HAVING placed Willie Huger in comfortable quarters in Chattanooga and watched over him as long as I was able to, I returned to the army. At Shelbyville, I found General Polk's headquarters occupying the grounds of William Gosling, Esquire. The Gosling family were old friends of mine and insisted upon my making their house my home. General Polk had his office in the house. Mrs. Gosling was an ideal housekeeper and made me feel in every respect at home.
We remained nearly six months in Shelbyville, most of the army being camped about Tullahoma. Soon after the Battle of Murfreesboro, General Bragg was removed from the command of the Army of the Tennessee and General Johnston was sent to Shelbyville.
On the 7th of February, 1863, we had a grand review by General Johnston, who rode my horse - to me the most interesting item of the review. For I had seen so much of marching and countermarching that I was tired of it all - thoroughly disgusted indeed. It was a brilliant pageant, nevertheless. The troops looked and marched well, and General Johnston expressed the greatest satisfaction with what he witnessed. He said he had never seen men he would rather trust.
I found General Johnston a charming man. I was constantly with him at General Polk's headquarters and enjoyed his visit to the army very much. He was of perfectly simple manners, of easy and graceful carriage and a good conversationalist. He had used his utmost endeavor to keep General Bragg in command of the Army of the Tennessee; though when he was ordered, in May, to take command of the forces of Mississippi, General Bragg remarked to me, "Doctor, he was kept here too long to watch me!" Afterwards in command of the Army of the Tennessee, no man enjoyed a greater popularity than he did. Soldiers and citizens alike recognized that General Johnston possessed a solid judgment, invincible firmness, imperturbable self-reliance and a perseverance which no difficulties could subdue.
It was my privilege to be frequently with the General after the war and more and more he entered into the religious life, illustrating in his daily walk and conversation the highest type of the Christian gentleman. He was one of the pall-bearers at the funeral of General Sherman at a time when his health was far from strong. He caught cold and died of heart failure in March, 1891.
The weather was at times very inclement while we were in Shelbyville and I suffered much illness. I kept at my work as well as I could, however, and often I preached before distinguished congregations; as, for example, when Generals Johnston, Polk, Cheatham and nearly all the general officers and staffs were present. The congregations were usually large.
I recall reading with a great deal of zest, one day when the weather was very inclement and I was by illness kept in the house, a publication entitled "Robinson Crusoe." Perhaps my readers may have heard of such a book. And one night in February, General Polk and I remained up until two o'clock, and the Bishop-General gave me a detailed account of the manner in which his mind was turned to serious things while he was at West Point - practically the same story that may be found in Dr. William M. Polk's recently published life of his father.
On another occasion the General and I were riding out together and he mentioned the following odd incident to me: His eldest son when at college in the North purchased a gold-headed walking-stick as a present to the Bishop. Wishing his name and seal engraved upon it, the son took it to an engraver in New York, giving him a picture of the Bishop's seal as published in a Church Almanac. The seal was a simple shield having for its device a cross in the center, with a crosier and key laid across it. By some hocus pocus the artist engraved a crosier and a sword instead of the key. The Bishop had the cane still when he told me this, and I think it was his intention to adopt that device as his seal thenceforth. But, of course, as we all know, the Bishop's death before the close of the war prevented his adopting a seal for his future work in the Episcopate.
It must not be supposed, however, that my time was idly spent in Shelbyville or in reading such books as "Robinson Crusoe" and listening to the charming conversation of General Polk and others. On the 2nd of March, at the request of my fellow-chaplains, General Bragg issued an order to the effect that I was assigned to duty at the general hospitals of Polk's corps, and was to proceed to a central point and there establish my office. With the approval of Medical Officers, I was to visit the different hospitals, rendering such services and affording such relief and consolation to the sick and wounded as a minister only could give.
On my copy of this order was endorsed "Transportation furnished in kind from Wartrace to Atlanta, Mch. 3, '63." So I went off and was gone several weeks, visiting my family in Rome, Georgia, before my return. I made also a trip to Columbia, Tennessee, on business relating to my new appointment - a distance of forty miles from Shelbyville, over roads none of the best at that time.
While I was in Rome I received a very characteristic letter from my friend, Colonel Yeatman, on Polk's staff, which gave me an amusing account of the services held in Shelbyville on the day appointed by the President of the Confederate States to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer. The chaplain of an Alabama regiment preached a very good sermon, the letter says, and then "your brother - - wound up with a prayer - eminently a war prayer - in which he prayed that their (the Yankees') moral sensibilities might be awakened by the 'roar of our cannon and the gleam of our bayonets and that the stars and bars might soon wave in triumph through these beleaguered states!' and then after prescribing a course which he desired might be followed by the Lord, he quit." It is such a good example of the manner in which some persons attempt to preach to the people while they pray to God, that it is quite worth quoting here.
The visit of Bishop Elliott, of Georgia, to Shelbyville was a great event. He arrived on the 23rd of May and was most affectionately welcomed by his friend General Polk, and remained with us at Mr. Gosling's house two weeks. Services were held every day and the Bishop preached. Everywhere he was received most enthusiastically. The Presbyterian Church in Shelbyville, was by far the largest church building in the town, and as it was without a pastor at the time, I had been invited to occupy it and had accepted the very kind invitation. We accordingly held services there on Sunday, the 24th of May. In the morning I said the service and the Bishop celebrated the Holy Communion and preached. In the afternoon the Bishop preached one of his most eloquent sermons, and I presented a class of ten persons for confirmation. It included Colonel Yeatman; Colonel Porter (of the Sixth Tennessee); Major Hoxton, Chief of Artillery on Hardee's staff; Lieutenant Smith, on General Cheatham's staff; Surgeon Green, (Fourth Tennessee); four privates of my own regiment; one private of the Fifty-first Alabama Cavalry; and a lady.
It was a very novel sight to see a large Church crowded in every part with officers and soldiers. Scarcely a dozen of the gentler sex were to be seen. The attention of this large body of soldiers was earnest and like that of men who were thoughtful about their souls.
Being anxious for the Bishop to officiate for my regiment, I made an appointment with him for the following day, to preach to the brigade under General George Maney, at their camp. The service was held at the headquarters of Colonel Porter of the Sixth Regiment. The attendance was very large and the Bishop said he had never had a more orderly or attentive congregation in a church. I conducted the service and the Bishop preached.
On Tuesday I was very unwell but felt it my duty to drive six miles to the front and visit, with the Bishop, the Brigade of General Manigault, of South Carolina. He was on outpost duty and was only a few miles from the pickets of General Rosecrans' army. The service was at five o'clock. The whole brigade was in attendance, having been marched to the grove arranged for the service, under arms. I assisted in the service and undertook to baptize a captain of the Twenty-eighth Alabama, but was taken ill, and being unable to proceed, the Bishop took my place.
It was a very solemn service indeed. The Captain knelt in the presence of his brother soldiers and enlisted under the banner of Christ Crucified. After which the Bishop preached to the assembled officers and soldiers seated on the ground in concentric circles. It was an admirable extempore discourse which fell with great effect upon the hearts of all who heard it.
On returning to Shelbyville, I betook myself to bed, and using proper remedies, I had a comfortable night. The following day, I fasted and lounged about headquarters. Mr. Vallandigham, who had been sent to us by the Federal authorities because of what were regarded as disloyal utterances made in political speeches in Ohio, dined with us, and my great desire to see him gave me strength to endure a long sitting at table, though I ate nothing.
Mr. Vallandigham was altogether a different man from what I had expected. He was about my own age and height, had remarkably fine features, a frank, open countenance, beautiful teeth and a color indicating very high health. He wore no side-whiskers nor moustache but a beard slightly tinged with gray, on his chin. In manner he was extremely easy and polite; in conversation very fluent and entertaining. He was greatly pleased with the kind reception he had met from the officers of the army and the citizens of Shelbyville, but was very desirous of avoiding all public demonstration.
On Thursday morning, feeling much better, I accompanied Bishop Elliott to Wartrace, the headquarters of General Hardee. General Polk and Colonel Richmond accompanied us. Later Colonel Yeatman brought Mr. Vallandigham over in General Polk's ambulance and we had a "goodlie companie." At eleven o'clock we held a service in the Presbyterian Church, the use of which was kindly tendered me. There was a large congregation, consisting of officers, soldiers and ladies. The Bishop read part of the morning service and I preached an extempore sermon. I had not expected to say anything, but the Bishop having declined to preach, I was determined not to disappoint the congregation altogether. And I had great reason to be thankful that I did preach, for it gave me the opportunity to have a long and very delightful conversation with General Hardee about confirmation. In the afternoon, services were to have been held for the brigades of General Wood and General Lucius Polk, but rain coming on, and the services having been arranged for the open air, it was thought best to postpone them to a future occasion.
The train that evening brought a very agreeable addition to our party in the person of Lieutenant-Colonel Freemantle of the Coldstream Guard of the British Army. The Guard was the oldest regiment in the British service. Colonel Freemantle was only about eight and twenty, and was on furlough, - just taking a hasty tour through the Confederacy to look at our army and become acquainted with our officers. He was very intelligent and very companionable. His grandfather and his father were adjutants of the Coldstream Guard, and he had held the same office. His family was an ancient and honorable one, and he seemed worthy to wear his ancestral honors. He accompanied General Polk and myself to Shelbyville the next day, and was for a while the General's guest. He had left England three months before and had come into the Confederacy by way of Texas.
The following Sunday I held services again in the Presbyterian Church at Shelbyville, preached to a crowded congregation, and presented another class to the Bishop for confirmation. In the afternoon we drove to Wartrace where I said Evening Prayer at the headquarters of General Wood, and the Bishop preached to an immense concourse. Between four and five thousand persons were present and the services were most impressive and solemn.
On Monday morning, (June 1st), we attended a review of General Liddell's brigade. After the review, General Hardee had the brigade formed in a hollow square and the Bishop addressed it briefly upon the religious aspects of the struggle in which we were engaged.
A memorable incident of Bishop Elliott's visit to our army was General Bragg's baptism and confirmation. As soon as I found that the Bishop was able to give us a visit, I made very earnest appeals to the officers and soldiers of our army to confess Christ before men. But there was one man in the army whom I felt I could never get at. He was the Commander-in-chief, General Braxton Bragg. He had the reputation of being so stern and so sharp in his sarcasm, that many men were afraid to go near him. Yet I had often thought of him in connection with my work. He never came to the Holy Communion, and I never heard of his being a member of any religious denomination.
Immediately after I received notice of Bishop Elliott's proposed visit, I determined to have a talk with General Bragg. It was late one afternoon when I started for his headquarters. I found two tents and a sentry at the outer one, and when I asked for General Bragg the sentry said: "You cannot see him. He is very busy, and has given positive orders not to be disturbed, except for a matter of life and death."
That cooled my enthusiasm and I returned to my own quarters; but all the night long I blamed myself for my timidity.
The next day I started out again, found the same sentry and received the same reply. This time, however, I was resolved to see the General, no matter what happened, so I said:
"It is a matter of life and death."
The sentry withdrew and in a few minutes returned and said: "You can see the General, but I advise you to be brief. He is not in a good humour."
This chilled me, but I went in. I found the General dictating to two secretaries. He met me with: "Well, Dr. Quintard, what can I do for you? I am quite busy, as you see."
I stammered out that I wanted to see him alone. He replied that it was impossible, but I persisted. Finally he dismissed the secretaries, saying to me rather sternly: "Your business must be of grave importance, sir."
I was very much frightened, but I asked the General to be seated, and then, fixing my eyes upon a knot-hole in the pine board floor of the tent, talked about our Blessed Lord, and about the responsibilities of a man in the General's position. When I looked up after a while I saw tears in the General's eyes and took courage to ask him to be confirmed. At last he came to me, took both my hands in his and said: "I have been waiting for twenty years to have some one say this to me, and I thank you from my heart. Certainly, I shall be confirmed if you will give me the necessary instruction."
I had frequent interviews with him subsequently on the subject and he was baptized and confirmed. The latter service took place in Shelbyville, on the afternoon of our return from Wartrace. Wishing to make the usual record, I asked the General to give me the names of his parents and the date of his birth. In reply he sent me the following note:
My dear Doctor: I was born in the town of Warrenton, Warren County, North Carolina, on the 21st of June, 1817, son of Thomas Bragg and Margaret Crossland, his wife. Though too late in seeking, [but not,] I hope, in obtaining the pardon offered to all who penitently confess, I trust time will yet be allowed me to prove the sincerity with which I have at last undertaken the task. For the kindness and consideration of yourself and the good and venerable Bishop, for whom my admiration has ever been very great, I shall never cease to be grateful. My mind has never been so much at ease, and I feel renewed strength for the task before me.
Faithfully yours, BRAXTON BRAGG.
Toward the end of our stay in Shelbyville, it was my privilege to assist in getting two ladies through the enemy's lines. The Rev. Mr. Clark, rector of St. Paul's Church, Augusta, Georgia, had been appointed by the Bishop of Georgia, a Missionary to the Army, - that is, a sort of Chaplain under diocesan control and for whose support the Confederate Government was in no way responsible. The plan was intended to continue the work which the Bishop had begun by his visit to our army. Mr. Clark desired to send his mother and sister to Nashville, and communicating with me in advance, I made all necessary arrangements for their transit through the lines before they arrived in our camp at Shelbyville. I obtained a pass from General Bragg and his permission for Mr. Edmund Cooper, of Shelbyville, to write such letters to Federal officers as he saw fit. Mr. Cooper was in a position to be of great service to us, for although a Union man and afterwards private secretary to President Johnson and Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury, his brothers were in the Confederate Army. He accordingly gave us letters to General Rosecrans and Governor Andrew Johnson. General Wheeler wrote to Colonel Webb, in command of our outposts, requesting him to do all in his power for the welfare of the party.
In the morning the two ladies, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Clark, my old class-mate Dr. Frank Stanford, then General Wheeler's Medical Director, and myself, left Shelbyville in a fine four-horse ambulance. On our way "to the front," nine miles out, we reached General Martin's headquarters, where our passports were examined and approved. Three miles further on, we reached Colonel Webb, who gave us a note to Lieutenant Spence of the outer picket, still three miles further in advance. Lieutenant Spence conducted us to a house where we were kindly received and made to feel quite at home. He sent one of his scouts forward to the residence of Colonel Lytle, two miles further on in the "neutral ground," to inform him of our arrival and to take letters to him from Mr. Cooper and myself asking his assistance in conveying the ladies through the enemy's lines.
About two o'clock Colonel and Mrs. Lytle arrived in their carriage. The latter kindly offered to accompany the ladies through the Federal lines to the house of a friend where they could remain until they could communicate with General Rosecrans. At this point we made our adieus and on returning to camp stopped for dinner at Colonel, (afterward General) Strahl's headquarters. The day was a pleasant one and the whole party was greatly pleased with the trip. The Rev. Mr. Clark remained with me over the following Sunday and held services for one of our regiments.