The purpose of this volume is to follow the life of a Confederate private as I lived it and saw it lived by others in the great struggle of 1861-65. The causes leading to the Civil War are history, and need not be enumerated here, except to say that our New England cousins first engaged in the African slave trade: but finding their labor not profitable in that section, sold their slaves to the Southern people. and a few years afterwards looked upon the institution as horrible and the Southern people as barbarians. Their continued onslaught against it caused the separation of the Methodist Church, and we of the Southern branch have been known as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Many of the older people of that date predicted that the agitation of the question would lead to the secession of the Southern States, which they thought would be done peaceably. In their fight against slavery in the South the abolitionists vilified and abused the Southern people, their school primers were illustrated with pictures of Southern farmers with whip in hand chastising brutally the poor blacks. The book written by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe and the drama therefrom, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," were a libel upon the Southern people : yet they served their purpose in inflaming the minds of the people North and prejudicing the South against the North. Mrs. Stowe may have visited a Southern plantation in which, the owner being absent, the overseer may have treated some of the slaves in a cruel manner: but this would have been an isolated case, and not representing the Southern people as a class. Mrs. Stowe could have said she had visited the Southern plantations and was surprised to see such a degree of harmony as existed between master and servant, maid and mistress, who were living as one great family in peace and harmony; that the master and servant had grown up boys together, that the young servant had attended his young master to school, and that they had played together the games common to young people of that day; and that the maid had attended the Mistress from girlhood to womanhood, and there existed a mutual confidence between them; and there was the old black mammy who had nurtured the young master and mistress from her breasts, nursed them in her arms, and sang them to sleep many a night with her plaintive and sweet lullaby. Mrs. Stowe could have gone to black mammy's and Uncle Tom's cabin and said she was surprised with what neatness it was kept, and that the table was supplied from the products of the farm and old master's larder, and that the black folks dressed about as well as the whites, and that on Sunday Uncle Tom put on broadcloth and plug hat and was better dressed than old master. After supper Mrs. Stowe could have seen Uncle Tom take down his banjo and play "Billy in the Low Grounds" and "Arkansas Traveler," while the young pickaninnies danced around him. Mrs. Stowe could have gone up to the mistress's room of the old plantation, and there have seen two old-fashioned wooden cradles, one on each side of the bed, the one containing the white the other the black baby; not that the blacks did not have time to attend to their offspring, but they would neglect them.
I will say here that my black mammy did not have the affection for her children that she displayed toward me. Next to my own mother, black mammy was as gentle to me; but with her own children I have seen her manifest an ungovernable temper, and twice in my boyhood I have seen my father take her children from her and say: "That child has been whipped enough!"
Mrs. Stowe could have visited our jails and penitentiaries and wondered why so few prisoners in black; she could have been told that the blacks were imprisoned for murder and arson only, that for petty crimes the master was responsible and stood between the law and the slave, hence they were not allowed to prowl after night without a pass from the master, or the patrol would get them; hence the slaves kept regular hours, which was beneficial to them.
Mrs. Stowe could have said that in some Southern States she found the whipping post after being tied to which and their clothing stripped to the waist the whites and blacks were given nine and thirty lashes for petty crimes. Of course this was severe punishment to both whites and blacks, but in those days it was not considered more cruel than prison walls.
Mrs. Stowe could next have visited the asylums for the insane, and reported them full of whites, but she was struck with the absence of the blacks. The superintendent could have said to her: "Why should we have any slaves here? They have nothing to worry them, they are not troubled about finance or the business affairs of the world; old master supplies their every want, looks after all their families, clothes and feeds them, and furnishes his own physician in case of illness."
Surely Mrs. Stowe could have said: "In all my travels I have never seen a happier or a better satisfied race with their lot - no thought of tomorrow, what they shall eat, drink, or wherewithal be clothed. Why should this condition of affairs be changed?"
Let us see. In 1860 I had two homes, both occupied by my negroes, one in what was then Edgefield, opposite Nashville, and the other near Lynchburg, Va. All my family except the blacks had crossed over the river, and I decided to move the Lynchburg family to Edgefield, Tenn., arriving during the heated campaign in 1860 which elected Mr. Lincoln President. Whether his election was a casus belli, I do not know, but I do know that the abolitionists of the North had so outraged the feelings of the Southern people that we felt we did not want any further affiliation with them. It is true that many of our old people who had been reared under the shadow of the Hermitage counseled against secession, and hoped that some compromise would be effected and the Union preserved; but the secession of South Carolina and the firing on Fort Sumter banished all their hopes, and war was inevitable, especially after President Lincoln called for 75,000 and then 300,000 troops to coerce the Southern States, as under our idea of State rights at that time each State should have been allowed to depart in peace, but such was not the case. The old Volunteer State was expected to do her duty, and the governor's call met a hearty response, and the enlisting began in April, 1861. The young ladies were as enthusiastic as the young men; and if they found a fellow lukewarm, he was threatened with a petticoat and was not allowed to hang up his hat in their father's hall.
I thought Virginia was to be the theater of war for probably six or eight weeks. We would have a battle in which one Southern man would whip five Yankees with cornstalks, England would intervene, peace would be declared, and we should return home finding all our servants smiling at our homecoming. Vain thought! Four years and three months I was absent, and found no home on my return. The slaves were all free, but morally and financially in much worse state than when I left them. O if we could have had a Roosevelt across the water; but all the nations stood aloof and said, "Sick 'em, and may the heaviest guns and artillery win!" There was too much revenue for some people in war to want it stopped.
I thought the first regiment enrolled would reach the seat of war early; and as the Rock City Guards, A, B, and C were organized before the war, I enlisted in Company B, in which there were one hundred and four members, commanded by Capt. James B. Craighead. We drilled in Edgefield and on the Square from April 15 to May 10, 1861, when we were mustered into the regiment, containing nearly one thousand men. Our line extended across the Square. We elected as Colonel George Maney. We were sent for a few days to Camp Harris (named for Governor Isham G. Harris), on Elk River, near Estill Springs. While many of the young men of the South were adepts in the use of arms, we were novices as to cooking and washing. We knew that water and flour mixed made batter, and we knew that meat when fried made gravy; so with this much of the art acquired, we had fried dough, or what the boys called flapjacks.. As to the washing - well, let that pass.
Instead of leaving Camp Harris for Virginia, we were returned to Camp Cheatham, where we were put through camp life and two daily drills. While here the young ladies from the Nashville Academy of Dr. Elliott presented us with a regimental flag by Miss Foster. Many cases of and deaths from measles took place at the camp, and the doleful dirge of the dead march often touched our hearts. We remained at Camp Cheatham nearly six weeks, all chafing under the delay and fearing the war would be over before we reached Virginia. We made one trip as a regiment to Goodlettsville June 22 to vote Tennessee out of the Union. Soon thereafter we folded our tents and took the train for Nashville, where we stopped a few hours and bivouacked on the lawn in front of the Nashville Academy, where some three hundred young ladies of the city gave us a luncheon and assembled to say good-by.
I will say right. here that nothing shall be written by me that will encourage young men to go to war. I would rather discourage, because nothing in it tends to elevate the young. Separate men from home influences and from the refining influences of female society, and they degenerate very rapidly. I don't suppose ten per cent of the young men who go to war maintain their integrity. This is my opinion after careful study. I will say further that we left Nashville with as good a lot of boys as ever went to the front. After luncheon we fell in and marched to the N. and C. depot to the tune of The Girl I Left Behind Me. I was too young to be leaving a girl behind me: so I marched out with light step and joyous heart, not dreaming of the shock of battle, the roar of cannon, the hissing of bullets, and the groans of the wounded and dying. I looked to the right as we were passing the girls, and saw tears gathering in many eyes, for from the intuition of womanhood they knew war meant death and destruction, and that many of the boys going to the front would fill soldiers' graves; and such was the case, for Company B lost seventy-one; only thirty-two reached home alive. It was only a short march to the N. and C. depot; in those days the N. and C. was spelled with small letters; now it is Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway. In those days we had small engines, after the pattern of the General, with wood-burner furnace and big smokestack. We had ten box cars, 16,000 pounds capacity, and our speed was some fifteen miles an hour; now we have engines, as 251, 252 of nearly ninety tons, and developing a speed of sixty miles an hour with ten cars, including the coaches and Pullman sleepers,
In those days the N. and C. Railway track was on stringers instead of cross ties. The rails were laid on these stringers, and were flat like bar iron, and were nailed to the stringers, as they were too thin to use spikes. Sometimes the nails would draw out, and the end of a rail fly up, tearing up coaches. In those days the box cars were small. and 16,000 pounds was the maximum. Into these box cars we climbed and stood as thick as pins in a pincushion. When a fellow got tired of standing, he could climb to the top of the car. lie flat like a lizard. and hold on to the running board. About every fifteen miles we had to wood and water, and in order to rest themselves many of the boys would crawl down and spread out on the ground. In those days the passenger coaches were small with little panes of glass; and in order to see out, one would have to raise the window. The N. and C. had one train from Atlanta to Nashville called the owl train - out owl night - left Nashville at 8 A.M. and arrived in Atlanta next morning at eight o'clock.
We reached Knoxville in two days and much to our surprise went into camp just north of the railroad track and in quite thick woods. Knoxville was a small town in 1861, and had no houses north of the railroad. Now she has nearly a city north of the railroad, and she has crowded across the Tennessee River. It was while here that we heard that up in Parson Brownlow's home was a United States flag unfurled to the breeze, and some daring soldier said it should not flaunt, and went up to take it down; but Miss Brownlow, with pistol in hand, said: "The man that touches that flag will die." Of course, the Southern soldier did not die, as he had too much respect for the lady to disturb her flag. Miss Brownlow afterwards married my friend H. M. Aiken and I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago, but said to her that I was not the soldier that went after the flag,
After a few days in Knoxville we boarded the train and went as far as Johnson City, where again we went into camp. Why those continuous delays I have never been able to find out, and my readers can imagine how we chafed under the delay, as the armies were gathering around Manassas for battle. We fussed and fumed for a few days, when the rush order came to run with all speed to Manassas. We sped the best we could: but when we reached Lynchburg, Va., the battle had been fought and won, many of the wounded had been brought to Lynchburg and this was our first sight of the bloody war. The first wounded man I saw was Hon. H. A. Edmondson of Roanoke Va., who was a brother of John K. Edmondson. before the war sheriff of Davidson County, Tenn. Having nothing to do, we were held at Lynchburg, the City of Hills; and as we bivouacked near Black Water Creek on a steep hill, we had no use for a pillow, but if a soldier got cross ways the hill he had a chance of rolling into the creek, far below.
While our troops had such success at Manassas, General Garnett had been killed at King's Mountain. General Lee had been appointed to command the Department of West Virginia, and hitherward we were ordered; so we boarded the train for Millboro, Va. and stopped a few days at Staunton where we met many Of General Garnett's soldiers, and they were in a bad plight, many of them without shoes and with stone bruises on their heels. In a few days we were on the train for Millboro, where we disembarked after some eight hours' ride. Our destination was Cheat Mountain, some eighty miles from the railroad.
This was our first march fully equipped. Besides our gun, knapsack, haversack, and cartridge box, nearly all our boys had on one side a six-shooter Colt's revolver buckled around them, and on the other side was a large Damascus blade (made at a blacksmith's shop). This too had a scabbard and belt. The accompanying picture of Private Henry- H. Cook. of Franklin, Tenn., will give my readers a full knowledge of the uniform and accouterments, as Henry (now judge Cook) had it taken just before leaving home, and his Company (D, Williamson Grays) was next to mine on the march. In Henry Cook's hand can be seen a small book. This is the pocket edition of the New Testament, which, when through with the picture, he placed in his knapsack. Each one of us was given a New Testament by our chaplain, Dr. Quintard, and on the fly leaf was written: "God is our sun and shield." We thought that "thrice armed is he who is armed with the word of truth."
From Millboro to Warm Springs, the first day's march, was fifteen miles, twelve of which were a gradual ascent. After we had trudged along some five miles in a sweltering August sun, I tried to give my six-shooter away, but could not find any one to accept it, and over in the bushes I threw it. I then unbuckled my Damascus blade. made an offer of that. but was likewise refused, and it was thrown into the bushes. I then tried to give away a blanket, but no one would accept, so away it went. I thought, probably the war would end before the winter. By the time we reached the summit of the mountain nearly all the men in the regiment had disposed of their extra appendages by leaving them in the bushes. Looking down from the crest of the mountain, we could see in the valley, three miles distant, the hotels and cottages of Warm Springs. The descent to the Springs was easy compared with the struggle up. reaching the Springs, we found a large bathing pool into which, from an iron pipe. the apparently cool water was gushing. Our men being thirsty, they crowded around the springs, and the first one to get a drink yelled out: "It is as hot as h--l!" Of course the water was not cool, for it was the warm springs, known for its curative properties. Near by, however, was a spring so cold that one of the men said that it had ice in it. The next day we marched toward Valley Mountain, and in the evening heard immense cheering in our rear, the sound gradually coming toward the front; and looking around, we saw the cause. Sitting on old "Traveler", clad in fatigue cap and jacket, with polished sword dangling from his side, with cap in hand as we gave a rousing cheer, rode Gen. R. E. Lee, the pride of the Confederate army. At that time General Lee did not wear any chin whiskers; he had a large, dark mustache sprinkled with a little gray. He was the very picture of a magnificent general and horseman.
The third day from the Springs we pitched our tents near Valley Mountain, and then came the rain every day for some ten days, rendering the roads in very bad condition. We were nearly sixty miles from the railroad, and a two-horse wagon could haul only some four barrels of flour, so with an army of some ten thousand men to feed it was a difficult problem. Our rations consisted of two small biscuits for breakfast and a like amount for supper. However, the country afforded some cattle as fine as I ever saw. They were very fat; and if we did not get enough bread and beef, we filled up on tallow. We had also some fine blackberries, which were as large as if they had been cultivated. One day I denied myself the usual two biscuits for breakfast, saved the dough, and had blackberry pies without any sugar for dinner.
We had not been in Valley Mountain very long till one night after nine-o'clock taps the long roll sounded and we sprang to arms and took up our march toward Mingo Flats. The night was as black as Egyptian darkness. We crossed ravines and waded streams; and finally toward daylight, wet and weary, my regiment halted near an old stable. It would accommodate only a few, and the rest of us made a bed in the long dewy grass and got a few hours' sleep. The long roll seemed to be a false alarm, and after daylight we marched back to camp very tired and hungry. and without seeing a blue coat.
One day I had been on picket duty near Mingo Flats, and on in), return to camp in the evening I passed near General Lee's headquarters. There was a spring near by where I knelt to drink. General Lee hailed me: "Don't drink out of that spring; my horse uses it. Come and drink out of this spring near my tent." Out of deference to the General's request, I went up and drank of the spring; and as I passed him sitting on a camp stool I threw my hand to gun, palm extended, which is a private's salute to a general. General Lee returned it with the salute of the hand from the brow, which is a general's salute to a private. I mention this incident to show General Lee's regard for the private soldier. It made no difference to him whether a man wore the stripes of a private or the insignia of a major general: he had respect for the one and respect and consideration for the other.
Twenty miles from Valley Mountain was a road running from Beverly, Va., on the Baltimore and Ohio, to Staunton, crossing Cheat Mountain at a place on the mountain called Cheat Pass. It was General Lee's object of this expedition to dislodge and destroy the enemy at this place. The fort at the pass was garrisoned by some three thousand men, while at Beverly they had some eight thousand men. Besides the fortifications on the mountain. the enemy had felled large trees outward from the fort and trimmed off the limbs and sharpened the many ends, so with a gun and knapsack and without an enemy in sight it would not be an easy matter to crawl through these obstructions to the fort. The plan of the attack was for General Rusk with his Arkansas brigade to cross Greenbrier River, which flowed near the base of the mountain, and assault the fort in front, while General Lee's troops should take it in the rear. September 12, 1861, at 9 A.M. was the hour, and the guns from General Rusk's brigade were to be the signal for our moving. We left Valley Mountain on the morning of September 10, with three days' (scant) rations. We marched the valley road awhile, and then commenced the ascent of Cheat Mountain. Our force for this expedition consisted of the First, Seventh, and Fourteenth Tennessee Regiments commanded respectively by Colonels Maney, Hatton, and Forbes, with General S. R. Anderson as brigadier. The other troops, commanded by Generals Donelson and Loring, moved down the valley road near the base of the mountain. My brigade was to get in the rear of the fortifications and cut off any reenforcements that might come. When we reached the crest of Cheat Mountain I saw the roughest and wildest country that I ever beheld, and we were to traverse it for twenty miles. The mountain was cut up into peaks and crags. Of course we had to march in single file, and our brigade stretched out some three miles. General Lee and our commanders were in front, and any command from them was passed back from the front man to the next in the rear, and so to the end of the line. We received and passed back many a time: "Keep quiet, keep well closed up." It was impossible to keep closed up: sometimes my leader would be thirty feet ahead of me, while I would be struggling over a huge boulder or trying to crawl up the mountain by the aid of a sapling. The night of September 11 we bivouacked on top of the mountain only a few miles from the enemy's fortifications. It was about the roughest place I ever saw, and on account of the many rocks it was difficult to find a place for a spread. My comrade, George Keeling, was a delicate young man, and I carried his blanket, and after scraping off a lot of stones I spread George's blanket down, and we bunked together, covering with my blanket. Soon after we had retired it commenced to rain, and all night we had a continuous downpour. We not only got thoroughly wet, but our rations of biscuits washed into dough. Next morning I had a hard time carrying two wet blankets. We were in line early, and took up our march, and soon formed in line of battle on the Huttonville road, riot far from the fortifications. In marching single file to the road, a bridle path crossed our line, and up this path, riding a magnificent horse, came a lieutenant of the Federal army. He appeared in a deep study, and came near riding into our line. We commanded "Halt" and be looked up and said, "Did you men come from the clouds?" He was Lieutenant Merrill, of the Engineer Corps. He was en route to the fort, but he was our prisoner. While we were in line on the road General Lee received a message from General Rusk saying: "Greenbrier River is at flood height; could not cross." We then received orders to return to camp, but before we moved the enemy fired into us from ambuscade, killing three and wounding eight of our regiment. We had no litters with us, and had to carry the wounded down the steep mountain side in blankets, four men to a blanket: and a new detail very often, as a man's fingers would cramp and we would put the poor soldier down on the ground and change hands. After reaching the valley we had to carry the wounded some distance before we reached a farmhouse, and there we had to leave them and return to Valley Mountain after falling in line several times on what enemy was following us. When we reached the camp at Valley Mountain, we were in a bad plight, very hungry and many of us barefoot. I was not quite barefoot, as I had one foot shod, the other bare. This campaign developed much measles and typhoid fever, and we filled the hotels at Warm Springs. Mrs. Jane Thomas and Miss Lavinia Taylor came out from Nashville to nurse the sick, and our boys ever remembered their kind ministrations.
General Rosecrans had commenced to invade Virginia via Charleston, and we received orders to meet his advance, and on September 25, 1861, we took up our line of march for Big Sewell Mountain, some one hundred miles distant, and we made good mileage considering the downpour of rain we passed through. We reached Big Sewell Mountain September 30, and could plainly see the tents of General Rosecrans' army. On the night of October 3 we received orders to have our guns cleaned and in shape for the following morning, so we were up at half past three on the morning of October 4, and were ready to meet the enemy, as our information was that they were to attack us in the early morning, but we were disappointed. Upon looking over where the tents were the previous evening, nothing was in sight. General Rosecrans had fallen back in the direction of Charleston. We started after him, but the road was in such bad condition we had to return to our camp in an old field on Big Sewell Mountain. We moved off the mountain October 11; and remained near by till October 22. When we were ordered to Huntersville, Va., where we remained till November 19, when we moved our camp on the Monterey road, and as the weather was getting quite cold, it was decided to build winter quarters, and each mess vied with the others as to which could build the best cabin. But there were to be no winter quarters for us. Before the quarters were all completed we received orders to join General Stonewall Jackson at Winchester, Va., about two hundred and twenty-five miles distant; so on December 11 we took up our march at 10 A.M., and we moved to Gatewood, ten miles distant. We passed Warm Springs on the morning of the 13th, and on to Harrisonburg in a few days, and we were in the beautiful Shenandoah. On this march we had reveille before daylight, and soon after sunup we had eaten our breakfast put a couple of biscuits in our haversack for dinner, and we would get into camp before sundown and soon have our supper. The First Tennessee Regiment had a splendid band, and as we marched through the beautiful towns of Bridgewater, Newmarket, etc., we would line up, get in step, and have "music by the band;" and the ladies would come out of the residences, lean on the front gates. and cheer us on our way. We reached the quaint old German town of Strausburg on Christmas Day; and if there was any whisky or eggnog left in that town, I did not know it. Between Strausburg and Winchester we saw many locomotives being hauled along the turnpike. General Jackson had captured them from the B. and O. Railway at Martinsville. On December 26 we went into camp near Winchester on the Romney road.