Winter campaign of 1862 filled with adventures and incidents.
About December 1, 1862, we broke camp at Columbia
and took the Mt. Pleasant Road
and thence the road to Lawrenceburg
We there took the road to Clifton
, where we arrived on the 15th, but our brigade turned to the right and bivouacked in the bushes without fires for fear of attracting the gunboats, which we had learned were patrolling the Tennessee River
During the night we were moved close to the river bank, which was a bluff.
The river had a good boating tide, and was very swift and appeared to be rising.
A little beyond the middle of the river was an island, or large sandbar, on which were several men and horses and two or three big bright fires.
On our side they were pushing the horses off the bluff, about ten feet clear fall into the swift, icy cold water, the horses going out of sight.
When they came up the poor brutes would swim round in a circle until one would see the fire on the sandbar and strike out for it. Some would never see the fire at all, but exhausted themselves trying to climb the same bluff they were pushed off. We lost eight horses.
My company had taken off their saddles and tied them together with their blankets, overcoats and private belongings, in as small, compact bundles as possible, to be carried to the island in canoes.
We stood there in a cold drizzling rain until we were wet to the skin all over, and so numbed with cold we could barely stand.
After about two hours in this condition, order came for us to saddle up and move up the river and cross on a flat boat, two of which Forrest
's vanguard had built and hidden.
It was broad day when we got upon the opposite bank, where those who had preceded us had formed a temporary camp until the rest of the command came up. Then we took the Lexington Road
The first indication we had of the presence of the enemy came from a battery concealed in the cane on the bank of Beech Creek
It was more like a slough or small bayou than a creek.
We got across the creek somehow and charged the battery.
The first command I heard was: ‘Shoot the men who are cutting the harness.’
We did, and wounded some of the artillery horses accidentally.
We pushed on to Lexington
, where we took Colonel
and his command prisoners.
made a good fight.
It was enough to make a Christian of him, but it did not. His famous lectures years after show that while we did not convert him, he loved everybody during the rest of his life, and if he really believed there is no hell we convinced him that there was something mightily like it.
We pushed on to Jackson
, but by this time Forrest
, by many crafty methods, had spread the report far and wide that he had a large force with him, and the private soldiers aided in exaggerating our number to the friendly citizens and the good women, who rushed to their front gates with whatever of good things to eat they happened to have.
In answer to a question by a woman as to how many soldiers Mr. Forrest
had, I heard Tom Jones
, I would tell you if I could.
Do you know how many trees there are standing in West Tennessee
She said she didn't, and Tom told her Forrest
had men enough to put one behind each tree, and two or three behind the biggest ones.
Of course, these exaggerated reports reached General Grant
through the commanders of the various blockhouses and towns, and reinforcements were being hurried from every available point.
was virtually surrounded while at Jackson
Our attack on that place was a feint.
When we got within a mile or so of Trenton
we heard four shots from a battery and hurried up to find that the Federal
garrison had surrendered and the Confederates
We captured an immense lot of stores, guns and ammunition and a good lot of wagons.
I got two new army six-shooters, for which I turned over to the ordnance sergeant
my old ones.
We got a little sleep that night and some rest next day. Tom Jones
and I had been living on ‘Otard’ brandy, strawberries and crackers, and our stock was running low, most of it having been stolen.
It was reported that the proprietors of a big sutler's
store had refused to take Confederate ‘script’ for goods, and Tom Jones
and about a dozen others went to ‘remonstrate’ with them on the unfairness of their conduct.
There were three of them, either Hebrews, Greeks or Italians, we didn't know which, and cared less.
One of them wanted to fight.
They were all three standing outside the front door on a platform.
and others were gently ‘remonstrating’ with them there came a crash, as the back door was forced open.
The fighting man unlocked the front door, rushed in and promptly collared a big cavalryman and struck him in the face.
In about two seconds he had a shelving board split over his head.
In the subsequent proceedings he took no part.
When he came to—if he ever did-he found his store empty and the shelving and other fixtures a complete wreck, for word had gone out that the merchants had killed a soldier and in a few minutes the storehouse was crowded with angry armed cavalrymen.
All the stores kept by foreigners or Yankees were barred up and the owners in hiding.
Among the loot taken was an immense quantity of counterfiet Confederate interest-bearing notes.
It was printed so much better than, and the paper was so superior to, the genuine Confederate money it could be detected on sight.
It was just as good to play poker with as gold, and our boys brought away with them what ‘Granny’ Tom Bass
called ‘dead oodles’ of it.
We moved out a mile or so and camped on Christmas Eve, and the next morning were sent to press axes from the citizens and cut down a long high trestle across Obion bottom.
The men worked like heroes, but with slow effect.
About noon Colonel Woodward
rode up and asked me how we were getting along.
I told him they were losing time, as the trestles were as hard as horn and the axes as dull as froes and had poor handles.
I furthermore told him if I could get permission I would divide my squad, put half the men to splitting dry kindling and the other half to building fires on top of the trestle and build a fire at every point where the sills crossed the bents.
He thought it a good idea, so we began building the fires.
The colonel stayed until several fires were burning griskly and went down the line giving orders to the other gangs to burn instead of cut the
We made such good speed that by dark we had destroyed at least a mile of trestle, some of it fully fifteen feet high.
The weather had turned bitter cold and the trestle was covered with sleet and ice.
Leaving a strong rear guard, the command started north along the railroad, burning every bridge and capturing every blockhouse as far as Union City
, save the one at Forked Deer River
There I saw a force of Confederates trying to capture the blockhouse, and, thinking it my regiment, I stopped after passing the blockhouse, hitched my horse and went to join them, when I found it was Dibrell
's regiment, and also learned that Starnes
's regiment had pushed on to capture Humboldt
Mounting, I made the best speed my horse was capable of, but I heard cannonading when about four miles distant. From the increasing fire of artillery, I judged my regiment had ‘cut off more than it could masticate,’ but when I arrived on the scene I found that Starnes
had captured the garrison, set fire to the depot, bridge and a house containing a large amount of ordnance stores, and it was the shells exploding that I had taken for a heavy cannonade.
It was a magnificent daylight fireworks display.
The explosions were incessant; pieces of shells, of the warehouse, chunks of fire and clouds of smoke and ashes were flying in all directions. . . .
A few days later we took the road to Dresden
, which had been cut up by wagons and horses and was now hard frozen, and offered the worst travel I had ever experienced.
Our horses were half dead with starvation and exposure, but we arrived at Dresden
The enemy was closing in on us from all directions.
Our various commands, which had been very much scattered, were now concentrating in the direction of Clifton
, which was the only possible route by which we could get out of West Tennessee
Next morning we took a road leading south and halted at noon at a crossroad leading from Huntington
After feeding our horses the men dropped down wherever
they could and soon were fast asleep.
I hitched to a bush close beside the road, kicked the snow off a brush pile and went to sleep on it with my shotgun in my arms.
I don't know whether I slept a minute or an hour, but I awoke amid a most infernal din of firearms, clattering of horses' feet and yells.
It was a minute or two before I could realize where I was and what it all meant.
I saw a detachment of Federal cavalry, about eighty in number, pass me in a sweeping gallop with drawn pistols, coming from the direction of Huntington
Just past me some Confederates had formed and poured a volley into them which sent them flying past me, and I fired both barrels at them at a distance of less than twenty feet with no visible effect.
I loaded and capped my gun with fingers so numb I could not feel the caps, mounted and set off in a gallop after the fleeing Yankees
On the road we found one dead Yankee, and met two of our men coming back wounded.
One I did not know.
He was shot in the head or face and was very bloody.
He said: ‘Boys, we whipped them, but they got me!’
The other man was Anderson Hagar
, of my company, shot through the lungs, and bleeding from his mouth copiously.
According to my theory of the ‘death pallor,’ I decided that neither was mortally wounded.
Nor did they die.