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Chapter 13: Jailed.

  • On the road.
  • -- a mob. -- red-tape fops. -- Jailed

We put on the socks. I told the woman I would never forget her kindness, and so far I have kept my promise. That was October 20th, 1864-just sixteen years ago. During these years I have changed so much that I can hardly identify myself; and I think that no one who knows the preacher of to-day, would recognize in him the reckless, hopeless “Oats” of that day; and still the events of that morning are as vivid in my memory as though they had happened during the last year. [120]

The guard ordered us to start. The captain and one soldier went with us. They were mounted, and ordered us to walk before them. The road was dusty; in places, rough; and they kept urging us to walk faster, until we were almost exhausted.

Toward noon we came to Talbotton, the county-seat. I can describe it with one sentence: The railroad missed it. I think you can all see its general dilapidation in that sentence.

We came to the public square, and were stopped under a large shade tree. Two Yanks in town! The news spread rapidly, and soon brought around us a crowd of ladies(?) and gentlemen(?). Everybody seemed to be at leisure. No, we did not feel proud of our notoriety. A dog-fight would have called the same crowd together.

They bemeaned us, and berated us soundly, and when we told them that we were Kentuckians, they became more abusive still. They could overlook the meanness of New England Yanks, but Kentucky Yanks were traitors, and ought to be hung! The [121] ladies(?) used the most insulting language at their command.

Finally, an old man, with long, white beard, a harsh, cracked voice; and an extraordinary vocabulary of profane and vulgar language, spoke thus:

I'd hang 'em String 'em up! I wouldn't guard such. Give 'em hemp!

Tom turned on him like the caged lion that he was:

You'd hang 'em? I believe you. It's just your pluck! Hang two miserable, starved, sick prisoners! You're a brave! You never saw a real, live Yank. You coward! Go up to Atlanta and see them with the horns on. If you heard the Yanks were coming this way you'd run and hide!

I give the substance of these speeches as well as I can. To report them in full would require the use of a good many words that are spelled “----” in polite literature.

Tom's speech fired the whole crowd. It was a regular mob, and they began to talk earnestly about doing what the old man suggested. Our old captain had left us in charge of the guard for a short time; but [122] he rode up just in time, and with a cocked pistol in his hand, threatened to shoot the first man who tried to molest us. He ordered us to keep our mouths shut, and said if we wouldn't talk so saucy there would be no danger.

I was scared. When I was captured the day before, I thought I would at least be shot. But when I looked in the face of death at the hands of that mob, I found I did not want to die in that way-then.

A new guard, one man, was detailed to take us on to Geneva. He drove us before him down the road. We were very tired and weak. We begged him to let us rest; but he was in a hurry. Finally, a man in a spring-wagon overtook us, and the guard had him haul us. He was a kind man, and the first Southerner we had found who thought there was any possibility of Hood having made a mistake in his campaign. He freely admitted that he did not see the wisdom of leaving Sherman in Atlanta with sixty thousand men, and not even a decent skirmish line between him and the heart of Georgia. [123]

“They were fools if they thought he would stay where they wanted him to, till Hood got ready to come back and whip him!”

Ah! how Tom and I enjoyed this chat. It was more delicious than nectar. It would beat sorghum juice!

Geneva is a town on the Macon & Columbus railroad. Our friend with the buggy took us to the depot, and as he left, gave us two dollars (Confed.) a piece to buy tobacco with. We passed a resolution, by a standing vote, that he was “Bully!”

We were put on a train and taken to Columbus, Georgia, where we arrived a little before dark. Columbus was at that time a thrifty-looking little city. We had not gone far till we saw a familiar face on the other side of the street — the face of a wooden Indian. The guard crossed over, and we invested our “Confed.” in “Ole Virginny.” We were then taken to military headquarters.

Every old soldier remembers the unspeakable contempt in which we used to hold these red-tape fops, who always kept out of [124] danger by being detailed on post duty in the rear. You remember we used to have a name for them. Sycophant is as near the meaning of the word as any term I can find, but that is not quite the word that we used. It will doubtless help us to forgive the rebel soldiers to know that they were cursed by the same class of dandies in their rear.

At headquarters in Columbus we found two or three of these fops. Our guard approached one who was writing at a desk, and, saluting him, began:

I have two prisoners-

“I ain't the man.”

He crossed the room to the other desk, and again began his statement. The clerk spoke in a haughty, disdainful manner-

“Where did you get these men?”

Capt.----caught them near-- .”

“Where did they come from?”

“They say, from Andersonville.”

“Too many men get out of Andersonville,” as though the guard could help it. He then turned and looked at us with as much contempt in his glance as a hotel [125] clerk would give to a Congressman, and asked:

How did you get out?

“We climbed out on a grape-vine.”

He wrote a little note and handed it to the guard.

“Take these men to jail, and give that to the jailer.” So we went to jail in the city of Columbus, Georgia.

We were criminals! Our crime was believing in the Government of the United States, and being willing to defend its flag. [126]

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