Most people who read books look first at the Preface to see what the author has to say about himself or about his book, and often this contains an excuse for writing it. I have no excuse to offer for what I have written, and since the book itself is an autobiography will here say nothing about myself; but I think it proper to give some of the reasons which have induced me at this late day to become an author.
It has been my fortune to have lived for seventy years in my native state, Mississippi, and until within the last few months to have led an active life from boyhood to my present age, never without some occupation which was congenial to me. But time which has brought me age has also brought me leisure, and I have availed myself of it to write my recollections of so much of the war between the states in which my own immediate cavalry command took part. In the following pages, however, I have not confined myself to this, but have allowed my memory to carry me back to the days when I was a young man, and to speak of Mississippi life as it then was. So also I have dwelt upon the reconstruction era in the state and brought my memoirs down to the present time, with, however, only a passing reference to the civil offices I have held.
So far as the war is concerned I have felt it almost a duty, it certainly has been a pleasure, to recall the incidents of that stirring time and to rescue from oblivion, as far as I can, the names and deeds of some Mississippi soldiers, and commands, to whom history in the state has done but scant justice.
If I have succeeded in this, if I have contributed, in ever so slight a degree, to the history of the state or of the war, I will be amply repaid for the work I have done.
CHAPTER I. Introduction--Birth place--Old Natchez trace--Lost villages of seventy years ago--Territory of Mississippi--Ancestors--Country school--Oakland College--Its president--His lecture one day--Political speech of Dr. Duncan, of Ohio--Whig party--Excitement in Mississippi in 1851--Senators Jefferson Davis and Henry Foote--Speeches by them--Tragic death of Dr. Chamberlain--Fate of Oakland College. . . . . 1
CHAPTER II. Mexican war--Jefferson troop--General Thomas Hinds--Natchez fencibles, Captain Clay--Vicksburg--Mustering officer, General Duffield--Company rejected--Trip to Jackson--Governor Brown--General McMackin--Alleghany College, Meadville, Pennsylvania--Concert--Escaped slave--Copper cents--Skating, sleigh riding--Militia muster--Home again--Cotton planter of those days--The negro as he then was--As he is now. . . . . 12
CHAPTER III. Railroads--Shinplasters--Customs of the times--Barbecues--Camp meetings--Militia drills--Shooting matches--Music of the times--The preacher and the robber--Indians--S. S. Prentiss--Dueling. . . . . 22
CHAPTER IV. Marriage--Move to Bolivar county--Old town of Napoleon--The hunter--Money--State banks--Overflows and levees--Battle of Armageddon--John Brown's raid--Effect on the south--Election of Mr. Lincoln . . . . . 29
CHAPTER V. Excitement--Elections before the war--Formation of companies--Bolivar troop--Secession of the state--Mississippi a nation--Army and custom houses--General Charles Clark--Anecdote . . . . . 37
CHAPTER VI. Trip to New Orleans--Company in camp--An old soldier's popularity and final fate--Take company to Memphis--Roster of company--General Pillow--General William T. Martin--Anecdote--Whether negro or white man--Life depended on the question--Ordered to Union City . . . . . 44
CHAPTER VII. General Frank Cheatham--First Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, Major Miller--General Cheatham's staff--Battle of Manassas, war over--Occupation of New Madrid--Brigadier General M. Jeff. Thompson, Missouri State Guard--His army--Evacuate New Madrid--Return next day--Scout to Charleston--Lose a man, captured--Great excitement at home over this--Hickman, Kentucky--Gunboats--Captain Marsh Miller and the Grampus--Columbus, battalion increased. . . . . 53
CHAPTER VIII. Gunboats and Grampus--Ordered with squadron to Belmont--Colonel Tappan in command--Watson's Battery--Old college mate--Dashing poker player of old times, one of the Watsons--Scouting--First fight--Federal sergeant killed--Leave of absence, battle of Belmont--Winter quarters--State troops under General Alcorn--New orderly sergeant--Old acquaintance from California--Runaway negroes--Detailed on recruiting service--Battle of Shiloh--Battalion increased to regiment--Colonel Lindsay in command--His habits--army falls back to Tupelo. . . . . 63
CHAPTER IX. Reorganization of regiment--Report to General Villipigue--Ordered to Senatobia--Jeff. Thompson again--His Indian army--Mrs. M. Galloway, of Memphis--Ordered to Bolivar
county--Captain Herrin Reports to me--Fights with General Hovey in Coahoma county--Congressman Hal. Chambers--His duel with Mr. Lake--Fight at Driscoll's gin--Rejoin regiment. . . . . 74
CHAPTER X. Brigaded with Colonel W. H. Jackson, Tennessee cavalry--Brigadier-General Frank C. Armstrong--Raid into Tennessee--Fight near Bolivar--Death of Lieutenant-Colonel Hogg, of Federal cavalry, his gallant charge--Attack Medon, repulsed--Battle of Denmark or Brittain's Lane--Severe loss--Captain Beall's presentiment and death--Gallant charge of Colonel Wirt Adams--His unfortunate fate after the war--Back in Mississippi--Move towards Corinth--Rout Federal cavalry at Hatchie river--Colonel Pinson wounded--General Van Dorn's advance on Corinth--Battle of Corinth--Raid around Corinth--Narrow escape--Van Dorn's retreat--In the rear--Back to Ripley. . . . . 84
CHAPTER XI. Army at Holly Springs--General Pemberton--Fight with Grierson in Coldwater Bottom--two nameless heroes--Old Lamar, enemy advances--Evacuation of Holly Springs--Report to General Pemberton at Jackson--General Gregg of Texas--Trouble with General Jackson--Correspondence with General Pemberton and secretary of war--Grenada, court martial--Charges preferred by General Jackson--Acquitted and ordered back to the regiment--President Davis reviews army at Grenada. . . . . 96
CHAPTER XII. Columbia, Tennessee--General Forrest--Van Dorn--Sick leave--Faithful servant Jake Jones--Cross delta in dug out--Methodist preacher and his wife--Lost for day and night--Home--"Featherbeds"--Anecdotes--Fight of "Featherbeds" at my place--Houses all burned by Federals--Privations of the people--Return to army--Incidentals of trip--Rejoin regiment at Mechanicsburg. . . . . 111
CHAPTER XIII. General Cosby--Skirmishing--Letter to wife--Son of General Thomas Hinds--Letter to wife 4th of July, 1863--General
Joseph E. Johnston, move to relieve Vicksburg--Brigade ordered forward to the attack--Surrender of Pemberton--Fall back on Jackson--Confederacy cut asunder--How General Dick Taylor crossed river--Effect of fall of Vicksburg--Pemberton blamed severely--Loyalty doubted--siege of Jackson--Evacuation of Jackson--Judge Sharkey--"Camp near Brandon"--Letters to my wife--Captain Herrin's dash at Federals--Captain Herrin captures foraging party--Lightning kills man in camp--scout into Jefferson county, General Clark--"Count Wallace". . . . . 122
CHAPTER XIV. Camp near Lexington--Colonel Ross' Texas regiment--Camp near Richland--General Reuben Davis, candidate for governor--Anecdote--New issue and old issue, Confederate money--Assault on sutler's tent--Letter to my wife--Presentation of flag--Ross' Texas and First Mississippi regiments move to Tennessee valley--General Sherman advancing through valley to Chattanooga--Fights in the valley--Adjutant Beasly killed--Ordered back to Mississippi--General Stephen D. Lee in command--Night march after Federals, skirmish--Battle at Wolfe river near Moscow--Severe loss in regiment and by Federals. . . . . 135
CHAPTER XV. Opening of the year 1864--Gloomy prospects--General Sherman's march through Mississippi--Skirmish on Joe Davis' place--Sharp Skirmish at Clinton--Jackson, driven through place--Enter Meridian--Ordered to reinforce Forrest--Forrest victorious, and ordered back to follow Sherman--Fight near Sharon--Scout toward Canton, capture foraging party with wagons--Another fight on road from Sharon, with loss--In camp near Benton--Colonel George Moorman--Colonel Pinson goes home and marries--Ordered to Georgia--General Frank C. Armstrong in command of brigade--Letter from him. . . . . 148
CHAPTER XVI. March to Georgia--Campaign in Georgia--Join General Johnston at Adairsville, engaged at once--Letter to my wife from Cartersville--Constant fighting--General Johnston's battle order,
enthusiasm of troops--Cross the Etowah, brigade in rear--Fight at creek--Soldier's dream--Battle of Dallas, assault Federal intrenchments--Repulsed with severe loss in regiment and brigade--Letter to my wife describing the battle. . . . . 160
CHAPTER XVII. Lost Mountain, constant fighting--General Polk killed, regret at his death--Armstrong's scout to the rear, destroys railroad and captures prisoners--Returns to army and orders me to remain twenty-four hours in his rear--Escape without loss--Mississippi lady refugee refuses forage--Compelled to take it--Back to camp--Cross Chattahooche river, and ordered to intercept cavalry raid near Newman--General Johnston relieved, and General Hood in command--Regret, almost despair, in the army--General Dick Taylor's account of trouble between Mr. Davis and General Johnston--Brigade ordered to Atlanta, regiment ordered to battle-ground of 22d of July. . . . . 175
CHAPTER XVIII. Want of confidence in General Hood--His opinion of the infantry of his army--His opinion of his cavalry--Fearful sights on battle-ground of 22d July--Skirmishes in cornfield--Ordered back to left of army, rejoin Armstrong--Enemy advances on Lick Skillet road--Ordered with part of regiment to extreme left--Attack on my command--Driven back--Advance of General Lee's corps--Battle of 28th of July--Severe loss--Federal raids to our rear--Fight with Killpatrick--Back to left of army--General Sherman's move to our left--Constant fighting, fall back to Jonesboro--Occupy trenches, first assault of enemy repulsed--Loss of Jonesboro and evacuation of Atlanta. . . . . 188
CHAPTER XIX. Some reflections on loss of Atlanta--President Davis visits camp--Ordered by General Jackson to take command disabled horses and men--Ordered to reinforce General Tyler at West Point--Orders and letter from General Jackson--Ordered to Mississippi with my command--Incidents of the march--Sick in hospital and leave of absence--At home again--Met a gold bug on the road . . . . . 201
CHAPTER XX. Rejoin army at Tupelo--Disastrous condition as seen by General Taylor--Brigade furloughed two weeks--A young recruit to Bolivar troop from New York, but native of Alabama, Henry Elliot--Reorganization of cavalry at Columbus--Appointed on examining board--Legislature in session--Speeches by prominent men--General Forrest--General Taylor's opinion of him--Military execution--Ordered towards Selma . . . . . 220
CHAPTER XXI. Last letter to my wife, very gloomy--Cross Warrior river, move to Marion--New York recruit sees his aunt--Thrown in Wilson's front--Night march, fall back on Selma--Enemy attack Selma--How General Taylor escaped--Description of battle--Regiment nearly all killed, wounded or captured--Brave Federal sergeant saves my life--Took my pistol and hat, but didn't want Confederate money--Sorrowful night--Federal band plays "Dixie," insult to injury. . . . . 233
CHAPTER XXII. Walk over battle-field under guard--Dead and wounded--Henry Elliott, tribute to him--Adjutant Johnson mortally wounded--Put in stockade--Kind treatment by Federal of officers and men--March to Columbus, Georgia--Lieutenant-Colonel White, of Indiana--Conversation with him--Colonel Pinson and myself paroled at Columbus--Make our way back to Mississippi--The war over--Death of Mr. Lincoln, sorrow at the South--Meridian, Ragsdale House, cost of coffee at meals--Trip home and incidents--Home again, negroes free--Doubts as to future--Determined to stand by the state to the end . . . . . 247
CHAPTER XXIII. Changed condition--President Johnson's plan of reconstruction--Negroes, old Uncle Hector--Negro problem always serious--General Alcorn's opinion of right policy--Reconstruction under act of congress--Negroes voting--Convention, carpet baggers and scallawags--Our new clerk, Florey--Negroes on juries . . . . . 262
CHAPTER XXIV. Civil government under carpet-baggers--Visit to Jackson--Legislature of 1870--Governor Alcorn tempted by seat in senate--Judges, jury trial, and negroes as jurors--General Starke sheriff of Bolivar--B. K. Bruce--His manners and conservatism--Campaign of 1873--Alcorn and the chancellor--Correspondence with Governor Alcorn--Campaign of 1875--Rout of carpet-baggers by tax-payers . . . . . 274
CHAPTER XXV. Campaign of 1876--John R. Lynch--Twenty negro laws, his anecdote--Elected to legislature--Commissioner to Washington City in 1882 and 1884 in interest of levees--Captain Eads--Congressman Jones from Kentucky--Funeral of Mr. Davis in New Orleans--Elected to legislature from Coahoma county--Appointed circuit judge--Moral influence of the bar--Golden wedding tributes--Conclusion--The Star of Mississippi . . . . . 291
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Lieut.-Col. Frank A. Montgomery (age 70), . . . . . Frontispiece
Lieut.-Col Frank A. Montgomery (age 31), facing p. 44
Introduction--Birth place--Old Natchez trace--Lost villages of seventy years ago--Territory of Mississippi--Ancestors--Country school--Oakland College--Its president--His lecture one day--Political speech of Dr. Duncan, of Ohio--Whig party--Excitement in Mississippi in 1851--Senators Jefferson Davis and Henry S. Foote--Speeches by them--Tragic death of Dr. Chamberlain--Fate of Oakland College.
For some years past I have purposed if I lived to the age of seventy to write the story of my life. That time has now come, and I have the leisure for the first time in my life since I have been grown, for, though active and vigorous still and capable of work congenial to me, I have nothing to do except to amuse myself with my pen.
I have lived through the greatest part of the most eventful century in the world's history, and while I have filled no great place in the history which I, in common with all other men living during this time, have helped to make, yet my story may not prove uninteresting to those who read it, and it will at least serve while I am writing it to recall the past, the friends I have known, the pleasures of my youth, the stirring events of my manhood, till age has now come to warn me that my time is short, and that what I do I must do quickly.
Though not a great man in the events I record, yet
what I did and what I saw I can tell, and there are those still living who will be glad to read what I write; and it may even be that it will be of some value to some great historian of my state and of the war who is yet to come. For true history is gathered from small details by comparatively obscure men who write of their times, as well as by men who filled larger places in the eye of the world. In writing this story of my own life I must of necessity have something to say of the men I have known who filled far more important places than I did, and who now with few exceptions have "passed over the river." When I have occasion to speak of them, while I do so freely, I will I hope do so kindly.
But one great purpose I have in writing, is to give as far as I can the details of the operations of the cavalry command to which I was attached during the great war between the states, for these are never given in the reports of the great commanders or in the histories which are compiled from them, except when some great exploit by a Forest, or Wheeler, or Stuart, is mentioned. The busy and constant service of the cavalry, its innumerable fights, and constant loss of life, is rarely if ever mentioned.
It is to supply to some extent this omission as to my immediate cavalry command, as well as for other reasons, that I write this story. I am not, I think, either a vain man or a boastful one, and I regret that I must of necessity use the personal pronoun "I" many times in what I write, but my purpose is to tell a continuous story, and I cannot otherwise do it, at least not so well; so I hope I may be pardoned by my readers. It is not so much what I did that I want to tell as it is what the brave men with whom I served did.
It is a source of deep regret to me that I have not every name and that I will not even be able to give the
names of all who died in the various affairs of which I will tell, for it is these men whose names I would gladly make live as far as I can. The great men who commanded our armies with few exceptions deserve the honors they won, but it is the unknown and forgotten who won their honors for them.
Some of the great commanders on each side have told their stories, and these are of more or less value in making up the history of the war, but few, if any who held subordinate places have recorded their observations or their experiences as soldiers either of the Federal or Confederate armies, and this is to be regretted, for there were men in the ranks who could if they would have told interesting stories, and even yet there are many who can do it if they will, and I hope others may yet do it. But whatever is done must be done soon, for a few more years and there will be none left to tell, for especially what Mississippi and Mississippians did in that great war, and thus aid the historian who is to come in writing the history of the war and of the state.
Our brave foes have been more fortunate than we have been, for there is probably not a name of any man who served in their ranks or who died for their cause whose name has not been preserved, and their dead lie in well-cared-for cemeteries guarded with jealous care, that future generations may see how brave men died for the Union and how a grateful people have honored their memories.
We of the south, whose dead nearly all lie on the battlefields where they fell, grudge not these honors to the gallant dead, who while they lived were our foes; we only ask that history may truly tell our side of that time "when Greek met Greek." This will be done, though the time may not have fully come.
I was born January 7, 1830, in Adams county, Mississippi, within about a mile of a place called Selsertown, and which, though there is now no town, still I believe retains the name. The place is twelve miles from Natchez, and a tavern was kept there for a long time, perhaps still is, though the railroad which now runs near it from Jackson to Natchez has nearly destroyed the usefulness of the celebrated highway upon which it was situated except for local purposes. This was the road cut in the earliest history of the territory of Mississippi from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, along which General Jackson rode when he sought and found his bride at the home of his friend, Colonel Thomas M. Green, on the banks of Coles creek, and along which he marched his victorious troops when returning after the battle of New Orleans. It was then the great thoroughfare for all travel north from Natchez, and most of that south to Natchez, for few cared to risk the dangers of river travel in those days. At intervals of about six miles along this road, in the early settlement of the territory, little villages had been located as I remember, between Natchez and Port Gibson, first Washington, once the capital of the state, then Selsertown, Uniontown, Greenville, Raccoon Box, and one other, the name of which I have forgotten, Red Lick, I believe, and then Port Gibson. All of these villages are gone save only their names, and these forgotten except by a few old men like myself, and except that Washington still remains, a small village preserved perhaps by the college located there. The history of this part of the state always possessed and still does, a romantic interest for me, because perhaps, when a boy I knew many of those who had either been among its earliest settlers, or were their descendants then grown, and who loved to talk of their trials, of the Indians, of the Spaniards who owned the
country when it first began to be settled by American pioneers, and of highway robbers who sometimes waylaid the solitary traveler. Some of the stories I may tell as I recall them. The story of the ill-fated tribe of the Natchez, of the French occupation, then of the English, then of the Spanish, and last, its cession to the United States, all combine to make the history of this part of Mississippi of absorbing interest, and growing up at the time and place I did, it is little wonder that it still possesses a charm for me, and that I love to dwell even now upon it.
From the south boundary line of what is now Claiborne county, to Natchez, I know every hill and spring and stream, for twenty-five years of my life, the days of my youth, were spent midway between Natchez and Port Gibson, and memory often takes me back to those scenes of my youth. But if I dwell too long on these things I will never tell my story.
While still an infant my father moved into Jefferson county, and soon after died. He was James Jefferson Montgomery, son of Alexander Montgomery, one of the pioneer settlers of the territory, of whom Claiborne in his history of Mississippi, makes honorable mention as one of the leading citizens of the territory and of the state till his death, a few years after its admission into the Union. My mother was the youngest daughter of Colonel Cato West, also a pioneer, who became secretary of the territory under Governor Claiborne, and for some time the acting governor when Claiborne went to New Orleans as governor of the newly-acquired territory of Louisiana.
Colonel West was an intimate acquaintance and friend of General Jackson, and I have now in my possession a long autograph letter written to him by General Jackson in the year 1801, devoted to personal matters and politics, and directed to "Colonel Cato West, Coles Creek, Mississippi Territory." After my father's death, my
mother went to live on our place on Coles creek, about two miles from Uniontown, which was at the time still a little village, and not far from the Maryland settlement, so called because some of the earliest settlers were from Maryland. The old highway spoken of ran through our place. Here after some years my mother married a Mr. Malloy, a Presbyterian minister, but she died while still a young woman, and the plantation and negroes then fell to me. In my early boyhood, and while she lived, I spent much of my time with my uncle Charles West, near Fayette, in Jefferson county, and went to school to a Mr. Roland, a Welshman, who certainly did not spare the rod, or rather the ferule, which was his favorite instrument of torture. That was the rule in those days; all teachers whipped their scholars, and indeed parents all approved it. We live now in a better day, for the best teachers rarely, if ever, resort to corporal punishment, which only tends to degrade a child and harden him.
After a few years with Mr. Roland, who was an educated man, becoming afterwards an Episcopal minister, I was sent to Oakland College, when about twelve years old, and remained about five years and till after the death of my mother. Oakland College deserves more than a
passing notice, both because of the tragedy in the year 1851, when its venerable president was slain at his own door in open day by a neighbor, and because of its singular destiny in after years, at least its undreamed of destiny, by those who founded and supported it. Oakland College as I first knew it, and before the war between the states (I have not seen the place since), had an ideal situation for a college. In the southwestern part of Claiborne county not far from the line, the nearest town was Rodney, five miles away in Jefferson county. The cottages in which the students roomed formed a semi-circle on the crest of the ridge, with the main college
near the center, and close to this the president's house. In front was a campus covered with oak trees, and sloping down to the common boarding-house, and at each end of the semi-circle the halls of the literary societies, the Belleslettre and the Adelphic. I belonged to the first. The college was founded mainly by Mr. David Hunt, of Jefferson county, supposed to be the wealthiest planter of his time, and the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Chamberlain, who was its president. Dr. Chamberlain was an eminent divine of the Presbyterian Church, and was a most lovable character. Genial and whole-souled, the boys and young men all loved as well as respected him. He had also quite a vein of humor in his nature, and this would crop out at unexpected times. I remember once when he was hearing a class in rhetoric or logic, in his lecture to the class he repeated the following lines, which I at least have never seen in print, but which though it is more than fifty years ago I have never forgotten:
"Could we with ink the ocean fill, Were earth of parchment made, Were every single stick a quill, Each man a scribe by trade, To write the tricks of half the sex Would drink that ocean dry. Gallants, beware, look sharp, take care, The blind eat many a fly."
I don't remember what else was in that lecture, but that caught me and has staid. It was well known that the doctor was an ardent Whig of the Henry Clay and Daniel Webster school, and the boys sometimes took advantage of it to tease him if they could. I recollect in the campaign when Mr. Polk was the candidate of the Democrats, I came across a speech made by a Dr. Duncan, of Ohio, which was a red-hot Democratic speech, and as my time to declaim before the president and
students was near at hand, I committed some of the most eloquent parts to memory to speak, counting in advance on the good doctor's indulgence. I was urged, too, by many boys who said I was afraid to do it.
It seems that in some parade of the Whigs in some Northern state they had a banner with this inscription: "We stoop to conquer." This excited the ire of some poetical Democrat who wrote a piece with which Dr. Duncan closed his speech. Two verses I remember yet:
" 'We stoop to conquer!' who are 'We' That from our mountain height descending With golden bribe and treacherous smile, With the sons of freemen blending, Sow the seeds of vile corruption? Poor nurselings of the Federal 'style,' Fed on the husks of aristocracy-- 'We' quail in fear beneath the eye Of nature's true and tried Democracy."
The last verse I gave with all my power, turning to the doctor and pointing at him. When I got through, he asked me where I had got the speech, and when I had told him, only said as I had spoken better than usual, he had not stopped me. In fact, though a boy, I was myself a Whig, and I did not loose my faith and hope in that most glorious of all political parties this country has ever seen, till the election which gave us Mr. Lincoln and bloody war.
Dr. Chamberlain was not only a Whig, he was an uncompromising unionist, and to something growing out of this he owed his death.
At the time, the summer of 1851, during the vacation, I was married and living on my plantation some twenty miles from the college.
The compromise measures as they were called, under which I believe California was admitted to the Union,
had excited a great deal of feeling in the South, higher in Mississippi and South Carolina than in any other states. The two senators from Mississippi, the somewhat erratic, but brilliant, Henry S. Foote, supported the compromise, while Mr. Jefferson Davis had opposed it in congress. A convention of the people had been called, and feeling ran high. During the canvass I heard both those distinguished men, and candor compels me to say I thought Mr. Foote the superior of Mr. Davis on the stump. I remember one thing Mr. Davis said which was applauded both by those who
supported him and those who did not. It was thought by many that South Carolina would secede then, and Mr. Davis said, if that state did secede and the Federal government attempted to coerce her, he for one would shoulder his musket and go to her aid. The sentiment was loudly applauded, for none in this country at that time denied the right of a state to secede and set up a government of its own if its people desired, with or without reason.
Among the members of Dr. Chamberlain's church a wealthy gentleman living near the college, named Batcheldor, was as ardent a secessionist as the doctor was a union man. It was reported to this gentleman by a Mr. Briscoe, himself a secessionist, that Dr. Chamberlain had said that no man could be a secessionist and a Christian. They had met by accident in the town of Rodney, and with other gentlemen were discussing the all-absorbing topic of the day, when Mr. Briscoe made this statement, not as I remember as a fact, but as something he had heard. Without a thought Mr. Batcheldor said to him, "You may tell the doctor I am a secessionist."
Mr. Briscoe was a member of a prominent family living near the college, and had to pass through the
college grounds on his way home. He was seen to stop at Dr. Chamberlain's gate and get off his horse, and the doctor walked from his porch to his gate, only a few feet away. No one heard what passed, but the doctor was seen to open the gate and pass through, and then turn and walk back to his house and, in the presence of his horrified wife and daughters, saying "I am killed," fell dead. He had been stabbed to the heart, a heart whose every impulse in his long and useful life had been for the good of his fellow-men.
The news spread like wild fire, the prominence of the doctor and his blameless life, the prominence of the family of the unfortunate who in a moment of madness without conceivable motive had slain him, all combined to excite the people to madness. Hundreds hastened to the college and dire threats of vengeance were made, but Mr. Briscoe could not be found. After striking the fatal blow he had mounted his horse and gone in the direction of his home, and for some five or six days this was all that was known of him. Then he was found by a negro in a pasture not far from the house of a relative, a Mr. Harrison, in a dying condition from poison. He was taken to the house unconscious and soon died. After the war between the states, Oakland College was sold to the state and became Alcorn University, a college for negroes, and is now the Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, devoted to the education of that race. Who of its founders or those who supported it, or the proud young men who filled its halls, could ever have dreamed of a fate so strange, and to me so sad, for this college, once the pride of South Mississippi! And yet this change in Oakland College is a small thing compared to that upheaval and destruction of southern homes and southern society caused by that bloody war for the preservation of that Union which Doctor Chamberlain
and thousands of others in his day loved so well, even in Mississippi, which a few years later was to be one of the first of the states of the South to break or try to break the bonds which bound it to the Union.
The names of Dr. Chamberlain and Mr. Hunt have been perpetuated in the name of the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy at Port Gibson, and long may they live, though few perhaps know of the tragic fate of Dr. Chamberlain or the unostentatious life of the ante bellum millionaire, Mr. Hunt.
I remained at Oakland College till I had gone through the junior class, and then the Mexican war having broke out, though under age, having no one to restrain me, I left the college to become a soldier. In this hope I was disappointed, as the result of my efforts will show.
Mexican war--Jefferson troop--General Thomas Hinds--Natchez fencibles, Captain Clay--Vicksburg--Mustering officer, General Duffield--Company rejected--Trip to Jackson--Governor Brown--General McMackin--Alleghany College, Meadville, Pennsylvania--Concert--Escaped slave--Copper cents--Skating, sleigh riding--Militia muster--Home again--Cotton planter of those days--The negro as he then was--As he is now.
My first effort to be a soldier was to join a cavalry company, gotten up by Charles Clark, then a lawyer living in Fayette, Jefferson county. This was a great man, and in another place, when I shall have occasion to mention him, I will pay a tribute of love and admiration to his character and services to his state. Our company was to be called the Jefferson Troop, after the celebrated company commanded by General Thomas Hinds in the battle of New Orleans, of whom General Jackson, speaking of its charge upon the British lilies, said: "It was the wonder of one army and the admiration of the other." I knew General Hinds in my boyhood days, and remember him as a fine old gentleman of the olden time. For him the county of Hinds was named, and thus his name will live as long as the state does. After some weeks of drilling, it being found no cavalry was wanted from Mississippi, we disbanded, and I went to Natchez and joined a company commanded by a Captain Clay, and called, I believe, the Natchez Fencibles. Captain Clay took, as he supposed, a full company to Vicksburg to be mustered into service. Certainly, as I remember, it was a fine company, but there was politics in those days as well as
now, for it was charged openly it was due to the desire of the state administration to keep a place open for a company from some other part of the state, which was always true to the Democratic party of the time, that Captain Clay's company was not mustered in, it being from a staunch Whig county. Anyway we got to Vicksburg and were assigned quarters in the old depot building, where, after remaining a few days, we were brought out by General Duffield, to be, as we supposed, mustered into service.
I recollect him well as dressed in a gorgeous uniform, with a cocked hat and waving plume, a long saber by his side, he strutted along our line. Since that time I have seen "Captain Jinks, of the Horse Marines," on the stage, and I at once thought of General Duffield, and when I think of one now the other comes before me. As he came to me he stopped and asked how old I was, and when I told him he ordered me out of the ranks. There was another young fellow of my age in the ranks whose name was Fauntleroy, and heal so was ordered out; and having thus reduced the company below the minimum, he promptly rejected it. We were all indignant, as were many prominent citizens, and it was decided to go to Jackson and lay our case before Governor Brown. We succeeded in getting an engine and some box cars, and got to Jackson late in the afternoon, but the governor was reported sick and could not be seen. He had not gone on a distant fishing excursion, as I have known one governor to do, in order to avoid an unpleasant interview. We did not get to see him, but we had a high time. Any number of speeches were made, and it was openly charged that he was keeping a place for a favored company for political purposes. There was great excitement and danger of personal difficulties, but happily these were avoided.
After a while we were taken to supper at a hotel kept by General McMackin, whom I then saw for the first time. I took him to be some intoxicated man as he went around crying out his bill of fare: "The ham and the lamb and the jelly and jam and blackberry pie, like mama used to make." The reason he gave for this habit was that when he first opened a hotel in Jackson, so many members of the legislature could not read, he had to do it in order to let them know what his bill of fare was. Long after this when the carpet-baggers, who had swooped down on the state "like a wolf on the fold," had got full control, I was at a hotel kept by the General in Vicksburg, the old Prentiss House, and to my surprise I found bills of fare on the table. He had just commenced this usual mode of letting his guests know what there was to eat, but he was still from the force of habit walking up and down the dining-room calling his bill. As he passed near me, I called to him and he came at once, for no host was ever more polite and attentive to his guests. I said to him: "General, I am sorry to see those bills of fare on your table." "Why, why?" he said. "Because," I replied, "it would seem to intimate that you thought the state had become more intelligent under this carpet-bag rule than it was in the good old days before the war."
In a voice that could be heard all over the dining-room, he cried: "I'll burn 'em every one up; I'll burn 'em every one up!" and I believe he did, for I never saw them on his table afterwards.
We got back to Vicksburg the same night (tired out I slept all the way back on a pile
of muskets), without having seen the governor, or got any satisfaction as to whether our company would be received. We staid in Vicksburg a few days, and the company gradually broke up, some of the men joining other companies, and
some going home. For myself, I was disgusted and went home, for I would not join a company where I did not know either the men or officers.
My guardian advised me to return to college for at least another year, and this I was willing to do, but I was unwilling to go back to Oakland College, as I preferred to go north. I did not care what place so it was in the north. To this he consented, and at his request I concluded to go to Alleghany College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He knew nothing of the college, except a young man from the north who had taught school for him and who had kept up a correspondence with him was then a student at it. Meadville was ninety miles west of Pittsburg, and the trip from my home in those days was a long and tedious one. I embarked at Rodney on a steamboat named the Ringgold, after Major Ringgold who had been recently killed in the battle of Palo Alto or Resaca, I forget which, and after a long trip got to Louisville, there took another boat to Cincinnati, and then another to Pittsburg, where I took the stage to Meadville, arriving at that place after an all day and all night ride, a little before day. My first care after breakfast was to look up my guardian's friend, whose name was Mills. I found him at the college and was at once made at home with him. He was some years older than I was, but he was a fine fellow, and we became and remained great friends, though he played me a little trick that night. Except Mills, there was not a human being in the town I knew, and he I had only seen that morning for the first time. Meadville had at the time about twenty-five hundred inhabitants, and had its very exclusive set in society as I afterwards found out. There was a concert to be given at the hotel at which I was staying that night. A young man was to sing, and I proposed to Mills to come and take supper with me and
go with me, and he agreed, but said he knew some young ladies and proposed we should take them, to which of course I made no objection.
He introduced me to his friends, two sisters, who I saw at once were two very respectable girls, as indeed they were, but I could see were not much accustomed to society. However, I did not know anything about the people we were to meet at the concert, so I did not much care.
Neither of the girls was pretty, and both were much older than I was, but Mills took the youngest and prettiest one and left me the other. It was a long walk to the hotel and I was very much bored by my company, but I took care not to show it. I could see at once from the company assembled that the elite of the town were there, and that our girls were out of place, and I felt sorry for them and somewhat ashamed for myself. I don't think Mills had ever been to an entertainment before, and I never knew him to be afterwards where ladies were to be present. How it was he ever became acquainted with these girls I don't know. Their father owned an apple cider mill and a distillery, as I found later. I did not desert my charge, but paid her marked attention, till I had got her safely back home, but after one formal call for politeness, I never saw her again, though I remained in Meadville a year.
When I became acquainted as I did with most of the young ladies who had been at the concert, I was often teased about my first appearance in society. The singer's name was Sloan, and he sang well, and for the first time I heard Napoleon's grave, a fine old song.
I was a young man fresh from a southern state and had never been north before, but I was treated with extreme kindness, and before I left had many warm friends. There was a great deal of curiosity about the south and
about slaves, and I was surprised at the ignorance of those whom it seemed to me ought to have been better informed, but there was little travel between that section of the country and mine. Indeed, I don't remember to have seen but two men from the south, and one of those was a relative of my own who came on and joined me after a few months, and the other a young student from Maryland, which was called a southern state because it was a slave state. There were not very many avowed Abolitionists in town, but they were very bitter. The general feeling then was that slavery was a matter for the south to deal with, but if a runaway negro happened to come through the town, he was helped along by everybody, and sometimes one did come escaping from Maryland or Virginia. One came while I was there and advertised to give a lecture. To everybody's surprise, I did not go, for two reasons: one that I had no desire to see the negro, and the other because I was pretty sure the wild young fellows would raise a row, as actually happened. I was told by some who went that he was a very ignorant negro. There were very few of that race in town, some barbers and one old
fellow who said he was an escaped slave from Maryland a good many years before, were all that I knew anything about. The latter soon took a liking to me and waited on my room, though every now and then he would get a little tipsy and tell me I couldn't whip him like I could in Mississippi. Sometimes I would pretend to be angry and start towards him when he run, and once fell downstairs being a little fuller than usual, and I had to go down and help him up. I reckon the old fellow liked me chiefly because I was free with my dimes and quarters, and did not put him off with copper cents. These copper cents were the old fashioned kind, as big as a half
dollar, and at first when offered me in change I would not take them; but I soon found that would not do, as they were a very useful coin in that country and are no doubt to this day; and it will be a good thing for the south when they come into general use here. Everything seemed to me to be cheap in that country; my board with a room to myself, fires, lights and washing furnished, was only two dollars a week. After the battle of Buena Vista, where the Mississippi regiment saved the day, Mississippians were at a premium, and being the only one in town, I shared in the glory without having been in danger, as I would have been had Captain Clay's company been received.
At Alleghany College, in Meadville, I found that the vacation was in the winter for three months, commencing the first of December, so I was not there long before the vacation commenced. One reason for this was, as I was informed, that the young men might teach school in the country schools at a time when the children could be spared from the work of the farm to go to school. I was in my room one day when a farmer came in and introduced himself as the trustee of a school a few miles away, and desired to engage me to teach it. I have always regretted I did not take the school. This left me nothing to do but to frolic, and I soon had friends enough among the young people to keep me busy at this entertaining, if not profitable, business. French creek (I believe that is the name) ran through the town, and when it froze over I got me a pair of skates--I paid two dollars and a half for them-- and went down to join a crowd and learn this exhilarating amusement, but after several severe falls I concluded it would not pay a Mississippi boy to learn, and I gave my skates away. I got along much better with sleigh riding though my first ride was disastrous, for the horse ran away with the cutter and threw my friend, a
young man named Fleury, and myself out and broke the cutter, for which I had to pay.
What with sleigh rides and dances every week, and sometimes twice a week, besides other amusements, time did not drag slowly, but soon brought the opening of the college, and I devoted myself to it till I concluded to quit and go home.
The arsenal for North-western Pennsylvania was located at Meadville, and while I was there a muster of the militia was had, and all the students attended, of course. There were hundreds of country people, and the natural result followed, a number of fights between the students and those people, in which no greater damage was done than black eyes or bloody noses. I carried the signs of the battle for some days myself.
Next door to my boarding house lived a Dr. Yates, whose wife was a sister of James Buchanan, then the secretary of the navy, I believe, and afterwards president of the United States. The doctor had a very pretty daughter, who married a young man, a friend of mine, named Dunham, and I was a frequent visitor at their house, as I had also made the acquaintance of the doctor's son, a midshipman, who was at home a good deal on leave.
When the civil war broke out I always looked to see if this young man ever arose to any distinction, but I never saw his name mentioned; perhaps he died before the war.
I spent a year in Meadville, but I can't dwell on that time, pleasant as is the retrospect.
I returned to my home and, with the consent of my guardian, went at once to live on my plantation, which was under the care of an overseer. I wished to learn the duties of my station, and fully made up my mind to spend my life as a cotton planter. I think looking back
to that olden time the most delightful existence, and the most iudependent a gentleman could have.
The highest ambition of all men in the south at that time, so far as occupation was concerned, was to be a planter, and to spend the most if not all his time on his plantation. For this, the merchant invested his profits, the lawyer his earnings, and indeed everybody saved all he could to attain to this ideal life. The planter living upon his own lands, surrounded by his slaves, a happy and childlike race in that day, dispensed a broad and generous hospitality; no one was ever turned from his door. For even the lowliest a place was found. His neighbors were everybody within a day's ride from his home, and frequent visits were made, the
planter mounted on his splendid saddle horse, his favorite mode of travel, and his wife and children in the carriage. He was a proud man, proud of his wife and children, proud of his plantation and slaves, proud of his stainless honor, and ready to exact or give satisfaction for wrongs fancied or real, suffered or done, not by the deadly pistol concealed in the hip pocket, but by a meeting upon the field of honor, with mutual friends to see fair play. These were the halcyon days of the south, gone never to return, but the stories of those days, the sacred traditions, have preserved, and will, I hope, continue to preserve the same spirit in the descendants of those noble men, and keep them pure in race and upright and honorable. In this lies the hope of the south to-day. But what pen can do justice to southern society as it was before the war, its wide influence for good all over the land; mine cannot. I speak of a class and not of individuals, for there were rare exceptions who were coarse and rude, as there are to-day men who, forgetting the traditions of the past, destitute of gratitude and honor, flaunt themselves in
high places, scheming only how best they may deceive the credulous and achieve their ends.
I have said that the negro of that day was a happy and child-like creature. He had no wants not willingly supplied; he had no care; his day's work done, he slept secure. Crime was literally unknown to him. The planter left his wife and children on his place surrounded by his slaves; sure that they were safe from harm.
Now, what is his condition? I speak not of a few bright exceptions. Ask the jails, the penitentiaries, the lunatic asylums, which are filled not from the ranks of the old slaves, but their sons and daughters. No white man will now leave his family on his place, surrounded by negroes alone, and often when I have been on the bench, I have been constrained to excuse jurors for this reason.
Insanity was as unknown among negroes before the war as homicides; each was extremely rare. I don't remember in those days but one really crazy negro, though there were occasionally idiots, and though we have now two large asylums, the jails are filled with those who cannot be received. The homicides now committed by negroes upon each other constitute the most frightful chapter in the history of crime ever known among any people. This is easy to prove. What is to be his ultimate destiny, no man can tell, but his only hope at last is in the white people of the south. I take no account of the comparatively few negroes in the north, nor do I here speak of the negro in politics. This will come later.
Railroads--Shinplasters--Customs of the times--Barbecues--Camp meetings--Militia drills--Shooting matches--Music of the times--The preacher and the robber--Indians--S. S. Prentiss--Dueling.
Before I proceed with my story, I must pause to indulge in some reminiscences of that far away time when I was a boy in Jefferson county, and give some account of the manners and customs of the people and of their amusements, and this chapter may be taken by way of parenthesis. There were in those days no railroads, the first in the state being the short line from Jackson to Vicksburg, over which I made my memorable trip to interview Governor Brown. One other was projected north from Natchez, and was actually finished for some seven or eight miles, but this fell through for want of funds. It had a bank, too, I remember, for those were the days of shinplasters as the paper money of the numerous banks in the state was then called. The mode of travel for gentlemen was on horseback; for ladies, on horseback or in carriages.
The first thing when a gentleman arrived on a visit, if it were not before eleven o'clock, was to invite him to the sideboard to take a drink. This was the universal custom except at the homes of preachers or very strict members of the Methodist Church, and intoxication was rare except at barbecues or assemblies to hear speeches when politics ran high. The old fashioned barbecue of that time has passed away, for those we have now-a-days are unlike them in many particulars.
The men did not go to them loaded down with pistols, for the deadly hip pocket was not then invented, and the pistol of the day, with its long barrel and ugly flintlock, was too troublesome to be carried. If arms were carried, and this was rare, it was the bowie knife or dirk, and no body ever got hurt except the combatants. Fights were common on those occasions, but they were almost always fisticuffs, a word and a blow. There was always a dance on the ground, and at night an adjournment to the nearest house, when daylight put an end to it the next morning. The music was the fiddle, played usually by a negro and such music! old men forgot their age to join in the dance, for it was almost impossible to hear it and keep still. It makes me young again to think of it; not the long-drawn-out music of these days, but such soul-stirring, heel-rocking tunes as "Arkansaw Traveler," "Mississippi Sawyer," "Sugar in the Gourd," "Jennie, put the Kittle on," "Nigger in the Woodpile," "Natchez under the Hill," and others too numerous to mention. Almost every plantation had its negro fiddler as well as negro preacher, usually the biggest scamp on the place, and the happy darkeys would dance to the one and shout to the other some times the livelong night. The planter and his family often went to look on.
Those were the days also of militia drills and of shooting matches, usually following the drill. Everybody between eighteen and forty-five was required to attend and bring his gun and such a motley crowd and such an assortment of arms can never be seen again.
But those were happy days, for if the daily paper could not be had the good people never felt its loss, for they knew nothing of it. In these days we can't live without it, for we must hear the news from all the world every day, and twice a day if we live where we can get an evening paper.
The shooting matches were trials of skill with the long rifle, sometimes at the head of a turkey and sometimes at a small mark for beef, and there were many who could rival the skill of the Leather-stocking.
Camp meetings were another feature of those days, which have passed away before the advancing civilization of the times; for if one is held now, I am told, a restaurant is attached where meals are sold. In the days I speak of a shady grove was selected near a good spring, and the well-to-do members of the church--Methodist--for camp meetings, as far as I know, was a distinct feature of that church, though preachers of other denominations often helped--would build rude but comfortable shanties, each large enough to accommodate from twenty to sometimes forty guests, and to this the owner would move his whole family and his house servants and keep open house with old fashioned hospitality.
And then the preaching. With power and zeal sinners were warned to repentance, and a vivid imagination could almost see the fiery billows as they enveloped the hopeless, doomed ones who cried too late for mercy where mercy never came. One sermon I remember by the Rev. B. M. Drake, the father of a prominent lawyer now living in Port Gibson. A man of stately presence, his text was: "Hear, oh heavens, give ear, oh earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me; the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." Conceive the effect which a sermon from this sublime text from the prophecies of the royal prophet would have upon a
congregation already wrought up to the highest pitch of religious fervor by prayers and hymns, when the preacher was eloquent and full of zeal for the salvation of the souls of those who
heard him, and which he firmly believed would be lost forever if they did not repent.
The pioneer Methodist preachers in that territory were an interesting class. Some I recall--the Rev. John G. Jones, whose adventures when he was a young man were thrilling to hear; and another, the Rev. Mr. Cotton, who, when I was a boy, was often at our house; and I heard him tell of his adventure with a robber, a story which Mr. Shields, in his Life of Prentiss, tells, I believe, but a little differently from the way I had it from Mr. Cotton. He was riding along a lonely road, when suddenly a man with a gun stepped from behind a tree, and ordered him to halt. He then made him ride into the woods, and demanded his money. He was like the apostle, for "silver and gold" he had none. The robber, enraged, told him to dismount, as he intended to kill him. Mr. Cotton asked leave to pray before being put to death, and it was granted him. He kneeled down by the side of a log, and, with closed eyes, prayed fervently for his own reception into heaven, for the salvation of the world, and, above all, for the pardon and salvation of the sinful man who was about to imbrue his hands in his blood. When, at last, he had finished, he arose, and, lo! the robber had gone. But, I might fill pages with stories of that time without ever finishing my own.
These were the days, also, of quilting bees, and each house had its frame; the wealthiest as well as the poorest planter's wife would save her scraps and sew them into squares, stars and diamonds, until enough were gotten to make a quilt, and then the neighboring ladies would come and gather round the frame while the busy needles flew, and the busy tongues kept time till the work was done. This was a source of great pleasure and amusement to the married ladies, nor were the negro seamstresses, of which there were always one or more on each
plantation, permitted to aid in this work. Now and then, in these days, one of these old patch-work quilts may be found, a relic of other days, but then piles of them were in every house. Sewing machines were not even dreamed of; indeed, long after this, when my wife began to talk of getting a machine, I laughed at the idea, for I did not believe one could be made which would work. In those days, too, cooking stoves were unknown in the south; it was not until I had been married seven or eight years that I would consent to buy one. The kitchen was never in the house, always at a distance from it, and the fireplace, a huge affair, with an iron crane to hang the pots over the fire in which boiling was done, while upon a great wide hearth the coals would be raked out, upon which the skillets were put to do the baking, while heaps of coal were put on their lids. These were the days of hoe cakes, ash cakes and Johnnie cakes, and no such cooking has ever been done since, and it makes my mouth water now to think of it. But, good-bye to those good old times, though memory still often brings them back.
In my earliest recollection, there were a good many Indians still to be seen in the country; these belonged to the Choctaws, for the brave but ill-fated Natchez had disappeared from the face of the earth. They made their last stand on a place known, perhaps, yet as Cicily Island in what is now Louisiana, not far from Natchez, and the few who were not killed or captured were dispersed and lost forever as a tribe. It has been said that the dead Indian is the only good Indian, and it may be so. But their story is a melancholy one, and it is a pity a better fate was not reserved for them. They had the vices of the barbarian, but they had virtues which none of the other barbarous races ever had. The Indians I knew were a peaceful people, the women making baskets from cane and the men subsisting by hunting and making
and selling to the white boys blow-guns, a favorite weapon with the boys to shoot birds with in those times.
While I was still a small boy, the great Prentiss was often in the county, sometimes attending the courts and sometimes speaking at the political barbecues.
I remember to have heard him in two of his great speeches, noticed specially by his biographer, Shields. One was near Natchez and the other was at Rodney. I was too young to appreciate his arguments, but I remember well the words seemed to flow from his lips in a torrent and with what enthusiasm they were received by his audience, and his face and figure still dwell in my memory. He was a wonderful man, an unrivaled orator.
Coming from the land "of steady habits" to Mississippi, he became in a little while a typical Mississippian of the olden time, when that name implied all that was honorable and true. After I grew up and became acquainted with the life and writings of Byron, I always associated the two together, for each had the same lameness, and to this physical likeness
there were many things in their temperaments which were alike. Each died in his prime. The name of Prentiss occurred to me here as I remembered another custom of that time among gentlemen, an "imperious custom," as it was called by a noted divine in his eloquent funeral sermon at the burial of Alexander Hamilton, who had fallen in his duel with Aaron Burr--the custom of dueling.
Mr. Prentiss fought two duels with Henry S. Foote, but it is no part of my plan to give an account of these duels, but only to mention the fact that in those days no man who had any regard for his honor or character could refuse to fight if insulted or if he had insulted another. The custom is just as "imperious" now as it was then, for while the laws condemn it, yet public sentiment will
condemn any man in public life, or whose business or profession makes him prominent, who dares to refuse, to demand, or give satisfaction on the field of honor in those cases where custom has made it proper, if not imperative. But I must leave those old times and hasten on.
Marriage--Move to Bolivar county--Old town of Napoleon--The hunter--Money--State banks--Overflows and levees-- Battle of Armageddon--John Brown's raid--Effect in the south-- Election of Mr. Lincoln.
On the 12th day of January, 1848 when I was but little past eighteen and my wife not quite that age, I was married to Miss Charlotte Clark, or, as she was always affectionately called, Lottie Clark. She was the daughter of James Clark, who had when she was an infant moved from Lebanon, Ohio, where she was born, and a sister of General Charles Clark. We had been sweethearts as long as I could remember, and she also had just returned from school at Georgetown in the District of Columbia, having while there made her home with an uncle living in Washington City. The family were Marylanders, having originally come over with or as a part of Lord Baltimore's colony, and her father had been born in Maryland, moving when a young man into Ohio, where he lived till he was induced by his son Charles, who had preceded him some years, to move his whole family to Mississippi, becoming a cotton planter. He was not a large planter, but he prided himself on the knowledge he had acquired of the business, and especially on the cultivation of his crop, which was always clean. He took special care in the neatness with which his cotton was handled in preparing it for market, and it always brought the highest market price. After I was married I was riding one day with him through his field and to my surprise he said it had
always seemed singular to him that there were red and white blooms on the same stalk. I explained it to him; but the fact was he had always been puzzled over it, but would not inquire. Peace to his ashes; he was a good man and lived to a good old age.
We were young to marry, I especially, but I had for some years been my own master; no objection was made by any one, I had a home prepared to go to and ample support assured, and I took my bride to our home. Our house was large and old fashioned, but comfortable, and it was our delight to fill it with young people and have the fiddler from the quarter, as the place where the negroes lived was called, almost every night, though on set occasions we would have the music from the towns, Fayette, Rodney, and sometimes Natchez. In those days we knew no care, but were as light hearted as our negroes who loved to crowd around the doors and windows of the great house, as they called the residence in which their owner lived, to see the fun. I usually kept an overseer, as most planters did, and had ample time for amusements and reading, of which I was always fond. I read everything, novels, history and that wonderful book the Bible, of which I have been a student all my life. I read also the usual text-books on law, though at the time I little thought I would ever put this to any use. I had a good library for the time, of books now out of print, if not also entirely useless, at least many of them, in these days. My wife always had her hands full, for what with company, the care of her household affairs, and the looking after a half dozen servants and more on extraordinary occasions, about which there was often a dispute if the crop was in the grass, to which was soon added the care of a family, her time was fully occupied. And so we passed the days happy when we lived in Jefferson county.
We lived on our plantation in that county for seven years, when I sold the lands I owned in that county and in Hinds and moved to Bolivar county to a plantation I had bought and partly improved a year before. I had been largely influenced to this move by my brother-in-law and friend General Clark, who, having given up the practice of law in Jefferson county, had already moved his family to a plantation he owned on the banks of the river, not far above the old town of Napoleon, a live town in those days, too much so for quiet people. It was the port at which almost all the boats which plied their trade on the White and Arkansas rivers made and received transhipments of freight, and there was always a large and tough floating population. I remember a curious adventure I had on one occasion. I had gone there to get a boat to go down the river, as boats always landed there, while it was not always easy to get one to land at other places. I had to wait all day as it happened, and in one of my walks from the tavern to the wharfboat, where I could see a long way up the river, I met a man I had previously seen come into town with a cart loaded with venison. There was no one near, it being some distance either to the town or to the wharfboat. This man was in his shirt sleeves and bloody from his occupation and was talking to himself. He was a tough-looking customer and I proposed to give him a wide berth, but seeing me he came directly to me. He had in his hand a five dollar bill and he asked me to tell him whether it was, good money or not. He said he had just sold a venison to a steamboat which was at the landing and got it in payment. It was a bill
of some bank in one of the northwestern states (for every state had its own banking system), and as I had never heard of the bank I told him I did not know.
All along the river the country was flooded so to speak
with bills from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and states too numerous to mention. No man could tell not only whether the bills were genuine or not, but whether they were worth a copper if they were genuine. Mississippi alone had no banks of issue, the days of the shinplasters had cured that state. Some of the banks of Memphis, Tennessee, were supposed to be good and the bills were taken freely. The banks of New Orleans were always solvent up to the war, and was the only paper money which every body in this country would take without question.
I politely excused myself to the man and desired to pass on, but he would not let me go till I had heard him through, which was his life from the time he was a little boy when his father married a second time, when he quarreled with his stepmother and ran away, to that time. He told me of his success as a hunter, how much he made and was in the highest degree confidential, that he intended soon to quit his business and go back to his old home in Tennessee, join the church and be always a good man. I did not know whether the man was crazy or drunk, but in either case thought it best to humor him. At last he admitted my excuses and permitted me to go, but he had evidently taken a strong fancy to me for he wanted to know if I wanted any money. I told him no, but he insisted, and pulling out an old buckskin purse full of gold, evidently several hundred dollars, told me to take what I wanted. The strange thing about it was, that in a town like Napoleon then was, a man seemingly so free with his money should have had any at all. I got away from him and though I noticed him afterwards on the street I kept out of his way. Not a vestige remains now of the old town of Napoleon, the insatiable river has long since swept it away. The county of Bolivar when I came to it, in January 1855, was an unknown wilderness
save a few plantations on lake Bolivar and Egypt ridge, so called because in the high water of 1844 it was not overflowed, and a great deal of corn was made on it, and save also a few plantations along the bank of the river. These plantations were all partly protected by small private levees, for the entire country was annually inundated by floods which came down the river every spring, thus showing the absurdity of the idea some have that the great overflows we sometimes have are due to the levees. The truth is, this magnificent country is worthless without protection from levees, and while we have not yet perhaps complete protection, yet it is now settled that before many years have passed the great government of the United States will assume control of the work and protect the country. Already we have received and do receive great aid through the river commission, and it is certain that this is largely due to the persistent and untiring energy, zeal and tact of one man, the Hon. Thomas C. Catchings, for so many years the member of congress from the district where the levees are situated.
When General Catchings first became a candidate for congress the vote of the district was largely, in fact, a majority, a negro vote, for we had then no franchise law as now, which to a great extent curbs and curtails the ignorant vote. I recollect in the first speech he made in Rosedale in his first canvass, and when his audience was mostly composed of negroes, in speaking of what he hoped to do for the levees, his opponent being a negro, he told them that much of the success which a member of congress could hope to achieve would be due to his social standing with other members; and this is true, for no matter how able a member might be, his social qualities, his ability to make friends, his tact, were sure to accomplish more than all the speeches he would make, no
matter how eloquent he might be; and these qualities General Catchings possesses in an eminent degree, and though experience has shown that he is a man of ability, and well able to hold his own in debate, yet his success is no doubt largely due to them.
When I came to Bolivar the levee system was in its infancy; each county had its own system, and this in Bolivar had just been put in operation, and levee building had just begun, and has continued till now, and I suppose must continue for some time, because it is admitted that the levees are not yet high and strong enough to control the mighty floods which sometimes sweep down the great river. Under the protection of the levees, imperfect as it yet is, the wilderness to which I came in 1855, has now, in the year 1900 been made to "blossom as the rose," railroads traverse the county, and towns, and villages have sprung up everywhere. We settled on our place on the river below Napoleon, and lived there for three years, and which during that time I greatly improved, but was then tempted by a big price and sold the land to a
gentleman from South Carolina. About that time there was a great demand for the fertile lands of the Delta by planters from all parts of the south. I bought immediately another tract of land on the river, where the town of Beulah is now situated. The town takes its name from the name I gave my landing. This place I handsomely improved with a fixed purpose of making it my home as long as I lived; but this hope was not to be realized. The time was fast approaching when devastating war was to overshadow the land, and when the torch of an enemy was to be applied to every house upon the place, except one insignificant shanty.
I remember to have read a few years before the war a book which created some talk, called "Armageddon,"
written by a Methodist preacher named Baldwin. This book purported to be an exposition of the United States in prophecy. He attempted to show from the ancient prophecies that the United States was to be engaged in war with a great northern power, which he said was Russia, and that the battle-ground was to be in the valley of the Mississippi. The country to be invaded was a country of unwalled villages, a term that certainly applied with great force to the south of that day, for every plantation was a village. I could not but smile at the thought of a hostile force, even if the country was ever to be at war with a great nation, ever penetrating to my peaceful home, five hundred miles from the coast, and yet a great northern power was in a few years to sweep over the south as with a besom of destruction. Was Baldwin a prophet, or was the great war between the states indeed foretold in ancient scriptures, but not fully understood by Baldwin when he wrote the book? I have the book yet, I think, but have mislaid it and cannot find it; but certain it is that he published the book some five or six years before the war commenced, and in it he said the United States was to be engaged in the war, and that it would commence in about 1861. I hope before I finish this to find the book and correct this statement if I am wrong. He died before the war as I remember, as was reported in the papers, and had been described to me by one who knew him as a strange and peculiar character, indeed thought by some to be deranged.
Until the John Brown raid I had never for a moment lost my loyalty to the union, but after that I became a secessionist; not because of the attempt of this fanatic to bring on a war between the races in the south, these things were to be expected, and were to be met and defeated as was done in his case. But the manner in which his death was received in the north, for he was looked
upon as a martyr to the cause of freedom and was almost deified by many, convinced me as it did thousands of other union men in the state, that if our liberties were to be preserved and the rights of the states held sacred, we must endeavor to defend them out of and not in the union.
The election of Mr. Lincoln by the votes of the northern states, in the minds of most people in the south, settled the question that safety could no longer be found in the union, and all began to prepare for secession. I believe Mr. Lincoln to have been a good man, and I think the course of events proved him to be a great man, and I am sure if there had been no secession that there would have been no interference by him, or with his consent, with the rights of the southern states. But he was undeniably a sectional candidate and elected upon a sectional issue, and this, in my opinion then, and in my opinion now, fully justified the southern states in secession, if as was claimed and believed by almost every one in the south, this right existed under the constitution which bound all the states together. Much has been said and written, both before and after the war, on this question, and it remains unsettled to-day, for the constitutional question was not settled by the war; the only thing settled was that we of the south did not have the power to exercise the right if it did exist, nor the power to win our independence in a revolution, which right is acknowledged always to be with all people when they think their liberties or rights are in danger, of which they, and they alone, must be the judges. I do not think Mr. Lincoln ought to be blamed in the south for the course he took, for he could not do otherwise, and as for the south, no other course with honor was left than to secede and leave the result to the God of battles, if war should come, which most doubted and few wanted.
Excitement--Elections before the war--Formation of companies--Bolivar troop--Secession of the state--Mississippi a nation--Army and custom houses--General Charles Clark--Anecdote.
I am not writing a history of the state, or of the war, though perhaps it may be a little of both, at least as far as I was personally concerned in events that occurred in the state, or in the army, of which, to some extent, I was a part. Hence, I have passed rapidly by many matters of interest in the history of the state to the time when I became a resident of Bolivar county, even touching lightly on the exciting campaign of 1851, in which the issue even then was secession or union, though secession was not openly advocated or avowed, except by a few extremists. I was deeply interested in this, though too young to take a very active part for I had not long become of age. I was then a unionist, and voted for General Clark, who was the union candidate for the convention which had been called, and afterwards for Mr. Foote, who, though a Democrat, was the union candidate for governor, and was supported generally by the Whigs. But the time had now come when I was to take an active part in public matters, and in an election held in the fall of 1855 I was elected a member of the board of police (now supervisors) and its president, which office I held till the secession of the state, when other and more exciting duties devolved upon me. I recollect in this election less than ninety votes were cast, and it was the full vote of the county. Less than fifteen years afterwards, nearly or quite four thousand votes were cast in the
county, a surprising change and a sad and humiliating one to the proud men who now looked on in utter helplessness, while their emancipated slaves crowded them from the polls. Elections before the war were simple affairs to what they have since become in Mississippi. In the election of county officers, politics was unknown; Whigs and Democrats ran as they pleased, and were voted for without regard to their politics. The same was true of judges, who were then elective. Only in the election of state officers, members of the legislature, congress and in presidential elections was the line drawn. The river counties of the state, and most, if not all, of the large slave-holding counties, were Whigs; the others, Democrats. In general elections, the Whig counties would be first heard from, and the Whigs be often sanguine of success; but wait, the Democrats would say, till you hear from Tishomingo; and, sure enough, the Whigs would nearly always be beaten.
As soon as the result of the presidential election of 1860 was known, Governor Pettus called the legislature together, and that body at once called a convention. Excitement ran high, and General Clark, now an open and avowed secessionist, was a candidate for the convention, his opponent being Mr. Miles H. McGenhee. There was only one question in the canvas, whether there should be separate state action or whether the State of Mississippi should await the action of other southern states, for all were agreed that the time for decisive action had come. On this issue, General Clark, who was for separate action, was defeated, but the convention, when it met, was overwhelmingly his way, and every school boy now knows the result.
All over the state military companies were formed, and in Bolivar a splendid cavalry company, called the Bolivar troop, was organized, General Clark being the captain,
and I the 1st lieutenant. Our captain alone knew anything about drilling the company, for he had served in the Mexican war as colonel of the Second Mississippi regiment. He was away a great deal, and the work devolved on me. I applied myself with zeal to my new duties, bought books on military tactics, and was soon able to put up a pretty good drill. Later, when the state had seceded, the company was reorganized as a part of the army of Mississippi, and I was elected and commissioned its captain. It is a fact overlooked, or, at least, not noticed, as far as I have seen, that Mississippi enjoyed for a time the honor and distinction of being an independent nation. She dissolved her connection with the union on the 9th of January, 1861, and formed no new ties till she entered the Southern Confederacy by the act of a convention of delegates from the state and other southern states at Montgomery, Alabama, in February, 1861.
She had her own army, commanded for a short time by Major-General Jefferson Davis, with four brigadier generals, Earl Van Dorn, Charles Clark, J. L. Alcorn and C. H. Mott. She also established a custom house at Commerce on the river below Memphis; perhaps in other places which I do not recall. All of these great men are gone, Mott being killed early in the war. The life of Mr. Davis is known of all men; of Generals Van Dorn and Alcorn, I will speak in other places, but will here give a brief sketch of the life and services of that distinguished citizen Charles Clark.
Elsewhere I have said he was a great man, and so he was held by
all who knew him. Of an indomitable will, with a courage which never quailed, with an intellectual capacity of the highest order, trained and polished, but always subservient to his will, and with a devotion to his state which was absolutely unselfish, no truer patriot ever lived and no more gallant soldier ever drew
his sword. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, of, as I have said elsewhere, an ancestry which came from Maryland, and came to the State of Mississippi when a very young man, teaching school at first, but reading law at the same time. As soon as he received his license, he opened an office in Fayette, and rose at once to the front ranks of his profession, the cotemporary and equal of the great lawyers of that day. He served in the legislature both from Jefferson county and afterwards from Bolivar.
He was colonel of the Second Mississippi regiment in Mexico, and though the regiment was never in action, he returned with the reputation of being a thorough soldier. He was early appointed by Mr. Davis a brigadier-general in the Confederate army, and commanded a division in the battle of Shiloh, where he was wounded in the shoulder, carrying the bullet with him to the grave. He also commanded a division at the battle of Baton Rouge. In this battle he received the wound which confined him to his bed for many months, and from which he never recovered. He has often told me that both he and General Breckenridge, who commanded in the battle, disapproved of the attack at Baton Rouge, believing the place untenable, if the assault were successful, but it was ordered and a soldier must obey. General Clark was left on the field too desperately wounded to be moved. He was carried into the city by the federals, and at his request was placed on a boat and sent to New Orleans, where he could have the services of his old friend, Dr. Stone, an eminent surgeon of that day. His wife was permitted to go to him, and under their joint care in a few months he was exchanged and able to return to Mississippi, though it was long before he was able to walk even on crutches; indeed, as long as he lived he had to use one at least. At the election of 1863, he was elected governor, and this trying position he held till
forced by federal bayonets to yield. He was literally ejected from his office by force, refusing to give it up on demand, for he said he had received it from the people of the state and to them alone would he surrender it. General T. J. Wharton, not long since gone to his reward, then the attorney-general of the state, has often described to me the scene when the federals marched into the office, and the old hero, tall and commanding even on his crutches, stood in the door and denounced the outrage, as one worthy a painter's highest skill. He was taken to Fort Pulaski and there confined with other distinguished southerners, but was finally permitted to return home. He resumed the practice of his profession, and continued in the quiet pursuits of private life till the summer of 1875, when he took an active part in the redemption of the state from the blighting effects of carpet bag rule. The people of the state had almost lost hope, but gathering courage from despair, a tax-payers' convention was called and held in Jackson the summer of that year, and General Clark, a delegate from Bolivar, was elected chairman. This was the entering wedge; the people then rose in their might and white supremacy was restored forever in the state by the election of that year. General Clark was then appointed chancellor of his district, and held this office till his death about two years later. It was my privilege to be with him in his last hours, for it is a privilege to see a brave and good man die. He could not speak when I arrived at his house, but his clear, bright eyes showed the conscious soul within, and as he turned them on me, I would have given worlds if he could then have spoken. He sleeps his last sleep on a high mound, built by some ancient and long forgotten race, but as long as the history of the state is read, his name and fame will live.
occasion to visit Natchez and was accompanied by his son-in-law, Major W. E. Montgomery. They took passage on a Cincinnati boat. Among the passengers happened to be a gentleman who had been a federal officer, and in the battle of Baton Rouge. This gentleman and General Clark soon became known to each other, and were talking about that battle when some northern man on the boat who had been imbibing too freely interrupted them by contradicting a statement the General made in a very insulting manner, saying, "old man, that aint true." The General then could walk with one crutch and a cane, a heavy lignum vitae, and he rose suddenly to his feet and before the fellow could get out of reach brought the cane down on his head with such force as to shiver it, and for a while render him senseless. There was great excitement for a time, but it was generally agreed that the punishment was well deserved, and the rest of
the trip was pursued in peace. I have this account from Major Montgomery who saw it. Some years later there was a sequel to it. In the summer of 1876, Gen. Clark paid a visit to a daughter then living in California, and on return changed cars, I believe, at Omaha. After he had got his seat and made himself comfortable on the sleeper, the conductor told him he must change his seat, which he refused to do. The conductor got angry and insulting, and said he would make him do it, and went off to get the help. The negro porter on the car who had been looking on, now came up and asked him if he were not Governor Clark of Mississippi. The General was a good deal surprised, but told him he was, whereupon the porter told him that he was a porter on the steamboat, when he knocked the man down and remembered him. The porter then went off in search of the conductor and told him what he knew, and he was not further disturbed but was kindly treated, especially by the porter who could not do
too much for him. I asked the General when he told me the incident, what he would have done if the conductor had tried to put his threat into execution, and he said he would have made the best fight he could with his crutches; he had them both on this trip, and no cane, and of course carried no arms. He certainly would have made the fight if it had cost him his life.
Trip to New Orleans--Company in camp--An old soldier's popularity and final fate--Take company to Memphis-- Roster of company--General Pillow--General William T. Martin--Anecdote--Whether negro or white man--Life dependent on the question--Ordered to Union City.
My company was for the times well armed, the arms furnished by the state. We had sabers, Colt's revolvers, and Maynard rifles, a breech-loading gun with a metal cartridge. Each man furnished his own horse, and it was splendidly mounted. I wanted only tents, for I was anxious to get the men into camp and learn some of the practical duties of soldier life. The state did not have them to spare, but there was no lack of means to buy them; for besides that many of the officers and men were well to do, the board of police gave us five thousand dollars, for which it must be confessed they had no warrant, but they had the money and everybody approved it. While the state was still a nation, in the month of January I went to New Orleans to see if I could get tents, and on this trip my wife went with me. When we got to Vicksburg she for a time wished she had stayed at home, for it looked warlike indeed. As our boat got in front of the city a cannon was fired across the bows, perhaps two, to gently remind us that the state authorities desired to know what we were after in that part of the river. The boat was going to land any way, and the powder had as well have been saved for more urgent need in the days which were to come. This gun, as I learned afterwards, was under
the command of Colonel Horace Miller, as he afterwards became, a gentleman I knew well and esteemed highly. We got to New Orleans without further interruption. I got my tents, and very fine ones, by the aid of that splendid gentleman and afterwards gallant soldier, General Wirt Adams, who was a banker in Vicksburg and also, I believe, was in business in New Orleans. My funds were deposited with him, and he finally got me the tents. While there I found and bought handsome officers sabers for myself and lieutenants, and later on in this story I will tell what became of mine. I also got handsome cavalry saddles for myself and officers, but could not get them for the men.
When I got my tents home I at once ordered the company into camp, and they came promptly. But an amusing difficulty presented itself: none of us had ever pitched a tent, except one man, and he had not yet come. He was not long, however, and when he came soon set us all straight. His name was Milford Coe, and he had been a member of the second Mississippi regiment in Mexico, hence knew something about army camp life. He was at the time an overseer in the county, and was very well liked by those who knew him. His knowledge of camp life made him for a time very popular, but after he had been in service a few months he was so much disliked that I procured a discharge for him. He returned home, and early in the next year located himself on Island Seventy-Six, opposite the town of Bolivar, and gathered around him a gang of desperadoes, negroes and whites, and began systematically to prey upon the people on the main land, who finally organized a force, and, after capturing him, brought him over and shot him to death in a cane brake, where his bones were left to bleach, a well deserved fate. I kept my men in camp, in fact, never broke it, till I finally got away. Meantime
events were rapidly drawing to a crisis between the United States and the young confederacy, and the hope of peace which many had entertained was being fast dispelled. Some infantry regiments had been organized and were ordered to Pensacola and to Charleston, where General Beauregard was in command, and where it was supposed the first collisions would occnr.
My men were getting impatient to be away, and I was myself, for about that time some business took me to Jackson, and while there several companies passed through on their way to Pensacola, and it was all I could do under the excitement, and the influence of the inspiring music of the fife and drum (to me yet the most exciting music in the world), to refrain from getting on the cars and going with them. I sent Lieutenant Bell, of my company, to Montgomery to see if I could get the company ordered into service, but the authorities were not yet ready to receive cavalry. Lieutenant Bell was a nephew of John Bell, the last Whig candidate for president, which great party was lost and destroyed forever in the great campaign of 1860. Meantime war had actually commenced by the reduction of Fort Sumter and the call by Mr. Lincoln for seventy-five thousand volunteers. The capital of the confederacy had been moved to Richmond, and many troops were being hurried to that place, but still there was no special demand for cavalry. The State of Tennessee had seceded and was raising an army, though it had not yet joined the confederacy. General Gideon J. Pillow was placed in command of it, and had his headquarters in Memphis. I went to see him and offered him my company with the understanding, when the army of Tennessee was turned over to the confederacy, it should be distinctly recognized as part of Mississippi's troops, and to this he readily agreed.
I returned at once, and soon had the company ready to
embark on a boat I had engaged to take us to Memphis. I took my leave of home and wife and children, then six in number, the eldest about eleven years old, to which number was to be added in about two months another. I do not suppose it would have made any difference, but I did not dream when I left that I was not to see them again except on brief visits and at rare intervals for four long years. How could I? Each side went into that long and bloody war with a supreme contempt for the courage and resources of the other, though of course on both sides there were thoughtful and well-informed men, who knew that when once the sword was unsheathed, only complete victory for one side or the other would end the war. I got my men to together mostly at the town of Prentiss, the county site, there to take boat, I myself to join them a few miles above at my own landing, Beulah. I wish I had a complete roster of the company as it was mustered into service a few days later at Memphis, but this I have not, but fortunately I have, in a clipping from the county paper of that day, a list of all those who embarked at Prentiss and Beulah, sixty-eight in number at those two points. These names I here record, and will add others who joined me at other landings in the county or in Memphis,
bringing the company up to about one hundred officers and men. I deeply regret that I cannot recall the names of each one of these last, of whom I have no written memoranda. But this was thirty-nine years ago, and it is surprising to myself that I remember so many. The names follow:
Others of the original company whose names I recall, absent at the time, or who joined immediately afterwards, were Clay Kingsley and David Reinach, of Bolivar, J. M. and Will. Montgomery and Will. Mason Worthington, Bert, Will. W., Ed. and Ben. Worthington,
from Washington county, and Alf. Saunders, Charley Saunders and--Trawick, from Arkansas. To these were soon added Charles C. Farrar, then of Ohio, a nephew of my wife, who made haste to join me, and W. A. Alcorn, from Coahoma county; also, Charley Worthington, of Washington. It may be I may remember others of the original company, but there were but few more, since the names I have given made almost or quite a full company, according to the army regulations of those days as I remember them.
Of the officers and non-commissioned officers of this splendid company who went out with me, I alone am left to linger for a short while longer on the shores of time. Of the men, not a dozen now survive. Many were killed in battle; some died with disease during the war, and the remains of these lie in half a dozen different states. They gave their lives for the cause they loved, and shame on the man who would now say they were wrong. Of the remnant who returned home, one by one they have gone to join the majority, till as I have said not a dozen now survive. Bolivar county furnished other companies to the confederacy--the McGehee Rifles, Captain, afterwards Colonel Brown, commanding; a cavalry company, Captain Mason, afterwards Captain Shelby, a splendid company officered by young planters of the county, and composed of light-hearted sons of the Emerald Isle, Captain Martin, who was killed at the battle of Sharpsburg. Lieutenant Miller, of that company, and one old, disabled soldier, Mike Monahan, now the care of the kind-hearted, are all of that company living here, perhaps the only two now living.
We reached Memphis one morning in May, 1861, and I at once reported to General Pillow, who ordered me to put my command in camp at the fair grounds, and gave
me transportation for my tents and baggage. I went to the boat and directed Lieutenant Jones to take the company to the camp, First Lieutenant Herndon having his family with him to look after. I was myself detained looking after quartermaster and commissary matters. But few of the men had saddles, as I expected to be able to get a uniform saddle for the whole company, and therefore had instructed them not to bring their saddles. As soon as I could I hastened to follow them, and overtook them just as they turned out of Main street. They formed a long, straggling column, some mounted bare-back, others leading their horses, all encumbered with baggage besides their arms, and presented a ludicrous appearance. Lieutenant Jones was riding at the head of the column, mounted on a fine gray horse, and just as I got in sight of him he turned in his saddle and gave the command, "draw saber," and a scene of confusion ensued which provoked me to laughter, though I was vexed and mortified. The men tried to obey, and every man began to tug at his saber, whether mounted or unmounted. I, of course, put an end to the scene as soon as I could, and the truth was the lieutenant wholly forgot for the time being the condition of his command and what he was ordered to do, and thought he was on drill. We soon arrived at our camping ground, and in a short time had tents pitched, rations and forage issued, guards stationed, and for the first time we felt we were soldiers.
I found already in camp at the grounds a fine cavalry company from Natchez, commanded by Captain, afterwards Major-General, William T. Martin. I had known and admired him when I lived in Jefferson county, as a fine lawyer, and once just as I was of age served on a jury where he was employed for the prosecution, and which was of so much interest to me that I will briefly state the case. It has never been reported, for in fact
only one question in the case was ever settled and that was the issue tried before my jury. There was a free mulatto negro named Johnson living in Natchez, a barber that every one liked, and he acquired a little property somewhere on the river, not far from Natchez, and near a plantation owned by a man named Wynn. This man was quite well-to-do, owning a plantation and about thirty slave hands, as it was said. Johnson went one day to his little place accompanied by a mulatto boy about sixteen years old he had in his shop. This boy returned to town saying that Wynn had, as they were riding along the road stepped, from behind a tree and shot Johnson, and his body was found where the boy said it was. Wynn was arrested and put in jail and soon after indicted for the murder. The indictment described him as a mulatto, and though he had married a white woman, that he had in some other county persuaded to marry him, he had generally been considered of African descent, where he was best known. To this indictment a plea in abatement had been interposed, the defense claiming that he was not a negro, under the law, as
it was claimed he had less than one-fourth negro blood in his veins. If this was true there was no direct evidence against him, as he would be a white man under the law, and the testimony of the mulatto boy who saw the shot could not be taken--the testimony of negroes not then being admissible against white people. There was a change of venue to Jefferson county on this issue. The jury was kept together for a week and there was a great deal of testimony, but Judge Posey, one of the able judges of the olden time, instructed the jury that the burden of proof was on the state, and the jury found for the defendant.
General Martin's speech was one of the ablest I ever heard, and though it took, as I remember, three or more
hours in the delivery, the attention of the jury never wavered. The indictment was quashed and Wynn afterwards indicted as a white man, but I believe got bail and was never brought to trial.
We remained at this camp about two weeks, and I succeeded in getting pretty fair saddles for the company, so that when we left we made a very soldier-like appearance. I devoted all the time I could to drilling the company, but beyond this nothing of any special interest occurred while we remained at that camp. I was ordered to Union City, Tennessee, and Captain Martin's company to Richmond, Virginia, about the same time, so we were never together again during the war.
General Frank Cheatham--First Mississippi Cavalry Battalion, Major Miller--General Cheatham's staff--Battle of Manassas, war over--Occupation of New Madrid--Brigadier-General M. Jeff. Thompson, Missouri State Guard--His army--Evacuate New Madrid--Return next day--Scout to Charleston--Lose a man, captured--Great excitement at home over this--Hickman, Kentucky--Gunboats--Captain Marsh Miller and the Grampus--Columbus, battalion increased.
My baggage, or most of it, I sent by rail to Union City, and, with a squad under a lieutenant with a few sick, marched with the main body of the company to my destination. General Pillow supplied me with what wagons and, indeed, all I needed in profusion, and I made the march leisurely, arriving on the fifth day. I found a place selected for my camp and occupied by the men I had sent before. I was ordered to report to General Frank Cheatham, who was in command of the Tennessee forces at that place, of whom there were at the time several thousand, as were also several infantry regiments from Mississippi belonging to the confederate army, but these were under the command of General Clark, whose headquarters was then at Corinth. I found also several companies of cavalry from Mississippi, which were attached to General Cheatham's command, with the same agreement I had. One of these companies and a very large one from Pontotoc county, was commanded by Captain Miller, and the other from Lafayette county commanded by Captain Jack Bowles. These companies with mine were organized into a battalion, and Captain Miller was elected its major. Very soon
after this the Tennessee forces were turned over to the confederacy, and our battalion was known as the First Battalion of Mississippi Cavalry, which number it retained as other companies were from time to time in the course of the next few months added till there were ten, and from that time on for all time was to be known as the First Mississippi Cavalry regiment. But this is anticipating. Major Miller was a Presbyterian divine about I think fifty years old, but as full of military ardor as the youngest man of his command. When the Tennessee forces were turned over to the confederacy, General Pillow received a commission as brigadier-general in the confederate army, but remained for a time at Memphis, while General Cheatham received the same rank and remained in command of the army at Union City. General Cheatham was a veteran of the Mexican war, and I found him to be a frank and genial soldier, and for him and his staff, Colonel Porter and Captain Frank McNairy, those with whom I had most to do, I formed from the first the highest opinion, and among my most pleasant recollections of the war is my association with them, which was to continue closely till after the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky, early in March as I remember, or the last of February in 1862, after the fall of Fort Donelson.
Our time at Union City was occupied with constant drills and reviews, with much impatience among the men to be closer to the enemy. But this was by no means time lost, for neither officers nor men with the rarest exceptions knew anything whatever about the duties they had to perform. The camp was in a constant state of excitement from news of fights in different parts of the country, in Virginia, South Carolina and Missouri, and in fact all along our border.
At last came the news of the first battle of Manassas
and the utter rout of the federal forces, and the almost universal opinion among the men at Union City was that the war was over, and that they would be compelled to go home without having seen an enemy or having fired a shot, and there was general disgust at the thought.
We little knew the grim determination of the northern people, and they as little understood the fixed purpose of the south. In fact, in neither north nor south was any thought given to that bull dog tenacity which belongs to the Anglo-Saxon race, to which both sides belonged. Like Paul Jones, when summoned to surrender by the captain of the Serapis, we had but "just begun to fight."
At last, one day early in August (I write from memory, for such memoranda as I once had were destroyed in the burning of my office some years ago, and so far as I have been able to find, history makes no mention of the movement I am now to describe), all baggage, including tents and most of the ammunition, was ordered placed on the cars for Memphis. The men were ordered to take three or four days' cooked rations, and a fixed number of rounds of ammunition to the man, and prepare to move. Many were the speculations indulged in, but except at headquarters none knew the purpose of the move or the destination of the army. At last we moved almost due west, and in a few days found ourselves on the banks of the Mississippi river a few miles below New Madrid, Missouri, and then embarking on boats waiting for us, in a few hours were landed at that place. Here in a few days was concentrated a force of about ten thousand men of all arms (rumor made them many more),
and here we felt we were close to the enemy, for every day we had rumors of fights between what was said to be a large force of men composed of Indians and Missourians under Brigadier-General M. Jeff. Thompson, of the Missouri state guards, and the federal troops. He was said to be sometimes near
Charleston and sometimes near Sykeston, one place about twenty-five miles north and the other same distance west of New Madrid, but we never saw his forces, though a few men without uniform of any kind, and armed with double-barreled guns, would now and then be seen about the camp, who were said to be Jeff. Thompson's men. General Thompson, I one day saw, as he was riding through the camp on his way, as it was said, to his own forces. The stories told about him and his army and fights were many and curious, and the fiction as to his Indian soldiers was kept up for a long time, and even when in the summer of 1862 he was in Mississippi, where I came directly into association with him under peculiar circumstances.
General Pillow came to New Madrid, and assumed personal command of the army, and it was supposed we were about to march from that place on St. Louis. To give more color to this rumor, Major Miller was ordered with all the cavalry, except my company, which was retained for picket and scouting, to join General Thompson a short distance west of Sykeston, and a brigade of infantry and a battery of artillery, with an ammunition train of some twenty wagons, with my company to guard them, was ordered to Sykeston. However, we remained only a few days in Sykeston, when we were ordered back, and in a day or two Major Miller was also ordered back. There were constant alarms in camp, and we were kept on the qui vive all the time, it being said the enemy was preparing to bring a large force down the river, supported by gunboats, and whenever a smoke was seen up the river everybody was on the alert. And now occurred a curious move for which there was no doubt good reasons, though no one knew what they were.
The tents were struck and with the baggage put on boats, of which there were quite a number, the infantry and artillery embarked, and the cavalry ordered to march
down the river. We went some twelve or fifteen miles and then bivouaced on the bank of the river for the night with the boats tied up near us. Next morning we were ordered back, boats and all. It reminded me of the king of France, who with "twenty thousand men marched up the hill and then marched down again."
Soon after we got back Captain Bowles proposed to me that we should each take a squad of twenty-five men and make a scout to Charleston. He said he had formed the acquaintance of two lieutenants of Jeff Thompson's men who lived in that place or near it and would guide us. His idea was that the federals at Birds' Point opposite Cairo, and some ten or twelve miles from Charleston, had no doubt heard of our move down the river, but had not heard of our return and that we might succeed in surprising a scouting party, as it was known federal scouts often came to that place. I was willing and Major Miller consenting I went to see General Pillow, who was pleased with the idea, and giving me his instructions, especially to bring him back some prisoners, we got away at once. We marched nearly all that night, and next day lay in a secluded place not far from Charleston all day, though it was not easy to find in that open country, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, a good hiding place. Our plan was at night each to take one of the Missouri lieutenants and picket two roads leading into Charleston from Birds' Point, along either of which, according to our guides, a party was likely to come, and which we hoped to surprise.
While we were waiting for night to come I heard one of my men, Frank Gayden, talking about what he intended to do if he met the Yankees, as he called them. He never intended to take a prisoner, he would kill every one he got hold of. I remonstrated with him for his blood-thirsty talk, and asked him how he would like to
have his intentions carried out against himself if he should be captured. That he said would never be, he would never be taken alive. Twelve hours more was to put him to the test. Nothing happened to disturb the quiet of my watch on the road I was guarding, and after waiting for some hours after daylight I concluded if a scout had that morning come out it must have taken the other road, and that perhaps Captain Bowles had been more fortunate, and so I directed the lieutenant I had with me (I remember his name was Gooden) to take me to a quiet place not far from Charleston, into which place I proposed to go later in the day, and where we could get some sleep, for we had but little for two nights. He guided me to a skirt of woods about a mile from Charleston, which was in full view across an open field, and then proposed with two or three men he had with him to picket the roads for me. Having confidence in him I consented, directing him if he got any news of the enemy to let me know at once.
Feeling secure I went to sleep, as did, I thought, all the men, but after some time I was awakened by Frank Gayden, who said there was a squad of men on the road whose actions he did not like. I went to a fence where I could see, three or four hundred yards away across the field on the road leading from Charleston, and which ran by my bivouac, three men on horseback, all in citizen's clothes, and one of them I recognized as Lieutenant Gooden. by his horse. They were all sitting quietly on their horses and seemed to be talking. I told Gayden it was Gooden and, I supposed, some citizens, but to mount his horse and go and see what news there was, if any, and come back at once and report, and then went to sleep again. I did not wake for some time, but when I did, and inquired for Gayden, I found he had not returned. Some of the men said they saw him ride up to the three men in the
road and then all had ridden off briskly towards Charleston. About that time seeing a citizen in the road I had him brought to me, and to my surprise and chagrin learned Gayden and Gooden were prisoners, and by that time nearly to Birds' Point. I got away at once from what I began to feel was a dangerous place, as indeed it was, for I was twenty-five miles from camp, and even with Captain Bowles I felt I would be too weak for such a force as could be brought against me. I soon joined Bowles, and together we made our way back to camp. When I reported to General Pillow that instead of bringing him a prisoner I had one of my own men taken, and the manner in which it was done, he said he did not see how a soldier could allow himself to be taken in the manner described, and neither could I, especially my bloodthirsty young friend Gayden. The worst of it was the news at home, it created more excitement than the killing and wounding of fifty men two years later. His brother came to see about it, and strange to say I was very much censured, and great sympathy was extended to the silly fellow who deliberately walked into a trap with his eyes open in broad daylight. It made him a hero, and Lieutenant Bell resigning a short time after, Gayden was elected in his place. He was exchanged in a few days, some unlucky fellow on the other side having been taken prisoner. From Gayden I learned that Gooden had been taken prisoner by two scouts in plain clothes; that he seeing Gooden thought everything all right and rode up to the men. One of them leveled Gooden's shotgun on him and told him to surrender, which he promptly did. I asked him why he did not attempt to escape, as he was well mounted as well as armed, and he knew help was at hand. He said the fellow looked like he would shoot--and this was the man
who the day before did not intend to take prisoners and would die before he would be taken!
Early in September, 1861, the cavalry was put across the river opposite New Madrid, and ordered to march to Hickman, Kentucky. Major Miller being absent with a flag of truce which had gone to see about the exchange of Gayden, I was the senior officer in command, and made a rapid march to Hickman, going light, without wagons or baggage of any kind. When we got there, I found General Cheatham with several regiments of infantry and some artillery, he having gone by boat. In a little while afterward, and while I was awaiting orders, occurred what was described in an almanac published in Vicksburg, Mississippi, for 1862, but giving a synopsis of the war for 1861, as an engagement between the federal and confederate forces, in which the former were repulsed. The same almanac contained also a reference to an engagement between confederates and federals at Charleston, on August 21st, which, I suppose, refers to my scout and the capture of Gayden, as it was said the confederates were defeated, since there was nothing else to which it could refer. But, to the Hickman affair. Dense volumes of smoke were seen up the river, and there was great excitement in town, women and children running in every direction, the long roll beat and cavalry bugles sounded, and guns placed in commanding positions to resist a landing, for we all thought a large force was coming to attack the place. First came in sight a little stern-wheel boat owned by the confederates, painted black, with a six-pound gun on her bow, and named the Grampus, commanded by Captain Marsh Miller, an old river pilot whom I had long known. He was running for dear life from two huge and to us, then, formidable looking gun-boats. These were firing occasional shots as
they came on, and truly, to new soldiers, as we all were, except General Cheatham, it looked serious. Captain Marsh Miller, as soon as he got opposite to the command on the bank, turned his boat in midstream and began firing at the gun-boats, though I could see his shots fell far short. General Cheatham had planted a twelve-pound rifle gun on the bank, and, after a few shots were exchanged, the gun-boats retired. A little longer delay and they would probably have been taken at Columbus, for a force under Pillow, with guns, reached that place while the smoke was
still visible above the city. The flurry over, and Major Miller having about that time caught up with the command, bringing with him my missing man Gayden, the cavalry was ordered forward to Columbus.
We found that place already occupied by our troops, and it was not long before a large force was concentrated there, for awhile under the command of General Pillow, but a little later General Polk arrived and took command. I saw but little of General Pillow after this, but I had for several months been in a position to observe him closely, and I had formed a very favorable opinion of him, both as a man and officer. He was a courteous gentleman, with some vanity, perhaps, and with a high and noble ambition for distinction in the army, but he failed, for, after the battle of Fort Donelson, from which place he escaped, he was but little heard of in the army; at least, I believe, never again had any prominent place of command.
Soon after the occupation of Columbus, by the division of Major Miller's old company, and the addition of another, the battalion had five companies, and Major Miller was elected lieutenant-colonel, and First Lieutenant D. C. Herndon, of my company, elected
major. R. A. Pinson, of Pontotoc county, was elected captain of the new company from Pontotoc, and with him my fortunes were to be intimately connected till the end of the war. But this is not the place to do justice to him.
Gunboats and Grampus--Ordered with squadron to Belmont--Colonel Tappan in command--Watson's Battery--Old college mate--Dashing poker player of old times, one of the Watsons--Scouting--First fight--Federal sergeant killed--Leave of absence, battle of Belmont--Winter quarters--State troops under General Alcorn--New orderly sergeant--Old acquaintance from California--Runaway negroes--Detailed on recruiting service--Battle of Shiloh--Battalion increased to regiment--Colonel Lindsay in command--His habits--Army falls back to Tupelo.
For some weeks the chief excitement of the camp was to gather on the bluff, and see the federal gunboats pursue Captain Marsh Miller, as he would return from his daily scout up the river. There was a long stretch in the river above Columbus, without a bend, and the captain with his little boat would sometimes be gone so long, that it was feared he had been captured, but presently his boat would be seen coming under all the steam it could bear, and its whistles screaming as it came, while behind would come the gunboats firing as they came. When finally he got under our guns on the bluff, he would stop and turn and pop away with his six pounder. Meantime the guns on the bluff would be manned and the fire of the gunboats returned. No damage was ever done on either side for they never came near enough. At last we got a big gun, but it burst, killing and wounding several of our own men. It was great sport to watch the Grampus, which was really handled in a daring manner by Captain Miller, who is still living, an honored citizen of Memphis. The cavalry made frequent scouts to the
north without, however, ever seeing an enemy, going sometimes almost to Paducah.
These things, with the inevitable drills and reviews and exciting news from other places, where there were occasional skirmishes, called sometimes battles, together with daily rumors of the intended approach of the federal army from Cairo, kept us busy all the time. But about the last of September, Colonel Tappan's Arkansas regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery, known as Watson's battery, were stationed across the river at Belmont, and I was ordered to take Captain Jack Bowles' company and my own, the two forming a squadron under my command as senior captain, and report to Colonel Tappan. I found him to be all that could be desired in a commanding officer and he afterwards rose to the rank of brigadier general, a deserved promotion, and is living at this writing in Helena, Arkansas, enjoying the esteem and love of his fellow citizens.
My business was to scout and picket the roads on that side of the river, and the colonel left me to my own discretion as to how to do it, a confidence which I highly appreciated. I here met Gus. Watson of Watson's battery, who was an old friend and college mate of Oakland College, but whom I had not seen for years. He was one of several brothers, all wealthy, and all of whom I had known while at the college and for some years after. They were all gentlemen of character and standing, and all were dashing poker players, and I had played many a game with them. It was quite common in those days for gentlemen to play, and frequent trips were made on the fine steamers of those days to New Orleans, ostensibly on business by parties of gentlemen, but really oftener to play poker. From the dashing play of these men came the phrase "to play it like the Watsons", which is still heard, I am told, almost everywhere among poker
players, to this good day. Gus. Watson had bought and equipped this battery at his own expense, and was with but not holding any command or place. I had with me a gentleman who was also along for the excitement and not mustered into the service. He wanted to be, but I persuaded him not to be, as I wanted him to stay at home. This was Dr. J. J. Ross, a planter and physician of Bolivar county.
He and Watson became great friends and both always went with me on my scouts. My first care was to examine all the roads leading to our position and all the country around for some miles so as to know where to station my pickets. The county was mostly open woods and one could ride anywhere. My next was to secure a competent guide, and I was fortunate in finding a good one. I wish I could remember his name for he certainly knew the country well, all the way up the river to Bird's Point, and it was he who first discovered the enemy were landing for the battle of Belmont, his house being on the river some distance outside of my picket lines. In Columbus before I crossed to Belmont and afterwards when I had got there, I heard the usual rumors about Jeff. Thompson and his men who were said to be constantly fighting, a little further up the river, and I determined to find them if they were to be found, so I began to scout almost every day, going with my guide a little further every time. It was on one of these scouts I first heard that to me curious provincialism, "we-uns" and "u-uns." I rode up to a house in the woods and inquired of a girl who
came to the door, when she had seen any soldiers about there. She wanted to know if "u-uns was the yankee cavalry," a somewhat mortifying question, but in a little while she said we-uns had not seen any soldiers since Jeff Thompson's men had been there, and when I inquired for them she knew nothing of them. This was as near as I ever
came to seeing them and I began to think they were a myth, but my guide said before I came over there really had been a company who called themselves Jeff Thompson's men, but who had gone, no one knew where.
My constant scouts without ever seeing an enemy began to tire the men as well as myself; indeed we never had been able so far to find any positive signs of them. I knew they were in considerable force at Bird's Point, and that scouts were made down the river from that place, but this was about all. I was anxious to come in contact with them, for I wanted to know how I would feel, and had some little anxiety as to whether I could stand fire with any degree of coolness. There was about fifteen miles above us on the banks of the river a large plantation or farm owned by a Mr. Hunter, a strong southern man, who had abandoned it and came to a smaller place he owned near Columbus to be out of the way of federal raids. There was a large amount of forage left on the place, and Colonel Tappan decided to send and get it. He sent five companies of his regiment, a section of Watson's battery, all the wagons he could get and my entire squadron. I had already been many times to the farm and beyond it, so I knew the country pretty well. I went now about a mile or more above the farm, guarding the roads leading to it until the wagons were loaded and well under way down the river with the infantry and artillery. Then selecting thirty of the best mounted men I had, I ordered the balance of the cavalry back to camp. With my guide I then continued on up the river till we came to a road which the guide said led across the country to Bird's Point, a shorter route than by the river, about five miles away. Here I discovered unmistakable signs of the enemy, for the cross-roads as well as the river road going up the river was full of innumerable shod horse tracks.
Deciding to explore the cross-road with a view to returning with the entire squadron and not expecting to meet any enemy, for it was then late in the afternoon and so many of the tracks were fresh seemingly having just been made, I started on it in the direction of Bird's Point, sending eight men ahead as an advance, and with these went my friends, Ross and Watson. My guide said about a mile away there was a farm and family living on it, and my purpose was to go that far and return, as it was fully twenty-five miles to camp. We had gotten nearly to this farm, which could be seen across a narrow strip of woods, when my advance, which had gotten through the woods, were seen suddenly to halt then turn and gallop back. I ordered the men to form in line, which was promptly done, and then looked to see what the matter was. The road where it left the wood on the other side made a short turn, and on one side was a clump of papaw bushes just where it turned, so that I could not see far down it. I did not have long to wait for the cause of the retreat of the advance, for before they could reach me a body of blue coats in column of fours at full gallop came into sight. They were in fast pursuit of the advance and could not see my line till in about a hundred yards of it, when they promptly halted and formed a line. I never saw before and I don't think I ever saw afterwards a prettier sight. I estimated them to be about fifty strong as their line was longer than mine. As they were forming, I ordered my men to fire, and thirty Maynard rifles cracked together. I knew my men were all good shots, and as they fired I looked to the enemy and fully expected to see a dozen saddles emptied by the fire, but I saw none fall, and they coolly formed, and then occurred the liveliest fusilade which had ever up to that time been heard in that country. Both sides stood their ground well, and I began to be seriously
uneasy lest I should get the worst of it, but presently I could see them dropping out of line two or three at a time and then all turned and got away as fast as possible. I forbade pursuit as I apprehended the firing would bring other forces to their aid, and I was too far away from my base to get any help I rode up to where their line had been, and there stretched out in death lay a fine looking young man wearing the chevrons of a sergeant. His carbine--they were armed with Burnsides, a better gun than mine--lay by his side and his saber was still belted to him. This was the first man killed in open fight, while the armies lay opposing each other at Cairo and Columbus, and, indeed, this was the first fight between opposing forces of the two armies. I left him where he lay, giving his body in charge of the citizen whose house was near. His saber I gave to my friend Watson and the carbine to Ross. My own loss was five horses
killed and one man wounded in the right arm, which had to be amputated. His name was Smith, and I fear he is now dead, since within the last year I have heard nothing from him, and prior to that time he often wrote me, and I always replied to his letters from Louisville, Kentucky, where he has lived since the war. I sent couriers forward at once to announce my successful fight to Colonel Tappan, while I followed more slowly with my wounded man and dismounted men.
We got back to camp late at night tired and hungry, but proud of the fact that at last we had met the enemy face to face and came off victorious. The whole camp was up to see us come in; the news of our fight had been sent over the river and telegraphed to Memphis, and for some days the squad who had participated in the skirmish were the heroes of the hour. After this I made many scouts to the same place with the squadron but did not again meet the enemy. In a few weeks I
got a leave of absence for a week and hastened home, and, to my regret at the time, the reconnoissance in force was made by General Grant, which resulted in the battle of Belmont, while I was absent. I hastened back, to find the whole command brought back from Belmont and all concentrated at Columbus. Soon after this the army went into winter quarters, and my company was retained in camp at Columbus, while Colonel Miller was kept outside, north of the town, guarding the roads leading north, or most of them, while I had one special road to picket, along with such other duties as from time to were required of me. There were numerous false alarms during the winter, and one which brought several thousand Mississippi state troops, under the command of General Alcorn, when it was supposed the enemy intended to attack Columbus from Paducah, but after a few weeks these were sent back, and everything became quiet again. Just after the battle of Belmont I became aware of the fact that the men had become very much dissatisfied with Orderly Sergeant S. H. Starke, and he himself desiring to give up the place, I decided to appoint some one in his place.
Sergeant Starke was a son of the Hon. Peter B. Starke, of Bolivar county, a prominent citizen, and afterwards colonel of the Twenty-eighth Mississippi Cavalry, with whose regiment we were at a later date brigaded, and of whom I may have much to say. The office of orderly sergeant is the most important in a company, except that of captain, or the commanding officer of the company, and I was greatly troubled to think whom to appoint. While sitting at the door of my tent, just before the hour of evening parade, and considering the matter, I happened to look at a young man sitting some distance away by himself and seeming to be in a deep study. His name was Gadi Herrin, and he was a native of Attala county;
had been teaching school in Bolivar, and had just become of age and received a license to practice law about the time we had organized the company. I knew he was a very ambitious boy, and at once, on the impulse of the moment, I called him to me and told him I had determined to appoint him orderly sergeant. He told me afterwards he had been sitting wishing for the place, but without hope or expectation of getting it.
He did not disappoint my expectations, and his gallant services and death will later on be told.
While recalling the incidents of my stay in Columbus that winter I ought not to pass by one old acquaintance, who came across the continent from California to cast in his lot with the people of his native state, Mississippi, in their struggle for independence. His name was Ned Saunders. I had not seen him for ten years, when unexpectedly I came across him one day at General Cheatham's quarters.
His father had been a leading criminal lawyer in Natchez, and was a pronounced secessionist in 1851, and after the triumph of the union sentiment in the campaign of that year, declared he would leave and did leave the state, going to California. My friend, Ned Saunders, had soon after becoming of age formed the acquaintance of General Walker, the celebrated filibuster, who undertook to conquer Nicaraugua, and had accompanied him to that country and been raised to the command of major-general in Walker's army. While Walker was, or claimed to be, the president of that country, Saunders was married, Walker performing the ceremony. In some way, when Walker's army was overthrown, Saunders escaped, and thus did not share the fate which befell Walker, who, after holding his own for nearly two years, was driven out of the country, but was afterwards taken and shot. Ned Saunders wanted to raise an independent company
of scouts, which he afterwards succeeded in doing, and I believe did good service, though he was seldom with my command. With him came a brother, a frail and delicate man, Louis Saunders, and both remained in the confederate service till the close of the war.
I do not remember, while in winter quarters at Columbus, ever
being ordered to take my company across the river to my old scouting ground but once, and this was upon an inglorious service, but I could not disobey. Some negroes, four or five in number, had escaped from the army and crossed the river. I was ordered to take my company and try and recapture them. I had little difficulty in doing this, as I knew the country thoroughly, and knew just where to send men to head the poor creatures off. I confess I felt very much ashamed of the work, and could not but be sorry for the poor fellows when they were brought to me.
Just before the army evacuated Columbus, and when, so far as I knew, there was no thought of its doing so, under a special detail from General Polk, I went to Jefferson and Franklin counties to aid in the formation of companies, and indeed to hurry up their formation. While so engaged I learned the army had left Columbus, and all our forces in this department were being rapidly concentrated at Corinth under that man of high hopes and great promise to the confederacy, General Albert Sidney Johnston. This splendid soldier I had met several times in Columbus, and felt that he was a man formed to command. How soon our hopes were cut short in his glorious death, in the moment of victory at Shiloh, history has recorded. I hastened to rejoin my command as rapidly as possible, but was too late for the battle of Shiloh. My company was engaged under the command of Lieutenant Jones, who received a severe flesh wound in
the arm, but he was the only man wounded in the company and so far as I now remember, in the regiment, for just a few days before that battle enough companies had been added to form a regiment. This regiment was commanded in the battle by Colonel Lindsay, an old army officer with, I believe, the rank of captain, who had been on duty for many years on the frontier. When I got back to the command I found him still commanding the regiment, but Colonel Miller and Major Herndon were not with it. These gentlemen, and justly I think, were offended at his being appointed to supersede them, and soon after the battle, for they would not do so sooner, tendered their resignations, which, however, were not accepted, though they were relieved from duty for a time. This left me the second in command as senior captain, and as in duty bound I hastened to report myself to Colonel Lindsay for duty. He was a southern man, but I do not remember from what state, and I found him to be a very reticent, but agreeable, gentleman. He was, according to my impression of him, some forty-five or may be fifty years old. His whole life had been passed on the frontier and mostly in forts, and, while I do not doubt he was a gallant man and a competent officer, he seemed to have no energy, and devolved on me very largely the duties be ought to have performed. His chief pleasure and only occupation, so far as I know, was in playing solitaire, for I never went to his tent that I did not find him engaged in this game, for the few weeks we were together. What became of him after he left the regiment I am not certain, but think he went to the western department. While with him the regiment was on the left of the army while it remained in Corinth. Nothing of any special interest occurred, save one day a company under the command of Lieutenant Beasely, of Noxubee county,
was attacked on picket and driven in. Colonel Lindsay ordered me to take the regiment and re-establish the line. His men reported that the lieutenant had been killed. I re-established the line, but the enemy had already gone, and, as we could not find the lieutenant's body, I supposed he had been wounded and taken prisoner.
The place where the picket was stationed was very hilly and wooded, and the next day some of the men on picket found him down a hill some distance from where he had fallen, still living, but unconscious. A bullet had hit him fair in the center of his forehead, but he had evidently walked to where he was found, for he had unbuckled his saber, which with his pistol was lying by his side. He lived some hours, but died a soldier's death. He left a son, a gallant boy, afterwards adjutant of the regiment, and destined to meet his father's fate on the battle field.
The army under General Bragg fell back to Tupelo, and there the regiment enlisted for the war, and was reorganized, and an election held for all company and regimental officers, and here Colonel Lindsay, after having superintended this election, took his leave of us.
Reorganization of regiment--Report to General Villipigue--Ordered to Senatobia, Jeff. Thompson again--His Indian army--Mrs. M. C. Galloway, of Memphis--Ordered to Bolivar county--Captain Herrin reports to me--Fights with General Hovey in Coahoma county--Congressman Hal. Chambers--His duel with Mr. Lake--Fight at Drisdoll's gin--Rejoin regiment.
From the reorganization of the regiment at a camp near Tupelo in May, 1862, commenced its real history as the First Mississippi Cavalry Regiment. Both Lieutenant-Colonel Miller and Major Herndon were present, but neither were candidates for any position. Major Herndon went into the service of the government in a civil capacity, and Colonel Miller returned to his home near Pontotoc. He left with the esteem of all the men and officers, but he did not live many months to enjoy the honor which he had gained by his year of arduous service. While living quietly at home a few months later he was taken prisoner by the federals, and while being carried away by them he made a daring attempt to escape. They were at the time passing through a broken and wooded country, between Pontotoc and Ripley, Mississippi, and, riding along by the side of the officer in command, he suddenly wheeled his horse and dashed down a steep hill and was fired on and killed.
I wish I could remember the names of all the officers elected at the election, the last ever held, for after this as vacancies occurred they were filled by promotion, and when necessary by appointments from the ranks, and I wish I had the names of all the gallant men who filled