious, and ordered back to follow Sherman--Fight near Sharon--Scout toward Canton, capturing foraging party with wagons--Another fight on road from Sharon, with loss--In camp near Benton--Colonel George Moorman--Colonel Pinson goes home and marries--Ordered to Georgia--General Frank C. Armstrong in command of brigade--Letter from him.
The year 1864 opened with rather gloomy prospects for the confederacy, but by no means hopeless as viewed in the army, for it was still full of spirit and ready to try the chances of battle whenever and wherever our leaders saw fit to meet the enemy. It is but the truth, however, to say we did not often have to seek them, they were pressing us hard all along the line, from Virginia to Arkansas, and seemed determined to try and crush the confederate armies before the presidential election to be held that fall. But in this hope they were disappointed. Many a bloody battle was yet to be fought, and many a brave man on both side was yet to fall, before that disastrous day to the confederate armies should come. The month of January, 1864, was bitterly cold and of consequence there was nothing attempted or done by our command not absolutely necessary, but we were all the time in front of Jackson, from which place to Meridian the railroad was kept open.
Early in February the indefatigable Sherman, who had returned from Chattanooga after having reinforced
Grant at that place, commenced his invasion of Mississippi, an invasion which exposed our weakness in the state, for we had but little to oppose him with but Jackson's cavalry division. It is true General Polk was in command of the department and had some forces at Meridian (if there were any in Jackson I have forgotten it), but they were far too few to risk a battle with Sherman's splendidly equipped army, superior in numbers as it was.
Therefore the only reliance was upon the cavalry to delay and harrass him in his advance, with the hope and expectation that reinforcements would enable General Polk to give battle at or near Meridian, in which our division could take part. When it was known that the enemy had left Vicksburg and were advancing, our brigade was ordered forward to meet them, and we first met about ten miles northwest of Clinton, on the old dirt road, from Vicksburg to Jackson, and on a plantation said to be owned by General Joe Davis, a relative of the president.
The country was hilly and we had a very good position near the houses on the place, whosever it was, and the enemy could be seen across the fields for nearly or quite a mile, before there was any firing, on either side. It is curious how sometimes memory brings back little and unimportant things from the past, as it does to me now about this little skirmish. When the enemy came fairly in sight on the hill opposite to us they halted, and sending forward a skirmish line advanced regularly several regiments in line of battle, evidently not knowing the force we had, which, indeed, only consisted of three regiments of cavalry with King's battery of artillery which we had. In front of their line gayly trotting along as if he enjoyed the fun was a dog, and it looked exactly as if they were setting him at us. I think till
we were obliged to retire as many shots were fired at this dog as at the enemy, for the boys seemed to take it as a special insult. Whether this dog was a "mascot" brought by the regiment to which it was attached from the north or was a "scalawag" who had deserted from the loyal dogs of the state I cannot tell.
We had a few hurt in the slight skirmish and one man in the artillery killed, and got away in good order, falling back to a few miles from Clinton, being now satisfied that a large force was advancing, for what special purpose and where to go events were to develop.
At Clinton, the next morning, we had a sharp skirmish with small loss to us, and unknown loss to the enemy, and fell back to within a few miles of Jackson with the main body of the command, leaving a squadron or two to bring up the rear, one I remember from the First Mississippi, but I do not remember who commanded it. Something over a mile from the old federal breastworks on the Clinton road Colonel Starke halted, and formed again, but ordered Colonel Pinson to fall back to the breastworks, and there again form. The colonel directed me to carry out the movement, while he remained to bring up our missing squadron and look after some other matters. I formed just inside the breastworks, my right resting on the Clinton road and the left extending nearly to another road leading into Jackson, and which intersected or joined the Clinton road just outside the city. I suppose Colonel Starke's purpose was to have his retreat covered, but I had not been in position long before I discovered that the enemy was also advancing on the other road I have spoken of, and I feared that not only would Starke be cut off, but that I also would be. Still I could not leave without orders, but pretty soon the firing in the front became quite heavy, and looking up the road I saw Starke at the head of the command, coming in a sweeping
gallop, and at the same time the enemy began firing on my line from the other road. Starke seemed to have wholly forgotten me, and I had to call to him as he passed for orders, which he gave me without stopping, to mount and follow. It came near being too late for me, for necessarily my command had to fall in the rear of the column as it passed, in column of fours, going rapidly but in good order. A few men were wounded in the regiment but none were killed, but their bullets continued to sing about us even after we had crossed the railroad and gotten well into Capitol street. No halt was made, the regiment going through the city as fast as it could and preserve order. When the head of my column reached the street west of the governor's mansion, along which street Colonel Starke had turned, I saw Judge William Yerger, the greatest lawyer of that family of lawyers, standing on his sidewalk, and looking anxiously towards the advancing enemy, who by now were at the railroad. I had no time to stop, but waived my hat to him as I passed, receiving a greeting in return, for I knew him well. He was my friend, and I honor and revere his memory, and in passing pay this tribute to it.
We soon stopped our headlong race, and got down to a march, but did not halt for some miles beyond the insane asylum, going into camp, or rather a bivouac, for the night.
We had seen or heard nothing of Colonel Pinson or our squadron, and Colonel Starke could tell nothing about them, for it seemed that when he had been attacked the day before it had been with such a large force that he had difficulty in extricating the main body of his command. I feared some disaster had befallen Pinson, but early in the morning we had a courier from him, and in the course of the day he joined us without having lost any men, having made his escape by way of Madison station.
The brigade was ordered across the Pearl river, which we crossed somewhere west of Brandon, and there crossing the Meridian railroad in advance of the federal column.
We remained on the east of the railroad till we had reached Meridian, marching parallel, or as nearly so as the roads would permit with the federals, and without attempting to strike a blow, so that their march was really unopposed. We entered Meridian, I think about the eighteenth day of February, passing through, for the enemy was entering in force by one road, as we came in by another, and they nearly succeeded in cutting us off. As it was, we passed through to the northern part of town on the road leading towards Lauderdale Springs, and here halted and formed to give our artillery time to move on and out of danger. The enemy attacked us, and we had a slight loss and retired, but they did not pursue.
General Polk had retired to the Tombigbee river, and was there reinforced, but he did not advance. A part of General Sherman's plan had been, that a strong cavalry force should join him from the northern part of the state, and this was attempted under the federal Generals Smith and Grierson, but the ubiquitous Forrest was in his way. We were ordered to reinforce Forrest, and moved rapidly forward to do it, but after a day or two's march, on the second day going beyond Macon, learned of his brilliant victory, and were turned back to harass Sherman on his return to Vicksburg. Whatever Sherman's ulterior destination may have been, the defeat of Smith compelled him to change his plans. We moved as fast as we could and on the first day of March, I find from an old letter written that day to my wife, we were near Sharon, a little village a few miles east of Canton. I make some extracts from that letter describing our operation for a few days.
"CAMP NEAR SHARON, March 1st, 1864.
. . ."We have arrived here and had a little brush day before yesterday with the enemy. They advanced on our regiment and we fought them awhile, having four or five horses killed. My horse was hit, but fortunately not badly hurt, and Doctor Montgomery's horse was killed by a cannon shot a quarter of a mile in rear of the regiment. The Doctor was on the horse which was a new one he had just bought."
The doctor was our brigade surgeon and took a notion he would ride to the front where the regiment was engaged, but he concluded after he got there that his business was to cure the wounded and not to be wounded himself, and so went back, but when he had got back about a quarter of a mile, the enemy commenced firing artillery down the road, and the first shot killed his new horse, without injuring him.
To quote again from the letter. . . .
"After this little affair General Jackson ordered our regiment to make a scout towards Canton. We started, and avoiding the forces in our front, struck a road leading north from Canton, and got in about six miles of that place when we heard of a forage train just ahead of us. We soon overtook took it and captured nine splendid wagons and teams, which we brought out safely and with about twenty prisoners Colonel Pinson sent me with three companies on the right side of the road while he took the left. They got some wagons across a creek which Colonel Pinson could not cross on his side of the road, but on my side I succeeded in crossing, and followed till I came in sight of a large force drawn up near their camps, when I retired and got out safely. We were then in two miles of Canton where I think General McPherson's division is camped. We had one man killed and one wounded and seven horses killed. The next day which was yesterday,
we again advanced on the Sharon road, and I was ordered with four companies to support our battery. It soon was recalled, and the enemy advanced on me with five or six hundred men and forced me to retire, which I did under a heavy fire, with five men wounded, two mortally, one of them being Pitt Davidson, severely, whom you know. We then came to camp, and last night it rained, and this morning we were ordered out in a very heavy rain, but soon came back, it appearing that the enemy have left Canton and gone to Vicksburg or in that direction. I am in hopes now we will get our trains and get some rest. We have been in the saddle for twenty-six days without rest, and clear across the state twice, during which time I have been in five different fights, or rather five different days, skirmishing or fighting all day."
As the enemy left Canton, we followed and overtook his rear guards some twenty miles below Moore's Bluff, on the Big Black river, as I find from a letter written at that place on March the 5th, and Colonel Starke's regiment being in advance had a skirmish with them with small loss, and inflicting some loss in killed and wounded on them.
We remained at Moore's Bluff a few days, and then, at last, being joined by our wagon trains, General Jackson moved his whole division to a camp near Benton, in Yazoo county. Here we remained for a month, resting and recruiting our horses as well as ourselves.
After a week or two, Colonel Pinson got a leave of absence and went home, and while there married Miss S. E. Duke, to whom rumor said he had long been engaged. While at this camp, Colonel George Moorman, now the efficient adjutant-general of the United Confederate Veterans, and to whom this organization owes more, perhaps, than to any other one man, who had long been the adjutant-general of Jackson's division, was relieved from
duty, at his own request, for a time, at least, because of some trouble with his eyes. This was much regretted, for his uniform courtesy to officers and men had endeared him to the command. On leaving, he wrote me a letter which I hope yet to be able to incorporate with these memoirs, as it was a general leave-taking of the regiment.
While we were still at the camp near Benton, General Jackson came over from his headquarters, and he and Colonel Starke rode through the camps. They did not stop at my quarters, or pass very near them, though in sight; but in some part of the camp, not, of course, in my presence or hearing, some of the men, only a few, I believe, who thought they could escape detection, hissed at them. I knew nothing of it for some little time, and then my information came from a friend at brigade headquarters, and who was with Jackson and Starke on their ride through camp. This gentleman told me that Colonel Starke told Jackson that it was due to his (Jackson's) unpopularity that this insulting conduct had been indulged in, and he said the general seemed much mortified at it. I at once instituted an inquiry to locate the guilty men, but, of course, without success. I was especially annoyed at it, because my relations with the general had for a long time been of the most formal kind, and I feared he might think it was due to this that the offense was committed. I therefore addressed him a letter apologizing to him in the name of the regiment, as well as expressing my own regret at the occurrence, and assuring him that the regiment had the highest respect for and confidence in him, and that whatever was the cause of the misconduct it was not intended for him.
This letter I sent him by a special courier, and in a few hours received an answer, which I read to the regiment that evening at parade, and this closed the matter,
and from that time to the close of the war my relations with the general when we happened to meet were free from embarrassment, and more cordial than they had been, though never so much so as they would have been, if he had not treated me as I thought and all others acquainted with the facts thought unjustly, as has been before set out. The fact was that the insult was offered to Colonel Starke, who was extremely unpopular in the brigade at that time, though his adjutant-general, Frank Valliant, of Washington county, was very much liked, and was an especial friend of mine.
I omitted to mention in its proper place that on our return from Wolfe river, as soon as it was known Adjutant Beasley had died,--Johnson, orderly sergeant of Captain J. R. Taylor's company, was promoted to be adjutant, for which important office he was well fitted.
We left the camp near Benton early in April, the whole division moving first towards Grenada, and from that neighborhood in a short time across the state to the Mobile and Ohio railroad, and shortly to Columbus, where preparations were made for a long march to Georgia to reinforce the army of General Johnston.
It was while on this march from Grenada, and about a day's march from that place, that we were joined by that splendid soldier, General Frank C. Armstrong, who now assumed command of the brigade, and was its commander till the close of the war.
One of the handsomest men I ever saw, a graduate, I
believe, of West Point, a lieutenant in the federal army
at the commencement of the war, he soon won the confidence
of his command, and to-day he is remembered with
affection and pride by his old command. The following
is a letter written to me a few days ago by him:
VIRGINIA, Aug. 16, 1900.
COL. F. A. MONTGOMERY, Rosedale, Miss.:
My dear friend--Yours 12th inst. received. I am here for a few weeks during this very hot spell. I was very glad to hear again from you, as I always am to be in touch with my old comrades of the war. In reply, you are correct in the statement that. my first service with your gallant regiment, First Mississippi, was our raid around Bolivar, Tenn. I assumed command of the Mississippi brigade permanently one day's march from Grenada, en route to join General Johnston's army in Georgia, and remained in command until the end of the war. After the battle of Chickamauga I went with Longstreet to East Tennessee, and was applied for by Forrest and Stephen D. Lee, to be transferred to Mississippi. On my arrival in Mississippi, Lee assigned me, or was about to do so, to the command of the troops on the Mississippi river line, with headquarters at Clinton. The same day orders came to send Jackson's division to Georgia, and I at once expressed a preference for active service in front of Atlanta. I was assigned to the old brigade, each regiment of which I had known well before. Though I gave up a larger command and district, I never regretted it, as the honor and satisfaction I always had in commanding that glorious old Mississippi brigade, the First, Second, Twenty-eighth, and Ballentine's regiment, with King's Missouri battery, was my pride. Always ready, perfectly reliable, and under all circumstances and conditions efficient, it was then, and has always been since, my pride to be remembered as the commander of such patriotic and heroic men.
In Georgia and on the advance of Hood into Tennessee, and on the retreat to the Tennessee river from Nashville, they were always nearest to the enemy, and they never faltered. Often without rations or forage,
and nothing but their determination and honorable sense of duty to sustain them, they stood their ground, yielding only under orders. When we returned to Tupelo, you will remember, I with General Dick Taylor's consent furloughed the brigade, and pledged myself to him that these regiments would return at the appointed time better equipped and mounted than when they were furloughed. They faithfully kept my pledge, and returned in a few weeks better off and ready for all work. I can truly say that they were always loyal to their duty and cause and never failed me in a single instance. My love and respect for you all will only end when I am dead. If in your book you could embody a roster of the several regiments of the old brigade it would greatly add to its value, as you were always so closely connected with their services. Of the old First Mississippi Cavalry, Colonel Dick Pinson and yourself, lieutenant-colonel, as well as the company officers and privates, nothing is too complimentary. My confidence never wavered with the old First on the line. I hope to see some of my old friends again. I cannot close without expressing to you, my dear old comrade, the great satisfaction you always gave me in the discharge of your duty, as you frequently commanded your regiment. I was some times temporarily commanding the division and then Pinson would have my brigade and you the old First Regiment. You both did your duty so perfectly that I always thought it a pity it could not be permanently so. I send you a photo taken a few months ago, would you know it?
Always yours sincerely,
FRANK C. ARMSTRONG.
I know that every member of the old brigade who reads this letter will be glad to have this greeting from their old commander, who gave his name to the brigade,
and by which it is known and will be known as long as any of us are left.
Elsewhere in this book will be found his portrait from the photo he sent me, and few, if any, will recognize the dashing soldier of thirty-five years ago who led the brigade, though all will be glad to see that time has dealt gently with him.
Colonel Pinson joined us on our march just before we reached Columbus, and received the congratulations of all his men upon his marriage, as well as their sympathy in the necessity which separated him so soon from his bride.
March to Georgia--Campaign in Georgia--Join General Johnston at Adairsville, engaged at once--Letter to my wife from Cartersville--Constant fighting--General Johnston's battle order, enthusiasm of troops--Cross the Etowah, brigade in rear-- Fight at creek--Soldier's dream--Battle of Dallas, assault Federal intrenchments--Repulsed with severe loss in regiment and brigade--Letter to my wife describing the battle.
History records that the campaign commenced in both Virginia and Georgia about the first of May, 1864, and these campaigns were in fact decisive, though not soon to end, for the Georgia campaign ended with the capture of Atlanta, four months later, and then Sherman's triumphant march to the sea; and the Virginia campaign only ended when the splendid army of Lee, of about sixty-two thousand men, with which he first met Grant and won his victories, reduced to a mere handful of about eight or ten thousand ragged and worn-out veterans, was compelled to evacuate Petersburg, and then a few days later, at Appomattox, unable either to fight or retreat further, surrendered.
Of the situation at the commencement of these campaigns I quote again from General Dick Taylor's plain-spoken but well and, I think, fairly written book:
"Upon what foundations the civil authorities of the Confederacy rested their hopes of success, after the campaign of 1864 fully opened, I am unable to say, but their commanders in the field, whose rank and position enabled them to estimate the situation, fought simply to afford statesmanship an opportunity to mitigate the sorrows of inevitable defeat."
This may have been true, but all the resources of statesmanship could never "mitigate the sorrows of defeat" to the southern soldier if defeat was to come; and, in fact, no attempt at statesmanship was ever made to end the war, except the much-talked-of Hampton Roads conference, and the slogan on one side was "Union" and on the other "Independence." Statesmanship had no place in the question now; only the generals in the field could settle it. But if General Taylor was right, and he and other generals only saw "inevitable defeat" staring us in the face when this campaign opened, no such feeling existed in the army; fear there sometimes was, but no doubt yet of ultimate success.
General Jackson's division when it left Columbus to take part in the Georgia campaign was as full of hope and confidence as it had ever been, and in all the bloody path it followed from Adairsville, where we first joined General Johnston, to Atlanta, when he was removed from the command, and till he was removed, it never lost it, and even then not wholly. But this is anticipating.
We left Mississippi almost wholly defenseless along its western border and in the north, save for General Wirt Adams' cavalry brigade in the south and General Chalmers in the north, with his headquarters at Oxford, with such troops as he could gather; but the state had been so completely overrun by both armies that there was not much at the time to tempt the federals, and besides everything seemed to wait as with hushed breath the result of the great campaigns just commencing in Virginia and Georgia.
Our route lay by Tuscaloosa and Monte Vallo, and thence north, by Talledega and Anniston, straight to Rome, Georgia. This country had not yet been polluted by the tread of a hostile force, and few confederate forces had been through it. Its clear, running streams and
beautiful valleys, its lovely towns and villages, and sometimes it blue-topped mountains, all dwell in my memory yet. A few days was to bring a rude contrast to these peaceful scenes.
We reached Rome on the evening of the 15th of May, and went into camp a little east of the town, while General Ross remained on the west of it. General Jackson was not with the division, having been in some way disabled, I do not recollect how, and General Armstrong was in command of the division, and Colonel Pinson the ranking officer present, in command of the brigade. Early on the morning of the sixteenth news was received that a strong cavalry force was approaching Rome from the northwest, and they soon came into contact with Ross, and I was ordered to take the First Mississippi to his aid. The enemy retired however, having found a stronger force than they expected.
That evening late, we were ordered to move, and we made a forced march all night long, reaching General Johnston's army a little after daylight on the morning of the 17th, at Adairsville. We were at once ordered into action, and from that day till the fall of Jonesboro, on the first of September, we were incessantly engaged in fighting, scouting and guarding the left flank and side of the army. I have looked in vain for some report of the operations of Jackson's division, but except brief references, I can find nothing. General Wheeler who commanded the cavalry on the right of the army, has left an official report of the operations of his command from May 6th to 31st, included, and from July 17th to October 9th, 1864, but only twice, I believe, does he notice General Jackson's division, and these times were to give some information sent him by Jackson. The fact was, these cavalry commands never acted together, but each retained its position on the right and left of the army respectively,
or on the east and west of the railroad. In Jackson's division, the whole division seldom were together, but were often widely separated, so that what I have to relate of that campaign after we joined the army, is more a detail (partially) of the operations of Armstrong's brigade than of the division, and this I regret, for never was a braver brigade than Ross had, or one more gallantly commanded. It did its full share of all the work that was done by the division, and there was more than work enough for us all.
General Johnston in his report of the operations of his army from December 27th, 1863, to July 17th, 1864, mentions the arrival of the command at Adairsville, and so does Lieutenant Mackall, aid-de-camp to General Mackall, chief of staff. But of course no more than slight references could be made. It is to supply deficiencies of this sort as far as I can, that these memoirs are written, and I am glad to be able to write and publish them while there are some still living, who took part in all the affairs I relate.
I have said that we were ordered into action as soon as we reached the army, on the morning of the 17th, and this was to reinforce General Wheeler, who at the time was holding the enemy in check, our position being on his right, but he was soon forced back, and our brigade retired to the infantry. Almost immediately we were again ordered forward to support General Hardee's right, who had moved out to engage the enemy. General Johnston disposes of this affair in these words: "At Adairsville on the 17th, Polk's cavalry, under Brigadier General Jackson (General Armstrong was at the time in command) met the army, and Hardee after severe skirmishing checked the enemy." I cannot better describe the part our brigade took in this affair, or indeed all our operations after we reached Rome, than by quoting from an old
letter to my wife, written at Cartersville on the 23rd. I have but one other letter written from Georgia, and to which in its place I will refer.
"CAMP NEAR CARTERSVILLE, May 23,
. . . "I wrote you a long letter from Monte Vallo, Alabama, which I sent by mail to Macon. Next day after writing we started to Rome, Georgia, which place we reached after five days' hard marching. Next morning after we got there, I commenced a letter to you, to send by mail to Macon, Mississippi, but only wrote a few lines, when we were ordered into the saddle to meet the enemy advancing on Rome, and my regiment was ordered to reinforce General Ross, who was fighting them. I was, and have been since we have been here, in command of the regiment, Pinson having been in command of the brigade. The enemy retired from Rome without a fight that day, but I have been too busy since to write. The next night we were ordered forward to join General Johnston's army, which was falling back, and after marching all night, we got to him about sun up next morning. Our brigade was immediately ordered to the front to reinforce General Wheeler, who was engaged. We took a post on his right, but he was soon driven back, and we were ordered to retire. We had hardly got back to the infantry before we were ordered to support General Hardee's right, who moved out to engage the enemy, and for some time a general engagement was imminent. We went forward at a gallop, and took position with the men dismounted, and fought the enemy for three hours without giving back an inch. The loss in the brigade was thirty-one killed and wounded, only one man in my regiment killed, and two or three wounded. We fought in the woods, and were greatly protected by them. Starke's regiment, commanded by Major McBee, fought
gallantly and sustained more loss than any other. They got first into the fight and were somewhat more exposed. Our brigade gained great credit with the whole army by the fight, as they were in hearing and sight of it all. That night (of 17th) the army fell back, and we again marched the whole night to take a position to protect the movement."
I will never forget that night's march, nor do I suppose any of the command ever will. It was the second night we had been in the saddle all night in succession, with the busy day I have mentioned between, and never before or since did I feel the torture, of which I have read, from want of sleep. Many times when, from unavoidable delays in a night march of a long column of cavalry, in rear of an army falling back, and there were many such, would I throw myself from my horse into the road, as did many, and try and snatch a minute's repose. The morning of the 18th found us at Cassville, where the whole army was concentrated.
It is somewhere said, "there is no rest for the wicked," and our cavalry was like the wicked on this campaign, for we had no rest, and on this day of all others we needed it so much, but the following quotation from the journal kept by Lieutenant Mackall, before referred to, shows how we spent the 18th, or a part of it, at least.
CASSVILLE, May 18th.
. . ."Colonel Hannon just reports enemy's cavalry in force advancing on Fairmount road rapidly and four miles from here. Armstrong ordered to support of Hannon." . . .
So away we went again, and were out for some hours with only a slight skirmish, when we were ordered back. It was high time, for men and horses were worn out for want of food and rest. We passed in rear of the infantry, and at last had a chance
to unsaddle and feed our horses and get some rations for ourselves.
I had a splitting headache that night, but a night's sleep made me all right. Next day our brigade had no important work to do, but there was heavy firing all along the line, for the enemy had pressed us closely, and that day, the 19th, General Johnston issued his celebrated battle order, which was read late in the afternoon to each regiment in the army. It was received with the greatest enthusiasm, cheer after cheer could be heard in every direction, and I wondered what the enemy thought, as they were near enough to hear. The position of our division was to be on the left of General Polk, who held the left in the line of battle with his corps, and late in the evening we marched towards our place, bivouacking about nine at night on the side of a road, from which at daylight we were to move to take our place in line.
Spreading my blanket at the foot of a tree by the road side I was soon asleep, but later was wakened with the noise of troops passing on the road. I supposed, of course, they were going to take their places in line and was far too sleepy to trouble myself about them, so that my surprise may be imagined when I found in the morning that the army was again falling back. The whole army was bitterly disappointed, but no one censured General Johnston, though none knew the reason of his change of plan, and many do not perhaps to this day.
His own statement of the cause was this: "Expecting to be attacked I drew up the troops in what seemed to me an excellent position, a bold ridge immediately in rear of Cassville, with an open valley before it. The fire of the enemy's artillery commenced soon after the troops were formed and continued until night. Soon
after dark Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hood together expressed to me decidedly the opinion, formed upon the observation of the afternoon, that the federal artillery would render their positions untenable the next day, and urged me to abandon the ground immediately and cross the Etowah. Lieutenant-General Hardee, whose position I thought weakest, was confident that he could hold it. The other two officers were so earnest, however, and so unwilling to depend on the ability of their corps to defend the ground, that I yielded and crossed the Etowah on the 20th, a step which I have regretted ever since." This report was written at Vineville, Georgia, October 20, 1864. I do not see why he should have regretted declining battle on this occasion, with two out of three of his corps commanders anticipating defeat before an attack was made. It is certain, however, that the morale of the army was at its best, and if he had remained and tried the chances of battle this might have carried the day, but the risk would have been great with the doubts held by these two commanders.
As the army retired the enemy pressed forward rapidly, and our division was busily occupied on the different roads by which their advance was being made, as was also General Wheeler, in covering the movements of the army. There was skirmishing all the time enough to make it extremely interesting, but we had no great loss, probably inflicting more on the enemy than we suffered. Once during the day I was halted at the ford of a creek, and near the ford there was a railroad bridge with stone abutments and pretty good sized embankment, which I thought would enable me to make a good stand, and I dismounted the men and sent my horses back to a wood, which would afford them shelter, some two or three hundred yards across an open field.
We were hardly ready for them before they came on,
but, as they were exposed, a sharp volley checked them, and drove them back to shelter, and then commenced a lively fusilade at long range, till they brought up artillery, and I was forced to retire. Some way or another, a report got back to the ambulances which were with the horses that I was badly wounded, and our assistant surgeon, Dr. Perrell, came across the exposed field as fast as his horse could run, but fortunately I had not been hit, and he escaped, though it was almost miraculous that he did, for this little open field was swept by the bullets which were fired at us at the bridge. But the doctor was a dear friend of mine, a good surgeon and a brave soldier, and he would have run a greater risk to aid me, if he thought I needed it. He had gone out as a private, as did many other young physicians, at the beginning of the war, and was from Lafayette county, where a few years after the war he died. I kept him with me at the bridge till I retired, and then, by availing myself of the railroad embankment, we got to our horses, with only a few wounded, and none badly. I don't know whether it will interest my readers, but it is of supreme interest to me, and I will quote again from the Cartersville letter, from which I have already made some extracts:
". . . Next day, General Johnston issued a battle order, and we all expected a great fight to come off, but in the night he again fell back this side of the Etowah, where we now are, and where, if the enemy crosses, he will doubtless fight. I fought the Yankees all day yesterday--the last day's retreat to this place--had only a few horses and men wounded, but I can't give you any description of the fights. . . .I am in hopes the main battle will soon come off, as I have to fight and be exposed almost every day anyhow, and the sooner it comes off, the better for me. The army is in fine spirits, and have the most unbounded confidence in their general.
. . . I had a real soldier's dream the other night of wife and children and home, but, like the soldier in the song,
returned with the dawning of morn
And the voice in my dreaming ear melted away.'
". . . I firmly believe, that if we continue successful a few months longer, the war will close this year, and, as God has hitherto protected me so long amid so many dangers, I trust it is not presumption in me to hope for his protection to the end." . . . It is a little curious to me that, though constantly falling back, I thought then that we were successful. I suppose it must have been that, so far as the mere fighting was concerned, we always held our own, as General Armstrong, in his letter, says, never "yielding except under orders," and for another reason, that the confidence in General Johnston was so great that we all felt that he would at last crush Sherman's army, and I believe he would have done it, if he had not been removed from the command. Besides, I made it a rule always to write home cheerfully, for it was had enough there anyway without the apprehension of defeat.
On the afternoon of the 23d, the day my letter was written, our brigade was ten or twelve miles to the west of Cartersville, observing the enemy, who that evening crossed the Etowah at Stilesborough, of which General Johnston was duly apprised, as appears from his report "that Jackson's troops reported enemy moving down Etowah, which they crossed at Stilesborough on 23d." Our brigade fell back slowly, and on the 25th found ourselves in rear and to the left of General Hood's corps, which had its center at New Hope Church, and where a desperate assault was made late that evening, with a bloody repulse to the enemy, whose loss was estimated at three thousand killed and wounded, and our loss about
four hundred and fifty. This battle lasted about two hours, and we were in full hearing of the horrid roar of the guns without taking any part, for we had other duties assigned to us. On the 26th we moved still farther to the left, and on the 27th another fierce assault was made on Cleburne's division, with about the same loss to the enemy and to us. Generals Polk and Hardee had fallen back a little south of Dallas, where the enemy had arrived on the 25th, and had intrenched. I take these figures and dates from General Johnston's report before alluded to. On the morning of the 28th of May we--our brigade under General Armstrong, for General Jackson was now in command of his division--were in rear of the left of General Polk's corps, which had its left intrenched in front of the enemy before Dallas. General Johnston disposes of the events of that day by saying, the "usual skirmishing was kept up." Armstrong's brigade did not consider it a skirmish in which late in the day they were engaged, nor was it, as the account will show. While resting quietly about half a mile in rear of our works and listening to the incessant rattle of small arms with the occasional bursting of shells, sometimes in the tree-tops over our heads, General Armstrong received an order to leave only his horse-holders and move his brigade up and occupy the trenches on the left which had been vacated by a brigade of infantry moved to some other point. We did not reach the trenches without having a few wounded, for the enemy's fire of small arms was constant, and we had to cross an open field to get to our place. Once there, we were safe enough if we kept under the shelter of the works, but several men were wounded and one killed by incautiously exposing himself. Colonel Pinson went to where Armstrong was, near the center of the brigade (we were on its right), and as I saw nothing to do, I walked carefully along the works to a battery on a hill just a
little ways off, and where the left of General Bates' division rested. In our front was thick woods, and though the enemy's works were not more than two hundred yards away, we could not see them, and this I hoped to be able to do from this hill where the battery was. I stopped a moment to look through an embrasure at the battery, and a half dozen minie-balls hissed viciously by my head, and I quickly got behind the fortification. One of the artillery men said to me, "You made a narrow escape; I have seen several men killed and wounded at that place." If he had warned me beforehand it would have been more to the purpose. I caught, however, a good look at a part of their works, which seemed very strong, and I had no doubt were well manned. I returned in a few minutes to the regiment, taking good care as I passed the embrasure, and a little later Colonel Pinson came back and informed me General Armstrong had received an order from General Bates, at a given signal (a cannon-shot) to assault the enemy's works on our front. He said, further, that General Bates was of the opinion that the enemy had only a skirmish line in the works, and that his division would advance as we did. I told Pinson what I had seen, and that I was satisfied the enemy were in their works in force, for it was certain they had artillery, but, of course, we were powerless, and had nothing to do but obey. It was late in the afternoon when the shot came, and the whole brigade with a cheer scaled the works and dashed forward. I felt we were going to a useless slaughter of brave men, for if there was only a skirmish line it would be withdrawn at night, but if the enemy were in force nothing but disaster could come of the assault. I copy from the last letter written from Georgia home which was received and has escaped destruction, written the next day, and briefly describing the battle:
"CAMP NEAR DALLAS, GEORGIA, May 29,
". . . This place is about thirty miles northwest of Atlanta, and our army is drawn up in line of battle from here to the railroad at Marietta, about fifteen miles east. I wrote to you some days ago from near Cartersville, some twenty-five miles north of here. The enemy flanked our position there, and General Johnston threw his army in their front here. There has been constant skirmishing for some days, with occasionally a desperate battle on some part of the line, but as yet nothing decisive. Both armies are in line of battle and fortified only a few hundred yards apart. Minie balls, shot and shell are continually flying, even over our camps a short distance in rear of the works. On yesterday our brigade was in the breast-works, occupying the extreme left of our army. The enemy were only a few hundred yards from us, and we were ordered at a given signal to scale the works and advance, and it was understood a division of infantry on our right was to advance at the same time. Our regiment occupied the right of our brigade next to the infantry. The signal was given and over and at them we went, driving them into their works and capturing a battery. The infantry on our right failed to move forward, and we were compelled to retire and leave the guns and our gallant dead and some of the wounded on the field. We brought off some prisoners, and killed a good many Yankees, but lost some of our best officers and men. The gallant and chivalrous captain of the Bolivar troop, Captain Herrin, fell dead at the head of his company, and right at the enemy's guns. Two men of his company, brave soldiers. Bishop and Reneau, were killed at his side. Will. Montgomery, Charley Jones and Barnet were wounded, but we brought them off; some others of my old company were hit, but not badly hurt. We lost besides in the regiment Captain Turner, of Pontotoc,
mortally wounded (he died a day or two later), and Captain Lester, dangerously, and about twenty men killed and wounded in the regiment.
"The other regiments in the brigade suffered about equally in the loss of officers and men. Captain Clanton, of Starke's regiment, who was in Bolivar, and whom you knew, was killed. Two field, officers of my rank in the brigade, were wounded, one reported mortally. . . . If the infantry had advanced, we could have held their works and would probably have taken several hundred prisoners. We were relieved from the breast-works a little while ago and are now camped about half a mile from them, having lain on them all night." . . .
Our charge was down one hill and up another in front of the First Mississippi, the enemy's battery being on the crest of the hill and in our immediate front. Just behind it were strong works literally filled with soldiers, and it was impossible to hold what we had gained.
We got back to our own works and reoccupied them, momentarily expecting and indeed hoping to be assaulted in our turn, as we felt sure we could repulse any attack made on us. But the enemy contented themselves with heavy firing of small arms and cannon till it was after dark, and in fact all through the night it was more or less heavy.
I always thought and still think "somebody blundered." I know it was not General Armstrong, who led his brigade and was in the thick of the fight. Three or four days after this letter was written, we found their works abandoned, and Pinson sent a detail to recover the bodies of our dead. Captain Herrin and the two men of his company were found in a shallow grave at the place where they fell, and were given a more decent burial, as were the other dead of the regiment and brigade. A decent burial meant deeper graves, so that their bones
might lie undisturbed till they had all crumbled into dust, and become a part of that earth from which it is said they once had come.
We reached General Johnston at Adairville, on the 17th, and this battle was fought on the 28th, twelve days of continuous skirmishing, and at times severe fighting as related, and this was our brigade's introduction to that army and to that general, upon whom it seemed to me then and seems to me now, the hopes of the confederacy rested.
Lost Mountain, constant fighting--General Polk killed, regret at at his death--Armstrong's scout to the rear, destroys railroad and captures prisoners--Returns to army and orders me to remain twenty four hours in his rear--Escape without loss-- Mississippi lady refugee refuses forage--Compelled to take it-- Back to camp--Cross Chattahooche river, and ordered to intercept cavalry raid near Newman--General Johnston relieved, and General Hood in command--Regret, almost despair, in the army--General Dick Taylor's account of trouble between Mr. Davis and General Johnston--Brigade ordered to Atlanta, regiment ordered to battle-ground of 22d of July.
When the enemy withdrew from our immediate front, about the second of June, it was because they were gradually extending their line in front of our right flank, and now began a game of strategy between those two great masters of the art of war, Johnston and Sherman, in which the one with a greatly superior force, was to succeed in forcing the other back to Atlanta. This game was to continue more than a month after our affair at Dallas, and every day there was heavy skirmishing varied now and then by severe assaults on our works. Thousands on both sides lost their lives, and all this time our cavalry remained on the left of the army, and there was scarcely a day in which we also were not engaged with some though generally light loss.
The enemy had a well-equipped cavalry force of about fifteen thousand, as estimated by General Johnston, and our division did not, I think, number more than four thousand men, so that we on the left as well as General Wheeler on the right, were busy all the time in watching
and resisting the incessant movements of their cavalry to keep them from getting behind our army. They were bold and daring, and gave us much trouble, but no serious engagement that I can recall took place, in which our cavalry was engaged during the month of June, though as I have said, we were all the time busy. On the 5th of June our brigade was at Lost Mountain, and from its top we had a good view of the enemy, and at its base a skirmish with them.
On the 14th of June, General Polk was killed, and his death was a great loss to the army and to our cause. Not only was he a brave soldier, but he was a competent commander, and it was believed, and I think it was true, that he had a well deserved influence with President Davis. They had been, as I remember, class-mates at West Point, and were more than that, for they were warm personal friends, and it may be if he had lived he might have prevented that serious disaster to our army, the removal of General Johnston, and it is certain he would have tried to do it. He had entered the army at Mr. Davis' personal request, so it was said, when he first came to Columbus to assume command there, where I had the honor to make his personal acquaintance, and I formed the highest opinion of his character as a man, and his ability as a soldier. I always associated General Polk in my mind, with Bishop Compton of England, who assisted the princess, afterwards Queen Anne, in making her escape from London to join the Prince of Orange, after he had landed in England. Macaulay says of this fighting bishop, that "he wholly laid aside for the time his sacerdotal character. Danger and conflict had rekindled in him all the military ardor which he had twenty-eight years before, when he rode in the Life Guards. He preceded the princess' carriage in a buff coat and jackboots, with a sword at his side and pistols in his holsters."
So with General Polk, when danger threatened his country, the military ardor engendered by his education at West Point revived, and he gave up his holy calling for one he deemed as sacred, and to which he became a martyr. I recall that on the day before he was killed, Colonel Pinson had spent the day at his headquarters, and on his return to his regiment in the evening, he told me that General Polk had told him he intended to recommend his promotion to the rank of brigadier general, and there is no doubt if General Polk had lived a little while longer, this well earned promotion would have been given to one of the best of all the cavalry colonels in the service. A man who knew no fear, who shirked no duty, who sought no soft places, but always roughed it with his men. But it is not yet time to speak of Pinson as he deserves, but I hope to find a place to do it.
The enemy had repaired the bridge across the Etowah river, which we had destroyed, and had, it was said, established, or was about to do so, a depot of supplies at Alatoona, some twenty-five or thirty miles north of Kennesaw Mountain, where our line was from the 19th of June till about the 2nd of July, the enemy intrenched as usual close to our line. Some time in the last days of June, General Armstrong was ordered to take a detachment from his brigade, and to cut the railroad between the Etowah and Alatoona. I think about twenty-five men from each company in the brigade were ordered to take five days' cooked rations and prepare to go, care being taken to select those men whose horses were in best condition. I was directed to take command of the detachment from my regiment. No one knew, of course, the object of the move, or where we were going, except the commanding officers from each regiment, as it was of the last importance to the object of the expedition that we should get into the rear of the federal army without
it being known, otherwise we would certainly have been followed, and perhaps compelled to return. By moving directly west for some miles, and then suddenly turning north, Armstrong succeeded in getting entirely in rear of the federals, and soon too far away to be overtaken before we could strike the railroad. Whether we could get out afterwards was another matter; it was time enough to think of that when it became necessary. We passed, I remember, through the old battle ground of the 25th at New Hope Church, and to our astonishment, every tree between the lines (they were all oak of good size) was dead, killed by the inumerable bullets, which had hit them, it seemed to me, from the top to the bottom. Passing as rapidly as possible onwards, we finally struck the railroad a little north of Alatoona, dispersing a force of infantry and some cavalry, and capturing about forty prisoners, without loss on our side. Armstrong's force was eight or nine hundred men, and he found that Alatoona was too strongly garrisoned to be successfully attacked. He had no artillery on this raid. He, therefore, destroyed the railroad as much as possible, and then moved with the prisoners to the west for some miles, and there bivouacked for the night. For forage we had been compelled to depend on the wheat fields, of which there were many, and the wheat was in good condition for forage. We fully expected, after we had stirred them up, to be attacked by a large force, but I suppose their cavalry must have been nearly all at the front, for we saw nothing of them. Here, on the third day since we had left the army, while moving back, I was ordered by General Armstrong to halt and remain with my command for twenty-four hours. He moved on with the balance of the detachment and prisoners, while I made the best disposition I could to resist an attack, if one was made, placing Captain Montgomery, who had succeeded to the
command of Herrin's company, with his company on picket, while I moved the balance of my command about half a mile further on, and there halted. I never had any doubt but that I would be attacked, but for some reason the enemy did not find us. Perhaps they did not have the necessary cavalry force in that vicinity, which I suppose was the true reason, or they thought we had gotten too far away to be overtaken. The night was a long one, and not much sleep, but the next day till my twenty-four hours were up was much longer, but at last the time came when I could move, and I gladly did so. It was early in the afternoon when I started back to the army, and I determined to put as much space as possible between the dangerous place where I had made my halt and my camping place for the night. I had taken a different route back, and sent a detail with the advance guard to look out for forage on the way, as our horses needed corn badly. After marching some miles I found my detail had halted at a corn crib on the roadside and near a neat-looking farm house.
They told me there was a lady at the house who refused to let them have any corn, and as the crib was locked they had waited for me. I went up to the house myself, and saw the lady and explained to her the necessity I was under of taking corn enough to feed our horses, but she would not give me the key, and I was obliged to have the house broken into and the corn taken anyway. There were several hundred bushels in the crib, and a fine wheat-field in front of the house, so I had the less scruple in taking her corn. This lady, I remember, was from Mississippi, a widow, and had run away to escape federal raids in her own state; and now one of her own fellow-citizens was to levy tribute upon her. I do not now remember what county she was from or her name, though she told me both. I gave her a statement
showing that I had taken her corn against her will, so that if the federals should find her they could not accuse her of having voluntarily given it to us, of which she seemed to be in great terror, and this I suspect was her reason for not unlocking her door. Up to that time no federals had found her, for fortunately she was off the main line of the advance and our retreat. I had each man take a good feed for his horse, and then kept on till dark, when, finding a good place with water, I halted for the night. That night, with good men on picket, we slept soundly, for I began now to believe we would get safely back to our command, even if we had to have a brush with the enemy.
Next morning, bright and early, I was on the way, and did not halt till noon, when I halted in a valley to rest. Of course I had pickets out on all the roads, but just on one side of our halting-place was a high hill and woods, and I had not thought it necessary to place any sentinels in that direction. I lay down on a log and went to sleep, and while I was sleeping there came a rattling peal of thunder. I had dropped off to sleep wondering if by any chance there might be any enemy in that wood, and thinking if there were what a surprise they would give us by firing a volley, when this peal of thunder came, and I sprang to my feet, believing it was true, and that we were surprised, and only recovered at the laughter of the boys, who at once divined that I had taken the thunder for an attack from the woods.
It was raining hard, and had rained, I believe, every day and night through the month of June, which I attributed to the incessant cannonading and firing of small arms. Before that time, I had heard, it never rained at night in June, but night or day was all the same; it rained all the time, and as we had no tents we had to take it.
I reached the camp late that evening, astonished that we got back so easily. But we did not get back to rest, for the enemy was now extending his right, so that now, on the 1st of July, or on the 2d, General Johnston says Sherman's right was nearer to Atlanta than our left, and was threatening the railroad bridge and Turner's ferry. These places had been for some time defended by a division of Georgia state troops under Major-General Smith, who, on the 1st of July, were ordered forward to support our division, which was resisting the enemy's advance on our extreme left. General Smith only had about fifteen hundred men, and on the 4th of July he reported to General Johnston that he would be compelled to withdraw to his intrenchments at the railroad bridge, and, of course, this necessitated the withdrawal of our division also. We had been constantly engaged from the 1st to the 5th, with more or less loss every day, but I cannot recall the number or any names. Our fights were without intrenchments, and if any reports of our losses were ever made I have never seen them, and, as will be seen later, General Johnston says he did not know. Our division crossed the Chattahoochee river on the night of the 5th, and at the same time General Wheeler crossed the river above, some twenty miles from us.
We were guarding the river for some twenty miles below Atlanta, but the enemy though they had strongly threatened, did not cross on our front, but two corps crossed at Powers' ferry, some twenty miles northeast of Atlanta, and on the 9th, General Johnston withdrew his infantry and artillery to the south side of the river. We were not quiet long in our command, as will be seen from this extract from General Johnston's report. "On the 14th, a division of federal cavalry crossed the river by Moore's bridge near Newnan, but was driven back by Armstrong's brigade, sent by Brigadier General Jackson
to meet it." Newnan is about forty miles southwest of Atlanta on the railroad leading to West Point, and the enemy's object was to cut this road, of the last importance to us while we could hold Atlanta. We made a forced march and succeeded in intercepting them before they reached the railroad, and though they had a division, we drove them back across the river with but little loss to us, and not much, though some, to them. We destroyed this bridge, and General Armstrong remained in the vicinity of Newnan a few days observing them, and waiting for orders.
On the morning of the 19th of July, I am sure of the date, for I can never forget the occasion, Colonel Pinson received an order to move the regiment out as soon as possible, and leaving me to do this, he rode to Armstrong's quarters. I had just got the regiment in marching order and moved it to the road when he returned and said, "General Johnston has been removed from the command of the army." I said surely you are mistaken, but he told me he had just seen at headquarters an order signed J. B. Hood, General. There was no doubt about it. We were moving, I learned, to intercept the same division of cavalry we had already defeated, and who were supposed to be making a dash for West Point. We marched all day and all night, and I will never forget the gloom of that march. I felt that our cause was at its crisis, that our only hope had been in Johnston, the alacrity with which he had been obeyed, the supreme confidence the army had in him, the great skill he had displayed in keeping so long at bay a greatly superior force, the loss he had inflicted on that force, ably commanded as it certainly was, and the small loss comparatively he had sustained, never losing in his retreat to Atlanta, a wagon or an ambulance, much less a gun, all showed him to be, I thought, and this was the general, I may say the
universal, sentiment in the army, one of the few really great commanders we had, and if the history of this campaign is ever fairly and fully written, this will be his place.
He says in his report, "On the 17th, the main body of the federal army crossed the Chatahoochee between Roswell and Powers' ferry. At 10 P. M., while I was giving Lieutenant Colonel Presstman, chief engineer, instructions in regard to his work of the next day on the fortifications of Atlanta, a telegram was received from General Cooper, informing me by direction of the secretary of war, that as I had failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to the vicinity of Atlanta, and expressed no confidence that I could defeat or repel him, I was relieved from the command of the army and department of Tennessee, which would immediately be turned over to General Hood. This was done at once." After going on to state that in turning over the command to General Hood, he had explained to him his plans, he says of his army when it was turned over, "These troops who had been for seventy-four days in the immediate presence of the enemy, laboring and fighting daily, enduring toil, exposure and danger with equal cheerfulness, more confident and high spirited than when the federal army presented itself near Dalton, were then inferior to none who ever served the confederacy. "
This was literally true, as was well known to every soldier in the army, and admitted by all save one, the last who ought to have denied it. But at the right place I will let him speak for himself. I myself, when sometimes passing through ranks of infantry just before we crossed the Chattahoochee, often heard such expressions as, "We will follow old Joe to the Gulf of Mexico and back." Indeed, the confidence of the army in General Johnston was wonderful, and was only equaled during
the war by the devotion which Lee's men felt for him. It may be that we of lesser rank than some of the great commanders in the army, and the men of the rank and file, were incapable of truly estimating General Johnston's abilities; but at least we knew in whom we trusted, and want of confidence in a commander is a sure presage of disaster.
Whatever was the real cause of General Johnston's removal, I am sure it was not because of any prejudice, if he had any, against him in the mind of President Davis, as too many thought and said. He was too great a man, and had too much at stake. It must be remembered that of all the men of the confederacy Mr. Davis had the most at stake. Failure meant not only ruin to the cause he loved, but disaster to his own great fame, for upon his devoted head was to be poured out all the reproaches, for a time at least, not only of his enemies, but of many who ought to have been his friends, more loyal in defeat than if success had crowned his efforts and his hopes. He could not, brave soldier though he had been and would gladly have been again, even have the comfort of knowing that he had exposed his own life to danger on the battlefield with his devoted friends and followers. It was said at the commencement of the war, and I have no doubt it was true, that Mr. Davis preferred and even desired the command of the army in the field rather than the presidency, but this could not be, for all eyes turned to him, and no other man could in his place have done more or better, none I believe so well.
It is certain General Johnston had enemies in his own army who lost no chance to do him harm if they could with the president and widen the breach between them. The disagreement between these two great men, both so necessary to the cause to which both were devoted, began, according to General Dick Taylor, himself an eminent
soldier and a brother-in-law of the president, in the fall of 1861. I quote from him:
"As the autumn of the year 1861 passed away, the question of army reorganization pressed for solution, while divergent opinions were held by the government at Richmond and General Johnston. The latter sent me to President Davis, to explain his views and urge their adoption. My mission met with no success, but in discharging it I was made aware of the estrangement growing up between these eminent persons, which subsequently became 'the spring of woes unnumbered.' An earnest effort made by me to remove the cloud, then 'no greater than a man's hand,' failed, though the elevation of the character of the two men, which made them listen patiently to my appeals, justified hope. Time but served to widen the breach. Without the knowledge and despite the wishes of General Johnston, the descendants of the ancient dwellers in the cave of Adullam gathered themselves behind his shield, and shot their arrows at President Davis and his advisers, weakening the influence of the head of the cause for which all were struggling."
Again, in speaking of the character of General Johnston, and of his services in the Georgia campaign, he says, "Certainly no more egregious blunder was possible than that of relieving him from the command in front of Atlanta. If he intended to fight there he was entitled to execute his plan. Had he abandoned Atlanta without a struggle, his removal would have met the approval of the army and public, an approval which, under the circumstances of its action, the Richmond government failed to receive. . . . Destiny willed that Davis and Johnston should be brought into collision, and the breach once made was never repaired. Each misjudged the other to the end."
General Johnston reported his entire loss in the campaign
till he was removed at about ten thousand killed and wounded, and forty-seven hundred from all other causes, chiefly sickness, but this does not include the losses in the cavalry, for he expressly says, "For want of reports I am unable to give the loss, or the services of the cavalry, which was less under my eye than the rest of the army." The enemy's loss he reports, from reports to him, at five times as great as his own, and this, I think, was a conservative estimate. In fact, from Adairsville to the Chatahoochee was one continued battle field, and no pen can adequately describe it. He transferred to General Hood forty-one thousand infantry and artillery and ten thousand cavalry on the 17th of July, and we will see before I close what was left of it six months later.
Since I began these memoirs, some friend, perhaps the author, has sent me a neat pamphlet published by the Greenwood Publishing Company, from Greenwood, Mississippi, entitled the "Recollections of 'A Pine Knot' in the Lost Cause."
The author is Mr. J. M. Miller, a private in that splendid regiment, the Twentieth Mississippi, and it is extremely interesting to old soldiers like myself, and I wish that more old soldiers from the ranks would tell their own story, as he has done. As I have quoted from some of the officers of high rank about General Johnston, so I will from what Mr. Miller says, for he was one of the men that held the works from Dalton to Atlanta, and knows whereof he speaks. "I am not saying boastingly, but I know something of the Atlanta, or hundred days' campaign. I was on every picket that my time came, and that seemed often; was in every skirmish and battle, and did not miss a roll call on the campaign. When not in the ranks I was on the scout, many times in the enemy's lines. Most likely there were men that went in droves that did more than I did, but I know with one accord
the officers and soldiers of the army of Tennessee held General Johnston in highest esteem, and in whom they had implicit confidence." He further says that the removal of General Johnston "was as unexpected as a peal of thunder from a cloudless sky."
I have already mentioned Lieutenant-Colonel W. N. Brown, of this brave regiment, as going from Bolivar county as captain of the McGehee Rifles.
Some of the brave men of this command are still living in the county, honored and prominent citizens. As I write I recall but three names. W. C. Boyd, J. L. Wrenn and W. N. Shepherd, now living. But this digression is proving too long.
Our all day and all night march ended near Lagrange, and there Armstrong halted. We soon learned that the enemy had turned back without attempting to reach West Point, probably because he knew we would be in a situation to cut off his retreat if he got so far away from his base, and after resting a few days we were ordered back to the army at Atlanta.
We did not reach that place till the bloody battle of the 22nd of July, on the right of our army, had been fought, I think about the 24th.
But though tired and worn out with constant fighting and long marches, we were not yet to rest, for Colonel Pinson was ordered to go into Atlanta and report to General Hood. In passing through we halted in front of General Hood's quarters, a large two-story frame house, while Pinson went in to see him.
When he came out he told me he was ordered to move through the city to the battle ground of the 22nd, and on that ground that night we went into camp.
Want of confidence in General Hood--His opinion of the infantry of his army--His opinion of his cavalry--Fearful sights on battle-ground of 22d July--Skirmishes in cornfield--Ordered back to left of army, rejoin Armstrong--Enemy advances on Lick Skillet road--Ordered with part of regiment to extreme left--Attack on my command--Driven back--Advance of General Lee's corps--Battle of 28th of July--Severe loss--Federal raids to our rear--Fight with Kilpatrick--Back to the left of army--General Sherman's move to our left--Constant fighting, fall back to Jonesboro--Occupy trenches, first assault of enemy repulsed--Loss of Jonesboro and evacuation of Atlanta.
In the army, General Hood was regarded as among the "bravest of the brave," but the same confidence was not felt in his ability to command an army as there was in his courage or ability to command his corps. This a few weeks or even a few days might have remedied, if he could have achieved some brilliant success, or even without this, if he had known how to inspire confidence. But, succeeding as he did a commander like Johnston, he had a difficult task before him.
But, unfortunately, General Hood seemed to have as little confidence in his men as they had in him. I quote from his book, "Advance and Retreat":
"My failure, on the 20th and 22d, to bring about a general pitched battle arose from the unfortunate policy pursued from Dalton to Atlanta, and which had wrought such demoralization amid rank and file as to render the men unreliable in battle. I cannot give a more forcible, though homely, exemplification of the morale of the troop, at that period, than by comparing the army to a
team which has been allowed to balk at every hill--one portion will make strenuous efforts to advance, while the other will refuse to move, and thus paralyze the exertions of the first. Moreover, it will work faultlessly one day and stall the next. No reliance can be placed upon it at any stated time."
With the men without that supreme confidence in their commander which an army must have to insure success, and with a commander who believed his men demoralized by the tactics of his predecessor, who had been relieved only a few days before, what hope was there for that army?
General Hood speaks in different terms of the cavalry, which he compliments at the expense of the infantry. I quote again from his book:
"The severe handling by Wheeler and Iverson of the troops under Stoneman and McCook, together with Jackson's success, induced me not to recall Wheeler's four thousand five hundred men, who were still operating against the railroad to Nashville. I had, moreover, become convinced that our cavalry was able to successfully compete with double their number. Fortunately, they had not become demoralized upon the retreat, in consequence of their habit of dismounting and fighting at one point to-day, then remounting and hastening in another direction to encounter the enemy on the morrow."
But I will cease to quote further on this subject from the book written by this brave but unfortunate soldier, which ought never to have been published, and, perhaps, would not have been, if he had lived a little while longer, for, if I recollect rightly, it was not published till after his death, and then for the benefit of his children. At least, a re-reading after he had written it would, I am sure, have resulted in a different tone towards the brave men who stood by him so loyally, so many thousands of
whom lost their lives under his command. No braver men ever gave battle than the infantry which Johnston turned over to Hood, and, if they became demoralized, it was after he took the command; and, if they were demoralized, strange they fought so bravely on the 22d and 28th of July. They deserve the highest praise, instead of blame, for their gallant conduct on every field where he led them to battle, and if they did not always win it was because the odds were too great. This much I have desired to say in speaking of General Hood.
Our regiment remained on the battle ground of the 22d for several days, and the sight was a fearful one. Dead horses lay in all directions, and the dead of both armies had been hastily buried in shallow trenches, and were scarcely covered, for here and there arms, legs and sometimes heads could be seen, and the whole face of the earth was covered with swarms of green flies, and they so annoyed us in camp that it was almost impossible to prepare and eat our food.
But the position was regarded important, and we had to hold it. I do not think there was then any enemy in our front except cavalry, their infantry having been withdrawn, because they were then extending their right flank. With this cavalry we several times came into contact, but no serious engagement occurred. Forage was scarce and hard to get and there was a cornfield of considerable size between us, and was in fact, a sort of neutral ground, for both sides foraged in it, and several times each side had to fight for what it could get. Our men got their share, but it was not long before the supply gave out and we had to look elsewhere for what we could get. Early on the morning of the 28th, we were relieved from this unpleasant position and ordered to rejoin our brigade. We found the brigade, as I remember, on the Lick Skillet road (I recall the name of the road by
reading General Hood's report), a road leading slightly northwest from Atlanta. The brigade under Armstrong moved a few miles out on this road, to take a position to resist the advance of the enemy, who were, it was said, moving to occupy the road. The road as I remember, as far as we went, was on a ridge through an open country, with woods here and there on each side at a little distance. Our regiment was in front, and when we had nearly reached a road leading at right angles, running down to a valley, I was ordered to take three or four companies and relieve a command of Georgia state troops who were posted in the woods in this valley. At that time none of our infantry were in sight, and there was no firing in front. I found the Georgia troops posted on the edge of a skirt of woods with a small field in front of them, about two hundred yards wide, and woods on the other side which extended I do not know how far. I inquired of the officer in command if he knew anything of where the enemy were, and he said he did not, that everything had been quiet, since he had been on that post. He further told me that he had no videttes in the woods across the field, which was very negligent, and as soon as they had left and I could make the proper disposition, I sent, or rather started a picket over the field. They got about half way when they were fired on, and before they could get back to me, the woods on the other side were full of bluecoats, who seemed to be advancing in line of battle with skirmishers in front, who however halted awhile at the fence on the other side. We did not yield the post without a show of resistance, for it at once occurred to me that this was an advance in force, for as far as I could see to my right, the enemy were advancing, and from the noise made which I could hear at a greater distance than I could see, I was sure there was a large force. It was therefore necessary to make as good a fight as I
could to delay the advance, and to give warning to the rest of the brigade which I knew could not be far from me on my right, though up to that time I heard no firing in the direction I supposed it to be. I was on the extreme left as I knew, of any force we had at the time on the Lick Skillet road, and as far as I could judge at the time or afterwards, was engaged with the extreme right of the advancing enemy.
After a brisk skirmish, I soon found that I had an army to contend with, and began to withdraw, but I discovered that I could not reach the country cross-road I have spoken of, so as to rejoin the command where I had left it, for the firing now extended far to my right. So I fell slowly back through the woods, halting now and then to form and return the fire of the enemy's skirmishers until I reached a field near the main road. In getting through this field a few men were hit, but fortunately none badly. Whether we hurt the enemy I could not tell, but as the men were all good shots, and withdrew with the utmost coolness, no doubt they suffered somewhat more than we did. I am the more inclined to think so from the care with which they advanced. On the crest of the hill in my rear as I fell back, and right on the main road, was a farm house and buildings. Here I made another halt, dismounting the men and sending the horses still farther back across another field to some woods about two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards away. The enemy now had to approach across an open field while we were well sheltered for the fight. They came in great force and must have lost considerably as they were exposed, while though their fire was heavy, we lost none at this stand. I knew I could not withstand their assault, as a full brigade of infantry at the very least, whom I saw plainly, were advancing on us, and
therefore again withdrew my little force to the woods where our horses were.
All this time I could hear nothing of the balance of the brigade, except I knew from the firing they were engaged, but was completely cut off from it. After remounting and forming in the woods, I was somewhat at a loss to know what to do, for the enemy had gained the road at the farm-houses, and I thought it likely were already intrenched, for they were as quick at this as our men, and it was the work of but a little while to throw up works which, though temporary, were yet formidable with brave men behind them.
While I was considering, I heard a noise behind me in the woods, and sending back to see what it was found it was a brigade of our infantry, who had formed and were advancing. I do not know whose brigade it was, I have forgotten; but it was the left of General S. D. Lee's corps. He had but a short time before been assigned to the command of General Hood's old corps.
I got my cavalry out of the way, more to the left, and moved forward with the infantry, then the extreme left, till they had driven the enemy from the houses and retaken the road. It was late before this was done, and I went in search of my own command, which I did not find till late at night. The men who had been with the main body of the brigade were loud in the praise of the gallantry of Armstrong, Starke and Pinson, who had been most exposed, and the chief loss of the brigade, some fifty or sixty killed and wounded, was with them, for in the companies with me there were about half a dozen wounded, and none fatally. This much I saw and know of the battle of the 28th, which was brought on by this attack on me, or commenced with that attack. Conservative estimates at the time put the entire loss to the army at between four and five thousand men killed and
wounded, though this may be greater than it was. It is certain the field was hotly contested, and that the battle lasted till dark. We held the road. General Lee in his report of this battle only says of the cavalry, "I soon found that the enemy had gained the road, and was gradually driving back our cavalry." He says the loss in some of the brigades was heavy, but does not give the number.
While these movements were in progress in and around Atlanta, determined efforts were made by the federal cavalry, in large force and in separate columns, to cut the railroads to West Point and to Macon, but these were defeated by Generals Wheeler and Jackson, with two brigades (Ross' and Harrison's) of his division, who ran the enemy to bay near Newnan and captured a large number and dispersed the balance. Armstrong's brigade was left near the army and did not take part in this brilliant achievement, having its own fights and duties, as related. After the battle of the 28th Atlanta was regularly besieged, and this lasted about a month, during which Armstrong's brigade was on the left of our army and north of the West Point railroad, watching the enemy and engaged in almost constant skirmishing, to protect this road and prevent a raid to the rear.
General Wheeler had been sent north to cut and destroy the enemy's communications, leaving General Jackson's division, composed of three brigades, to guard the rear and flanks of the army.
This condition of things lasted several weeks, when General Sherman, taking advantage of Wheeler's absence, made another attempt to cut the Macon railroad, sending a strong detachment of cavalry under General Kilpatrick, who passed rapidly around our left, General Jackson in swift pursuit with two brigades, while we also with most of our brigade followed. The enemy had
crossed the railroad at Jonesboro and burned the depot, besides tearing up some of the road, before he was overtaken. General Ross had thrown his brigade across his path and our brigade was pressing rapidly in his rear, when Kilpatrick charged Ross' brigade and succeeded in getting through, with considerable loss. But Armstrong was close behind, and overtook and brought him to bay.
Armstrong ordered our regiment to dismount and attack, which Pinson promptly did. It was a very hot day in August, I think about the 21st, and we drove the enemy for about a mile, in the face of a hot fire, losing twenty-five or thirty men killed and wounded, and inflicting severe loss on them, but they succeeded in reaching a strong position on the top of a hill, where their rear guard held us at bay for some time, and before Armstrong could bring up the balance of the brigade they also got off, for our horses were now far behind us. They left their dead on the field. They evidently had but one object in view now, and that was to escape and rejoin their army to the right of Atlanta.
Talk about thirst! I felt it that day as I never did before or since; and coming to a small, sluggish stream, over which the entire federal command had crossed, and the water of which was almost thick enough to cut with a knife, those of us crossing in the road stooped and scooping the stuff up in our hands, I thought it the sweetest morsel I ever tasted. Beyond this stream we did not pursue much further, and it being late we were ordered back to camp and rest. That night, I remember, every man of the command had coffee in abundance, for so closely had we pursued that the enemy had thrown away many haversacks and bags of rations they had. They had no doubt got back to their command, and we were speedily ordered back also, as Sherman had again commenced in earnest a flank movement around our left,
and which was to be successful and result in the capture of Atlanta.
The railroad near and at Jonesboro was speedily repaired so that trains were running into Atlanta in a few days, and before it was evacuated. The truth was that all the damage by either side to railroads, during the whole war, made only temporary interruptions, and convinced me that when an army of any strength got possession of a railroad they could hold it and quickly repair any damage done to it. It is in fact a source of strength to a strong invading force and a source of weakness to the country invaded by such a force.
Our brigade was back to its old position on the left of the army by the 25th or on that day, for that night, as stated by General Hood, the enemy abandoned his works in front of Atlanta, or most of them, and commenced his move around our left in earnest, his abandoned works being occupied by our troops the next day.
General Hood says: "This movement of the enemy gave rise to many idle rumors in relation to its object."
One of the rumors, if it was a rumor which was not believed at the time, was that General Hood said that the enemy were preparing to retreat; that they had established a depot of supplies at Baker's Ferry, and would cross the Chatahoochee at that place. He himself only says after the statement just quoted, about the "idle rumors," that, "I felt confident that their plan would soon be developed; accordingly, orders were issued to corp commanders to send out scouts in their front, and to keep army headquarters fully advised of the slightest change in the enemy's position; to issue three days' rations, and to be in readiness to move at a moment's warning. Instructions were likewise sent to General Armstrong, commanding the cavalry in the vicinity of the West
Point railroad, to be most active in securing all possible information in regard to the operations of the enemy."
The caution to Armstrong to be active was superfluous, for the cavalry had no more active and daring, and at the same time careful, commander. He was all the time in touch with the enemy and at times the skirmishing was heavy. As the enemy extended his line to our left he always found Armstrong in his front. One day I remember we occupied a position on a rocky hill, with an open view of a half mile or more across a valley which was cleared and in cultivation. On the opposite ridge was the road the enemy were pursuing, and for hours we stood, looking helplessly on, while thousands upon thousands moved swiftly by. The whole brigade was not at this particular point, it may be only our regiment, but the scene was not one to be forgotten. We did not have our battery with us and what shots were exchanged were at long range with but little damage. I wished then that one of our army corps could have been with us. Later, I believe on that same day, or it may more likely have been the next, while skirmishing with the enemy in a dense woods with a part of the regiment, General Cleburne rode up the road to where I was.
Personally I did not know him, though I knew him by sight, and in response to his inquiries gave him what information I had. He turned and rode slowly away, and I never saw him again. His death at the battle of Franklin a few months later, where he fell bravely fighting for the confederacy, is one of the treasured memories of the war, among his now few surviving comrades, and one of the glories of the war to the whole country, which now happily knows no north, no south, no east nor west. Slowly our brigade was forced further and further to the left, till late on the evening of the 28th of August, at or near Fairburn on the West Point railroad, we were forced
across the road, and that night General Armstrong reported to General Hood that the enemy had reached and crossed, or would, early next morning with the whole force engaged in this movement, cross. That night I rode after dark had put an end to our fighting, to Armstrong's headquarters, and he told me that in the various skirmishes of the day by the different regiments of his command, that some prisoners had been captured from three different army corps of the federal army, but I do not now recall what ones they were. My recollection is that Sherman had four army corps, so that the bulk of his army was engaged in this movement. Of this movement and the force, General Hood was fully apprised by Armstrong, for he says, "Early the following morning (that is the 28th, for he had just been speaking of the 27th), the enemy was reported by General Armstrong in large force at Fairburn, on the West Point road." My recollection is that our brigade was not finally forced across the road till the night of the 28th.
General Hood was now aware of the purpose of Sherman, for he says, "It became at once evident that General Sherman was moving with his main body to destroy the Macon road, and that the fate of Atlanta depended upon our ability to beat this movement." This was patent to our brigade at least, but the question which General Hood had to meet was how this movement was to be defeated, and as General Hood says upon his ability to do this depended the fate of Atlanta. Obviously it would be improper for me to criticise General Hood's management of the campaign at this time, but it is not, I think, improper to give the position and forces of the two armies at the time Sherman crossed the West Point railroad. Our army, according to General Hood's estimate a few days later, infantry and artillery, then at Atlanta, must have been about thirty-five thousand men. Of his cavalry at that
time General Wheeler with forty-five hundred men, was absent on his gallant but useless raid towards Chattanooga, useless so far as any permanent good was done. In Sherman's immediate front at Fairburn, and prepared to resist his march to Jonesboro as well as it could, was Armstrong's brigade, about fifteen hundred effective men.
General Jackson, with the other two brigades of his division, was busy and fighting elsewhere. From Fairburn to Atlanta was about twenty miles, and to Jonesboro about ten miles, which place was the objective point of General Sherman's movement.
Having crossed the West Point railroad, General Sherman's advance to Jonesboro was slow. He began to move, however, on the morning of the 29th, and Armstrong fell slowly back before him.
The country between Fairburn and Jonesboro, as I remember it, was an open country, offering but few desirable places for defense, but Armstrong availed himself of every chance, and every few miles there was a halt and fight, but two army corps were advancing, according to General Hood's advices, and no doubt this was correct, and a cavalry brigade could offer but little resistance, certainly not an effectual one. But we did what we could. I think on the morning of the 30th we crossed the Flint river, a stream dignified by that name, and which was not far from Jonesboro. General Hood says, "Reynolds' and Lewis' brigades were dispatched to Jonesboro to co-operate with Armstrong." At Flint river we made an unavailing stand, and the enemy crossed it about six P. M. that day. To quote from General Hood, "As General Armstrong had already foreseen, a federal corps crossed Flint river at about six P. M. near Jonesboro, and made an attack upon Lewis' brigade, which was gallantly repulsed." When we reached Jonesboro
we found this brigade in the trenches, and as there were some which were unoccupied, we were at once dismounted and occupied them, and took part in this repulse of the enemy. We remained in the trenches till late at night, when another brigade of infantry arrived, probably Reynolds', and relieved us. The next day the enemy gained our works, and we were compelled to fall back, the enemy strongly intrenching at Jonesboro, General Hardee, arriving too late, made an assault with a loss of fourteen hundred men killed and wounded, without success, upon their works. General Lee's corps arrived a little later, but that night, I believe, was recalled a part of the way back to cover General Hood's retreat from Atlanta. Had these two corps been twelve hours sooner the result at Jonesboro might have been different.
The whole army united at Lovejoy station, a short distance south of Jonesboro, and Sherman withdrew his army to Atlanta.
The loss in Armstrong's brigade, from the time we got back to the West Point railroad from our fight with Kilpatrick, in killed and wounded was about, as well as I remember, one hundred, nearly equally distributed between the regiments, but no official report, as usual, was made of this loss, or if made I have never seen it.
Atlanta had fallen, and our loss in men and stores could never be replaced, but I will not permit myself to indulge in criticism of any one on this great disaster to the confederacy. No doubt it was our fate, but it was none the less bitter, and if General Johnston had not been removed, perhaps it would only have prolonged the desperate struggle, with a like result at last. The historian who is to come must and will, without fear or favor, fix the responsibility where it belongs.
Some reflections on loss of Atlanta--President Davis visits camp-- Ordered by General Jackson to take command disabled horses and men--Ordered to reinforce General Tyler at West Point-- Orders and letter from General Jackson--Ordered to Mississippi with my command--Incidents of the march--Sick in hospital and leave of absence--At home again--Met a gold bug on the road.
The fall of Atlanta was the second great disaster to the confederate arms in the west, east of the Mississippi river, and second only in its results to the loss of Vicksburg.
General Hood indeed says: "I was not so much pained by the fall of Atlanta as by the recurrence of retreat, which I full well knew would demoralize the army and renew desertions." It was not so much the retreat which would demoralize the army as it was the loss of Atlanta, for everywhere through the confederacy when its loss was known, it discouraged the people, and this could not be concealed from the army, and the effect naturally was to demoralize those in the army who were not actuated by the highest motives of patriotism, and the sternest purpose to fight it out to the end. Many such there were, and those of the "baser sort" who composed the deserters, ought not to have been considered, and were comparatively few. An orderly retreat from Atlanta without loss of stores or munitions of war, would in itself have been a disaster, but not an overwhelming one, for we would have had the army, with its morale preserved, and Sherman's march to the sea would have been impossible.
The army had in fact been cut in two, and exposed to an attack from the two army corps of the federals at Jonesboro, as it passed on its way to Lovejoy station, near which General Hardee had intrenched his corps, and General Hood himself says: "I have often thought it strange that Sherman should have occupied himself with attacking Hardee's intrenched position instead of falling upon our main body on the march round to his rear." It may be that Sherman thought it strange that General Hood did not attack him at Fairburn, or on his way there, instead of occupying his abandoned works with two army corps the day after they were abandoned. Certainly he had the chance, and was informed as he says of the movement of the enemy by Armstrong, and this was constantly done as I know. Before that he had ordered the commanders of his army corps to be in readiness, to have three days' rations issued, and yet not a man was moved from Atlanta, till the enemy was at the gates (so to speak) of Jonesboro. These are facts which cannot be denied, and not criticism.
But these reflections are vain and perhaps ought not to be indulged in, but I find it impossible to refrain from doing so.
President Davis visited the army soon after General Sherman withdrew into Atlanta, the headquarters of the army being then at Palmetto, on the West Point railroad, to which point it had moved in pursuance of General Hood's plan to move into Tennessee, of which no secret was made. I did not see Mr. Davis; there was no formal review even of the infantry, though General Hood says they rode through the camp or part of it together, and in some places he was received with enthusiasm and by some with cries, or to use his own language, "were seemingly dissatisfied, and inclined to cry out, 'give us General Johnston.' " The cavalry at the
time was busy watching the enemy, towards Fairburn, as I remember, between the army and Atlanta.
General Sherman was resting quietly on the laurels he had won and in Atlanta, and did not seem inclined to molest us, so that our cavalry also was quiet, though vigilantly watching the enemy and ready to move with the army.
This was the situation when, on the morning of the 25th of September, the following order was handed to me:
HEADQUARTERS JACKSON'S CAVALRY DIVISION,
IN THE FIELD, September 24th, 1864.
Circular.--A camp for convalescent horses is hereby ordered to be established near Newnan, for the disabled horses of the division, under Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery of the First Mississippi regiment, Armstrong's brigade, as commandant of the camp, and Captain Sims, quartermaster Ross' brigade, as quartermaster, selected from the division for their energy and force of character.
One officer from each brigade not to exceed the grade of captain to be selected by the brigade commander, to have immediate charge of the men and horses from his brigade, will be sent to this camp as assistant to Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery. One man to every six horses will be allowed to go to this camp, to be used as guards, and to perform such other duties as may be required. The quartermaster will employ negroes to assist in washing the sore-back horses and in taking care of them.
Each brigade will furnish one wagon to every hundred horses, and one wagon to every fractional number over seventy. Before horses are sent to this camp they must be inspected by the brigade inspector. Brigade inspectors will report weekly to division inspector the number of horses sent to this camp. The officer from each brigade will send weekly reports to his brigade commander. The
commandant of the camp will make weekly reports to these headquarters, addressed to the division inspector. The dismounted men of the brigades will be organized under competent officers, one to every thirty men, and report to Captain Sykes, assistant inspector-general, at these headquarters. Brigade commanders, through their inspectors, will have this order carried into effect at once. No horses except those belonging to officers will be allowed to be led with the command, or kept with the command in the field.
By command of
BRIGADIER-GENERAL W. H. JACKSON.
E. T. SYKES, A. A. Gen'l.
To LIEUTENANT-COLONEL MONTGOMERY,
First Mississippi Regiment, through Brigadier-General
Armstrong, commanding brigade.
This order was an unpleasant surprise to me, for my earnest wish was to remain with the regiment and take part in the campaign just commencing. I knew the importance of the duties to which I was assigned, but I knew also the difficulties which would confront me with any number of men, certain to be more than contemplated by the order, and removed for the time from their regular organizations in the field. I went to see General Jackson and requested him not to impose this unpleasant duty on me, but to select some one else and permit me to go with the division. He said, in reply, that the necessity for the camp was imperative; be was about to move with the army into Tennessee; communication would be difficult between us; that it was necessary to have an officer of at least my rank in command of the camp; that he knew the command was an unpleasant one, but it was one of great importance; that he had well considered the matter, and he could not relieve me from it.
I then asked him to give me one company from my
own regiment, so that I would have at least one completely organized command upon which I could rely. To this he willingly consented, and ordered Colonel Pinson to assign me a company; and, in obedience to the order, Colonel Pinson ordered Captain T. B. Kennedy, of the Carrol county company, to report to me with his company. There was none better in the regiment where all were good. I took my leave of the regiment and brigade with regret, for, though I did not anticipate a prolonged absence, I knew, before we met again, that when we did many would be missing who I would never see again in this world.
I moved about the 26th of September, with my guard, to a point west of Newnan, and there organized my camp.
General Jackson crossed the Chattahoochee on the 28th, and was speedily followed by the army, except the command I had and, I believe, General Ferguson's brigrade, which was left behind.
I knew Captain Sims, of the Texas brigade assigned to me, and he was a very efficient man for the position of quartermaster, and together we soon had the camp in good shape. I had a lieutenant in charge of the men and horses of each regiment, and from Ross', I remember, there were two, and all I needed was a good adjutant, who I found in Charles C. Farrar, of the Bolivar troop, who was in hospital at Lagrange, near by, and about convalescent; so, instead of sending him forward to join the division, as I did when men and horses were fit, I kept him with me, and he made a good officer. I have a copy of my first report, which shows that on the 8th day of October I had in my camp 18 officers, 597 men and 984 horses; but, as fast as possible, I sent the men and horses to their commands.
About the 2d of October, I received from General Jackson, by courier, the following order:
HEADQUARTERS JACKSON'S CAVALRY DIVISION,
IN THE FIELD, October 1, 1864, 12:30 P. M.
COLONEL--General Jackson directs that you immediately move your camp to the vicinity of West Point, and, in case the enemy press down there, you will send the horses to some safe place across the river (the Chattahoochee), and report to General Tyler, to assist in protecting the place. Lose no time in the execution of this order.
E. T. SYKES, A. A. G.
LIEUT-COL. F. A. MONTGOMERY,
Commanding Camp Disabled Horses,
Jackson's Cavalry Division.
I lost no time in obeying the order, and, after going into camp, went early next morning to report in person to General Tyler. I found General Tyler to be holding the place with a small force, but he was strongly fortified, and I concerted with him as to what force I could bring, and where I should send my horses in the event the place should be attacked, of which there were rumors and some apprehension. West Point is about eighty miles, perhaps a little more, west of Atlanta, and the anticipated attack was from that place, which General Sherman had not yet abandoned. The railroad was open west as far as Meridian, Mississippi, I think, also to Jackson, and it was desirable to hold it as long as possible. My recollection is that General Tyler had before that time been wounded and unfit for active duty in the field, hence had been placed in command of this post.
The apprehended attack was not made, nor any demonstration towards the place, and after remaining a few days
on the side of the river near West Point, I crossed the Chattahoochee, and established my camp near Lafayette, in Alabama, but within easy reach of West Point if General Tyler should at any time desire what force I could bring to him; and while I remained in that vicinity was in constant communication with him, going several times to see him. This brave soldier was the next year killed, in defense of his post, refusing to surrender to, I believe, General Wilson, or a part of his force on its way to Macon after the fall of Selma.
While camped near Lafayette I received the subjoined communication from General Tyler:
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY POST,
WEST POINT, October 10th, 1864.
Sergeant P. M. Rowland will proceed at once to the camp of Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery, in command recruiting camp, vicinity of Lafayette, of Jackson's cavalry, with Mr. Waller and W. Q. Adams, turning them over to Colonel Montgomery to be mustered into service Confederate States in Eighth Confederate cavalry regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery will forward, by first opportunity, Mr. Waller and Adams to the regiment which they wish to join (Eighth Confederate cavalry).
By order, R. C. TYLER, Brigadier-General.
I have no personal recollection of this incident or of these gentlemen; no doubt they reached their regiment, and I hope and expect they made brave soldiers in those dark days of the confederacy.
Little occurred to break the monotony of the camp; no enemy near, and only now and then some disabled men or horses from the front, or the dispatch of convalescent men and horses to the front.
A day or two after I got to Lafayette a detail sent out
to get beef cattle reported to me that they had found a man belonging to the Bolivar troop, whose name was Dan Davidson, living with a pretty little wife about seven or eight miles from camp. I knew he had been absent from his company for several months, but no one knew whether he was a straggler or a prisoner. I sent and had him arrested and brought into camp, but he had such a plausible story of having been sick and nursed at the house where he found his bride, and his intention to rejoin his comcommand as soon as he knew where it was, that I was fain to admit his excuse, and turned him over to the officer in charge of the men of the brigade, to be sent with the next detail to the front. He had only been married a week or two, and begged hard to be allowed to go back to his wife, but he deserved punishment, and I would not permit it. In a few days, however, I relented so far as to detail him to get beef cattle for the command in the neighborhood of his wife's home, and kept him at this while I remained in that section of the country.
While this was going on I got one day a letter from his wife, saying she heard that he had a wife living in Texas, and asking me if it were so. I had never heard of it before, but on inquiry of some men of his company with me, I learned it was true; he had been married when about eighteen years old, and so far as was known his wife was living in Texas, but that they had been divorced. I wrote his wife this, and I suppose it was all right, as I heard nothing further about it. I know that after the war was over he passed through Bolivar county with his young wife on his way to Texas, where both were still living and doing well a few years ago, as he wrote me from that state.
I received from General Jackson the following order a few days after its date:
HEADQUARTERS JACKSON'S CAVALRY DIVISION,
CAVE SPRINGS, October 15th, 1864.
Special Order No. 76.--Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery will make an immediate and thorough inspection of his camp, and all horses found to be permanently disabled, or not likely to be serviceable in three months, will be disposed of by him. The government must not be taxed with their support.
By order of
BRIGADIER-GENERAL W. H. JACKSON.
E. T. SYKES, A. A. Gen'l.
Commanding camp disabled horses, Jackson's Cav. Div.
I have no recollection or report of what the result of the inspection was.
A few days later I received the following:
HEADQUARTERS JACKSON'S CAVALRY DIVISION,
CAVE SPRINGS, October 20, 1864.
COLONEL--I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your report and the reports of the brigade detachments for the brigade commanders for the week ending October 15, 1864. I am directed to say to you, you can purchase the horses alluded to and give the detail desired. As to the movement and change of your camp, it will be taken into consideration and an answer sent you soon.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THOMAS B. SYKES, A. I. G.
Commanding Detachment Jackson's Cavalry, near West Point.
A few days later came the subjoined letter from General
Jackson written by himself. The paper is very bad and the ink is worse and very much faded, so that some words cannot be deciphered.
I very much regret this, as for obvious reasons I prize the letter.
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY DIVISION,
JACKSONVILLE, ALA., October 24, 1864.
COLONEL--I am making the move with Armstrong's and Ross' brigades to overtake the army and cross the Tennessee river. I wish you to move all the horses of these two brigades and King's battery (which was sent to West Point to get new guns) to Crawford, Mississippi, between Macon and Columbus, and establish your camp in that vicinity, or if forage is not abundant there you will select some place convenient to that road higher up. I wish you before starting to issue an order by my command breaking up the camp at Eufala, Alabama, and ordering them to join you, first collecting all U. S. or C. S. horses in that vicinity in the hands of citizens, as I am informed that the Texans there have disposed of some two hundred of those horses, which were captured on the--that camp to--. If citizens have traded with them for any horses, whether branded or not, take them away from them, as orders have been issued, and now existing, forbidding citizens to trade with cavalry-men for their horses.
I wish you to keep all the men you now have with you, recruit their horses thoroughly, and move the battery horses. Do not send any of them to their commands until I send you orders. Have them all shod, draw shoes from chief of ordnance of the army, Lieutenant-Colonel Kennard, who will be either at Selma or Corinth.
Let the horses and men of General Ferguson's brigade remain in the present camp, and notify the officer in
command that General F.'s brigade was left at Cedar Town, somewhere on the line from that place to this.
In moving to your new position make easy marches, have no straggling, no depredations. --conduct and gratified at the--have straightened out--most difficult of all commands, "reserve camp of disabled horses." May you continue in this most important work. You have my best wishes and thanks.
With respect, your obedient servant,
W. H. JACKSON, Brigadier-General.
LIEUT.-COL. F. A. MONTGOMERY,
Commanding Camp near West Point, Georgia.
Lieutenant Chambers, I understand, is in command of Ross' camp, at Eufala. I sent him an order a day or two ago to break up this camp and join you, but he had not received it. Issue another by my order.
W. H. J.
In the light of subsequent events it looks from this order like General Jackson foresaw the result of the campaign and that retreat would have to be made into Mississippi.
Where words are illegible in this letter I have not tried to supply them, but have substituted dashes.
The day before receipt of General Jackson's order I got the following from my friend Captain Thos. B. Sykes:
BLUE MOUNTAIN, October 25, 1864.
COLONEL--I have just found a man here en route to your camp, and will write you a few lines. General Jackson wrote you a long letter last night, telling you of our movements and giving you directions what to do.
The command (Ross' and Armstrong's brigade) left Jacksonville to-day, en route to Gunter's Landing. I
suppose General Hood with the infantry are crossing the Tennessee river to-day. Ferguson's brigade is left at Cedartown, with orders to report to General Wheeler. Jackson is to have some other brigade in place of Ferguson's. Our base is changed to Corinth and Tuscumbia. General Jackson wrote to move your camp to the neighborhood of Macon, Mississippi, and to break up the camp at Eufala, and in his name order the men and horses there to report to you. The letter was mailed to you at Jacksonville, and may not reach you for some days. It was directed to you at West Point. We have done but little since you left us. The most important was the taking of the train of cars by your regiment. General Jackson also sent you instructions with regard to King's battery. The letter will reach you in a few days, but if it does not, you can act on this and consider it official. We are all in high spirits and crying "On to the Ohio!" Wishing you a pleasant time,
I am, yours truly,
THOS B. SYKES, A. I. G.
TO COLONEL F. A. MONTGOMERY,
Comdg. Detachment Jackson's Cavalry,
near West Point, Ga.
P. S.--You are to leave the men and horses of
Ferguson's brigade where they are. Send a special courier
down to Eufala.
THOS. B. SYKES, A. I. G.
These old letters and orders are of little value perhaps in the history of the war, but every old soldier will understand how dearly prized they are by me.
I got the command I was to take to Mississippi together as soon as I could, the guns of King's battery being sent by rail to Meridian, and I found by investigation that the reports General Jackson had received of the sale
of horses by the Texans at Eufala had been greatly exaggerated; a few perhaps had been traded.
My march across the State of Alabama which, as directed by General Jackson, I made by easy stages, had but few incidents of interest to my readers; two I recall, one serious, the other amusing.
To prevent straggling at any time in a cavalry command, even when the company and regimental organizations were complete, was no easy matter. With such a command as I had it was most difficult, especially on my first day's march. Somewhere not far from the road I was pursuing, as I learned at night, was a distillery where the whiskey came hot and fiery from the still, and some of my Texans found this out. These men were brave soldiers; I had seen them in many a fight, but the were at all times impatient of control, except by Ross, for whom any of them I believe would have died if need be, but they cared little for the authority of the two lieutenants they had with them.
Halting the first night at a little village, the name of which I have forgotten, I sent the command through the village to camp, except my guard, which I kept near me at the entrance to the village. I stationed guards in the road, with orders to preserve order, and also sent guards into the village for the same purpose. As was to be expected, some men were late getting into the camp, but most of them came quietly, having various excuses, which I thought it good policy to admit, for I have always found that a man in authority, having the power to punish violations of his orders, ought to overlook small things, otherwise he will be in hot water, as the saying is, all the time.
Presently, however, came along a Texan, whooping like a Comanche Indian, evidently boiling over with the effects of whiskey, and rushed by the guards, whom I had
ordered not to fire on any one unless absolutely necessary, and while they hesitated as to whether his case demanded a shot, he got by. I at once sent an order to the lieutenant in command of the Ross detachment to arrest him and bring him to me.
When he came both officers were with him. I shamed him for his conduct, and severely rebuked the officers, and told them if I had any more trouble I would arrest the one highest in rank, and send him, under charges, to General Ross, wherever he might be. They promised to do better, and after that night I had no further trouble with them. But the troubles of the night were not ended. I was roused from a sound sleep by a report brought by a citizen that one of the Texans had shot and mortally wounded an old farmer about two miles out from the village. Sending for Captain Kennedy, I directed him to pick out five young men, one to be a sergeant, and the best mounted, and these upon reporting I ordered to go at once to the wounded man's house, get the trail of his assailant, and follow him, if need be to the Mississippi river, and bring him to me, promising them, though this was not necessary, to give them a furlough as soon as we got to the State of Mississippi.
The next day about noon, as I was crosssing the Tallapoosa river, one of them came to me and privately reported they had arrested the man, but thought it best not to bring him up till they heard from me. As a matter of fact, I did not know what to do with him, now I had him, but finally sent a written order to the sergeant to find out the county site of the county where the crime had been committed, and take him there and turn him over to the sheriff to be put into the jail. I kept this as quiet as I could. Late that night the detail got to camp, and reported where they had put him, but I don't recollect the county or town. A day or two afterwards I
heard a rumor that some of the Texans, finding where he was, slipped off without my knowledge, but no doubt with the knowledge of their own officers, and released him. I have no doubt it was true, but at all events I got rid of him, for I saw and heard of him no more. One good effect of this was that the Texans were sobered by this outrage by one of their number, and ashamed of it, and as long as I remained in command of them they were quiet and well behaved, and I thought tried to remove the impression which they supposed I had formed to the prejudice of their good names as soldiers.
Passing on my way, I came one afternoon to a very thrifty farmer's, who had everything in abundance, and here went into camp. He was not only willing to supply me with forage, but was kind to the men, giving freely to them of his abundance, especially of sorghum, which he was just grinding and boiling.
My quarters were about a quarter of a mile from his house, and just after dark he came to them holding a young fellow by the collar with one hand, while in the other he held his open pocket-knife. The young man held a turkey by its legs in one hand. Inquiring into the case, it seems that the old gentleman, for he was between fifty and sixty, had caught the young fellow just as he had snatched the turkey from the roost, and told him if he let it drop he would stick his knife in him, and he was afraid to let go, and in this ludicrous fashion he was brought to me. The poor fellow was so much ashamed he could hardly speak, and I contented myself with giving him a good scolding, for I knew the ridicule to which he would be exposed would be more punishment than I could give him. I made him take the turkey back, the farmer guarding him all the way. He was not one of the Texans, but belonged to one of the Mississippi regiments. It was long before he heard the last of that
turkey. I reached my destination in due time and established my camp northwest of Crawfordsville some five or six miles.
I was tired and sick, and above all home-sick, for I had not seen my family for more than a year, and as I knew there would be nothing to do in camp for a time, and it was in good order and in fair state of discipline, I determined to try and get a leave of absence and go home. This was no easy matter, but turning the camp over to Captain Kennedy, who was perfectly competent to manage it, I went to the Lauderdale Springs hospital. The surgeon in charge recommended me a leave of absence, and it was granted by General Taylor, commanding department at Meridian. I was in the hospital two or three days. Going into the ward where I was to find a bed, I was surprised to hear my name called, and going to the bed whence the voice proceeded, I was surprised to find an aide of General Jackson. I cannot remember his name, for my acquaintance with him was but slight. He had belonged in the old army, to Van Dorn's command, and had, I think, then the rank of serjeant, and being much attached to that officer, had followed him, and had been given the rank of lieutenant in that general's bodyguard. After Van Dorn's death he had attached himself to General Jackson, who had found a place for him.
He was a young fellow, and I knew he was regarded as a rollicking but gallant soldier, born in the Emerald Isle. Upon inquiring into his condition as to when and where he was wounded, he told me in confidence he had been wounded in a duel with my friend Captain Thos. B. Sykes. They had fallen out and fought, and he was severely wounded, the captain unhurt. The matter was kept quiet, and few knew it, and I kept his secret at the hospital. I cannot at this writing recall another duel in
our army during the war, though no doubt there were others which were hushed up. I have no idea what became of him afterwards.
My leave of absence obtained, I started home, going to camp to get my horse and servant. It was now about the first of December, and I had a hard ride before me, for at least fifty miles of it was to be across the Yazoo Delta. On the last but one day of my ride I got within fifty miles of my home, and determined not to sleep the next night till I got home. Staying all night about a mile from the old town of McNutt, I requested my landlord to give me a breakfast before it was light, which he did. The road to McNutt and for a mile beyond was good, but then came an almost impassable swamp. As soon as I struck this swamp I was obliged to halt and wait for daylight. Pushing on, about dark I reached the place where my wife had made her home most of the war, but there learned she had moved back to our old place on the river. I knew she had intended to do so if she could get some houses built, because the few negroes who had remained faithful desired it, and would otherwise have left. It was ten miles further, but I went on, and finally got home.
I found the next morning she had succeeded in having some cabins built for the negroes, built by their own labor from logs, but warm and comfortable. For herself she had a little house with a few rooms, built to some of the chimneys which were left standing after the fire, and was better situated than I had expected. The soldier's dream I had in Georgia was at last realized--I was home with my wife and children, though not this time for long.
On my way home this time I spent the night in the village of Greensborough, in Webster county, and staid all night with the family of a neighbor and friend of
Bolivar county, who was himself in the transportation department of the government, and was not at home. His mother was a very old lady (the name was Worsham) and quite uneducated, but the most inveterate "gold bug" I have ever known, for not only did she believe in gold, but she would not take, when she could help it, anything but twenty dollar pieces. Some four years before the war the old lady sent me word one day that she had two thousand dollars she wanted to lend me, she had just collected it from some one to whom it had been loaned, and she wanted to lend it again. I went to see her and agreed to take the money at ten per cent, but in addition she insisted on having a bolt of calico when the interest was paid. I agreed to this also, and every Christmas she would come herself to get her interest and her bolt of calico. One part of the contract was that when she wanted her money it was to be paid to her in twenty dollar gold pieces, no other kind of money would do.
The first of January, 1861, came round, and this time she not only wanted her interest and bolt of calico, but she wanted all her money in twenty dollar gold pieces. I finally got up about thirteen hundred dollars in twenty dollar pieces, but was obliged to pay the rest in smaller coin. The old lady went off and bought a negro girl paying all her small money, about eight hundred dollars, for her, and then sold her for about that much in confederate money a year or two later, but she told me with great glee she still had all her twenty dollar gold pieces left that I had paid to her. I never saw or heard of the old lady again. A citizen in the town, or near the town, had a very fine horse for sale, and I sent him word I would pass that way again in a few weeks and if I liked the horse I would buy him. I was told he would take nothing but gold, and as my wife had always
kept some hid away, though no large sum, I took with me as I went back the price of the horse, one hundred and forty dollars, and got him. He was indeed one of the finest horses I had ever owned and had been raised by his owner. I had broken down several horses during the war, and had two killed, and was glad to find this horse. I was not to ride him very long.
Rejoin army at Tupelo--Disastrous condition as seen by General Taylor--Brigade furloughed two weeks--A young recruit to Bolivar troop from New York, but native of Alabama, Henry Elliot--Reorganization of cavalry at Columbus--Appointed on examining board--Legislature in session--Speeches by prominent men--General Forrest--General Taylor's opinion of him--Military execution--Ordered towards Selma.
All fear of actual outrage at the hands of the federals, who now and then raided the county from their station at the mouth of the White river, had been removed from the minds of the people, except those who were either soldiers at home or passing through, or members of the "featherbeds", and even the families of these were not now molested. For myself, I could not safely stay at home on the bank of the river, and we went a few miles back to an abandoned place belonging to a relative, and there my wife remained till I returned to the army, when she fearlessly went back to her own home. While at home many citizens came to see me, that is to say, many of the few, who were in the county. All were anxious of course to know my opinion of the condition, how long the war would last, what the final result would be, and the fate of the south if we were conquered.
I did not yet feel whipped myself, but I did not deny that we were in great danger, that the prospects were gloomy, that there was no longer hope of intervention, or recognition by any foreign power, and that the re-election of Mr. Lincoln precluded any hope of help from opponents of the war in the north, but I advised that everybody
at home go to work the best they could, for I felt assured that no property would be confiscated if we were beaten, our only property loss would be our slaves, except the loss already sustained, which of course was enormous. There was, in fact, no other course left to the people, though it was the fixed purpose of the army in the field, to fight it out to the end. If success came at last to our arms, all would be well, if defeat, our wives and children would at least be able to live, though in diminished comfort as compared with the happier times before the war. This was my reasoning as a soldier with a command still in the field, and with hope not entirely gone, for was not the great Lee still holding his own, and had not Johnston been recalled to a command?--alas, too late to save his splendid and devoted army from defeat and almost destruction, but still he had been recalled, and this alone revived the hope of the army in their last desperate struggle.
About the 10th of January, 1865, and before my leave had expired, I started back to the army, for I knew General Hood had crossed the Tennessee river and was retreating to Tupelo, and my anxiety would not permit me to remain longer away. I reached Tupelo about the same time my brigade did. It was neither demoralized nor whipped, but it was in bad shape from loss of men and horses. Some of the bravest men of the command had been left to sleep their last sleep in the soil of Tennessee. I recall as I write, no names, but the brave Captain King of my regiment from Noxubee county, and Sergeant Orin Kingley of the Bolivar troop, my neighbor and friend at home. Not having been with the brigade in this disastrous campaign into and retreat from Tennessee, to my great regret I cannot from personal knowledge give an account of its hardships and its gallant services, especially on the retreat. In Captain Sykes' letter to me, before
quoted, he mentions the capture of a train of cars by the First Mississippi regiment, and as I learned, this was a gallant exploit.
Armstrong's brigade was almost wholly a Mississippi brigade, and it was known as such, but in the histories of the state which I have seen no mention is made of it, or of its services in this campaign, and I have carefully examined to see.
Before the command had left Georgia, Captain Taylor of the First Mississippi had been ordered to report to General French with his company, and took part in the operations of that officer in his attack on Altoona, but he was not separated long from his regiment. There was no braver or better officer in the regiment or in the whole command.
After the war it was my pleasure, as well as an honor, to know well that favorite of Mississippians, the gallant Walthall, who commanded the rear in Hood's retreat, and who had Armstrong in his rear, all the time, and he often told me of the services of the brigade and its splendid commander, and I wish I had taken notes of what he said, but I did not. But while the brigade was still intact, though it had suffered heavily in men and horses, where now was the army, then full of hope and confidence in their general, which on the 18th of July, 1864, had been turned over to General Hood? Let General Taylor, who succeeded General Hood in the command, tell what he found when he got to Tupelo:
"It is painful to criticise Hood's conduct of this campaign. Like Ney, 'the bravest of the brave,' he was a splendid leader in battle, and as a brigade or division commander unsurpassed; but arrived at higher rank, he seems to have been impatient of control, and openly disapproved of Johnston's conduct of affairs between Dalton and Atlanta Unwillingness to obey is often interpreted by governments
into capacity to command. Reaching the southern bank of the Tennessee, Hood asked to be relieved, and a telegraphic order assigned me to the duty. At Tupelo, on the Mobile and Ohio railway, a hundred and odd miles north of Meridian, I met him and the remains of his army. Within my experience were assaults on positions in which heavy losses were sustained without success; but the field had been held; retreats, but preceded by repulse of the foe, and followed by victory. This was my first view of a beaten army, an army that for four years had shown a constancy worthy of the 'Ten Thousand,' and a painful sight it was. Many guns and small arms had been lost, and the ranks were depleted by thousands of prisoners and missing. Blankets, shoes, clothing, and accouterments were wanting."
But I forbear to quote further or to dwell longer on this painful scene. Almost all the remnants of this gallant army were hurried to General Johnston in North Carolina, there in a few weeks more to lay down their arms forever. General Jackson's division was kept in Mississippi. General Armstrong's brigade, as stated by him in his letter before quoted, were furloughed for two weeks to recruit horses, and indeed men if any could be found. Our orders were to rendezvous near Columbus in two weeks; and though it would take me four days to get home, and four to get back, leaving me only a few days at home, I turned and went with the Bolivar troop who went home. I would have gone to stay a day, for in those days a ride across the state and back was nothing to me.
While at home this company got a recruit, I must not omit to mention, for of him I must speak again. His name was Henry Elliot, a boy about sixteen years old, perhaps a few months older. He was from the State of New York, I forget now from what part, and he and a
boy two or three years older, named Joe Clark, whose father, at the breaking out of the war, was a merchant, renting a house and store from me at my landing, and who was a northern man and had gone home, had in some way made their way to Bolivar county, arriving there about the time I had started to Tupelo. A raid captured Clark and returned him to his parents. Henry Elliot said he was a southern boy, and had come south to join the army. He and Clark had made acquaintance, and Clark knowing Bolivar county and many people, they had come there. How they managed it I don't know, but both had the romantic idea of fighting for southern rights. Henry Elliot told me that he had been born near Marion, Alabama, that his father had moved north, and his mother being dead, had married again, that he had an aunt still living near Marion when he had last heard from her. He was a bright and even a lovable boy, as I thought after two months' acquaintance with him. Such boys, and many of them, we had in the army from the beginning, and many lay already, sleeping their last sleep, on the battle fields of the south, but these for the most part had been boys, not only born in the south, but living there when the call to arms first stirred the blood of the people. But Henry Elliot had been, from the commencement of the war, then a child of about twelve years of age, living where nothing but censure of the south could be heard, and yet he said, intending to come south and make his home when he grew to be a man, he thought he ought to come and fight for her liberties. He was without clothes, except what he had on, but some were provided for him, and he was furnished by some one with a horse and gun, and joined the company.
I was soon on my way back to the command, and it was not many days before the whole brigade was together once more near Columbus, Mississippi, as General Armstrong
says, in better condition and ready for the field again. There was a concentration of all the cavalry which could be got together, and a reorganization at or near Columbus, under that great but untaught soldier, Bedford Forrest, now holding the high rank of lieutenant-general. What can I say of this man whose marvelous career to this time had been one of almost continuous success. I knew him well, had known him long, but except for the short time before mentioned at Columbia, Tennessee, I had not been with him or under his command till now. Without a uniform, and this did not much change him, he looked like an old country farmer. His manner was mild, his speech rather low and slow, but let him once be aroused and the whole man changed; his wrath was terrible, and few, if any, dared to brave it. There has long been talk of raising a monument to his memory in Memphis, and it will no doubt be done, but to portray him rightly there ought to be two, one the farmer-like Forrest, the other Forrest leading his men to battle, or when in anger.
So much has been said and written, and is now being said and written, about General Forrest, that I make no apology for quoting at some length from what General Taylor said of him after assuming the command of this department at Meridian. He met him the same day he himself arrived and took the command.
"Major General Maury, in immediate command at Mobile, and the senior officer in the department before my arrival, had ordered General Forrest with his cavalry to Mobile, in anticipation of an attack. Forrest himself was expected to pass through Meridian that evening, en route for Mobile. Just from the Mississippi river, where facilities for obtaining information from New Orleans, were greater than at Mobile, I was confident the enemy contemplated no immediate attack upon the latter place.
Accordingly, General Maury was informed by telegraph of my presence, that I assumed command of the department and would arrest Forrest's movement. An hour later a train from the north bringing Forrest in advance of his troops, reached Meridian and was stopped, and the general whom I had never seen, came to report.
"He was a tall, stalwart man, with grayish hair, mild countenance and slow and homely of speech. In few words he was informed that I considered Mobile safe for the present, and that all our energies must be directed to the relief of Hood's army, then west of Atlanta. The only way to do this was to worry Sherman's communications north of the Tennessee river, and he must move his cavalry in that direction at the earliest possible moment. To my surprise, Forrest suggested many difficulties and asked numerous questions; how he was to get over the Tennessee, how he was to get back if pressed by the enemy, how he was to be supplied, what should be his line of retreat in certain contingencies, what he was to do with prisoners if any were taken, etc. I began to think he had no stomach for the work; (I suspect Forrest was trying in his own way to find out what sort of a new commander he had), but at last having isolated the chance of success from the cause of failure, with the care of a chemist experimenting in his laboratory, he rose and asked for Fleming, the superintendent of the railway, who was on the train by which he had come. Fleming appeared, a little man on crutches (he had recently broken a leg), but with the energy of a giant, and at once stated what he could do in the way of moving supplies on his line, which had been repaired up to the Tennessee boundary. Forrest's whole manner changed. In a dozen sharp sentences he told his wants, said he would leave a staff officer to bring up supplies, asked for an engine to take him back to his troops twenty miles north, informed me he would
march with the dawn, and hoped to give an account of himself in Tennessee.
"Moving with great rapidity, he crossed the Tennessee river, captured stockades with their garrisons, burned bridges, destroyed railways, reached the Cumberland river below Nashville, drove away gunboats, captured and destroyed several transports with immense stores, and spread alarm over a wide region. The enemy concentrated on him from all directions, but he eluded or defeated their several columns, recrossed the Tennessee and brought off fifteen hundred prisoners and much spoil. Like Clive, nature made him a great soldier, but he was without the former's advantages. Limited, as was Clive's education, he was a person of erudition compared with Forrest, who read with difficulty. In the last weeks of the war he was much with me and told me the story of his life. His father, a poor trader in negroes and mules died when he was fifteen years old, leaving a widow and several children dependent on him for support. To add to his burden, a posthumous infant was born a few weeks after his father's death.
"Continuing the paternal occupation in a small way, he continued to maintain the family and give some education to the younger children. His character for truth, honesty and energy was recognized, and he gradually achieved independence and aided his brethren to start in life. Such was his short story before the war. . . . The accusations of his enemies that he murdered prisoners at Fort Pillow and elsewhere are absolutely false. The prisoners captured on the expedition into Tennessee of which I have just written were mostly negroes, and he carefully looked after their wants himself, though in rapid movement and fighting much of the time. These negroes told me of Mas' Forrest's kindness to them."
The design was to organize the cavalry under Forrest
into two divisions, one to be commanded by General Jackson and the other by General J. R. Chalmers, and great pains were taken. Many vacancies had been made in company and regimental officers, which had not yet been filled, and a court under the act of congress before alluded to was ordered by General Taylor to examine and pass on the qualifications of those entitled by seniority to succeed. He appointed me a member of that court; and as we would be engaged for some weeks, I went into the city of Columbus, where Forrest, Chalmers and Jackson had their headquarters, to be convenient to it. This was about the first of March, 1865, and I remained in Columbus most of the time till the work of our examining board or court was finished, the commands of the different brigades being all within easy reach of that place.
The legislature had been in session at Columbus for some time, though the seat of the state government was at Macon, and was still in session when I took up my quarters in that city. There were many leading citizens of the state present besides the members, and some of these were anxious to give their views as to the situation and the remedy for the dangers which, it could no longer be concealed, threatened our cause. Among others, afterwards Governor Alcorn made a speech which I heard, and remember his theme. He said, and in this he spoke truly, that the whole civilized world was against the south on the question of negro slavery, and he advocated an immediate declaration, to be put in force at once by acts of the legislatures and the confederate congress, to free the negroes at the end of twenty years. This, he thought, would excite sympathy for us abroad and bring recognition of our independence, with its attendant advantages. He went further, and advocated the raising of negro soldiers, to be officered by white men, with the promise to these soldiers to free them as soon as the war ended. He
was able and eloquent in stating his views, and many agreed with him; but it was too late, even if the south could have been won over to his plan. Two years sooner this scheme, if carried into effect, might have done some good; but I doubt if at any time, even when, as now, the confederacy was in its dying agonies (though not even yet admitted), it would have met the approbation of the great mass of the southern people, even if it would have assured independence. To have made soldiers out of the negroes would never have done in the south, however well it suited the north. I agreed with him as to the emancipation plan at the end of twenty years, for slavery had long seemed to me to be a stumblingblock in the way of our success, and twenty years would have given the south time to prepare for and meet the change--that is, upon the expectation we were to win our fight.
On the night of the 4th of March, as I find by a letter written that day to my wife, Colonel Orr, the member of congress from the district in which Columbus was situated, was to speak. He had heralded his appearance while on his way from Richmond, by a telegram to the legislature not to adjourn till he reached Columbus. Colonel Orr had commanded the Thirty-first Mississippi regiment, one of those engaged in the battles around Vicksburg, and in the siege of Vicksburg, at this time a member of congress, and known to be a member of the committee on foreign affairs, and coming now direct from congress and after the Hampton Roads conference with Mr. Lincoln, it may be imagined with what interest-- fear with many, hope with few--this message had been received, and how anxiously his arrival was awaited. He came, and had a crowded house to hear him.
To my infinite surprise, instead of hopeful, cheering words, his whole speech was a severe arraignment of President Davis, especially for some of his military
appointments, particularly that of General Pemberton. In painful silence the large audience listened. There was no applause, for if there were any who agreed with him, they felt the indecency of giving expression to their approval of his speech. True, most men felt the president had made mistakes, especially in the appointment of General Pemberton and the removal of General Johnston; but all true southern men, especially all true soldiers, sympathized with instead of blaming him, for all knew that his heart was wrung with anguish at the results of his action and at the censure he knew had in the minds of many fallen upon him, though too proud to speak in his own behalf.
When the speech was ended a gentleman in the audience rose and said he would reply to it the next night in the same place. This was James S. Phelan, an eminent lawyer of Aberdeen, who was one of the first confederate states senators from Mississippi, but now one of the judges of a military court, of which General J. Z. George was also a member. The house was again crowded, to hear Judge Phelan, Colonel Orr being present, and I pitied him while he listened to the scathing rebuke for his speech which Phelan gave him, and which he several times interrupted, trying to explain. Judge Phelan also made an able defense of the president, without defending Pemberton, but he stated a conversation he had with the president about this very matter, and he showed the difficulties under which Mr. Davis labored all the time, so well and so pathetically that he won for him the sympathies of his audience, and was loudly applauded at the close of his speech.
A few days after this rumors of a federal raid to Tupelo suspended the labors of the examining board, and General Chalmers' division was ordered to meet it. Colonel Pinson remained in command of the camp, and I went in
command of the regiment. The command went dismounted, and on cars, and the trip was extremely disagreeable, the more so as we found it a false alarm. We got back to camp on the 11th of March, and I went on into Columbus, where I had left my horse, it being understood the brigade would follow next day, as the whole command was about to march towards Selma, Alabama. The legislature had adjourned while I was away. I find from some letters I wrote my wife from Columbus, that while in that city I paid ten dollars a day at a private boarding house for my board, and five dollars a day at a stable for my horse. The board was either very fine or the money was very poor. I remember a few days before we left I paid eighteen dollars a pound for some coarse brown sugar for my coffee.
About the fifteenth of March we took our leave of Columbus, but as we were leaving the whole command was halted to witness a military execution, the second I had seen during the war, for they were almost unknown to the cavalry, though it was known a good many had taken place in the army under General Bragg, who was a severe disciplinarian.
The first I had seen was a poor fellow who had been convicted by the military court of being a spy, and the command was placed in line to see him die. I am glad to say I was not near enough to see his face or hear him speak.
The one now to die had been convicted of desertion, and as he marched past the line, he seemed to me to be about forty-five years old. He met his death bravely, and it was over in a minute, but what a pity it was, for in a few weeks more the war was to end, and who knows what made him desert, perhaps a starving wife and children. I never knew or inquired his story, nor do I wish to know now, but I have often thought of him and
wondered if perhaps he did not have an excuse, good in the sight of heaven, though not sufficient to meet the demands of military law.
I have said that our brigade was now in the division commanded by General Chalmers. The command, and especially my regiment, parted with General Jackson with regret, for we had served under him for three years, and he was highly esteemed by both the men and officers as a brave but cautious commander. General Chalmers was known to be a gallant soldier, and there was no objection to him, but naturally the brigade preferred Jackson. However, we still had Armstrong, though Starke's regiment had been taken from the brigade and given to Starke, now promoted to be brigadier-general, and also in our new division. It seemed to me that, as our army grew smaller, and companies and regiments were from time to time consolidated, the crop of brigadiers increased, and the same may be said of all the generals. We had enough, I think, when the war ended, to supply an army five times as large as ours was.
Last letter to my wife, very gloomy--Cross Warrior river, move to Marion--New York recruit sees his aunt--Thrown in Wilson's front--Night march, fall back on Selma--Enemy attack Selma--How General Taylor escaped--Description of battle--Regiment nearly all killed, wounded or captured--Brave Federal sergeant saves my life--Took my pistol aud hat, but didn't want Confederate money--Sorrowful night--Federal band plays "Dixie," insult to injury.
General Taylor estimated the force Forrest had now at eight thousand men, but unless he had some other commands besides Chalmers' Mississippi division, and Jackcon's Tennessee division, it could not have been so large, for I am confident these two divisions did not have more than five thousand effective men in them. But they were veterans who had remained steadfast throughout the war, and who were not yet ready to say, "hold, enough." As long as they had a government to fight for, the men of these two divisions, and now with them, would fight to the end. Chalmers' division moved first, Armstrong in front, to meet the enemy where he could found, with little thought that this was to be their last march, and to Armstrong's brigade its last fight, for he alone, without the whole of his brigade, was to meet the shock of the last battle of the war so far as I know in this department, or indeed anywhere else.
In this I think we were more fortunate than our comrades of the other divisions, and one brigade, which by some mistake or by some one's fault, whose name I know not, never reached Selma. If they had been able to do so, the result would have been far different, but regrets now, as
well as then, are vain and useless. We halted a day at Pickensville on our march, but were suddenly ordered from that place, and soon reached Eutaw, near the Warrior river. Here I wrote for the last time during the war to my wife, and from this letter I will quote to show the situation as it then was, or as I viewed it.
EUTAW, ALABAMA, March 27th, 1865.
. . ."While we are halted here, waiting for a pontoon to be laid across the Warrior river, I thought I would write to you, though I am afraid it may be some time before you get the letter, as I understand the bottom is overflowed. We are now on the march to Selma, Alabama, about sixty miles from here. I don't know where we will go from there, but as the enemy are reported advancing on Selma from Pensacola, I suppose we will go to meet them. . . . Our prospects for a successful and honorable ending of the war are gloomy, and unless the God of nations and of battles interposes His Almighty power, or raises up friends for us abroad, I see no hope for us. This you know was what I thought when I was at home a few weeks ago, yet I do not wish my opinion made public, as I do not want to increase the demoralization and discouragement. We have rumors now that General Johnston has routed Sherman in North Carolina, and if this be true it will enable us to hold on for some time yet, and in the providence of God may bring about a better state of things.
"I am sorry to say a great many have deserted, not so many, I think, from our cavalry, though some from it. I saw a poor fellow shot for desertion a short time ago. He belonged to the brigade, and was shot in presence of it, but I fear it has failed to check the evil. There are men enough at home to-day, who belong to the army, to drive the Yankees from the south, and gain our
independence, without help from any quarter, but they will not come out and cannot be driven out. They basely prefer to dodge about the swamps like runaway negroes, and try to save their miserable lives, to coming manfully to the assistance of their comrades in the field, who may be ultimately overborne by numbers and forced to yield."
. . . All the men in the field felt very bitterly towards the skulkers at home, whose numbers had been for some time increasing, though all at home or absent from the army were not skulkers, but many true soldiers, debilitated from disease or wounds, were, at the time I wrote, absent from our brigade, and this was no doubt true of all the other commands in the army, infantry, artillery and cavalry alike.
But if we could have had them all, we could not have defeated the overwhelming force our enemy had; no, not if we could have had every man in the south would we have been able now to cope with this force.
It is also true that on various pretexts men stayed at home who ought to have been in the army, not deserters in the legal sense, for they had never been in the army, or had at an early day got out. There were a good many of this class, and these were worse than the real deserters, and were to a great extent responsible for desertions from the army. There were a good many "fire eaters," who went out at first, expecting to win fame and glory in a little time, but who were like the seed in the parable, which was sown on stony ground, which "forthwith sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was up they were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away." Some of this class were loud in their blame of our generals for surrendering, and said the fight ought to have gone on while a man was left to hold a gun. Later I will give an instance.
But it seems to me I am taking up too much time with this digression, but to be perfectly candid I hesitate about proceeding with my story, and would be glad if I could leave out what I have yet to say of our brigade in the war, for though thirty-five years have passed, it is painful to think of, and though as I view it through the lapse of years, glorious in its ending, painful to tell.
We crossed the Warrior river, and moved directly to Marion. We now knew that the enemy we had to meet was not from Pensacola, but was a strong cavalry force under General Wilson, who was rapidly nearing Selma from north Alabama.
Selma was one of the few places of importance in the interior, which was left in our possession, and which had so far escaped the ravages of the war. An arsenal was located at the place, and many guns had been cast there, as I now recall, from iron gotten at the mines near Monte Vallo, and there was a large supply of ammunition also stored there. This was Wilson's objective point, and events proved him to be an able soldier. When we reached Marion, the young recruit from New York, Henry Elliot, sought and obtained permission to visit his aunt, who lived near the place. He found her, but I suspect was rather coldly received, as I gathered from him when he returned next morning to camp, though she had, he told me, given him a little money. She did not share his enthusiasm, and I have no doubt told him he had much better have stayed in the north, for I noticed he seemed depressed.
The romance of the war was indeed gone, only a sense of duty sustaining the cause, both in the army and among those citizens who had not yet yielded to the spirit of submission, which was spreading abroad and casting its baleful influence over the army like a dark shadow presaging our coming doom.
From Marion we moved on the last day of March, leaving our wagon trains behind us, and which we were not to see again, and going not directly to Selma, but to some point on a road leading directly north from that place, by which road it was now understood Wilson was advancing with no one in his front to oppose him.
On the morning of the 1st of April we reached this road, at a point some fifteen or twenty miles north of Selma. Forrest, with his usual impetuosity, had reached it before us with his body guard and a few other men, and had received the charge of Wilson's advance guard, literally cutting it to pieces. This affair, I think, delayed a little the advance of Wilson, or made him more cautious, for he did not come in sight of the brigade, and late in the afternoon we were ordered to fall back to Selma. We marched till late in the night, it being very dark, and at one place I remember we were much delayed in crossing a bridge over a narrow stream with steep banks, a bridge in such bad fix that it was necessary the men should lead their horses over it. This took a long time, and Colonel Pinson, having crossed, went on some distance, to stop and get the men in order as they came up in the darkness, leaving me to hurry them forward. I went across the bridge myself, and then dismounted and waited: Once, becoming impatient, I went over the bridge to where I had left our adjutant, Johnson, to hurry up the men, and it seeming to me that he was getting along too slow, I spoke rather sharply to him, which before the dark of next day I would have given anything if I had not done. He was a brave soldier and a good officer, and a great favorite with me as with all the command, and never before had I done so.
Finally all had crossed, and we all got together again, going into camp till daylight. Later in the day, the 2nd of April, we moved on into Selma, crossing, I remember,
some five or six miles north of that place a deep stream with steep banks and a good bridge, which struck me as a good place to make a stand; but we moved on and through the breastworks which had long before been thrown up for the defense of the place, though it had never been garrisoned, halting near the bank of the Alabama river in a beautiful grove just east of the town but inside the works. These works extended in a semi-circle around the town, and at some little distance from the main part of the town, going, as I remember, to the river on each side; and to have been properly garrisoned would, I think, have taken twenty thousand men, perhaps more. Here, at our bivouac, forage was procured for the horses and rations for the men, and here we rested till three or four in the afternoon. We had not seen a soldier; we did not know where Chalmers was with the other brigade of the division and a part of ours. Jackson with his division was way off towards Tuscaloosa. Before I proceed with my own account of what befell us on this fateful day, I will give General Taylor's account of the command Forrest had with him and where the other part was, and the supposed reasons why it was not on hand to aid in the defense of Selma, and his dramatic account of his own escape, for he was in Selma, though we did not see him.
"Our information of the enemy had proved extremely accurate, but in this instance the federal commander moved with unusual rapidity, and threw out false signals. Forrest with one weak brigade (this was Armstrong's), was in the path, but two of his brigadiers permitted themselves to be deceived by reports of the enemy's movements towards Columbus, Mississippi, and turned west, while another went into camp under some misconception of orders. Forrest fought as if the world depended on his arm, and sent to advise me of the deceit practiced on two of his brigades, but hoped to stop the enemy if he
could get up the third, the absence of which he could not account for. I directed such railway plant as we had to be moved out on the roads, retaining a small yard engine to take me off at the last moment. There was nothing more to be done. Forrest appeared, horse and man covered with blood, and announced the enemy at his heels, and that I must move at once to escape capture. I felt anxious for him, but he said he was unhurt and would cut his way through, as most of the men had done, whom he had ordered to meet him west of the Catawba. My engine started towards Meridian and barely escaped. Before headway was attained, the enemy was upon us, and capture seemed inevitable. Fortunately the group of horsemen near prevented their comrades from firing, so we only had to risk a fusilade from a dozen, who fired wild. The driver and stoker, both negroes, were as game as possible, and, as we thundered across the Catawba bridge all safe, raised a loud "Yah, Yah" of triumph, and smiled like two sable angels."
Rested and refreshed we moved late in the afternoon towards the works again, taking a road that led a little northeast, but did not pass through the works on this road, but when we reached them, turned and moved west along them. I remember where the works crossed the road I speak of, there was a small force, some two or three hundred Alabama state troops, posted. We marched perhaps a mile inside the works, till we came to the road by which we had entered. The First Mississippi was at the head of our column, and I was with Pinson at the head of the regiment. Just in front of us Generals Forrest and Armstrong, with some members of their respective staffs, were riding. In front of the works at this place, was an open field for half or three quarters of a mile, and the road ran through this, gradually ascending to a ridge beyond which we could not see. On the brow
of this ridge several horsemen were seen, there may have been twenty-five or thirty. Naturally, we supposed they were our picket, they were too far off to distinguish uniforms, but soon a good many more appeared, and it was evident it was the enemy. Twenty minutes sooner and they would have been in the works without firing a shot. Whose business it was to look after a picket on the road I don't know, but I do know that there ought to have been one there. It is a fact moreover, that no troops were in the works at this point when we reached this road. Our regiment was dismounted (I don't remember whether Ballentine's was or not just then) and deployed in front of the works on the left of the road, the horses, except field officers', being sent with usual horseholders to a clump of woods a quarter of a mile in the rear.
We advanced a little ways, perhaps a hundred and fifty yards, when about an equal force of the enemy appeared, dismounted; their horses had been withdrawn beyond the ridge and where not in sight, and shots were exchanged at long range, without damage to us or, I presume, to them. I never understood the purpose of deploying us in front of the works, but we were soon recalled, and our regiment occupied the works to the left, extending from the road to a deep but narrow ravine, which the works crossed, and which ran for a little ways in front of the works on our extreme left. Near the road was a special fortification or fort, in which a few hundred men could find shelter, and embrasures for guns through the main works. Here one, I believe two guns were now placed. Ballentine's regiment was in the works on the right of the road, and I believe this is all of Armstrong's brigade that was present, though there may have been another regiment still farther to the right; if so, I have forgotten it.
About half way to the extreme left of the First Mississippi,
which rested on the ravine spoken of, there was a high earthworks projecting at right angles from the breastworks, perhaps thirty feet, as well as I now recall the scene. This was, I suppose, intended to prevent an enfilading fire if an enemy should gain possession of the works on either side of it. This has a technical name; I believe it is salient. Near this work I had my horse tied; he was a very fine one I had lately been able to buy from a citizen of Greenboro, Mississippi. I walked up then to the fort, and it was agreed between Colonel Pinson and myself that if an assault was made on the works I should take charge of the left, as the line was a long one, and because of these works mentioned the left could not be seen from the fort, and Major Simmons should remain near the right and near him. Forrest, Armstrong, Pinson and myself, with some other officers, were at the fort, and an occasional shell was fired at the ridge which hid the enemy from us. They presently brought up a gun and returned our fire, and we all supposed this would be about the extent of the fight that day, for none of us thought the enemy would assault the works, exposed as they would be in an open field for some hundreds of yards. I make no doubt Forrest was either cursing Chalmers for not coming up, or praying that he might come in the night. While we were all looking--the sun was nearly down--long, dark line of men appeared on the brow of the ridge; they moved slowly forward for a while, and then broke into a cheer and charged, full three thousand men, as I was afterwards told by an officer in the charge. We could not have had more than one thousand men in a line at least four hundred yards long; the First Mississippi having, I know, about four hundred. I hastened to my place in line, and was barely in time to caution the men not to fire till I gave the word, as they were as yet too far away for our fire to be effectual.
Behind the dismounted men now rapidly approaching could be seen in the distance, on the brow of the ridge, a strong column of mounted men, waiting the favorable moment when one should come, to charge. I could not restrain the men near me; they began firing too soon. But as the enemy came nearer I could plainly see the deadly effects of our fire, though it did not check the enemy, who by this time had gotten so near that they were in equal danger in advancing or retreating. I could not see what was going on at the right, because of this salient I have mentioned; but in my immediate front the enemy had gotten to the ravine and were crowding into it for protection from our fire. At the particular point spoken of they were, many of them, within twenty feet of the breastworks. Stepping on the banquette at the base of the parapet, I fired my Tranter five times into the struggling mass, and had commenced to reload when I heard wild cheering to the right. There were four companies with me (two I remember, Captain Cravens' and Captain Montgomery's); and knowing the enemy in my immediate front were in fact repulsed, and that two companies would be able to hold the works, I ordered the two nearest me to follow to the right. As I came round the salient I saw Forrest, Armstrong, their staffs, and some other mounted men, with one or two caissons, going at headlong speed towards the city.
Then it was that "bloody with spurring, fiery red with haste" he burst into the presence of General Taylor, where he was seated on his engine as stated by him.
I knew that all was lost. The right of the regiment was rapidly retreating, Pinson with them, and calling halt at every step. There was no time to speak to him, and hastily calling to the men near me, unhitching my horse at the same time, we fell back to the ravine, in our rear, my horse falling dead before we got to it, though
only a little way, perhaps a hundred feet, to the point where I wanted to enter it. I could see the enemy pouring over the works to the right, not a hundred yards away, and the mounted column fast approaching. By the time I reached the ravine, with the men who were near me, the enemy was on its brink and firing down upon us. Seeing it impossible to get away, I gave the last order I ever gave during the war, and that was to the men to throw down their arms. In a moment a crowd of blue coats was around us. I suppose I had fifty men with me under Captain Cravens. Captain Montgomery had got across the ravine, and he was one of the few men of the regiment who escaped either death, wounds or capture.
I saw at the time no commissioned officer with our captors, the first man getting to me being a sergeant, as I knew from his chevrons. He demanded my pistol. After having fired it, I had commenced to reload it, but only got two cartridges in, without capping those. I handed it to him, and he asked for my pocketbook. I took it out, and said to him, "I have a locket with a portrait of my wife, which I would like to keep." He said, "Certainly," and I opened the book to take it out. As I did so he saw confederate money in it, and said if this was all the kind of money I had, he did not want it. This was the "unkindest cut of all." Replying I had no other money, I put the book back in my pocket. He looked up and said, "Give me your hat." Now my hat was a new one which had been smuggled from Memphis into Bolivar county, and my wife had looped it on one side and embroidered a star on it. I prized it highly, and hated to give it up. The sergeant himself was bareheaded, having lost his hat in the charge, and would take no denial, so I gave it to him with as good a grace as possible. All this took much less time to do than to tell. He ordered us all to the rear, guarded by the men with
him. As we went back the sergeant kept by my side, for he knew my rank and was proud of his capture. Firing still continued towards the city, as our fleeing men were pursued.
As we went back towards our fort, spoken of at the works, we met some stragglers of the federal army, and one of these stepped to me, and putting his gun, a Spencer carbine, at my breast, with an oath, was about to shoot me, when the brave sergeant at my side threw his gun up, and standing between us cursed him for a cowardly scoundrel, who had shirked the fight, and now wanted to murder prisoners. For one brief moment, helpless and unarmed, I thought I was gone.
We were soon at the fort and we could hear this incident discussed by our captors, and some thought no prisoners ought to be taken in retaliation, it was said, for the killing of federals the day before, in the charge on General Forrest's small command, which I have related, for it was a rumor, as I found afterwards, that some of their men had offered to surrender and had been refused quarter. It was of course not true, but I make no doubt it cost some of our men their lives that day.
There were brutal men in both armies, like the coward who wanted to kill me in cold blood, but they were the exception and not the rule. I had to this time looked anxiously for a commissioned officer, for while my little sergeant, he was a small man, was I was sure too brave to be cruel, yet I much preferred to see some officer of rank. The sun was down and a major belonging, as I was told, to General Wilson's staff, came up, and to him I introduced myself and related what had happened and what we heard, and he at once called the sergeant to him and gave him stringent orders to see that we were protected. I knew at the time the name of this sergeant
and of this major also, but have long since forgotten them. As the dusk came on, Colonel Pinson, who to that time I hoped had escaped, Major Simmons, Captain Taylor, Lester and other officers, and men of the regiment and of Ballentine's regiment were brought to us until the work around the embrasures would not hold them all. In fact, the first Mississippi cavalry had fought its last fight and almost to a man had been killed wounded or captured. A fate to be preferred I thought to that of our comrades in the division and brigade who by some blunder had failed to be with us, and who yet in a few weeks were compelled to yield. I will never forget the horrors of that night, as we talked over the fights, took note of who was with us, and wondered who were gone, for while nearly every one had some tale to tell of who he had seen fall, yet we did not know all. The federal loss in front of our regiment had been very heavy, and all night long ambulances were running gathering up their wounded and even some of their dead. We knew that our dead and wounded were lying on the field the whole night long, and we were powerless. For the dead they were at rest, "no sound could awaken them to glory again," but for the wounded in that chilly night, the second of April, 1865, we thought of their sufferings and it intensified our own sorrows. All at once, with a sudden crash of sound, the air of "Dixie" broke upon our ears from a band just far enough away to mellow its tone. It seemed like adding insult to injury. There was no sleep for us that night, and I longed yet dreaded to see the daylight come.
I have never seen the report which General Wilson made of this battle, neither Forrest nor Armstrong ever made a report, and its story is now written for the first time. The sole reference to it is the brief statement of
General Taylor, which I have quoted, but there are men yet living, how many I do not know, the gallant Armstrong among others, who when they read this story, as I hope some will do, will again share with me the fierce excitement of the fight and the sorrows of that night of defeat.
Walk over battle-field under guard--Dead and wounded--Henry Elliott, tribute to him--Adjutant Johnson mortally wounded--Put in stockade--Kind treatment by federal officers and men--March to Columbus, Georgia--Lieutenant-Colonel White, of Indiana--Conversation with him--Colonel Pinson and myself paroled at Columbus--Make our way back to Mississippi--The war over--Death of Mr. Lincoln, sorrow at the South--Meridian, Ragsdale House, cost of coffee at meals--Trip home and incidents--Home again, negroes free--Doubts as to future--Determined to stand by the state to the end.
The long night came to an end at last, and the morning dawned upon as woebegone a lot of cavalrymen as was ever seen during the war. Tired, hungry, sleepy and dirty, we were a hard looking set I imagine if we looked as bad as we felt. It was not long before the sergeant, who had taken me prisoner and then saved my life, came to see how I was getting along, for he seemed to have taken a fancy to me. He was wearing my hat, and I have no doubt took it home with him, if he lived to get home, as I hope he did. As long as I was with the federals, this man was always, when he could, trying to do something for me. His, according to my recollection, was an Iowa regiment. For a hat I had picked up on the field before we got to the fort a coarse hat, such as was worn by the federal soldiers, which must have been the one he dropped, as I had seen no other one bareheaded except him. One of the Bolivar troops, L. M. Hunter, who but recently died an honored citizen of the county, had a good hat, which fitted me, and kindly exchanged with me.
In the course of the morning Colonel Pinson, Captain Taylor and myself requested permission to go over the field and see our dead and wounded. This was promptly granted, and a guard went with us. From the works to as far as some of our men had gone trying to escape, nearly half a mile, we found them lying, though some of our wounded had been picked up and were in hospital under the care of our surgeons.
As we went over the ground we found that the pockets of the dead had been turned, but little repaid the trouble of the vandals. One brave fellow, I knew him well, who had gotten farther than any other of those who were dead, had his pockets also turned out, and by his side lay a small Bible. He had been noted for his piety as well as for his courage, and his influence for good was marked. He belonged, I think, to Captain Lester's company, but this matters little, he was a good man, a brave soldier, and went to his reward.
As we passed along we came to Henry Elliot, lying upon his back helpless with both legs and one arm broken. There he had lain the long night through, with no one to aid him or even give him a drink of water. Pale, but composed, the seal of death was on his face, but he was fully conscious, and he told me when he first was hit he stopped and tried to surrender, but the man who first got to him shot him again and again and left him for dead. The guard who was with us said it was because he had on a federal uniform, but this was not true, though he did have on a pair of sky blue pants. Even if it had been true it was a cruel, cowardly act, for to look at him was to see he was only a young boy. I recall that on the day before, in the midst of the fight, I noticed him and spoke to him and he had answered with a bright smile.
Poor boy, we could do nothing for him, but in a little
time he was taken to the hospital, where before another day his brave and cheerful spirit went to its home, and he sleeps in the soil of the state he loved so well, and within a few miles of the place of his birth.
Years ago I wrote his romantic story for the "Memphis Appeal," and in that letter applied to him those beautiful lines of Moore, when the Peri, a child of air, seeking a gift which would give her entrance to the gates of Eden, caught from a dying hero and patriot the
glorious drop his heart had shed,
Before his free-born spirit fled."
this," she cried, as she winged her flight,
"My welcome gift at the gates of light,
Though foul are the drops that oft distil
On the field of warfare, blood like this
For liberty shed, so holy is
It would not stain the purest rill
That sparkles among the bowers of bliss;
Oh, if there be on this earthly sphere
A boon, an offering heaven holds dear,
'Tis the last libation Liberty draws
From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause."
A kind lady in Bolivar county who knew his story and had the address of his father wrote him an account of Henry's tragic but glorious death; but whether his relatives at Marion ever knew I do not know.
Passing on, our guards took us to the hospital hastily prepared for our wounded, and there we found among others our Adjutant Johnson, and were shocked to learn from the surgeon in charge, Doctor Montgomery, that his hours were numbered. We saw him, and all that we could say to cheer him we did, but at last had to bid him a final adieu, for that night he died. Many others of the regiment and the brigade were there, and we saw them all; some lived and some died, but I do not recall the
names of others. Altogether, about one hundred in the regiment were killed and wounded, a heavy loss for the number engaged, and about as many more in Ballentine's regiment. Having seen all that we could see, we were returned to our place of confinement in the fort. As we had walked over the field a fellow had taken a fancy to Colonel Pinson's hat, and would have taken it away from him, but our guards proved to be as kind-hearted as no doubt they were brave, and would not permit it.
In Selma there was a stockade capable of holding several thousand men, and with rude barracks, provided long before for federal prisoners, and it seemed like the very irony of fate that we should be placed in them, but late that afternoon we were all marched to the stockade. Many were already there, and the place was well filled. It had the usual dead-line, beyond which no man could step and live. But while these precautions were taken, we were kindly treated; rations, which were much needed, were provided in abundance, and all prepared to make the best of the situation. Colonel Pinson and myself were invited to eat with the officer in command of the regiment guarding us (Lieutenant-Colonel White, of Indiana, I think, for I know later we were placed in his charge), and, of course, were taken out of the stockade for that purpose and returned to it when we had eaten. Nothing could have been in better taste than the courtesy shown us; and though we talked of the fight and of the war, not a word was ever said which could have made us feel that we were prisoners. Other officers of this regiment extended the same hospitalities to other of our officers, and everything, in fact, was done which could be done to make us comfortable. I am glad to say this.
The next day I succeeded in getting one of the boys to shave me, all but a mustache, and cut my hair as close as possible, for "graybacks" were plentiful in this stockade,
and this was a necessary precaution. I don't know where the razor and scissors were found; I suppose we must have gotten some kind-hearted enemy to get them for us in town. For myself, I was quite unwell at the time, and sought and obtained without trouble a parole which would enable me to spend the time in the city, only being required to report every morning at the barracks. There was a lady living in the city, a Mrs. Marye, whom I had known at home, and I went to her house and was gladly received, and by her kindly cared for while we stayed in Selma. Her husband was not at home, having run away from the enemy, so she said; but I had reason to believe he was secreted in the house, as he was not a soldier, and he had no reason to run that I knew of. She had sought and obtained a federal guard--two, I believe--who remained in the house, and had not been molested.
General Wilson remained in Selma about a week, and then crossed the Alabama river, taking all his unwounded prisoners with him. It was late of an afternoon before we, the prisoners, got over, and we were marched till late in the night. The prisoners, except the officers, were not closely guarded, and hundreds escaped, which, I think, was part of his plan, to scatter them. Others, the next day on the march, were paroled and scattered all along the road. At our halt the next day about noon, horses were taken from citizens, and before long all the officers were mounted, on all sorts of nags, mules, ponies and old plow-horses, with every variety of saddles and bridles. My friendly enemy the sergeant brought me a pretty roan pony, with a better saddle and bridle than most had, but the pony had one drawback--he was blind. However, with the business I had before me it did not make much difference, only requiring a little extra care in his management.
We were, all told, about fifty officers mounted, some had escaped in the darkness of the night before, and we were now turned over to the exclusive control of Lieutenant-Colonel White, commanding the Indiana regiment spoken of. He was kind but vigilant. General Wilson was moving, as events proved, to Columbus, Georgia, and met with no opposition on the way except a slight skirmish at Montgomery, Alabama. Colonel White always invited Colonel Pinson and myself to mess with him on our halts, and often invited one or the other of us to ride with him at the head of his column on the march.
We were the officers highest in rank among his prisoners. By some means, after we had passed Montgomery, he had news that General Lee had surrendered, and it was on the day that he had heard this that, riding with him, occurred a conversation which I detailed in a letter to the New York Sun in the campaign of 1876, when Mr. Tilden was a candidate for President, the Sun supporting him.
The Sun published altogether four letters from me in that campaign, under the non de plume of Pro Patria, a much abused term, and one often used by demagogues.
In my first letter I related the circumstances of my capture, the cowardly attempt on my life, and my rescue by the prompt action of the sergeant, and the conversation I had with Colonel White. He began by saying they had information that General Lee had surrendered, that he thought it true, and said, "You had all just as well give it up for you can not hope to win." I said, "I hope it is not true that Lee has surrendered, you can hardly have reliable information, but if it be true (alas it was true) the south is not yet conquered, we can fight a long time, and will I hope yet compel a recognition of our independence. But," I said, "Colonel, if you are right and we are or will be whipped, I hope the men who
have fought us in the field will be the power which will decide our fate and not the politicians who have staid at home."
He said, "Of that you need have no fear, the people of the north will be so grateful to the soldiers that they will control this and we will be generous." It was in the hopes that Colonel White might be living and see the letter that I wrote, and failing in that, other soldiers might see it and support Tilden, who represented the moderate sentiment of the north, as opposed to the extreme or "bloody shirt" sentiment of the Republican party of the day, which now, thank heaven, no longer exists, or if it does, it is only with a few, whose hatred of the south outweighs every other consideration, and with as much reason as the man had who did not "like Dr. Fell," in the old jingle which I used to hear when I was a boy. I have lost this letter or I would copy it here.
At Columbus, Georgia, I thought for a time that General Wilson had met with a serious check (I could hear but not see the fight), but he did not, and was soon in possession of that place, and here halted for a day or two. I had not been well for some time, indeed had been very sick just before going into Columbus, Mississippi, as a member of the examining board, and I now asked to be paroled. Captain Lester also was sick, and a major belonging to an Alabama command, who was a prisoner, was also sick. General Wilson agreed to give us paroles, and decided also to parole Colonel Pinson, to effect an exchange for one of his colonels he had left wounded in Selma. He left a good many wounded, but was especially concerned for this colonel, whose name I have forgotten, but who had been in command of one of his brigades.
We who were to be paroled went to General Wilson's headquarters, and there received our paroles in due form,
and the Alabama major told us he had a friend in the city, a Mr. Redd, who he knew would give us shelter till the enemy had all left. We were allowed to keep our old horses, or rather nothing was said about them, and we did keep them. I had exchanged my blind poney for another horse with one of the officers of my regiment, as I had got tired watching for his every step, and guided by the major, we went to Mr. Redd's. He received us kindly, and we hid our horses in his back yard. Colonel Pinson did not go to the house with us for some reason, but was to follow and find the way, which the major said would not be difficult, as his friend was an old as well as prominent citizen of the place. Meanwhile the enemy were leaving, and I supposed had all left town, and Pinson did not come. Late in the afternoon I concluded to go and see if I could find him. I went straight to the main business street, and when I got to it, found a mob of negroes, and white people also, who seemed to be looting the stores, and I judged it safest to go back to Mr. Redd's. On my way back I met a provost guard of federals left to bring up stragglers, and when the officer in command, he was a lieutenant, saw me he turned his command towards me. Supposing he wished see if I were paroled, I stopped until he came up and took my parole from my pocket, remarking at the same time, "I have a parole." He was now in reach of me and stooping over he lifted my hat from my head saying, "I don't want to see your parole, I was looking for a better hat than mine, yours is not as good," and he stuck it back on my head and moved on. Nothing in all my life ever before or since, I think, made me so angry, and if I had but had a weapon, I believe in spite of consequences I would have killed him, at least I felt that way at the time, though no doubt prudence would have prevailed. I stood still in helpless anger for awhile,
and then went to my haven of refuge, where I told my adventures to sympathetic hearers. I spent the night quietly at Mr. Redd's, and enjoyed the luxury of a bed, with a seat at table for supper and breakfast.
Hearing nothing from Colonel Pinson, next morning, before breakfast, the major proposed we should go down town and inquire for him, supposing that some good Samaritan had taken him in for the night. Lester was too sick to go with us; he had a high fever and was confined to bed. Leaving our horses, we went to the main business street, where the major had some acquaintances, and were sitting on a goods box talking to some of the citizens, when the major said, "Yonder comes Pinson now." I looked, and said, "No, that is not Pinson," but as he came nearer I saw the major was right. Pinson was a tall, fine-looking man, and he was now mounted on an old, broken-down horse, the same it is true he had been riding, but much too small for him, so that it looked as if his feet almost touched the ground, and on his head, instead of his hat, was a boy's cap, which did not half cover his head. The major and myself both burst into uncontrollable laughter, and it vexed the colonel, for he said, "The Yankees did not take my hat, I lost it last night where I stayed all night." However, he soon joined in the laugh, for with the little cap he looked comical. We soon went to Lester, and finding him too sick to think of travel, and that he was in good hands, we bade adieu to him and to our Alabama friend, and at once commenced our long ride to Mississippi. Before we left the colonel got himself a hat, not a very good one, but much better than his cap.
With the horses we had, we necessarily traveled slowly, but we met with hospitality along the road, and whiled away our time talking of the past. We had been together for four years and three of those years in our present
positions, without ever once having a cloud to come between us, and this few, if any, one the colonel and the other the lieutenant-colonel of the same regiment, could say. I never knew a nobler man, a braver one I know was not in our army. Of the future we talked little; we both knew the war was to all intents and purposes ended, though neither could then admit it to the other. When at last, a few days later, we parted, it was I know with mutual regard and mutual respect. He became a prominent merchant in Memphis, and died in his prime, and all too soon, but I do know that he was full of honors if not of years, even in his last profession, and died before he could feel the chilling blasts of neglect, and the lip service which would give him praise for his past, while it would perhaps deny him the well earned rewards which would alone make life in old age happy and serene.
His wife still lives, an honored lady, and still bears his name, and will while she lives have the love and respect of his surviving comrades, till time calls them to him.
When we arrived at Montgomery, we heard of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, and this seemed to me to fill the cup of bitterness the south was now draining to overflowing, for he was a kind-hearted man, and having saved the union, the object of all his exertions, and the cause for which the people of the north had poured out so much blood and treasure, we felt that in him we would have a friend, who would be not only willing, but able to stay the hands of our enemies, the politicians of the time, whose voices were still for war, though the south lay bleeding and helpless at their feet.
The south mourned Mr. Lincoln with a deep grief, perhaps, with a better reason than did the north, and thank heaven, no southern man, or man in any way connected with the south, had anything to do with the foul and cowardly deed which removed him from earth. By
the time we reached Selma, we knew of General Johnston's surrender in North Carolina, and this ended the war, though General Taylor was yet to make his terms with the enemy. This of course settled the question of exchange for the federal colonel, but Pinson visited him, found him improving, and left him with the certainty that he would soon be able to return to his home. We also visited some of our wounded, not yet recovered from their wounds, but these were in a fair way to recover, and soon to leave for their homes, though some whom we had left in the hospital had died. The railroad from Meridian was open at the time to a point about ten or twelve miles from Selma, and we made our way to that place, and finally got to Meridian.
I called at once on General Taylor, and found Governor Clark who had come down from Macon, with him, and it was soon agreed there was nothing left for me to do, but to make my way home as best I could; but first I went up with the governor to Macon to spend a night, as I learned Major Montgomery of the "featherbeds" was there, and was going home, and I wished his company. When I got to Meridian I was out of money, and I had to stay a day or two before I could get away. Fortunately, one of the first men I met was a member of my own regiment who had been wounded, and was on some post duty, and to my inquiry as to whether he had any money, said "yes, a man who owed him had just paid him seventeen thousand dollars, and I could have all or any part of it." I took three thousand dollars and advised him at once to invest the balance in something, to make the best trade he could, but by all means to buy something He wanted to know why, if I thought it was going to be worthless, and I told him in a week it would not be worth the paper it was printed on. Whether he took my advice I do not know. He lived in Macon (and
was after the war a prosperous merchant there, till he died a few years ago), and when I went to that place a few days later, I arranged to have the debt paid, costing me I believe ten dollars in greenbacks afterwards.
I put up at the Ragsdale House, at that time a large barnlike two-story house, and I remember there was genuine coffee to be had at five dollars a cup extra, and I took two cups each meal while I was there. What the regular fare was I have forgotten. Major Montgomery and I started together to go home, and made our way by rail to the nearest point to Carrollton, and then the best way we could to that place, where we got some help to the Yazoo river at the point where the city of Greenwood now stands. It then had the same name, but there was no town there. Our plan was to cross the Yazoo at this place and walk to McNut, as the road to that place was not under water, and there take dugouts home, as the bottom was overflowed. There was a white boy paddling a skiff in the river, and we offered him a hundred dollar bill, new issue, to put us over the river, and he would not do it. Some steamboats were anchored out in the stream on a trading expedition for cotton, a sure sign the war was over, and from the captain of one of these, the major borrowed five dollars in greenbacks, and we finally made our way to McNut, walking the eighteen or twenty miles. At this place we found quite a number of the Bolivar troop making dugouts, and we all started together in a sufficient number of boats to make our way home.
As we were paddling up the Bouge Phalia, a considerable stream in Bolivar county, I stopped my boat to talk a little while with a distinguished citizen, not only of the county, but of the state, holding at the time a high civil office. He and his wife came to the bank to hear the news, and I told them that all was over, for before that time General Taylor, on the 8th of May, had surrendered,
and of course deep regret was felt and expressed. This gentleman had been an ardent and uncompromising secessionist, and his wife, a lady of culture, was if anything, more so. She expressed the sentiment that we ought never to have surrendered while there was a man left to hold a gun.
In my boat was a young man of the Jewish faith, Theodore Frank, and there had been no truer soldiers than he and his friend, David Reinach, another young man of the same faith, who had joined the Bolivar troop early in the war, and while I was still the captain, and who had been faithful to the end. As we pulled off from the bank and had gotten out of hearing, Theodore Frank said to me with a most serious expression on his face, "Colonel, do you think Mrs.--ought to have said what she did, when she has two sons and two sons-in-law who are not in the army." I admitted it did not look altogether right, but told him he at least could console himself with the thought that he had done his duty. This young man did not live very long after, but his friend and comrade both in the war and in the ancient faith, is living still, a prosperous and honored citizen.
We paddled to within three miles of my home and there finding dry ground, I got out and walked, and not far from my house met my wife riding her pony, my eldest son being with her and the youngest riding behind her. She did not know me, for I was without a beard, except a mustache, and she had not for many years seen me without one. Besides, I was wearing a uniform jacket which she had never seen, and this is now the sole relic I have of the war, of all that I wore, my pistol the sergeant took, and my sabre I last saw buckled round the waist of a federal lieutenant, and recognized it from the marks I had on it. My trunk, I found when I got back to Meridian, had been broken into and all my clothes stolen.
I had in it a handsome uniform, but when we were ordered in haste from Marion, apprehending we were going to have a rough time, I put on this jacket. As a matter of fact, I had worn it in some shape during the whole war, for it was made from a military overcoat which I wore for three years, but still had enough good cloth in it to make this jacket.
It was not long till we were at the houses my wife had succeeded in having built, and at last I was at home with my wife and all my children around me, and this time to stay till Death should claim me for his own. I found that my wife had agreed with the negroes, perhaps in all a dozen were still with her, the faithful Jake Jones among the number, that if they would make a crop, in addition to caring for them as usual, she would give them at Christmas one-fourth of what cotton they made if any sale could be found for it, and they had agreed.
I spent the night quietly talking over the future, which looked gloomy indeed, for I had on my hands to care for, educate and support, at that time seven children, the youngest nearly four years old. The negroes, I knew, would be free, my stock of horses and mules were nearly all gone; some horned cattle and hogs, it is true, we had, and we might manage to live, but so far as I could see, that would be about all, but I knew I had a brave wife, and together we looked the future in the face and determined to conquer fate, and not let it conquer us.
The next morning I assembled all the negroes, and told them the southern armies had all surrendered, and that the war was over, and they were free. I told them the contract they had made with their mistress I would carry out if they wished to stay, and advised them to stay, and this they did, till the end of that year.
The war over, and I had the future to face, and had much rather have faced the enemy. All sorts of wild
schemes were talked about, going to Mexico and joining Maximilian, going to Honduras, and some did actually go. For myself, I could not have gone without basely deserting these helpless ones, and I made my mind up to do as Governor Clark, that "noblest Roman of them all," in his proclamation advised the people of the state to do:
"Let all citizens fearlessly adhere to the fortunes of their state, and aid the returned soldiers to obtain civil employment, maintain law and order, condemn all twelfth-hour vaporers, and meet stern facts with fortitude and common sense."
I was a Mississippian, and through good and evil I had from the time I could first remember, stood by her fortunes, and whatever her fate was now to be, I for one would share it.
Pages yet to come will briefly tell this part of my story.
Changed condition--President Johnson's plan of reconstruction--Negroes, old Uncle Hector--Negro problem always serious--General Alcorn's opinion of right policy--Reconstruction under act of congress--Negroes voting--Convention, carpet-baggers and scallawags--Our new clerk, Florey--Negroes on juries.
A new era, an unknown future now lay before the people of the state. Like the great archangel and his legions,
"Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,"
they lay stunned and helpless under the feet of their foes. The president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, a southern man, was looked upon as a renegade, as a traitor to his people, and almost his first public utterance was that "treason must be made odious." Yet events proved that Mr. Johnson's plan for reconstruction was merciful and statesmanlike compared to that of the crowd of haters of the south and southern people which soon obtained the control of the federal government. It is true he caused Governor Clark to be arrested and confined in prison, and he would not permit the legislature to meet, and arbitrarily appointed a governor of his own choosing, but he gave us one of the best and ablest citizens of the state, Judge William Sharkey, and through him had a convention called to undo the work of the secession convention and start the state anew with a constitution and laws suitable to the changed condition of things.
This convention was elected by the old voters of the state, for it was no part of Mr. Johnson's plan to disfranchise the white people and give suffrage to their slaves, and it was composed of many of the ablest men of the state, without regard to whether they had been soldiers or not. From Bolivar county went my friend and comrade of the first year of the war, Lieutenant Jones, of the Bolivar troop, and from every county in the state went equally true men, but they were all men who recognized the changed condition of the state and gave a loyal adherence to it.
They plainly saw that no good and much evil would result from any attempt to even indirectly antagonize the policy of the government, and like the southern soldiers who having fought till they no longer had a government to fight for, refused to continue a resistance by a guerrilla war, which would have been as criminal as it would have been unavailing, prepared to acquiesce in this policy and guide the state out of troubled waters to a new haven of peace.
The legislature elected under the provisions of this new constitution were in the main actuated by the same spirit, and under the provisions of this new constitution and the laws enacted by this legislature the courts were being held and the laws administered, and we were gradually becoming accustomed to the change made by the freedom of the negro, though the constant presence of soldiers in almost every county warned us that there were dangers yet ahead and by how frail a tenure we held the liberty accorded to us. Judge Sharkey and General Alcorn were elected to the senate, and among the able, true southern men elected to the house of representatives was my friend and colonel, R. A. Pinson. These gentlemen men all went to Washington, but were not permitted to take their seats.
Meantime the old soldiers, as well as all the citizens, were trying to start over in the race of life. The negroes, considering the fact that soldiers had been sent into every county, and agents of the freedman's bureau were busy with them, were doing well. They had not as yet lost the habit of obedience to the white people, though few, if any, after the first year, would remain with their old owners. My own, or rather those who had been my own negroes, at the end of the first year left me for another employer, and a neighbor's negroes came to me. They had an idea they were not really free as long as they remained with their old masters. One old man I had, Uncle Hector, as he had been called from the time I could remember, I talked to and told him he was too old to make a living by work, and that he had better stay with me, that as long as I was able to make a living for myself, he should not suffer. But he too left me, and it was not long till I heard he was destitute and went to see him and provided for his wants for the short time he had to live. I had a real affection for the old man; he had been born a slave to my family, being a son of native Africans, and I remembered his mother, and of how much afraid I was of her when I was a little boy. The people of the north never did understand the feeling of the master for his slave, nor that of the slave for his master, till they were taught to believe that their owners were enemies, and that they were as good as white people.
Few southern men regretted the freedom of the negro, and no southern soldier fought for his continued enslavement. This is absolutely true, though the people of the north have never believed it, and I suppose never will. All thoughtful men in the south had been troubled with the negro question, not as one which before the war promised immediate danger to the south, but as a dangerous one for their descendants, not because of any apprehension
from the north, for this the south never had till the war proved we were too weak to cope with that great power, but because with four millions of slaves in 1860, it was easy to see that by the time I am now writing, 1900, there would be perhaps ten millions of slaves, and where could profitable employment be found for this immense host, when already in the cotton states, where cotton was the only industry which profited by slave labor to any great extent, immense areas of territory had been worn out and rendered almost worthless. The result was that when the war began, the fertile deltas of Mississippi and of Arkansas and Louisiana were rapidly filling up with slaves, and would soon have been overrun, and only Texas would have been left to absorb the surplus. A very large part of the area of this great state is, if I am correctly informed, not suitable for raising cotton, and hence would not have been profitable for slaves.
At one fell swoop the war settled this problem for the south, but left another, hard to adjust, even under the plan of reconstruction proposed by President Johnson, but under the reconstruction measures adopted by congress, one which threatened for a time the direst consequences, the absolute destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization in the states of the south, where the negro was in the majority.
On the fourth Monday in October, 1866, and while the controversy between the president and congress as to reconstruction was still going on, a circuit court, the first since the fall of 1861, was held at Beulah, a little village on my plantation of that name, which had but recently sprung up, and where a temporary court house had been erected. The old court house and jail in the town of Prentiss, commodious brick buildings, had with the entire town been ruthlessly destroyed by the federals, and with less reason than my house and property had been, for
there was no force of ours occupying it at the time, or had ever been at any time, so far as I was informed. There was no hotel in Beulah, or at least at the time not sufficient hotel accommodations, and as by this time I had managed to add to the houses my wife had built, I opened my house, about half a mile away, to the visiting lawyers and such other gentlemen as I could accommodate. The court was held by Judge J. S. Yerger, a great lawyer and great judge, the last he was to hold in Bolivar county, for in the following summer he died suddenly at Vicksburg, while holding his court at that place, the spring term in 1867, having been pretermitted because of high water.
I have known in my life many of the circuit judges of the state, both before and since the war, but he was easily the greatest I have known. To a profound knowledge of the law, he added on the bench a manner peculiarly his own, strict, but kind, no man ever took liberties with him, but all could easily approach him. His court had in those days both equity and common law jurisdiction, as well as criminal, and he was equally at home presiding as chancellor or as judge.
Among the prominent men and lawyers who were at my house, was J. L. Alcorn, then one of the senators of the state in congress, though not admitted to his seat as yet, as indeed he never was under the election by which he then held his title.
He had been after his election, and up to the time I am speaking of, most of the time in Washington City trying to get his seat, and was just from that city, then--according to General Taylor, who had visited it after the war, with the kind purpose of interceding for the release of Governors Clark and Watts of Alabama, as well also as to get permission to see President Davis--worse than Vanity Fair, as depicted by Bunyan, that greatest of
dreamers. It was not, however, with the moral condition of that city, but its political condition, or rather the purpose of the leaders of the Republican party towards the south, that I was interested in at the time.
Our legislature was then in session, and had rejected or refused to ratify the fourteenth amendment to the constitution, and curious to say, upon a report made by Judge H. F. Simrall, the chairman of the committee on state and federal relations, who a few years later became a republican. General Alcorn was a very able man, and at this time possessed the confidence of all the people of the state. I asked him what the chance was for the president in his controversy with congress, over reconstruction, and what his own prospects were for obtaining his seat in the senate. There were, I think, a dozen gentlemen present, among others, General Chalmers, though I do not now recall the names of the others, none of whom are living to-day as I suppose, and he talked for an hour in reply to my question, without interruption. He told the result of his observation, and his information obtained after repeated interviews with the leaders in congress. He said, among other things, and the result proved to be true, that the president was without power and influence in his party, that the legislature had made a mistake in refusing to ratify the fourteenth amendment, that it would be forced on the state, and indeed it was only the logical sequence to the freedom of the negro, and the success of the federal government, and resistance to the policy of the dominant party in this matter, was more like a childish display of spite, than a thoughtful, earnest desire and purpose to bring the state into full accord with the government as it was hereafter to be conducted; and that the certain consequence of this course would be to bring harsher and severer measures, since it would be construed to mean that we were still in a rebellious mood, though
no longer able to resist in the field. He said, moreover, that by the course the legislature was pursuing in this matter, it was weakening the influence of our friends and of the moderate men in the Republican party, and giving our enemies just what they wanted, an excuse for the violent and extreme course they had determined on. As to the president, it was idle to expect any hope or help from him.
I have not, of course, given his exact language, for what has taken me only a few lines to record, took him an hour to deliver and explain, but his speech made a deep impression on me, and the results, when a few months later congress passed the reconstruction act over the president's veto, fully verified his predictions. From the passage of this act in March 1867, till the removal of Governor Humphries from office by force, the state had in fact two governments, one military which was supreme, and the other by sufferance, civil. At first the military commander only proposed to fill vacancies in offices as they occurred, and thus left to the people some measure of their ancient rights to be governed by men of their own selection, as long as those men lived, who had been chosen at the last election held, in which white people only participated. But the congress passed a supplemental reconstruction bill, providing for a registration of negroes, with the avowed purpose of conferring on them the right to vote and hold office, and at the same time depriving a great many of the white people of these rights, which heretofore they had enjoyed even under the president's plan of reconstruction.
This filled to overflowing the cup of bitterness the south was called upon to drink, for it is impossible to conceive that the ingenuity of hate could have devised anything which would have so humiliated the white people of the state as this cruel and unnecessary act by
which the former slave was placed upon a political equality with his master, in many cases superior to his master, for often the slave could vote while the master could not.
The people of the north did not understand the character the negro; to them, or the vast majority, he was a white man with a black skin, while we of the south knew him to be not only an alien race, but so vastly inferior that no fit comparison now occurs to me.
Whatever traits of character he had which raised him from a condition of barbarism he owed to his association with the white man, and to-day it is well known that if he were even now removed from this association he would relapse into the lowest grade of humanity.
But the absurd cry of "manhood suffrage" was raised, and that platitude of the declaration of independence "that all men are created equal," written by a slaveholder and adopted by a convention composed largely of slaveholders, was the cry, and the negro race as far as congress and the military authorities in the state could control was made the equal of the white man. These reconstruction measures and the adoption about two years later of the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States was a political blunder, but one which in theory will never be abandoned, for no political party with any hope of success can ever advocate the repeal of this amendment.
In the fall of 1867 the first registration of voters ever had in the state was made under the authority of the military, and a little later the first election at which negroes voted was had for delegates to a convention ordered to make a new constitution.
It was a curious thing to watch the negroes vote. There were under the orders only five voting places in the county, one in each district, and this arrangement
was kept up as long as the carpet-baggers, who afterwards came into power, held control.
Some six or seven hundred negroes voted in Beulah, and few, if any, white men, for these, with few exceptions, were disfranchised in this election. The negroes stood in a long line, patiently waiting each till his turn should come, and had no more idea what he was doing or who he was voting for than "the man in the moon" had.
I have tried to recall the name of the man who was voted for, but I cannot, and neither can I find his name in any book or history I have. This much I do remember, he was a stranger, and I don't believe even claimed to live in the county. But this made no difference, he was just as good as the great majority of members of that body, who had the effrontery to say in the preamble to the constitution they adopted "we the people of the State of Mississippi . . . do ordain this constitution." There were among the carpet-baggers and a few scallawags who were members of that convention some very smart men, who must have inwardly smiled when they voted for this misnomer of the membership of this convention. In the fall of 1867 our October term of the circuit court was presided over by Thomas J. Shackleford, a citizen of Canton, Madison county, who had been appointed by the military commander to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the lamented Yerger, but he only held one term of our court, being by the same authority appointed to a vacancy on the bench of the high court of errors and appeals, and he was succeeded by B. F. Trimble, appointed by the same authority.
Judge Trimble was well known to the citizens of the county, having lived in it and practiced law before the war, and after the war till his appointment. He had taken no part in the civil war, and had been in Kentucky
during that time, but he was acceptable to the bar and the people, and was a good judge.
The constitution adopted by the convention of 1868 was, strange to say, submitted to the people for ratification, and was defeated because of the provisions of certain sections, from four to thirteen inclusive, which were so extreme and objectionable that practically all the white people of the state would have been disfranchised, and Governor Humphries having been removed from office by the arbitrary act of the military commander then controlling the state, the reign of the carpet-bagger was inaugurated all over the state under military authority. No vacancy had occurred among the county officers of Bolivar county, and as between the races perfect quiet prevailed, there had been no cause for interference with the internal affairs of the county, but the hungry swarm who hung around the military headquarters at Vicksburg could no longer be appeased, and many a county afforded good pickings, and few had better than Bolivar. Ames was in possession of the governor's office, and wanted men to suit him in the different counties, and we were not surprised when claimants appeared demanding possession.
I was in the village one day in November, 1868, when a stranger rode into it, and looking neither to the right nor to the left, rode straight to the clerk's office, as if he knew exactly where he was going, and what he wanted. None of us who were looking on had ever seen him before. He was a small and very youthful-looking man, white, and was all alone. In less than half an hour our clerk, P. M. Davidson, a gallant ex-confederate who had been disabled by wounds in the fight near Sharon, as before related, came out and showed us an order from, I believe, General McDowell, commanding the department, directing him to turn over the offices of circuit and
probate clerk to the bearer, H. T. Florey, who was commissioned to hold them both. This was followed by the removal of all the county officers, and the appointment of carpet-baggers and scallawags, some white and some colored, to fill them.
And now for the first time the negro was organized into a political machine, he had executive committees, loyal leagues, in Bolivar county, under the control of Florey, who, young as he was, was the recognized leader of this crowd of cormorants. He had a big drum at his office, which could be heard for miles around, and when this drum beat, like the great war drum of the Aztecs, it summoned the faithful, and they came from far and near. Of all the race of carpet-baggers with whom it was my fortune to come into contact, this young man, almost a boy, was the most remarkable. He seemed to be without personal courage, for he passed without notice and without resentment insults from white and black alike, yet he must have had a high degree of courage. He desired to control and did control the negro for his own purposes, but he never seemed to desire to excite their hostility to the white people, except politically. He was wise enough to see it was only through the white man that he could acquire money, and that the negro left to himself, without the guidance and direction of the white man, would never be able to fill the coffers of the state and counties, that he and his friends might empty them.
Meantime the white people looked on in helpless anger and disgust, unable to resist yet unwilling to submit. At last, in 1869, the constitution was again submitted to a vote of the people, sections four to thirteen, inclusive, separately, and these were rejected, and the constitution thus purged was adopted. In the election held under it, a carpet-bag mulatto, named Bowles, was elected to represent the county in the house or representatives, and a
"lily white," named Dowd, was elected to the senate. Where they came from I don't know. Dowd disappeared from public view in a short time, at least I have no further recollection of him, but Bowles remained for some time to vex the people.
In the fall of that year, at the October term of the court, negroes were for the first time put on juries. I was on the panel for the week, and so great was my disgust that I at once applied for, and easily obtained, a license to practice law, thus escaping what I thought would have been a degradation. Up to that time I had struggled to maintain myself on my plantation, which gradually dwindled down to a small farm, but had wholly failed to adapt myself to the new condition of farming, and from that time on gave it up. I never had cause to regret my change of business, and at once obtained a good practice, putting into practical use the legal education I had.
Civil government under carpet-baggers--Visit to Jackson--Legisture of 1870--Governor Alcorn tempted by seat in senate--Judges, jury trial, and negroes as jurors--General Starke, sheriff of Bolivar--B. K. Bruce--His manners and conservatism--Campaign of 1873--Alcorn and the chancellor--Correspondence with Governor Alcorn--Campaign of 1875--Rout of carpet-baggers by taxpayers.
The year 1870 opened with a new civil government, and the reign of the carpet-bagger and his negro dupes and allies was inaugurated under the forms of law, It so happened that business took me to Jackson at the commencement of the session of the legislature. I wanted an injunction for a client, and went there to look for a judge to whom I could apply for it. It was doubtful in the minds of many lawyers after the adoption of the new constitution, whether the judges who had been in office, could continue to act, and as I knew new judges would be immediately appointed, I went to Jackson to avail myself of the first one I could catch. I had to wait a day or two, and became "a looker-on in Venice." The convention which framed the new constitution, is alluded to in Lowry & McCardles school history of Mississippi as the "black and tan convention." I never saw it in session, but if it was blacker than this legislature, I am glad I did not.
I stood one morning in the rotunda of the capitol, up stairs, when the house went into the senate chamber for some purpose, and took careful note of the members as they passed. It seemed to me two thirds were negroes, including in that term every shade of color which showed
a trace of negro blood. A few of these had been slaves, and were without education, but the majority I think, were carpet-baggers, like the most of their white associates. White men and negroes walked arm in arm or side by side, and the sight was stranger to me than the transformation of King George's portrait into that of General Washington, as a sign to Jonathan Doolittle's Union Hotel, was to Rip Van Winkle when he first saw it after his long nap of twenty years. Truly, it seemed to me, to quote (from memory) the language of the immortal Prentiss in his speech on his contested election in the house of representatives, "the bright star that answered to the name of Mississippi on the flag of the Union had been plucked from its place, and only the stripes were left behind."
"To this complexion had we come at last."
Of all the members of that legislature, there were only two I had ever known before, one who had been a slave, Merriman Howard from Jefferson county, who had been the house servant and carriage driver for my nearest neighbor, in the days when I lived in that county, Mr. Wade Harrison, and the other in the senate, a man named O. S. Miles, a white man from some northern state, who had lived in that county a good many years, and who had made haste to join in with the carpet-baggers, and was rewarded with this seat. These were the sort of men who were to make our laws, and to rule the proud men of the state. There was but one rift in the cloud, but one hope for the people, and that was in the proud, imperious man who was the governor, James L. Alcorn. His plan to unite the old whigs of the state, and through them control the negro, was a failure, but all who knew him well were satisfied with his patriotic desire and purpose, if he could, to overthrow as soon as possible the alien rule which had been fastened upon the state, but there
were limits to his power, and the majority of the white people turned from him, and without practically a unanimous support from them he could do but little. While he remained governor he did his best, and all fair minded men must admit, saved the state from some oppressive measures, but unfortunately for the state, he was tempted with a seat in the United States senate, a temptation few men can resist, and a year later was out of the way. In talking of these things I had almost forgotten what I had gone to Jackson for. I was in the senate chamber when the newly appointed supreme judges took the oath and drew for terms. Simrall drew the nine years' term, Tarbell six, and Judge Peyton three years.
As soon as this ceremony was over, Judge Peyton went into the consultation room of the judges, and I followed him with my injunction bill. He wanted to know why I had not applied to the circuit judge, and I told him it was a matter of some doubt whether we had one, and he listened to the bill and gave me the fiat, and this was his first official act. I suppose the bill is now in the chancery clerk's office; the style and case I remember well.
Governor Alcorn had said that the policy of his party was to give the people "judges learned in the law above their fellows," and no doubt he desired to do so, but the fact is, he had but a small part of the bar to make his selections from, for as a rule the ablest were unwilling to take office under his administration.
He appointed for my district Charles G. Shackleford, of Canton, an old citizen of the state, who had gone in with his whole heart with the carpet-baggers.
Judge Trimble had incurred the undying hostility of these people by, among his last official acts, admitting to bail Edwin Yerger, who had, in a private difficulty, killed Colonel Crane, the mayor of Jackson, and who would not have been confirmed if appointed.
I had known Edwin Yerger when I was a boy at Oakland College, at which place he was a student, older than myself. He was a proud, high-spirited boy, and had been suspended from the college, to which he never returned, for an act which won the applause of all the students. Professor John Chamberlain, a brother of the president, owned a negro who was often very impertinent to the students and one day was to Yerger, who then and there administered to him a sound thrashing. He did not wait to see the result, but left the college. The arrest, trial, conviction and sentence of Yerger by a military court, his escape from that sentence through the exertions of his great kinsman, William Yerger, his indictment afterwards and final acquittal, and the purchase of his dwelling in the city of Jackson by the state for an asylum for the deaf and dumb, would all make an interesting chapter in the history of the state, but I can do no more than allude to it in passing on the events of the time. It would, perhaps, more properly belong to the history of remarkable trials in the state, and some day it may be some one qualified to write of these matters will do so.
Under Judge Shackleford's administration of the law, the juries were in the main composed of negroes, wholly uneducated and ignorant, but always ready to convict when told to do so by the district attorney, Charles W. Clarke, a carpet-bagger with little knowledge of the law, but wholly unscrupulous. The negroes when charged with crime, while they voted with the carpet-baggers, always wanted white men on the juries which tried them. Before such juries as we had, Clarke was a very successful prosecutor, and seldom failed to convict. As a rule, negro jurymen, when white men were on the jury, would not long hang out against them. I remember a case in point.
Two white men were indicted for the murder of a negro woman, and it was in fact a cruel and cowardly murder. I forget their names. When first arrested, the chief criminal (both in fact were admitted to bail by an incompetent magistrate), but the most guilty, had friends who made his bail, a straw bail, and left and was never seen again in the county. The other, a mere boy, accessory to the crime, was tried. The jury was composed of eleven negroes and one white man, a young fellow who had recently come into the county and was working as a common laborer on some plantation, and nobody knew him. The boy's conviction seemed certain, his attorney was a poor lawyer, and still worse speaker, and some of the white men, chief among whom was our carpet-bag clerk, Florey, made up a purse and employed General Chalmers to go into the case and try and save the poor fellow's life. The evidence had then been closed, but Chalmers made a speech to the jury, intended for the white juror. He was one of the ablest criminal lawyers the state had ever had, and especially successful with juries. The case went to the jury early in the afternoon, and a verdict was expected in a short time. But the time went on, darkness came, and the court adjourned till morning. Late in the afternoon of the next day the jury agreed, and when brought into court, to the disgust of the district attorney, and I suspect of the judge, they returned a verdict of not guilty. The young white man who was on the jury said that when the jury retired he proposed a verdict of manslaughter, but the negroes would hear to nothing but a plain verdict of guilty as charged, which would have meant death, and were so insolent about it that he got mad and refused to agree to any but not guilty; and finally, one by one, they came to him and that was the verdict.
I only give this as an instance to illustrate some parts of
the history of those times, and to show to what conditions the intelligent people of the state had been reduced.
The governor, to carry out his plans to bring the old Whigs to his support, appointed as our sheriff, Brigadier General Peter B. Starke, an old citizen of the county, and whom I have mentioned in connection with my war memoirs. He had long been a personal and political friend of the governor, and was entirely broken up by the war, but he failed to bring any support to the cause the governor had at heart, and was very unpopular. At the same time he appointed as assessor, B. K. Bruce, a mulatto, who had a fair education, and almost the manners of a Chesterfield. I have seldom known a man with better manners, and as things then were in the state the county was fortunate in having him in it. To his conservatism, and that of Florey's, so far as keeping down hostility on the part of the negroes, we owe it that while the population was so largely composed of that race, this, the county of Bolivar, escaped the riots and disorders which vexed other counties in the state. He was afterward sheriff, and then wisely foreseeing the inevitable overthrow of carpet-bagism in the state, ran for and was elected by the last legislature, composed of negroes and carpet-baggers, in 1874, to the senate of the United States. Afterwards, as is well known, he became, twice I believe, register of the treasury, and in all the positions he held, I think he acquitted himself creditably. Other negroes have done so, and are doing so to-day, but these are the exception to the rule, for the great mass are now, and will be for years to come, if not always, ignorant, and a menace to the white civilization of the south, if restored to political control, such as they once had in the palmy days of carpet-baggers. They would again become the dupes of unscrupulous demagogues, and neither the good people
of the north desire this, nor will the people of the south submit to it.
This is not alone because the negro has been a slave, and not because of any unkind feeling the white man of the south has for him, for the negro recognizes in the white man of the south his best friend; in trouble he went to him, even when the carpet-bagger ruled, and to-day he comes to him for help in his troubles, and he is never turned away.
But the pride of race will forever prevent the amalgamation of the two races. They must forever remain distinct and separate, and thoughtful patriotic men north, as well as south, know this to be true, and it is best for both races that it should be so.
All other races of men who have come to our land, soon become, or may, lost and absorbed into the dominant Anglo-Saxon race, for all other races have in them the elements which in time may bring them into a higher scale of being; the negro alone has not. This may seem a harsh and unkind judgment, but any one acquainted with the history of the African race, in his native land, and that of the other races of men on the globe, and who is unbiased will, I think, admit it, and further admit that it is as I have said, the association with and the restraining influence of the white which have brought the negro in the United States to his present superiority over his ancestor in Africa. He has what I think he ought not to have had, political rights equal to the white man; he is educated at the expense of the white man, he is entitled to and will receive the equal protection of the laws "for his life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and this is right, and now, since it has been given to him, the equal protection of his political rights, but he was not created the equal of the white man, and no law can make him the equal.
Another anecdote illustrative of the negro character as it was in the days of the carpet-baggers, occurs to me. An unfortunate negro had committed murder, killing one of his own race, and was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. On the day fixed for the execution thousands of negroes from all parts of the county came to see it, not singly and as individuals, but in their organized societies, with music and banners. Bruce was then our sheriff, and as soon as he found it out, promptly stopped the societies outside of the town, and compelled them to disband before coming into it. The truth is, for a time the negro did not seem to know what to do with his freedom, and under all the circumstances they were not so much to blame.
After the inauguration of the civil government nothing of special interest occurred till 1873, except the increasing taxes, but in that year an effort was made to put the state once more in the hands of the intelligent people of the state, but it was an indirect effort. The white people organized under the name of the Democratic Conservative party, but at a convention held in Meridian it was decided not to make nominations for state officers.
Ames, whose term in the senate was soon to expire, was the nominee of the Republican party for governor, and Governor Alcorn, also a member of the senate, determined to oppose him, and it was the general opinion that the best way to defeat Ames was to support Alcorn, who, though a Republican, was an old citizen and large property holder, and all his interests were with the best people of the state.
Alcorn came to the county of Bolivar to speak, and a very large crowd of negroes and very few white men turned out to hear him. Our chancery court was in session, and the chancellor, a carpet-bagger named Stafford, announced his purpose to reply to him. Stafford was a
harmless man of his class, fat and good-natured, and wanted to get along easy with everybody. In the course of his speech Alcorn was specially severe on the men who then held the state offices, and upon the auditor, Major Gibbs as he was called. He said of him, that Ames, when he was governor under his military appointment, had told him that "Gibbs was a thief." Stafford rose in his place and said, "Governor Alcorn, when was it that Governor Ames told you Major Gibbs was a thief?" Turning to him and shaking his hand at him, Alcorn replied, "on the same day and at the same time that he told me you were a thief." I have seen a good many men put down in my state when interrupting a speaker, but never before or since did I see a man so completely silenced as Stafford was. I had no idea at the time that Ames had ever told Alcorn anything of the kind, but only a few months before he died, I asked the governor about this, and he said it was true that Ames had told him so, at one time when Ames was first governor, he was very friendly with him, and talked freely to him about his associates in office, of whom he then seemed to be ashamed. I have no doubt he was, as he had been educated at West Point, where it is supposed, no doubt rightly, that only the highest principles of honor are taught, but the politics of that day, if not of any day, will sometimes corrupt the "elect" themselves.
When the Meridian convention was being held, I was in Jackson, and returned home before news of its action had reached Bolivar, for that was before the days of railroads and telegraphs in this county. I went at once to the clerk's office to see the clerk, and not finding him in his office I went to his bed room. It was a hot day in August, and there were two beds in the room. In one was Florey and the circuit clerk, a white man named Lease, and in the other Bruce and a big Irishman, who
held some office in the county, named Sullivan. Florey wanted to know the news, and I told him the Democrats would make no nomination for governor, but would support Alcorn. His reply was that "politics makes strange bed fellows." There was a plain example of it before my eyes, a big negro and a big white man lying beside each other in the same bed, on that hot day in August.
The white people did not support Alcorn as was expected and hoped by those who knew him best, and he was defeated. Governor Alcorn remained in the senate till his term expired in 1877, and never afterwards held any public office except to serve one term as a member of the Board of Supervisors of his county, and as a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1890, which adopted the present franchise provision of the constitution of the state, which he supported and advocated in the convention, and which has been sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States.
So much has been said and written about this able and distinguished man in the days of his activity, during the carpet-bag regime, and so little was he understood then, and even now, that I make no apology for publishing the following correspondence had with him a few years before his death, and with no thought of publication at the time, though fortunately I have preserved it.
ROSEDALE, MISS., December 18, 1891.
HON. J. L. ALCORN, Jonestown, Miss.
My Dear Sir--I have been looking over the "Memoirs of Mississippi" just received, and I naturally turned first to look at the sketches of some of my friends of the old time, among others yours. It gave me special pleasure to see in yours the splendid tribute paid, not only to your talents and courage, but to your patriotism and fealty to your race and state by Claiborne, not because
to one who has known you so long as I have this was necessary. But your contemporaries of the stormy time, when you held the helm and controlled the destinies of the state, and however they may at the time have differed from you, as I myself have done, yet always did justice to your singleness of purpose, to do good and only good to your people, and gave you credit for what you did accomplish, and not blame that you could not do more, are fast passing away, and a generation of young men are coming to the front who perhaps need to be informed in what estimate men like Claiborne held you. It is deeply to be regretted that the manuscript of his second volume of the "History of Mississippi" was lost, for many reasons, not the least among which is the loss of the history of your administration. Few of your old friends at that time did you full justice, and few who did had the moral courage to speak out. I have always said if the white people of the state had stood by you, and elected you governor in 1873, as they could have done, that the revolution of 1875, would have been accomplished two years sooner, and two years more of misrule would have been spared to the state.
Do you remember our accidental meeting on a train at Grenada, in September, 1873, and that we hurried through Memphis to a steamer just ready to leave, because the yellow fever was then epidemic in that city? I remember it well, and with what anxiety you looked forward with the hope that the white people of the state, recognizing your earnest desire to come to their aid, would give you credit in advance for all you hoped and expected to do, and trust you as one of themselves without such pledges and assurances as would at that time have rendered your defeat certain and all your efforts abortive. I remember it well and how earnestly I tried to second your efforts.
I remember too, how in my house at Beulah, after the ineffectual appeal of Judge Sharkey and yourself to the senate of the United States to be admitted to that august body as senators of the state, you told to myself and others the true state of public sentiment in congress, and in the north, and the weakness of President Johnson in his own party, and predicted the results which were to follow. But your warnings, as well as your advice, were not heeded. All these things and more, no doubt, will yet be told in the true story of your public life, which has yet to be written in full. I consider the loss of Claiborne's manuscript a public misfortune in that full justice would also have been done to that old friend of yours and mine, the old hero, Governor Clark. This I know because I had much correspondence with Claiborne about it, and gave him many facts as to the governor's life not generally known. In the "Memoirs of Mississippi" you will find a sketch of General Clark written by me, which is necessarily short, but I hope you will like it. But I must not weary you. Believe me, that while not always agreeing with you, I always did justice to you, as Claiborne has done, and always have been,
Sincerely your friend,
F. A. MONTGOMERY.
EAGLE NEST, December 23, 1891.
COLONEL F. A. MONTGOMERY, Rosedale, Miss.:
My Dear Sir--The receipt of your letter of the 18th instant, now before me, gave me great pleasure. My long acquaintance with you, the intimate acquaintance I have enjoyed, has ripened a friendship which began long since and has continued unbroken until the present time, and makes me regard what you say as the opinion of a strong and impartial friend. It is true, as you say, that the generation of men who shared with us the
responsibilities of the trying period through which we have passed are now rapidly passing away. Soon the men of the reconstruction period will be no more. To me there is a regret that will go with me to the grave that I could not have served the people of Mississippi and of the south more profitably than I did. I had studied the question of reconstruction. I had studied the temper of the northern people and I had determined to yield to the inevitable. I bore with great patience the complaints and abuse of the people who criticized my course. It was but natural. Their words were but the language of my own heart when I gave way to my passions. But I had determined to look facts in the face and by a stern discipline to follow in the course that my judgment told me was necessary to reach the haven of rest for the people of the state. I had been before the war accused of an inordinate pride. A proud man I was justly said to be, and now when I was accused of being a negro leveler of my own race, a man who sought to bring my own race down to a level with the ignorant and vulgar, my mortification had reached its maximum, but I had determined on my course. I had enjoyed an early acquaintance with Colonel Claiborne, I had exchanged views and opinions with him. He took me severely to task for the course I intimated to him I intended to adopt. I knew him to be a man of strong and vigorous mind, a man of independence of thought, and I took pains to suggest to him my convictions as to the true course to be pursued. The correspondence I had with him would have been shown to the world had not his manuscript of the second volume of Mississippi history been destroyed. He was of the opinion I could not reach the point which I finally attained. He was of the opinion that the passions of the State of Mississippi would not tolerate me as far as they did. He said to me
that I would be assassinated, that I would fall a martyr under a cloud that would cover me in my grave, but when I succeeded in establishing myself in the opinion of yourself and others Claiborne became enthusiastic in my praise. You, my dear colonel, were among my friends, and to-day my heart goes out to you in respect and love. If I could have been elected to the office of governor in 1873 I would have vindicated myself in the judgment of all thinking men, but I am consoled with the reflection that I had the confidence of such men as Claiborne and Clark and that to-day I enjoy the friendship and confidence of such living men as yourself.
J. L. ALCORN.
I am glad to have preserved this correspondence and to be able to give it to the world. Governor Alcorn lived nearly four years after this, and circumstances made me his near neighbor for the last two years of his life, and gave me the privilege of joining with his old friends and neighbors in paying to his remains the last tribute of respect. They, like those of Governor Clark, lie upon a high mound, the work of the prehistoric and forgotten race, and near to his magnificent home, where his great delight was to dispense a generous hospitality to his friends.
At his burial there were no more sincere mourners than the numerous negroes from his plantations, many of whom had been his slaves. I was deeply touched to see among the stones already there, one to his young son Hal Alcorn, as he was called, who, when a boy of sixteen, had joined the Bolivar troop and been taken prisoner in Georgia, and had died while in prison and been buried far from his home and friends, among an indisguishable number of like heroic sons of the south.
The year 1875 dawned upon an impoverished state and impoverished people, but its close was to bring redemption from misrule. The histories of the state have told this story, but none have done it full justice. I will only concern myself with the efforts made in Bolivar county, and the results achieved here. Many of the best people of the state despaired of relief, but they did not for that reason hold back from the work. A few men met in the court-house to organize a tax-payers' party to assist in the great fight about to be made. Among them I recall the names of Governor Clark, Colonel Green Clay of the great family of that name in Kentucky, Colonel Strother and others, of whom, I am proud to say, I was one. Nearly every member of this little meeting had belonged to the old Whig party, but willingly called themselves Democrats, for that party alone promised at that time in the north any relief from the intolerable evils under which the south was then groaning. It alone, with a few noble exceptions, seemed to have any sympathy for us. It is this which united the Whigs and Democrats of the state, and kept them united long after the necessity for it had passed away, if it were not for fear of the negro in politics. It is true he is no longer a menace to white supremacy, but with a division of the white people into two parties, he would certainly be in politics again, and even under the present franchise law there are many thousands who could, if they would, qualify themselves to vote, and would certainly hold the balance of power. This is in the highest degree unfortunate, for ours is a government of parties, and where there cannot be two parties there are sure to be two factions, and the only question is who can get the spoils. The result is, that the ablest men, as a rule, refuse to take part in a factional fight and stand aloof, while the weak and
incompetent, like the froth that rises to the top of the glass, come to the front.
This condition of political affairs in the state is unfortunate for another reason. With the necessity, real or supposed, of all the white men standing together in state and local affairs, they are not free to divide on national issues. The test of loyalty to the party in state elections made by the politicians in the state, is not whether a man has been true to his race and to Anglo-Saxon civilization, but whether he has voted or will vote for the Democratic nominee for president, though he may believe, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, do in the state sometimes, his election would be a great disaster to the country.
These men are not deceived by the absurd bugbears of "imperialism" or "militarism." They remember they belong to a race which has never been conquered or enslaved, since the bold barons of England wrested from the tyrant John the Magna Charta, or since William of Orange overthrew James. This much and no more I will say about the politics of the time. In 1875 there was in fact but one party in Bolivar county, for the negroes registered about four thousand votes, and the whites only about three hundred. Our little meeting sent as delegates to the convention that met in Jackson, Governor Clark, Colonel Clay and Colonel Strother, and some others, and Governor Clark was chosen as chairman. This was in fact the tax-payers' convention before mentioned. There were no state officers to be elected that year, and no nominations to be made, but the meeting did great good in encouraging the timid and strengthening the cause. We also organized an executive committee, and I had the honor to be its chairman. The great object hoped for in the state was to elect a legislature composed of our best men. Members of the house of representatives,
half the senate, and all county offices were to be elected. Fortunately for us in Bolivar, there were more aspirants for office among the negroes and the few white carpet-baggers than there were offices, and this resulted in a split of which we were quick to take advantage.
The great object we had was to elect Colonel Clay to the legislature, and he with a negro was nominated by the faction opposed to Florey. The Florey crowd nominated Dr. Shelby, a good man and a Democrat, and also put up a negro. Colonel Clay made a bold and active canvass, and his uncle, the celebrated Cassius M. Clay, came from Kentucky to help him. As Cassius M. Clay had, in days gone by, at the risk of his life, been an abolitionist, he gave effective help. The result of the election so far as the legislature was concerned, was to elect both Colonel Clay and Dr. Shelby, so that we sent two Democrats to the house instead of one. All men know what that legislature did towards redeeming the state; it is in all the histories of the state. A negro named Luke Moore came within one vote of defeating the redoubtable Florey for chancery clerk, in fact, on the first count had beat him one vote, but on a recount, which Florey succeeded in having made, be got a majority of one vote, and the certificate of election. Luke Moore concluded, on the advice of Governor Clark and myself; to contest, and we felt sure of winning his case for him, but on the day of the contest Florey paid him five hundred dollars to withdraw from the contest, and he did so without consulting his counsel. The last I saw of my client as I left the place in disgust, he had hundreds of his witnesses around him clamoring for their witness fees, as they all knew he had money. I expect when they got through with him he had but little left, especially as the governor and I had taken care to get our fee.
Campaign of 1876--John R. Lynch--Twenty negro laws, his anecdote--Elected to legislature--Commissioner to Washington City in 1882 and 1884 in interest of levees--Captain Eads-- Congressman Jones from Kentucky--Funeral of Mr. Davis in New Orleans--Elected to legislature from Coahoma county-- Appointed circuit judge--Moral influence of the bar--Golden wedding tributes--Conclusion--The Star of Mississippi.
The year 1876 was in the State of Mississippi, politically, an exciting one, when Mr. Tilden was the candidate of the Democrats for president and General Hayes the candidate of the Republicans, and the last in which there has been much of a contest in the state over that office. In Bolivar county we made an earnest effort to carry the county for Mr. Tilden, organized societies with red shirts, gave barbecues, and besides our home orators, of whom we had many among the young lawyers of the county, who have since rose to distinguished places in the history of the state and county, we imported and paid negro orators, and the negro when he has some education and can talk at all is a natural orator, but all to no avail, for the county went by a large majority for Hayes. I believe we did by extraordinary efforts carry the box at the county site, Rosedale. There was much more excitement in Bolivar county than in the election the preceding year, and there were times when it seemed almost impossible to avoid a collision between the races, but fortunately this was avoided. We gave a big barbecue in Rosedale, and there was a time during the day that there was great
danger. A negro named Jones, the clerk of the court in Desha county, Arkansas, the county immediately opposite to Bolivar, came into town and desired to speak, but as I knew nothing about him I declined to let him appear as one of our speakers, and this incensed him, and late in the afternoon when all the white men had gone home and none left except a few who lived in the village he gathered a crowd around him and began an inflamatory harangue to a crowd of excited and many of them intoxicated negroes, and there would have been trouble, but I stopped him and advised him to go back to Arkansas, where he belonged. He stopped speaking and in a short time left the county, though not without a little gentle compulsion. As a matter of fact I had him safely carried over the river to his own state, and he made his way home as best he could. I met him a good many times after this and he always laughed about his experience in trying to make a Democratic speech when he was not invited, and was especially civil and polite.
In the canvass John R. Lynch, who was a candidate for congress and afterwards became prominent in his party, came to Rosedale to make a speech. This man had been a slave, the favored body-servant of one of the wealthy men of Natchez, Mr. Suzette, I believe; had some education, and was naturally very bright. I remember our Democratic elector, my friend Warren Cowan, was present. There was a big crowd of negroes and very few white men to hear him; in fact, the crowd was so great he had to speak in the open air. Lynch, negro though he was, had few superiors as a stump-speaker, and perhaps none before such an audience as he then had. He told many amusing anecdotes, and among others the following. The confederate congress in its day had passed what was known as the twenty-negro law, a very foolish measure, as I thought then and think
now. This law exempted from compulsory service in the confederate army all men who owned as many as twenty negroes. He told his story well, better than I can repeat it. His master, he said, owned hundreds of negroes, but had a neighbor who did not own many. Just after the passage of the twenty-negro law his master sent him on some errand to this neighbor, and he found him very much depressed. Going into the kitchen after he had delivered his message, and while he was waiting an answer, he asked the cook what was the matter with her master. She said, "Why, don't you know? Master scared dey gwine to put him in the army 'case he ain't got twenty niggers; he ain't got but nineteen." He returned home with the gentleman's answer to his master's message, and bearing a request for the loan of a negro. This was flatly refused. A month later he again had an errand to the gentleman, and this time he was all wreathed in smiles. Going again to the kitchen, he again applied to the cook for information as to the changed demeanor of her master, and her reply was, "Sally had a baby last night, and master's got twenty niggers now." Lynch carried the crowd with this, and it took as well with the white men who heard him. Judge Cowan suggested to me that he ought to reply to Lynch, but I persuaded him not to do it. It is certain he would have gotten the worst of it.
In 1879 I was elected to the house of representatives of the state, and held this office for three consecutive terms, when I declined to be a candidate again. In 1882, while in my seat in the house, I received a telegram that a break in the levee had overflowed the town, and the water was a foot deep in my house. I hastened to get my family to Memphis, and hurried back to the closing days of the session, as experience had already taught me that the time of all others when a legislator
ought to be in his seat is when the legislature is coming to an end. The legislature passed a resolution empowering the governor to appoint three commissioners to go to Washington City and see what aid could be obtained towards rebuilding the levees, for there were perhaps a hundred breaks, but it refused to give a dollar towards paying the expenses of the commissioners.
Governor Lowrey appointed Governor Alcorn, Colonel W. A. Percy and myself. Governor Alcorn could not go, but Colonel Percy and I did go.
Few men have lived in Mississippi whose lives promised more to the state than Percy's, an able lawyer, a gentleman of unblemished honor, a confederate soldier, he had already won distinction as a member of the memorable legislature of 1876, but inexorable death removed him in the prime of his days and usefulness. What he might have become if he had lived longer it is idle to speculate on. That he would have been a wise adviser in these days when faction seems ready to disrupt the party of the white man in the state of Mississippi (for Democratic party there is none) is certain, and it may be his influence would have prevailed and saved the party from the dangers which now seem to me to threaten it. To our great regret Senator Lamar was not in Washington when we got there, and did not return till we were ready to leave, but Senator George and most of our congressmen were, and from them all we received a cordial welcome, and were introduced to some of the leading men of both parties. Especially I recall the courtesies shown us by General Chalmers, then the member from the district in which the levees were, though he lost his seat soon after in the contest with Lynch, who was claiming his seat, and from now Senator Money, and from Colonel Muldrow. We were invited to go before the committee on rivers and harbors in the house, and the committee on commerce in
the senate, of which, as I remember, Senator Frye was chairman. We were given a hearing by these committees and Colonel Percy ably presented the cause of the dwellers, in the lands of the Delta. We were met with the objection by some leading southern Democrats, as well as some Republicans, that money could not be appropriated to protect private property, for this was the narrow-minded view then taken of this great question of levee protection. A better day has dawned, and it is now the settled policy of the government to aid in the building of levees as an important part of river improvement, and I do not doubt that the time will soon come when this great work will be wholly done by the government.
We found in Washington one great engineer who espoused our cause, and this was Captain Eads. He was a great man, and then a member of the river commission, and we had the pleasure of hearing him present his views on this question to the river and harbor committee of the house. I remember his main argument well but I will not here repeat it.
There was a man on this committee whose name I remember was Jones, from a mountain district in Kentucky. How he ever came to be in congress, and being there, how he ever got to be on this committee, is a mystery to me. This man continually interrupted Eads with questions of all kinds, and evidently annoyed him very much. Everbody was disgusted with him, and for myself I felt like I would like to have him in Bolivar county and give him a good ducking. Presently he said, "Captain Eads do you believe it possible to control the waters of the Mississippi river so as to prevent overflows?" Eads looked at him a moment before replying and then said: "I would have a great contempt for the human mind if I did not believe it could do it." There is no doubt he was right. Give the engineers of these times
the means and a free hand and they can do almost anything. Jones subsided, nor did he again interrupt, either that night or the next, for he was given a hearing the next night also.
Through the river commission in the lower levee district we got about four hundred thousand dollars, and were thus enabled with such means as the levee board had, again to present an unbroken front for a time at least to the angry floods when they came. In 1884 Colonel Percy, Mr. Hancock, a son of General Hancock, then living in Coahoma county, and myself were again appointed to go to Washington on the same errand. What good we accomplished I do not know, but I do know that this was the beginning of the efforts which General Catchings has so successfully carried out to educate the northern mind on the importance of this work, not alone to protect a few people in the delta, as seemed to be the first impression, but to do a great work by which all the people of the Union would be benefitted, for prosperity to the great Delta of Mississippi means largely prosperity to many states.
Colonel Lamar was this time in the city and that thorough gentleman, Mr. Arthur, was the president. He granted us an interview, and, with Colonel Lamar to introduce us, we went at the appointed hour. The ante-rooms of the white house were filled with people, men and women, seeking an audience, and I could not but be sorry for them as the doors all opened to us. Some of them no doubt never did get in. Mr. Arthur received us with the ease and courtesy of a gentleman, and said to us that he understood our condition and knew what we wanted, and that he would approve any measure congress could be induced to pass for our relief. More than this we could not ask.
It was at the 1884 session of the legislature that Mr.
Jefferson Davis was present as the guest of the state, to which I have before alluded. Five years later, in December, 1889, he died. A meeting of leading citizens was immediately held in the city of Jackson and a committee appointed from different parts of the state to attend his funeral in New Orleans, and I received notice that I was appointed as one of this committee. I at once went to New Orleans, and found there an immense crowd from all parts of the south, and many from northern states.
The confederate cavalry association was permitted to guard his remains, under the command of Colonel George Moorman, and in my turn I stood at the head of the open casket in which he lay.
As I looked upon his worn features, worn, not alone with age but with sorrow, I could not but feel a pang of regret that he must go down in history among the great men who have been unsuccessful.
Before the war I had never been what was known as a Jeff Davis man; he was a Democrat and I was a Whig, but the force of circumstances, or that destiny which shapes the lives of men, had made him the embodiment of southern ideals, and for a time the vicarious sufferer for the supposed sins of the south, for I will never agree that in seceding from the union the south sinned, nor do I say that the north sinned in again, and without the "consent of the governed" (the claptrap of the demagogues of the day), planting the flag of the union over the stars and bars. Each side was right from its own standpoint; it was a family quarrel in which the strongest conquered. May the tongue be palsied, and the hand withered, which would again stir up strife between the sections, or try to diminish the glory of either flag, or the men who defended it while it waived amid fire and
smoke above the brave men who fought or died beneath its folds.
Mr. Davis and the cause he loved have passed away, and I leave them now, firm in the faith that some Gibbon or Macaulay, in a time to come, will truly tell their immortal story, and do equal justice to their brave foes.
In the fall of 1893, I determined for business reasons to become a citizen of Coahoma county, and in 1895, to my surprise and against my wish, I was nominated by a Democratic convention to be one of the candidates for the house of representatives, and was elected, and had the honor to serve one session as a member of the legislature from that fine county.
At the close of the session, Governor McLaurin appointed me the circuit judge of my district. I had long been his friend, admired his talents and hoped, which hope has been realized, to see him in a position where they could be used to the best advantage in the interest of his state and country. But one man in Mississippi history achieved as great a triumph in overcoming opposition to his ambition to be a senator from the state, and this was the incomparable Lamar. That Governor McLaurin may, like this great man, rise to the height of his great place, is my earnest wish.
I held the office of circuit judge for one short term, and retired from it with the warmest gratitude to the great lawyers of my district, who gave me their support throughout my term, and without which my services would have been useless to the state and a burden to myself.
A long knowledge of the bar as a citizen, as a practitioner, and as a judge, has convinced me that as a moral power, a power for good or evil in a community, the local bar of any county exerts a wider and deeper influence
than does even the church. I say this with all due reverence for the church, which is everywhere a power for good, but it is my matured conviction. Where the local bar is composed of high-toned, honorable men, who scorn the dirty work of the shyster, public sentiment, public and private morals, will always be improved and purified. To the great honor of the bar this is the rule, and the converse the exception.
Near the middle of my term as circuit judge time brought to my faithful wife and myself the fiftieth anniversary of our marriage, the 12th day of January, 1898. The legislature was in session at the time and did us the unusual honor, each house separately, of passing complimentary resolutions and signing them with the names of the members present, and appointed a committee, my friends, the Hons. W. C. Weathersby and M. L. Franklin, to attend and present them to us at our home on that day. These will be souvenirs to be prized and preserved, but the one which touched us most are the following lines written by my friend Colonel J. L. Power, the secretary of state, but forever to be known as the great philanthropist of the state.
He has never been a rich man, no great college bears his name to commemorate his deeds, but thousands have lived to bless him, and when in the fullness of time he passes away thousands will mourn the good man. I myself could tell many instances of his unostentatious kindness, but this I know would be distasteful to him, and I forbear.
These lines were signed by each member of the state government, and I append them just as received:
TO JUDGE FRANK A. MONTGOMERY AND WIFE, on the
Fiftieth Anniversary of their Marriage, January
the 12th, A. D. 1898:
dear good friends on this Jubilee day
The greetings of those who have known you so well;
May the joys that thus far has brightened your way
Increase with your years and in richness excel.
May your last days be best, and when they shall cease
Secure may you be in the Good Shepherd's fold,
Where naught can molest, where you'll find all is peace,
A fitting finale to your wedding of gold.
On the 17th of February, 1898, the faithful friend, the
loving wife, was indeed "secure in the Good Shepherd's
fold," but over that time I must draw a veil.
But I must bring these memoirs to a close. I am glad to have written them, incomplete as I know they are. In looking them over I see no sentiment I have expressed which I would retract.
If in the slightest degree they have added anything to the history of my state and its heroic sons, and anything to the history of the great war in which I bore my part, I am satisfied.
The shadows are falling round me, but there are no
clouds to obscure my vision of the future of my country, great and glorious as it now is, and becoming more and more united as time rolls on.
The star of Mississippi which once seemed to have been quenched in the blood of her sons, and made the paradise of slaves, once more shines with renewed luster amid the bright galaxy of her sisters, and with them henceforth "one and inseparable" will shine on forever!