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[257]

A Confederate veteran. [from the Richmond times, November 1, 1891.

Who acknowledged no command and knew no Fear—Old Hines of the Second Howitzers—a most unique Character—The poorest soldier, the greatest plunderer, and one of the bravest of men.


Lee's immortal army contained many heroes, but only one ‘Old Hines,’ and he was a member of the Second company of Richmond Howitzers. ‘Old Hines’ was unique, a separate and independent command by himself, a kind of ‘imperium in imperio.’ In person he was of low and squatty figure, stoop-shouldered, very bowlegged, and possessed an enormous aquiline nose and a cocked eye, a shrewd smile generally played over his smoothly-shaved face. In addition he was ‘deaf as a post’ and had seen at least seventy-five winters. In spite of all this he was strong as an ox and tough as a mule. How he ever became a member of that famous battery was a mystery to me. Nobody knew whence he came or what was his nationality. ‘Old Hines’ had only two associates—Mills and Otto, two Germans—messmates of his, who spoke very little English but a great deal of Dutch. ‘Old Hines’ himself never talked at all, and never performed any duty in camp or on the field. Put him on guard and he would deliberately walk back to his mess. Remonstrances were vain, he could not hear explanations out of order, he would not talk, put him in the guardhouse he was happy; release him he was equally so. ‘Old Hines’ detested shoes, and generally went barefooted winter and summer; in consequence his feet were as hard and tough as leather. When the boys wanted a little fun they would give ‘Old Hines’ a little ‘hard tack’ or some corn meal to induce him to dance out the fire of his mess. If the gift was sufficient he would tuck up his pants to the knee, give a war whoop and jump with bare feet into the fire, kicking the smouldering embers in every direction, performing a pyrotechnic war dance that would have made a Comanche Indian envious; this was delightful to the boys, but not to Otto and Mills, as they had to rekindle the fire.


A Sleepless man.

Apparently ‘Old Hines’ never slept at all, but was up all night cooking and eating—he did all the cooking and most of the eating [258] for his mess. He was also a singer, but never sang but one song, or rather the refrain of one, which was, ‘Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me;’ this he was humming all the time in a low voice. ‘Old Hines’ never missed a battle or shirked a fight, but he never did any fighting.

When the fighting commenced he would begin to hunt for plunder all over the field. No danger daunted him, nothing came amiss in the way of clothing or camp equipage; friend and foe fared alike. Gathering up his booty he would seat himself on the ground in the most exposed situation near the battery, and calmly proceed to overhauling and mending the overcoats and other garments he had picked up, singing the while ‘Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me.’ The thunder of artillery and rattle of musketry were nothing to ‘Old Hines.’ Guns dismounted, caissons blown up in thirty yards of him were matters of indifference. If a shell burst very near him, ‘Old Hines’ would cock up his eye, give a vigorous shake of the head, troll out ‘Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me,’ and proceed to sew on a button or mend a rent place in the garment.


A useful non-combatant.

While ‘Old Hines’ never did any fighting, he was useful; he was an inspiration and a perpetual joy to those who did. Everybody knew him-cavalry, infantry and artillery, all smiled when ‘Old Hines’ took up his position. As the fighting grew heavier and the bullets flew thicker, ‘Old Hines'’ spirits arose in proportion, he would ply his needle with greater industry and sing ‘Shoo, Fly’ with redoubled energy.


Hines and Fredericksburg.

‘Old Hines’ and Fredericksburg, the grotesque and dramatic, are inseparably linked in my memory. When the fogs lifted from the banks of the Rappahannock the grandest battle-scene ever witnessed on this continent was revealed. The broad plain, level as a floor, stretching from the river to the position held by Lee and extending for miles to the right and left was literally blackened by the advancing lines of battle of Burnside's splendid army. In our front, covering the left flank of the advancing Federal infantry, were massed the field-batteries of the enemy, which we were soon to engage, long lines of cavalry protected their left flank, while Stuart's [259] cavalry hovered in their front and protected our right. Far as the vision could extend to our left in the direction of Fredericksburg the blue-coated divisions were advancing to the attack, while the sun's rays glanced from ranks bright with steel, with flashing swords and glistening bayonets. It was a sight to stir the heart and quicken the pulse of every beholder. We had halted in a road before going into action. I looked to the right, and there, a few yards from the road, seated on the ground, was ‘Old Hines’ with his pack close by. He had made up a fire, taken off his shoes, turned his back to the panorama, and was slicing off huge hunks of ‘corn dodger,’ which were disappearing in his capacious jaws.


A notable artillery duel.

Just then there was a commotion on our right. Stuart, the ‘Prince of Cavalrymen,’ his black plume dancing in the air, dashed up with Pelham closely followed by the staff. Then was executed a novel manoeuvre to us—a charge of artillery upon artillery. Cannoneers scrambled on guns and caissons, and under lash and spur the whole battalion thundered across that field and took position in pistol range of the enemy's batteries. Then commenced the fiercest and longest sustained artillery duel of the war, prolonged as it was away into the night. The great guns of the enemy posted on the ‘Stafford heights’ across the river, began a terrific cannonade, firing over the heads of their advancing troops, and now the batteries in our front and our own joined in the ‘orchestra of battle.’ On left, on right and in centre cannon growled and grumbled and roared like wild beasts for their prey. Cannon speaks to cannon, growl answers growl, roar answers roar—an inferno of wild beasts. Shot and shell, shrapnel and cannister whizz and shriek and rend and tear. Trees are battered and torn to pieces; horses maimed and mangled, are struggling in dumb agony over dead and dying men; caissons are blown up, guns dismounted, and the earth rocks and trembles to the hoarse bellowing of artillery. On our left the long, rolling volleys of musketry told that Burnside was grappling with Lee's matchless infantry, to be hurled back again and again in defeat and death. And then that crashing, deafening sound—like the roar of some mighty conflagration—a thousand buildings toppling and falling into volcanoes of fire, the forked tongues of light. ning that blast and wither and burn. Hecla, Vesuvius and Aetns vomiting fire and smoke and death. And then that ‘yell,’ louder, [260] louder and nearer, that told of battle lost and victory won. Silence, ‘silence’ ‘alas for the fallen brave.’


A cool proceeding.

I turned and looked to the rear of the battery, on the top of a perfect pyramid of overcoats, blankets, knapsacks and frying pans, ‘Old Hines’ was seated, with his legs crossed, ‘tailor-fashion,’ sewing away for dear life, and right in the range of a dozen batteries. I had very improvidently thrown away in the morning a very heavy but good overcoat, rather than lug it through the fight, which I was then regretting. The fire in our front having slackened, I walked over to ‘Old Hines.’ He had put on my overcoat and was sewing a button on some other garment. I plead hard for my coat, but in vain. Just then a shot from the enemy came bounding along, passing through two of the horses to the caisson, and not missing us very far. ‘Old Hines’ cocked up his eye at me, and, with a grin and chuckle, said ‘Shoo, Fly, don't bother me,’ and I didn't any more. That night as we left the field, the batteries in our front having been almost silenced, we fired an occasional parting shot. Riding along by my gun I passed ‘Old Hines,’ trudging along under a pile of plunder towering at least six feet above his head. He reminded me of the pictures of Atlas with the world on his shoulders. In a few minutes I heard a tremendous crash. I looked back and saw some reckless cavalryman had ridden over ‘Old Hines,’ bag and baggage. ‘Old Hines’ scrambled to his feet and said ‘I'll be durned,’ that was all. I was avenged.


Old Hines Court-Martialed.

While in winter quarters, near Bowling Green, Caroline county, ‘Old Hines’ was court-martialed. When Christmas day dawned upon us ‘Old Hines’ was missing. No one could tell when or whither he had gone; his plunder had vanished, too. Some said his mess-mates had killed him in revenge for dancing out the fire and for washing his face in the bread-tray, which was one of his amusements; others said he had deserted. Several days elapsed and no tidings of the lost one. At length word came from Bowling Green that ‘Old Hines’ had rented the best room in the hotel there, and was living like a lord. A guard was dispatched for him, and he was found in his room in the hotel, seated before a roaring fire with [261] a bottle of apple brandy on one side and a box of cigars on the other. This was too much for a Confederate soldier—even for ‘Old Hines.’ He was marched back to camp under the guard. In a few days he was hauled up before a court-martial then sitting. Major Henry S. Carter, a tobacconist, now of our city, then an officer of the Third Howitzers, was one of the court. Charges and specifications having been preferred, ‘Old Hines’ arose, and with a wave of the hand, said: ‘Gemmen, I don't make no practice of leaving camp, but I allus keeps Christmas—I allus does.’ This was the longest speech ‘Old Hines’ had ever been known to make, and it electrified the court. He was sentenced to remain in camp one week, and wear suspended around his neck a board on which was written, ‘Absent from the camp without leave.’ It so happened that the very next day, when the sentence was to go into effect, the battery received marching orders, and ‘Old Hines’ and the sentence were forgotten. After marching about five miles, ‘Old Hines,’ bringing up the rear with his plunder, he suddenly stopped and remarked, ‘I'll be durned if I ain't forgot that thing them gemmen give me,’ wheeling around he trudged back to camp for his board, which he wore suspended from his neck for six months or more, apparently delighted.


Taken prisoner.

Towards the latter part of the war, while trudging along under a mountain of plunder which completely hid him from view, he was pounced upon by the enemy and taken off to prison. I have been told by some Howitzer, who was a prisoner with him, that ‘Old Hines’ was a great mystery to his captors-he would not tell what company, battalion, regiment or corps he belonged to, because he never knew. To his honor, it may be said, he persistently refused to ‘take the oath,’ and while other and younger men around him were taking it to avoid the horrors of prison, ‘Old Hines’ remained true to his colors. Doubtless, he has long since ‘been gathered to his fathers,’ but hundreds in this city and elsewhere would like to know what became of ‘Old Hines,’ of whom it may be said there never was a poorer soldier, a greater plunderer, or a braver man.

Ex. Off.

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