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[47]

Capture of Duncan Cooper.

Pulaski, March 5, 1864.
In these troublous times in Tennessee, there are here and there daring and reckless guerrilla chiefs, who are, for a time, the dread of peaceful citizens and a constant trouble to Union troops. One of these, Colonel Dune. Cooper, who operated a long while west of Columbia, was recently captured, to the great joy of Colonel Mizner, commanding at Columbia, who has sent scouts and parties innumerable after him.

As the capture was reported in the Nashville papers as made by Colonel Mizuer's command, I desire to do justice to a private soldier by stating who made the capture, and also give your readers an incident of the war, which will lose none of its interest by being told by another, who was a party to the story he tells so well:

On an afternoon, a week or two ago,

says my informant, who, by the way, was one of a number of recruiting officers for colored regiments,

six or eight of us were riding leisurely along a half-mile in advance of the foraging detail, on Swan Creek, twenty miles west of Columbia, when we discovered four guerrillas, riding as carelessly as we, along a by-way to our right. Our boys fired at them, but instead of returning the fire, they galloped off. My revolver had failed me — missed fire. Private Stovall, of the Fiftieth Illinois, dashed out after them. The rest held back, or their horses and mules did, I don't know which. I determined Stovall should not be alone, and let old gray do her best after him. None of the others could keep in sight of the rebels. Stovall and I had the chase to ourselves, he being some twenty yards ahead of me.

The path the rebels took led up a rough stony creek — right in the creek half of the time. Just as Colonel Cooper's horse got into the creek, about forty yards in advance of Stovall, he fell, and threw Cooper plump into the water. The horse got up and ran away. Cooper tried to get on behind one of his men, but the saddle turned, and they both fell into the creek, when, Stovall having arrived, he presented his pistol so dangerously that they deemed “discretion the better part of valor,” and surrendered. He disarmed them, waved his pistol over his head, gave a shout of triumph, and dashed on after the other two, who were by this time entirely out of sight.

I staid and held the prisoners until Sergeant Craig came riding leisurely up at a trot, when I turned the prisoners over to him, and followed Stovall, who did not see where the rebel horse-tracks left the path, and so kept on. I saw the tracks, and followed them like a greyhound through the brush; and just as old gray brought me triumphantly to the top of a high hill, I caught sight of my men — the guerrillas. They had stopped to fix their saddles. I confess I felt rather dubious about encountering two rebels, so far away from assistance; but I knew it was best to put on a bold front, so I spurred on as big as though I had a dozen trusty pistols, and demanded, “as they valued their lives,” a surrender. They couldn't see it in that light, but galloped off. I followed, and finally succeeded in sending one shot somewhere in their neighborhood, when they separated. I followed the one who had two loose horses with him, determining to make the most valuable capture I could. I shot again at him at close quarters, but it only added to his speed. At last I determined to ride alongside and knock him off his horse with the butt of my revolver. I got nearly close enough to do it, when, seeing my intention, he threw up his hands and cried: “I surrender.”

I made him catch the two horses, and we returned as quickly as possible. On my way back I met a fellow recruiting-officer, who had heard my firing and come up, and was peeping over the brow of the hill, between his mule's ears, to see what had become of me. After riding three or four miles, we joined the rest of our party.

Of the four guerrillas we saw, Stovall captured the Colonel (Cooper) and one man — I, another man and three horses. One escaped. We heard of him again that evening. He had reported that we killed Cooper and captured the rest, and that he had a hole shot through his own hat. In his hand he held his pistol, still cocked, which he had forgotten to use while we were after them.

If there is such a thing as a guerrilla, I suppose Colonel Cooper is one. I have his saddle and bridle as a trophy.

I may add that Stovall and my informant (whose pardon I humbly beg for here informing the reader he was Lieutenant Joseph K. Nelson, of the Third Alabama infantry, colored troops) turned over the prisoners to Sergeant Craig, who was in command of the foraging party, and he delivered them to Major Fitzgibbons, of Colonel Mizner's command. Hence the report that Colonel Cooper was captured by Colonel Mizner's command.


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