Exactly as I had surmised,—for I had seen a specimen of his fierce temper and recklessness,—he came stamping and cursing; and jumping from the car on to the tender, he drew a pistol, and cried out, "Where is that cursed engineer, that did this pretty job? I'll shoot him the minute I lay eyes on him."
I threw up my six-shooter so that the light of the lantern shone upon it, while he could see me but indistinctly, if at all, and said with deliberation, "Colonel Williams, if you raise your pistol you are a dead man; don't stir, but listen to me. I have done just what any man must have done under the circumstances. I stopped the train as soon as possible, and I'll convince you of it, if you are a reasonable man; but not another word of shooting, or you go down."
"Don't shoot, don't shoot," he cried.
"Put up your pistol and so will I," I replied.
He did so, and came forward, and I explained the impossibility of seeing the train sooner, as I had no head-light, and they had carelessly neglected to leave a light on the rear of the other train. I advised the choleric colonel to go forward and expend his wrath and curses on the conductor of the forward train, that had stopped in such a place, and sent out no signal-man in the rear, nor even left a red light. He acknowledged I was right. I then informed him that I was an officer in the ordnance department, and was in charge of a shipment of ammunition for Bowling Green, and would have him court-martialed when we reached there, unless he apologized for the threats he had made. This information had a calming effect on the colonel, who at heart was really a clever fellow. He afterward came and begged my pardon; we shook hands cordially, and were good friends.
Having settled this talk of shooting, and put the responsibility where it belonged, we had time to look at the damage done by the collision. It was nothing compared with what it might and would have been, if we had been running at high speed. Even as it was, it stirred up the sleeping men not a little. The front train contained a regiment of men, most of whom were asleep, while the employees were repairing an accident to one of the truck-wheels of a car. They had it "jacked up,"' and had all the lights available, including the one from the rear of the train, to aid in their repairs. When we struck them they were driven ahead some thirty feet, and of course their disabled car was still more damaged. Our men were all suddenly waked up, and some of them slightly bruised. The colonel himself was thrown down by the shock, but fortunately did not roll off the car, and was but little injured; and there were no lives lost, except of three of the horses. But we had a toilsome night of it. The debris of the three cars which had been smashed up was carried back through the cut, between the train and the steep sides, and thrown down into the gorge, off the trestlework. The dead horses were drawn up the bank with ropes, and the front train put in running order, after six hours of hard work by as many men as could be employed in such narrow quarters. As the day broke, the forward train moved off; in a few minutes more we followed, and reached Paris by seven o'clock, A.M., December 18, 1861. Thus began and ended my railroad-engineering in Rebeldom. At Paris they found a professional runner, and I resumed my uniform, very thankful to get out of the profession so creditably. Reader, the next time I run a railroad train in such circumstances, may you be there to see it.
On the 19th of December I reached Bowling Green, and found there a larger army than I had before seen,—65,000 men at least,—under General Albert Sidney Johnson as commander-in-chief, with Generals Buckner, Hardee, Hindman, and Breckenridge on the ground. Floyd came within a few days, bringing about 7000 more. Others were soon added, for on the 25th of December the commissary-general issued 96,000 rations, and by January 1, 1862, 120,000 rations a day. The number of rations shows the whole number attached to the army in every capacity.
During the month of December, sickness in the form of pneumonia and measles became fearfully prevalent, and by the middle of January one-fifth of the army was said to be in the hospital. The prevalence of disease was attributed by the surgeons to the constant rains, the warm winter, and incessant labor day and night on the fortifications.
Though up to this time I had enjoyed uninterrupted good health, the pneumonia now seized me violently; and after a week of "heroic treatment," I was put into a box-car and started for the hospital at Nashville. This was the dreariest ride of my life thus far. Alone, in darkness, suffering excruciating pain, going perhaps to die and be buried in an unhonored grave, my "Christmas" was any thing but "merry." And yet the month following my arrival in Nashville was the most pleasant, on many accounts, that I had yet spent in Dixie. I was carefully and tenderly nursed by Drs. Stout and Gambling and the ladies of Nashville, who showed the true woman's heart in their assiduous care of the poor suffering men, prostrated by disease and home-sickness. Some of the ladies were strong Secessionists; but I thought then, as I believe now, that most of them, not all, would have shown the same kindness to any suffering soldiers who might have come under their notice. I knew my mother would be a Good Samaritan to a dying Rebel; why should not they to wounded Unionists.
In two weeks I was convalescent, and yet I daily exhausted my returning strength by gaining a knowledge of the Nashville founderies, machine-shops, bridges, capitol, industry, and whatever I thought worth visiting.
At this juncture I also found an old friend of my father's, who with his interesting family did much to make my days of recovery pleasant days; supplying many little things which a soldier's wardrobe and an invalid's appetite needed. How much of a Rebel he was I could never exactly make out, but I think his regard for my family held deep debate with either love or fear of the ruling authorities, to settle the question whether he should aid me to reach home. At least, there was not in what he said in our frequent interviews that entire outspokenness which would have prompted me to make a confidant of him; hence I made no headway toward escaping to the North. Indeed, I considered it the only safe way, in talking with him, to show a guarded zeal for the Southern cause, lest, if he were a hearty Rebel, he might betray me. I am now inclined to the opinion that I was too suspicious of him, and that he was at heart a Union man. At all events, I shall ever be grateful for his kindness to me.
I may as well record at this point what I know of the moral and religious efforts put forth in the South in behalf of the soldiers, and the effect of the Rebellion on the educational and religious interests of the people generally. As a general truth, when the recruits first came to the army, those with religious inclinations or who had pious friends, brought along a Bible or Testament, but these were in most cases soon lost or left behind, and the camps were almost destitute of any good books. Religious publications were not distributed to the soldiers except in the hospitals, and to a very limited extent there. The regiments composed of Irish or French Catholics, usually had a priest as chaplain; but I saw very few of the Protestant chaplains who gave themselves up to the spiritual care of their men. We had a good many ministers in the army of the Mississippi valley, but they almost all held a commission of a military, rather than a religious kind, and so far as I could judge, were fonder of warlike than of heavenly ministrations. In the hospital at Nashville, on the other hand, good men and women endeavored faithfully to present the truths of the Bible and the consolations of religion to the attention of the inmates. But, as I have hinted, the army was not much benefited by the clerical members attached to it, though their loss may have been felt by the churches they had forsaken. There were but few of what are called Gospel sermons, preached in the army anywhere within my reach during my soldier life. As a consequence of the inherently demoralizing effect of war, and this great destitution of conserving influences, vice reigned almost unrestrained in the army. The few good and devout men, and the infrequent prayer-meetings which were held, seemed powerless to restrain the downward tendency of morals. Profanity, the most revolting and dreadful, abounded, though contrary to the Articles of War, and many of the officers were proficient in this vice. Gambling, in all the forms possible among soldiers, was the main amusement on the Sabbath-day. These were the prominent vices, and, if possible, they were growing more and more monstrous continually.
As for the effect of the war upon the country generally, I can not give many facts, though I had some opportunity of observation, as will be seen. Preaching was maintained in most of the churches in the large cities; but in many of the smaller places, and in country churches, service was suspended. This was true so far as my observation reached, and it must have been so in other places, from the fact that so great a proportion of the men were engaged in the war. And even where preaching was kept up, every sermon I heard was embellished and concluded by a grand flourish, about the duty of praying and fighting for their homes and institutions. This universally belligerent spirit was evidently unfavorable to the progress of true and consistent piety. Schools and seminaries of learning were chiefly closed, and they were not very abundant before. In fine, I think if this Rebellion continues a year or two longer, the South will be a moral wilderness.
New Field of Action. — Promotion. — Guerrilla Warfare. — Characteristics. — Tendencies. — Captain J.H. Morgan. — Character. — Personal Appearance. — Anecdotes. — Success. — Southern Cavalry superior to Northern. — Advantages. — Riding Courier. — General Johnson evacuates Bowling Green. — Excitement in Nashville. — Preparations for Defence. — Commissary Stores. — Vandalism. — Rear Guard. — Line of Retreat. — Dreadful Hardships. — Losses. — Forced March. — Desolation. — Cause of Retreat. — Other Counsel. — Accident. — No Union Feeling evident. — Intolerant yet Sincere.
While at Nashville, recovering from the typhoid pneumonia, I resolved to seek a transfer to the cavalry service, as affording me a new field of observation, and perhaps a more stirring and exciting life. As Captain F——s was recruiting a company in and around Nashville, I rode with him from day to day over the country, and thus secured his advocacy of my wishes. On the 4th of February, 1862, I was transferred to his company, and entered it as orderly sergeant, and a vacancy soon occurring, I was promoted to a lieutenancy, Our company was to have been attached to a battalion commanded by Major Howard of Maryland, formerly of the United States army, and as my captain was in service on General Hardee's staff, I acted as captain during the whole of my term in this branch of the service. Shortly after, my company was attached to the command of that celebrated guerrilla leader, Captain J.H. Morgan, at that time, however, acting under the rules of regular warfare, and not, as now, in the capacity of a highway robber.
The system of guerrilla warfare has been indorsed by an act of the Confederate Congress, and is fully inaugurated over a large part of the South. As there practiced now, it is distinguished from regular warfare by two things: First, the troops are not under any brigade commander, but operate in small bands, much at their pleasure, with a general responsibility to the major-general commanding in their department.
One result of this feature of the system is to develop a large amount of talent in the ranks, as every man has an individual responsibility, and constant opportunities to test his shrewdness and daring. It also gives a perfect knowledge of all roads and localities to the whole force in a given section, as some one or more soldiers will be found in each gang, who, in their frequent maraudings, have traversed every by-path and marked every important point.
The second prominent characteristic of guerrilla warfare, is the license it gives to take by force from supposed enemies or neutrals, horses, cash, munitions of war, and, in short, any thing which can aid the party for which he fights; with the promise of full pay for whatever he brings off to his head-quarters. This is the essential principle of the system, giving it its power and destructiveness. As it displaces patriotism from the breast of the fighter, and substitutes in its room the desire for plunder, the men thus engaged become highway robbers in organized and authorized bands. Nor do guerrilla bands long confine their depredations to known enemies. Wherever a good horse can be found, wherever silver plate is supposed to be secreted, wherever money might be expected, there they concentrate and rob without inquiry as to the character of the owner. Hence the system is destructive to all confidence, and to the safety of even innocent and defenseless females.
It requires no prophet's ken to foresee that the Confederate authorities have commenced a system which will utterly demoralize all engaged in it; destroy the peace, and endanger the safety of non-combatants, and eventually reduce to ruin and anarchy the whole community over which these bands of robbers have their range.
This process has already commenced, and if the loyal troops were withdrawn to-day from all Secessia, and the South allowed its independence, the people would find themselves in the hands of bandits to harass and plunder for months to come, and would have long scores of wrongs to right, which have been inflicted upon neutrals and friends of the Rebellion by its professed soldiers. Should the contest continue for two or three years longer, the South bids fair to lapse into the semi-barbarism of Mexico, or the robber-ruled anarchy of Spain after the Peninsular war. The legitimate tendency of the system is understood by the Southern generals, and some of them resisted its introduction; but the desperation of the whole Southern mind swept away opposition, and they are now embarked on a stormy sea, which will assuredly wreck the craft, if it be not sooner sunk by loyal broadsides.
How the government should treat these free-booters when captured, as some of them have been, is plain, if the usual laws of war are to be followed; they are to be punished as outlaws, and hung or shot. But, in this case, can it be done safely? There were, when I left Secessia, not less than 10,000 men organized as guerrillas. There may be far more at this writing. Is it possible to treat such a number as banditti, without inaugurating a more bloody retaliation and massacre than the world has ever seen? I only raise the question.
Morgan, as a citizen in times of peace, maintained the reputation of a generous, genial, jolly, horse-loving, and horse-racing Kentuckian. He went into the Rebellion con amore, and pursues it with high enjoyment. He is about thirty-five years of age, six feet in hight, well made for strength and agility, and is perfectly master of himself; has a light complexion, sandy hair, and generally wears a mustache, and a little beard on his chin. His eyes are keen, bluish gray in color, and when at rest, have a sleepy look, but he sees every one and every thing around him, although apparently unobservant. He is an admirable horseman, and a good shot. As a leader of a battalion of cavalry, he has no superior in the Rebel ranks. His command of his men is supreme. While they admire his generosity and manliness, sharing with them all the hardships of the field, they fear his more than Napoleonic severity for any departure from enjoined duty. His men narrate of him this—that upon one occasion, when engaging in a battle, he directed one of his troopers to perform a hazardous mission in the face of the enemy. The man did not move. Morgan asked, in short quick words,
"Do you understand my orders?"
"Yes, captain, but I can not obey."
"Then, good-by," said Morgan, and in a moment the cavalryman fell dead from his saddle. Turning to his men, he added, "Such be the fate of every man disobeying orders in the face of an enemy."
No man ever hesitated after that to obey any command.
But Morgan is not without generosity to a foe. A Federal cavalryman related to me, since my escape, an unusual act for an enemy. Losing the command of his wounded horse, which goaded by pain plunged wildly on, he was borne into the midst of Morgan's force. "Don't shoot him!" cried Morgan to a dozen of his men who raised their pistols. "Give him a chance for his life." The pistols were lowered and the man sent back to his own lines unharmed. Few men have appeared on either side in this contest who combine dash and caution, intrepidity and calmness, boldness of plan with self-possession in execution, as does Morgan. The feat reported of him in Nashville, shortly after the Rebel army retreated through it, illustrates this. Coming into the city full of Federal soldiers in the garb of a farmer with a load of meal, he generously gives it to the commissary department, saying, in an undertone, that there are some Union men out where he lives, but they have to be careful to dodge the Rebel cavalry, and he wishes to show his love for the cause by this little donation. Going to the St. Cloud to dine, he sits at the same table with General McCook, since cruelly murdered, and is pointed out to the Federal officer as the Union man who had made the generous gift. He is persuaded to take the value of it in gold, and then, in a private interview, tells the Federal officer that a band of Morgan's cavalry is camping near him, and if one or two hundred cavalry will come down there to-morrow he will show them how to take Morgan. The cavalry go, and are taken by Morgan. So the story goes. An equally successful feat it was, to step into the telegraph office in Gallatin, Tennessee, at a later date, as he did, dressed as a Federal officer, and there learn from the operator the time when the down-train would be in, and arrest it, securing many thousands of dollars without loss of men or time. Another anecdote of his cool daring and recklessness is this. Riding up to a picket post near Nashville, dressed in full Federal uniform, he sharply reproved the sentinel on duty for not calling out the guard to salute the officer of the day, as he announced himself to be. The sentinel stammered out, as an excuse, that he did not know him to be the officer of the day. Morgan ordered him to give up his arms, because of this breach of duty, and the man obeyed. He then called out the remaining six men of the guard, including the lieutenant who was in charge, and put them under arrest, ordering them to pile their arms, which they did. He then marched them down the road a short distance where his own men were concealed, and secured all of them, and their arms and horses, without resistance.
In an engagement Morgan is perfectly cool, and yet his face and action are as if surcharged with electricity. He has the quickness of a tiger, and the strength of two ordinary men. One cause of his success is found in the character of his chargers. He has only the fleetest and most enduring horses; and when one fails he soon finds another by hook or by crook. His business in his recent raid into Kentucky (July 28th), seemed to have been mainly to gather up the best blooded horses, in which that State abounds.
Unless in some fortunate hour for the loyal cause he should fall into the hands of the Federal forces, Colonel John H. Morgan will become one of the most potent and dangerous men in the Rebel service.
So far as my observation extended, the Southern cavalry are superior to the loyal, for the kind of service expected of them. They are not relied upon for heavy charges against large bodies of infantry closely massed, as in some of the wars of the Old World during the close of the last century and the first part of this; but for scouting, foraging, and sudden dashes against outposts and unguarded companies of their enemies. In this service, fleetness, perfect docility, and endurance for a few hours or a day, are requisite in the make-up of the horses used. And in these traits Morgan's blooded horses are admirable. And then, with the exception of some of the Western troopers, the Southerners are more perfect horsemen than our loyal cavalry. They have been on horseback, many of them, from youth, and are trained to the perfect control of themselves and their steeds in difficult circumstances. In addition to these causes of superiority, they have a vast advantage over the Federal troops in the present contest from two causes: It is hard to overestimate the advantage they find in a knowledge of the ground, the roads, the ravines, the hiding-places, the marshes, the fords, the forests, &c. But even more important than this is the sympathy they have from the inhabitants, almost universally, who give them information by every method, of the approach, strength, and plans of their enemies. Even the negroes will be found often, either from fear or other motives, to give all the information they can obtain to the Southerners. And the Southerners know far better than we do how to obtain, and sift, and estimate, the value of what the slaves tell them.
From these causes, we should look for and expect no little trouble from the mounted men, who will continue to constitute a pretty large element in the Rebel forces.
After commencing my service in the cavalry, we spent some three weeks in scouting and foraging, having Nashville for our center. During this time I rode as courier several times, on one occasion riding sixty miles, from Nashville to Shelbyville, in seven hours. Upon another occasion, my blooded horse made fourteen miles in a little less than fifty minutes; but this was harder service than we generally exacted from our horses. Upon reporting myself to General Breckenridge, for whom this arduous service had been performed, he merely said "Tres bien"—from which I saw that he expected prompt work from those who served him.
On Saturday the 15th of February, the report came that General Johnson would evacuate Bowling Green, and Sunday morning we learned, to the amazement of citizens and soldiers, that Fort Donelson was taken. Never was there greater commotion than Nashville exhibited that Sabbath morning. Churches were closed, Sabbath schools failed to assemble, citizens gathered in groups, consulted hastily, and then rushed to their homes to carry out their plans. Bank directors were speedily in council, and Confederate officials were everywhere engrossed in the plan of evacuation. A general stampede commenced. Specie was sent off to Columbia and Chattanooga, plate was removed, and valuables huddled promiscuously into all kinds of vehicles. Hack-hire rose to twenty-five dollars an hour, and personal service to fabulous prices. Government property was removed as fast as transportation could be furnished. Vast amounts of provisions and ammunition had been accumulated at Nashville, for the armies at Donelson and Bowling Green; and so confident were they of holding those points, that no provision had been made for retreat.
On Sunday the advance of the Bowling Green army began to come in, and those who escaped from Donelson on Tuesday. The appearance of these retreating forces increased the panic among the people, and as the troops came in the non-combatants went out. By the 20th, all who could get away were gone, and none but the military were prominent in the streets, and the sick and wounded were sent southward. The main body of the army camped on the Nashville side of the river. Work was suspended on two fine gunboats in process of construction, and orders given to be ready for their destruction at a moment's notice. The railroad bridge was also prepared for the same fate.
In the mean time the citizens, believing that General Johnson would make a stand, commenced a fortification, four miles from the city, on the south side of the Cumberland, for the purpose of resisting the advance of the gunboats. When it was announced that no defence would be made, the people were highly indignant, because the suddenness of this decision left the citizens no time for the removal of their remaining goods. As the Confederate authorities could not remove all their commissary stores, the warehouses were thrown open, and the poor came and carried off thousands of dollars' worth. Some of these people subsequently set up boarding-houses and fed Union soldiers from the provisions thus obtained.
At length the railroad bridge and the gunboats were burned, and the suspension bridge cut down. An act of pure vandalism was this last, as it neither aided the Rebel retreat nor delayed the Federal advance. Curses against General Floyd and Governor Harris were loud and deep for this act, and General A.S. Johnson never recovered the reputation lost during this retreat.
My company was constantly on scout duty, guarding the roads on the north side of the river, protecting the rear of the retreating hosts, and watching for the coming of Buell's advance. This whole retreat, from Bowling Green to Corinth, a distance of nearly three hundred miles as traveled by the army, and occupying six weeks, was one of the most trying that an army was ever called upon to perform in its own country and among friends. The army was not far from 60,000 strong, after General George B. Crittenden's forces were added to it at Murfreesboro. The season of the year was the worst possible in that latitude. Rain fell, sometimes sleet, four days out of seven. The roads were bad enough at best, but under such a tramping of horses and cutting of wheels as the march produced, soon became horrible. About a hundred regiments were numbered in the army. The full complement of wagons to each regiment—twenty-four—would give above two thousand wagons. Imagine such a train of heavily loaded wagons, passing along a single mud road, accompanied by 55,000 infantry and 5000 horsemen, in the midst of rain and sleet, day after day, camping at night in wet fields or dripping woods, without sufficient food adapted to their wants, and often without any tents, the men lying down in their wet clothes, and rising chilled through and through; and let this continue for six weeks of incessant retreat, and you get a feeble glimpse of what we endured. The army suffered great loss from sickness and some from desertion; some regiments leaving Bowling Green with six or seven hundred men, and reaching Corinth with but half of this number. The towns through which we passed were left full of sick men, and many were sent off to hospitals at some distance from our route.
One of the most desperate marches men were ever called to encounter, was performed by General Breckenridge's division between Fayetteville and Huntsville. They moved at ten A.M., and marched till one o'clock next morning, making thirty miles over a terrible road, amid driving rain and sleet during the whole time. The reason for this desperate work was, that a day's march lay between the rear-guard and the main body of General Johnson's army, and there was danger that it would be cut off. It cost the general hundreds of men. One-fourth of the division dropped out of the ranks unable to proceed, and were taken up by the guard, until every wagon and ambulance was loaded, and then scores were deserted on the road, who straggled in on following days, or made their way back to their homes in Tennessee or Kentucky.
This retreat left a good deal of desolation in its track; for although the officers endeavored to restrain their men, yet they must have wood; and where the forest was sometimes a mile from the camping ground, and fences were near, the fences suffered; and where sheep and hogs abounded when we came, bones and bristles were more abundant after we left. Horses were needed in the army; and after it left, none were seen on the farms. And then the impressed soldiers, judging from my own feelings, were not over-scrupulous in guarding the property of Rebels. The proud old planters, who had aided in bringing on the rebellion, were unwillingly compelled to bear part of its burdens.
This long and disastrous retreat was rendered a necessity as soon as Fort Henry, on the Tennessee river, was taken by the Federal forces, as this river was opened, and they could throw an army in the rear of the Confederates as far south as Florence, in Alabama, within a few days. Indeed the Confederate officers expected this, and wondered that the Federals failed to do it immediately, as this movement would have cut off Johnson's retreat, and have forced him to surrender, fight, or escape eastward through Knoxville, giving up the whole West to the loyal forces. The delay of the United States forces to take Fort Donelson allowed General A. Sidney Johnson to reach Corinth by March. Here General Beauregard, in command of the army of the Mississippi valley, and already there in person, determined to make a stand.
Great difference of opinion existed among Southern officers as to the expediency of this retreat. Many, among whom were Generals Breckenridge, Hindman, and Bowen, counseled to assume the offensive, and make a bold dash upon Louisville, Ky. This became the general opinion subsequently; and had it been adopted as the policy in the beginning, would have given a different phase to the war in the West, at least for a time.
A ludicrous scene occurred at this time, illustrating the liability to panic to which even brave men are sometimes subject. While resting at Murfreesboro, of course we were liable to be overtaken by Buell's cavalry, and as Colonel Morgan was not a man to be caught asleep, he kept scouting parties ever on the alert, scouring the country on different roads for miles in the direction of the Federal army. I was in command of a squad of eight men, with whom I made a long and rapid march in the direction of Lebanon, and when returning by a different route, night overtook us some fifteen miles from camp. After getting supper at a farm-house, we were again in the saddle at ten o'clock of a calm, quiet evening, with a dim moon to light us back to camp. We jogged on unsuspicious of danger, as we were now on the return from the direction of the Federal cavalry. Within ten miles of camp, near midnight, we passed through a lane and were just entering a forest, when we became aware that a cavalry force was approaching on the same road; but who they were, or how many, we had no idea. We were not expecting another party of our men in this direction, and yet they could hardly be Federals, or we would have heard of them, as we had been near their lines, and among the friends of the Southern cause.
Acting on the principle that it is safer to ask than to answer questions in such circumstances, I instantly ordered them to "Halt," and asked, "Who comes there?" Their commander was equally non-committal, and demanded, "Who comes there?"
"If you are friends, advance and give the countersign," said I; but scarcely was the word uttered when the buckshot from the shot-guns of the head of the column came whistling past us in dangerous but not fatal proximity. Thus challenged, I instantly ordered, "Draw saber—Charge!" and with a wild yell we dashed at them, determined to keep our course toward our camp, whoever they might be. To our surprise, they broke and ran in disorder, and we after them, yelling with all the voice we could command. I soon saw, from their mode of riding and glimpses of their dress, that they were Confederates; but as we had routed them, though seven times our number,—there were sixty-five of them,—we determined to give them a race. Keeping my men together, yelling in unison, and firing in the air occasionally, we pressed them closely six or seven miles. When within three miles of camp, I drew my men up and told them we must get in by another route, and, if possible, as soon as they. A rapid ride by a longer road brought us to the lines in a few minutes, and we found the whole force of over a thousand cavalrymen mounting to repel an attack from a formidable force of Federal cavalry, which had driven in the scouting party of sixty-five men, after a desperate encounter. I immediately reported the whole affair to Morgan, when, with a spice of humor which never forsakes him, he told me to keep quiet; and, calling up the lieutenant who was in charge of the scouting party, ordered him to narrate the whole affair. The lieutenant could not say how many Federal cavalry there were, but there must have been from three to five hundred, from the rattling of sabers and the volume of sound embodied in their unearthly yells. At all events, their charge was terrific, and his wonder was that any of his men escaped. How many of the Federals had fallen it was impossible to estimate, but some were seen to fall, &c.
When Morgan had learned the whole story, with the embellishments, he dismissed the lieutenant. But the story was too good to keep, and by morning the scare and its cause were fully ventilated, greatly to the chagrin of Major Bennett's battalion, to which the routed men belonged. They were questioned daily about "those three hundred Yankees who made that terrific charge;" and whenever a loud noise of any kind was made, even by a mule, it was asked, with a serious face, if that was equal to "the unearthly yells of the Yankees." Indeed, for weeks, "the three hundred Yankees" was a by-word of ridicule, in reply to any boast from one of Bennett's men.
Before we reached Shelbyville I met with my first wound,—though not from the guns of the Federals. I had chosen a vicious but noble-looking stallion for my Bucephalus, and in Rareyfying him into submission to Rebel rule, he got the better of me, so far as to land me about a rod over his head, and taking advantage of my being for the moment hors du combat, ran over me, struck me with one of his hind feet, and broke my kneepan. But so excited was I with the contest, and smarting under my defeat, that unconscious of the seriousness of my wound, I remounted, and rode four miles to camp at a speed which cooled his ire and taught him some manners. He ever behaved respectably after that, though I always doubted whether he was at heart a true and willing fighter in the Secession ranks, any more than his master. At the end of this race my knee had swollen to twice its usual size, and was exceedingly painful. With difficulty I dismounted, and for days was an invalid, for months lame, and even now at times suffer from the old contusion. Like many another disaster, this proved at length a blessing, as will yet be seen.
The state of society in Tennessee and Alabama, observed on our retreat, calls for no special remarks, except as to its loyalty to the Confederate usurpation. I am often asked respecting the Union feeling in the seceded States, and can only answer, that while I was there I did not see any. My position as an officer was not the most favorable for finding it if it had existed, still I would have seen the smallest evidences had they anywhere cropped out around me, as I was on the lookout for this; and then my last months in the South were spent among the citizens, where I must have seen any Union sentiment if it showed itself at all. The truth is, and it should be stated frankly: the whole people, men, women, and children, were a unit, cemented together under a high heat in opposition to "the invaders."
"But were there not many who if they had opportunity would have proclaimed themselves for the United States Government?" That question is answered in part by the conduct of most of the inhabitants in the Southern cities and neighborhoods already occupied by the loyal troops. Up to this writing, the developments have not been very encouraging. Yet I doubt not there are some, who in the depth of their hearts believe Secession wrong, and as a principle destructive to all government, and who long for the return of the peaceful and beneficent authority of the Constitution and laws of the Union; but they are too few and timid to exert the smallest influence. Nor dare they attempt it. The tyranny of public opinion is absolute. No young man able to bear arms dares to remain at home; even if the recruiting officers and the conscription law both fail to reach him, he falls under the proscription of the young ladies and must volunteer, as I did, though from not quite the same kind of force. And then, no expression of Union feeling would be tolerated for a moment. From their stand-point, why should it? They feel themselves engaged in a death-struggle, to defend their property, honor, and life. Any hint of Unionism among them is treachery to all their interests, and, besides, a rebuke upon their whole rebellion. When the North becomes as deeply and generally enlisted in the war as the South, and feel it to be a struggle for existence as keenly as they do, no man here will dare to express sentiments favoring the people or institutions of Rebeldom.
"But how," I am asked, "how can good and sensible men, and ministers, even, thus take ground against a beneficent government, and justify themselves in attempting its destruction?" Among the facts I have noted in my brief life, one is this: That the masses of men do not reason, but feel. A few minds give the cue, and the herd follow; and when passion takes possession of the heart, its fumes obscure the brain, and they can not see the truth. A general impression reiterated in a thousand forms, always affirmed and never denied, fills the mind, and is believed to be the truth. And thus it is with the people. "Are they sincere?" Yes, as sincere as ever were martyrs in going to the stake. This is demonstrated by their whole conduct; and conduct is the test of sincerity, while it proves but little as to the righteousness of the cause.
In addition it should be said, the common feeling is, "We are in for a fight, and must carry it through; there is no hope for us but in fighting; if we give up now, our institutions are ruined, and we forever the vassals of the domineering and meddling Yankees." This the leaders and prominent men feel most acutely, and hence they will fight to the last, and keep the people up to that point as long as possible. How long that will be depends upon the will of the North, as no sane man doubts they have the power, and no loyal man questions the right. But the spirit, the enthusiasm, the enlistment of all the people with all their power and resources, are, with the South, as yet far beyond any thing I have seen North.
I may here state that the Confederate authorities have complete control of the press, so that nothing is ever allowed to appear in print which can give information to the North or dishearten their own men. In this it appears to me that they have an unspeakable advantage over the North, with its numberless papers and hundreds of correspondents in the loyal armies. Under such a system it is an absolute impossibility to conceal the movements of the army. With what the correspondents tell and surmise, and what the Confederates find out through spies and informers of various kinds, they are able to see through many of the plans of the Union forces before they are put into execution. No more common remark did I hear than this, as officers were reading the Northern papers: "See what fools these Yankees are. General A—— has left B—— for C——. We will cut him off. Why the Northern generals or the Secretary of War tolerate this freedom of news we can not imagine." Every daily paper I have read since coming North has contained information, either by direct statement or implication, which the enemy can profit by. If we meant to play into the hands of the Rebels, we could hardly do it more successfully than our papers are doing it daily; for it must be remembered that they only need hints and scraps of information, which, added to the antecedent probabilities that our army is about to proceed to a certain point, will enable them to forecast with almost absolute certainty the movements of their enemies. Sure am I, that if a Southern paper would publish such information of their movements, as do the Northern of theirs, the editor's neck would not be safe an hour.
Does any reader aver, "But we see information often quoted from the Southern papers of their movements." Never, until they are made. It is safe to conclude, if you see in a Southern paper any statement that the army is about to do a certain thing, that they will not do any such thing, but something very different. No, the Southern government is now a complete military despotism, and for a successful carrying on of the war against them I think we must adopt, to some extent, the same rigid policy. Freedom of opinion is a precious right, and freedom of the press a valuable boon, but when the publication of news and the utterance of personal opinions endanger the lives of our soldiers, and even the success of our armies, surely it is the duty of the government to restrain that utterance.
New Duties. — Battle approaching. — Deserters and Scouts. — A Providence. — Position and Forces of the Confederates. — Orders to prepare to move. — My New Position. — March to the Battle Field. — Federals off their Guard. — Care of the Confederates against Desertion. — Council of War. — A Dreary Night. — Awfulness of War. — The Fight opened. — Beauregard's Address. — The First Dead. — Detour. — Camp of 71st Ohio Volunteers. — Failure of Strategy. — General Johnson killed. — Death concealed. — Furious Fighting. — Horse killed. — Sad Scene. — Rebels gaining. — Struck by a Shell. — Another Horse killed. — The Wounded Cavalryman and his Horse. — Sleep in the Camp of the 71st Ohio. — Startling Reveille. — Result of First Day's Battle. — Victory for the Rebels. — Arrangements for Second Day. — Bloody Scenes. — Grant's Attack. — Rebels fall back. — Fluctuations of the Day. — General Hindman blown up. — Retreat determined on — Leaving the Field. — Horrors of the Retreat. — Sleep among the Dying. — Reach Corinth. — Resolve.
General Breckenridge, about the 1st of April, let me know that he would soon wish me to act on his staff as special aid-de-camp, and advised me to instruct the next officers in command what to do in my absence.
But, before proceeding further, let us return to the movements of the Federal army under General Grant, which we left at Fort Donelson in February.
During the month of March, this army was transported down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee river in boats, and landed at Pittsburg, near the foot of Muscle Shoals, beyond which large transport boats could not pass. They camped about twenty miles from Corinth, Mississippi, and were awaiting Buell's column, before making an advance on Corinth.
Deserters and scouts gave Beauregard early notice of Grant's flotilla at Pittsburg Landing, about the 1st of April. Let me here repeat that the Rebel army has an incalculable advantage over the Federal troops, because fighting on their own soil, and where every man, woman, and child is a swift witness against "the invaders."
Beauregard and Johnson in conjoint command, resolved to attack Grant at Pittsburg Landing before Buell should join him. And here occurred one of those accidents, or providences, as a Christian man rightly regards them, which decided the character of the contest and its result. Grant was expecting Buell with reinforcements; Beauregard was looking for Price and Van Dorn, with 30,000 Missouri and Arkansas troops, who were coming down White River. They were expected to come to Memphis by boat, and to Corinth by rail, and it was hoped they would reach the Rebel forces by Sunday, the 6th of April. Hence our attack was delayed from Saturday the 5th, when we were ready to make it, in order to give time for at least the advance guard of our reinforcements to come up. This delay prevented the complete defeat and rout of Grant's whole force, as the Confederates since believe. I merely give this as their opinion. Indeed, my whole narration of events is intended to present the facts as they appeared to those with whom I was constrained to act. To give as clear a view as possible of the Southern side of that destructive conflict, let the situation and strength of the Rebel army be especially noted. On Thursday, the 3d of April, the preparations for the attack were completed by the commanding generals. Our army then presented a front toward Shiloh cross-roads and church, which place was occupied by General Grant's advance. The right wing, commanded by Brevet Major-general John C. Breckenridge rested at Burnsville, ten miles east of Corinth, on the Memphis and Charleston railroad. The center and left were massed at and near Corinth, the center commanded by Major-generals Hardee and Bragg, and the left by Major-general Polk and Brevet Major-general Hindman.
Breckenridge had 11,000 men, Bragg and Hardee about 20,000, Hindman and Polk not far from 10,000. The whole Confederate force was afterward stated in their official reports to be 39,000 men; it probably reached 45,000, but certainly not more. This statement will create surprise, and perhaps denial, but I know whereof I affirm in this. At that time I did not know it, nor did the troops generally have any clear idea of our force.
On Friday the 4th, orders reached us, at two P.M., to prepare five days' rations, roll up our tents, leave them, and be prepared to march in two hours, with forty rounds of ammunition. At the same time an aid from General Breckenridge ordered me to go to his head-quarters, with six reliable men. In a few minutes we answered to the order, every man splendidly mounted, and ready for any mission which he should designate.
With his quick eye he selected one for one duty and one for another, until each had sped away; and turning to me, he said, "You will act as a special aid-de-camp." This announcement I received with especial gratification, as it would relieve me of all actual fighting against the Old Flag, and give me an opportunity to see far more of the progress of the battle which was to ensue than if I were confined to the ranks. The special danger of the mission to which I was called made no impression upon me. I can not recall any time when I had a fear of falling, and I had none then. From that hour until the close of the battle on Monday, I was near General Breckenridge, or conveying dispatches to others from him; hence my narrative of the scenes of the next three days will be mainly of what occurred in General Breckenridge's division, and what I saw while traversing the field of action, which I crossed and recrossed twelve times.
On Friday, at eight P.M., we commenced to move toward Shiloh, in silence, and with great circumspection, the army on different, but converging roads. We made eight miles, and reached Monterey, a little more than seven miles from Shiloh, at five o'clock on Saturday morning. Here the different divisions formed a junction, and marched forward prepared for action, though not immediately expecting it. We proceeded with extreme caution until within three and a half miles of Grant's pickets, and until our scouts had determined their situation. We could get no nearer without bringing on an engagement; and as General Beauregard had great confidence that the reinforcements would arrive by morning, the afternoon of Saturday was spent in making all necessary disposition of the forces for an early and combined attack on Sunday morning.
While it is no part of my duty, in this narrative, to criticise military movements, and especially those of the Union forces, I may state that the total absence of cavalry pickets from General Grant's army was a matter of perfect amazement to the Rebel officers. There were absolutely none on Grant's left, where General Breckenridge's division was meeting him, so that we were able to come up within hearing of their drums entirely unperceived.
The Southern generals always kept cavalry pickets out for miles, even when no enemy was supposed to be within a day's march of them. The infantry pickets of Grant's forces were not above three-fourths of a mile from his advance camps, and they were too few to make any resistance. With these facts all made known to our head-quarters on Saturday evening, our army was arranged for battle with the certainty of a surprise, and almost the assurance of a victory. Every regiment was carefully and doubly guarded, so that no man might glide away from our ranks and put the Union forces on their guard. This I noted particularly, as I was studying plans of escape that night, that I might put the loyal forces on their guard against the fearful avalanche ready to be hurled upon them. I already saw that they would stand no fair chance for victory, taken completely at unawares. But the orders were imperative to allow no man to leave the ranks, and to shoot the first who should attempt it on any pretence. Then of the nature of the ground between the opposing forces I knew nothing, except that it was said to be crossed and seamed by swamps, in many places almost impassable by daylight, much more so at night. If, then, I should attempt to desert, I must run the gauntlet of our own double guard, risk the chance of making the three or four miles through woods and swamps in deep darkness, and the more hazardous chance, on reaching the Federal lines, of being shot by their pickets. I was therefore compelled to relinquish the hope of escape that night—a sad necessity, for if I had succeeded, it might have saved many Union lives.
About eight o'clock P.M. a council of war was held among the principal generals, and the plan of battle arranged. In an open space, with a dim fire in the midst, and a drum on which to write, you could see grouped around their "little Napoleon," as Beauregard was sometimes fondly called, ten or twelve generals, the flickering light playing over their eager faces, while they listened to his plans and made suggestions as to the conduct of the fight. He soon warmed with his subject, and throwing off his cloak to give free play to his arms, he walked about in the group, gesticulating rapidly, and jerking out his sentences with a strong French accent. All listened attentively, and the dim light just revealing their countenances showed their different emotions of confidence or distrust in his plans. General Sidney Johnson stood apart from the rest, with his tall straight form standing out like a specter against the dim sky, and the illusion was fully sustained by the light-gray military cloak which he folded around him. His face was pale, but wore a determined expression, and at times he drew nearer the center of the ring and said a few words, which were listened to with great attention. It may be he had some foreboding of the fate he was to meet on the morrow, for he did not seem to take much part in the discussion. General Breckenridge lay stretched out on a blanket near the fire, and occasionally sat upright and added a few words of counsel. General Bragg spoke frequently and with earnestness. General Polk sat on a camp-stool at the outside of the circle, and held his head between his hands, seeming buried in thought. Others reclined or sat in various positions. What a grand study for a Rembrandt was this, to see these men, who held the lives of many thousands in their power, planning how best to invoke the angel Azrael to hurl his darts with the breaking of morning light.
For two hours the council lasted, and as it broke up, and the generals were ready to return to their respective commands, I heard General Beauregard say,—raising his hand and pointing in the direction of the Federal camps, whose drums we could plainly hear,—"Gentlemen, we sleep in the enemy's camp to-morrow night."
The Confederate generals had minute information of General Grant's position and numbers. This knowledge was obtained through spies and informers, some of whom had lived in that part of the country and knew every foot of the ground.
Yet that was a dreary night to prepare for the dreadful battle of to-morrow. The men were already weary, hungry, and cold. No fires were allowed, except in holes in the ground, over which the soldiers bent with their blankets round their shoulders, striving to catch and concentrate the little heat that struggled up through the bleak April air. Many a poor fellow wrote his last sentence in his note-book that night by the dim light of these smothered fires, and sat and talked in undertones of home, wife, and mother, sister or sweetheart. Promises were made to take care of each other, if wounded, or send word home, if slain; keepsakes were looked at again for the last time, and silent prayers were offered by men unused to look above. What an awful thing is war! Here lay, almost within cannon-shot of one another, eighty or ninety thousand men—brothers of the same race and nation, many of them blood relations; thousands of them believing in the same Saviour, and worshiping the same God, their prayers meeting that night at the throne of Heavenly Grace;—yet waiting for the light of the holy Sabbath that they may see how most surely to destroy one another! And yet the masses of these have no ill feeling. It is human butchery, at the bidding of arch-conspirators. Upon them be all the blood shed! A fearful guilt is theirs!
What sleep the men could get on the cold, damp ground, with little protection or fire, they secured during the early part of Saturday night. On Sunday morning, the 6th of April, we were under arms and ready to move by three o'clock.
General Hardee, one of the bravest men in the Confederate service, led the advance and center, and made the attack. Had I not been called to staff duty, I should have been in the advance with my company. Glad was I that I was not called to fire upon the unsuspecting soldiers of my Northern home. As the day dawned we could hear the musketry, first in dropping shots, then volley after volley, as the battle grew hotter. A little after daylight we passed General Beauregard and staff, who were then over a mile in rear of the troops engaged. He addressed each brigade as it passed, assuring them of a glorious victory, telling them to fight with perfect confidence, as he had 80,000 men available, who should come into action as fast as needed; and wherever reinforcements were wanted, Beauregard would be there. This boast of 80,000 men the officers knew to be false, as he had not a man over 45,000; but as he expected 30,000 under Price and Van Dorn he counted them in, and added 10,000 more to strengthen confidence. But neither he nor any other Confederate general asks any defence for such statements. "Military necessity" will justify any course they choose to take in advancing their cause. After we passed Beauregard, a few minutes of "double quick" brought our division to Grant's advance pickets, who had been surprised and cut down by Hardee's cavalry. This was the first time many of the soldiers had seen men killed in battle, and they stepped carefully around the dead bodies, and seemed to shudder at the sight. General Breckenridge observing it, said quickly, "Never mind this, boys; press on!" Before night, those who remained walked over dead bodies in heaps without a shudder. We soon reached an open field, about eighty rods wide, on the further side of which we could see the camps, and the smoke of battle just beyond. We here made a sharp detour to the right, and ascended a broken range of hills, pressing on for nearly a mile. Here we took position just in front of General Albert Sidney Johnson and staff, and awaited orders. General Breckenridge rode up to General Johnson, and after conversing in a low tone for a few minutes, Johnson said, so that many heard it, "I will lead your brigade into the fight to-day; for I intend to show these Tennesseans and Kentuckians that I am no coward." Poor general! you were not allowed the privilege. We then advanced in line of battle, and General Statham's brigade was engaged first. "Boys," said Breckenridge, "we must take that battery which is shelling Statham. Will you do it?" A wild shout of "Ay, ay, sir," and "Forward to take that battery," was the word; but before we reached the ground it was withdrawn. We now advanced, cautiously, and soon entered the camp of the Seventy-first Ohio Volunteers. By this time, ten o'clock A.M., the battle seemed to be raging along the whole line.
A part of the original plan of battle was to have a space several hundred yards wide between Breckenridge's left and Hardee's right, and thus invite Grant's men into a trap. They refusing to be entrapped, and keeping their front unbroken, Breckenridge sent me to General Johnson for new instructions. When I had come within about ten rods of Johnson's staff, a shell burst in the air about equidistant from myself and the staff. The missiles of death seemed to fill the air in every direction, and almost before the fragments had found their resting-place, I reined up my horse and saluted. General Johnson, who was in front of his staff, had turned away his horse and was leaning a little forward, pressing his right knee against the saddle. In a moment, and before the dispatch was delivered, the staff discovered that their leader was wounded, and hastened to his assistance. A piece of the shell, whose fragments had flown so thick around me as I came up, had struck his thigh half way between his hip and knee, and cut a wide path through, severing the femoral artery. Had he been instantly taken from his horse and a tourniquet applied, he might perhaps have been saved. When reproached by Governor Harris, chief of staff and his brother-in-law, for concealing his wound while his life-blood was ebbing away, he replied, with true nobility of soul, "My life is nothing to the success of this charge; had I exclaimed I was wounded when the troops were passing, it might have created a panic and defeat." In ten minutes after he was lifted from his horse he ceased to breathe. Thus died one of the bravest generals in the Rebel army. My dispatch was taken by Colonel Wickliffe and handed to Harris, who directed me to take it to General Beauregard. When he had read it, he asked—
"Why did you not take this to General Johnson?"
"I did, sir."
"Did he tell you to bring it to me?"
"General Johnson is dead, sir."
"How do you know?"
"I saw him die ten minutes ago?"
"How was he killed?"
I told him. He then dictated two dispatches, one to Governor Harris and one to General Breckenridge, telling them to conceal the death of Johnson, and bidding me not to speak of it to any one. So far as the report of his death was circulated the officers denied it, some affirming that it was Governor Johnson of Kentucky who was killed, others admitting that General A.S. Johnson was slightly wounded. The army knew not of his death till they reached Corinth.
When I returned to General Breckenridge's staff they had advanced half a mile, and were furiously engaged within half-musket range with both small-arms and artillery. About noon General Bowen's brigade—Breckenridge's left—was forced to fall back for ammunition and to reform, their place being supplied by two regiments of Louisiana troops. Here, from two to four P.M., was the hardest fighting in the battle. Breckenridge's own brigade losing nearly one-fourth within two hours. The fire of the Union troops was low and very effective. A battery here did fearful execution among the Rebels with shell, grape, and canister. A wounded gunner belonging to this battery told me the shells were fired with one-second fuses. Our men were ordered to lie down and load, and yet many were killed in this position, so accurate was the fire of the Federal troops. I saw five men killed by the explosion of one shell.
About three o'clock I was sent to the rear with dispatches of the progress of the battle, and asking reinforcements. When about half way to Beauregard's staff, riding at full gallop, my first serious accident occurred, my life being saved by but a hair's breadth. As my horse rose in a long leap, his fore-feet in the air and his head about as high as my shoulder, a cannon-ball struck him above the eye and carried away the upper part of his head. Of course the momentum carried his lifeless body some ten feet ahead, and hurled me some distance further,—saber, pistols, and all. I gathered myself up, and to my surprise was not hurt in the least. One second later, the ball would have struck me and spared the horse. Thankful for my life, I threw off my saber and my tight uniform-coat, gave my pistols to a cavalryman near by, and started in search of another horse. General Breckenridge had told me in the morning, if my horse was killed to take the first unemployed one I could find. I knew where some of the infantry field-officers had tied their horses in a ravine in the rear, and while seeking them, I met a scene which lives in my memory as if it were but yesterday.
I had just filled my canteen at a spring, and as I turned from it my eye met the uplifted gaze of a Federal officer, I think a colonel of an Illinois regiment, who was lying desperately wounded, shot through the body and both legs, his dead horse lying on one of his shattered limbs. A cannon-ball had passed through his horse and both of his own knees. He looked pleadingly for a drink, but hesitated to ask it of an enemy, as he supposed me to be. I came up to him, and said, "You seem to be badly wounded, sir; will you have some water?"
"Oh, yes," said he; "but I feared to ask you for it."
"Because I expected no favor of an enemy."
Two other men coming by, I called them to aid in removing the dead horse from his wounded limb. They did so, and then passed on; but I seemed bound to him as by a spell. His manly face and soldierly bearing, when suffering so terribly, charmed me. I changed his position, adjusted his head, arranged his mangled legs in an easy posture, supporting them by leaves stuffed under the blanket on which we had laid him. In the mean time he took out his watch and money, and requested me to hand him his pistols from the saddle-holsters, and urged me to take them, as some one might rob him, and I was the only one who had shown him kindness. I declined, and wrapping them up in a blanket, placed them under his head, telling him the fortunes of war might yet bring his own troops to his side. He seemed overcome, and said, "My friend, why this kindness to an enemy?"
As I gave him another draught of water, I said, "I am not the enemy I seem;" and pressing his hand, I walked quickly on.
He could not live long, but I hope his friends found him as they swept back over the ground the next day.
I soon found a splendid horse, and rode to General Beauregard for orders, and reached my own general about four o'clock P.M. I found that the Federal troops had fallen back more than a mile, but were still fiercely contending for the ground. The Rebels were confident of victory, and pressed them at every point. I had scarce time to mark the condition of things however, until I was again dispatched to the commander-in-chief. I had but fairly started, when I was struck on the right side by a piece of a shell almost spent, which yet came near ending my earthly career. My first feeling after the shock was one of giddiness and blindness, then of partial recovery, then of deathly sickness. I succeeded in getting off rather than falling from my horse, near the root of a tree, where I fainted and lay insensible for nearly an hour. At length, I recovered so far as to be able to remount my horse, whose bridle I had somehow held all the time, though unconsciously. I had ridden but a few rods when a musket-ball passed through the neck of this, my second horse, but, to my surprise, he did not fall immediately. A tremor ran through his frame which I felt, convincing me that he was mortally wounded. I dismounted, and stood watching him. He soon sank on his knees, and then slowly lay down on his side. As his life-blood ebbed away, his eye glazed, and making a last futile effort to rise, he fell back again and died with a groan almost like the last agony of a human being. The pain of my side and my knee, which was never entirely free from pain, grew worse, and I saw that unless I found surgical attendance and rest, I would soon be exhausted. In making my way to the general hospital which was established on the ground where the battle commenced, I met one of Forrest's cavalry, wounded in the foot, and very weak from loss of blood. With my handkerchief and a short stick, I made a simple tourniquet, which stopped the bleeding, when I accompanied him to the hospital. After the dressing of my wound, which was an extensive bruise, about five inches in diameter, I took the cavalryman's horse, and started back to my command. When I had reached the camp of the 71st Ohio Volunteers, my strength failed, and after getting something to eat for myself and horse, and a bucket of water to bathe my side during the night, I tied my horse near the door of a tent, and crept in to try to sleep. But the shells from the gunboats, which made night hideous, the groans of the wounded, and the pleadings of the dying, for a time prevented. Weariness at length overcame me, and sleep followed more refreshing and sound than I hoped for under the circumstances.
The sharp rattle of musketry awakened me early, announcing the opening of the second day's battle. But before I speak of Monday the 7th, I will state why the Confederates ceased to fight at half-past five P.M., on Sabbath evening, when they had another hour of daylight. They had already driven back the Federal forces more than three miles along their whole line, had taken 4000 prisoners, including most of General Prentiss's brigade, had captured about seventy pieces of artillery, according to their statement, had taken an immense baggage-train, with vast quantities of commissary, quartermaster's, and medical stores, and had driven Grant's forces under the shelter of their gunboats. Had the battle ended here, the victory would have been most triumphant for the Rebels. Generals Bragg and Breckenridge urged that the battle should go on, that Grant's force was terribly cut up and demoralized, that another hour would take them all prisoners, or drive them into the river, and that then the transport fleet of more than a hundred boats, would be at the control of the Confederates, who could assume the offensive, and in five days take Louisville. Other officers argued that half of their own troops were disabled or scattered, that it would risk the victory already gained to push the remainder of Grant's forces, which now turned at bay, might make a desperate stand. They estimated their own loss at ten or twelve thousand men, and knew that many, thinking the battle was over, had left their commands and were loading themselves with plunder, from the pockets of the dead and the knapsacks lying over the field or found in the Federal camps. Some expressed strong confidence that Price and Van Dorn would arrive during the night, and the victory would be easily completed on the morrow.
While this argument lasted, the men were resting, the hour passed away, and night spread her sable pall over the scene.
The night was spent in removing the wounded, and as much of the captured stores and artillery as possible; but horses and wagons were scarce, and most of the stores and some wounded were left. The Confederates carried off thirty-six pieces of artillery, which were not retaken. Hospitals were established on the road leading to Corinth, and most of the wounded of the first day received every attention possible under the circumstances; though the advance had been made so suddenly, that insufficient attention had been given to providing medical stores and surgical instruments. The scattered regiments were gathered, reorganized, and put, as far as possible, in order for battle, and Beauregard ordered a large cavalry force to stretch themselves out in a line a short distance in rear of the army, to turn back all stragglers, and gave them instructions to shoot any unwounded man retreating. This was rigidly enforced, and some who attempted to escape were shot. Orders were issued to shoot any one found plundering the dead or wounded. Stragglers were forced into the nearest regiment, and every thing done that could be to insure success.
From the foregoing account it will be seen that the following telegram, sent by Beauregard to Richmond, is not far from literally true:
"BATTLE-FIELD OF SHILOH, Via Corinth and Chattanooga, April 6, 1862.
"GENERAL S. COOPER, Adjutant-general,—We have this morning attacked the enemy in strong position in front of Pittsburg, and after a severe battle of ten hours, thanks to Almighty God, gained a complete victory, driving the enemy from every position.
"The loss on both sides is heavy, including our commander-in-chief, General Albert Sidney Johnson, who fell gallantly leading his troops into the thickest of the fight.
"G.T. BEAUREGARD, General commanding."
The morning of Monday, April 7th, was dark and gloomy; the men were weary and stiffened by the exertions of the previous day, and from the chilling effects of the rain which fell during the night. The dead of both armies lay strewed over the field by hundreds, and many of the desperately wounded were still groaning out their lives in fearful agony. At five A.M. I was in the saddle, though, scarcely able to mount, from the pain in knee and side; and in making my way to General Beauregard's staff, my head reeled and my heart grew sick at the scenes through which I passed. I record but one. In crossing a small ravine, my horse hesitated to step over the stream, and I glanced down to detect the cause. The slight rain during the night had washed the leaves out of a narrow channel down the gully some six inches wide, leaving the hard clay exposed. Down this pathway ran sluggishly a band of blood nearly an inch thick, filling the channel. For a minute I looked and reflected, how many human lives are flowing past me, and who shall account for such butchery! Striking my rowels into the horse to escape from the horrible sight, he plunged his foot into the stream of blood, and threw the already thickening mass in ropy folds upon the dead leaves on the bank! The only relief to my feelings was the reflection that I had not shed one drop of that blood.
I took my position on General B.'s staff at six o'clock in the morning, and remained near him most of the day. The Federal forces had already commenced the attack, and the tide of battle soon turned. Grant's reinforcements had come up during the night, but Beauregard's had not, and early in the day it became evident that we were fighting against fearful odds. Beauregard sent forward 3000 of his best troops, held as a reserve during the first day. They did all that so small a number could do, but it was of no avail. Step by step they drove us back, while every foot of ground was yielded only after a determined resistance. The battle raged mainly on our left, General Breckenridge's division doing but little fighting this day, compared with the first day. General Grant seemed determined to outflank our left, and occupy the road behind us, and as the Confederates had not men enough to hold the camps they had taken, and check this flank movement, retreat became necessary. About nine A.M. I rode to General Beauregard for orders; when returning, I heard the report that General Buell had been killed and his body taken toward Corinth. This report that the Federal commander, as many supposed Buell to be, was killed, and his body taken, revived the flagging hopes of the Confederates. Of the fluctuations of the battle from nine A.M. till three P.M. I can say but little, as it was mainly confined to our center and left. During this time the Rebel forces had fallen back to the position occupied by Grant's advance Sabbath morning. The loyal troops had regained all the ground lost, and whatever of artillery and stores the Rebels had been unable to convey to the rear, and were now pressing us at every point.
Just before the retreat, occurred one of the most remarkable incidents of the battle; few more wonderful are on record. General Hindman, than whom no more fearless, dashing, or brave man is found in the Rebel service, was leading his men in a fearful struggle for the possession of a favorable position, when a shell from the Federal batteries, striking his horse in the breast and passing into his body, exploded. The horse was blown to fragments, and the rider, with his saddle, lifted some ten feet in the air. His staff did not doubt that their general was killed, and some one cried out, "General Hindman is blown to pieces." Scarcely was the cry uttered, when Hindman sprang to his feet and shouted, "Shut up there, I am worth two dead men yet. Get me another horse." To the amazement of every one, he was but little bruised. His heavy and strong cavalry saddle, and probably the bursting of the shell downward, saved him. In a minute he was on a new horse and rallying his men for another dash. A man of less flexible and steel-like frame would probably have been so jarred and stunned by the shock as to be unable to rise; he, though covered with blood and dust, kept his saddle during the remainder of the day, and performed prodigies of valor. But no heroism of officers or men could avail to stay the advance of the Federal troops.
At three o'clock P.M. the Confederates decided on a retreat to Corinth; and General Breckenridge, strengthened by three regiments of cavalry,—Forrest's, Adams', and the Texas Rangers, raising his effective force to 12,000 men,—received orders to protect the rear. By four P.M. the Confederates were in full retreat. The main body of the army passed silently and swiftly along the road toward Corinth, our division bringing up the rear, determined to make a desperate stand if pursued. At this time the Union forces might have closed in upon our retreating columns and cut off Breckenridge's division, and perhaps captured it. A Federal battery threw some shells, as a feeler, across the road on which we were retreating, between our division and the main body, but no reply was made to them, as this would have betrayed our position. We passed on with little opposition or loss, and by five o'clock had reached a point one and a half miles nearer Corinth than the point of attack Sabbath morning.
Up to this time the pursuit seemed feeble, and the Confederates were surprised that the victorious Federals made no more of their advantage. Nor is it yet understood why the pursuit was not pressed. A rapid and persistent pursuit would have created a complete rout of the now broken, weary, and dispirited Rebels. Two hours more of such fighting as Buell's fresh men could have made, would have demoralized and destroyed Beauregard's army. For some reason this was not done, and night closed the battle.
About five o'clock I requested permission to ride on toward Corinth, as I was faint and weary, and, from the pain in my side and knee, would not be able to keep the saddle much longer. This was granted, and I made a detour from the road on which the army was retreating, that I might travel faster and get ahead of the main body. In this ride of twelve miles alongside of the routed army, I saw more of human agony and woe than I trust I will ever again be called on to witness. The retreating host wound along a narrow and almost impassable road, extending some seven or eight miles in length. Here was a long line of wagons loaded with wounded, piled in like bags of grain, groaning and cursing, while the mules plunged on in mud and water belly-deep, the water sometimes coming into the wagons. Next came a straggling regiment of infantry pressing on past the train of wagons, then a stretcher borne upon the shoulders of four men, carrying a wounded officer, then soldiers staggering along, with an arm broken and hanging down, or other fearful wounds which were enough to destroy life. And to add to the horrors of the scene, the elements of heaven marshaled their forces,—a fitting accompaniment of the tempest of human desolation and passion which was raging. A cold, drizzling rain commenced about nightfall, and soon came harder and faster, then turned to pitiless blinding hail. This storm raged with unrelenting violence for three hours. I passed long wagon trains filled with wounded and dying soldiers, without even a blanket to shield them from the driving sleet and hail, which fell in stones as large as partridge eggs, until it lay on the ground two inches deep.
Some three hundred men died during that awful retreat, and their bodies were thrown out to make room for others who, although wounded, had struggled on through the storm, hoping to find shelter, rest, and medical care.
By eight o'clock at night I had passed the whole retreating column, and was now in advance, hoping to reach Corinth, still four miles ahead. But my powers of endurance, though remarkable, were exhausted, and I dismounted at a deserted cabin by the wayside, scarce able to drag myself to the doorway. Here a surgeon was tending some wounded men who had been sent off the field at an early hour of the first day. To his question, "Are you wounded?" I replied that my wound was slight, and that I needed refreshment and sleep more than surgical aid. Procuring two hard crackers and a cup of rye Coffee, I made a better meal than I had eaten in three days, and then lay down in a vacant room and slept.
When I awoke it was broad daylight, and the room was crowded full of wounded and dying men, so thickly packed that I could hardly stir. I was not in the same place where I had lain down; but of my change of place, and of the dreadful scenes which had occurred during the night, I had not the slightest knowledge.
As I became fully awake and sat up, the surgeon turned to me, and said, "Well, you are alive at last. I thought nothing but an earthquake would wake you. We have moved you about like a log, and you never groaned or showed any signs of life. Men have trampled on you, dying men have groaned all around you, and yet you slept as soundly as a babe in its cradle. Where is your wound?"
How I endured the horrors of that night, rather how I was entirely unconscious of them and slept refreshingly through them, is to me a mystery. But so it was, and it seemed to be the turning-point of my knee-wound, as it has never troubled me so much since.
I now rode on to Corinth, where I changed clothes, had a bath and breakfast, and found a hospital and a surgeon. He decided that I was unfit for duty, and must take my place among the invalids. After dressing my wounds he advised rest. I slept again for six hours, and woke in the afternoon almost a well man, as I thought.
Thus ended my courier service, and I then resolved that no earthly power should ever force me into another battle against the Government under which I was born; and I have kept my resolution.
General Beauregard's official dispatch of the second day's battle, given below, was a very neat attempt to cover up defeat. It expresses the general opinion of the people in the South as to the battle of Pittsburg Landing.
"CORINTH, Tuesday, April 8, 1862.
"To the SECRETARY OF WAR, Richmond:
"We have gained a great and glorious victory. Eight to ten thousand prisoners, and thirty-six pieces of cannon. Buell reinforced Grant, and we retired to our intrenchments at Corinth, which we can hold. Loss heavy on both sides.
Wounded arriving. — Care of my own Men. — Appointment as Assistant-surgeon. — Discharge from Rebel Army. — Dreadful Scenes. — Sickness. — Nurses. — Stoicism. — Military Murder of a Deserter. — No Pay. — Go to Mobile. — Spirit of the People on the Way. — Met at Depot. — No Means of Escape. — The Stagnant City. — Surveillance of the Press. — Forced Charity. — In charge of a Hospital. — Selma. — Kindness of Ladies. — Piano. — Artesian Wells. — Model Hospital. — Furlough to Richmond. — Rigid Discipline. — Disappointment. — Bitter Thoughts. — Crinoline and Volunteering. — North asleep.
The wounded were now arriving in large numbers, but so exhausted by the loss of blood, the jolting in rough wagons, and the exposure of the fearful night, that many were too far gone for relief.
As I had, while at school in New York, frequented the hospitals, and also attended two courses of medical lectures, I had gained a little knowledge of wounds and their treatment. This fact, and a special fondness if not aptitude for that study, decided my future course.
My first care was for the members of the company I had commanded during the long retreat from Nashville; hence I went out to seek them. Meeting them a short distance from Corinth, I had them taken to a hospital established in an unfinished brick church in the north end of the town, and here I remained, giving them all possible care and attention.
Next morning, Dr. J.C. Nott, Surgeon-general of the Western division of the Confederate service, appointed me as assistant-surgeon on his staff. The scarcity of surgeons to meet the immense demand, and, perhaps, a little skill shown in dressing wounds, secured me this appointment. On the following Saturday, April 12, 1862, I obtained an honorable discharge from the army, on account of my wounds, but retained my position of assistant-surgeon, as a civilian appointment.
During the ten days I remained at Corinth the town was a perfect aceldama, though all was done that could be to save life and alleviate suffering. Many of the best surgeons in the South arrived in time to render valuable assistance to the army surgeons in their laborious duties. Among these may be named Surrell of Virginia, Hargis and Baldwin of Mississippi, Richardson of New Orleans, La Fressne of Alabama, with many others of high reputation. During the week following the battle the wounded were brought in by hundreds, and the surgeons were overtasked. Above 5000 wounded men, demanding instant and constant attendance, made a call too great to be met successfully. A much larger proportion of amputations was performed than would have been necessary if the wounds could have received earlier attention. On account of exposures, many wounds were gangrenous when the patients reached the hospital. In these cases delay was fatal, and an operation almost equally so, as tetanus often followed speedily. Where amputation was performed, eight out of ten died. The deaths in Corinth averaged fifty per day for a week after the battle. While the surgeons, as a body, did their duty nobly, there were some young men, apparently just out of college, who performed difficult operations with the assurance and assumed skill of practiced surgeons, and with little regard for human life or limb. In a few days erysipelas broke out, and numbers died of it. Pneumonia, typhoid fever, and measles followed, and Corinth was one entire hospital. As soon as possible, the wounded who could be moved were sent off to Columbus, Okalona, Lauderdale Springs, and elsewhere, and some relief was thus obtained. We were also comforted by the arrival of a corps of nurses. Their presence acted like a charm. Order emerged from chaos, and in a few hours all looked cleaner and really felt better, from the skill and industry of a few devoted women. A pleasant instance of the restraint of woman's presence upon the roughest natures occurred in the hospital I was attending. A stalwart backwoodsman was suffering from a broken arm, and had been venting his spleen upon the doctors and male nurses by continued profanity; but when one of his fellow-sufferers uttered an oath, while the "Sisters" were near ministering to the comfort of the wounded, he sharply reproved him, demanding—"Have you no more manners than to swear in the presence of ladies?" All honor to these devoted Sisters, who, fearless of danger and disease, sacrificed every personal comfort to alleviate the sufferings of the sick and wounded after this terrible battle.
An instance of most heroic endurance, if not of fool-hardy stoicism, such as has few parallels in history, occurred during the contest, which deserves mention. Brigadier-general Gladden, of South Carolina, who was in General Bragg's command, had his left arm shattered by a ball, on the first day of the fight. Amputation was performed hastily by his staff-surgeon on the field; and then, instead of being taken to the rear for quiet and nursing, he mounted his horse, against the most earnest remonstrances of all his staff, and continued to command. On Monday, he was again in the saddle, and kept it during the day; on Tuesday, he rode on horseback to Corinth, twenty miles from the scene of action, and continued to discharge the duties of an officer. On Wednesday, a second amputation, near the shoulder, was necessary, when General Bragg sent an aid to ask if he would not be relieved of his command. To which he replied, "Give General Bragg my compliments, and say that General Gladden will only give up his command to go into his coffin." Against the remonstrances of personal friends, and the positive injunctions of the surgeons, he persisted in sitting up in his chair, receiving dispatches and giving directions, till Wednesday afternoon, when lockjaw seized him, and he died in a few moments. A sad end was this, for a man possessing many of the noblest and most exalted characteristics.
Two days thereafter, on the 11th of April, there was perpetrated one of the most diabolical murders ever sanctioned by the forms of law. It illustrates the atrocious wickedness of the rebellion, and the peril of sympathy with the Union cause in the South. Patriotism here wins applause, there a culprit's doom. The facts were these: When the Rebels were raising a force in Eastern Tennessee, two brothers by the name of Rowland volunteered; a younger brother, William H. Rowland, was a Union man, and refusing to enlist was seized and forced into the army. He constantly protested against his impressment, but without avail. He then warned them that he would desert the first opportunity, as he would not fight against the cause of right and good government. They were inexorable, and he was torn from his family and hurried to the field. At the battle of Fort Donelson, Rowland escaped from his captors in the second day's action, and immediately joined the loyal army. Though now, to fight against his own brothers, he felt that he was in a righteous cause, and contending for a worthy end.
In the battle of Pittsburg Landing he was taken prisoner by the very regiment to which he had formerly belonged. This sealed his fate. On the way to Corinth several of his old comrades, among them his two brothers, attempted to kill him, one of them nearly running him through with a bayonet. He was, however, rescued from this peril by the guard. Three days after the retreating army had reached Corinth, General Hardee, in whose division was the regiment claiming this man as a deserter, gave orders to have Rowland executed. The general, I hope from some misgivings of conscience, was unwilling to witness the execution of his own order, and detailed General Claibourne to carry out the sentence. About four o'clock P.M., some 10,000 Tennessee troops were drawn up in two parallel lines, facing inward, three hundred yards apart. The doomed man, surrounded by the guard, detailed from his own former regiment to shoot him, marched with a firm step into the middle of the space between the two lines of troops. Here his grave had been already dug, and a black pine coffin lay beside it. No minister of religion offered to direct his thoughts to a gracious Saviour. I fear he was poorly prepared for the eternity upon which he was just entering.
The sentence was read, and he was asked if he had any thing to say why it should not be executed. He spoke in a firm, decided tone, in a voice which could be heard by many hundreds, and nearly in the following words. "Fellow-soldiers, Tennesseans, I was forced into Southern service against my will and against my conscience. I told them I would desert the first chance I found, and I did it. I was always a Union man and never denied it, and I joined the Union army to do all the damage I could to the Confederates. I believe the Union cause is right and will triumph. You can kill me but once, and I am not afraid to die in a good cause. My only request is, that you let my wife and family know that I died like a man in supporting my principles. My brothers there would shoot me if they had a chance, but I forgive them. Now shoot me through the heart, that I may die instantly."
Such were his fearless, even defiant words, and I recall them with the distinctness of a present thought, for it needed little imagination to place myself in his stead. Had I succeeded in escaping at any former period and been retaken, this would have been my fate. While I saw the hazard, I was none the less resolved to make the attempt, and soon.
After Rowland had ceased to speak, he took off hat, coat, and necktie, and laying his hand on his heart, he said, "Aim here." But the sergeant of the guard advanced to tie his hands and blindfold him. He asked the privilege of standing untied; the request was not granted. His eyes were then bandaged, he kneeled upon his coffin, and engaged in prayer for several minutes, and then said he was ready. The lieutenant of the guard then gave the word, "Fire," and twenty-four muskets, half of them loaded with ball, were discharged. When the smoke lifted, the body had fallen backward, and was still. Several balls had passed through his head, and some through his heart. His body was tumbled into the rough pine box, and buried by the men that shot him. Such was the fate of a Tennessee patriot. His blood will be required of those who instigated the Rebellion. General Hardee said afterward, when the scene was described to him, "I think the man was half crazy from brooding over his fancied wrongs. His execution was necessary to prevent others from deserting, but no sum of money could have induced me to witness it." General, were they "fancied wrongs!"
This scene strengthened my purpose to disconnect myself from the South as soon as I could get my pay, which was now many months in arrears. I could not travel many hundreds of miles without means, and in a direction to excite suspicion in the mind of every man I might meet. But the paymaster was not in funds; and while he approved and indorsed my bills, he said I must go to Richmond to receive the money. I had not means to go to Richmond. My horses, of which I owned two, I was determined to keep, to aid me off; hence I was forced to continue in my position as assistant-surgeon for a time.
On the 17th of April, the surgeon-general to whose staff I was attached left Corinth for Mobile, nearly three hundred miles distant, with a train conveying about forty wounded men. The journey was tedious, and to the wounded, painful, as they occupied box-cars without springs, and the weather was exceedingly warm. A few of the men were left under the care of physicians by the way, being unable to endure the motion of the cars. We proceeded leisurely from station to station, stopping long enough to receive provisions for all on board from the citizens on the line of the road, which were freely and gratuitously furnished. Wherever we stopped long enough to give the people time to assemble, crowds came to offer relief,—ladies with flowers, jellies, and cakes for the poor fellows, and men with the more substantial provisions. One rich old gentleman at Lauderdale Springs, named Martin, sent in a wagon loaded with stores. This exuberance of supplies thus voluntarily furnished, is an index of the feeling of the masses in the South as to the cause in which they have embarked their all.
At the end of two and a half days we reached Mobile, and were met at the depot by a large company of ladies with carriages, to take the wounded men to a spacious and airy hospital, prepared with every necessary and comfort which could be devised. A large number of servants were in attendance, to carry those too severely wounded to ride in the carriages; and whatever water, and clean suits, and food, and smiles, and sympathy, and Christian conversation, and religious books, could do for their comfort, was done.
After seeing the men nicely cared for, and resting, I set myself to investigations as to the possibility of escape from Mobile out to the blockading fleet, in case I could not get my pay to go home by land. I met no cheering facts in this search. There were about 4000 troops in and around the city. Fort Morgan was strongly guarded, and egress was difficult, while the Union fleet lay far out. I gave this up, as not feasible for the present, at least.