(June 17, 1831--July 27, 1909)
To comply with the requests of some of my grandchildren the following memoirs were written, well knowing that they could be of little interest to any but them. The facts and impressions were drawn entirely from memory, but may be taken as truthful narration, so far as memory, after forty years can be depended upon.
Hoping that in the far future they may find pleasure in reading this life sketch of their grandfather, with a grandparent's good wishes that shall last as long as these memoirs, to my grandchildren they are lovingly dedicated.
(Signed) R. J. Christie, Sen.
I would like to express my appreciation to Robert J. Christie, IV, for his gracious loan of a priceless family heirloom, his Great-Grandfather's Memoirs. I have been told that this particular copy was typed by Dr. Christie's own secretary, and that it was proofed and signed by Dr. Christie, himself, less than four months before his death.
It has been my goal to reproduce the text of that volume as faithfully as I possibly could. I have retained Dr. Christie's peculiarities of punctuation, and certain odd spellings as well. Changes were made only to the most obviously unintentional errors. Two types of endnotes have been added to this edition. Those marked "(MF)" have been generated from genealogical information in my possession, gathered from family sources. Those marked "(C/R)" are from the Christie/Robbins edition, titled In the Western Theatre. And I have included in an Appendix to this edition, a few other writings relevant to Dr. Christie, his wife, and their experience of the Civil War.
In publishing Dr. Christie's Memoirs to the Internet, I have added a table of Contents. The chapter titles that appear here, were not supplied by Dr. Christie. They are my inventions, and are added with the intention of providing an additional aid to the navigation of this lengthy document.
I was born in the Valley of Virginia, the Valley Beautiful, on the banks of the Opequon, in the month of June (17th.) 1831, when the roses and clover fields were in full bloom. From year to year, until I left the dear Valley to become a citizen of the far West, the beauties and promise of June insensibly impressed my young mind and heart, so that as I grew up, I derived pleasure from matters of art, whether in eloquence, music, sculpture or, in fact, anything as rare and beautiful as June.
Strong was the call of the wild woods to me. I knew where the hawks nested. I knew the old hollow trees where the owls drowsed through the day. I could go now and find the cunning birds nests in brakes and thickets, for, if they have been undisturbed as they were then, their progeny love to nest and carol there still. Then the lure of the creek and swimming hole! The inviting call of Bob White to the meadow and clover fields! What a joy to wallow in knee-deep clover, as free from care and trouble as Lotus Eaters "on beds of Aramanth and Molly". Was young life so happy? Or does distance lend enchantment to the view? Not altogether so. There was the fear of snakes lurking near the most tempting berries, the dread of haunted places, which the negroes would warn us to keep away from. And the mortal fear of the old time school-teacher. He furnished no blackboard or instruments of demonstration to help along. Instead of these, there was always conspicuous before our eyes a supply of tough switches. With fear and trepidation we had to recite our lessons.
With me, though more fortunate than many, I had a double share of apprehension. My oldest sister(1), two years younger than myself, timid and shrinking, was always in mortal dread, and in my childish weakness, I suffered for both of us. Poor sister Jane, long beyond the reach of cruelty! So gentle and kindly! She never merited, nor had to suffer hardly so much as a frown at our home. Of such as she - "the pure in heart" it is written "they shall see God". But I, who write this, know better than anyone what an unspeakable sorrow the ending of her young life caused us.
It is strange that our kind forefathers would permit such school-keeping; but there were bad boys then, as there always will be, I fear, who will require vigorous discipline, and those of different temperament, unfairly, had to suffer.
The present generation of children should be glad of the evolution, revolution indeed, which has taken place since then. May I narrate a fortunate accident that befell me on the way to one of these schools? One of the worst of such schools. I had been going on crutches for some weeks on account of a badly wrenched and sprained ankle, until I could race with any of the boys, albeit my injury would not permit raising the foot. Father was taking me to school behind him on horseback. At a very narrow place between the fence and a tree, I told father to look out or he would catch my foot. Unfortunately, for the time being he thought of the wrong foot and so crowded the injured one over against the tree, giving it a severe wrench. It was very painful for awhile. He thought he had done me great harm, but in a few days I was able to throw aside the crutches and have never used them since.
Since becoming a doctor I have known of an eminent surgeon who constructed a chair for such cases of joint stiffness, that would fall to pieces by touching a spring and loosen up the joint. The patient was placed in this chair innocently, supposing he was being prepared for examination; suddenly the chair would fall to pieces in such a way as to disrupt the contractions about the joint. The plan was surprisingly effective. We have improved upon that method since.
In those early days, boys of my age had their little love affairs, their little concealed affections - little heart secrets, to give place in their after years to more serious matters of like kind, then to be laid away with other childish things and be forgotten. I need not enlarge upon this subject. Every older girl or boy, from personal experience, can complete the story.
From our prehistoric ancestors, who, from the conditions of their environments, followed the chase for subsistence, we have doubtless, with certain animals inherited the hunting instinct or passion. This desire to hunt manifests itself in boys, as I can testify. How many times I have begged my father to go hunting with me, with but little success, as he had other matters to attend to and had outgrown the passion. Whitsuntide Monday, the day for squirrel hunting, I looked forward to with as much pleasurable anticipation as the 4th of July. The killing of the game was above my class, but the thrill of hearing the dogs tree, the excitement attending the locating and shooting, was a pleasure that only a boy can realize. It was a great privilege to carry the game home.
When old enough to be allowed to go night hunting, what a time we had when we could get colored 'Lias to take his dogs and go with us. No ancestor of his in the wilds of darkest Africa ever had more complete command of his followers than had he on these hunts. His word was law, his commands were unquestioned, we, for the time being were his obedient subjects. Out in the deep woods in the gloom of night, there was no question of color. The line was invisible. We boys yielded the question of rank: 'Lias and his dogs were our superiors - we, privileged privates, eager only for the sport and safe in his protection. Faithful 'Lias! I have often wondered what became of him in the cruel war, when so many of his kind were ground between the upper and nether millstone.
Was there ever a boy under twelve that could venture alone deep in the woods at night? To a boy there is something so awful and fearful in the loneliness. The rustle of the leaves, the snapping of limbs, the hoot of the owl, and especially the barking of the fox, strike terror to his heart. Even the great, silent trees are alive and ghostly. In such presence he would need no warning to be good. He would feel his helplessness and insignificance as if alone in the very infinitude of space. Even older boys are not exempt from such dread. When about twelve or thirteen I tested my courage by an adventure in the night.
Kane's Lane was one of the places which tradition had held to be one scene of bloody murders, and therefore was haunted by the avenging spirits of the dead. Kane's Woods, about a half mile from our house, was the particular chosen ground for the meeting of all the spirits, ghosts, and witches of the air, invisible only in the light of day, but discernible clearly in the night by a certain class, chiefly negroes. Awful groans and screams from tormented shades had made the night in these dark woods, hideous, while in the very darkest depths of the forest, rarely seen by boys in broad daylight, and then approached with halting steps for but a glimpse, was supposed to be a dreadful swamp wherein many a poor soul has been lured and lost. Jack with the Lantern was abroad there from dark till dawn. He was not a mere phosphorescent flash, but a real Will o' the Wisp. To all of us younger boys it was a tera incognita, which no boyish curiosity could tempt us to explore.
One October night, such as would appeal to a twelve year old boy's hunting instinct, I teased father to go hunting with me. He had outgrown the passion, especially after a day's toil, and I was peremptorily refused; then I said I would go by myself. The whole household bantered me to go - insisted on my going, feeling sure, of course, that I would not attempt so rash a prank. They said "Go out in the garden or orchard: maybe you can tree something."
I said, "I am going to Kane's Woods."
They said, "By all means, go."
And I went. When I got started with the dogs, away from the house, the terrors of the night came upon me, but I had accepted the banter, and my Scotch Irish resolution impelled me onward.
It was such a night as would call up the spirits from the "Vasty Deep." The nearer I got to the woods, the more I seemed to be intruding on the domain of the unearthly. Even the dogs hesitated. The moon was near the full: the sky was clear: the air frosty. Cautiously and noiselessly we entered the woods. All sounds were magnified: the rustle of the leaves, the tramp of the dogs, all seemed to have warning significance. The moonbeams seemed sportively playing over the ground, and the rugged trees appeared to be animate; so different from the insensate objects of day. I was thrilled with awe. I think the familiar warning words, "Verily, verily I say unto you", verbigerated(2) continuously in my ears. Two hundred yards was the utmost of my venture. That satisfied me that game was not abroad, and I called off the hunt. It was not so much for the game that I went; anyhow I had got more than a bag of opossums. I had established the reputation at home for resolution and courage, more really than I deserved, for I am sure I travelled faster coming than going. Years after, when I had outgrown the fear of graveyards and haunted places, I explored this dismal swamp and found it to be a very small affair. If any boy of twelve thinks that I have magnified the matter, let him try it. Many a man who has rushed with forlorn hope into "the immanent and deadly breach", can remember such foreboding terrors, that seem trivial in after years.
Unfortunate Wallie! Devoted friend and companion of my tender years! How many a romp we had, and rabbit hunt in the frosty mornings! For this sport we were both ready and eager. What a proud pair we were when we could display the trophies of our excursion, even on forbidden ground! Though only a Newfoundland dog, we understood each other so well that language was superfluous. He would greet me with glad fondling when I returned from school. He almost seemed to take an interest in my education. He would have given his life freely, for my defense, as it was sacrificed at last for defending our household. A mad dog came along. He bit our dogs, and Wallie fought him and drove him off. It was well known that the dog had rabies, as was shown afterwards, by everything bitten by him taking the disease. The other two dogs were disposed of without much regret - with Wallie it was different. The best marksman in the neighborhood was secured to shoot him; unfortunately, it was not a fatal shot. He had to be followed, crippled as he was, and shot to death in a cruel way.
It has been my lot to see people killed since then, but never such a friend. I realized poignantly, as only a boy can, the remorseless fate that befell him. Years after, I visited, from a far land, the place where he was laid, but not a bone was left. I believe if there had been, I would have taken care of it, but I shall remember him as inseparable from the associations of my boyhood.
It is with pleasurable emotions that my mind reverts to the incidents of my child life. I can remember with what soporific effect the chirp! chirp! of the Autumn Cicada had on me, when riding behind my father, on the way home through the woods, after nightfall. No nocturne or lullaby could now have the power to creep over my mind and senses and lull me into a half sleeping, half waking, dreamful somnolence, as did the night chanters of those days. Happy days! No king or general ever felt more secure, when surrounded by his legions, than did I when at home, under the protecting care and love of a dear good father and mother. I trust I have never forgotten to honor them in all these long years.
Around the old-fashioned fireplace the family would gather after the day's work was done and talk of current matters incident to the times and neighborhood, until the time arrived for us children to be stowed away for the night in warm trundle-beds. Sometimes the talk was of politics: sometimes of the past, when Aunt Mary, who kept in careful remembrance stories and anecdotes told by my grandfather and grandmother, who came from Londonderry, Ireland, would repeat them to us for our amusement. I still remember some of them. One ran as follows: A poor Irishman who happened at dinner time to be at the residence of well-to-do people, was asked to have dinner with the family. They had pudding and a bowl of fine cream sauce for the desert. The bowl happened to be near the visitor. He began to drink the sauce; they said, "Won't you have some pudding with the sauce?" He innocently said, "No, thank you, this is plenty good enough for me."
Another: After the defeat of the Irish at the battle of the Boyne, some of them, in order to make terms with the victorious English, affiliated with the English church. One Irish woman accordingly purchased a book of family religious exercises as she supposed. The book-seller, for the joke, sold her a book of military exercises. She took it home. Not being able to read, her husband who could, at the morning exercises read the supposed prayers and she improvised the responses. It happened that he opened the book at the drill for firing. On their knees, devoutly, he began, "Attention Company!"
She said, "Lord, may we always be attentive".
He:- "Front Face!"
She:- "Lord, may we always have a good face."
"Lord, may we always be ready."
: "Lord, may we ever aim right."
: "Lord, Jamie! The break of the Boyne is not out of your heed yet."
So ended the first lesson.
Our family being mainly Scotch Irish, such stories appealed to their love of the humorous and were, therefore, readily handed down to us through many generations without losing their flavor, or our relish for them. In a quiet graveyard near their home in Missouri(3) are three marble stones that mark the graves of Father, Mother and good old Aunt Mary. They lie close together. They were dutiful and faithful to each other in life, and their goodness links them together in the memory of their posterity, whom they loved so well.
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When I was eight or nine years old, the last of the old revolutionary soldiers were passing away. I remember going with my father to Winchester, to the burial of the last one of the old Morgan Rifles. Captain Lock was his name and rank. It was a very solemn funeral. The military companies of the city and country escorted the remains to the grave. They marched with arms reversed and fired a volley at the grave. They laid the old soldier down in his last bivouac with his comrades around him and his chief, a faithful guard, as in the night watches of the revolution, no more to part company until the last reveille. I often afterward saw the grave of Morgan. A stone slab, broken across the middle, with a simple inscription, marked his grave. About him were his old true and tried riflemen. So lowly reposed the heroes of Cowpens and Saratoga. There was much talk of erecting a suitable monument, but nothing was done. Thus, my early recollections begin with the passing away of those ever-to-be-remembered brave men who won for us our independence. Following them were those of the War of 1812, who still kept up the military spirit, and although they had not felt the stress of actual war, they would, on trial, have shown that they had the courage of their ancestors. At all events, after the war cloud and threatened storm had passed by, they were venerated by the boys of my time, as though they had fought the Red Coats on many a bloody field. Nor were they backward in asserting their military prowess. So we came to look up to them as superior to other mortals.
The big musters and Fourth of Julys were days eagerly looked forward to. I have witnessed many glorious Fourths since, and bigger musters until tired of the latter, but as to the Fourth, while duly respected of later years, it lacks the thrilling quality of the past. I cannot do justice to the feelings of a boy on big muster days. In some old field, near a central town, the militia companies from all parts of the county would rally. Un-uniformed, in plain farmer garb, they exhibited all the awkwardness and ignorance of raw recruits, and when the uniformed companies came upon the ground they became utterly dispirited, and beneath our future notice. There is something inspiriting to old age, in seeing a well equipped battalion march and maneuver, but to a boy, it is exalting, and when the climax came with the firing of innocent blank volleys, words fail to convey the overwhelming impression. After that, the inviting booths around the fences claimed our attention, as other feelings asserted themselves, and if we had carefully laid by our small talent, to the amount of 50 cents, for the occasion, the small beer and ginger cakes or sweet cider and apple pies got away with part of our hoarded capital, leaving a moiety for the Fourth of July, with a hope that good fortune would supply the deficiency.
The old soldiers of 1812 took a very supercilious view of these musters. They noted, with scorn, all the faults and failures of the muster; but on the Fourth of July they were marked individuals, and they felt it. They were as attentive to the reading of the Declaration, as if it had been their first hearing of it, and so on, year after year, as long as they lived.
This anniversary was too much for some of the 1812 old soldiers. Their patriotic feelings could not stand the strain. Some of them had seen 'in the dawn's early light', the Star Spangled Banner waving over Fort McHenry, and when the band played he dear old music, they broke down, and became so completely demoralized that they had to resort to the flowing bowl. Such an one was one of my earliest associates, Jesse Barnes.
My grandfather had taken him when he was an orphan, and raised him as one of the family. He grew to rugged manhood, but resisted much schooling, in fact he was almost illiterate. When the call came for volunteers for the War of 1812, he promptly enlisted and served faithfully, until regularly discharged. Like many a good soldier, he acquired the habit of drinking, and would occasionally get drunk, but invariably on Independence Day and big musters. I remember he would round up at our house, after one of his sprees, until Father asked him not to come when intoxicated, - that he was welcome when sober, - that it was hard for us children to see him in that condition: to all of which he agreed.
On one occasion, thinking himself sober, he came as usual. Mother set for his lunch, his bowl of buttermilk, which he required when sobering up. He was making a great but futile effort, by his talk, to appear sober. While in the act of drinking the milk, Father said, "Jesse, I thought you promised me you would not come here again when drunk." He let the bowl fall, spilling the milk over himself and the table, saying in a very weak voice, "Jeems, I wish you had not said that word." So the incident passed. I don't remember that he ever came again in that condition.
Jesse was a patriot by instinct, and a democrat by association. He was as faithful to his party as to his country. No temptation could swerve him from either. The Whigs had often tempted him, but without success, as the following will show. My uncles and a cousin were Whigs. As was his annual custom, he had come to spend the late fall and winter with us. At such times he was furnished warm stockings, shoes, and generally, an outfit of clothing. It was just before the presidential election when Clay and Polk ran. My uncle and Cousin Bob made an extra effort to get him to vote for Clay. They had furnished him with tobacco and all the hard cider he wanted. They thought he was yielding, and to clinch him, told him that my father had said he dared not vote contrary to his (Father's) wishes. That seemed to be the feather that turned the scale. He swore that he would show Jeems Christie he would vote as he pleased. He was very wroth. In those good old days they voted Viva Voce. They carefully coached Jesse, and took him to the polls. The clerk said, "Mr. Barnes, whom do you vote for?" "Polk and Dallas" said Jesse. He died without ever knowing that my father never made such a declaration. Years after my Cousin Bob told mother, with tears in his eyes, how they had treated my father, who of all men, was incapable of dictating to anyone how he should vote. This narration is justified, I trust, to do honor to the plain, simple and illiterate men of those days.
As remarked before, I was fond of hunting. My chief delight, in fact, was in a gun. I never tired of speaking of hunting. It was part of Jesse's business, during the long winter nights, until he or I went to sleep, to tell of things agreeable to me. He slept with me, and, to my complete delight, he early promised to bring me a rifle, the next winter. Of course, no other gift would have pleased me so much, as he well knew. In my innocence, I felt as sure of it, as that winter would return. I asked him a great many questions respecting the make of the gun, its size &c. &c. He never failed to answer my questions in such a way as to meet my approval, and to make it suit my fancy. He had a gift for anticipating my ideals, and so describing the various parts of the gun as to complete my satisfaction with the coveted gift.
I have in my mind yet, the size of the bullets, the kind of stock, the mountings &c. &c., for I had it described repeatedly, in answer to my questions, to the minutest detail. The next winter came and brought no gun, but a sufficient excuse to satisfy me. And so the next, and the next - until doubts began to arise as to whether he was not practicing an innocent deception on me, which at last became a conviction. Long since he has been forgiven, and the imprint of the gun on my memory, when recalled, only brings pleasure. Poor Jesse! Harmless soul! He was found frozen to death on the public highway.
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Reared on a farm, as I was, I came to know the system of farming which was most successful. My father was an excellent farmer, and understood and practiced the rotation system. When I was, perhaps, twelve to fourteen years of age, Father attended a sale, at which was sold a number of periodicals and books on scientific farming. A system, which was claimed by practical farmers, that would surely lead to bankruptcy. Amongst the number of books was a course of lectures on agricultural chemistry. Having studied chemistry in schools, sufficiently to understand this book, when I read it, it was a revelation to me. What I had seen on the farm, that long experience had taught farmers to apply as best, now, I could see, from a chemical point of view, and understand the reasons for, and causes of the results. I think I have not since found anything more enlightening and useful.
Long before this time someone was kind enough to put "Weems' Life of Marion" in my hands. Of course, I eagerly devoured it, and with so keen a relish that it is still remembered with distinctness. Like all impressionable persons, at that time in our National progress, the book was read by me with much sympathy. The hardships of Marion's little army; their bravery in battle; their steadfastness and suffering, awakened in the elders pride and pity, while the martyrdom of Newton and Jasper, as told in the eloquent language of the author, could not be read aloud. I have not been able to find that book since boyhood, to compare it with the impressions then made, but have seen it criticized, as being something of a romance. At all events, it was inspiring to the young of my boyhood days. The following account of the marriage of Washington's father, copied from "Weems' Life of Washington", would then have not seemed to be grandiloquent, but would have thrilled me with delight: - "His father, fully persuaded that a marriage of virtuous love comes nearest to angelic life, early stepped up to the altar with glowing cheeks and joy -sparkling eyes, while by his side with a soft, warm hand, sweetly trembling in his, stood the angel form of the lovely Miss Dandridge." Some kind soul, who thought I would like it, put into my hands, about the time mentioned above, Goldsmith's "History of Greece". The scope and style of the work were well suited for my beginnings in historical reading. The glories and wonders of that ancient land charmed me. Their heroes, orators, and especially their poets, painters, sculptors and architects awakened in my callow mind a love of the artistic and beautiful, which has been a source of pleasure ever since. With no companions at that time to share with me the delight, I could dream of the Olympic Games, the orations, the dramas, the temples, the sculpture, and the immortals of that wonderful land. To me, it was very vivid, real and charming, and afterwards, when I was privileged to have "Chataubrian's Travels through Greece, Troy and the Classic Lands", I voyaged with him, for his style, like that of Renan, chaste, beautiful and dreamy, so suited to describe the spell with which antiquity haunts this eden land of art, bore me along, a willing and inspired companion. How different, years after, when I dutifully read "Robin's Ancient History" and, worst of all Josephus.
The kind of books they put in my hands was well considered. They led the way to larger views of literature and life, and I shall never know the sum of my indebtedness to the kind friends who gratified my thirst for literature. They have long since passed away, beyond the reach of my thankfulness, to receive their reward, for that and so many other good deeds to their credit, unrequited in this life.
My father was very industrious man. I thought he must have studied all the week to find something for me to do on Saturdays. My plans, thought out at school for the brief holiday, and his, conflicted. I, of course, had to yield, but the difference between hunting and fishing, and working, was greater in my estimation than in his; but now I know his side was a majority and right. Our hunting privileges were not abundant, but we had good fishing for boys in the Opequon Creek and Barton's Mill dam.
When I last saw the old mill, after an interval of nearly fifty years, the old wheel was going on seemingly like the stream that propelled it, unceasing and tireless, with the same monotonous creak and splash, and the machinery inside with the same clatter and hum as when a boy of twelve I so many times heard it when waiting for my grist to be ground.
The same platform was there, unchanged, as when on it the miller would take my sack and wheel it into the hopper. Though the mill and stream were there, the kind miller was not. He had gone to the realm where there is neither hunger nor thirst. Other millers have come and gone, but the mill and stream, so inseparable, seemed to be destined to go on forever. So like the lines in Tennyson's "Brook",
"Men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever".
Barton's Dam, above the mill, was our fishing and swimming place. While recalling these things I feel again in some degree the enchantment which touched my young mind while strolling around its shores. There were imagined mysteries hidden in its depths. I would have been glad if the breast had unavoidably given way so that I could see on the bare bottom what lay there concealed. I suppose in his earliest ventures no boy ever swam there without the fear of some impossible monster of the deep attacking him from below. Here with our rude hooks and lines we would, with great expectations, cast them forth and sometimes be rewarded with a bite, sometimes with a few little fishes, sometimes with nothing, in which case, the cause of the disappointment was laid to the fishes. I wonder if every boy does not remember the thrill which he felt when he got his first effectual bite and caught his first fish: and how proud he was to show to his mother his little trophy. He baits overmuch: he has been taught to spit on the bait, which he does: he carefully casts in his line, takes a seat, and about the time his first flush of expectancy has nearly worn off, suddenly the cork begins to dip and dance; now down under he feels the pull, makes a powerful effort to land his fish; it is a small cat perhaps, but it is big enough; he has caught his first fish. Henceforth he is a fisherman, and when the bees are humming and the lilacs blooming in the early spring, his thoughts are led from the poles and lines of his geography lessons to fishing poles and fishing lines. Here also, when a little longer grown, we seined. In the springtime when the fish were astir, we would go in with a 30 foot seine and sometimes make a haul that would reward us for our trouble: but in the early spring it was always a cold venture. I recall an old Scotch factory weaver that would sometimes go in with us. When the cold water would get up to our armpits, he would say, "It is damp cold".
Fifty years had sensibly diminished the size of the dam, and the rushes had taken possession of our seining places.
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I felt that farming was not to be my occupation for life: and after much thinking, and balancing of my plans for the future, I concluded to go to town and work at some trade or business. Nothing offered to my fancy but the builders art or trade, and accordingly I engaged in that for several years.
While thus engaged, I formed the acquaintance of several boys of my age, of bright minds and a burning desire to improve themselves, mentally. Morally, they were as good a set of boys as could be found. While we were chums, there was nothing low or vulgar carried on. Instinctively they were far above that level, and were, be it said to the credit of their rearing, and their innate uprightness, secure from temptation. I suppose they are all dead now, and I can only pay this tribute to their silent shades. True, manly boys! They were dear companions, and "E'en their frailties leaned to Virtue's side."
One year we clubbed together and rented an upper room fronting on the courthouse square. We got a stove, table and chairs. My father brought us wood. We took turns at sawing and carrying it up: we were all enthusiastic in the matter, so all went with a vim. How we enjoyed the long winter evenings, until the too swift eleven struck the time for closing up. We needed a name, and someone suggested Junta. It took immediately because it was new and odd. So we decided unanimously that we were a junta. We did not proclaim our name or business to the public, but our actions drew some attention.
Old Sleuth Parker, called on us, we thought, out of curiosity: also some others. We learned that the name of our club gave us a suspicious cast, that the Spanish juntas were secret revolutionary bodies, and that some were wondering what we were up to. In spite of this, we retained the name, for we knew we were harmless, attending to our own promptings, plotting no treasonable assaults on the city. We cared little for the suspicions of outsiders; we feared not their misgivings; we were securely clad in the panoply of rightness, if not righteousness.
Our evenings were devoted to reading, to discussing grammatical problems or current matters of public interest, conversation and sometimes singing. There were two good singers - one a fine contralto falsetto who sang in the Episcopal choir, another a soprano. One of the latter's favorite songs was "On Old Long Island's Seagirt Shore". He afterwards was a clerk of the noted Broadway Rouse, who occasionally visited our club, and doubtless
"Whiled many an hour away,
listening to the breakers roar,
That washed the beach of Rockaway."
The former, poor James Hoover, as sweet a soul as ever lived, died in early manhood of consumption. He was my constant companion, and all these years have not blotted from my heart and memory the brotherly affection we had for each other.
None of us drank spirits, nor swore, nor did we have any games. It is amusing to remember the various books which our free inclinations prompted us to read. Some of them inappropriate, got without sound judgement, but with good intentions. As an instance, our soprano chose "Napier's Wars of the Peninsula", a ponderous and dry book, written mainly for military students. Anyone could see that it was a misfit. Some others chose books of popular science: I think no novels. I am entirely unable to remember what books I read. Altogether, I have not in my life enjoyed greater profit or pleasure than while our junta lasted. Phrenology was current at that time, and several of us became very proficient in that so-called science. When I later became acquainted with anatomy and physiology, under the lectures of Conrad and great, but simple, Leidy, I found, excepting in a very general way, that phrenology rested on a very sandy foundation; but at that time we thought we could discover all the hidden faults and frailties of each other: and no citizen could pass us, bareheaded, without our understanding his outward and inward qualities of mind and motive.
This gave us the opportunity to pass judgement on the piety of preachers; the sincerity of orators and politicians; and to judge even judges on the bench. I think our so-called science was often at fault with the girls, for we found, sometimes, that the sly, flashing glance of bright eyes and bewitching smiles, which seemed to be set aflame by splendid organs, were for fellows outside of our circle. Then there was a material difference in the interpretation. Then the nose was not such as Phidias would have chiseled, and the feet were a trifle large and flat.
In our exclusive circle, we had our preference for military companies, and especially fire companies. We did not run with ours, but we wished it all kinds of success, and the other company bad luck, regardless of the consequence to property. As an instance in point:- one night about eleven o'clock, as we were going home, we saw flames rapidly making headway on the rear end of a residence. Our resolution was taken instantly: we rushed to our engine house, aroused the firemen, and shortly had the fire out, without disturbing the other company's slumbers, or arousing the town. It was quite a scoop for our company and good luck to the owner of the building. The incident caused no excitement. We never received any thanks, but were well satisfied without them, as our company got the glory.
In this way I spent my time for several years, not altogether unprofitably. I was becoming acquainted with the ways of the world, with urban peoples as well as rural, and at the same time, forming my character, which, I am thankful now, was not deformed by bad associations or reckless conduct on my part.
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About 1852 I witnessed an autopsy by some doctors, on a man who died mysteriously. I saw them open up his skull and make all kinds of sections of the brain. It so impressed me, that I felt an irresistible impulse to look further into the wonders of anatomy and physiology. I had looked upon physicians, when a child, with something akin to awe and reverence. To my mind, they bore about with them a wonderful mental and material power. It appeared that life and death were at their disposal. I dreaded to meet one of them in the road. I had seen them take the life blood from people, remorselessly; but now as a man I desired to become one of them. The mystery was dispelled. I only envied them their knowledge. I determined to be a doctor.
Having some latin, chemistry, physiology and natural philosophy, I was not entirely unprepared for the study of Medicine, and to meet the preliminary requirements as demanded at that time. I lacked Botany, but I made that good along with my reading, as we then called the preliminary course with a preceptor. Our family physician loaned me "Wistar's Anatomy" and some other books and some bones, including an excellent skull, and I lost no time in what, to me, was delightful study. I think no medical student was ever more earnest and attentive, so that after about a year, I was sufficiently prepared to attend lectures. There was a medical school in Winchester, not on a large scale, but with a most excellent course of lectures and demonstrations, just suitable for a first course of instruction. I matriculated and attended the full course. We lived about five miles from the college, and having a good horse, I rode to the lectures and quizzes every day, making my expenses very light. Our professors were men of marked ability. Conrad, who knew anatomy as his A B C's, Tucker on chemistry and Materia Medica, Smith on practice, and Hugh McGuire, father of Hunter McGuire, Stonewall Jackson's famous staff surgeon, on surgery: men of the highest professional standing. Hugh McGuire was one of the most famous surgeons in that part of the country. We never missed his lectures, as he illuminated them with the narrations of cases in his practice. If he ever missed his coupe and horse, we never heard of it. He knew well enough on what nocturnal adventure it had gone. Nowadays, there is an abundance of subjects for all demands, but in that school, we had to look out for them ourselves. The subjects were generally of the ebon variety, and the poor darkies were in mortal dread of the doctor students, as they termed them. They would even sell their bodies in advance, to be delivered without burial, in order, by making it a cash transaction, to get something out of it, for they rightly considered a bird in the hand worth two in the coffin, and, that the chances of their remains resting long in peace was next to nil.
I well remember with what suspicion my old darkie friends used to regard me after I became a "student doctor". They had been indoctrinated into full faith in the resurrection, but not our kind. They had due regard for that feeling which we all possess, desiring an undisturbed repose after life's fitful task is done. They could not understand, in their simple way of thinking, how a part of the body here, and a part there; how the flesh and skin after being disrespectfully used, and thrown into a sink, and promiscuously mixed up with like parts of others with whom they were not acquainted, or on speaking terms - the arm bones in some doctor's office, the leg in some other doctor's, and the skull in still another's, and it sometimes used by unmerciful students as a candle-stick, with a candle in the foreamen magnum occipitis; how all these heterogeneous and scattered parts, all mixed up indiscriminately, could be got together without making mistakes. It was to them an unsolvable proposition.
If a part of Tom and Gin should happen to be put together, how could the party know whether he was Tom or Gin? How could he know whether he was himself or she was he? They had often sung at their meetings "There'll be no parting there", but if this composite personality should ask St. Peter for admittance, how would he know them apart? And then Gin was not even Tom's wife, not even flesh of his flesh, and if they got mixed by mistake, St. Peter had no right to put asunder, what had been joined together. And then Gin was a saint and Tom a sinner. These perplexing difficulties were too deep for the average colored layman or clergyman to handle; but the dissections went on all the same. An instance will show reason for their apprehensions.
On one occasion a negro man had died and the friends, to a sufficient number, had assembled to guard his remains before burial. They had laid in candles and a lunch. The latter in a sufficient quantity, but prone as the Ethiope is to mistakes in calculation, they were short in their estimate of candles. "In the wee sma' hours ayant the twal'," the light was about to go out, and leave them in darkness. The situation was alarming. One would not stay till others got candles, and another would not, so at last, they compromised by shutting up the house, leaving the dead man to take care of himself, and all went. When they got back the corpse was out and gone. They could not believe he had been translated, for he went unshriven. The inevitable conclusion was that the 'doctor students' had got him, and in place of being translated, he was only transferred. They didn't look to see if he had come to and was hiding about the house. They didn't stay long enough. What was the use?
We had a simple but effective outfit of tools with which to take up bodies. It consisted of a shovel, two-inch auger, rope and pole. We would dig down on the box or coffin, as the case might be, and, with the big auger would bore a row of holes across the coffin near the head, break in the boards, put the rope around the neck, tear off the shrouding, throw everything back excepting, of course, the body, fill up the grave snugly, strap the body to the pole with the rope, shoulder it and away. How simple! Nothing superfluous! No white shroud to startle the superstitious! No white skin to excite the curiosity of the late casual night walker! Even the color of the subject's skin aided us in the very, very quiet and peaceful business we had in hand. It was not our wish to disturb the slumbers of law-abiding citizens, so we were very quiet. It was the custom to make the last matriculant go down in the grave and put the rope around the neck of the subject. That was the way of my initiation. I remembered, for a time, the smell that met me - a smell that students get used to - , and though it is at first as much as they can stand, yet, it not being pathogenic, it is not dangerous, and they can, after awhile, eat a lunch at the dissecting table with a steady stomach. You notice, we use the term, subject. When a person dies, he is at first spoken of as 'the departed', then 'the remains', then 'the corpse', then 'the body', and when it gets into the hands of the doctors and students, it is only 'a subject'. To such an end may it come. The student consoles himself with the thought that it makes no difference to the departed, or subject, which is all the same.
Once when on my way home, I learned that a negro man had fallen off of a stone fence when drunk, and had either broken his neck or had frozen to death, as the weather was very cold. There had been an inquest and then he was buried, near the side of the road. Being buried in the public highway, we considered him public property. We wanted a subject and this was our opportunity. When we had to go some distance on such business, we, through the aid of Hunt McGuire, used to get his father's carriage, as we did in this case. We would take turns digging and freezing, until we could stand it no longer, then we broke into the school-house, got a book, tore the leaves out, and with a match and convenient wood, soon had a comfortable fire. I have often wondered what the little girl or boy thought, when she saw that half of her book was torn out. We didn't know they had opened the neck of the subject to see if it was broken, until we saw it by daylight, and learned by public report it had left a trail of blood in the snow, where we dragged it to the carriage. But nothing came of it, and for a long time I had kept one of his lower extremities as an anatomical specimen. We duly respected the claims of those whose slaves had died, if they requested us not to disturb the bodies. Hon. Richard Bird, in a polite note, asked us to let his old faithful servant's corpse remain in the grave. We assured him his request would be sacredly complied with, as it was. It was as safe then as his own body would have been.
These adventures were not always of the safe and romantic kind. The law of Virginia, at that time, placed a penitentiary penalty on body snatching, and while we had to keep out of the law's clutches, in addition to that we were not always requested, as in the case of Mr. Bird, but in some instances, threatened with dire consequences. Near this same time, the owner of a negro woman, who died in Winchester, sent us a notice, that if we attempted to take the body of his servant, the grave would be strictly guarded by armed watchers, and we would be shot without further warning. The threat put us on our mettle; it was a challenge which touched our courage, and after due consideration, we determined to accept the challenge, and take the risk. I think I would, at this day, lay aside my pride before undertaking such a dare-devil adventure, for it smelt of blood.
We learned that they had buried the body in a graveyard, exclusively for negroes, about a half mile from town, about 75 yards from the Valley turnpike, which had high stone fences on either side. The graveyard was in a field of about 20 acres, in which were corn shocks, an admirable place for pickets. Everything favored the defenders. We carefully laid our plans. Our only chance of success was to go early and get in our work before they came to watch. I well remember the kind of night it was. It was one of those gusty nights in November, when the moon seems to be sailing through scurrying clouds. I was delegated to go to the college and get our outfit. I had expected the things to be in their usual places, in the closet under the stairway, downstairs. In that case, I would only have had to open the outer door, and in 2 or 3 steps get to where they were: but they were not there. I had to climb to the third story to the dissecting room to get them. Up there, by moonlight only, I had to hunt around among grinning skeletons and partly dissected bodies, while the wind was in wild riot, slamming the shutters, rattling the loose tin roof, and howling and shrieking most dismally. If ever the spirits of the departed, like that of Hamlet, should visit, with angry protest, against those who would, sacrilegiously, mutilate their defenseless bodies, this was, of all others the night. Hardened as I had already become, I was glad to find the things and escape from amid this ghostly revelry. And then, time was precious. Napoleon said, "In war, time is everything". I applied the maxim to myself and got away in time.
The negroes had a way of trying to deceive us, by burying the body, placing the sods back as they were taken out and then shaping up the appearance of a new grave at some distance, placing a head and foot board, as usual; but the ruse failed, and only deceived themselves. We soon got onto their scheme, and all we had to do was to take a sharp stick, go punching around, when we could easily find the real grave. After resurrecting the body, we would put everything (but the body) back as they had fixed it. Thus, the attempted blind was altogether in our favor. About five of us, all well armed, started on our enterprise. When we got to the field we deployed, as skirmishers do, searched the field well to see that the watchers had not come. Then rapidly we opened the grave, took out the body, stripped off all shrouding, filled up the grave nicely, as we found it, lashed the subject to the pole, and had barely crossed the second stone fence when 5 or 6 persons came, well armed, to watch the grave. We slipped off quietly and got to the college all right. We supposed we had been entirely successful, until an officer with a search warrant, came to the college to look for the body. They did not find it, as we had a secret place to put them until all suspicion was gone. We learned that in our haste we had failed to put a strip of some colored clothing in the grave, which we could not see in the darkness. That betrayed us, and we had a good many uneasy hours for sometime.
We passed through the session studying, reciting, dissecting and operating on cadavers, with great advantage to ourselves. The old college building is gone. The war broke up the school, and the building was burned, but there are many pleasant remembrances left.
The following winter I matriculated in the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, where, with larger opportunities to complete a medical course, and with the indispensable course of clinical instruction and observation, ample in quantity, and explained and demonstrated by the ablest physicians and surgeons in America, with every incentive to avail myself of these means, I applied myself diligently, and at the annual commencement in June 1856, I was honored with the degree of M.D. When I returned to my old home in Virginia, I married(4) and at once came west. I began the practice in Missouri, where I soon became actively engaged in a hard and rough business until the war came on.
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No one who did not participate in the excitement of those days, just before hostilities began, can realize the intensity of passion, even frenzy that impelled people onward until nothing but actual combat could follow. No one could resist the pressure that forced them to take sides. Persons who had been life long neighbors and friends were alienated from each other, and went into respective parties of Union and Secession. All idea of compromise was soon lost in the determination of the one party to save the Union and of the other to defend the sovereignty, and rights of the states against invasion.
Orators on the respective sides, whether in Congress or before the public, so far from seeking to allay the excitement and cool the blood of their auditors, in fervid and impassioned oratory, added fuel to the flames. The old, quietly, in most cases, took sides: the young, boisterously and threateningly. Then began the talk of war. Business was suspended, and preparations were begun to defend the state against the federal power. Secession was proposed, but events succeeded so quickly, that no regular action of that kind was taken, as actual warfare was begun in the state of Missouri by the capture of Camp Jackson, at St. Louis, a military organization of State Guards.(5) By the prompt action of the brave General Lyon and Frank Blair, this quasi revolutionary organization was captured or dispersed.
I do not intend to describe the political chaos of those days. History will record the facts, colored of course, by the prejudices of partisan writers, but I may say that the distinctive difference between the contending elements at that time, was on the one side, preservation of the Union - on the other, the defense of state rights. Slavery was entirely incidental. In Missouri almost all southern-born people, with quite a percentage of northern-born, were on the side of the South; while those who made up the Union party were mostly of an inferior class of northern people. The governing classes, such as composed the state government and the judiciary, were southern. The negroes, even, were generally on the side of the South, due probably to family ties and associations growing out of the institution of slavery: and be it said to their credit and honor, they rarely gave trouble to the southern people. It was said that they helped to store away munitions, and so far as I ever learned, never betrayed the trust. Doubtless, as the Union military gradually occupied the greater part of the state, and the idea of ultimate freedom began to dawn on them, they had every temptation to betray their former owners and bring great trouble on them, even imprisonment, but such actual betrayals were rarely known. As to the munitions of war, Governor Clayborn Jackson, with the state authorities and State Guard, moved it all Southward within secure military lines. Some of the arms taken from Jefferson Barracks were saved by the State Guard, notably, those of the gallant Irish battalion of Colonel Kelley.
The middle ground, which was early taken tentatively by the southern, or States Rights people of Missouri, was to organize Home Guards companies all over the state, elect officers to command them, and arm them with such arms as could be had, such as shotguns, squirrel rifles, and rarely an old musket of Mexican war times was resurrected. The idea was to hold the state secure against invasion by either federal or Confederate armies, a position, considering the geographical location, absolutely untenable. When these companies began to be formed, a serious question arose as to who should officer them. Peace had so long prevailed that only old men had ever drilled companies, so that now it became necessary to hunt up those who had been colonels or captains in big muster days. The remnant of what little they had ever known of the duties appertaining to such offices, made their attempts ludicrous to military men.
I remember seeing one doctor, who claimed to have seen regular companies drill, instructing some embryo company in the use of arms. His most impressive and urgent drill was in the use of the bayonet - how to charge with that crucial and cruel weapon and to receive a charge of cavalry. The gun with which he was exhibiting the trick was a small double-barrel shotgun. Think of the charge of Murat against an invincible square of Russian infantry; or of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and then of the raw companies like these, with such officers, with shotguns before a charge of regulars. But there was the raw material there, sure enough, out of which was made no finer or braver soldiers that ever carried a rifle.
Those officers soon retired to their firesides, and tried to become neutrals - mutuals, as one old-time captain expressed it, while many of the men went south, to go through the war with unflinching valor. Poor fellows! In many an unmarked grave lie the bones of these brave boys, who, in the very front of battle, gave up their lives for the lost cause.
This was the state of affairs that existed in North Missouri, but after the Camp Jackson affair there came a change. The state government, all pro Southern, with Governor Clayborn F. Jackson at the head, was active in enrolling a State Guard. There was no lack of volunteers, but a lamentable deficiency of arms. The spirit was willing, but that could not compensate for the lack of means to bring it into effective action; especially on the north side of the Missouri River. The best that could be done was to move southward in companies or fragments, cross the Missouri River, and rally to the defense of the State Government at Jefferson City.
Quite a formidable looking lot of such had gathered near Glasgow, on the north side of the river, awaiting an opportunity to cross, or to form a rallying nucleus for the volunteers. Gen. Lyon was not a tame lion: he was not sleeping on his Camp Jackson laurels.(6) Putting his regiments and a battery of artillery on board steamers, it was not long until he landed his force, and moved up the north side of the river to attack this unorganized and unmanageable assemblage. He wheeled his battery into position, fired a few shots, which sent these raw fellows away to find a crossing. They succeeded by swimming the river, such as could not got on ferry boats, skiffs and any means of crossing at hand(7). Someone told me he met a young fellow, well mounted, going back in full gallop; he halted him and said:- "What are you running for?"
The young fellow said, "Why, don't you see? They are going to fire a cannon!"
He probably never stopped until he got home. If, however, his courage revived, and he joined the army on the other side of the river, he doubtless made a good soldier. So great a soldier as Frederick the Great, in his first battle, did the same. Many untried soldiers, if they follow their inclination, would do likewise.
After these affairs the state government could no longer safely remain in the state capital, as the federal military commanded the river and railroad approaches, and could readily have cut off their communication with both north and south. Accordingly, the State Seal and all valuable things connected with the state government were moved southward, as well as fragments of military companies.
The command of the state military forces had been placed in the hands of Gen. Sterling Price. He had gone to the southwest corner of the state to form a base of operations, and establish communications with the seceded states. This left North Missouri in a very disorganized and doubtful condition. The real and legitimate government had, for the time being, left this part of the state to the mercy of the lawless and vicious. As an example:- A circuit judge was shot and killed in the courthouse of his own county, by some union militia that had sprung up in that part of the state(8). Not knowing what to do for the defense of the state's authority in this section, some three of us took it upon ourselves to follow the state government and learn what was best to be done, and at the same time, get authority to organize volunteers, if thought advisable. We travelled horseback, of course, and crossed the Missouri River on a ferry boat, without molestation. We saw many stragglers, some going one way and some another; some with their wives and children, and some horse companies of 20 - 30 - to 50 members, generally well mounted, often with their best clothes in old fashioned saddle-bags, on their saddles, containing several changes, no doubt. We reached Cowskin Creek, where the troops were being organized by General Monroe Parsons. He had served in the Mexican war, and was supposed to be, as he was, well qualified to handle such heterogeneous a mass. The general had on a spick and span new uniform, shining with state guard buttons and necessary trimmings, the envy of the less fortunate. He had a well qualified staff of fine looking and gallant men. He did his best to get order out of the chaos. The musicians had to do the best they knew how to make the various calls, such as Reveille, Taps, &c. &c., as they had long since forgotten. The drummers all knew how to beat the long roll, and they practiced it much. I heard one drummer ask Gen. Parsons how to beat a certain call; such was the familiarity of the men with the highest officers.
The day before we reached the camp, we overtook an ox-team of 6 oxen, hauling a load of whiskey for some dealer about the lead mines of Joplin. The driver was one of these happy-go-lucky young fellows who don't care much what happens. We asked him if he was not afraid his whiskey would be captured and his oxen killed for beef. He said 'they weren't his', and drove on straight into the thirsty camp of Parson's army. I thought he was willingly tempting fate. No need to trace that load to its final destination. The incident passed out of my mind. Several years after, when I was in charge of a hospital for invalids and convalescents, they brought in a man, whom it seemed to me, I had seen before. After some inquiry, I found him to be the same who was driving the ox-team and the load of whiskey. I asked him what became of his outfit. He said, "They tuck it from me, and I've been driving one of Pap Price's teams ever since."
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But to return to camp. I find it difficult to describe the scene without tedious detail. There were, perhaps, 3000 men, of all arms and no arms. Excepting Kelley's battalion,(9) there were no modern arms to speak of. Shotguns and squirrel rifles were the principal weapons. Many an old rifle or shotgun, that had to its credit numerous deer, was brought into use, with the supposition, that if everything was just right, every shot would bring down one of the enemy. Of course, such arms could only be effective in very close fighting, and in the hands of such men, brave as they were, close fighting was out of the question. But as to the way the companies came into camp: Twenty or thirty men with some old farmers, chosen, perhaps from the ranks of justices of the peace, elected captain, moving in, with a loaded wagon of some needful, but mostly needless supplies.
They would come marching in with an air of Victory or Death! The wagon might contain bed quilts of all stripes and squares- (no stars.). I did not see, to tell the truth, any feather beds; possibly a trunk or two, containing several suits for extra occasions, and Sunday boots: also, any number and variety of cooking utensils, short of actual cooking-stoves. There were enough wagons to supply a brigade. What became of them afterward I never knew.
Captain Bledsoe had a couple of good pieces of artillery, remnants of the Mexican War. He served in that war and knew how to use his pieces. He was the very impersonation of an artillery officer, and shortly proved it, and confirmed it in many a tug of battle.(10) One morning we were surprised to find the command on the move, even before day. Some scouts, or couriers from Price, on their way to this camp, with orders, found Siegel on the move to make a night attack. They reported in time to our commanders, who promptly ordered a forward movement. The southern troops had time to take up a good position on the edge of the prairie, about a half mile in front of a creek. On an eminence on the opposite side of this stream, which was only fordable in places by the infantry, Siegel had placed his battery and formed his line of battle. Between that position, and in front of the Missouri troops, was an open prairie, every foot of which was exposed to Siegel's fire. In the center of this prairie, leading directly towards the enemy, was a main road. In an artillery duel which ensued, Bledsoe dismounted one or two of Siegel's guns, which fell into our hands. Siegel's battery was well handled, and killed and wounded some of our men.(11)
General John B. Clark, who had been a member of Congress, followed the fortunes of the state government, and held a commission from Gov. Jackson, of Brigadier General. He, at the time of the battle, I believe, had only the bare nucleus of a command, perhaps 2 or 3 fragments of companies. He was supposed to be in command of the North Missouri troops. The general impression in regard to him was that he had been reluctantly drawn into the southern movement, and would have preferred to remain quietly at home, to enjoy an undisturbed old age. In fact, we looked upon him as one of those political officers, upon whom a low estimate was placed; but in this first battle in which he became engaged, he at once established his character as a fearless commander. In fact, he led the center down that road, in the concentrated fire of the enemy. How proud we were of him, when he showed us the evidences of his baptism of battle. His hat was grooved by a minne ball; his clothing was marked with bullets in several places; his horse was killed; in fact, I never saw any one afterwards make a narrower escape. And at Wilson's Creek, he equally maintained his credit for bravery and coolness in battle. Then on account of age and infirmities he was sent to the Richmond Congress.
Equally courageous was this little army, which did not await a charge, but took the initiative, and boldly moved upon Siegel's position. They found a ford on the creek, on Siegel's flank, moved on, drove in, captured or destroyed his skirmishers and hurled him back, in full retreat to Springfield. He should have lost his artillery and baggage if Rain's cavalry, which hung on his flanks, had been more energetic. A few well directed shells sent at Rain's horsemen, now and then, kept them at a safe distance.
This, I believe, was as bravely determined and as gallantly executed as any battle during the war. To see so raw, unorganized, and so poorly equipped a body of men assume the offensive, adopt a perfect strategy, and carry it into successful execution, and attack with a spirit and dash unsurpassed by veterans, was very inspiring, and established a confidence for the future, that enabled Price's army to defeat the brave Lyon and occupy at that time, nearly all of Southern Missouri.
The victors moved on after Siegel, but this wily commander, more famous for his successful retreats than victories, escaped to Springfield. We rested a day or two and then went south to meet Gen. Price, near Neosho, who, on his march northward, had made an easy capture of a full company of federal German troops, and transferred their fine arms and equipments to a very needy company of Missourians. There they camped, organized and drilled, in preparation for future operations.
I have been thus particular to describe these operations, in order to show what excellent material, what latent qualities of resolute manhood the Missouri men of that day possessed; that those of my posterity who were born in Missouri may not be ashamed of the state of their nativity.
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That was the first time I saw General Price. He was a very distinguished looking man, and when in full uniform, reminded one of the pictures of Napoleon's great marshals or Winfield Scott. After the battles of Wilson's Creek and Pea Ridge, in which he bore his part with distinction, the Missouri troops were organized as Confederates and mustered accordingly.
Some time after this, Price was put in command of a corps in the Trans-Mississippi Department. He was always known among the Missouri troops as Old Pap. At last they sent the old general on an invading expedition, with cavalry, into Missouri a long ways from support from the military base of operations of the department, and into a region held by the federals, where they could reinforce and concentrate at will. Having this opportunity, they easily overpowered the old general, routed and drove back his scattered mounted command, and that which was intended to be a diversion, turned out to be a disastrous defeat(12). It was a pitiful mistake to send him on such an expedition, forlorn and hopeless at best; and thus his military reputation was injured, and his star sent under a cloud.
While at this camp, several of us went over into the Cherokee Nation on a fishing expedition. The first night we were furnished lodgings and breakfast, very plain bed, and a fare of coarse bread and bacon. The host was a fine looking specimen of manhood, tall and straight as the proverbial Indian. It was night when we reached his residence, and on retiring I remarked that when I got back home I could say that I had been in the Indian Nation and never saw an Indian. He said, "You see one before you now." In the morning we could see the one quarter of Indian in him plainly enough, and when he told us of pursuing a set of Kansas horse thieves and said that they would never take anymore Indian horses, we could plainly distinguish the Indian vengeful trait. His wife was a half breed, and the children showed plainly the copper tint. We were struck with the ideal situation and possessions of this man. His dwelling house and barns were on an elevation which overlooked a fine second bottom, rich farm of cultivating land, with a spring branch running through the center of it. The main road ran along the foot of this summit, from the base of which there issued a spring that made the above mentioned branch, and the whole face of this ridge was covered with pecan trees, and there were miles of open prairie for his stock to range on. We fished in Grand River, camped out at night, and then returned to camp. The selection of this section for the tribes was a fortunate one for them.
These straggling recruits that were coming into camp, carried their own guns and ammunition, and it was not a little dangerous, as every gun was carried loaded, and fired on any provocation. When a rabbit or hog was shot at, an unseen man might be hit, as was too often the case. I saw a young fellow ride under an apple tree with a good horse and outfit, reach up with his gun to hook down a limb for apples, the hammer caught on the limb, the ball passed through the horse killing it. The poor boy was overcome with fright and consternation. I have wondered what became of him. It seemed that his horse was his chief reliance.
Some of the older men who came in had very crude notions of military life. The officers in command were their neighbors, to whom they never looked for orders, who had never said to them, go, or come, in a way to command obedience, so, when the army began to assume shape, and they were required to stay in their proper places, they did not always submit as became obedient soldiers. I remember one past middle-aged old citizen, who would only speak of officers as head men. I suppose that after awhile, such as these retired to the shades of private life. Certainly they were out of place in an army. On the other hand, even after some semblance of organization had been effected, some of these 'head men' had not learned the meets and bounds of their authority. There was sometimes quite an overlapping of claims, as between the quartermaster's and commissary's functions; the adjutant and captain's; sergeants who wished to magnify their offices, and lieutenants. The doctors were not in all cases exempt from consciousness of superiority, albeit their rank was only relative. They would sometimes attempt to order privates, who were not detailed for their services. A certain doctor was seen making an unwilling private mark time for refusing to obey some order of his. How would that look to regulars? After awhile the men learned their rights, and then the doctors learned very positively their limitations, by many a sharp lesson from the ranks. That doctor soon got a transfer, probably to the cavalry.
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Having learned all we could from General Parsons as to what was expected of North Missouri, I started home. What we were told in regard to future movements was, in substance:- That they would await for recruits and reinforcements, and when ready would advance to the Missouri River, expecting to defeat any force of the enemy which would offer resistance, thus enabling any volunteers from North Missouri to join the main army. As this is a personal narrative, I shall not attempt to narrate the progress - military operations, of which I was not a witness. Suffice it to say, the plans were well laid and bravely carried out.
At this time, Lyon was moving southward, with all the troops he could gather, to occupy Springfield, and his line of march was on the same road which I had to travel. It was my chief concern to keep out of his clutches and had to take by-roads at times. I passed Oceola, on back streets, thence to Monega Springs, on the Osage River, where we swam our horses across with the help of a skiff; then on northward to Warrensburg, where I stopped to get my horse shod, and learn the way the federals were moving. They occupied the town and had their quarters in the courthouse. While I was sitting in a drugstore, on the side of the courthouse square, a squad of soldiers came out of the courthouse. It was with no idle curiosity that I watched their movements, and when they headed straight to the drug-store, I supposed my time had come. I did not run, and sat very still, betraying as little concern as possible. I was greatly relieved when they marched the owner of the store over to their quarters, and overlooked me. With my horse and myself looking like the person they wanted, I felt greatly favored, and led my horse by the halter, past the front of the courthouse, in full view of them.
I suppose my apparent unconcern was my passport. I found a blacksmith shop close by. While my horse was being shod, I asked the man, casually, about the movement of the troops; if they were arresting peaceable travellers, and so on, hoping to draw out of him and discover if he was union or southern. He bluntly told me I had better get out of town as soon as possible. Then I knew my man. He told me all he knew, and advised me how to proceed.
On my way to the Missouri River, I was obliged to follow the main roads. I met several detachments of federals, and there was no better way to meet them than to present a bold front, as it proved. The first company, commanded by a major, halted me, to gain information, it appeared. He asked me where I was from and where I was going. I said I had been down in St. Clair County on business, and was on my way back to Iowa.
He said, "Are you for the Union?"
I said, "I am."
Then he inquired about Price, if I had met any of his men, and if they had molested me. All these questions I answered to his satisfaction.
I said, "I do not want to be put to any trouble, and would you be so good as to give me a pass?"
He said, "I have no authority to do so, but if you meet any union soldiers, tell them that Major - - - requested them to pass you," as he was satisfied, by his examination, of my loyalty. I was very careful to remember his name, and a captain's, and made good use of them to good purpose. The last squad I met, not far out from Lexington, on the Missouri River, were pretty full of crazy whiskey. When I was about 50 yards from them, the front file brought down their muskets on me, but failed to halt me. I did not stop or run, but as I got nearer, they laughed and said, "Don't mind the boys, they are only in fun."
I said, "Thank you, Lieutenant," and passed on. It was pretty serious fun I thought. Perhaps on closer view, they took me for an old farmer, or preacher. If they had asked me, I could have answered, as occasion required.
Thus, I got along towards the town of Lexington. At that place was my only feasible chance to get across the river to North Missouri. All ferry-boats and skiffs had been seized and destroyed by the federal authorities; so the only ferries were at towns, which were garrisoned by troops. It was taking a desperate chance, as the town had a regiment stationed there, it being headquarters for the command of a district.
When I rode into town, I had in view, soldiers on guard duty, but managed, by keeping a sharp lookout, to avoid running onto them. I got down to the ferry, hitched my horse, and reconnoitered. I saw that the ferry-boat had a guard of soldiers on board. I determined to go aboard and risk it. I led my horse on, hitched him to the jack-staff, hung my saddle-bags carelessly on the guard rail, sauntered around, finally dropped up to the pilot-house, where the ferry-man was at his post. I said I had been down the country for some time, and didn't know what was going on:
"Had there been any fightings of importance?"
"Well, not much."
I said, "I supposed, from what I had last heard, that there had been."
He said "Yes, there has been a battle at Bull Run."
I said, "How did it terminate?"
He said, "At first the union troops drove the Confederates before them, but they got reinforcements, and drove the union army back to Washington."
I caught from his manner, and style in the narration, that he sympathized with the South, and I said, "Now, Captain, how shall I be able to get off this boat, on the other side, without being arrested?"
He said, "Those guards are Dutch, and when the boat touches the shore, be ready to lead your horse off, without paying any attention to the guards, and maybe they won't stop you."
I did so, as boldly as I could, and off I went. I walked carelessly up the bank, without looking back, until some 2 or 3 yards away, then mounted and rode slowly away, until just as I entered the woods, I looked back, and the guards were looking at me with what I took to be amazement at my effrontery. When I got safely behind the protecting timber, no bird freed from his cage ever felt freer. Rob Roy was again on his native heath. The way seemed clear for home.
From there I rode on leisurely to Randolph County, intending to stop at an old town, Bloomington, to deliver a message to Mrs. Norton Brown. I fell in with a Doctor Davis on the way. Our intention was to cross the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, by taking a road that led across it rather privately. We had to pass a house perhaps a mile or more before we reached the crossing. The people on the porch seemed to look at us with suspicion. It was but a short distance from there to Callao, on the rail-road where troops were stationed. When we emerged from the timber, some two hundred yards from the crossing, on looking up the road, towards Callao, what should we see but a hand-car loaded with soldiers, a mile away, bearing down on us, their guns shining fiercely. In a moment the doctor was in a gallop, and I after him a close second: and again the friendly woods, so useful on occasions like this, gave us a welcome protection. It had been my policy in emergencies like this, to put on an air of indifference, and thus escape the danger, but in this case I had to follow Davis, who was scared out of his wits. I have learned long since that most of the union soldiers were not hungering and thirsting for innocent blood, but generally, if the appearances were in favor of the individual's harmlessness, they would let him go unmolested.
Our haste to escape this danger got us shortly into another, for the fact of our gallop across the R. R., was quickly reported to the military post at Macon, and by some means they learned we had stopped at Bloomington. We leisurely rode on to Bloomington, and after delivering my message to Mrs. Brown, I put my horse up in her stable, and went to Mrs. Sharp's hotel for supper and lodging. I had travelled hard, was tired, and slept the sleep of the innocent. When I awoke in the morning, the town was in the hands of the U.S. troops. Mrs. Sharp rushed up to my room and wanted me to go up in the garret. I respectfully declined. I said, "I don't want to be cremated if they should set your house on fire. I will risk it here." I saw some of the principal citizens chopping down the 'Secesh' pole, and chopping it up into 10-foot lengths. They were forced to take turns at it.
After I thought the troops had all left town, I went down to breakfast and found myself in company with several of them at the table. They were, altogether, a very orderly and gentlemanly set of soldiers. In due time, I left, unmolested. They searched Mrs. Brown's house thoroughly for me, as they had received an accurate description of us, but failed to look in the stable. It was supposed that some negro took the trouble to report us.
One of those gentlemen was Doctor Winne, a gentleman of culture and courteous manner, a fine physician and most estimable citizen. He insisted on giving me a large plug of fine tobacco, an article which I then used, and of which he was very fond. I have met him several times since the war, and always with great pleasure. While his politeness and manners generally, were charming, he still possessed a manly resolution becoming a well poised gentleman. Many years after the incident above mentioned, I was asked by his physician to visit him when he was brought down with an attack of pneumonia. It is a peculiarity of that disease to so disturb the mind as to unbalance it, but at the same time, to display the individual's characteristic traits. While lying in bed, he took a notion to indulge in a chew of tobacco. He said to his wife, "I will thank you for a chew of tobacco."
"My dear", she said, "I would not think of chewing tobacco now; it will not be good for you."
He:- "I thank you for your suggestion, but you will find the tobacco in that left hand corner of my lower drawer, and my knife in my right hand trousers pocket. I will have a chew of tobacco."
She brought the articles to him. He thanked her very politely and was satisfied. He recovered in spite of the tobacco, with the help of his will.
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Arrangements, for the future of my family demanded my presence with them for a time. After the battle of Wilson's Creek a portion of Price's army moved north, which was the signal for southern recruits to move south. Martin E. Green gathered together a regiment of recruits, and directed his movement in such a way as to meet the southern army(13).
After crossing the H. & St. Jo R.R., in a severe rainstorm which blew down fences and even blew some men over fences, we reached the town, Florida, in Monroe County, wringing wet. There was a saloon in the village which was promptly put under guard, and a man detailed to give each man one drink of whiskey. I saw no one refuse excepting Gen. Green. I shall always believe it was right and beneficial. Next day we changed directions and found ourselves with about 1000 men fronting on the H. & St. Jo R.R., with a line of battle formed in the open prairie, in rifle shot distance from the town.(14) Captain James Kneisley had got a hold of two 6 pounder iron guns, home made and rude.(15) He had gotten some cannon balls and had made some grape and canister of scraps of iron, such as screw taps and pieces cut off of iron rods. With these improvised articles, he began bombarding the town that was occupied by a company of federals. Our object was to capture them, as we needed their arms. They refused to surrender and the attack determinedly began. We were close enough to see the effect of each shot of the battery. The grape, or cannister, as you prefer, made a wonderful screaming and screeching sound: harmless, as we afterwards learned, to the enemy, but no doubt trying to their nerves. The only injury was the loss of a foot of the captain of the federal company.(16) Meantime, a company of ours had been sent a mile westward to tear up the railroad track, to prevent the escape of the federal company, but a car sent out drove them off before they could obstruct the road; and shortly the company escaped under a hot fire, but as the cars were made bullet-proof, without the loss of a man.
I have said that the negro slaves were generally true to their masters. While this long range action was in progress, a rifle-shot from the town came so near killing one of our men that it grooved his scalp, and somewhat dazed him. His negro servant saw him taken back to the rear, and boldly, angrily, and defiantly, as though he could kill all the enemy with one shot, said "I'll take his place," which he did. Whether his fidelity and ardor failed him afterward or not, I do not know. There were times coming on rapidly that tried men of all colors. There were some colored servants who went out with their owners from Missouri, as there were from other states, who remained faithful and dutiful until freed, at the close of the war.
The company of federal troops which we tried to capture were on their way home to Kansas to be discharged, as their time had expired, and I have always felt a regret that the captain, who lost his foot, could not have taken both home with him. This command of Col. Green's, after this, hastened to cross the Missouri and join forces with those from the South, to invest Col. Mulligan's fortified position at Lexington. After a good defense, Mulligan was obliged to surrender his whole command, with his much coveted arms and equipments.(17)
Thus baffled in one attempt, Green's command largely contributed to success in another, of much greater importance. I was not present at this last attack but was, doubtless, not needed, as there were but few casualties on our side, as they were protected in their assault by moveable hemp bales, after the manner, somewhat, of the cotton bales used by Jackson at New Orleans. I remained with the few wounded and disabled left after this Shelbina affair until they were able to be discharged as relieved or cured, and then returned to my family.
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I remained at home during the remainder of that year, in which time one of my children was born.(18) The next spring, Joe Porter(19) came from Arkansas, into our part of the state, to recruit a command. He claimed there would be a demonstration in force from Price, to enable him to get his recruits out of North Missouri, and into Confederate lines, with success. Accordingly, there gathered together perhaps 300 to 500 men under Porter, Franklin and Frisbie McCullough. They were armed, of course, with all kinds of domestic arms, incapable of effective results against troops armed with guns which had an effective range of, at least, five times the distance theirs had. Under assurances that we would make a dash for the south, I was appointed surgeon of Franklin's regiment, and accepted it.
In the meantime, the federal authorities had not been idle. While we were delayed by Porter, under the absurd idea that we could hold, for a time, North Missouri, organize a brigade and go south in force, they had given the notorious McNeal an army of several regiments or battalions and a battery of artillery. We camped at Burnett's sugar camp, on the Fabius River, for organization.(20)
There came a recruit into our camp whom nobody knew, but he seemed to be full of enthusiasm for the cause, and took a deep interest in everything about the camp. His zeal awakened no suspicion on our parts. One day he was missing, and the next, scouts reported the approach of McNeal's command; then it dawned on our leaders that they had entertained, by no means, an angel unawares. Very hastily everything was astir, and we moved out rapidly, westward. It was very evident that we were actively pursued, and that we had given up the idea of forming a brigade. On the contrary, we were going at a rapid rate to get the strategic advantage of tall timber, and the Chariton River was the objective point. We had gotten possession of a wagon load of Austrian rifles: where they came from and how we came by them, I do not know. They were entirely useless encumbrance, as we had no ammunition for them, and so, on our retreat, we deposited them somewhere in the woods, buried them I believe, and I have never heard of them since, nor has anybody else, certainly not the enemy.
We reached Kirksville after a rapid march, but it seemed McNeil outmarched us, for either necessity or exceedingly bad judgement caused us to halt in the town of Kirksville, to accept the attack.(21) We were close to the woods where we could have neutralized, to some extent, the difference between the enemy's arms and ours- where we could have made his artillery almost useless, and prevented the destructive use he made of that arm in the engagement, and at the same time, our small arms could have some effect. As it was, the federals could stand off at nearly a safe distance and shell us, in frame houses where our men were placed, and their long range rifles would easily penetrate such defense.
They began an attack as indicated, and as our boys, unable to reply, and as they were constantly being killed or maimed, they were obliged to give way and save themselves by retreating. We had established a field hospital, and soon had our hands full to attend the wounded. In a short time the issue became certain, as the men were retreating in disorder. In this brief time some good men were killed and wounded on our side, and I suppose the enemy lost none, hardly. Random, irregular shots came nearer and nearer, telling the tale of slaughter. Amongst others, I determined to save myself, a resolution quickly taken and acted on as quickly.
I mounted my horse, and avoiding the general rush, I went off in a north-westerly course, making a detour some distance from the town, avoiding the roads, until some three miles away from the town, I came to a house whose inhabitants, fortunately, were friendly, and one of the females rode to town to learn the state of affairs. She soon returned with the information that the victors were killing those whom they captured without mercy; and with the information, from a friend in town, that I would certainly be shot if captured, and that I had better make my escape as speedily as possible, to avoid the scouts, who were scouring the country. I gladly took the advice and went onward through the deep woods. Along towards sundown, being thirsty, I saw down in a ravine, some water. I hitched my horse, as I thought securely, and went for a drink. Strangely, the horse got scared at something and broke away from me and ran off, leaving me, as may be imagined, in a desperate situation. I could do nothing but follow in the direction he ran, and that was towards his home. After walking perhaps three miles, I got into the road and to my great relief, found my horse hitched at the first house I came to. The people kindly told me the way to the residence of a family, with which I was acquainted, and after dark I rode to the house and inquired for the head of the family, a man whom I had met in Masonic lodge. His wife told me was not at home, and as the times were so fraught with danger she could do nothing for me. She could not take my word that I knew her husband, and that I only wanted something to eat and feed for my horse. I noticed her making some peculiar motions which I did not understand, and at last it dawned on me that she was giving me signs which belonged to some side degree of Masonry, and when I understood her and satisfied her that I was a Mason, and understood all about it, she at once furnished me something to eat and feed for my horse, which I quickly took into the woods and camped for the night. I could then well imagine how an outlawed murderer feels when hiding and fleeing from certain captivity or death. But life was dear at my age, and the attachments of family called for every effort of mind and body to escape. I made sure of my horse that time, and after a troubled sleep, in the early dawn resumed my flight. My acquaintance with the lay of the country, which I had obtained by practicing medicine in these parts, enabled me to find my way, off from the main roads, and get food and feed for my horse from persons whom I had met in peaceful times.
About noon of the next day, I stopped at a house on the main road to get dinner and have my horse fed. I judged from the appearances, the style of the house &c., that the people were old settlers, and therefore of southern nativity and sympathies, but I was badly mistaken. Several young fellows were there who had been to Kirksville after the battle and probably took part in the engagement, on the union side. They were full to overflowing with the joy of their victory. You may imagine how I felt while they were recounting our defeat, and gloating over the slaughter, not in battle only, but the shooting of a number of our best people cruelly and barbarously, after the battle was over. This narration occupied their attention for awhile, but at length they began to question me, as to where I was from, where I had been and where I was going. The family said they did not want to feed rebels.
I said if they had any doubts about me, I would be excused and go on. They said "We will risk it," and so they fed my horse, and gave me dinner, which I ate and tried to be entirely unconcerned; but the minutes seemed hours while my horse was eating, and my appetite was soon satisfied, as you may easily understand. In answer to their questions, I told them I had been back in one of the back counties, looking after some property I had back there, and as the times were threatening, I wanted to place it in reliable hands: that I lived in Indiana. Of course I placed my habitat at a safe distance. My story seemed to be so consistent that it satisfied their curiosity.
I think I never passed through a more uncomfortable experience, nor experienced so much relief as when I left that place behind me. It is easy to see what would have become of me if they had known my condition. The debate, whether it is ever right to tell a lie, belongs to a court of casuistry. I took the affirmative side then without hesitation, and acted on it as a settled conviction. I am still on that side, when life depends on the decision, for I find I have no remorse of conscience for those prevarications, even to the present day. I have often wished in these latter 'piping times of peace', to see that place and get acquainted with those who were there. I know, as we now feel, we could, laying aside the past, join in a laugh about it.
My faithful horse seemed to have lots of 'horse sense', for he took me through unfamiliar roads and bypaths in the woods, in the night, and brought me to my mother's and my family, before daybreak.
The murders committed at Kirksville after the fight was over, added to the execution of ten innocent men at Palmyra,(22) with other cruelties by McNeil, have placed his name among the most infamous connected with the war. After the killing of Col. Frisbie McCollough at Kirksville, the Colonels brother, who was at that time in the confederate army in Mississippi, had got permission to come home for the determined purpose of killing McNeil, but the battle of Corinth(23) was about to take place, and brave boy, as he was, he determined to stay with his company until after the battle. Poor fellow! He was killed in the battle, so luck was on the side of the brute.
Among the victims of McNeil's barbarity who, with others, were murdered after having been taken prisoners at Kirksville, were two friends of mine,- men of the highest character, Col. Frisbie McCullough and Dr. Davis. They were examples of the best citizenship of the state. Of fine Virginia and Kentucky ancestry, they had the esteem of all who knew them. Like nearly all southern reared men, they espoused the southern cause and were active in its behalf; and this was the height of their offending. Being prominent, active and influential men, the union militia had tried every way to capture them but had failed. They had never been arrested, sworn or paroled. When they were captured at Kirksville, they were in the condition of thousands of others who were trying to get to the southern armies. They could then have been paroled or sent to prison. But their sterling manhood which would have appealed to all honorable men, could only arouse in such beings as McNeil and Straughn a thirst for blood. Accordingly, they were savagely and remorselessly murdered, with others. They were denied the privilege of bidding adieu or sending messages to their families. Col. McCullough, as a last request, asked to be allowed to give the command to fire. He placed his hand over his heart; said, "Aim at my heart! Ready! Aim! Fire!" There was done perhaps the most brutal and savage butchery of the war. Their lives were ended in their prime, but their names are now remembered and honored, while those of their executioners are scorned and execrated by all men.
After the war McNeil was appointed by a Republican president, marshall of a district in Missouri. When Senator Vest told the senate the story of his murders, the republican Senate rejected his nomination with only eight votes in his favor. Thus condemned, he lived out his natural life, with the contempt of all who ever heard of his brutality. That the senate properly estimated his character and placed on record his condemnation, the following incident will more fully show. On his march back from Kirksville to the Mississippi River, while passing by the field of Mr. Thrasher, an old, peaceable, unoffending citizen of Lewis County, this quiet farmer, having plowed to the end of his corn row, was sitting on the fence by the side of the road watching the command pass by: McNeil rode up to him and asked him which side he was on. The old gentleman, without meaning any offense, answered that he was then sitting on the fence. McNeil struck him on the head with his pistol, knocking him on the other side of the fence. "Now which side are you on?" said the man who was wearing a uniform like that worn by Grant and Sheridan. Lincoln, 'with malice towards none, and charity for all', could never have commissioned such a creature, except through deception and misrepresentation.
I remained at home but a few weeks, leading a miserable life, mostly hiding in the woods, until at last I made my exit from Missouri, by going to a friend's in Marion County, and thence, taking the main road to Quincy, Ill. I met several squads of cavalry on the way, who kindly let me pass without hindrance. They were, doubtless, after better game. I crossed over the Mississippi River on the ferry, and that afternoon rode out eastward, not knowing a soul in the state of Illinois, leaving all to chance. I was obliged to lie up at Mounds, on account of an abscess on my thigh, until it was opened by a kind refugee, a Missouri doctor, and when I was able to travel, I sold my horse and took the train for Danville, Ill., where I met some Missouri friends. I shortly, for occupation, engaged in the insurance business, and was able, by convincing people in the country of the dangers in those times of leaving their property uninsured, to gather up some money. That was a new role for me, but I seemed to adapt myself to it easily, and was successful. Thus I spent the remainder of the year and the next spring I made my way to Dixie, as I shall now narrate.
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The life of the refugee became more and more uncertain. The federal authorities had begun to arrest them and oblige them to take the oath; the oath of renunciation to the Confederacy and of allegiance to the United States. To some of us, it seemed like turning back on all we had committed ourselves to, a humiliation intolerable to think of. It gave one the uncomfortable feeling of a deserter from an army, and of being an alien to his country; for however it may seem now, we felt that we were citizens of another country than the United States, and under such obligations as a loyal citizen feels. These sentiments moved us to action as a duty, and accordingly, after seeing my wife at a kind friends, and bidding farewell to her and family, a farewell that seemed almost final and forever in view of the dark and uncertain future, I prepared for my perilous journey.
I had gotten, by some means, directions that would aid me in getting to the southland. I took the Illinois Central R.R. I was careful to take with me my insurance outfit and credentials. On the train were officers of the U.S. army, returning to their commands, and some others who looked to me like detectives, on the lookout for such as I was; but while they gave me many a searching look, they concerned themselves with their own affairs, and so let me pass undisturbed. When I came to a little switch stopping-place, about 20 miles north of Cairo, I quietly left the train to my fellow passengers and started for the timber lands between that place and the Mississippi River, a distance as I remember now to be about 16 miles. I found lodging before night with people who were hospitable with bed and board. The next day, which was Sunday, I remained with them, waiting for nightfall to cross the Mississippi River. The inhabitants of this timbered, isolated part of the state lived a life of indolence, and all their habits conformed therewith. They were hunters and fishers and were a happy-go-lucky set. But they treated me kindly, and were willing to take the risk of taking me across the river for a suitable compensation. Accordingly, at dusk we went to the river. They had a skiff hidden away in some secure nook or bayou. The hiding was necessitated from the fact that the federal boats were patrolling the river, and destroying the means of crossing, so that it became a matter of considerable risk to own a skiff; and to be caught in mid-river transporting one across was quite a serious matter to owner and passenger.
When night had thrown the shadows of the timbers athwart the margin of the stream, we listened but could hear no sound of a patrol boat, and we set out with noiseless oars, to cross the wide river. The silent, on-moving stream, only rippling in whispers against our skiff; the darkness, barely permitting a dim, uncertain outline of the other shore; the fear of being run down and captured, combined to make it a sensational experience. Thus, moving slowly, silently and stealthily, we reached the other side safely and again my feet were on the solid but uncertain earth of old Missouri. I bade farewell to my obliging boatman, and found lodging for the night, according to reference on my waybill.
The next day I travelled through a flat country, on a road made corduroy style by laying poles crosswise with the road bed - a kind of road very tiresome to walk on. Somewhere on the way, I noticed an abandoned well, and having no further use for my insurance outfit, I deposited them there. They had served me well, helping me on through many close places, but now, on the remaining part of my journey, my business was to insure my own safety. After a tiresome trip of some 20 miles, I came to Little River, and stopped at the house of a Mr. Atchison. I remained there several days, waiting for some federal troops to get out of the way. The family were very plain but kind, and I had the opportunity to pay them, not only for my board, but to relieve the old gentleman of a snake bite. He was hoeing his tobacco plants, and being nearly blind, picked up a snake which he mistook for a stick. The serpent bit him on the finger. I ligated above it and held the poison in the finger and hand until he recovered.
While delayed there, Dr. Henry from Powhatan, Arkansas, came there, and we together, awaited an opportunity to go forward. He was a Kentuckian and had been back to his former home and was now returning to his family in Arkansas. He was mounted, and from then on we 'rode and tied'. He proved to be a very excellent and helpful companion on the voyage. After a few days delay, we learned that the way across to Crowley's Ridge was clear, but just before we were ready to cross Little River, on our way, an oxen team with 8 or 10 soldiers, crossed ahead of us and took the road to Castor River, across NiggerWool Swamp, so named from the abundant moss that grew on it, which really closely resembled the hair of the negro. We were obliged to take a more circuitous route through the swamp, hoping by traveling faster than they, to get ahead of them. Our road was merely a bridle path and the ground was soft and muddy, so that walking was very tiresome. The doctor would walk sometimes and I would ride for a rest. Our route proved to be so long and out of the direct way, that night overtook us in the dense, dark woods. We had to feel our way along, hoping to hear the sounds of some habitation, or come to the bank of Castor River. At last, while I was walking along in front, I came to where a large tree had fallen across our path. I asked the doctor to wait until I could find a way around the log. After wandering around for awhile, thinking I had found the way, I asked him to come on.
He said, "You have not been around the log."
I assured him I certainly had; he was equally sure I had not. So there we were.
He said, "Now doctor, you know I have no wish to deceive you, and the only way I can convince you that you are wrong, is to take my word for truth, and I will prove to you I am right."
I said, "Doctor, while I am sure I am right, I know you are truthful, and I will believe you if I can."
"Now which end of my horse did you start from?", he said.
"Its head," I said.
"Now you are at the horse's tail," he said, "and I give you my word and honor I have not moved my horse since you started."
I had to give it up: we should have gone back on our tracks otherwise. After some further search, I found the way around and we went on. The doctor was riding in front; suddenly a commotion and a plunge. His horse had pitched him off into a ditch. It was so dark that I could not see him.
I said, "Doctor, are you hurt?"
He pulled himself together and said, "I believe not."
Here then was an impassable obstacle, and we could not do otherwise than to camp for the night, tired and hungry and thirsty as we were. The doctor was taking a bolt of cotton home, and with that we made the best bed we could: and in spite of hunger and thirst, the sting of mosquitoes, and hooting of owls, we slept the sleep of the weary. The welcome daylight showed us a ravine 6 or 8 feet deep, into which the doctor had fallen. We found the path on the other side and pursued our journey to the ferry, on Castor River, where we got breakfast. There we found that the ox-team had, just awhile before, crossed over. They took our route for some miles; and after they had branched off, we had a clear way.
We stopped at night in a cabin occupied by some women, whose men seemed to be in the armies or hiding. We got a taste of the fare these people lived on, which was the limit of plainness, -fat, strong bacon and corn bread. But hunger was the best sauce, as the Spanish proverb has it, and we were satisfied. Barefooted and untidy, they dipped their snuff and entertained us with the common incidents of their little restricted neighborhood. Their little clearing was on a piece of dry ground, that they cultivated for subsistence. They expected to get a supplemental supply by hunting, they spoke of bear bacon (bar, they pronounced it). That, with wild hogs and some venison furnished their store of meats. Of course, when the freshets came, their habitation was on a very small, pent up island. While simple, they were humane and hospitable; traits which we almost always find among that class of people. After a breakfast that differed in no respect from the supper, we followed the path that brought us to a more pretentious and larger clearing which might be called a farm. Our directions particularly referred us to the owner, the one especially who would cheerfully help us on our way. When we called him out of his house, we asked him if his name was not - - - - -. He said it was. We told him we had been referred to him to pilot us across Cypress Swamp. He said he was not piloting strangers these times. We insisted, telling him who we were and our business. We seemed to be at the end of our rope. I saw him making some curious gestures, but could not make anything out of them. He asked us if we understood them. We said, no.
Then he said, "Did you ever hear of the Knights of the Golden Circle?" Then it came to me that I had been told about the society in Indiana, and had been given the signs and some words. When I left Illinois, the secrets of that order were almost public property, and no one would think of using them with strangers: but this gentleman, so soon as I could respond to him, hesitated no longer, but at once got his horse and went with us. I hope that the broken reed on which we relied at that time, did not cause him to fall into trouble afterwards.
After we had gone several miles, in the midst of the lonely woods, we became communicative and discovered that we three were Master Masons. We did not establish a lodge in that dismal swamp, but the tie that bound us as brothers, seemed, in that strange meeting, to be stronger than a chain of steel. Our homes and destinies far asunder, the grand old order brought us into a relationship, such as binds the members of a family together as one.
When we came to a kind of bayou at the foot of Crowley's Ridge, we bade our friend a brotherly goodbye with sincere thanks. We both got on the horse and plunged through among the cypress knees. It was about a half mile to the summit of the ridge. The doctor said, "You have heretofore taken the lead: now it is my time." He unloaded his pack and said, "If I don't come back, those things are yours. Goodbye."
Crowley's Ridge is a strange geological formation, extending between swamps and streams, from the highlands of southeast Missouri to Helena, Arkansas, having an elevation of, perhaps, 200 feet. It was a main thoroughfare and was frequently used by military expeditions. Just at that time the federals were using it to move some bodies of troops southward, and it was that fact which made it a matter of anxiety to us. I took my pack and the Doctor's, and hid myself with them, alongside of a large tree that had fallen. A curtain of tall weeds and brush made it a good place of concealment. While waiting anxiously for the Doctor's return, two stout young men passed by me, not more than 20 steps away, and if they saw me, they did not make it known. I took them to be deserters from the Confederate army, and was glad not to make a closer acquaintance. After what seemed to be a very long time, the doctor returned and reported the ridge clear, although a company or two of federals had passed the crossing with their wagons and outfit, while he reconnoitered. I was glad to get out of my cramped position, for that ridge is noted for a number of snakes which find abundance to feed on in the swamp until high water drives them out onto the narrow ridge. It has been stated as a fact, that in one of the engagements of Col. Glover's cavalry with a confederate command on this ridge, the soldiers had to stop firing to kill snakes, as being their more deadly enemies. If Jubal Early's offer is a criterion, viz:- That he would give a reward to anyone who would find a dead soldier with spurs on,- their battle with snakes would be a reasonable precaution for changing their attack.
We hurried on and even in that short time, more federal troops had passed. But we got over at last, and felt that we had fortunately escaped from many dangers. We obtained food and lodging some distance beyond the ridge, and were ready, next morning, to move onward, with much less apprehension.
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Our way next day was through Ash Flats, a piece of country that only lately had been under water, and was now alive with mosquitoes. I had encountered this pest in former years, in what I took to be their limit of blood-thirstiness and stinging capabilities; but here they were in dense swarms, and were ravenous from starvation. We could get no rest for them: the labor of driving them off was greater than that of walking. We had to literally fight our way through them for miles, and I have learned since that they were the pests that caused me, shortly after, to have an attack of intermittent fever.
We came at last to the St. Francis River, where we were halted on the north side by a scout of some kind. He said but little: only asked us where we were going and where we were from, but took great pains to examine the shoes of the doctor's horse, after which he let us cross. I believe that was my first sight of the fractional currency which was issued by ferrymen and others in those times. Those little slips, printed at some local printing office, on coarse paper, were far more current than gold or silver, for these were out of sight. There is one quality, not too commonly found with good money, which this sort possessed, and that is abundance - superabundance indeed; and it answered its purpose for the time being.
Towards sunset, we stopped at a house some distance beyond the St. Francis River to get supper and lodging. There were several Women there, but no men. They said we could not stay, for that reason. While we were trying to convince them of our needs, a man rode up hurriedly and demanded, peremptorily, "what was our business?" We explained to him our situation and objects. He said if we really were trying to get into the southern lines they would take care of us, but if we proved to be crooked, they would hang us before morning. We told him we would take the risk, as our only object was, on my part, to get to the confederate army, and the doctor's to get to his home. They said, come on. They took us to a habitation off some distance from the river bottom, gave us our supper which, in part, consisted of a variety, of which I did not have the satisfaction of partaking for several years, viz:- fried chicken. Further on south, none were to be had by the officers for love nor confederate money. That dainty had already been appropriated by the foragers of the ranks. The supper was duly relished, after which they showed us a place in the near woods where we could make our bed for the night.
I have always thought we were the guests of the noted Hildebrand! The descriptions which we afterwards had of him and his set fitted our host exactly. Their leaning to the southern side was what helped us, and overcame the temptation to dispose of us and appropriate the doctor's tempting horse and luggage. Freebooters or Jayhawkers, as they doubtless were, they treated us with knightly courtesy and hospitality.
After breakfast we moved onward and as we were within 40 miles of the doctor's home, he kindly carried my bundle and hurried on. By this time I was a trained pedestrian, and though the weather was sultry, before night I had reached Burbage's regiment of cavalry, encamped temporarily on Black River.
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This regiment was made up of Missourians; shifty, brave fellows, without the semblance of uniforms, and as far as I now remember, their camp was as destitute of regularity as their clothing. They were sitting about in the shade of trees in elegant leisure. One husky fellow who had been advised by some knowing one to apply Spirits of Turpentine, or some such remedy, for the extermination of graybacks, was sitting under a tree, fanning his afflicted parts. He remarked that he had heard it said by someone that he would rather have itch than graybacks, "but," said the sufferer, "If itch is as bad as this, I would rather a d--- sight, have neither of them." It seemed that the remedy was what the profession calls heroic.
While listening to this man's lamentations, there came in sight a man who appeared to be practicing on stilts, and apparently trying to dodge under the low limbs of trees. On closer view, natural legs took the place of stilts. I said, "Why, what kind of a man is that?"
My afflicted friend said, "That is our moon fixer."
On further inquiry I was told that he was a real man, a good fellow, modest, shrinking and much embarrassed by the attraction which his high standing amongst his comrades (about 8 feet) drew to his personality. Steve Hulet was his name. Towards the close of the war, a bullet which would have passed harmlessly nearly 2 feet above the head of an ordinary grenadier, struck Steve on the cheek. He lived to carry the scar for many years, which gave his friends a high opinion of his conspicuous gallantry.
It was a current joke among our soldiers, that on one occasion when Col. Kelley, an old Irish inspector, was inspecting Colonel Burbage's command, when the men were drawn up in two ranks for inspection, Hulet, whose bashfulness prompted him to choose the rear rank, towered above the others. Col. Kelley commanded, "Get off that stump, sir." Not having the physiological capability of the lowly worm, Steve could not, by taking heed, remove one cubit from his stature. The Colonel again commanded, "Get off that stump I say, sor." Still Steve did not obey. Col. Kelley said, "Col. Burbage, I have commanded that soldier in the rear rank, twice to get off that stump, and he wont obey. I ask you to place him under arrest." After the difficulty of obeying the command was explained to the brave and capable Colonel, he enjoyed the joke as much as anyone.
I partook of Dr. Henry's hospitality, where he and his kind wife nursed me through a short attack of malarial fever, which by means of mosquitoes, I contracted in passing through the swamps of Missouri and Arkansas. After recovering, I resumed my journey southward. I soon fell in with an acquaintance who was out from his command, recovering from an attack of sickness. He had a lame horse, which helped us along. At a small village, Evening Shade, I was called upon professionally to see a sick captain who had just returned from Vicksburg. I found him suffering from Congestion of the brain, entirely unconscious, and unable to swallow. We administered by enema, 40 grains of Quinine, all we could gather up, and left the poor Captain, supposing he would shortly die. I thought often of how sad it was, that after passing through the siege and surrender of Vicksburg, and having come home, under parole, to marry, he should perish at the marriage altar, as it were. Several years after the war was over, I saw a man who was present when we treated him. I said to this gentleman that I supposed the unfortunate young captain only lived through the day. I was rejoiced to learn that he reacted and recovered entirely, and married in due time. I have always felt glad that I was, in part, the means of recovery, and learned that I received ample compensation in the thanks of himself and wife.
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After an uneventful tramp, I finally reached the camp of Gen. Parsons' command. This was shortly after the disastrous attack on Helena, where many brave fellows were left in the hands of the enemy.(24) This useless and unsuccessful attack was directed by Gen. Holmes. He had been sent from the east to command the Trans-Mississippi Department. Though undoubtedly a brave and patriotic officer, he seemed to be a misfit in that department. Some officers and nearly all the soldiers conceived a dislike for him. They could not get up any confidence in his ability to lead them. His position was very unsatisfactory all around, and he was finally transferred to the east and placed in charge of some fort, I believe. His place was taken by Gen. Kirby Smith, a much more satisfactory commander.
Before Gen. Holmes left Arkansas, there was a social gathering of ladies and gentlemen, to honor the General. Among the party was a certain officer's wife, a kind of Lady Malaprop. The general, in the conversation, said, "I wish I had died before I fought the battle of Helena."
Lady Malaprop said, "La' General, I have heard so many people say the same thing."
The General was very deaf: she had to speak it very loud. The poor general seemed to be in continual bad luck. He seemed to be the target for the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". He was glad to escape to the east.
I think I never felt more secure in my life, as when at last I was in the real confederate army, with the enemy in front, and the yet unconquered confederate country behind me. I could see so clearly the effective difference between undisciplined masses, where the individual soldier had, to some extent, his own way, and the disciplined companies and regiments that were prompt to obey orders and understood their duty. Order and discipline in an army give confidence and courage to the individual soldier. He feels the helpfulness and reliability of his comrades around him: and consequently, as a mass, the morale is strengthened and raised.
It was not long after this when we fell back, across Bayou Metre, to the banks of the Arkansas River, In front of Little Rock. We began to construct defensive works, not so much, as we afterwards saw, to stand a siege in defense of Little Rock, as to delay the enemy's movements and to force him to attack by a flank movement, and thus save the city from bombardment. The weather was very hot, but the men worked with a willingness, as self-protection was involved. We had our bomb proofs to shelter our wounded, which as against modern artillery, would have been more dangerous than open ground. They served the purpose however, as no direct attack was made by Steele. We waited for his approach for some time. At last one morning while some of the men were out gathering pawpaws, and I in the nearby woods examining my clothes for unwelcome intruders as was quite customary, boom! went a cannon.(25) Then another, and another, until a battery was playing on us from the front. Of course we needed no other warning to get to our places. After a short while some artillery firing down the river, revealed the fact that the enemy was crossing below, covered by a mask of cavalry, and the front attack was but a ruse to detain us at this place until his crossing was effected, his purpose being to attack our flank. When this was revealed, we hastily crossed the river to Little Rock on a pontoon bridge.(26) The day was exceedingly hot and I observed that when men were hot and fagged they became more reckless of personal danger. While we were crossing on the pontoon, a gun boat stranded on a sandbar perhaps 40 yards from us, was on fire, and the 10-inch shells in the magazine were exploding at a terrific rate. No one seemed to care, only giving it a passing attention. A week or so before this, they had taken our horses to a feeding place some miles south of the city, which obliged to go afoot. I suppose, if it had not been for the excitement of fighting and finally retreating, we should have suffered greatly.
We delayed Steele's advance, by cavalry fighting for a time, enabling us to retire from the city in good order, after blowing up our siege guns and getting our valuables at a safe distance. Meantime, in the cavalry fighting by our brave Missourians under Shelby, I believe, they captured a couple of fine brass howitzers, with a good supply of fixed ammunition for them. We carried those guns with us until near the close of the war.
Thus, fell into the hands of the federal government, Little Rock, and having control of the Arkansas River, they had a secure base for future operations.(27) Retreating as we were, losing territory, hot and hungry, the men were not despondent. Some of them had gotten used to fighting and falling back. They could find something to laugh at as they trudged along.
I remember a beautiful, well mounted lady (we always remember that kind) riding along by our line of march, embarrassed but smiling kindly as the men would say "That's my sweetheart." Another would say, "No she is mine.", and so on, she had to stand it, as she did, with true lady-like patience. I had some misgivings myself as to whether or not she was taking an account of our outfit, in order to report it to Gen. Steele. I have no doubt she could, like Joan of Arc, have led an army to victory. No wonder female commanders have been victorious.
I think we did not dread a pursuit. It was too hot for us to care much, and I think the enemy considered prudence the better part of valor. At all events, we were not called on to defend ourselves, and though we would have given a good account of ourselves, we were more thirsty for water than for human gore. When night came on, we bivouacked by some branch where we could drink and sleep, and such a bed! Lying down on a blanket or poncho, before we could get settled for sleep, we had to reach under and remove the most prominent stones. At last "tired Nature's sweet restorer" took possession of us. In the morning we had breakfast of ramrod bread, made as follows:- flour made into a stiff dough with water and a little salt, drawn out in strings, wrapped around a hot ramrod and basted over the embers, and thus baked. It was, as I well remember, the best bread I ever ate. Although I have had all varieties and styles since, I remember none so sweet: but there was a reason which is needless to tell.
We resumed our unmolested retreat down a hot, dry ridge, our objective being the Ouchita River. I saw but one well on the way and the good people who owned it had taken the precaution to take the bucket away with them. The men found a way to sink their canteens, a half dozen at a time, to fill them with the coveted water; but all but a few had to pass on and endure the thirst. On toward evening we came to a flat where there were some shallow pools of water, black and warm, in the leaves, in which there were innumerable tadpoles. We lay down, scared them away and drank our fill. An all-day march brought us to an open, abandoned field, where, without supper, we lay down to sleep. Col. White, Dr. Herndon and I bedded close together on such bedding as we had. When we had composed ourselves for sleep, old Parson Dryden, one of our chaplains, hitched his mare to a small sassafras bush a little distance from the foot of our bed. His animal was in the habit of pulling back and breaking loose. I said, "That old mare may take a notion to pull loose and fall back on us." The casual remark did not disturb my tired companions, but sure enough, just as we were going to sleep, she made a great pull and here she came! We jumped up and hollowed Whoa! Whoa! and the whole line of bivouacked infantry took it up with wide extended shout, Whoa! Whoa! The Colonel said some hard things about the old mare, and we turned in again for the night. This was one of those alarms which come at times to trained soldiers, when suddenly awakened in the night, by a supposed stampede of horses. It seems to be quite as impressive to half awakened men, as a cavalry charge by daylight.
As we continued our hot and tiresome march, when in the hottest part of the day, it might be supposed our men had enough to do to trudge along without engaging in any side play, there was a commotion a little way from us by the side of the road, which caused a stoppage of our march. One soldier mounted on a dead oxen, was haranguing, in an impassioned manner, some 10 or 15 of his comrades. "Boys," he said, "We will not desert him! We'll stay with him! He has been with us during the whole war and we'll not leave him!"
They all said, "That's right! We'll never desert him!"
The adjutant rode up, took in the situation, ordered the men to fall in, and the excitement was over. Where could one find such a spirit amongst weary, hungry and defeated soldiers excepting in an American army?
Every army must have its supplies of animal food. During the Civil War a herd of steers was driven along with the armies. With us it was a current belief that one particular herd of Texas steers had been with us all through the war, and it seemed as if this one above had died of old age in the service. This was the cause of the spontaneous obsequies. Our beef animals were generally dead poor, so poor in fact, that it was said by the boys that they had to be punched up with a bayonet in order to kill them. When they were slaughtered for rations, it was my duty to sometimes inspect the beef on the blocks. I had to condemn it but they would kill more of the same kind, and it was that kind or no meat for our men. It was a saying that enough of it for a company mess might be boiled, and there would not be enough grease to grease a shoestring. It was upon such meat and musty cornbread that our men generally subsisted. No wonder they would fight bravely to capture the federal commissary trains, that were loaded with choice supplies. But the worst must mend or end, and when at last we got to the Ouchita River, we found an agreeable and much needed change, which gave us time to rest, a chance at some fresh pork and sweet potatoes, and a rare sauce made of Muscadine grapes: also an opportunity to do our much needed laundrying. There were no military operations, after this, for quite awhile, and we went into quarters for the remainder of the season.
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It seemed to be our plan to go into camp, remain until we had used up all the supplies within reach, and then, when the season for military operations was closing, go into winter quarters. This camp, which deserved a name, was known as Camp Bragg. While here camped the men were generally healthy. The doctors, consequently, had an easy time, which we improved by organizing a Medical Society, meeting regularly, considering cases and diseases incident to military operations, which I know was to the good of our part of the army. It was equivalent to a general consultation on the current maladies. While at this camp, a negro was killed by another a few miles from the camp. We made arrangements to get the body, and got it, with much less hazard than an instance before narrated, for it saved the citizens the trouble of burial, and they were glad to get rid of it, and our ambulance men were quite willing to bring it to us. We used the subject for careful dissecting and operation. We did our dissecting in a log hut: the cracks were not chinked nor daubed, and to us, on the inside, it was an amusing sight to see a row of eyes peering through the cracks, trying to get a glimpse of the structure of the human form divine. Seeing us dissecting part from part, and perceiving that we seemed to understand their mechanisms, our importance was no doubt magnified in their estimation, with the exception of one of us.
Poor little Dr. A--- had incurred the ill will of some of the men whom he was directed by his senior to visit and attend - in this way. One man had a chronic surgical malady which required the use of a certain instrument, and another had diarrhoea. In an impulsive way, which was his manner, he attempted without due inquiry, to introduce the instrument on the man with the diarrhoea. The attempt and resistance caused such an excitement as can be imagined, until the mistake was made known to the doctor. Unfortunately for him, the men got to hear of it and began to guy him. He made matters worse by threatening to salivate them if he got a chance. Then his troubles were multiplied. On all occasions he would hear someone shout "Salivation!" He said they posted men to watch for him, that they might not miss an opportunity. He could hear them say, "There comes salivation" and then dodge out of sight and keep it up. At last, the poor persecuted doctor had to be transferred. This was one of the means by which the common soldier could get his revenge for real or imaginary wrongs, or to have his fun at the expense of some unfortunate one. I recall an instance of the latter kind.
Our color line was along the side of a public road. Anyone travelling through that part of the country had to take that road; but woe to him who should have on a 'plug' hat, as they were called. A small, clerical looking gentleman, rigged out in Sunday clothes, mounted on a small pacing pony, made the mistake of wearing a 'plug' hat as he came passing along the road. He wore, also, a pleasant smile, but that was a minor consideration to quite a number of men who were strolling about the color line. As soon as they saw him, they took in the situation; they began by inviting him to come down out of that hat; they knew he was in there because they could see his feet hanging out of it; and then some of them began to whistle "Pop! Goes the Weazel!", keeping time with his pony's pace. The poor victim had to stand it: there was no help. The faster he paced, the faster they whistled, until he got safely beyond their reach. He did not return that way - in the daytime. Such incidents occurred once in awhile and furnished a little passing amusement to lighten camp life.
Our men learned to build fire-places and chimneys at the rear end of their tents, and as we camped in the timber, the fuel was convenient and plentiful, so that we were fairly comfortable in the winter time. Many of the men, in order to make use of their idle time, to their great advantage, engaged in making things for keepsakes or present use, such as finger rings and charms of hard rubber, combs of horn, and even buttons: some mended shoes, some harness; some were engaged in rough tailoring, such as turning clothes wrong side out. I employed one to turn a uniform coat for me, in that way. I had worn a fine woolen shirt for perhaps two years, and needing new lining for my turned coat, had the shirt ripped up and died black. I have already spoken of our troubles to keep free from or get rid of certain uninvited and unwelcome guests. With all our care, we could not always escape, so, when this shirt was dyed black, there remained along the seams numerous ova that shone like pearls: and I thought I had used all possible precautions in the way of personal cleanliness. Carrying our blankets in the same wagon with various others, was the means of propagation, by which we were all put on an equality. The rank was not even as good as the 'Guinea's Stamp' as a protection. It was of necessity that we had to turn our coats when they became too rusty, as we had no stores of cloth from which to purchase new ones. The highest officers were thankful to blockade runners for the means of making an appearance on grand occasions, commensurate with their rank. I once wanted a visor for a cap: it was priced to me at $80.00, confederate money, 'Frederick Money', as an old darkey about our command used to call it. What with trading trinkets, and a little of the money above named, and foraging, the men somehow, kept themselves in stockings and an occasional handkerchief: some whiled away their time with well thumbed books reading to others. Under all their privations, they rarely grumbled: even found some amusement out of the situation.
On one Christmas, when our enemies were feasting on delicious, sanitary supplies, one of our lieutenants posted up a bill of fare at his quarters, running somewhat as follows:- "Roast beef and hoe cake, corn bread and beef hash, cold beef and cold cornbread, beef tongue and beef liver: Dessert, Corn pone with broiled steak &c., &c." In this day of plenty, it would seem that any fun derived from such a Christmas feast would be very much forced; but such was our condition, and such the spirit with which the men met these hardships to the bitter end.
While camped near Magnolia, Arkansas, those of us who were Masons had the privilege of attending lodge, and some of joining the chapter at that place or College Hill. By this means we made many pleasant acquaintances with the intelligent, kind and hospitable citizens of that neighborhood. New Masons were made and on one occasion, they gave some of us a welcome Masonic feast. I think we treated them better in return for their kindness than happened to citizens of other localities in that unfortunate state. One poor old lady expressed their hard usage by saying, "First the southern war comes along, and then the northern war, and between them, they hardly leave us anything." It was indeed pitiful in many cases. It was not uncommon, after a cavalry or, indeed, any brigade had passed along by a farm, to see the whole crop of sweet potatoes, the main dependence for food, nearly entirely appropriated, with all the fowls as well.
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The state of Arkansas is much diversified in respect to quality of soil. Much of it is poor and would not be fit for agricultural use, but other portions are very fertile and productive. Such was the kind of country of which the village of Three Creeks was the center. Here the planters had placed their school and church buildings and their stores. Thither we gathered together, as the vultures for a feast. It was an ideal place for a military camp - plenty of water and much food for man and beast. Our infantry commands had a fine old field to drill in, and made good use of it. The negro servants in our camp, felt so well off that they became careless about reporting at taps. Gen. Parsons ordered out a patrol to round them up one night, and caught a number of them. In the morning they were brought before the General: He very solemnly told them of the need of discipline, and ordered Captain Reynolds to give them each five lashes, excepting my boy Bill - give him ten.
Bill said, "Captain Reynolds, I wish you would give me mine fust: I've got to tend my hosses." He got his request, and he, with others, got off with much show of awful strokes, but with very light touches. Our negro servants had a very easy, happy time.
To show how smart horses can get, the case of Col. Moore's horse, which he named Sneezeweed, is an instance. The Colonel would turn him loose to graze, using his other horse meanwhile. When the assembly was sounded Sneezeweed would come up and go with the command to the drill ground, where he would graze around until the recall sounded; he would then gallop back to camp. He understood these calls perfectly.
The weather being pleasant and the food of somewhat better quality, the men enjoyed themselves also. They were allowed a little more liberty, and therefore a little larger area to forage over. I saw carved in the bark of a tree, by some ambitious soldier, - "We'll call him Jones. Corple Jones." I will guarantee that the 'Corple', was a reliable soldier, if his spelling was a little off. Poor Corporal! I trust he lived through it all, with many, many others to get home, and by being a good citizen, to do honor to his title.
Some of our men were not above playing tricks on these good, unsuspecting citizens. A sympathizing planter came into camp one day, and in the kindness of his heart, invited some 8 or 10 of them to come to his place to gather corn blades, assuring them he would give them the best dinner he could get up. They accordingly on the appointed day, came, only just before dinner time. After eating a hearty meal and having hardly got started to work, there suddenly dashed up a couple of men on mules, ordering them back to camp immediately. The good planter and his family pitied them for having to be arrested. He begged the two pretended officers to see that the poor men were not punished severely, for it was his own fault in having them come. He fed these two also, in order to gain their good offices for those poor soldiers, all of which they duly promised. I doubt if the planter and his good family ever ceased to blame themselves. They certainly were ignorant of the trick that had been played on them. This community had suffered dreadfully in the loss of its men in the war. I was told that out of 125 men that had gone to the front, not 20 of them were then bearing arms, the others having been killed or crippled in battle, died of wounds or sickness, or were held in northern prisons. They seemed to feel concerning this dreadful sacrifice, as they would the destruction of the 'pestilence that walketh at noonday.' And this was the common experience of the communities of the south. We established a hospital for the treatment of the sick, and to do such operations as were required for the relief of unhealed wounds. After a time the camp was broken up and our command moved northward.
One of the citizens of that village, with whom I had such an agreeable acquaintance, was Dr. McAlspine, a gentleman of excellent attainments in his profession. He, with his amiable wife, was most happily mated. The doctor was a model of correctness and refined manners, and together they were pillars of the Presbyterian Church. The doctor had the misfortune to have a large carbuncle on his back. It was necessary to administer an anesthetic in order to criss-cross it freely. As he began to get under the influence of chloroform, he began to swear, and nobody ever swore more fluently. It would have put a sailor to shame. His poor wife was horrified.
She said, "Why, my dear, I have never heard you talk that way before. Please, Doctor, stop giving it to him."
We continued giving the anesthetic, but as long as he could utter a word, it was an oath; and even after he could no longer articulate, his tongue continued to make the effort to swear. We completed the operation safely, and he recovered promptly. When told afterwards how he had sworn, he could only suppose that he must have, to his shame, thought such things before.
I was able while I remained in charge of our temporary hospital, to aid the doctor with some of his bad cases, until I was ordered to dispose of those unfit for duty, and remove the others to their commands, then near Monticello, Arkansas. To mention one such case: At the doctor's request I went with him to see a young lady who had been bedfast for years with what seemed to be spinal disease. A number of doctors had been called to see her, but had failed to give her relief. Being a refined and intelligent young lady, of a good family, her widowed mother spared no pains for her relief. I thought I could only do a favor to the doctor and the family, without the hope of benefitting the case. I found the patient to be a beautiful, bright-eyed, and so nervous a young person, that I suspected a case of neuromimesis (mimic nervous disease). On touching the spine, it elicited more complaint than could be due to the touch. I got her attention strongly fixed on something else, then could press as hard as I pleased without causing pain. My diagnosis was made. I asked the doctor to tell the patient, when I had gone to the command, that it was a great shame for her to be lying there distressing her poor mother, when there was really nothing the matter; that she could be riding horseback every day. The next time I saw the doctor, he told me if I had been there for a couple of weeks they would have mobbed me, but they got to thinking I might be right, and she was shortly riding horseback over the country, sure enough. What a foundation for Christian Science, Osteopathy, or other forms of quackery to build on.
Several months after this I was obliged to return for a few days to Three Creeks. About this time some real coffee had been issued to us, but as the quantity to each mess was hardly sufficient for one man, a number of the messes, out of pure kindness, turned their shares over to me. On my way to Three Creeks I stopped at Squire Logan's, who lived near that place. The Squire was one of those educated Irish gentlemen, with the characteristic Irish delight in the humorous, and his wife was a good match in that particular, and withal a bright, pleasant lady. I turned over the coffee to Mrs. Logan. She said, "Now, how will I manage it?" "There's just about enough for our family and you, and there will be at breakfast 4 or 5 soldiers on their way to their commands." After considering the case for a few minutes, she said, "I will seat all the transients on one side, and we will be on the opposite side. We will have a pot of rye coffee for them, and another of Rio for us. They will be served with the rye, and we with the Rio. Of course, I shall ask them, as well as us, to have the second cup; if they decline, we must accept." This arrangement was faithfully carried out, and when the transients were asked to have their cups filled again, they promptly declined, while those on our side of the table promptly accepted, not having tasted the genuine article for several years. This created some amusement. In order to have an excuse for laughing, the Squire told us how they caught the wild Irishman. He said, "They put a potato in a box, through a hole just large enough for the Irishman to get his hand through. He saw the potato, reached in and got it in his hand, and as he held on to the potato and couldn't get his hand out with the potato in it, and he couldn't let go of the potato, in that way they caught him." One story after another, as for instance: The gentleman whose wife had died, when asked by the attending physician how she was, the bereaved husband answered, "She's dead, I thank you, Doctor."
That reminded Grandmother Van Hook, a more than Septuagenarian, the mother of Mrs. Logan, of a case in point that occurred in that neighborhood. Dr. McAlspin had an idiotic brother-in-law named Bob, who was harmless and allowed to stray about at will. The doctor was attending an old, much respected gentleman in the community who was critically ill, and all of his friends were anxious to learn how he was getting along. Someone saw Bob, and supposing he might know, as he lived at the Doctor's, asked him how old Mr. Williams was. He said, "I haven't heard from him since the day before yesterday; he was dead then." Even our transient table acquaintances laughed at the story as told by the venerable grandmother.
I returned to Camden by a shorter road. On coming to one of those streams which run through low ground, as they often do in that country, after I had ridden through mud and water often saddle-skirt deep, for two or three hundred yards, I found the stream unfordable, and most of the planks gone off the bridge. How could I get over? To turn back would compel me to go back over that dreadful road, and I probably should be unable to find the other road, in the darkness. The situation was bad. However, after anxiously considering the matter, I concluded to lead my horse as far on the bridge as the planks would allow, tear them up behind and lay them in front, lead on again, and repeat the performance. After doing this a number of times, and my horse duly tractable, we safely got over on dry ground and reached camp on a good road, in good time.
The first and only time I ever commanded an expedition was when removing the convalescents to their commands, after breaking up the hospital at Three Creeks. That which I remember most distinctly was a most trying night, trying to sleep. We had stopped for the night, cooked our rations, eaten our supper and got ready for a good night's sleep. We happened to have a little coffee which we drank with relish, but the penance soon followed the indulgence. A couple of ladies of the village insisted so earnestly on my lodging at their house, partly out of kindness to me, and possibly for protection to themselves, I reluctantly consented. They gave me the bed used by guests, the best in the house. It was currently stated by our boys that the fleas were so numerous in Ark., that they kept the dust stirred up by hopping about. They were not the only human tormentors of that unfortunate commonwealth. Those pests that hide in the cracks and crannies of the bedstead, claimed a share of my blood. Along toward the 'wee sma' hours', after a stubborn resistance, when the small vampires were taking advantage of my drowsiness, a young dog under the floor just under my bed, began to bay at the moon, I suppose. I tossed and scratched and turned about, but still he barked. After awhile there would be an interval of silence: a doze: barking resumed, and so repeated far into the night. I have never blamed the good ladies. They were entertaining a stranger whose feelings, unawares to them, were far from angelic.
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At Monticello, Arkansas, we renewed our acquaintance with fat beef and sweet potatoes. It happened this way. Some of our soldiers, while foraging on the Bayou of Bartholomew, saw some fat cattle grazing in the cane brakes. They promptly reported the facts to their comrades. They brought the matter before Gen. Parsons in a very urgent manner. He ordered his commissaries to round up the cattle, give scrip to the owners, in promises to pay after the independence of the Confederacy was established. As the security was becoming more and more doubtful, there was considerable grumbling, but we got the beef: and such fat juicy beef! We had not tasted such for a long time, and relished it accordingly.
Not having cavalry to guard our force, we used infantry, leaving it to a few squads of cavalry to scout on the front. An outpost guard was placed at the forks of a road by the plantation of a Mr. Coleman, and it so happened that his sweet potato patch was just in the angle - the right angle, our soldier boys thought. They were overcome by the temptation to partake of Coleman's crop. They soon had fat beef and sweet potatoes. The owner, discovering his loss, promised the boys if they would capture any with his potatoes and bring them to him, he would divide the captured potatoes with them. Every day they would bring up a culprit with a sack of potatoes, before him, and get their rake off. The captive looked very guilty, of course, but shared in the spoils.
The move to this locality was merely a demonstration, as a diversion to cover another move, but was, as indicated, conducive to our health and comfort. A federal scout, under command of a Major, who had been commandant of Alton federal prison, was sent down from Pine Bluff to see what we were about. While halting to water and feed, they were charged upon and captured, to a man. We were moving southward. As the Major and his command were brought in, a number of men said, "Why, there's the Major!" They had been in the Alton military prison while he was in command, and knew him well. He had treated them humanely and they were glad to see that he received like treatment, which he did. He rode along with headquarters, and, but for his uniform, might have been taken for one of the staff. When we reached Camden, a special exchange was effected for his benefit, notwithstanding the cartel had been broken, and all officers and privates captured were being sent to prison, in retaliation for like treatment by the federals. His men were held however. This was one of the amenities of war which was not too common at that time.
Camden:-- A glance at the map will show that town to be on the line of military operations in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Consequently to meet an approach from Little Rock, it was a place to be held for strategical reasons, and while it could be easily turned by a superior force, it was quite needful to hold it as long as we could, for the further reason that it was desired by the enemy, to give him command of the navigable part of the Ouchita River, and thereby, a base for advancing further southward. There we established good quarters, and were allowed to remain some months.
While there, some persons from about Three Creeks did me the kindness to send to me in a special wagon, a load of some nice supplies, in return for what they supposed I had done for them, professionally. The articles consisted of a coop of fouls, a pig, some dried fruit, and some other rarities. Of course we were delighted. My boy Ben made a little henhouse, and we soon began to have some eggs. It seemed quite homelike to be awakened in the morning by the crowing of our rooster. The fowls seemed to be as contented and happy as though there were no war nor soldiers about. He also made a pen for the pig, and we were feeding him for a feast. I had set the day, Christmas, as I remember, when he was to be offered up. I had gone so far as to invite a few friends to partake of the rarity, when in an unlucky time, a heavy, flooding rain came on. The pig had to be turned out to save him from drowning, and that was the last we ever saw of him. We blamed the boys of the 16th Regiment, but they never squealed. The invitations had to be recalled.
While there, our commanders entered into a private bargain, by which the federal authorities brought us a boat loaded with such supplies as we needed, including some medical supplies, and sacks of the best coffee I ever tasted. In return we traded them cotton. I have always wondered if the higher authorities on the union side knew of this trading, which was giving us aid and certainly, comfort.
We surely got the best of the bargain, for the cotton we traded them was confederate, and would have been lost to us. Some of us officers would have a kettle of this fine coffee made, and we would drink and play whist all night. No gambling however, excepting by one of our negro boys, a smart fellow belonging to Lieutenant Chestnut. When the Lieutenant would need money, which was often, he would stake Abe, whose winnings in confederate money from the non-expert darkies around camp was a sure thing, and Abe would get a divide for his smartness.
Our darkies found plenty of new acquaintances in the town, but we had to keep a pretty close watch over them to prevent them from running off to Little Rock and reporting to Gen. Steele. One from headquarters tried it, and the result showed the wonderful ability of trained dogs to follow a trail. He left some time in the night. His route led him over the road where hundreds of men had lately walked, then through the streets of Camden, where many negroes were travelling about. Early in the morning when he was missed, they gave the dogs a scent of some clothing which he had left. The dogs struck his trail, followed it, distinguishing it from the trail of so many others, even of the negroes, and finally treed him in a swamp 4 or 5 miles from camp. Certainly, this was a wonderful exhibition of the evolution of a sense, developed from inheritance, through countless generations. He was not badly treated for his effort to gain his freedom.
It fell to my lot at this time to witness the execution of two men, condemned to death by court-martial. These two men had deserted. On their way they tortured an old man and his wife shamefully, in order to force from them their little savings, finally, as it was reported, killed them. Thus for the double crime, they amply deserved death. I was ordered to witness the execution and certify to their death. After the chaplain had prayed for them, they were made to stand in front of their coffins, facing the firing detail which consisted of ten men, five to fire at each. The squad was placed about 20 feet in front of the condemned, my place being about 15 or 20 feet behind the executioners. I could see the awful expression of terror on their faces as the command, "Squad, ready, aim, fire!" was given, the last words they heard on earth. One had consciousness enough to place his left hand over his heart, as a silent, last signal to fire at his heart. As the report, like one gun, rang out, both fell back over their coffins. I instantly dismounted, and went to them; one gasped twice, the other never breathed. One rifle had been aimed true, the ball passing through the hand to the heart. I believe nearly every shot took effect, and thus these poor beings passed into a higher tribunal. The battalions that formed three sides of a square about the execution were ordered back to camp, having learned one of the stern lessons of war. It was a horrible sight to witness, and I have always since avoided seeing the execution of any human being.
We had several enterprising soldiers in the 10th who were noted for their successful predatory forays. While at this place our commissary supplies were stored in several vacant houses, some built of logs, others frame. Guards of the regular details were posted to protect these stores. One fellow got fast, crawling out of a log building. The boys said they had to almost tear his skin off to pull him out, but he held his peace as well as his plunder. It was the plan, in building frame houses in that part of the country, to elevate them one or two feet above ground. One fellow, while on guard, carefully estimated from front and side, the location of a sack of coveted provisions of some kind. He got a two inch auger, and at night crawled under the floor, without attracting the attention of the guard in front. He began to bore up through the floor, expecting to bore into the sack and in this way fill his haversack, but "the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglee." Someone inside, suddenly awakened, cried out "What the ---- is that?" The forager missed his calculation and was boring into a surprised sleeper, who no doubt felt bored.
Strict military discipline and careful drilling, both company and regiment, was enforced while at this place. The drill of the regiments was often witnessed by the ladies of the town; but the most attractive feature was guard inspection and guard mounting. Col. Kelley, the inspector, took great pains in all these matters. Being an excellent drill master, it was interesting to see him inspect and drill the detail. On one occasion, the ladies of Camden offered 3 prize cases to be given to the best drilled and most perfectly equipped 3 of the details. There was quite a stir to select the cleanest and finest guns; and the most perfectly drilled men were chosen for guard mount on that morning. The stack of three cakes was a prize worthy the best efforts of the best soldiers, and they did their best to win it, and Col. Kelley entered fully into the spirited contest. The contest drew out a large number of ladies and many officers to witness it. It was very inspiring. Inspection threw out a few with some part of equipment not absolutely perfect, a speck of rust, or feet or hands not just perfect. Then the drill became an effort to catch them at fault: shifting about in double quick, by right, left about, and so on, when it became a matter of uncertainty whether it was right or left in front, suddenly the command, front! Would catch some of them facing the wrong way. I remember the Colonel would give a command that was wrong, and the men would not obey. The spectators would become excited, thinking the men were disobedient. Of course, the officers knew the men were right. After trying for quite awhile, and all thrown out but three, he could not catch them at fault, and they had to draw straws for the 1st., 2nd., and 3rd., choice. West Pointers and old soldiers might be amused at this description by an old army surgeon, but they know what pleasure it is to see perfect military movements.
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Winter was coming on and we moved southward again, this time to the southwest corner of Arkansas, where we camped for the winter. I believe we called the encampment Camp Sumpter, so named, I suppose, to honor the brave defenders of that famous fortress. There were no persons living nearer than 6 or 8 miles, so we had undisputed possession. It surprised us to see the number of deer; often 10 or 20 could be seen in a herd. They would often run the gauntlet of our camp, and so tempting was it to shoot at them that the ammunition had to be taken from the men for our safety. Shots were heard all around us like skirmishers in action. Strangely no stray bullet ever wounded any of us. Many deer were killed and it would have been a rare treat to have fresh venison, but the deer had been feeding on something that made the meat bitter and unpalatable. However the men made good use of the hides; they tanned them and made gauntlet gloves of them. When we moved in the spring, many of the men had gauntlet gloves, and some, while gloved in fine style, were going nearly barefooted.
At this time I was ordered to go with the hospital steward to a near village to attend a wounded man. We found a young man who, I believe, had shot himself through the hand to escape from military service. He had aimed badly and injured some blood vessel. In order to check the bleeding he had tied a cord tightly around the wrist, and caused gangrene of the hand. I amputated it and effectually relieved him from military service. Several persons whom I have seen with the same kind of injury, for the same purpose, always chose the right hand and generally shot off the end of the forefinger and thumb, carrying with them for life the proof of their cowardice.
We were camped in a pine forest and had no trouble for fuel and such building material as we needed. We built huts of pine logs and covered them with clapboards. We had been granted a charter from the grand lodge of Masons of Arkansas to organize a travelling lodge and confer the degrees of A.F.M. We built a lodge building of the pine logs at hand; made it proof against eavesdroppers and proceeded to work. We had ample material to choose from amongst all ranks. After three years of trial, such as they had passed through, it was but little trouble to make selections, and no more worthy men ever received the honors of that noble order. The experience of some of these men when prisoners, or left wounded in the hands of the enemy, showed them the good of Masonry, in the kindness they received from their brothers in the ranks of their antagonists. In a backward move of a portion of our lines, one of these young brethren received a wound in the thigh which felled him. A Major of a command that was pressing the pursuit, saw him, recognized him as a brother, dismounted, gave him a drink of water and ordered a detail to take him carefully to the rear and see that he got every attention possible. After the young brother recovered, out of the kindness of his captors, he was enabled to return to us, to tell us how strong and blest is the tie that binds even in the bitter antagonism of civil war. Our lodge prospered. We were kept busy, and while all three degrees were given on the ground floor, for that was the only one we had, we never had any trouble with the envious or curious, and harmony prevailed.
I wonder if the quartermaster captain of the 16th ever forgot a certain rainstorm that occurred while we were encamped temporarily on a certain stream in Arkansas? He could not I imagine unless he has before now gone into that last long night's slumber in which:--
"The storms that wreck the wintry sky,
No more disturb his soft repose,
Than summer evening's softest sigh
Disturbs the rose."
It rained in floods, and the wind blew wildly, such a combination as can be witnessed in full force in that part of the country. Soon those of us who had made our beds on the ground, felt the water rising around us and over our beds. The darkness was only parted when the lightning flashed. It was with difficulty that we could keep our tents from blowing away; we were well soaked in the effort. The Captain's tent blew away and left him lying on his bed, face upward, as he was revealed by the incessant flashes of lightning, with the rain pouring down on him in floods. He was swearing that, 'any man who was d--- fool enough to be caught in such a cause, deserved to be drowned. His angry King Lear like defiance of the storm, and his uncooled heat as he lay there, almost strangled by the downpour, were a source of amusement long after that storm had passed away, and helped to lighten the burden of many a weary march of his comrades as they moved on to meet other storms, - the storms of battle, after which to some there were no more days of marching, or nights of dread.
In the early days of the war in Missouri, there were companies of volunteers throughout that state who were trying to organize military forces for the purpose of holding the state in the confederacy. Some of these companies, in the minor and somewhat desultory actions, were captured: some even before they were fully organized. Engaged in that way, the Magoffins, father and two sons, were captured and paroled under oath not to take up arms against the U.S. Government. They, in violation of that obligation which they did not consider binding any longer than they could make their escape into the southern states, attempted to take a number of men into the confederate armies. They were captured and sent to Alton prison. This prison had formerly been a penitentiary, but was now a military prison. It was supposed that at least Col. Magoffin, the elder, would be executed. His sons, our Lieutenant Colonel Elijah and Beriah determined if possible to rescue their father, and all escape. Accordingly, with such ingenuity and cunning as prisoners of war can bring to bear, they devised a plan to tunnel under the prison wall and thus get away. When they had got their tunnel beyond the wall, and were just about ready to break through the ground above them, Col. Lige was at the end of the tunnel, listening. Unfortunately, the ground above had caved some. Lige heard an officer call a sentinel, and pointing to the place, say, "You see that dirt? Some of those rebels will try to get out there tonight. If they do, shoot them down." Poor Magoffin! After all that toil, to be so near success, and then all in vain. He sadly crawled back into prison, reported what he had heard, and awaited results. The authorities waited some days, but finding no attempt of any to escape, searched and found out all, but those concerned in the plot. They compelled all in that part of the prison to fill up the tunnel, and then, with a closer watch, things went on as before. After a time another plan was devised. They worked out to the wall in a different place. It brought them out, over a building, to the top of the wall. When everything was ready, including the rope ladder made of bedclothes, our Lieut. Col. Lige was to go first, his father next, brother next, and the others in the plot following. The signal agreed on was, when Col. got to the top of the wall, if a sentinel was there, to put his foot on his father's head, as a warning to go back. It was not a very dark night, and when he reached up and looked over the top of the wall there stood a sentinel. He gave his father the signal; the sentinel raised his gun to shoot: Magoffin said, "I felt so desperate I said, shoot and be damned. The sentinel looked at me for a little while, took pity on me, shouldered his gun, beckoned me to come on, and passed on, on his beat! I had to go back for Father and the rest; the kindhearted sentinel saw us no more. We travelled all night, hiding in the daytime, living on what we had put by in prison for the occasion. After a long and toilsome tramp, we safely reached the confederate lines."
Thus, the father's life was saved by his brave boys; but at last the old gentleman came to his death by the hand of an assassin. Too old for service in the army, he found temporary habitation in a little town, Rocky Comfort, in the southwest corner of Arkansas. While we were at Camp Sumpter, the news was brought to Col. Magoffin of his father's death. He at once got a leave of absence for thirty days. He found someone to go with him to hunt the assassin down and kill him. When the Colonel came back he told the story substantially as follows:-
"The fellow had a wife and several children. I went to his house to find out where he was, and could only indirectly learn he was hiding somewhere in the vicinity. We learned who his companions were, got them and took them out in the woods to make them tell where the murderer was hiding. We laid one fellow across a log and whipped him until he told all he knew. The other told all he knew, and we were satisfied he was innocent of harboring or concealing the man, and we let him off on promise that he would give us all the information he could get to aid us in the future. He promised to go back to his command in a short time and report at short intervals to me. He had evidently deserted. He faithfully kept his promise, and saved himself such a whipping as he saw the other get. We failed to find the criminal, and gave it out that our time was out, and we would go back to the command. We concealed ourselves for about three days and saw the fellow go into his house at night. My helper stationed himself at the window, ready to shoot him if he attempted to get out that way. I went in, found a pallet on the floor, still warm, where the man had lain down for the night. I looked all around, ready to shoot him the instant I saw him, but I could see nothing him. It was a one story building in which there was a counter that had once been in use. The ceiling was laid with loose boards. Looking up, I saw, through the space between the boards, the hilt of his pistol glistening. I got up on the counter, made a grab for his pistol, and jerked his belt off with his pistol and bowie knife, thus disarming him. I called on him to come down and give himself up. He at last agreed to do so. We tied him securely, led him out into the woods and tied him to a tree until morning. I kept a tight grip on him until he was safely tied to the tree. When he found himself in our power he said, "You are the son of the man I killed, are you?"
I said "I am."
He said "Then I suppose I must die."
I said "You surely shall."
He said "I took you to be officers hunting deserters, or I would have shot you. I saw you several times when I could have killed you."
I tried to get him to tell why he killed father, but could get no satisfactory answer. He said he had killed a man down in Georgia with the same knife, stabbing him down through the skull. Being a blacksmith, he made the knife himself. I told him I had nothing against his soul and would get a preacher to see him in the morning, but he need have no hope of living as I surely would kill him.
He said, "It is too late for a preacher to do me any good. You can get him to look after my wife and children, but I have no use for him."
In the morning he said, "How are you going to kill me?"
I said, "Would you rather be killed with the knife you killed my father with, or shot or hung?"
He said, "I'd rather be shot."
I said, "How about being hung?"
He said, "Any way but that."
I said, "You had no mercy on my old father, and I'll have none on you." "I'll hang you."
We put the rope around his neck, threw it over a limb, and put him on a horse.
He said, "I reckon I'll soon meet you in hell."
My helper said, "You'll never see me where they keep such damned murderers as you are."
We led the horse from under him and he swung off into eternity. I got the people to bury him decently, and asked the preacher to comply with the murderer's request to look after the welfare of his wife and children, and departed."
The Colonel came to camp, bringing the knife that slew his father, as a sad trophy. His revenge was complete. He said, "Though I had never seen the man until we captured him, I should have known him if I had seen him anywhere in the world. I had seen him in dreams, and visions of the night, until I had as clear picture of him in my mind as if I had seen him before. At once I saw he was the man of my dreams." And this was Col. Magoffin, the gentle, mild mannered, courteous gentleman, a delightful companion, a trusted friend. No wonder he was admired by the ladies. After the war, his earthly career was terminated in a railroad wreck.
The 10th Missouri Infantry was proud of its commanders. Colonel Moore, I have always thought, was one of the most perfect models of a soldier and officer I have ever seen. He volunteered when yet less than twenty, with one of the companies raised in northeast Missouri. At the siege and capture of Lexington he was wounded in the arm. While on furlough, he made good use of his time in studying Hardee's Tactics. He soon began to be advanced, and in the breaking up of the State Guards and its reorganization and conversion into the regular Confederate service, before the battle of Prairie Grove, the commanding general ordered him to form Company A, of a Confederate regiment. He called for volunteers, and was so popular, that nearly every soldier tried to join Company A. He therefore had the pick of the men, and made up a full company of choice soldiers. Brave, strong old Company A, most of you are gone! But if gentlemanly conduct in camp, or perfectly reliable courage unto death in battle, or exemplars of good citizenship in peace, shall be rewarded in the hereafter, you have fared better than in your vain but heroic struggles for the lost cause! From this time on in the progress of the war, his conduct as an officer won him promotion. The 10th Missouri Infantry was mostly composed of Missourians, but happened to be under the command of an Arkansan. The men never liked that officer as their commander. There was no doubt of his bravery, but in regimental drill, Col. Kelley made life miserable for him, when he attempted to drill his regiment, until, at last, the Colonel asked to be transferred. His request was granted most willingly, and then Col. Moore succeeded him and became a full colonel, of the crack regiment of the brigade. On occasions when show drilling was to be done, as when an inspector came from Richmond, Col. Moore's regiment was, very generally, called out. He was a man reared under religious influences, and never swore, excepting in battle. He told me he could not help it when he saw any man shirking. Always in the front in battle, he hardly ever escaped being wounded, as on his Sneezeweed, he made a conspicuous target. I suppose the Colonel takes good care of the sword that saved his life at Helena. A federal bullet made a dent in the blade, close to his head.
Such were the officers and men of my home regiment. One who was surgeon to such a command, would lack manhood if he were not proud of them. They were well satisfied with my services. I did my best for them, and was glad to be one of them.
As Col. Kelley got Col. P--- out of the 10th , so did he others. He was especially a terror to the juniors of the line, and generally got them confused to his satisfaction, when inspecting them. He would ask a question, and when they would answer wrong, he would say, "Lieutenant, there's a black mark against you", and "Another black mark, sor," and so on. He disliked Arkansas officers, and generally got them sent somewhere else. When he would inspect my outfit he would not fail, when asking about medical supplies, to say, "How are you off for spirits, sor?" As we rarely had any for him to inspect, the answer was not satisfactory. Once, however, I had drawn a 2 or 3 gallon jug of poor whiskey from the purveyor's stores, but before the inspector could get a chance to inspect it, the boys of the regiment slipped it out from under the tent. We missed it at sick call in the morning. I told the sergeants to tell the boys to leave enough for the sick, as some of them needed it. The next morning the jug was in its place, with perhaps a quart left. We thought the boys were very considerate to leave any. By the time the Colonel came on his next inspecting round, he was obliged to put up with the answer, None.
Like most Irishmen, he was noted for his national characteristics; one of which is not to allow anyone to tread on his coat-tail without a fight. It so happened that Gen. Parsons' Adjutant General, Col. Standish, was a protestant Irishman, while Col. Kelley was a Catholic. A dispute between them was always imminent, and, but for discipline, which they both respected, and exacted, there would have been much rough language, or even bloodshed, growing out of their antagonism. Once when Col. Standish criticized a certain officer Kelley defended him, saying "He is a brave man, sor."
Standish:- "He is none of the bravest of the brave."
Kelley:- "He is a braver man than you, sor."
Standish:- "Col. Kelley, you may say he is as brave a man as I am, but you shall not say he is a braver man than I am."
Kelley:- "I'll say it sor, and more than that, I'll say that I'm a braver man than you, sor."
Gen. Parsons fortunately arrived on the scene, and the matter was dropped, as such spats often were, without further trouble.
Kelley commanded his brave Irish battalion, which he brought out from St. Louis, at the battle of Wilson's Creek. Those present with him said, while his men were firing away at Gen. Lyon's opposing lines, Kelley said, "Stop that nonsense and go at him with the staeel." I never learned that they got close enough to the retreating enemy to give them the 'staeel', but the Colonel received a shot in his hand, which partially disabled it all of his life, and he would have lost it if he had not, as he said, put his pistol under his pillow and threatened to shoot any doctor who should attempt to amputate it.
Many wounded men in the early days of the war, had, figuratively, to stand guard over their wounded limbs, to prevent adventurous, young, inexperienced doctors from attempting to display their skill, at the sacrifice of soldiers' limbs. After one of the early engagements, some fellow, not a doctor, through ignorant officiousness, having armed himself with a piece of telegraph wire, tried to probe every wounded man's wound, who would permit him, until the real doctors and the friends of the wounded drove him away from the army.
The Col. Standish, above mentioned, was as ready to spat as Col. Kelley; but otherwise a very capable officer. He was a civil engineer and helped to locate the first railroads constructed in Missouri. He enjoyed a joke like a jolly Irishman. While on Red River, he had a Dutchman to take care of his horses, called Bill, for the want of any other name that we knew. After he had been captured at Neosho, Missouri, instead of a parole, he took service with Col. Standish, To him it made no difference which side he served. Bill came to the Colonel one morning and said, "Somebody has stolen my fishing line."
The Colonel said, "Well, Bill, as long as you have been with the army, if you don't know how to find your line, I won't tell you."
The Colonel said in a few days Bill came in and said, "Col., I've found my line."
Colonel S--:- "Did you find all your hooks, Bill?"
Bill:-- "Yes, and one more."
The Colonel went to Mexico with his brother-in-law, Gen. Parsons, and both were murdered by the Guerrillas.
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Like the children of Israel in the Wilderness, we wandered about Arkansas from camp to camp. They left the fleshpots of Egypt full. When we left Arkansas they were empty. They bore, with some degree of patience, their privations while seeking the Promised Land, and were rewarded by finding it, and it flowing with milk and honey. What, after all our wanderings, we found at last, was a land desolated to the last degree, the young manhood of the country double decimated, with nothing left but a lost cause and a sense of mournful pride from the heroic sacrifice.
However, the last of March found us bivouacked near Shreveport, Louisiana. I know it was about the first of April when we crossed Red River, from the following circumstance. Spring had put on her mantle of green leaves and flowers, and never looked more beautiful. The bees were busy and so were the buffalo gnats. The fish were biting also. After the winter fast, the fresh fish of the Red River were a tempting change. I was invited one morning to breakfast, by Lieutenant Chestnut, and the inducement offered was fresh fish. I accepted, went to his quarters; was invited to take a seat. The Lieutenant introduced the subject of the weather. After that subject was satisfactorily settled, other topics were introduced to pass the time, in a courteous and agreeable manner for the guest. I wondered a little, as an invited one might, why breakfast was not forthcoming. I could not even catch the faintest odor of frying fish. At last when the resources of forced conversation failed, Chestnut said, "We breakfasted early this morning, intending to go fishing, as it is the first day of April. Haven't you been to breakfast?" Of course I had bitten and was caught, and I was not the only officer at headquarters, they seemed to be glad that I was going and hoped I would enjoy my breakfast. When I returned, I had to take their mock congratulations. Amongst West Pointers and regulars this would have been carrying the joke too far, but in our volunteer service, such instances were not uncommon. I am sure this freedom from unnecessary restraint, was not detrimental to discipline in our regiments, and made life less burdensome.
There lived in the suburbs of the city of Shreveport, a Kentucky family of means. The gentleman was very fond of chess and many an hour our officers passed with him in that friendly contest. Although a very strong Unionist, it did not seem to prevent him from enjoying our company, as he frequently invited us to his residence in a social way. He asked me once if I believed a man could ever get to dislike his children. He had several grown sons and every one of them was in the confederate army, while he was utterly opposed to the cause they were serving. I could not answer his question. He said he had to struggle against such a feeling. Although living in the confederacy, and in daily intercourse with the confederates, he was outspoken to the degree of cursing the rebellion; but he was considered an honorable man, and when his business called him to go within the union lines, our authorities would give him a pass and safe conduct through our lines, relying entirely on his honor. Such was the estimate held in the south of that principle. I believe Mr. Ashmore would have come back, like Regulus, to be executed, if it had been required of him.
Afterward, when the United States army occupied Shreveport, I saw, probably a brigade of negro troops encamped on three sides of his residence, within a stone's throw of his house. He being a high-strung Kentuckian, I wondered what he would think of that, after all his unionism. There were quite a number of unionists in the south, high minded men, who were trusted implicitly by the authorities.
After a time we moved camp farther southward, toward Mansfield, for it was understood Banks was to come up Red River to capture Shreveport. Our object seemed to be to hide our forces, or place them in such a position as to deceive Banks. To this end we marched about and countermarched, on the pretense of hunting a good location. There was no other apparent reason why we should march through the little villages, with as perfect order as if passing in review before the commander of the department.
Meantime the whole country had been surveyed and mapped out for defense; possibly we were marching about in order that the officers might become familiar with the theater of unexpected conflict. As it turned out, this preliminary work, while entirely proper, was, in the course of events, not needed. Of course officers outside of the generals and their staff, could only conjecture what developments were likely to take place, but there is about an army an undercurrent of information that leads sometimes, to pretty accurate conclusions. It was rumored that Banks was on his way up Red River to capture Shreveport and hold possession of the river. High officers had put on that serious appearance that portends serious military business. No longer the humdrum routine of camp life, instead, there were visible signs of preparation for an approaching conflict.
There were men in our army, as doubtless there are in all armies, who could, like Job's warhorse, scent the battle afar. The federal officers called them 'slinks', a very appropriate name. They began to show signs of uneasiness; Their chronic ailments got worse; they failed not to report at sick call; promptly they were present, with grewsome, appealing looks. Their prognostications of a coming engagement were as reliable as a rheumatic's forecast of the weather. And their premonitions were verified, for, sure enough, Banks was coming in full force.
He moved up parallel with Red River, under the shelter of his gunboats, as far as they could come, then took the ridge road, on the highlands 8 to 15 miles from the river. It is not the purpose of this narration to describe military engagements, only so far mainly, as concerns a surgeon's relations thereto, but the battle of Mansfield was so unexpected, and its results so important, that a brief sketch may not be out of place.
There was an open piece of ground 2 or 3 miles below Mansfield that had been a cotton plantation; it was from to of a mile wide, clear and level as a prairie. On the side of this clear space, which Banks was approaching, there was a wooded ridge, which rose to the height of 40 to 60 feet. On either side of this ridge, this open cleared field extended for 1 or 2 miles, facing this timbered ridge, at an open angle of about 65 or 70 degrees. The main road came through the middle of this ridge and descended into this open field, at the apex of the angle. Through the field, about 300 yards in front of this angle, a ditch had been dug, extending some distance to right and left, to drain the field. Such was the topography of the battle field of Mansfield. Certainly no finer position could have been selected in the whole state of Louisiana by Banks. Protected by woods, on an elevated position, with interior angle, and an open field before him, nothing seemed lacking for offensive or defensive battle.(28)
Upon this summit, at the angle, was massed Franklin's corps, with batteries and infantry lines so placed, as to sweep every yard, front and flank, of the field. Taylor commanding the Confederates, ordered the Texas and Louisiana cavalry to advance, for the purpose of uncovering Banks' front, by a reconnaissance in force. He first sent forward a part of his cavalry. This was met by Lee's federal cavalry, and repulsed. Then the remainder of confederate cavalry, then the Crescent regiment of infantry to support the cavalry. The Crescent went forward to the ditch, in front of Franklin's position. A heavy fire of infantry and artillery was directed on them and the confederate cavalry. Then Mouton's division of infantry was sent forward to enable the Crescent to withdraw, with orders to make no general attack, unless he saw the federal lines weakening. They moved forward, and when they got near the Crescent, some strange wild impulse took possession of them. The Crescent rose and rushed forward in the lead in the center. Amid the crash of more than 20 cannon and thousands of rifles, the division swept up the hill, routed Franklin's crack corps, captured 20 cannon and many prisoners. The confederates were outnumbered 3 to 1. A Texan division, coming up on the flank, after the rout began, gave the enemy no time to rally. Much of the train of Franklin's corps fell into our hands. But that corps did not retreat without the almost complete annihilation of the Louisiana division. The Crescent regiment had but lately been recruited with conscripts, a class not the most reliable, but no charge of Napoleon's old guard, nor Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, surpassed the irresistible onrush of this wild charge. There were scarcely enough field and line officers of Mouton's division left to officer a regiment, and they with the remnant left, were thrown together into one regiment.
I saw many of the poor wounded men and officers of the federal army, at the temporary hospital at Mansfield; many of them desperately wounded, with the added depressing effects of defeat and possible long captivity, to make recovery uncertain; and death was inevitable in many cases. They were, as far as I could see, sharing equally with our wounded in such aid as could be given; but the best help is often helpless in so many cases. Amongst our wounded, I remember seeing there so many that at that time, with the best aid that could be given, were dying or doomed to die. One captain of the 16th regiment of our brigade was shot, apparently, in the hip joint, a wound that was supposed to be certainly fatal. To my surprise, months after, he came walking into the camp, shortly to resume command of his company, and after peace was established, to have command of the guards of the penitentiary at Jefferson City. I had not time to more than see these men and have a few words with them. Many perished, some recovered to reach home, maybe with the loss of leg or arm.
I went on after our advancing army, where we met the halted army of Banks, now reinforced by a fresh corps (Smith's).(29) He had selected a good position, covering the village of Pleasant Hill in his center, a thick wood of small timber on his right, and College Hill on his left. Our principal attack was on his right, with our right not covering his whole front. It was expected that a division of Texas infantry, led by Texas cavalry, would attack on our right. The division, chiefly of Missourians, commanded by Gen. Parsons, formed in a wood about mile in front of the town. Their advance was directed over open ground, covered by lines of infantry and batteries.
Billy Wilson's Zouaves were lying in a ditch about 100 yards in front of the woods, in which our line of battle was formed. On the order to charge, Parsons' division rapidly rushed forward, without firing, and attacked this regiment of Zouaves with the bayonet, capturing the whole regiment, nearly, and sending them to the rear. They were greatly surprised and badly scared. They were toughs from the slums of New York. They had been hard on the non-combatant inhabitants wherever they had been, and now in the hands of 'Johnnie Rebs', as they called us, dreaded the consequences; so they rather pusillanimously begged for their lives. They called out: "I surrender: I surrender; I haven't shot; my gun is loaded, and my belt is full of cartridges." The reason some of them didn't shoot was because of their fright, and the want of time. One of them attacked one of our lieutenants with the bayonet. The lieutenant successfully defended himself and captured his enemy. One of our men, of the class which the federals called slinks, having always before dodged the fight, was placed in charge of two reliable soldiers and forced into the battle. Before he got near the Zouaves he fired his gun, and placing his ramrod in the barrel, bent it clear over so as to render it useless. Then he cried out "I am shot!" and ran back. Someone told him to halt. He said, "I can't; I was struck with a spent shell". He was not hurt at all. He made good his escape and we never saw him nor heard of him after that.
The charge went on until the enemy's lines broke. In the charge of our Missourians they killed or crippled all the horses of a battery, and there was only the captain left with his guns. He recklessly stayed with them firing at our men with his pistol. They called on him to surrender. They did not want to hurt as brave a man as he was, but he defied them. One of our men on whose hand I operated said: "I begged him to surrender; he raised his pistol to shoot me: I intended to shoot his hand to stop him, but before I could fire, his bullet struck the lock of my gun and a part of the bullet disabled my hand. I don't know whether the boys killed him or not; they might have done so to save their own lives." This wound was peculiar. The piece of lead was flattened out, entered the palm of his hand, and curled itself around a flexor tendon of the index finger, without serious injury to the hand.
The part allotted to certain brigades, to attack the left flank of the federal position failed, and after a few cavalry were driven off, they swung a strong force of infantry from their left on our unguarded flank, compelling our force to retire. Night stopped operations. The federals then gathered up their forces, and continued their backward march toward Alexandria, harassed on the way by our cavalry. In the morning, the federal wounded were placed in the Academy, or College buildings, and ours in small houses about the village. The number of federal wounded was greater than that of ours, and many of their wounds were serious. We made the best shift we could to take care of ours, and left the enemy's unfortunates in the better buildings. There was a large dwelling house belonging to Mrs. Childers which was used as Banks' headquarters. He had slept in it the night before the battle. A cannon ball came in, going through the headboard of his bed. The verandas, galleries they called them in the south, were covered with dead men, laid with their heads to the house, and closer than they would ordinarily lie, if they had lain down in their blankets to sleep. Inside in the parlor the floor was covered with the dead and dying, while every room was full of wounded, upstairs and down. It resembled more a slaughter house than the dwelling of a quiet, unoffending inhabitant. When I went up the stairway, at the head of the stairs I met a federal surgeon, a Dr. Armstrong, I believe. He instantly let me know he was a Mason. I said: "Doctor, what can I do for you?"
Said he: "Is my life worth anything here?"
"Doctor," I said, "Your life shall be as safe here as if you were in your own home." I went at once and got a couple of guards and had them placed at the house. He seemed to be afraid of the Texans. I then told him that as soon as we got organized, I would introduce him to our doctors and officers. Dr. Herndon and I were left in charge of the hospitals, with some slight supervision of the federals included. We first divided with them such provisions as we had, for their wounded, their surgeons, detailed nurses and cooks. There was quite a difference in the variety as well as quality, in what we were able to give them, and what they were used to. We soon made arrangements through the commanders of the respective armies, to have some 6 or 8 wagon loads sent to us by General Banks, of those splendid sanitary supplies which were provided for the federal wounded. Then we got share and share alike of those dainties. We freely gave and surely freely received, and I think our poor wounded fared better than our confederates had ever fared in former times.
The next day after meeting Dr. Armstrong, I introduced him to our doctors and such officers as were left there. He in time showed us the various places on the field where certain actions took place. Our intercourse with all the federal surgeons was as agreeable as if we were surgeons in the same army. They made some inquiries as to the strength and position of our forces. We told them we could not tell them, and our inquiries met with like results, until we respectively gave it up, and attended to our duties. We would go over to their hospital and help, at their request, in considering the propriety of operations, and they would come to see ours also. Occasionally we would engage in a game of whist, and thus we became well acquainted, and mutually helpful. Operations were of daily occurrence for a time, and burials not infrequent. Hospital gangrene broke out among the wounded, and that scourge of gunshot wounded carried off some of our good men. They would seem to be doing well, but suddenly would become delirious and excited and almost always they would die in a few days. It seemed impossible at that time to prevent infection, the country swarmed with flies, bred on dead animals, and the camp was reeking with infective poison carried everywhere by flies. There were some very bad cases amongst the wounded of both sides. At the federal hospital there was a man, whose abdomen a fragment of shell had cut in such a way that the bowels protruded. The wound was so great that the surgeons thought it useless to do anything for the poor man, as they expected him to die in a short time; but 4 or 5 days after the battle when I saw him, the surgeons simply kept his abdomen covered with a cloth. Of course he died not long after that. In modern warfare, with antiseptic surgery, that poor creature's life might have been saved.
Another poor fellow was lying on his head and heels, with a prop under his curved back, a condition in tetanus or lockjaw which we call oposthotonos. He had the frightful sardonic grin. Years after, in looking over the reports of the surgical history of the war, I discovered that that soldier recovered. Some of our soldiers were desperately wounded also, but I remember no such surgical curiosities as those mentioned. It was a sad duty to tell a wounded soldier that his only chance for life was an amputation of the thigh, when he knew that chance to be 10 to 1 against him, but it was that or certain death. In so many cases it was to him as a sentence of death. It brought up before him all that he had hoped for after the close of the war; home; family; perhaps wife and children. The statement, added to the shock of the operation, with utterly bad sanitary environments, added greatly to the dangers of the operation, but stolidly, though fearfully, they generally chose the one chance.
I think of one captain of the federal forces with amputation of thigh, delirious, planning great moves for the completion of the war. He was doomed. Another, confederate, a few days after amputation of thigh, suddenly sat up in bed, began to laugh, and talk wildly. I looked at his stump; hospital gangrene was setting him crazy. One soldier who had been shot in the neck, after a week, suddenly had a fearful hemorrhage from the wound. The shot had also injured the nerve of respiration. He was bleeding to death; his respiration was as fast as it was possible to breathe; he shortly died in delirious efforts to talk. More fortunate were a couple of Texas officers. One had a wound from a fragment of shell, fracturing his frontal bone. I was requested to treat him after he had one convulsion. I removed the fragment. He got along without other convulsions and went home, and I suppose he got well.
Captain Carter sent word to me that he believed if I would treat him, he would get well, and if not he would die. It was a strange choice that he made of me, but it appealed to me as a call from a fellow being, to rescue him from impending death. Although I was under no obligation to treat him, I went to see him. He was shot by a carbine, the ball entering his left breast just at the base of the heart. How it failed to kill him I could not understand, but I had the satisfaction of seeing the Captain well on the way to recovery.
One sees some strange things in warfare. I may digress, to tell of a few instances. In the pursuit of Banks' army from Mansfield, on the way, there was a small rivulet that the road crossed, just too broad to jump over. It seems in the advance guard fighting, a negro boy apparently 18 or 20 years old had been killed. His body had been thrown into the middle of the rivulet and used by thousands of men as a stepping stone. There was no time for sentiment; one stepping after another did it. Close by the side of the road a soldier was sitting by a tree in a pose so natural that many men turned aside to see if he was asleep. The poor fellow in his last moments had taken that position and so died. In the battle, a caisson had been broken down by a cannon ball, and left standing by the side of a dead pine tree, which was slowly burning. A couple of boys were standing on the caisson; it blew up. They were brought to our hospital with only a few abrasions. They said they were 'blown way up.' They were badly frightened, but strangely enough were not badly hurt. An examination of the caisson showed that it had been torn to fragments. Not so fortunate was a party of young people. In examining a shell that had been fired from a gunboat, they let it fall. It exploded, killing and wounding some 8 persons.
Dr. Herndon and I boarded and lodged at Mrs. Childers' residence. The accommodations were very good and we enjoyed the society of the household. She was a kindhearted, typical southern lady. It was a hospitable stopping place for the elite of the country, who might be passing on that highway. On one occasion, the Lieutenant Governor of the state of Louisiana, with several gentlemen, stopped there to dinner. The Governor was one of those Louisiana gentlemen who was more French than American, especially in bearing and politeness. I doubt if he ever so much as thought of asking a blessing at the table in his life. When we sat down to the table, the governor assumed such a devout attitude and manner, casting a look at Mrs. Childers, that she naturally thought he wished to return thanks, and accordingly, asked him to do so. The Governor was surprised but not at all embarrassed.
He said, "Well, Madam, I am not in the habit of doing so, but I cannot decline so polite a request, and if you insist, I shall be pleased to try to comply with your wish, as I suppose it is the custom at your table. Do you wish me to proceed?"
Very uncomfortably confused, she said: "If you please, Governor."
He turned to me and said: "Doctor, will you not do so?"
It had always been a dread of mine to be asked to say grace, mistaken, as I have been so many times for a devout, religious person, and asked to do so, but, feeling unequal to the task, I had to decline, to the no small embarrassment of myself and the hostess. I declined the Governor's polite request as did others at the table.
He said, "We thank God for giving us food to eat and what we need for our health. Perhaps we are not thankful enough for what we get. I hope our brave men may not want for food. I hope our armies may succeed in conquering the enemy." Without saying Amen, he looked at Mrs. Childers with an air of great satisfaction, and a Frenchman's smile to indicate that he had completed his duty. To us, it seemed an abrupt ending, as though the extemporaneous effort was a failure. He was not the least confused, while we were much amused, and the hostess greatly relieved. The Governor probably never thought of it again; if he did, only as an every day incident. It was all very Frenchy and laughable.
One of the federal surgeons, Dr. Sadler, was quite a musician. He asked me one day if I thought Mrs. Childers would permit him to play on her piano and sing. He said, it had been some time since he had been favored with the opportunity to gratify his desire to play and sing. I promised to ask her. I did so. She said she would be much pleased to have all the doctors come and spend an evening in her parlor, and to be favored with their music. Accordingly, an evening was appointed and I carried the invitation to the federal surgeons. They attended and passed a very enjoyable evening, and but for the difference in our uniforms, we might have been supposed to be in the same command.
At last, our wounded on both sides, had so far recovered as to be able to be sent to their commands, or furloughed indefinitely. We sent our invalids into the country, where the citizens took pleasure in entertaining them and nursing them to complete recovery. On the federal side, as the cartel had been set aside, and no exchanges were being made, their convalescents, consequently, had to be sent to prison.
Gen. Banks had captured our medical officers as he came up Red River, and had sent them back as prisoners of war, which made it our business to retaliate. When their surgeons heard that we were ordered to move, they became very anxious to escape the dreaded necessity of going to Tyler, Texas military prison. They asked me if I could not do something in the way of interceding for them at headquarters, to prevent their going. I promised I would do what I could. I stopped at Shreveport over night, and the next morning went to the headquarters offices of the Trans-Mississippi Department, and laid the case of the doctors before the proper officers. They asked many questions as to their conduct, what kind of men they were, &c.. I gave them full information, and then left. Sickened by the foul stuff they called coffee, and the equally unwholesome food at the hotel, I had a very trying trip to join our brigade.
I had the gratification of learning, a few weeks later, that the doctors(30) had been sent back to their commands instead of to prison. As I was about to part with the doctors, Dr. Sadler said to me, he would be glad to write to my family and let them know of me. I said, "If not contrary to your duty, Doctor, it would be a great pleasure to them and myself." After the close of the war I found that they had received his kind letter. The unfortunate surgeon was killed not long after, in a billiard hall, at Port Hudson, by some of his own soldiers, who were afterwards hanged for the murder.
On my way to Shreveport, I stopped one night, at a settlement of South Carolinians. As was the custom of planters on Red River, they placed their residences on the highlands, in the timber, near their plantation. This little community had their school house and church. These buildings were converted into hospitals, and the members of the community, too old for the service, with the women, waited on and cared for the sick and wounded in a most excellent and humane manner. This was a perfect example of the kindness and self sacrifice of the southern people. Their sons and brothers, far away, enduring the dangers and hardships of the war, they gave freely their sympathy and help to the sons and brothers of others; and it was so all through the south, according to their opportunities.
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Meanwhile our army had gone north to meet Steele again. It seemed to be the plan of the enemy to move from two directions, one up Red River,(31) commanded by Banks, the other from Little Rock, by Steele. Shreveport, it seemed, was their objective. By this combined movement, it was expected to overwhelm the smaller confederate forces, establish Shreveport as a base for future operations, with ample means of supplying their army by Red River, which, if the plan had succeeded, would have been under their full control. Their movements were to be so timed that they would arrive at their objective point simultaneously. Either force, they doubtless calculated, was sufficiently strong to defeat the confederate army, else they would not have adopted the faulty strategy of giving their opponents the interior lines, between the approaching forces.
The defeat of their Red River expedition, as already described, left our army free to meet Steele. They left some cavalry to follow Banks, and then moved rapidly northward. They defeated Steele's cavalry, captured and destroyed a large part of his train,(32) and then pressing on, the infantry overtook him at Camden,(33) and gave him a few parting rounds of artillery, as he crossed Ouchita River on his pontoon bridge. The cavalry had been sent above to cross the river and intercept his retreat, but by some fault, failed, and thereby allowed Steele to reach Saline River, closely pursued. While making a stubborn fight at the river, he got his army over without much loss. On our side, the loss was perhaps greater than his, as he was protected by timber. They were not pursued farther. He reached Little Rock, from whence he started. Our forces fell back, camping, temporarily, between Camden and Red River to await developments. Matters were becoming serious for the confederacy. Although the bloody battle of Chickamauga had been won, and Lee was still holding his own, it was felt by all of us that our cause was becoming desperate.(34) The blockade had shut us off from the hope of foreign supplies; the hope of foreign intervention, once relied on, was given up; our resources were almost exhausted; our conscriptions a disappointment, and in fact we began to feel that our efforts were to go for naught. In this state of despondency, which was visible in the countenances of our bravest, we fell back to Shreveport, where we could at least, find something to keep us from starving.(35)
About this time we heard of the assassination of President Lincoln, and I well remember it created a feeling of dread for the future. I have never heard any one express any word of approval of the assassination. As the details were given us later, I think nearly all sensible confederates saw, that so far from helping our cause, it could only be an injury, and as we had time to consider the fate of Lincoln, a sympathy was felt amongst us for him. In the long years that have passed since that terrible crime, all intelligent confederates will agree that Lincoln did his duty as 'God gave him to see it', and that he is now recognized as one of America's greatest men. All the greater as his career is thought of from the cabin to the White House. Who can help but admire and honor a man, in whose mind and heart there were the qualities, from which, unaided by birth, prestige, wealth or favoring environment, he alone, by force of his innate virility and will, could work out such a strength of mind and commanding force of character, as to meet the highest demands of statesmanship, and quietly control the men and measures concerned in the progress of the greatest events in American history. Surely a wonderful character!
Desertions began to be common and disintegration was felt to be near at hand. After all the years of hardship and dangers in battle, endured generally without much complaining, the men began to think of home, as they felt that the struggle was about over. What was in store for them in the future, was wrapped in uncertainty. Now that Lincoln was murdered, they thought their conquerors might be vengeful, and render their lives miserable. Some thought of going to foreign countries, as some really did, later. The irregular conflict in Missouri had left much bitterness; and for many wrongs that were done, the Missourians feared they would have to suffer. Thus, with much sadness and uneasiness, the time was passing, and the end drawing near. And now, at last, Lee had surrendered, and we knew the fighting was over. He, the incomparable soldier and gentleman, was a paroled prisoner of war. Our strongest and surest hope was gone. His glorious career was ended. Our cause was lost. There were many sorrowful thoughts of those who were sleeping in unmarked graves, and though these brave ones who had given their lives for the cause would not be forgotten, there was not a man who wore the grey, and marched under the Stars and Bars, living or dead, who would not have given his life to protect this ideal leader. His right to be ranked with the greatest military commanders was established in many campaigns. And if all his lieutenants had been as reliable, in all cases, as Jackson and Gordon, there would have been no occasion for him to claim, out of the goodness of his generous heart, the failure as his own. His plans were above criticism, and his courage to carry them out, without thought of himself, was sure. America has produced no stronger, purer, better model for emulation than Robert E. Lee. Every Confederate who survived the war has felt that the name of Lee made the Lost Cause illustrious. Happily, that name is now honored by those whom he fought as one that brightens American history.
We took an interest in the attempt to run the gunboat, Webb, out to Cuba. After Vicksburg and Port Hudson had fallen, she was run up Red River. She was a very swift craft and had done some gallant feats on the Mississippi River. Now she was loaded with cotton and only waited for a favorable opportunity to make the dash, and run the gauntlet. Her chance of escape was to run past forts and gunboats with a speed, in the hope that she would be mistaken for one of the enemy's craft and thus reach the gulf, where nothing afloat could catch her; but far down on the Mississippi River she was discovered and headed off, so, at last, she was run aground and captured.
This was the last forlorn attempt, of any kind, in the Trans-Mississippi Department. We knew our time to surrender was near at hand. There were no more drills; no more dress parades; only reveille, rations, roll-call and taps. Our surrender had been consummated, on terms like those given the eastern armies, and we only awaited the arrival of those authorized to complete the surrender, by taking our paroles, and receiving our arms and equipments. I saw one lieutenant sitting alone, crying pitifully. Our chaplain, R. Painter's, horse had strayed away or been stolen, and he in the same manner was overcome by the added loss. Some of us were employed in selecting such things as we could use, and in writing letters, that could now, for the first time in years, go through U.S. Mails. There was not much to select from; our clothes were almost all we had, and they had been turned and worn smooth on both sides. I had left, $2.50 in silver, and over $3,000 in pay vouchers on confederacy, then nothing. I invested my real money in a pistol, as being the most needful thing at that time. Soon the U.S. Army quietly took possession of Shreveport, established Department headquarters there, and sent to our camp proper officers to receive our surrender, and take possession of our arms.
Those officers were exceedingly considerate for our feelings, and tried to make the surrender appear as common-place as possible. The officer who took possession of my medicine chest, told me to take what I wanted, as they had no use for its contents; also instruments which I offered him. He said he would not take them and I must take them. Through his kindness, I retained some of the most useful of them. They were very useful to me after I engaged in civil practice. But the boys had to stack arms and surrender their rifles, which they had carried through the war. How defenseless they felt, and how at the mercy of their merciful captors! There was one thing which the old 10th Regiment saved. That was the old Battle Flag. They cut it up in small pieces, and in that way divided it amongst the soldiers of the 10th. How carefully my brother, David, kept his as long as he lived!(36) No doubt, with those things which are kept so reverently and sacredly in memory of the dead will be found amongst the effects of the departed of our old regiment, those little pieces of the flag, under which they bravely marched to battle. I'm sure the soldiers of the union will not grudge them, while loyal citizens as they were, that little unsurrendered relic. To the triumphant armies of the union it was nothing. To them it meant so much! So much!
As I was coming out of the city of Shreveport, I met Company A marching down the principal street, to take the boat for home; in proper form, with cadence step, through force of habit, I suppose, with the regularity of veterans. How different it was! Before, they marched proudly through the same street, to inspiring music, with arms in their hands; now with empty but willing hands, to take hold of the implements of civil life. As we met, they broke ranks and came around me, to bid me a silent goodby. It was a very affecting parting. I felt, in that expression of their esteem, an ample reward for all I might have done for them.
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It was all over! I stayed in the city a few days and met some interesting persons. At Mr. White's residence, two elegant young Southern ladies took hold of me, and without even saying, "By your leave, sir," cut off one of my silver stars. They were kind enough to leave me one. I have never regretted the loss. Perhaps it sometimes brought to their memory the forlorn doctor, who had at one time, felt rather proud to wear it. I remember meeting, at that very cultured home, a federal captain of cavalry, who was making a vain effort to court Mr. White's daughter, a very handsome young lady, with elegant accomplishments. In speaking of the increased efficiency of our respective soldiers, brought about by length of service, he remarked that their soldiers 'didn't care a god damn'. That was "swearing like the army in Flanders". The remark convinced me that a man of his style would meet with failure in that enterprise. The contrast was too great. General Parsons, Colonel Standish and some 2 or 3 others preferred to go to Mexico, rather than to return to Missouri.(37) They seemed to be very despondent, and preferred to expatriate themselves, rather than risk what would befall them at home. I took dinner with them the day before they left, and the next I heard of them, they had been murdered by Mexican bandits for their property. The U.S. Government was prompt to demand of Mexico, reparation. It resulted in the payment of the families of the General and Standish $60,000 or $80,000 a piece. The General was a good friend, and I felt very sorry that his mistake led him to such a cruel end.
At the invitation of some citizens some twenty miles south of Shreveport, I went to their settlement to practice medicine for awhile, until I could make some money to enable me to return to my family. I succeeded, in 2 or 3 months practice, with the sale of my horse and pistol, in gathering up about $500. A kind citizen insisted on outfitting me in a suit of civilian clothes, for which I was partly able to remunerate him in medical services. So with this much to go on, I felt able to seek my family, who, during the latter part of the war, were with kinfolks in Virginia.
When the war was over, and the negroes freed, they flocked into the towns by hundreds; into Shreveport by thousands. They quartered about in stables and such places as they could find convenient. It being summertime and watermelons and peaches plentiful, they lived somehow, as happy as human beings of their kind could. It was a continued carousal with them. As I came into the city to take passage homeward, I met my former colored servant, Ben. He was a neat, handy fellow, attended well to my needs, and was trusty on my behalf, but I had, on several occasions, to intercede for him, on account of some little pilfering outside. I told him to help himself to anything the federals did not care to take. The medicine chest was fairly well stocked with various and sundry medicines. Out of this, it seemed, he had laid in a supply for future use. I told him I was as bad off as he was, and to make his way the best he could. When I met him, I was surprised, by his clothes, to see such evidence of prosperity. He was fashionably dressed,- much better than I. I said, "What in the world are you doing to fit yourself out so well?" He grinned, and when I insisted, he told me he was practicing medicine among the negroes. Without knowing anything about medicine, I suppose he did but little more harm than some white doctors, who, with cheap diplomas and scanty brains, practice the healing art in a more pretentious way.
I took passage on a Red River cotton boat, bound for home. The bales of cotton, her cargo, were piled up all around the furnaces and boilers. I thought a stray spark might set the whole boat ablaze. We made a slow trip down the river. The water was so low that we had to drag over the bars with capstan, the line being tied to a tree or stump on the shore. I was glad to reach New Orleans where I changed to one of those grand lower river steamers for Cairo. It was like a palace, and the table fitted to feast a king; Such a contrast to what I had been used to for so long; the very limit of extremes. Nothing occurred to make the passage unpleasant. I made the acquaintance of some federal officers on their way home, and the relations which we had formerly sustained, seemed to leave no more bitterness than a dream. A sense of propriety prevented reference to the past. After an uneventful trip, I reached my family in old Virginia. While I was campaigning in the far west, they had much to tell of trials and tribulations, subject to being on the contesting ground between Mosby and those who sought to capture or destroy his command; but out of it all I found them in good health and spirits thanks to the kindness of their relatives.
While passing the winter in Loudoun County, I borrowed a horse and went up the Valley of Virginia, for 70 miles over my native part of the state. There was present, everywhere, the destructive effects of the war. From Winchester to Harrisonburg, I saw along the Valley turnpike but one barn and two mills, where there had been several of the latter, and many barns, and but one fence, a new one. Every orchard had been destroyed for fire wood, and even the many stone fences had been used for some military purpose. There was a detachment of troops stationed at Strasburg. As I passed through, some gentleman warned me that my horse was liable to be taken, as he had the C.S. brand on him. As I came back, I flanked the town, and as there were no fences, I could do so easily. I was obliged to be in sight of the town at one place, and I saw a negro stop sawing wood to take a look at me. I had not gone far down the pike, when a soldier came riding up. We fell into conversation; he inspected my borrowed horse. He said he was on his way to Winchester, as I said I was but had to stop on the way to feed my horse. I dodged off the pike and took a road back to Loudoun County. My borrowed horse had been ridden through the war by a confederate cavalry soldier. I returned him to his owner. It was my last experience in dodging U.S. soldiers. Notwithstanding all those good people had suffered, they were cheerful, and could enjoy the narration of many amusing incidents that occurred during the war. The most humiliating experience they had to speak of was, while their husbands or sons were off in Lee's army, they had to go to Sheridan, at Winchester, to draw rations to live on. They kept a few chickens in their garrets, and perhaps an old sow and cow hidden somewhere, and were amused at the many shifts and contrivances to save a remnant from which to make a start. There was no such thing as supinely yielding to adversity. With courage they began to repair their losses, and the Eastern merchants, from whom they got their supplies in former times, generously restocked them. Some years after, I revisited these places. There was not left the trace of war. The Valley was restored in all its thriftiness and beauty.
I began again the life of a physician in Missouri, with just enough means to outfit for business. The unfriendly feeling between those who wore the blue and the grey, soon passed away. Amongst the best friends I had were some who had served in the federal army. I may mention Col. Glover as one, whose friendship and patronage I was privileged to enjoy to the last of his life. I sat by his bedside and saw his brave, manly life come to a close, as brave and manly in his last moments as in his strenuous life. The time which I spent in the military line was not all in vain. The reputation which I had acquired in that service was an asset that gave me a good business, in the line of surgery and consultations, and with many hard journeys, through inclement weather, with the help of their devoted mother, we were able to give our children good educations, and see them fitted for the duties of respectable, and respected members of society.
In conclusion, as I near the end of life's journey, I have great pleasure in seeing America, the effects of the Civil War outlived, foremost amongst the nations in uplifting the human race; in bringing peace on earth and good will amongst men.
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This is the text of a letter from Dr. Christie's wife:
Summerville, Loudon Co., Va
August 17th, 1864
My dear husband(38),
I have written to you several times since I reached this land of blood and steel, but I suppose they never reached you. I did not know exactly how to direct to you. I arrived here safe on Christmas Eve and had very little trouble with the children on the cars. I met with friends from Mo. to Virginia and got along remarkably well considering my situation. My babe was born on the 22nd of February (the day Colonel Mosby whipped the Yankees at Drainsville). I call him Robert Earnest(39), how do you like the name, he is a very sweet child, has very fair skin and beautiful dark eyes and red hair. He is altogether like his Pa.
I would not have undertaken the trip had it not been for my poor mother's affliction, who had the third stroke of paralysis about two weeks after my arrival. She could talk when I came, and knew me and the children, and how she longed to see you and get better acquainted with you. She thought if you would only come you would do something for her, but patient sufferer she is now where the weary are at rest. She died the 15th of July, yes, this is Sunday, and four weeks ago today we followed her remains to Middleburg. She died nearly three years after her first attack, but never was herself exactly, it was a gradual failing of mind and body and deadening of the senses. She has not spoken for six months. I wish you could have been here to sympathize with me, for I have no mother now. We each have a parent now laid in the cold ground, and who can tell how soon one or the other of us may lay there. It is a sad thought indeed. My dear, I have been so uneasy about you since I came here and could not hear from you. We heard the other day through a federal surgeon, who was with you at Pleasant Hill I think. His letter was written at Baton Rouge. His name was Sadler. It is a great pleasure to hear from each other and I do hope this cruel war will soon be over so families can be reunited. I am afraid the children will forget you. Lizzie and Cash will not, but the others will not know anything about you except what is told them. Cash has got to be a very good boy and is considered the sprightliest one of them. He stays at his uncle Nat Skinner's most of the time. I do not know what I am to do for clothes for them. I collected very little money before I left home, but will do the best I can. The people here are as foolish as ever, however, about dress, but I will not complain, but will look forward to a brighter and happier day for us. I get very low spirited sometimes, to think we have no home - just living on other people ever since the war commenced. But when I think of the families who were wealthy before the war being turned out of doors, and their property all destroyed, I try to be satisfied. The Yankees are playing through this country continually, they are passing up the Leesburg Pike now in a heavy force to meet General Early in the valley, who has just returned from Md. He had been to Md. three times and comes back loaded with spoils. He spares no one, takes from Rebels as well as Yankies. Sue Chinn has come in from Mo. She had a time of it. She came to the Point of Rocks thinking the blockade was up, and stayed there several weeks. They would not let her cross the River. Then she went to Alexandria and stayed two months before she could get home. The citizens here have not lost their property like they have farther south. The yanks hold the border. One day it is the Rebels and next day the Yankies come dashing up the Pike and sometimes take every horse they can lay hands on. They have taken four from Pap. Pap has bought a farm about a mile and a half from Aldie a little off the Pike. I was at Middleburg a short time ago. They are all well. Old Miss Carrie is dead. She died with a cancer. Colonel Drake and also her grandson, you knew him. I received a letter from Emm the other day. It was written in April and either laid at the Point of Rocks until Colonel Mosby made a raid over to that place. He captured 500 letters from London that had been laying there. The wretches! What is it they have not the power of doing, and we must submit, but I can stand it when you answer this letter direct to Major Ben P. Noland, Richmond, and write a few lines to him, so he will know who it is from and he will forward it to Middleburg - either to pap or your uncle and I will get it. They were all well out home. Sue Alderson and Summers were Married. The old pain is eased I hope. My dear, I wish you could be here. I am having a very pleasant visit and wish you were here to enjoy it with me, because what is pleasure to me when you are far from me. I fear sometimes you suffer for the necessaries of life. Let me know all about your clothes and everything when you write. Mr. Hinson is waiting for this letter. He will take it to you if possible. If sent out by mail the Lord only knows if you would ever get it. The children are all anxious to see you. Do write soon, my dear, and tell me exactly to direct. I must close wishing the choicest of blessings of Heaven to rest on you in that land of strangers. Take good care of yourself and come as soon as you can to the old stomping ground, for I will remain here until you come after me. Goodbye. They all join in love to you.
From your affectionate wife,
Mittie E. Christie
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THE WELL KNOWN CITIZEN, SUCCESSFUL PHYSICIAN FOR MANY YEARS, AND
Fine Type of American Gentleman, Passed Away at 10:35, O'clock This Morning At His Home, 1407 Vermont
The Whole Community Will Mourn His Loss.
Dr. Robert James Christie passed away at 10:35 o'clock this morning at his late home, No. 1407 Vermont street, after an illness of some months, having been confined to his house for the past two months, the cause of death being directly due to gall stones.
While he suffered much during the past few weeks he bore it heroically, and was conscious up to a few hours before his life of service for others passed out.
Everything that relatives and kind friends could do was done for him, a brother John Christie, being in constant attendance at his bedside. The care given by his children to the beloved parent was unremitting. Although they realized that the end must soon come, still, they hoped against hope, and each day it seemed harder to face the inevitable. Last night was a sad vigil for the relatives, and early this morning it was seen that the end was very near, and when it came, the blow was none the less easy to bear because it was expected.
Dr. Christie was a fine type of the American gentleman. Affable, courteous, and with a pleasant word for every one, he made friends of all his acquaintances, and held them. He was a man of few words and strong affections, and was devoted to his family, who reverenced, esteemed and loved him. His death is a sad loss to his children, who have the warm sympathy of all who knew their good father.
His charities were many, but few knew of them, save those benefitted, and many a heart today is sending up a fervent prayer to his memory for blessings bestowed by him who has gone beyond.
Dr. Christie was broad-minded, studious and generous, and spent much of his time in reading, his library being a never-failing source of delight to him. Socially, he was a very companionable man, and young people esteemed it a privilege to visit with him, and older ones considered it a rare pleasure to have his friendship. In his practice, his honesty, sincerity, and deep sympathy made him a reputation that will endure, and bespeaks volumes for him as a physician. He had practiced for so many years, and in so many families, that his name was familiar in this community, and he always commanded the highest respect of all with whom he came in contact, professionally, and otherwise.
In his profession, Dr. Christie stood in the front rank, and his counsel and advice were eagerly sought by his fellow physicians, and always frankly, earnestly given. He had made of his practice something more than a vocation, and his great, warm heart always responded to the cry of distress and was quick to relieve it.
As a citizen, and as a man, he was an example of all that is truly noble, and he leaves as a heritage to his children the memory of a life which was fragrant with good deeds and lofty aspirations. His ideals were high, and he lived up to them, and in his death this city and community loses a man who will never be forgotten by any one who knew him. He had done much to elevate his profession; much to improve the condition of his fellow men, morally, physically and socially, and he had always been a useful member of society.
With all reverence and deep affection of his friends, in unison, will pray, "Peace to his ashes."
Dr. Christie was born at Winchester, Virginia, June 17, 1831. Deceased was the oldest of nine children, four of whom survive him, namely: John F. Christie, Mrs. Virginia Hall, and Mrs. Emma Burnett, all of Lewistown, Mo., and Mrs. Helen La Rue of Malaga, Cal. One brother David, died in 1905.
The deceased attended medical school at Winchester, Va., and later graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania.
He married Miss Sarah E. Nixon of Virginia in 1856 and immediately moved to Missouri, settling first at Lancaster, Schuyler county, from which point he enlisted in the civil war, being appointed brigade surgeon of the confederacy of Parsons' brigade in Price's army, in which capacity he served with credit until the end of the conflict.
At the close of the war he moved to La Grange, Lewis county, Mo., remaining there one year, and then moved to Monticello, Mo., where he continued to practice his profession, except for a interval of two years spent in Pueblo, Colo., until 1886, when he moved his family to Quincy, and here he had since enjoyed a very fine practice.
Deceased was dean of the former Quincy College of Medicine, some of the leading physicians of the city having been students under him.
He was for a time chief surgeon of Blessing hospital and for several years surgeon for the C., B. & Q., K line, and the H. & St. Joe roads.
He was a member of the Masonic order, being affiliated with Lambert lodge. He was also an active member of the Conversation club up to the time of his death. He was a man of very high purposes, possessing a keen appreciation of all that was best in literature, music and art. He also took much interest in civic reform.
In politics he was a democrat.
Dr. Christie had written several poems of merit and recently completed memories of his life that were interesting and delightful, and that will be highly prized by his children with whom he took great comfort, the family life being an ideal one. Since the death of his good wife, which occurred in 1905, Dr. Christie had lived more closely within his family circle, for that was a bereavement from which he never recovered.
Since being confined to his room he had taken much comfort in having his family about him, and even in his moments of darkest suffering, his first thoughts were of them. He knew that he was nearing the end, and he was prepared to meet it and when it came, he met it in the same quiet peaceful, beautiful spirit that had characterized his life, and gently he passed from among those dear to him.
The Surviving Children.
Seven children were born to Dr. Christie and wife, six of whom survive, namely: Two sons, Cassius W., of Lewistown, Mo.; Dr. R. J. Christie, Jr., of this city; and four daughters, Mrs. M. E. Cotton, Mrs. E. L. Graves, Mrs. Hervey A. Fry and Miss Laura Christie. One son, Harvey, died in infancy.
Funeral notice later.
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SUDDEN DEATH OF A MOST ESTIMABLE LADY
Attended the Lecture Last Night and Was Stricken with Paralysis on Her Return Home, Expiring at 3:45 This Morning.
Mrs. R. J. Christie, Sr., in company of her daughter, Miss Laura, attended the Burdette lecture at the theater last night. She had been in her usual health during the day and enjoyed the address made by the speaker of the evening.
On the way home she complained that her right foot appeared to be heavy for some unaccountable reason and that she had difficulty in raising it from the ground. Miss Christie requested her parent to lean upon her arm and they reached home without much inconvenience on the part of the elder lady.
In the house after removing her wraps Mrs. Christie sat chatting with her husband and daughter, discussing the lecture which she had enjoyed. She was somewhat ill at ease but appeared determined to keep the fact from her husband and daughter, thinking the feeling would pass off and not wishing to alarm them unnecessarily. At 11:15 she arose to leave the sitting room for her bed chamber but staggered and would have fallen had she not been caught by the members of the family. In the meantime Dr. Christie, Jr., who also had been at the lecture came in and Drs. Gill and Center were summoned by telephone. The right side of the body was helpless and while after being laid upon the bed the patient appeared to feel more at ease for an hour, but the paralytic death stroke had been received. She lapsed into unconsciousness and so remained until the vital spark fled at 3:35 in the morning. Mr. and Mrs. Hervey Fry were present when the death occurred.
Sarah Elizabeth Nixon was born September 17, 1833, at Rockport, Maryland. Her parents removed thence to Middleburg, Virginia, and it was at the latter place that the subject of this sketch grew through girlhood into young womanhood and where, in 1856, she became the bride of Dr. Robert J. Christie. Shortly after the wedding the husband and wife came west and settled at Lancaster, Schuyler county, Mo. There they remained for some years and then moved to Monticello in Lewis county. Sixteen years ago they came to Quincy and this city has since been the family residence.
Mrs. Christie is survived by four daughters and two sons--Mrs. Lizzie Cotton, Shelbina; Mrs. Emma Lee Graves, Mrs. Maud Fry, Miss Laura V. Christie, of Quincy; Dr. R. J. Christie, Jr., of Quincy and Cassius W. Christie, of Lewistown, Mo. There also survive a brother and a sister--Dr. Nixon of Canton, Mo., and Mrs. Laura Laws, of Baltimore. There are five grandchildren.
The news of the death of this estimable lady has been a severe blow to the friends of the family and many expressions of sorrow and condolence have poured in on them today at their home, 1407 Vermont street. Mrs. Christie was a lady of high ideals and character. While not identified with any church or society she lived a life of love and self-sacrifice. Her home was her sanctuary and in the raising of her family was her source of happiness and pleasure. She was pre-eminently a fire-side queen and ruled with a scepter of love her little realm. Her children loved her and she loved her children. The home circle was ever a happy one. The severance of the ties comes with awful suddenness and the whole family is plunged in a grief that is inconsolable. They have the sympathy of the community in their bereavement and in this thought there may be a ray of comfort to them in the dark hour of their affliction. They have lost a faithful wife and the most affectionate and the dearest of mothers. Her life work was ended; she had seen her family grow up and do well in the world and when the time came she was spared all suffering. Hers was a painless death and when it came it brought to a close a long, useful and honorable life.
The funeral notice will be published later.
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Two types of endnotes have been added to this edition. Those marked "(MF)" have been generated from genealogical information in my possession, gathered from family sources. Those marked "(C/R)" are from the Christie/Robbins edition, titled In the Western Theatre.
Mary Jane Christie; born April 12, 1833; married Nathaniel R. Hall, March 1, 1855; died July, 1855 in Lewis County, MO. (MF)
Reverberated may be the word intended. (C/R)
Little Mountain Cemetery, Monticello, Lewis County, Missouri. (MF)
Sarah Elizabeth Nixon; born September 17, 1833; married Dr. R. J. Christie, 1856 in Virginia; died January 10, 1902 in Quincy, IL. (MF)
Camp Jackson was established by Governor Claiborne Jackson to train State Militia to repel a federal invasion of Missouri. It was feared these 700 or so militiamen under command of General D. M. Frost would attack the federal arsenal. Then Captain Nathaniel Lyon and Francis Preston Blair, Jr. had raised troops to meet Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers, a call which Governor Jackson refused to honor. With 7,000 men loyal to the Federal cause, Lyon marched from the arsenal to Camp Jackson on Friday, May 10, 1861, and captured Frost's command without a shot. On the march back to the arsenal, insults from some of the rowdier citizens provoked several of the German soldiers among the pro-union forces to fire into the crowd. In the confusion, more shots were fired. When it was over some 30 civilians were killed or wounded. (C/R)
As Lyon led during the capture of Camp Jackson, this remark, a reflection of the author's high regard for Nathaniel Lyon, may attribute to Lyon the public proclamation by General Harney on Sunday, May 12, 1861, which attempted to restore peace after more riots and bloodshed between Union soldiers and civilians on Saturday. (C/R)
This describes the 20 minute skirmish known as the First Battle of Booneville, June 17th, 1861. (C/R)
Judge Thomas Shannon Richardson was assassinated while a prisoner in the court room at Memphis, Mo. in November of 1861. (MF)
Colonel Kelley would later be wounded in the hand while commanding infantry in General Parsons' division at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861. (Wilson's Creek, Holcombe and Adams, Springfield Public Library and Greene Co., History Society) (C/R)
Captain Hiram Bledsoe and his battery assisted General McCulloch in the rout of Union General Franz Sigel during the Battle of Wilson's Creek. (Wilson's Creek, Holcombe and Adams, Springfield Public Library and Greene Co., History Society) (C/R)
The action here described is known as the Battle of Carthage, also called the Battle of Dry Fork Creek, July 5, 1861. Governor Jackson commanded about 4,000 poorly armed State Guard troops, Colonel Sigel had in his command of 1,100. (C/R)
This refers to Price's invasion of Missouri, which began on August 28, 1864, which included the Battle of Pilot Knob, and ended with his defeat at the Battle of Westport, October 23, 1864. (C/R)
Raw recruits from northeast Missouri under Martin E. Greene were defeated at the Battle of Athens on August 5, 1861. Thereafter they began to move south and west to reach Sterling Price. (C/R)
This refers to the Battle of Shelbina, September 4, 1861, in which Colonel Williams' 3rd Iowa Infantry, Captain Lorings Mounted Lynn County Home Guard and the 2nd Kansas Infantry returning home after Wilson's Creek, were on the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad. The Union forces numbered about 850 men and no artillery. (C/R)
Captain Kneisley commanded the Black Battery which included and was named for the 9 pounder cannon called Black Bett, cast at Clever & Mitchell, Hannibal, Missouri. Black Bett is believed to have been present at Shelbina. (C/R)
This was Captain McClure of the 2nd Kansas whose foot was struck by a cannon ball. (C/R)
Lexington was surrendered on September 20, 1861. (C/R)
Cassius W. Christie. (MF)
Colonel Joseph Porter resided in Lewis Co., Missouri, had fought under Martin Greene in northeast Missouri during 1861, had served at Lexington and at Pea Ridge, March 7-8 1862. He and nine other Confederate officers were sent north of the Missouri River to raise troops under authority of the Confederate Partisan Range Act, signed by Jefferson Davis on April 21, 1862. Union authorities in Missouri refused to consider Porter's Rangers or 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry as a military unit entitled to customary treatment as prisoners of war when captured. Instead, they were officially making "illegal warfare" and, when caught, were to be "shot on the spot." Despite this his enemies christened him "the Fox", high praise under the circumstances. (C/R)
Porter's men had fought a desperate battle against Oden Guitar and a superior Union force at Moore's Mill near Fulton, Missouri on July 28, 1862. Guitar reported that Porter's command had been totally destroyed, a small exaggeration. "Sugar Camp" is in Marion County west of Palmyra. It is possible that Doctor Christie was in Porter's camp in response to Union General Order No. 19, dated July 22nd, which purported to draft "every able-bodied man" into the Union Army. (C/R)
The Battle of Kirksville was fought on August 5, 1862. The Union forces were commanded by General McNeil. (C/R). References and links to other sources of information about the Battle of Kirksville can be found at the Adair County Missouri website.
The Palmyra Massacre took place on October 18, 1862, as a reprisal for the disappearance of Andrew Allsman, a Union informant, last seen in the company of Porter's men during their Palmyra raid on September 13, 1862. (C/R)
The Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, occurred on Friday and Saturday, October 3-4, 1862. It was also the first real battle for Daniel Robbins, 7th Illinois Cavalry. (C/R)
The Battle of Helena, Arkansas, July 4, 1863, was a belated attempt to save Vicksburg which surrendered the same day. (C/R)
The Union advance on Little Rock began on August 1, 1863. (C/R)
A skirmish at Bayou Meto occurred on August 26, 1863. Intermittent skirmishing continued along Bayou Meto through August 30. (C/R)
Little Rock fell to Union Troops on September 10, 1863. (C/R)
Fought on April 8, 1864, the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, also called Sabine Crossroads, was the result of General Taylor's decision to stop the Union advance upon Shreveport under General Banks. Banks had moved too far inland to receive support from the gunboats. His 12,000 men were attacked, outflanked and driven back by the Confederates. Union losses were 113 killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 missing. Losses in the 8,000 man Confederate force are estimated at 1,000. (CWDD, p. 482) (C/R)
The Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, was fought on April 9, 1864. Banks and Smith had 12,000 engaged against Taylor who, this time, had about 12,500. Banks held the field at the end of the battle but withdrew to Grand Ecore and the protection of the Red River gunboats on April 10. Union losses were 150 killed, 844 wounded and 375 missing. The Confederate losses are estimated at 1,626 men. (CWDD, p. 482-3) (C/R)
This refers to the captured Union doctors. (C/R)
The Red River Campaign began March 10, 1864, and ended April 21, 1864, after much labor and little success. (C/R)
April 18, 1864, Price's men under command of John S. Marmaduke attacked the federals at Poison Spring, Arkansas and captured 198 wagons in heavy fighting. (C/R)
As federals under Steele retreated from Camden, Arkansas, there was a skirmish on the Ouchita River. Steele had been prevented from linking up with General Banks' Red River Expedition. (C/R)
The action described up to this point concerns 1864. Immediately after this, Doctor Christie describes events of 1865. Because the Battle of Chickamauga was fought on September 16, 1863, we must presume the reference to Chickamauga is in error. In the winter of 1864, Lee would have been "holding his own" at Petersburg, Virginia. (C/R)
Little activity of military significance occurred in the Trans-Mississippi Department in the closing months of 1864. I trust the author is here summarizing that period of time through April, 1865. (C/R)
David William Christie born February 9, 1837, Winchester, VA.; married Mollie F. Glenn in 1883 at Lewistown, MO; died 1905, Lewistown, MO. The locket in which that tiny piece of Confederate Battle flag is kept, has been handed down as a family heirloom. (MF)
Among those who went to Mexico were General Jo Shelby of Missouri and a contingent of his cavalry. (C/R)
This is the only known surviving Civil War Correspondence concerning Doctor Robert Christie. (C/R)
His name must have been changed later to Robert James Christie, Jr.; Born February 22, 1864, Loudon Co., VA; Married Leila Turner, October 26, 1903; Died September 8, 1917, Quincy, IL. (MF)