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Characteristics of the armies

H. V. Redfield.
For the first three years of the war my home in Tennessee was surrounded by the armed hosts of one army, and then the other (and sometimes both at once, or so near it as to be uncomfortable), and my opportunities for observation were good. When the war broke out, the people of our portion of lower East Tennessee calculated upon exemption fro its ravages. I remember vividly how the old citizens in whom I had implicit confidence, shook their heads with prophetic earnestness, saying that we would see no soldiers of either army, “as they couldn't get their cannons over these mountains.” The leading merchant,--the leading minister, and the leading physician were of his opinion, and the solemn judgment of three such distinguished men was, in my mind, all but conclusive. Yet, alas! the village knowledge of war proved as illusive as that of Betsey Ward, when her old man, the immortal A. Ward, was prancing up and down the room, musket in hand, “drilling.” The cellar-door being open, a sudden right — about wheel threw him in, nearly breaking his neck. “Are you hurt, deary?” exclaimed Mrs. A. W., running to the hole, and putting her question in the direction of the groans below. “Go away!” shouted Ward; “what do you know about war?” Well, when the war was over our little circle of prophets, or those of them who lived through it, knew more about it than they did when it commenced. They found that mountains were no barrier to cannon, and that “terrible armies with banners” swept past them back and forth with the apparent ease that a pendulum swings in its course. [358]

From near the beginning the Southern soldiers were with us-squads, companies, and regiments. They were almost always well behaved. Of course they “scouted,” and arrested ultra Union men, and carried them away from their families, and did many hard and cruel things; but they did not pillage, or wantonly destroy property, and they paid for forage and animals in Confederate currency, which was at first very good money. Looking back at it impartially-and I pledge myself to try and write the truth — I am constrained to say that the Southern soldiers, as a mass, at the beginning of the war, were gentlemen. Even our chickens roosted securely near their camps. Indeed, for the first year of the wary I do not recall an instance of theft in our neighborhood by the Southern soldiers. At first the greater portion of them seemed to have little conception of the magnitude of the job they had undertaken. They thought the war would soon be over; that the Yankees would not fight very much, and all hands could go home before the end of the year. They conceived it to be more of a frolic than a real war. Indeed, the Southern troops were ultra sanguine at the beginning, counting upon a united South and a divided North, and a timid enemy without taste for war and gunpowder. Occasionally, one wiser than the rest would shake his head ominously, and say that Southern independence could only be established after a most desperate and bloody contest; but such were regarded as men made melancholy by a cross in love, or an absent sweetheart, far, far away, or the dyspepsia, or constitutional melancholy. In fine, such gloomy persons were laughed at.

All the talk about the ability of one Southern man to make away with five of the enemy, and all the prophecies about the war as “only a frolic,” was ended, in the part of the country where I was, by the crushing Confederate defeat at Mill Spring, Kentucky, January 19th, 1862. Here the idol of the Tennesseeans, General Felix K. Zollicoffer, was killed, and his command put to utter rout. I was living fully one hundred and fifty miles south of this battlefield; yet it is a fact that some of the panic-stricken soldiers stampeded that distance before they got over their fright! I saw some of them on horses without saddles, both men and animals having a wild look in the eyes, as if awakened from a terrible dream. At Knoxville, the fugitives had to be “herded” and guarded. Some went to that city, some to Chattanooga, and, indeed, they spread out over the face of the country like frightened cattle. Perhaps this panic was not equaled in the whole course of the war. It certainly served the purpose of awakening the Southern soldiers, [359] in this part of the country, from the dream that “the Yankees” would be easily discouraged and overcome. The whole affair was extremely humiliating to the Confederates. Not only was their army defeated, but utterly routed and broken up, and its commander killed. Zollicoffer's death was tragic. At first, the action seemed favorable to the Southern troops, and Zollicoffer advanced at the head of his men. He was in advance, and came upon a Kentucky (Federal) regiment in a piece of woods. The commander of this regiment, Colonel Fry, shot Zollicoffer dead, and his body fell into their hands. This victory was the first considerable Union victory of the war. After that, the magnitude of the conflict dawned upon the people of the western portion of the Confederacy. It was “an eye-opener,” and dispelled the delusions they had been cherishing.

A month after, Fort Donelson and Nashville fell, and the Confederate plans of campaign in the West were all broken up. General John B. Floyd (Secretary of War under Buchanan), who had escaped from Donelson, came through our neighborhood in retreat. The soldiers were much dispirited, and Floyd himself was rather melancholy. He camped near us two or three days, resting his men on their long retreat. Hearing that there were many Union men in the neighborhood, he sent word for them to come in; that his soldiers should not molest them. Nor did they. The General made a speech to the citizens, explaining how it was that he escaped from Donelson. “I shall never be captured in this war,” said he, “for I have a long account to settle with the Yankees, and they can settle it in hell!” The General did not lose heart in the success of the Confederacy; but it was plain, from his remarks, which I heard, that the magnitude of the conflict had dawned upon him at Donelson as it never had before. Some of the Union men would not hear his speech out, but left the room. Floyd was very unpopular among this class of citizens, owing to the wide belief that he had been active in precipitating the Southern States into secession.

It was about the 1st of March that Floyd came through on his way to Chattanooga. In two months-May 1st, 1862-the first “Yankees” appeared in our neighborhood. It was a company of the Tenth Ohio Infantry. A few of them had impressed horses, and came into town as though shot out of a gun. The others followed on foot, in close order. The more ultra of the Southern people ran away. The Union people were delighted. But their delight was brief, for the soldiers set about indiscriminate robbery. One Union citizen was knocked down in his own house, in the presence of his family, and robbed of four thousand dollars. By [360] the aid of General 0. M. Mitchell, he subsequently recovered the most of this money; but the conduct of the soldiers, on this occasion, was a stunning blow to the Union people. It happened that the company were foreigners, and, however valuable they might be as fighters, they had an eye to pillage. They stole more in a few hours than the Southern soldiers, in the same immediate neighborhood, had stolen in the whole course of the war up to that time. This company returned in the direction of Huntsville, Alabama, the same day, and we saw no more Federals for about five weeks. Meantime, the Southern soldiers came in, and from that time until the close of the war the citizens were first treated to one side and then the other.

Near the close of 1863, I left that part of the country, and went North; but, having been within both lines and both camps, my opportunities for observing the characteristics of the two armies were excellent. Beside, I had kinsmen and friends in each army operating in that region, and through them I had many inside views of camp life, and opportunities to contrast the traits of each army.

The Union army was altogether the best fed. Early in 1862 the Confederates ceased to have coffee. Indeed, they had not from the first anything like a regular supply. Soon after meat and flour began to grow scarce. But the abundance of coffee which the Federals had was worth several regiments of men to that side. I personally knew of an amusing instance of coffee alone drawing three soldiers into the Federal army. Not far from us lived a family whom I will call Blank-father and two sons. The father was among the first to volunteer in the Southern army and fight for his “rights,” although he was utterly impecunious, having no negroes or much of anything else. He was captured, paroled and came home until exchanged. The Federal army came near, and his two sons, then at man's estate, went down to the Union “camp” to see how things looked. They met friends there and were bountifully fed upon crackers and coffee. This last was a luxury which they had long been deprived. They actually enlisted to get plenty of coffee and “grub.” When the old man heard of this performance he started for the camp to get his sons out of the “scrape.” He got in, got some of that good coffee, and enlisted for the war and fought it through with his two sons! Thus coffee captured recruits. The reader may doubt this story, but I can vouch for its truth. The parties are all yet living, and not long ago I saw the old man, and, indeed, have known him for many years. Through the whole war the superior food of the Union army was a powerful lever upon that side. After the first year the Confederates had little coffee, and [361] their food became very indifferent. In the spring of 1863, I spent two days in the camp of a Confederate cavalry brigade, and their food was simply flour and beef, nothing else. They had not an ounce of salt, and it was not to be got for love or money. They mixed the flour with water, baked it, and roasted the beef on the end of a stick. I could but contrast their style of living with that of the well fed and splendidly equipped Federal army, with their full rations of coffee pork, beef, salt, bread, and beans, and convenient cooking vessels.

In clothing, there was no comparison. The Southern uniform was supposed to be gray, but the soldiers wore homespun of all colors. Of overcoats they had no regular supply Blankets were very scarce. Ditto woolen shirts and socks. The splendid double-thick overcoat which every Federal soldier had was usually warmer than every article of clothing that the Southern soldier had combined. I do not think that the Confederate Government attempted to issue overcoats to their men. At least I never saw any among them that bore resemblance to uniformity. But it was in cavalry equipment that the Federal soldier stood out pre-eminently superior. And over all, he had an oil-cloth blanket which fitted around the neck, keeping the whole person dry, as well as protecting arms and ammunition. Much of the Southern cavalry was ridiculously equipped. In one regiment I have seen four or five different kinds of rifles and shot-guns, all sorts of saddles, some with rope stirrups, many of the saddles without blankets; all sorts of bridles, and in fact a conglomerate get — up fairly laughable. The horses were usually fed on raw corn on the cob. Baled hay, sacked corn, and oats, such as the Union army had, was rather a rarity on the other side. I speak of what fell under my own observation. The stock of the Southern army, horses and mules, never looked as well as that of the Union army. The animals of the two armies could be distinguished even if no men were about. Animals in the Union army were not only better fed, but better attended, better groomed, and cared for. Another point of difference was the superior brightness and cleanliness of the Northern arms. The muskets and bayonets, and brass ornaments upon the ammunition boxes always looked bright and cleanly. In the Southern army there was never this care to keep the guns bright and free from dirt and rust.

The first time I visited a large camp of the Union army, I was struck with the convenience of everything as compared with Southern camps. This was afterward repeatedly verified. The Northern soldiers, although they might be in camp but a few days, [362] would busy themselves constructing beds up off the ground, usually by driving forked sticks, and laying rails and bits of plank across. If in the woods, they utilized small boughs and leaves in preparing beds, and the larger limbs in building shelters from the sun and rain to cook in, etc. Indeed, whenever they went into camp they were as busy as bees arranging for health and comfort. On the other side, the Southerners rarely troubled themselves to provide these little comforts. In camp they were usually idle. The scenes of busy industry, which we always saw in the Northern camp, were never duplicated in the other. And as to filth, the Union camps were almost incomparably cleaner. The difference was amazing, and one could but wonder why there should be this great contrast. In the Southern camp you could hardly go twenty steps without getting into filth of some sort, while in the camp of the other side all deposits of filth were carefully removed out of the way. Much of the sickness which scourged the Southern army, particularly in the early stages of the war, is attributable, no doubt, to the filthy condition of their camps.

The little comforts and conveniences, which the Northern soldiers arranged for themselves in their temporary habitations, was perhaps but a reflex of their home life. One soldier knew how to make himself comfortable in his temporary quarters, and preferred this duty to idleness, while the other preferred to take it easy. There was always a scene of bustling activity about the Federal encampments, very noticeable when compared to the laxity and idleness of the other side.

In the wagon trains of the respective armies there was a great difference. Right here it is proper to say that I speak exclusively of the Western armies, knowing nothing whatever from observation of the Eastern armies. The wagons of the Federals were uniform in size and make, and much stronger and heavier than the wagons of the Confederates; beside, there were more of them. That is, ordinarily, a brigade of Union troops on the march would have about twice as many wagons as a detachment of Confederates of equal size. Confederate army wagons were not uniform in size and build. They usually had the appearance of having been picked up about the country, as well as made to order after several different patterns. The Federal wagons when on the move were covered with canvas, and this was generally kept white and clean, and upon it, in plain black lettering, was the brigade, division, and corps to which the wagon belonged. In a camp of a hundred wagons, a man could pick out the one he wanted, without asking a question, as [363] each was distinctly marked upon both sides of the canvas. Not so with the Confederate wagons. There was among them a lack of uniformity in build, style, and size, and no general attempt was made to designate them by lettering. Also, Federal harness and “gearing,” in strength, uniformity, and adaptability was greatly superior to the hastily improvised, and often weak and faulty harness and “gearing,” employed with the Confederate teams. Indeed, through the whole transportation department of the Union service there was much more system, order, and business stability than in the same department of the Confederates. From the very shoes upon the mules' feet to the hat on the driver's head, the wagon transportation system of the Federals was superior. There was a strength, uniformity, system, and durability about it that was conspicuous when compared with the rather slip-shod wagon transportation of the Confederates.

One of the most marked differences in the personnel of the two armies was the far greater propensity of the Federals to pillage. When the Union troops were around we all had to look out for our money, jewels, watches, vegetables, pigs, cows, and chickens. All the men, of course, would not pillage, but there were always some in each regiment who laid hold of everything they could steal, whether of much use to them or not. And much of that which was of no earthly use they sometimes wantonly destroyed. I had in my charge a small building filled with articles usually kept in a country store. This they repeatedly broke into, carrying off what they chose and destroying what they did not want. They kindled a fire in the fireplace, and burned up several pairs of hames worth two dollars and a half a pair --using them for firewood. A hundred or two bibles, belonging to the American Bible Society, they tore up and scattered about the floor, or made fires of them. Such utter and wicked waste I had not thought human beings could be guilty of. No unoccupied building was exempt from their ravages, and few that were occupied. No amount of fastenings could protect a building from the insatiate ravages of the pillagers. Nothing was too sacred to be stolen or destroyed, and it was almost impossible to secrete anything from their search. Money buried was dug up and appropriated; valuables hidden in the most unheard — of places were searched out. A neighbor put a ham of meat in a writing-desk, but it was found. Another secreted a sum of gold under his house, but the “fresh dirt” betrayed it, and they took it. We had some money and jewelry which we thought would be safest in a cupboard in the sitting-room. It happened that all the family went into another room for about three [364] minutes, and hearing footsteps came hastily back, but the cupboard was broken open and the valuables gone. Some of General Turchin's men committed this robbery, and I made every effort to recover; but it was no use. Seldom was a valuable recovered when once the pillagers got hold of it. Not all the soldiers would do this; perhaps not one in fifty were robbers, but there were robbers in every regiment. When the Federal army first came among us we had about sixty chickens, and every night we would hear the “squak! squak!” of the fowls as they were hurried away to the soldiers' mess-kettles. An old rooster that had been with us for four years we imagined would be rather tough eating, and I remember that I rather enjoyed hearing his “squak! squak!” which grew fainter and fainter, as the soldiers ran away with him. I knew that they had a tough dose, and that unless the rebellion held out pretty well it would be over before they could get him cooked to a point that his tough ligaments and muscles could be masticated. At last all of our chickens were gone but one. An old hen, solitary and alone, occupied the roost. We thought we would save her for a “nest egg,” as it were, until the cruel war was over. We put her in the cellar. A kitchen stood over this cellar. That night was dark and stormy. Two soldiers came, saying that they were separated from their regiment, could not find it in the darkness, and begged that they might sleep on the floor in the kitchen, anywhere, to be out of the storm. We gave them permission. Early in the morning they were gone, taking with them our last old hen.

The remarkable difference in the pillaging propensities of the two armies may be accounted for on the ground, first, that the Federal army was in an enemy's country, and all things were considered legitimate game, and little inquiry made whether or not the owners were Union people. Second, the foreign element in the Federal army was very large, and with them was the riff-raff from the large cities, who entered the army more from motives of pillage than patriotism. Regiments raised in cities were always more troublesome as pillagers than those from the rural districts. In the Southern army these conditions did not exist. There were no enlistments in that army prompted by motives of invasion and pillage. And there were few large cities to send out “wharf rats,” roughs, and pickpockets into the army. Beside, the foreign element in the Southern army was very small. And for this reason, I doubt if the whole Southern army had been poured into the North, that the robbery and pillage would have been as great as that which marked the course of the Federal army in the South. The personnel of the two armies differed [365] widely in the points above-mentioned. The pillagers aid robbers in the Federal army did not spare the Union people. The first who came to our neighborhood committed several outrageous robberies, and it happened that the victims in every instance were Union men. This had an unhappy effect, one of the victims, at least, thereafter transferring his sympathies from the Union side to the Confederate, on account of his ill-treatment. The outrages, robberies, and pillaging which took place wherever the Union army moved, is traceable to a small minority of the soldiers, and almost invariably to the foreign element among them, enlisted in the large cities. The officers used to say in explanation that every flock had black sheep, and that a thousand men, picked up promiscuously, would always contain a few desperate characters, who went from motives of plunder. This is no doubt true, but the bummer element in the Union army was certainly larger than in the other. I have known regiments of Southern troops to encamp around premises for weeks, and not even rob a henroost; but when the other side came, then chickens and all other movable property, animate and inanimate, had to be under the eye of its owner, and often this did not protect it.

The Confederates usually paid for what they took for the use of the army in Confederate money. Indeed, payment was the rule seldom violated. The Federals, when upon organized foraging expeditions, usually gave receipts for what they took, which were payable upon proof of loyalty, on the part of the claimant. But it was from the foraging of irresponsible soldiers, without an officer, that the people mostly suffered. Often in our neighborhood would they kill a fine cow, for instance, take a quarter, or what they could conveniently carry, and leave the rest to waste. In fact, every living animal fit for food was in constant danger from irresponsible Federal foragers and stragglers. When men are hungry, they must eat, and eat they would, when they could get anything, whether Union or Secession; but the Union soldiers were by far the most inveterate, wasteful and reckless foragers. The farmers and country people, who traded in the camps of both armies, had to skin their eyes when in the camp of the “Yankees,” as they called them. A farmer of my acquaintance took a barrel of cider into a Union camp near by. The barrel held forty gallons. He had sold about twenty quarts, at twenty cents a quart, when, to his intense amazement, the barrel was empty I Come to investigate, he found that the soldiers had bored up through the wagon-bed, and into the barrel, and slyly but rapidly drawn the contents into their canteens! Another farmer had a very large sack of peaches upon a mule, which he led. By a sly, quick [366] motion a soldier cut the string, and away went the peaches over the ground and the soldiers after them. The farmer came home without a cent, saying that “them Yankees” were the d-dest sharpest folks in a trade he ever heard of! Another farmer lost nearly all of a wagon-load of apples by a very simple process. Two soldiers engaged him in violent “argument” upon theology, while a whole regiment swarmed around the rear of the wagon, and stole the most of the apples before the hard-shell Baptist, who was attempting to peddle them, knew what was going on-or rather off. He came home offering to bet that the Yankees could steal the shortening out of a gingercake without breaking the crust. Another dealer had a barrel of brandy, which he put into the depot over night, with other military stores which were guarded. Surely, he thought, that brandy is safe. In the morning he found the barrel just where he had left it, but it was wonderfully light! In the night, the soldiers had crawled under the floor, bored up through and into the barrel, and drained the last drop into their canteens. The owner joined the apple pedler in the opinion that the irrepressible Yankees could take the shortening out of a gingercake without breaking the crust.

Both armies had a weakness for vegetables. The regulation diet not embracing them to any great extent, this mania for vegetables, and particularly for potatoes, is accounted for. But the Southern soldiers very rarely entered gardens, and took without permission. The others did, or many did. And in this I noticed that the pillagers in the Union army were the few, and not the many. We had quite a lot of Irish potatoes in the garden, and where one Federal soldier slipped over the fence and stole them, ten would come to the front door and ask for them, or offer to buy. Yet the one in ten, or even one in twenty, gave the whole army a bad name. The Union soldiers did a thriving business with the country people, swapping off coffee and salt for potatoes and vegetables. They had an abundance of coffee, while within the Confederate lines there was scarcely any. Even the pickets of the two armies used to exchange papers and coffee for tobacco. The Confederates had an abundance of tobacco, but no coffee, while the Union troops had coffee, but tobacco was scarce. For some time the Tennessee river, near us, was the line. It was nothing unusual for the soldiers to swim across to each other and make exchanges of coffee, tobacco, and papers. And in all these transactions I never knew an instance of bad faith on either side.

The discipline in the Union army, in many respects, appeared to be best. That is, there was less insubordination and more respect [367] for officers. There was stronger individuality about the Southern soldier, and he was far more apt to “talk back” to his superior than were the Federals. Frequently have I seen Southern soldiers splitting the mud with their feet and the air with oaths, as they pranced up and down the streets, promising to “get even” with such and such an officer when the war was over and all were on an equality again. “Just wait until this thing is over, and I can give him a fair fight,” was about the way the case was put. But I have not heard of the settlement of any of these momentous difficulties since the surrender. Among Southern officers of lower rank there always seemed to me to be more ill-feeling for certain of their superiors, and lack of confidence, than I ever had an opportunity of noticing on the other side. But jealousies and bickerings are common to all humanity, only it did seem to me there were more of it in the Southern army than the other; and, too, more disposition to saddle the responsibility of disaster upon the shoulders of their commanders. I may have mentioned that it used to seem to me that the Southern troops were more liable to “panics” and stampedes than the others. This may be because I happened to have personal knowledge of three “panics” among Southern soldiers, and never chanced to witness anything of the sort on the other side. The Federals always appeared to me to be more self-possessed and cooler in the hour of danger, and I have seen them in some trying situations. The “panics” among the Southern troops that I happened to know of, from seeing some of the fugitives, was the famous Fishing creek panic, the Battle creek panic, and the Bridgeport panic. The Battle creek affair was very ridiculous. Two cavalry regiments were camped near us. Hearing there were some “Yankees” near the head of Battle creek they sallied forth in the early morning to scoop them up. They went out in fine style, and in the best of spirits. The commander, I believe, was Colonel Adams. Late in the afternoon a few cavalry came dashing through the town, bareheaded and covered with mud “Get out of the way!” they cried; “the Yankees are right behind us! We are all cut to pieces!” And on they went. Soon more came, and then the whole command, riding rapidly, some bareheaded, and all in a hurry, and apparently badly scared. Before dark they were all through, and left us in momentary expectation of seeing the victorious Federals. They did not get along, however, until noon next day. Come to get at the truth of the matter, the advance of the cavalry had been fired into and “seen” more Yankees than they expected, whereupon a “panic” seized the whole command and they fled most ingloriously and [368] ridiculously. Yet they were good soldiers. They simply “took a panic.” Only one man was killed, and he from the fall of his horse. The Bridgeport panic was equally ridiculous, some of Ledbetter's men on that occasion actually crowding one another off the bridge into the river in their fright. Had the Federal commander ran his cannon around to the hill on the upper side of the bridge, and which fully commanded it, he could have bagged the whole lot. The nearest approach to a panic I ever saw among the Union troops was in October, 1863, when Wheeler's cavalry got in behind the lines and burned a train of five hundred loaded wagons at Anderson's, in Seynatchie valley. Yet the panic was among the teamsters, and this was perhaps justifiable. The squads of Federal cavalry from all directions started right out after the enemy instead of away from them.

The Federal cavalry made the best appearance, owing to their uniform, better equipment, and better fed horses; but at first, certainly the Southerners were altogether the best riders. I have seen some of the Texas cavalry perform feats almost incredible, such as riding at full gallop, leaning over toward the ground, picking up a stone and throwing it, and dropping hats on the ground and coming back at full gallop and picking them up without the least abatement in speed. Inspired by such as this, and the consciousness of perfect horsemanship, the Southerners at first underrated the Northern cavalry, but soon after learned to respect this branch of the service. I remember reading in a Southern paper a ridiculous account of what was to be expected from “Yankee tailors and shoemakers on horse.” The sequel was not quite so cheerful. At the beginning the Southern cavalry was no doubt superior; but toward the close it is a question if the superiority did not shift to the other side, mainly owing to the excellent equipments of this branch of the Union service. The superiority of Federal cavalry equipment has been more fully mentioned in another place. Gradually their skill in horsemanship equaled their equipment, and then the Union cavalry became of extraordinary efficiency.

For about a year and a half, one end of the Nashville and Chattanooga road was in possession of one army, and the other end held by the other. They “see-sawed” up and down its line, raided upon it, and fought over every inch of it. So far as each side could hold possession, they erected “stockades” at the important stations and bridges to protect them from raids. These stockades were usually made of oak logs, set endwise in the ground, covered with like heavy timber, and with loop-holes for defense. Without [369] artillery, they could hardly be reduced. The superiority of the stockades built by the Union troops, over those built by the Confederates on the same line of road, was striking. The Union troops bestowed an immense amount of labor on theirs, making them of square timber, massive, and enduring, and perfect in every particular, while those put up by the Confederates were feeble and ridiculous imitations, showing not one-tenth of the labor and skill that the Federals bestowed upon theirs. These little stockades were, to my mind, significant illustrations of the characteristics of the two armies. What the Northern troops built was of an enduring and substantial character, and constructed with the highest skill, while Southern works of the same character were loosely thrown together, with little skill and less labor, negroes usually being put to such service. In the construction of hospitals and warehouses the same difference was noticeable. Confederate buildings, no matter for what purpose to be employed, were slovenly built, showing little skill and great economy of labor, and little display of the “knack” of making them convenient. The public works of the Confederates were about as short-lived as the Confederacy itself.

War horrors predominated in our neighborhood; but the humorous side was not altogether lacking. A brigade, one day, camped around the premises of a neighbor of ours. He was sitting on the fence (for the purpose, as he said, of saving one rail at least), contemplating the destruction going on all around. One soldier was killing a calf, another was after the pigs, another was milking the cows, hundreds were burning rails, others were taking off the well bucket and rope, some were digging for “hidden treasures,” and, altogether, the scene was rather lively. Our neighbor looked for some time, saying nothing, doubtless from inability to do the subject justice, when he broke out: “Gentlemen, if I live through this war, I shall never fear hell!” When Bragg retreated from Tullahoma, a large part of his army passed through our neighborhood. The soldiers were much discouraged. Within a few months, they had retreated all the way from before Nashville — about one hundred and thirty miles-and, in all that time, they declared they had not been whipped. “It's bad enough to run when we are whipped,” said one of the soldiers; “d-n this way of beating the Yankees and then running away from them!” I asked one of the officers, an acquaintance, to what point they were retreating. “To Cuba,” he replied, sharply, “if old Bragg can get a bridge built across from Florida!” On the same retreat, a couple of soldiers stopped at a house near us, [370] and proposed to swap horses, as theirs were worn out. Our neighbor trotted out two, and offered them a bargain. One of his horses, however, had a very white head and face. “That one won't do,” said one of the soldiers; “the enemy could see that face a mile.” “No,” said the other soldier, quickly, “that's no objection; for the other end of Bragg's cavalry is always toward the Yankees!” So they took the white-faced horse and went on, satisfied that the rear only would point toward the enemy during the remainder of the war. This happened just as I have related it, and shows something of the spirit of Bragg's army on the famous retreat from Tullahoma.

When General John B. Floyd retreated from Fort Donelson to Chattanooga, he passed near us, and made a speech to the people of the neighborhood, as I have before related, in which he said that he would “never be taken alive by the Yankees, that he had a long settlement to make with them, which they might settle in h 1.” I was telling a Federal soldier of this, an Irishman, when he broke out: “That's all right-we'll be ripresented thar, too!” A lady living near us, hearing that the Federal army was coming, took some corn to the side of the mountain, buried it, and covered the spot with leaves. A few days after a blue coat appeared at the door. “Madam,” said he, “I found some corn on the side of the mountain, which I am told is yours. I came to tell you that you should hide it better, as our boys will get it!” Another neighbor, having lost all his bacon but one large “middling,” hid that in his writing-desk. A squad of cavalry officers swooped down upon him, searched his house, and found the bacon. Said one soldier to another: “Ain't it a pity we're in such a hurry, we can't stop to cook and eat this bacon?” They thought it very sad, indeed, that they should find such a treasure, and not be able to make immediate use of it. Another neighbor had two wagon loads of bacon when the Federal advance was near. He hustled one load across the Tennessee river in a hurry, and came back for the other. When he returned to the south side of the river again, he found that the Southern troops had eaten the last morsel of his first load, and were lying in wait for the second. He broke down completely. “It's just no use,” he said, “to try to save anything in this war.” One day a squad of Federal cavalry were searching the house of a neighbor for plunder. They threw the beds on the floor, emptied the contents of the trunks out, climbed up into the garret, and upset things generally in their mad chase for hidden treasures. While one of the soldiers was up to his elbows in the sacred contents of a trunk, he said to the owner, who stood near, pale and trembling, “What [371] sort of a man is Dr. B.?” referring to a physician of the neighborhood. “Why, sir, he is a gentleman,” was the reply. “Oh, that don't signify anything,” said the pillager. “I'm a gentleman; I meant what is his politics?” Our neighbor, although badly frightened, could not help laughing at the pillager's opinion of what constituted a gentleman.

The Confederates were fierce in their pursuit of conscripts. All able-bodied men, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, were held to military service, and those who did not enter voluntarily were caught, if possible, and put in. To prevent this the Union men, who had not left the country, used to hide out in the woods and mountains. A gentleman of my acquaintance, hearing that the conscript officers were to make a raid in his neighborhood on a certain night, went into the woods. It was pitch dark, and he wandered about until he came to a tree top. He crawled into that, and went to sleep. In the morning he found that the tree top was in the centre of the road by which the conscript officers would approach! The position was about the most dangerous he could have selected in the whole neighborhood. Two other men went far up the side of the mountain, built a fire, and went to sleep. The fire could be plainly seen from town, and the conscript officers went to it and bagged their men. Two others hid in a cave, and built a fire, feeling great security. The heat from the fire loosened the rocks above, which fell down, breaking a leg for each of the men. They crawled out, and gave themselves up, saying that they might as well go to war at once as to have their legs snapped off in that style.

I could write much of the humors of the war, but these few anecdotes will show to the reader that, horrible as war is, it has its comical and ridiculous features.

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