The Citizen-Soldier - or, Memoirs of a Volunteer
by John Beatty
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After resting and breathing pure air, the first time for more than four months, we resumed our journey, agreeing not to speak above a whisper, avoiding all houses and roads, and determining our course by the North Star. In crossing roads, we traveled backwards, that the footsteps might mislead our pursuers.

We soon came in sight of the main fortifications around Richmond, and instantly dropping upon the ground we lay for a long time, listening and watching for the presence of sentinels upon that part of the line. Being satisfied that there were none in our immediate front, in the most silent and cautious manner, we crossed over the fortification and pursued our way through a tangled forest. Coming to a piece of low ground, tired and exhausted, we lay down to rest. Our attention was soon attracted by the presence of a series of excavations; and on a close examination we found we were resting upon the battle-field of Fair Oaks, and among the trenches in which the Confederates had buried our dead; and, although it was the midnight hour, a strange feeling of safety stole over me, and I felt as if we were among our friends. It was the step and voice of the living that we dreaded.

At early dawn (Wednesday) we crossed a brook, and went upon a hillside of low, thick pines to conceal ourselves, and rest during the day. The Valley of the Chickahominy lay before us. While in this concealment, we saw a blood-hound scenting our steps down to the place where we jumped over the brook; it then went back and returned two or three times, but finally left without attempting to cross the little stream. Late in the evening, we went to the river and worked till after midnight to make or find a crossing. The water was deep and cold, and, failing to accomplish our purpose, we turned back to a haystack, and, covering ourselves with hay, rested until the first light of morning (Thursday).

Going back to the river, we followed down its course until we found a tree which had fallen nearly across the stream. Discovering a long pole, we found that it would just touch the opposite shore from the limbs of this tree. Hitching ourselves carefully along this pole, we reached the left bank of the Chickahominy River.

We now felt as if escape was possible; but, hearing a noise like the approach of troops, for we were satisfied that the enemy's cavalry must be in full pursuit, we fled into a neighboring forest. As we approached the center of a thicket, my eye suddenly caught the glimpse of a man watching us from behind the root of a fallen tree. I concluded that we had fallen into an ambush; but our momentary apprehension was joyfully relieved by the discovery that this new-made acquaintance was Colonel W. B. McCreary, of Michigan, and with him Major Terrence Clark, of Illinois, who had gone through the tunnel with the first party that went out, and were now passing the day in this secluded place. The Colonel was one of my intimate friends, and when he recognized me he jumped to his feet and threw his arms around me in an ecstasy of delight.

By this time the whole population had been informed of the escape, and the country was alive with pursuers. We could distinctly hear the reveille of the rebel troops, and the hum of their camps. Thus reinforced, we agreed to travel in company. It was arranged that one of the four should precede, searching out the way in the darkness, and giving due notice of danger.

At dark we left our hiding place, and cautiously proceeded on our way. Late at night we crossed the railroad running from Richmond to White House, our second objective point. Here Colonel West saw a sentinel sitting close by the railroad, asleep, with his gun resting against his shoulder. Just before daybreak we went into a pine woods, after traveling a distance of more than twenty miles, and, weary and tired, we lay down to rest.

The morning (Friday) broke clear and beautiful, but with its bright light came the bugle notes of the enemy's cavalry, who were in the pines close by us. We instantly arose and fled away at the top of our speed, expecting every moment to hear the crack of the rifle, or the sharp command to halt. We struck a road and about faced to cross it, the only time that we looked back. We pursued our rapid step until we came to a dense chaparral, and into this we threaded our way until we reached an almost impenetrable jungle. Crawling into the center, we threw ourselves upon the ground completely exhausted. A bird flew into the branches above us as we lay upon our backs, and the words burst from my lips: "Dear little bird! Oh, that I had your wings!"

As soon as friendly darkness again returned, we moved forward, weary, hungry, and footsore, still governed in our course by the North Star. During all this toilsome way, but few words passed between us, and these generally in low whispers. So untiring was the search, and so thoroughly alarmed and watchful were the population, that we felt that our safety depended upon a bare chance. Again making our way from wood to wood, and avoiding farm houses as best we might, till the light of another morning (Saturday), we retired to cover in the shade of a thick forest.

Saturday night the journey was resumed as usual. It was my turn to act the part of picket and pilot. While rapidly leading the way through a forest of low pines, I suddenly found myself in the presence of a cavalry reserve. The men were warming themselves by a blazing fire, and their horses were tied to trees around them. I was surprised and alarmed; but recovering my self-possession, I remained motionless, and soon perceived that my presence was unobserved. Carefully putting one foot behind the other I retreated out of sight, and rapidly returned to my party. Knowing that there were videttes sitting somewhere at the front in the dark, we concluded to go back about two miles to a plantation, and call at one of the outermost negro houses for information. We returned, and I volunteered to make the call while the others remained concealed at a distance.

I approached the door and rapped, and a woman's voice from within asked, "who was there?" I replied, that "I was a traveler and had lost my way, and wished to obtain some information about the road." She directed me to go to another house, but I declined to do so, and after some further conversation the door was opened, and I was surprised to find a large, good-looking negro standing by her side, who had been listening to the interview. He invited me to come in, and as soon as the door was closed, he said: "I know who you are; you're one of dem 'scaped officers from Richmond." Looking him full in the face, I placed my hand firmly upon his shoulder, and said: "I am, and I know you are my friend." His eyes sparkled as he repeated: "Yes, sir; yes, sir; but you musn't stay here; a reg'ment of cavalry is right thar'," pointing to a place near by, "and they pass this road all times of the night." The woman gave me a piece of corn-bread and a cup of milk, and the man accompanying me, I left the house, and soon finding my companions, our guide took us to a secluded spot in a canebrake, and there explained the situation of the picket in front. It was posted on a narrow neck of land between two impassable swamps, and over this neck ran the main road to Williamsburg. The negro proved to be a sharp, shrewd fellow, and we engaged him to pilot us round this picket. After impressing us in his strongest language with the danger both to him and to us of making the least noise, he conducted us through a long canebrake path, then through several fields, then directly over the road, crossing between the cavalry reserve and their videttes, who were sitting upon their horses but a few rods in front, and then took us around to the pike about a mile beyond this last post of the rebels. After obtaining important information from him concerning the way to the front, and giving him a substantial reward, we cordially took his hand in parting. If good deeds are recorded in Heaven, this slave appeared in the record that night.

The line of the pike was then rapidly followed as far as Diascum river, which was reached just at light Sunday morning. To cross this river without assistance from some quarter was found impossible. We tried to wade through it, but failed in this attempt. We were seen by some of the neighboring population, which largely increased our danger and trepidation; for we had been informed by our guide that the enemy's scouts came to this point every morning. After awhile we succeeded in reaching an island in the river, but could get no farther, finding deep water beyond. We endeavored to construct a raft but failed. The water being extremely cold, and we being very wet and weary, we did not dare attempt to swim the stream; and expecting every moment to see the enemy's cavalry, our hearts sank within us. At this juncture a rebel soldier was seen coming up the river in a row-boat with a gun. Requesting my companions to lie down in the grass, I concealed myself in the bushes close to the water to get a good view of the man. Finding his countenance to indicate youth and benevolence, I accosted him as he approached.

"Good morning; I have been waiting for you; they told me up at those houses that I could get across the stream, but I find the bridge is gone, and I am very wet and cold; if you will take me over, I will pay you for your trouble."

The boat was turned into the shore, and as I stepped into it I knew that boat was mine. Keeping my eye upon his gun, I said to him, "there are three more of us," and they immediately stepped into the boat. "Where do you all come from?" said the boatman, seeming to hesitate and consider. We represented ourselves as farmers from different localities on the Chickahominy. "The officers don't like to have me carry men over this river," he said, evidently suspecting who we were. I replied, "that is right; you should not carry soldiers or suspected characters." Then placing my eyes upon him, I said, "pass your boat over!" it sped to the other shore. We gave him one or two greenbacks, and he rapidly returned. We knew we were discovered, and that the enemy's cavalry would very soon be in hot pursuit, therefore we determined, after consultation, to go into the first hiding place, and as near as possible to the river. The wisdom of this course was soon demonstrated. The cavalry crossed the stream, dashed by us, and thoroughly searched the country to the front, not dreaming but we had gone forward. We did not leave our seclusion until about midnight, and then felt our way with extreme care. The proximity to Williamsburg was evident from the destruction every where apparent in our path. There were no buildings, no inhabitants, and no sound save our own weary footsteps; desolation reigned supreme. Stacks of chimneys stood along our way like sentinels over the dead land.

For five days and six nights, hunted and almost exhausted, with the stars for our guide, we had picked our way through surrounding perils toward the camp-fires of our friends. We knew we were near the outposts of the Union troops, and began to feel as if our trials were nearly over. But we were now in danger of being shot as rebels by scouting parties of our own army. To avoid the appearance of being spies, we took the open road, alternately traveling and concealing ourselves, that we might reconnoiter the way. About two o'clock in the morning, coming near the shade of a dark forest that overhung the road, we were startled, and brought to a stand, by the sharp and sudden command, "Halt!" Looking in the direction whence it proceeded, we discovered the dark forms of a dozen cavalrymen drawn up in line across the road. A voice came out of the darkness, asking, "who are you?" We replied, "we are four travelers!" The same voice said, "if you are travelers, come up here!" Moving forward the cavalry surrounded us, and carefully looking at their coats, I concluded they were gray, and was nerving myself for a recapture. It was a supreme moment to the soul. One of my companions asked, "are you Union soldiers?" In broad Pennsylvania language the answer came, "well we are!" In a moment their uniforms changed to glorious blue, and taking off our hats we gave one long exultant shout. It was like passing from death unto life. Our hearts filled with gratitude to Him whose sheltering arm had protected us in all that dangerous way. Turning toward Richmond, I prayed in my heart that I might have strength to return to my command.

I was afterwards in Sherman's advance to Atlanta; the March to the Sea and through the Carolinas; entered Richmond with the Western army; and had the supreme satisfaction of marching my brigade by Libby Prison.


[A] NOTE.—One hundred and nine prisoners escaped through this tunnel that night, of whom fifty-seven reached our lines.



March from Buckhannon West Virginia to Rich Mountain 18

Battle of Rich Mountain 24

Beverly and Huttonville 26

Incidents at Cheat Mountain Pass 28

Camp at Elk Water 43

The flag of truce 46

Capture of De Lagniel 52

The flood 61

The advance and retreat of Lee 67

Ride to a log cabin in the mountains 68

Moonlight and music 69

The Hoosiers stir up the enemy 72

The expedition to Big Springs 75

The accomplished colored gentleman 78

At Louisville Kentucky 84

March to Bacon Creek 86

Incidents of the camp 87

Trouble in the regiment 91

A little unpleasantness with the Colonel 97

A case of disappointed love 99

The advance to Green River 103

The march to Nashville 109

A Southern lady wants protection 112

John Morgan on the rampage 114

Incidents at Nashville 116

March to Murfreesboro 118

The dash into North Alabama 124

General O. M. Mitchell 127

Rumors of the battle at Shiloh 131

Affair at Bridgeport 135

The rendezvous of the Bushwhackers 138

The negro preacher 141

Provost Marshal of Huntsville 142

Pudin' an' Tame 146

Grape-vines from Richmond 151

Garfield and Ammen 156

Two Pious men meet at Pittsburgh Landing 162

Uncle Jacob tells a few stories 163

De coon am a great fiter 167

General Ammen as a teacher 168

The murder of General Robert McCook 169

The race for the Ohio River 175

The battle of Perryville, Kentucky 176

Pursuit of Bragg 182

The Army of the Cumberland 185

Incidents on the way to Nashville 186

Colonel H. C. Hobart 192

The advance on Murfreesboro 198

The battle of Stone River 201

A ride over the battle-field 210

The absentees 217

T. Buchanan Reid, the poet 225

The Chiefs 235

An interesting letter 244

The Third starts on the Streight raid 246

A good fighter 252

General Rosecrans angry 255

The Confederate account of Streight's surrender 267

The lame horse 268

Negley's party 277

Go out to dinner 283

Simon Bolivar Buckner (colored) 284

Advance on Tullahoma 285

The retreat of the enemy 290

The Peace party 297

Fact vs. Fiction 299

Board for the examination of applicants for commissions in colored regiments 312

The advance to the Tennessee 319

Cross the Tennessee 327

Battle of Chickamauga 332

Fight at Rossville 346

Incidents at Chattanooga 348

Battle of Mission Ridge 356

March to Knoxville 359

General Sherman's letter 360

Camp at McAffee's Spring 362

Good-by 372

General H. C. Hobart's Narrative 379

* * * * *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 31, "genman" changed to "gentleman" (innocent old gentleman)

Page 42, "melancholly" changed to "melancholy" (a melancholy strain)

Page 49, "rumbbling" changed to "rumbling" (with a rumbling)

Page 62, "neccesary" changed to "necessary" (give the necessary)

Page 76, "befiting" changed to "befitting" (melody befitting so)

Page 133, "imporant" changed to "important" (equally important results)

Page 133, "to to" changed to "to" (us to Mrs. Rather)

Page 154, "fo" changed to "for" (our care for)

Page 154, "th" changed to "the" (we make the)

Page 154, "establshed" changed to "established" (when once established)

Page 170, "occurences" changed to "occurrences" (occurrences could suggest)

Page 179, word "a" added to text (form a line)

Page 183, "jeolousies" changed to "jealousies" (petty jealousies existing)

Page 274, "Vallandigham" changed to "Vallandingham" (accompanied Vallandingham outside)

Page 278, "Shirked" changed to "shirked" (they shirked by)

Page 286, "Hardie's" changed to "Hardee's" (Hardee's corps was)

Page 304, "to to" change to "to" (Wilder to this)

Page 323, "cavliers" changed to "cavaliers" (of the cavaliers)

Page 323, "sure sure" changed to "sure" (quite sure Mrs.)

Page 325, "lieutenantcy" changed to "lieutenancy" (to a second lieutenancy)

Page 329, "popuulation" changed to "population" (overflowing with population)

Page 337, word "a" added to text (form a line)

Page 380, "Chicamauga" changed to "Chickamauga" (battle of Chickamauga)

Page 386, extraneous word "in" was removed from the text in the phrase: "one of the rooms which was used as a store-room". The original read: "one of the rooms in which was used as a store-room"

Page 398, "of" changed to "off" (taking off our)

Page 400, "Bushwackers" changed to "Bushwhackers" (rendevous of the Bushwhackers)

Page 401, "Alaabma" changed to "Alabama" (into North Alabama)

Page 401, "Good-bye" changed to "Good-by" to match text.

Three instances each of secesh/sesesh were retained.

One instance each of the following words was retained:

barefooted/bare-footed whitleather/whit-leather Jerroloman/Jerroloaman

Page 234, the section reads "an assault upon our works at twelve M." in the original. It is unclear whether A. M. or P. M. was intended and so this was retained.


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