Our army was moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., by two routes: one by Selma, the other by Mobile. We went by train to Mobile, and there embarked on the side-wheel steamer Dixie, and were three days and nights reaching Montgomery, Ala., where we camped a few days, and then went by train to Atlanta, thence to Chattanooga. While we were on the Alabama River near Selma our boat landed for wood, and the boys spied a watermelon patch, and in a few moments the entire crop, green or ripe, had disappeared: In the meantime the owner boarded the boat, and Colonel Fields ordered every man to pay the farmer for the melons and that he should be paid for either green or ripe; and the farmer got his pay. We remained for some days in Chattanooga, and on August 19 we were ferried across the Tennessee River on a steamboat, and took up our line of march across Walden's Ridge toward Pikeville and Sparta. When we reached Sparta, it was in ashes. Instead of proceeding to Nashville, we went to Gainesboro, where we crossed the Cumberland River, and were on the dark and bloody ground of Kentucky. While the march over Walden's Ridge and the Cumberland Mountains was a little fatiguing, they did not compare with Cheat and other Virginia mountains. Yet we were to encounter a march which was full of suffering, but of a variety which we were to experience for the first time. After we left Tomkinsville, Ky., we met a drought then prevailing in Kentucky. The dirt roads were very dusty, and sometimes we could not see ten feet ahead. The perspiration caused clots of mud to form in our eyebrows, hair, whiskers, and mustaches. At nightfall when we went into camp, very little water could be found, and frequently we drank out of the ponds in the barn lots. How many wiggletails and tadpoles I have drunk will never be known. When we reached Glasgow, Ky., General Buell was moving his army out of Nashville. There was a garrison (well fortified) of four thousand Federals at Woodsonville, a village of three or four houses opposite Munfordsville, Ky. It was General Bragg's intention to capture this fort before General Buell could reach there. A short time previous to this, General Chalmers, of Mississippi, had stormed this fort and lost one thousand two hundred men. Our object was to get in the rear of these fortifications. We left Glasgow at sunrise with one day's rations, and marched rapidly in an easterly direction. We had some twelve thousand men and twenty-seven pieces of artillery. In marching along the road shaded by a lot of blackjack trees, we saw a countryman with a barrel of water on a sled drawn by a horse. We did not ask for a drink, but in a few moments the barrel was empty. The poor fellow said: "I have not a drop of water at home, and my wife and children are suffering." We felt sorry for him, but such is war.
We crossed Green River before midnight, and about 3 a.m. we were in Munfordsville, and formed a line of battle in the suburbs of the town. Company B was in the cemetery, and I slept until sunup with a grave for a pillow. Our artillery had been placed in position not far from the L. and N. bridge. and considerably higher than the Federal fort in Woodsonville. They saw that we were in a position to shell them out, and at sunrise up went the white flag, and we marched four thousand prisoners out and paroled them. The advance of General Buell's army had reached Bowling Green; and in a few days many of his men reached our line without guns and surrendered, saying that they were tired of the war. After the capture we expected General Bragg to do one of two things: either move on General Buell at Cave City or go to Louisville. The authorities in Louisville expected the latter, and every able-bodied man in Louisville was called on to throw up fortifications; but General Bragg did neither of the two, but he marched us eight miles toward Louisville, and went into camp at Bacon Creek. Next day he marched us back to Munfordsville and then again to Bacon Creek, and one night we camped at the side of the old stage road near Bacon Creek, and it poured rain all night. The little sleep I got was on three rails. From Bacon Creek the army moved through Elizabethtown, Hodgenville, New Haven, and went into camp at Bardstown, Ky., twenty-seven miles from Louisville. While here Governor Hawes was inaugurated Governor of the State. General Bragg issued a proclamation calling on the Kentuckians to flock to his standard, and fired a few volleys from the artillery, which broke all the glass in the windows of the courthouse. While we were in camp at Bardstown General Buell's army marched to Louisville; and while we were playing soldier and living high in the blue grass country and losing men, General Buell was recruiting his army, and was soon ready for an advance, and we moved to Springfield, Perryville, Danville, and from Danville to Harrodsburg and then back to Perryville - a forty-mile march to no purpose, for we did not need the exercise. On the night of October 7, 1862, we marched again through Harrodsburg and bivouacked after midnight in the suburbs of the little town of Perryville. When we formed in line and stacked guns for a few hours' rest, Company B was again in a cemetery. Was it a bad omen that twice recently our company slept in a cemetery?
Next morning Company B moved out of the cemetery to cook up one day's rations. Seven of my mess dipped our hands in the same skillet. They were all stalwart men of brawny arm. That evening when the smoke of battle lifted, five of my comrades were dead, and the sixth wounded. Early in the morning we formed in line and moved slowly through the town on the Harrodsburg Pike, which we left some half mile beyond Perryville, and turned to the left, crossing Chaplin's Creek, or river, as it is called there. About three o'clock we were in line of battle on our extreme right and in a valley of the Chaplin River two and one-half miles from Perryville. There had been some skirmishing before our arrival, and about three o'clock the musketry and cannonading became quite brisk, the shells falling around us as we climbed the fence in battle line. We crossed Chaplin's River, ascended a high bluff, and when we reached the height Colonel Savage's Sixteenth Regiment was hotly engaged with the enemy. To uncover from Colonel Savage we had to move by the right flank, and while executing this move some of our men were wounded. When we uncovered, we again moved by the left flank. Gen. Leonidas Polk rode up and asked: "What regiment is this?" The answer was: "The First Tennessee." He then said: "Capture that battery."
It was Parson's eight-gun battery, supported by an Ohio brigade (Germans) in command of General Jackson, of Hopkinsville, Ky. They would not stand the charge, but ran in great disorder, leaving the battery in our possession. In attempting to rally them General Jackson was killed, and his body fell in our line of march. On a hill in the rear of where we captured the Parrott battery was Bush's Indiana battery, supported by the First and Twenty-First Wisconsin Regiments and another brigade of infantry. In charging this battery we uncovered our left flank, and were subjected to an enfilade fire from the enemy, which played havoc with our men. We had ten men killed in attempting to carry the colors. We lost some two hundred and fifty men in a short time. Our boys got so close to the battery that the smoke covered them. Young Tom Lanier was killed some thirty feet from the battery, not by the artillery, because we were under the crest of the hill, and the pieces could not be depressed so as to reach us, but the men supporting the battery were the ones that caused most of our trouble. Colonel Patterson was slightly wounded in the wrist, but he tied a handkerchief around it and continued to give orders until a grapeshot hit his mustache, going through his head, killing him instantly. Captain Pilcher was quartermaster, but he was in the thickest of the fray, receiving a wound that came near causing his death. Company B lost fourteen killed and thirteen wounded. Amongst the dead was a young man named Robert S. Hamilton. He came to Nashville in 1860, and was a proof reader in the Southern Methodist Publishing House. We were very intimate friends. He was an ardent secessionist, whilst his family in Kentucky were divided on the war question. In the charge Robert was shot through the forehead, and fell not far from where Tom Lanier and gallant Jack Goodbar fell. Colonel Fields detailed me to stay and take care of the wounded and do the best I could to bury the dead. After getting all the wounded off, with the reflected rays from a burning barn, which the exploding shells fired, I penned the following:
BATTLEFIELD, PERRYVILLE Ky., October 8, 1862.
Mrs. W. C. Hamilton, Lexington, Ky.: Robert was killed in gallant charge this evening. Will take care of remains until you arrive.
MARCUS B. TONEY.
Mrs. Hamilton was Robert's sister-in-law, and I wrote to her because his brother, W. C. Hamilton, was a Union man, and Robert never wrote a line to him; but all his correspondence was with his sister-in-law, and he always read her letters to me; therefore I wrote to the sister-in-law rather than the brother. The blue and the gray mingled together all that night removing the wounded. I approached one of the blue and asked him if he would deliver the note to Mrs. Hamilton, and he promised me that he would.
It was a sad sight that night as I gazed upon the upturned, ghastly faces of our dead; and the cries of the wounded for "water!" "water!" "water!" was heartrending. Before daylight all of our wounded had been brought from the field. A farmer named Goodnight, who lived some half mile from the battlefield, had deserted his house on the eve of battle, and we turned it into a hospital. On the second floor in the small room were the following: T. H. Woldridge, B. P. Steele, T. H. Maney, M. B. Pilcher, Mac Campbell, Lute Irwin, I. H. Wheless, and Lieutenant Hammond. These eight men were my patients. Four of them were on the bedsteads and four on the floor. Comrade Woldridge lost both of his eyes and Captain Pilcher, Captain Steele, Lieutenant Maney, Mac Campbell, and Lute Irwin were all badly wounded. For three nights I did not close my eyes in sleep.
About the third day after the battle a messenger came upstairs and said that a lady was in waiting to see me. This was my first meeting with Mrs. Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton was with her. and they brought a hearse and casket, and a carryall with blankets and provisions for our wounded. I accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton to the battlefield. I had buried twenty-seven of the Rock City Guards in a gully near by where they fell, and not far from the battery that they charged so gallantly. I did not have any implement to bury with, but with the use of a breastplate taken from the body of a dead Federal I invented a tool which formed a kind of scoop, and with this covered our boys with the dirt. I had buried Robert Hamilton at the bead of the twenty-seven, and when we reached the spot I raked the dirt from his face and said: "Mrs. Hamilton, this is Robert." "Is it possible," she replied, "that these are Robert's remains?" I said: "I will soon satisfy you." Reaching down, I caught one of his hands, and, brushing the dirt away, I said to her: "Do you see this"' She replied: "I am satisfied." Robert was a very studious young man, and in his deep studies I have seen him bite his nails to the quick. and frequently brought blood. When Mrs. Hamilton saw the hand and the condition of the finger nails, she knew they were Robert's. When the body was taken to the hospital and prepared for burial, there was no doubt in her mind. We expected to bury W. J. Whitthorne, of the Maury Grays, Columbia, Tenn., but the body could not be found. He was shot through the neck, and Dr. Buist said that he would not live until we got him to the hospital. Billy Whitthorne, as we all called him, is living this year (1905). He raised a company at Columbia during the Spanish-American War, and went to the Philippines. He was elected major in the regular army, and is now lieutenant colonel of the First Tennessee National Guards, and I am a private in Company B, Confederate Veterans, of the Guards. We had a similar case in John Sullivan, the gallant Irishman of the Martin Guards. His wife accompanied him to the war, and was very, valuable in assisting the boys in needlework and cooking. Sullivan had a hole in his forehead that exposed a part of the brain. Mrs Sullivan was at the hospital when the fight was going on, and when we reported after midnight that John was left on the field for dead she said that she would go out and look after him. She was a stalwart woman, and brought John on her shoulder to the hospital. About two weeks after that Dr. Buist bought a carryall, placed Captain Woldridge, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan in it, and started them through the country to Pulaski. Near Lebanon, Ky. they were captured and sent to prison.
A few weeks after the battle Captain Steele was removed to Harrodsburg, and Mrs. C. H. Rochester came after Captain Pilcher, T. H. Maney, S. B. Shearon, and myself, and we were taken to her residence. near Danville. Ky., where we were royally entertained. Colonel Rochester and the elder boys were in the Confederate army, leaving Mrs. Rochester and the young ladies and boys at home. The families of Capt. Merritt S. Pilcher, George S. Kinney, and Henry C. Hensley had refugeed from Nashville to Louisville.
Dr. Buist sent a message to Capt. M. S. Pilcher saying that if Matt were sent to prison he could not possibly survive. Capt. Merritt Pilcher had a stanch friend in Louisville, Mr. John B. Smith, who stood very close to General Jere Boyle, commanding that district, and through his influence we received the following:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF KENTUCKY, LOUISVILLE, October 13, 1862.
The bearers hereof, Capt. Matthew B. Pilcher and Private Marcus B. Toney, will be allowed to report at these headquarters without a guard so soon as the wound of Captain Pilcher's will permit.
JERE BOYLE, General.
We remained at Mrs. Rochester's nearly four months, and I almost despaired of getting Captain Pilcher to Louisville. In addition to his great suffering from the wound, a spell of pneumonia gave him a setback. Soon after convalescing he came near bleeding to death, and I mounted a horse and went rapidly to Harrodsburg for Dr. Buist. Finally he recovered so far as to allow us to proceed, and he desired to go via Lexington to visit for a few days his relatives, Mr. Hiram Shaw and family, so we proceeded to Nicholasville by stage and thence to Lexington by rail. Mr. Shaw was a stanch Union man, and was dealer in gents' furnishing goods. A few weeks before we reached there, General Morgan's men raided his store, exchanging their old headgear for his fine hats, and some of the boys wore off his nice plugs; therefore I felt a hesitancy in going to the Shaw domicile. But we were treated in a most generous manner. A few nights after reaching there, we paid a visit to another family of the Shaws, where there were three young ladies. Gen. I. Q. A. Gilmore was a visitor, and he asked one of the ladies who we were. She informed him, and the next day we received orders to report to General Gilmore's headquarters. Accordingly we did so, and he said in a very brusque manner: "I wish to know by whose authority you Rebels are free." I replied, "By authority of Gen. Jere Boyle, of Louisville," and I placed our parole in his hands. He glanced over it, and replied: "This is not General Boyle's district; I am commanding. here, and my name is Gen. I. Q. A. Gilmore. You will get ready to go to Louisville with a guard this evening. Report here at three o'clock." I said: "All right, General Gilmore. Your order will be obeyed, but we were ignorant of the infringement on your territory." At 3 p.m. we were there, and so was the guard with his gun. We wired Captain Pilcher that we would be in about 8 p.m. under guard. When we reached Frankfort, we found that the railroad bridge had been burned. and we had to cross on the ferry. In going through the city many ladies turned out and escorted us to the ferry. When we reached Louisville, Capt. Merritt S. Pilcher was pacing up and down the platform, and appeared more disturbed than we were. After greeting us, he said: "Boys, I have been trying, all day to see General Boyle; but one of his children has smallpox, and he is at home. The officer of the day says he cannot release you, and you will have to go to prison at Tenth and Broadway." We could do nothing but obey. When we reached, the pen, we found that some four hundred prisoners had been captured at Fort Donelson. It was quite a filthy place, without sleeping accommodations. We had some salt pork, stale bread, and coffee without sugar. As we had been living for four months on the fat of the blue grass region, we could not eat the prison diet, and were glad to hear our names called at the wicket about nine o'clock next morning, where we signed parole to National Hotel; and when we reached the sidewalk, we found Captain Pilcher and Mr. John B. Smith with a carriage, and they escorted us to the hotel. We remained at the hotel for six weeks, waiting for the flag-of-truce boat for exchange. After the first week's confinement at the hotel, General Boyle extended our parole so as to allow us to attend church on Sunday, and we first went to Sunday school and then went to services at 11 a.m.. Sometimes we went to hear the big gun of the Baptist Church, Dr. Lorimer, and then to, hear Dr. Craik, of the Episcopal Church, and at 3 p.m. we attended vespers at the Cathedral, and at night church again. One Sunday morning in Dr. Lorimer's church Captain Pilcher was asked to teach the Bible class, and in the class were some of the boys in blue. The Southern people in Louisville treated us with much consideration and kindness, and the people who differed with us on the war issue treated us with respect. In the churches and on the streets we were frequently detained for hand shakes. We wore Confederate uniforms, but General Boyle requested that the brass buttons be covered. The Southern ladies visited us frequently at the hotel, and we returned many of the visits at their residences on Sunday. I recall these names among those who were exceedingly kind to us: Miss Fanny Jack, Miss Kate Quarries, Miss Mary Miller, Miss Anna Caldwell, Miss Nina Smith (who after the war married Mr. H. Victor Newcomb and later Mr. Ten Broecke). Captain Pilcher and myself did not indulge in wine, so we were much amused to receive from Miss Fanny Jack a bottle of wine with this toast: "Believe that in every drop of wine contained in this bottle is mingled a heartfelt prayer for the ultimate success of the Southern Confederacy." Evidently it was the toast which Miss Fanny wished us to enjoy rather than the wine. So the time drew near when we were to proceed to Fortress Monroe for exchange at City Point, and Mr. John B. Smith called on General Boyle for an order to proceed without a guard. General Boyle said that he could favor us only as far as Cincinnati, and gave us the following:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF KENTUCKY, LOUISVILLE, April 9, 1863.
General Aaron E. Burnside. Cincinnati. Ohio: Capt. M. B. Pilcher and Private M. B. Toney have been on parole from these headquarters since the battle of Perryville, and have faithfully kept it. I will therefore be obliged if you will allow them to proceed to Fortress Monroe without a guard.
General Commanding Department of Kentucky.
Armed with this document and escorted by a large number of friends, we proceeded to board the steamer General Lytle. One of the ladies had purchased for me a large silk handkerchief. It was plain on one side, but on the other was the bonnie blue flag, and as the General Lytle steamed out from the levee Captain Pilcher and I were on the hurricane roof, and I unfurled my banner to the breeze, and received the cheers from the assembled multitude on the levee. We stopped at the Burnett House. Next morning at breakfast I said to Captain Pilcher: "There is General Burnside." He was sitting two tables from us. General Burnside at that time was trying Mr. Vallandingham for treason, and banished him through our lines at Shelbyville. I agreed with Captain Pilcher not to report as yet to General Burnside, because there were some friends in Covington that we wished to and did meet in our room at the hotel, and they got into such a boisterous discussion one of them said: "Hush. boys; walls have ears." When we reported to General Burnside with General Boyle's letter I noticed his brows contract, and be looked at us fiercely and said in a very abrupt manner: "This is a very peculiar request from General Boyle, and one entirely contrary to War Department orders. I cannot grant it." I replied: "Very well, General, do with us as you will, as we are subject to your orders." He studied awhile and said: "I will do this: place you in charge of a lieutenant with his side arms. That will be better than going with a soldier and gun over you. Report here at six o'clock to take the train for Baltimore. We reported at six o'clock, and met the lieutenant, whom we found to be a nice gentleman and very companionable. We arrived in Baltimore and registered at Barnum Hotel. After supper we retired early.
The next morning the lieutenant, after a visit to the provost marshal's office, said that the flag-of-truce would not sail for several days, and that they had smallpox very bad there. He said that we would remain in Baltimore. After breakfast he said: "Boys, I am going to see the city. I know you do not wish to go with me, and I don't care to stay with you. If you are arrested, tell them to wait till I come with the papers." Captain Pilcher and I had a letter to Noah Walker, wholesale clothier, and we started to his store, but had proceeded but two squares before we were arrested as spies. We told the detective that we were under orders for exchange, and under control of a lieutenant of the United States army, and if he did not believe our story he could accompany us to the hotel, which he did, and waited several hours. When our lieutenant returned, he was very angry and cursed and abused the detective severely. Next morning I said: "Lieutenant, we wish to reach Noah Walker's. We wish you would go with us to the door, where you can leave us and resume your sight-seeing."
So he did. We presented our letter to Mr. Walker, and had a pleasant chat with him. He inquired especially after his friends in Louisville. When we arose to take our leave, he said: "Boys, wait awhile. Come this way." We followed him up four flights of stairs. Coming to the fifth story. he unlocked a door and we entered another narrow flight of stairs; he locked the door on the inside, and put the key in his pocket. When we reached the head of the stairs, we found a large stock of Confederate uniforms. He said: "Mum is the word. I am running the blockade with these; and if it were known by the Federal authorities, my entire stock would be confiscated." We told him that our lips would be sealed. He said: "I did not bring you up here for a display, but I want each of you boys to select an overcoat." We did so, and he sent them to the hotel. The next evening we took passage on the Bay Line steamer for Fortress Monroe just after leaving Baltimore I saw a commotion in the ladies' cabin, and heard the word "Rebel" uttered excitedly. Presently the captain came to us and said: "Boys, I have an old lady aboard who is a regular virago. She says that she does not want to travel on the same boat with Rebels. I told her that you had paid first-class fare and were entitled to cabin fare passage, but that doesn't quiet her. She is creating a terrible furore with the passengers. I wish you would go down on the deck. I will send your supper to you, the best we have on the table, and after supper I will bring you up to your stateroom."
The captain was a Baltimorean and a Southern sympathizer, and to accommodate him we went below till after the old lady retired, when we turned in to dream of the flag-of-truce. I hope the old lady has reached that land where there are no Rebels to molest or make her afraid.
When we awoke next morning, we were landed near the truce boat. The lieutenant took receipt for us from the exchange officer, and bade us good-by as if he were sad in leaving us. I am sure we were sorry to give him up, as he was exceedingly kind to us. I wish that I had kept his name. We asked to be remembered to General Burnside for sending such a clever officer with us. Soon after boarding the truce boat we were sailing up the historic James River. The next morning we landed at City Point, where a like number of Federals were to he exchanged for us. Many cases of smallpox were on the lower deck of our truce boat, and it was difficult to get help to unload. Finally the captain said that if they were not removed he would take them back, so I volunteered to carry the patients off.
The exchange officer said that he would have to separate the officers and privates and send us to our commands in that manner. He was rather brusque in his order, which irritated us. Captain Pilcher said: "We have been in the hands of the enemy for six months. They not only would not allow us to be separated, but treated us in a more respectful mariner than you have." This appeared to put a quietus on the officer, and he allowed us to proceed together, which we did as far as Knoxville, when we separated on account of the following accident. About fifteen miles west of Bristol, at three o'clock in the morning,
Captain Pilcher and I, with a lot of soldiers, were in the rear car, when a brake beam broke and fell in front of our trucks, throwing our car from the track and dragging it until it reached a sharp curve, when the coupling pin broke and we turned over several times, landing near the edge of the Watauga River. Captain Pilcher said that the first voice that he heard from the groans of the wounded was my query: "Captain. are you hurt?" He replied: "Yes; take these wounded men off of me."
As soon as we went over the lamps were smashed and it was very dark; but with the assistance of a comrade who had only a few bruises like mine, we succeeded in getting Captain Pilcher out through the end window. His arm was broken, but on arrival at Knoxville he said that he thought he would be able to proceed in a week. As I had been absent for six months, I was anxious to get back.