Johnston's last volley.
[from the Charlotte (N. C.) Observer, November, 1902.]
A veteran describes his experiences in Durham at the close of the war.
A Baltimore correspondent of the Charlotte (N. C.) Observer
, writes as follows:
Mr. David M. Sadler
, who lives at 907 Arlington avenue, in this city, claims that he was one of those who fired the last volley of Johnston
's army, and he also tells of a daring project of General Joe Wheeler
's at the close of the Civil war. Sadler
is an Arkansas man, and was in the first battle at Wilson Creek, Mo.
, August 10, 1861.
From that time he served continuously to the end of the struggle, having had but one twelve-hour leave, and never having missed a day from the service.
He was with Wheeler
on his last raid in Tennessee
, and followed
the trail of Sherman
's march to the sea. The Eleventh Texas, of which he was a member, was, he says, on rear guard at Branchville, S. C.
, and at Raleigh
, ending its career at what was then known as Durham's Station.
The last shot, as described by Mr. Sadler
, was fired in North Carolina
, near Durham
, after the preliminaries for the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston
to General William T. Sherman
had been arranged.
The Eleventh Texas was a part of General Harrison
's Brigade, and had dwindled from a full regiment down to only 105.
Describing his experience at Durham
, Mr. Sadler
We had been on rear guard for three or four days and nights, and on the morning of April 26, 1865, just at dawn of day, a scout came into camp.
They had found a barrel which contained some gallons of apple jack and had put some in a water bucket and the balance in a wash tub.
We had camped along a hedge row, into which we had crawled to sleep.
We were not up when the scout came in and called out “Apple jack!”
but we were very soon out, and before the cups had gone around the outer pickets fired.
Of course, we could not pour the jack out; it was too rich for Yanks.
So we drank it in a hurry, and mounted our horses.
The enemy was on us, and the scrap began.
We divided our command into two squadrons — about fifty men each.
The squadron next to the enemy would stay in line until the enemy would charge.
Each man would empty one six-shooter, then fall back behind the other squadron and take a position.
We were more or less exhilarated—probably more than less.
The enemy came up vigorously, swift, and strong, in charge after charge—for we did not have to wait long for them.
Business was good.
In the course of an hour there developed a third squadron, which was more than exhilarated, fairly lubricated; for, when a squadron would fire, which would always check the enemy, the lubricated squadron would countercharge, and sometimes in close six-shooter range.
The enemy came in right along, seemed to be looking for business, and we did not have to wait long at any time until ten or eleven o'clock.
My squadron took a position behind a small field on the left-hand side of the road—the field was, say 150 or 200 yards wide.
We were on a hillside, six miles from Chapel Hill.
We had waited longer than usual, when a Yank hallooed on the other side of the field:
“Hello, Johnny; don't shoot!
We want to make peace with you.”
We hallooed back: “All right.”
Then he rode out in the fence corner in plain view and hallooed:
“Johnny, what command is that?”
“The Eleventh Texas.”
He hallooed back: “What is the matter with you boys this morning?”
“We are drunk and reckless, and if you want to fight come over!”
“I thought there was something the matter, for we never saw you boys so lively before; go into camp, the war is over for to-day.”
He turned and went away.
In a few minutes we turned out of line and went back.
Soon we came to General Wheeler and other officers, and went into camp on a hillside among small trees.
Towards night word came that General Johnston had surrendered and that in the morning we would have to stack arms.
Our camp was turned into a camp of mourning; men and officers mingled their tears together.
Old, weather-beaten and battle-scarred soldiers who had prided themselves on their six-shooters, horses, and valor as soldiers, threw their belts aside as something to get rid of, and wept like whipped children.
The colonel came out and made a speech.
Among other things he said: “ Napoleon boasted that his Old Guard had been under fire a hundred times, but he could boast of this regiment as having been under fire in battles and skirmishes more than three hundred times.”
But Mr. Sadler
has an even more interesting reminiscence than this, and one that I have never seen in any history—nothing less than a proposal by General Joe Wheeler
to recapture President Jefferson Davis
, rush him rapidly through Texas
, and place him on Mexican
soil, where he would be safe from harm.
says that on the day of Johnston
's surrender the news spread through the camp at Durham
that General Wheeler
wanted volunteers to escort Mr. Davis
War-worn as were these old veterans, he could have secured all of them if necessary.
But he chose only 151, most of them from the Eleventh Texas.
The speech of General Wheeler
to this little band of followers Mr. Sadler
quotes as follows:
The Confederate Government for the present is powerless to act, but its head is alive and shall not die. We will take President
Davis across the Mississippi river and carry on guerrilla warfare; make raids back across the river, in the spring visit our old stamping-grounds, strew flowers on the graves of our fallen comrades, and gather supplies for a winter campaign and skirmish on the prairies of Texas with rifle artillery, and, if we have to, will cross the Rio Grande into Mexico, for the enemy shall never have the head of the Confederacy.
says this band, travelling in a direct line, would have crossed the Catawba river
at Beatty's Ferry, but in the night they took the road to Beatty's Ford, which delayed them a day or two.
They saw Wade Hampton
in Yorkville, S. C.
When they mounted their horses to go he was standing in the door of a broad granary and said: ‘May God speed and bless you on your errand, and my prayers are that you may be successful in your undertaking.’
“We went on towards Washington
,” said Mr. Sadler
and on the morning of May 3d, about 10 o'clock, were within three miles of the place.
Men were going in every direction; some paroled, some were not, but each one was making for home.
Everybody inquired of everybody for news, and we were fairly well posted as to movements, etc., and from them we learned that President Davis had left Washington nearly two days before and gone in a southerly direction, and that the enemy came the previous day about 3 P. M. We turned into a woods, along a fence, into what seemed a swamp in wet weather.
We fed our horses and ate something ourselves.
We had gotten some paroles from the soldiers.
Writing material was gotten out, and several men went to writing or copying paroles.
Each man got one. General Wheeler took parole as Lieutenant Sharp of Company C, Eleventh Georgia.
He was mounted on a spotted stud that was captured from General Kilpatrick near Fayetteville, on the Cape Fear river, North Carolina.
Then General Wheeler gave us a few parting words, in which he said that we no longer owed allegiance to the Confederacy; that we were free to go and shift for ourselves; that our cause for the present was lost.
Look for the worst, but hope for the best.
Then camp began to break up; probably one man would shake hands with a few chums, mount his horse and go, or probably six, eight or ten would go together.
In my squad there were seventeen, and, after we got away from camp, we held a counsel of war. We
determined to go south of Washington and scout around and try to find President Davis.
But we got no trace of him.
Once we thought we were on his trail.
We learned that there was some high official with several wagons and ambulances southwest of us. We hurried forward and overtook the train on the Ocmulgee river.
It proved to be General Braxton Bragg.
We inquired of him, but he knew nothing of Mr. Davis.
We went on past him on the river road to a bridge.
We could see the bridge for a mile or more.
When we got within a few hundred yards of the bridge we halted and held a counsel as to what to do, for there was a Yankee picket on the far end of the bridge.
Whilst we were talking as to what was best to do, General Bragg's wagons came up and turned into the woods and went into camp.
The picket was watching us. All at once he turned his horse and galloped away.
We galloped down and across the bridge and left the road.
When we got on high ground we could see the Yanks in Bragg's camp.
Then they abandoned the pursuit of Mr. Davis
and headed for Texas
This reminiscence of Mr. Sadler
gives us a new light on the character and daring of that little Alabamian who has been fighting from the time he put on long pants and hasn't stopped it yet. He was the inspiration of the army in Cuba
, and a prominent officer said not long ago that he believed if it had not been for Wheeler
would have been badly beaten at Santiago
What a life that little General has led!
His biography, told in the plainest language, would make the average romance seem commonplace.