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A daring scout and spy.

Among the Union men and officers in our armies, none have been more earnest in their patriotism, or more ready to do and dare every thing for the Union cause, than some of the citizens and natives of Southern States. To be a Union man in the Southern Atlantic or Gulf States, meant, unless the man's social position was of the very highest, to be a martyr; to be robbed, persecuted, stripped of all the comforts of life, deprived of a home, and often to be conscripted, imprisoned, shot, hung, or to suffer a thousand deaths in the tortures and indignities inflicted on his helpless family. Yet, with all this before them, many Southern men dared to be true to their allegiance to the National Government, and to enter its service. As was to be expected, these men proved the most serviceable and fearless of the Union scouts and spies. Their familiarity with the country was of great service to them, and the remembrance of the wrongs they had endured fired them with an energy and zeal, and a desire to punish the foe, which rendered them invaluable. Among the men of this class who have rendered most efficient service to the national cause, was a young Georgian, born of Scotch parents, near Augusta, Georgia, in the year 1832. His real name was concealed, in consequence of the peril which would have accrued to his relatives, had it been known; but he was known to some extent in the Union army as John Morford. A blacksmith by trade, he early engaged in railroad work, and at the opening of the war was master mechanic upon one of the Southern railroads. [143] He was a decided Union man, and made no secret of his opinions, and was in consequence discharged from his situation, and not allowed employment upon any other railroad. Morgan's cavalry was also sent to his farm, and stripped it; and when he applied to the guerilla leader for pay for the property thus taken, he was told he should have it if he would only prove his loyalty to the South. As he would not do this, Morgan cursed and abused him, threatened to have him shot, and finally sent him under arrest to one Major Peyton. The major endeavored, but without any success, to convince him that the cause of the South was right; but Morford proving firm to his Union sentiments, he began to threaten him, declaring that he should be hung within two weeks. Morford coolly replied that he was sorry for that, as he should have preferred to live a little longer, but if it must be so, he couldn't help it. Finding him unterrified, Peyton cooled down, and finally told him that if he would give a bond of one thousand dollars, as security for his good behavior, and take the oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy, he would release him and protect his property. After some hesitation — no other plan of escape occurring to him-Morford assented, and took the required oath, upon the back of which Peyton wrote, “If you violate this, I will hang you.”

With this safeguard, Morford returned to his farm anu lived a quiet life. Buying a span of horses, he devoted himself to the cultivation of his land, seeing as few persons as he could, and talking with none. His house had previously been the headquarters of the Union men, but was now deserted by them; and its owner endeavored [144] to live up to the letter of the obligation he had taken. For a short time all went well enough; but one day a squad of cavalry came with a special written order from Major Peyton to take his two horses, which they did. This was too much for human nature; and Morford, perceiving that no faith could be placed in the assurances of those in command, determined to be revenged upon them and their cause. His house again became a secret rendezvous for Unionists; and by trusty agents he managed to send regular and valuable information to General Buell-then in command in Tennessee. At length, however, in May, 1862, he was betrayed by one in whom he had placed confidence, and arrested upon the charge of sending information to General Crittenden, at Battle Creek. He indignantly denied the charge, and declared that he could easily prove himself innocent if released for that purpose. After three days confinement, this was assented to; and Morford, knowing full well that he could not do what he had promised, made a hasty retreat and fled to the mountains, whence, some days afterward, he emerged, and went to McMinnville, at which place General Nelson was then in command.

Here he remained until the rebel force left that vicinity, when he again went home, and lived undisturbed upon his farm until Bragg returned with his army. The presence in the neighborhood of so many officers cognizant of his former arrest and escape rendered flight a second time necessary. He now went to the camp of General Donelson, with whom he had some acquaintance, and soon became very friendly there-acting the while in the double capacity of beef contractor [145] for the rebel army, and spy for General Crittenden. Leaving General Donelson after some months' stay, although earnestly requested to remain longer, Morford next found his way to Nashville, where he made numerous expeditions as a spy for General Negley. Buell was at Louisville, and Nashville was then the Federal outpost. Morford travelled about very readily upon passes given him by General Donelson, making several trips to Murfreesboro, and one to Cumberland Gap.

Upon his return from the latter, he was arrested near Lebanon, Tennessee, about one o'clock at night, by a party of four soldiers upon picket duty at that point. Halting him, the following conversation occurred:

Where do you live?

“Near Stewart's Ferry, between here and Nashville.”

“Where have you been, and what for?”

“Up to see my brother, to get from him some jeans cloth and socks for another brother in the Confederate army.”

“ How does it happen you are not in the army yourself? That looks rather suspicious.”

“Oh, I live too near the Federal lines to be conscripted.”

“Well, we'll have to send you to Murfreesboro. 1 reckon you're all right; but those are our orders, and we can't go behind them.”

To this Morford readily consented, saying he had no objection; and the party sat down by the fire and talked in a friendly manner for some time. Morford soon remembered that he had a bottle of brandy with him, and generously treated the crowd. Further conversation was followed by a second drink, and soon by a third. One of the party now proposed to exchange his Rosinantish [146] mare for a fine horse which Morford rode. The latter was not inclined to trade; but objection was useless, and he finally yielded, receiving seventy-five dollars in Confederate money and the mare. The trade pleased the soldier, and a present of a pair of socks still further enhanced his pleasure. His companions were also similarly favored, and testified their appreciation of the gift by endeavoring to purchase the balance of Morford's stock. He would not sell, however, as he wished to send them to his brother at Richmond, by a person who had given public notice that he was soon going there. A fourth drink made all supremely happy; at which juncture their prisoner asked permission to go to a friend's house, only a quarter of a mile off, and stay until morning, when he would go with them to Murfreesboro. His friend of the horse-trade, now very mellow, thought he need not go to Murfreesboro at all, and said he would see what the others said about it. Finally it was concluded that he was “right,” and might; whereupon he mounted the skeleton mare and rode rejoicingly into Nashville.

On his next trip southward he was arrested by Colonel John T. Morgan, just as he came out of the Federal lines, and, as his only resort, joined Forrest's command, and was furnished with a horse and gun. The next day Forrest made a speech to his men, and told them that they were now going to capture Nashville. The column immediately began its march, and Morford, by some means, managed to have himself placed in the advance. Two miles below Lavergne a halt for the night was made; but Morford's horse was unruly, and could not be stopped, carrying its rider ahead and out of sight. It [147] is needless to say that this obstinacy was not overcome until Nashville was reached, nor that, when Forrest came the next day, General Negley was amply prepared for him.

At this time Nashville was invested. Buell was known to be advancing toward the city, but no scouts had been able to go to or come from him. A handsome reward was offered to any one who would carry a despatch safely through to Bowling Green, and Morford undertook to do it. Putting the document under the lining of his boot, he started for Gallatin, where he arrived safely.

For some hours he sauntered around the place. lounged in and Out of bar rooms, made friends with the rebel soldiers, and toward evening purchased a small bag of corn meal, a bottle of whiskey, a pound or two of salt, and some smaller articles, which he threw across his shoulder and started up the Louisville road, with hat on one side, hair in admirable disorder, and, apparently, gloriously drunk. The pickets jested at and made sport of him, but permitted him to pass. The meal, etc., was carried six miles, when he suddenly became sober, dropped it, and hastened on to Bowling Green, and there met General Rosecrans, who had just arrived. His information was very valuable. Here he remained until the army came up and passed on, and then set out on his return on foot, as he had come. He supposed that our forces had gone by way of Gallatin, but when near that place learned that it was still in possession of the rebels, and so stopped for the night in a shanty between Morgan's pickets, on the north side, and Woolford's (Union), on the south side. During the night the two had a fight, which finally centered around the shanty, and resulted in driving Morford to the woods. In two or three hours he came [148] back for his clothes, and found that the contending parties had disappeared, and that the railroad tunnels had been filled with wood and fired. Hastily gathering his effects together, he made his way to Tyree Springs, and thence to Nashville.

For a short time he acted as a detective of the army police at Nashville, assuming the character of a rebel soldier, and living in the families of prominent secessionists. In this work he was very successful; but it had too little of danger and adventure, and he returned again to scouting, making several trips southward, sometimes without trouble, but once or twice being arrested and escaping as best he could. In these expeditions he visited McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Altamont, on the Cumberland mountains, Bridgeport, Chattanooga, and other places of smaller note. He travelled usually in the guise of a smuggler, actually obtaining orders for goods from prominent rebels, and sometimes the money in advance, filling them in Nashville, and delivering the articles upon his next trip. Just before the battle of Stone river, he received a large order to be filled for the rebel hospitals; went to Nashville, procured the medicine, and returned to McMinnville, where he delivered some of it. Thence he travelled to Bradyville, and thence to Murfreesboro, arriving there just as the battle began. Presenting some of the surgeons with a supply of morphine, he assisted them in attending the wounded for a day or two, and then went to a hospital tent in the woods near the railroad, where he also remained one day and part of another. The fight was now getting hot, and, fearful that somebody would recognize him, he left Murfreesboro on Friday, and went to McMinnville. [149] He had been there but little more than an hour, having barely time to put up his horse and step into a house near by to see some wounded men, when two soldiers arrived in search of him. Their description of him was perfect; but he escaped by being out of sight-the friend with whom he was supposed to be, declaring, though closely questioned, that he had not seen and knew nothing of him. In a few minutes pickets were thrown out around the town, and it was two days before he could get away. Obtaining a pass to Chattanooga at last, only through the influence of a lady acquaintance, with it he passed the guards; but when once out of sight, turned off from the Chattanooga road and made his way safely to Nashville.

General Rosecrans was now in possession of Murfreesboro, and thither Morford proceeded with some smuggler's goods, with a view to another trip. The necessary permission was readily obtained, and he set out for Woodbury. Leaving his wagon outside the rebel lines, he proceeded on foot to McMinnville, arriving there on the 19th of January 1863, and finding General John H Morgan, to whom he represented himself as a former resident in the vicinity of Woodbury; his family, however, had moved away, and he would like permission to take his wagon and bring away the household goods. This was granted, and the wagon brought to McMinnville, whence Morford went to Chattanooga, representing himself along the road as a fugitive from the Yankees. Near Chattanooga he began selling his goods to Unionists and rebels alike, at enormous prices, and soon closed them out at a profit of from four hundred to five hundred dollars. At Chattanooga he remained a few [150] days, obtained all the information he could, and returned to Murfreesboro without trouble.

His next and last trip is the most interesting and daring of all his adventures. Making a few days' stay in Murfreesboro, he went to McMinnville, and remained there several days, during which time he burned Hickory Creek bridge, and sent a report of it to General Rosecrans. This he managed with so much secrecy and skill as to escape all suspicion of complicity in the work, mingling freely with the citizens and talking the matter over in all its phases. From McMinnville Morford proceeded to Chattanooga, and remained there nearly a week, when he learned that three of our scouts were imprisoned in the Hamilton county jail, at Harrison, Tennessee, and were to be shot on the first Friday in May. Determined to attempt their rescue, he sent a Union man to the town to ascertain who was jailer, what the number of the guards, how they were placed, and inquire into the condition of things in general about the jail. Upon receipt of his report, Morford gathered about him nine Union men, on the night of Tuesday, April 21, 1863, and started for Harrison. Before reaching the place, however, they heard rumors that the guard had been greatly strengthened; and, fearful that it would prove too powerful for them, the party retreated to the mountains on the north side of the Tennessee river, where they remained concealed until Thursday night. On Wednesday night the same man who had previously gone to the town was again sent to reconnoitre the position. Thursday morning he returned and said that the story of a strong guard was all false: there were but two in addition to the jailer [151]

Morford's part) was now reduced to six, including himself; but he resolved to make the attempt that night. Late in the afternoon all went down to the river and loitered around until dark, when they procured boats and crossed to the opposite bank. Taking the Chattanooga and Harrison road, they entered the town, looked around at leisure, saw no soldiers nor any thing unusual, and proceeded toward the jail. Approaching quite near, they threw themselves upon the ground and surveyed the premises carefully. The jail was surrounded by a high board fence, in which were two gates. Morford's plan of operations was quickly arranged. Making a prisoner of one of his own men, he entered the enclosure, posting a sentinel at each gate. Once inside, a light was visible in the jail, and Morford marched confidently up to the door and rapped. The jailer thrust his head out of a window and asked what was wanted. He was told, “Here is a prisoner to put in the jail.” Apparently satisfied, the jailer soon opened the door and admitted the twain into the entry. In a moment, however, he became alarmed, and hastily exclaiming, “Hold on!” stepped out.

For ten minutes Morford waited patiently for his return, supposing, of course, that he could not escape from the yard, both gates being guarded. Not making his appearance, it was found that the pickets had allowed him to pass them. This rather alarming fact made haste necessary, and Morford, returning to the jail, said he must put his prisoner in immediately, and demanded the keys forthwith. The women declared in positive terms that they hadn't them, and did not know where they were. One of the guards was discovered in bed [152] and told to get the keys. Proving rather noisy and saucy, he was reminded that he might get his head taken off if he were not quiet — which intimation effectually silenced him. Morford again demanded the keys, and the women, somewhat frightened, gave him the key to the outside door. Unlocking it, and lighting up the place with candles, he found himself in a room around the sides of which was ranged a line of wroughtiron cages. In one of these were five persons, four white and one negro. Carrying out the character he had assumed of a rebel soldier in charge of a prisoner, Morford talked harshly enough to the caged men, and threatened to hang them at once, at which they were very naturally alarmed, and began to beg for mercy. For a third time the keys to the inner room, in which the scouts were, were demanded, and a third time the women denied having them. An axe was then ordered to be brought, but there was none about the place: so said they. Morford saw that they were trifling with him, and determined to stop it. Snatching one of the jailer's boys standing near by the collar, and drawing his sabre, he told him he would cut his head off if he did not bring him an axe in two minutes. This had the desired effect, and the axe was forthcoming. Morford now began cutting away at the lock, when he was startled by hearing the word “halt!” at the gate. Of his five men two were at the gates, two were inside as a guard, and one was holding the light. Ready for a fight he went out to see what was the matter. The sentinel reporting that he had halted an armed man outside, Morford walked out to him and demanded: “What are you doing here with that gun?” [153]

“Miss Laura said you were breaking down the jail, and I want to see McAllister, the jailer. Where is he?” was the reply.

“Well, suppose I am breaking down the jail: what are you going to do about it?”

“I am going to stop it if I can.”

“What's your name?”

Lowry Johnson.”

By this time Morford had grasped the muzzle of the gun, and told him to let go. Instead of complying, Johnson tried to pull it away; but a blow upon the neck from Morford's sabre soon made him drop it. Morford now began to search him for other weapons, but before he had concluded the operation Johnson broke away, leaving a part of his clothing in Morford's hands. The latter drew his revolver and pursued, firing five shots at him, sometimes at a distance of only six or eight paces. A cry, as of pain, showed that he was struck, but he managed to reach the hotel (kept by his brother), and, bursting in the door, which was fastened, escaped into the house. Morford followed, but too late. Johnson's brother now came out and rang the bell in front, which gathered a crowd about the door; but Morford, not at all daunted, told them that if they wanted to guard the jail they had better be about it quick, as he was going to burn it and the town in the bargain. This so frightened them that no further demonstration was made, and Morford returned to the jail unmolested. There he and his men made so much shouting and hurrahing as to frighten the people of the town beyond measure; and many lights from upper story windows were extinguished, and the streets were deserted. [154]

A half hour's work was necessary to break off the outside lock — a splendid burglar-proof one. Morford now discovered that the door was double, and that the inner one was made still more secure by being barred with three heavy log chains. These were cut in two with the axe; but the strong lock of the door still remained. He again demanded the key, and told the women if it was not produced he would murder the whole of them. The rebel guard, Lew. Luttrell by name, was still in bed. Rising up, he said that the key was not there. Morford now ordered Luttrell to get out of bed, in a tone so authoritative that that individual deemed it advisable to comply. Scarcely was he out, however, before Morford struck at him with his sabre; but he was too far off, and the blow fell upon one of the children, drawing some blood. This frightened the women, and, concluding that he was about to put his threat in execution and would murder them surely enough, they produced the key without further words. No time was lost in unlocking the door and releasing the inmates of the room. Procuring their clothes for them, and arming one with Johnson's gun, the whole party left the jail and hurried toward the river. Among the released prisoners was a rebel with a wooden leg, the original having been shot off at Manassas. He persisted in accompanying the others, and was only induced to go back by the intimation that “dead men tell no tales.”

Crossing the river in the boats, they were moved to another place at some distance, to preclude the possibility of being tracked and followed. All now hid themselves among the mountains, and the same Union man was again sent to Harrison, this time to see how severely [155] Johnson was wounded. He returned in a day or two, and reported that he had a severe sabre cut on the shoulder, a bullet through the muscle of his right arm, and two slight wounds in one of his hands. Morford and his men remained in the mountains until all search for the prisoners was over, then went to the Cumberland mountains, where they remained one day and a portion of another, and then proceeded in the direction of McMinnville. Hiding themselves in the woods near this place during the day, seeing but not seen, they travelled that night to within eleven miles of Woodbury, when they struck across the road from McMinnville to Woodbury. Near Logan's Plains they were fired on by a body of rebel cavalry, but, though some forty shots were fired, no one of the ten was harmed, Morford having one bullet hole in his coat. The cavalry, however, pursued them across the barrens, surrounded them, and supposed themselves sure of their game: but Morford and his companions scattered and hid away, not one being captured or found. Night coming on, the cavalry gave up the chase, and went on to Woodbury, where they threw out pickets, not doubting that they would pick up the objects of their search during the night. Morford, however, was informed of this fact by a citizen, and, in consequence, lay concealed all the next day, making his way safely to Murfreesboro, with all of his company, the day after.

General Palmer and the hog.

Early one morning in 1862, while at Farmington, near Corinth, Mississippi, as Brigadier-(now Major-) General Palmer was riding [156] along his lines to inspect some breastworks that had been thrown up during the previous night, he came suddenly upon some of the boys of Company I, Twenty-seventh Illinois Volunteers, who had just shot a two-hundred-pound hog, and were engaged in the interesting process of skinning it. The soldiers were startled; their chief looked astonished and sorrowful.

“Ah! a body — a corpse. Some poor fellow gone to his last home. Well, he must be buried with military honors. Sergeant, call the officer of the guard.”

The officer was speedily at hand, and received orders to have a grave dug and the body buried forthwith. The grave was soon prepared, and then the company were mustered. Pall-bearers placed the body of the dead upon a stretcher. The order was given to march, and, with reversed arms and funeral tread, the solemn procession of sixty men followed the body to the grave. Not a word passed nor a muscle of the face stirred while the last rites of sepulture were being performed. The ceremony over, the general and his staff waved their aclieux, and were soon lost in the distance.

The philosophy of the soldier is usually equal to the emergency. He has read and pondered. He now painfully realizes that flesh is as grass, and that life is but a shadow. But he thinks of the resurrection, and his gloom passes away. So with the philosophic boys of Company I, Twenty-seventh Illinois. Ere their general was fairly seated at his own breakfast-table, there was a raising of the dead, and savory pork steaks were frying in many a camp pan.

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