AFTER the battle of Perryville, both Bragg and Kirby - Smith were compelled to retreat by way of Cumberland Gap to Chattanooga. During this retreat I was in charge of the regiment as surgeon, Dr. Buist having been left behind to care for our sick and wounded. Every morning I filled my canteen with whiskey and strapped it to the pommel of my saddle to help the wearied and broken down to keep up in the march. I was riding a splendid bay which had been brought from Maury County and presented to me by the members of the regiment. He was the best saddle horse I ever rode. One day the colonel commanding the regiment rode up to me on his old gray nag and said: "Doctor, this horse of mine is very rough. Would you mind exchanging with me for a little while?"
I was off my horse before he had finished speaking. With a smiling countenance and a look of great gratitude he mounted my bay and rode off some hundred yards or more to the front, accompanied by the lieutenant-colonel, the major and one or two other officers - when they wheeled and saluted me, the colonel holding aloft my canteen of whiskey and waving it with great glee, each one taking a drink. When that canteen was returned to me every drop of the whiskey had disappeared. I was an "innocent abroad."
From Chattanooga I went to Rome, Georgia, to visit my family and to obtain some fresh clothing of which I was sorely in need. There were many hospitals established there and among them was one named for me, "Quintard Hospital." I spent much of my time in the hospitals, and also went to Columbus, Georgia, to secure clothing for my regiment. Mr. Rhodes Brown, President of one of the principal woolen mills in Columbus, gave me abundant supplies of the very best material. Besides this generous donation, he gave me a thousand dollars to use as I saw fit.
After some weeks I rejoined the army which had moved on to Murfreesboro. On my way up, I met at Stevenson, Alabama, Captain Jack Butler of my regiment, who informed me that a telegraphic dispatch from General Polk had just passed over the line ordering me to Murfreesboro. I asked how he knew it, and he told me that he had caught it as it clicked over the wire, which seemed very wonderful to me then. Immediately on reaching Murfreesboro I reported to General Polk and said: "General, I am here in response to your telegram." He was greatly astonished and asked how it was possible for me to have made the journey from Rome, Georgia, in so brief a time.
General Bragg, who was in command at Murfreesboro, was attacked by Rosecrans on the last day of the year 1862. A great battle resulted and the fighting continued until the 2d day of January, 1863. I was on the field dressing the wounded, as usual, when an order came for me to repair to the hospitals. While crossing the fields on my way to the hospitals in town, a tremendous shell came flying towards me, and I felt sure it would strike me in the epigastric region. I leaned down over the pommel of my saddle and the shell passed far above my head. As I rose to an upright position, I found that my watchguard had been broken and that a gold cross which had been suspended from it, was lost. I never expected to see it again. The next day, a colonel, moving with his command at "double quick" in line of battle, picked up the cross and returned it to me the day following. It is still in my possession - a valued relic of the Battle of Murfreesboro.
As Dr. Buist was still in Perryville, Kentucky, I was practically surgeon of the regiment. As the wounded of the First Tennessee were brought in, they always called for me, and it was my high privilege to attend nearly, if not quite all, the wounded of my regiment. Some of them were desperately wounded; among these was Bryant House, nicknamed among the boys, who were artists in bestowing nicknames, "Shanty." He had been shot through the body. The surgeon into whose hands he had first fallen told him that it was impossible to extract the ball and that there was no hope for him. "Well, send for my chaplain," he said, doubtless thinking that I would offer up a prayer in his behalf. Instead of that, however, I went in search of the ball with my surgical instruments, and was successful. "Shanty" died in September, 1895. He was for years after the war a conductor on the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, and took great delight in telling this story.
I continued at work in the hospital located in Soule College until the army was about to fall back to Shelbyville, when I was sent for by General Polk, who asked if I would go to Chattanooga in charge of Willie Huger, whose leg had been amputated at the thigh. He was placed in a box car with a number of other wounded men and I held the stump of his thigh in my hands most of the journey. When we reached Chattanooga I was more exhausted than my patient. I remained with him for some time. The dear fellow finally recovered, married a daughter of General Polk, and now resides in New Orleans.
General James E. Rains, a member of my parish in Nashville, fell while gallantly leading his men at the battle of Murfreesboro. General Hanson of Kentucky, likewise gave up his life. His last words were: "I am willing to die with such a wound in so glorious a cause!" Here it was that Colonel Marks, afterwards Governor of Tennessee, was severely wounded and lamed for life.
After the first day's fight, General Bragg sent a telegram to Richmond in the following words: "God has indeed granted us a happy New Year." But subsequently hearing that Rosecrans was being heavily reinforced from Nashville, he retired to Shelbyville, carrying with him his prisoners and the spoils of battle, for the Confederates captured and carried off 30 cannon, 6,000 small arms, and over 6,000 prisoners, including those captured by cavalry in the rear of the Union army. Wheeler's cavalry also captured and burned 800 wagons.