Joseph M. Bailey Memoirs of the Civil War
This story was written as a result of a number of requests of grandchildren to tell them stories of the War between the States. As I was a poor story teller, I promised to write for them something of my personal experiences coupled with incidents that came under my observation. This I have endeavored to do, recording such events as I thought might be interesting to them. If it serves to impress upon their minds, even to a limited degree, the horrors of the war and the blessings of the peace, I will be amply repaid for my time and labor. Lovingly dedicated to the grandchildren: Clyde, Claud, John and Claud Moore Bailey with the earnest hope that each and all of you may so live that when the summons comes that will call you hence, that you may go, “Like one who draws around him the draperies of his couch and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
(signed) Joseph M. Bailey
The writer of this sketch was born, according to records kept in my Grandfather’s family bible, January 28th, 1841, in a pine log cabin on the waters of Ocoe River, in Polk County, Tennessee. My father, John Bailey, was born in Buncombe Co. North Carolina, about the year 1794. The exact dates are not remembered. The old family bible, with its records of births, deaths, etc., was destroyed by Federal Soldiers during the war.
My great-grandfather, William Bailey, came to Virginia from England prior to the birth of grandfather. Grandfather had no recollection of his parents, his mother dying in his infancy, and his father starting on a return voyage to England, was never heard from, by his friends in Virginia. This is the story told grandfather by those who raised him.
When a few years old Grandfather was carried to North Carolina where he grew to manhood, serving the latter part of the Revolutionary War with the Patriot Army. This the story related to the younger members of the family. I have no documentary evidence of such services.
After the close of the war, he married Miss Nancy Corn, of whose ancestors I know nothing, and settled in Buncombe County (North Carolina) where he raised a family of seven children; two boys and five girls. In the year 1818, with his family, he left the old North State and moved overland by wagons drawn by an ox team, to Missouri. Before reaching his destination in Missouri, he met a number of old friends and acquaintances returning from that territory with fearful stories of sickness, death and hardships, who persuaded him to about face and seek a home nearer the bounds of civilization.
Having previously heard flattering reports of a section of country in East Tennessee, known as the “Hiawasa Purchase”, he turned his course in that direction, arriving there in the winter of 1818-19. He made a settlement on the Hiawasa River not far from the present town of Benton, now county seat of Polk Co. Tenn. This was the home of the Cherokee Indians, and many of them still lived in the country around about. To my father they gave the name “Bread”.
Owing the exposure and hardships incident to the early settlement, when a malignant fever broke out in the family, from which two of my aunts died. My father’s family now consisted of five children, named as follows, in order of their birth: Nancy, John, Lewis, Adelia, and Militia.
Grandfather and Grandmother spent the remainder of their days in Polk County, living several years before grandfather’s death, in a house built by father, near my boyhood home. Many of my childhood hours were spent in their home, listening with rapt attention to their tales of early settlers. Grandfather had been a hunter, as were most of the early settlers of the west, and was very fond of telling hunting stories that were very interesting to me. He was still proud of this old flint rock rifle that he kept on a rack over the door. Notwithstanding his great age, then over eighty years of age, he could see well enough to kill squirrels, and as they were then plentiful, he often took me with him on his short hunts. My recollections of Grandfather are he was very straight for a man of his age. His hair was white. I never saw him with a beard over a few days old. Very few men wore beards at that time.
My recollections of grandmother are not so clear. Grandfather died in 1848 after a brief illness in the 84th year of his age. His dying was my first realization of the full meaning of death, and many years passed before the picture of his face in death passed from my memory. Grandmother died ahout the year 1856.
My father was married to my mother, Miss Bersheba Cunningham daughter of Joseph Cunningham, of Monroe County, Tennessee, about 1823, and settled near my grandfather’s old home, on the Hiawasa River. Some years later, he bought from the government 160 acres of land south of the Ocoe River, where I was born, and where he resided till the fall of 1853. Six children were born to my parents, named in the order of their birth as follows; Melinda Jane, April 17th, 1824; William Wilson May 4th, 1827; John Merriman, July 6th, 1829; Caloway Shields 1832; Lewis Washington, August 30th, 1838, and the writer as above written.
Of my mother’s people, I know but little. Her mother died when she was quite young. My grandfather Cunningham, I saw only once, when I was about seven years old. My recollections of him are not very distinct, though I remember that he, like my Grandfather Bailey, was tall and slender. He died at this home in Monroe County, Tennessee, about the year 1858.
My father’s education was limited to a knowledge of reading, writing and enough of mathematics for ordinary business transactions. His business was that of a farmer and stock-raiser in a small way. My recollections of the old home where I was born are that it was very poor piny woods land, as were most of the uplands of East Tennessee. Only by untiring industry and strict economy was it possible for a man to support with any degree of comfort a family. Educational advantages for the children of an ordinary farmer were limited to a three month’s course in the public or subscription school, which usually began with the laying by of crops in July or Auqust. I attended with more or less irregularity four terms of such schools, receiving my first knowledge of the three R’s” with a slight smattering of grammar and geocraphy. I also received a liberal share of corporal punishment which was administered in those days without stint.
In the fall of 1852, my two oldest brothers, William and Merriman, left the old home for the “Far West”, settling in Carroll County, Arkansas. Their leaving home was the first separation of members of our family and was very trying on us all, but especially so to my mother, who grieved much over the absence of her children. In the fall of 1853, my Father sold the farm and most of the household goods, loading the balance with other necessary equipment in two wagons, one drawn by two yolk of oxen and the other by a pair of horses, and started on the eight hundred mile journey to the home of my brothers.
After an uneventful trip of seven weeks, we arrived safely, much to the joy of all of us, as there was a strong bond of affection existing among the members of the family, and this had been our first separation. In the Crooked Creek Valley a few miles above the present town of Harrison (Arkansas), my father bought four or five hundred acres of land and settled down to spend the remainder of his life in the quiet pursuit of farming and stock raising.
The years passed on. One by one the older brothers married and were living within a few miles of my father’s homestead. Children came to gladen their homes and to brighten the declining years of the Grandparents, who were now nearing the three score (sixty years) mile post on life’s journey. Peace, plenty and quiet for the remainder of their lives seemed assured. But soon the ominous mutterings of the qreat war that swept the country from 1861 to 1865 were heard, gathering force and volume as it came. My father, as were most of the people in that section of country, was devotedly attached to the Union, and had very pronounced views on the question of slavery, believing it was wrong, viewed from any stand point. But when the struggle came he was heart and soul for the country of his birth. With tear dimmed eyes and aching hearts, my parents bid good bye to their five sons, who volunteered for service in the Confederate Army, little hoping for the safe return of all of them. While left practically alone, so far as male help was concerned, they managed to live with tolerable comfort, for the first twelve months of the war. My sister and one brother’s wife and child living with them.
Being near the border, the country was soon overrun by first one and then the other of the contending forces, until war, with all of it’s horrible cruelties, was being enacted all around the old homestead. In the early part of the war, nearly all the able bodied men in that part of the country volunteered for service in the Confederate Army, but later on, when the enemy occupied the country in force, and the result of the war seemed doubtful, many deserted their colors and joined the Union Army. To these men, most of the cruelties and wanton destruction of property was due.
By the latter, part of 1863 nearly all of the horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, belonging to my father, had either been killed or driven off and the family was left practically destitute of the means of making the barest living. To add to all of this, the old home was wantonly set on fire by men wearing the uniform of Federal Soldiers, and reduced to ashes, with nearly every item of household goods. My Mother and sister endeavored to save some of the treasured articles of household goods, but brutal soldiers threw most of it back into the fire. These were regular soldiers, officered by men bearing commissions as such from the government at Washinqton. I regret now that I cannot call to mind the particular command, which I once knew. They claimed to be acting under command of superior officers. Thrown out of doors in the dead of winter they found shelter in the home of one of my brothers. No act of vandalism had ever been charged aqainst any memher of my family as a justification for this outrage. That my father was a Confederate and my brothers were in it’s army was the only explanation. My Father’s family spent the remainder, of the winter and the following spring at my brother’s home, endurinq many privations and hardships.
In the summer, following, at the friendly request of a Union family, who lived near my Fathers’s old home, they occupied their home, as they were going north. A short stay in this Union man’s house and it shared the same fate, burned to the ground by Federal Soldiers. Later on, they fitted up on old log cabin on the old homestead that had been used for years as a corn crib and other like purposes, and lived in it till the spring of 1865, when it shared a similar fate, at the hand of men wearing the blue.
They then fitted up as best they could, an old log stable of two stalls, about 12 X 14 in size each, with bare earth for flooring and a leaky roof that admitted about as much water as it shed off. In this stable they were living, when peace, “white winged” and welcome came in the summer of 1865. In this old log stable they lived to see the return of their five sons, four of whom bore scars won in battle for home and country. That they suffered extreme hardships for want of food, clothing and shelter, is well known to all those who lived on or near the border between the contending forces, but all their physical suffering was as nothing compared to the mental anguish they suffered during the four years of bloody strife. During the last months of the war, they often went for days without meat or bread of any kind, not even salt, to season the little food they had. For days they lived upon salads, made of the young shoots of polk stalks, tongue grass and other edible vegetation, without salt, simply boiled. This slight sketch of the sufferings of my Father’s family was the fate of other Southern families, varied only by degrees of more or less severity. Such luxuries as sugar, coffee, tea and rice were among the people in North Arkansas durinq the last three years of the war, except in very rare cases.
To illustrate something of the cruelties and barbarities of war, I will recite one incident. During the winter of 1862-3 when that part of the country was over-run by Federal Troops, a regiment of cavalry came by my Father’s home, having as prisoners three young men, neighbor boys, about 18 to 20 years of age, whom they had just captured. After a short stop at the house, they passed on, taking the prisoners with them. Shortly after, the family heard a volley of small arms in the direction they had taken. Suspecting the worst, my sisters followed their trail. About one mile away they found the lifeless bodies of William Easter and Ben Womack, lying by the road side. After looking around for some time for the other young man, Calvin Rutledge, they heard groans from a distance in the thick woods, where they found him suffering from no less than seven separate bullet wounds. They cared for him as best they could, summoned help as quickly as possible and carried him some miles away to a secluded place in the woods, where he was nursed back to health, apparently none the worse for his many wounds. Incidents of this character were of frequent occurence, the victims often being old men and noncombatent, some of whom were past three score years and ten.
While much of cruelty was due to deserters from the Confederate Army, the volunteer forces from the North were guilty of many inexcusable acts of brutality, such as house burning and killing prisoners. There were some notable exceptions, when officers and men treated the people with kindness. The foreign born soldiers in the Union Army, Germans especially, were brutal and cruel in their treatment of the people.
My parents lived to see, not only the return of peace, but an era of prosperity, and spent the declining years of their lives in comparative comfort, honored and respected by a large circle of friends. My father was a man of robust constitution, five feet ten, and weighed about one hundred and seventy five pounds. He died, after a brief illness, at the home of his only daughter, Mrs. M. J. Rosson, at Bellfonte, Arkansas, October 1, 1876, and was buried at White Church not far from his old home on Crooked Creek.
My Mother in appearance was a frail bit of humanity, weighing usually no more than one hundred pounds, but endowed with wonderful powers of endurance. She retained her mental and physical vigor in a remarkable degree. She frequently rode horseback several miles without fatigue, after she had attained the age of ninety. She died after a few days of illness at the home of my sister, Mrs. Rosson, on the 27th of September 1889, and was buried by the side of him who had shared her joys and sorrows for over fifty years.
Before preceeding further with this sketch, I would pay a brief tribute to the memory of my sister, to whose gentle admonitions and kindly advice I am, at least, partly indebted for what ever of worth I may have attained. But it is of her loyal untiring devotion to her parents that I care most to write. Always kind, gentle, and patient, she ministered to their every want, and a companion in health, in sickness, a nurse. With the same unselfish devotion she nursed her hushand, Captain John Rosson, through months of painful suffering till death came to this relief. On the llth day of February, 1903, after a long and painful illness, she died at her home in Harrison, Arkansas and was laid to rest by the side of her husband in the Harrison Cemetery, honored and loved hy all who knew her.
After My Father settled in North Arkansas, in 1853 I worked on the farm. In the fall of 1854, I attended a private school for two months. This with the schoolinq already mentioned constituted the sum total of my time spent in school. I had a fondness for books, however, and spent a good part of my spare time in reading such books as we were fortunate enough to own, which was limited to a very few volumes of history, especially of wars, and personal adventure, were the books that interested me most. Pictures of battle scenes had a facination for me that enthralled my boyish fancy. I cared less for society than most young people. I was content to labor on the farm, visit and receive visits from neighbor boys of my age, and reading such books as I was able to get. Owning to my fondness for books, coupled with a good deal persistance on my part, my Father had agreed that I might enter school. “Cane Hill College” in Washington County, Arkansas, in the fall of 1861, but the breaking out of the war, brought an end of my hopes for an education. When President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 thousand men to coerce the South, the war spirit was thoroughly aroused. Meetings were held in every village and neighborhood, and steps taken looking to the organization of companies for service in the defense of the South, should the country be invaded by Northern troops. Many yet hoped for a peaceful solution of the pending trouble, but the rapid march of events soon dispelled all their hopes. Under a call for Arkansas state troops, I joined the first company that was organized in my part of the country. It was made up, almost entirely of farmers, ranging in age from 16 to 40 years of age.
This company named the “Joe Wright Guard” elected as officers John Smith, Captain; William Wilson Bailey, First Lieutenant; Jeff Greenlee, Second Lieutenant; Dr. Joe Owens, Third Lieutenant; Jones Jensen, was elected first Sergeant; later Captain resigned and Sergeant was elected Captain. All were ignorant of the art of war and military training. Not one of the number had seen service in anything more than the slight training they had had in military service, which usually amounted to a few hours of drill. Once or twice a year. But what they lacked in training they made up in patriotic devotion to their country, which after all, is the best foundation which to build the hiqhest types of soldiery.
The first Confederate flag that was made in that part of the country was made at my Father’s house by my sister and Miss J. B. Wriqht, and later presented to the company to which I belonqed by Miss Wright in a patriotic speech, eloquently delivered. In her honor, the company was named “Joe Wright’s Guards”.
A few days later the organization of the company, orders came to report without delay at Camp Walker, in Washinaton County, Arkansas, about 90 miles distant. Every member of the company reported present when the roll was called. Many left the plow in mid field. I well remember that I was laying by the corn, giving it the last plowing, when the summons came, and left unplowed a number of rows. What memories came trooping up as I recall the thrilling events of that memorable time. The old home of my boyhood, blotted out by the red torch of war, but from my memory never. The friends of “Auld Lang Syne”, the call to arms; the hurried gathering of those who wore the gray; the music of fife and drum, how it thrilled us; the tender good byes that were said; the march away from home to the music of that dear old tune “The Girl I left Behind Me”. And who of us was not leaving behind some one dearer than all others? I confess that there was a slender dark eyed, brown haired girl that had won my deepest love, and who, I believe felt more than a passing interest in me.
A march of six days and we were at Camp Walker, where were assembled three or four thousand men with General Ben McCulloch. What a change from the peaceful country life of a country home, the noise and stir of a military camp. The white tents, the beat of the drums, the bugle call, the tramp of armed men, the bright beam of the bayonets, the high above all, proudly floating in the breeze, the flag of the new born nation to which we had pledged our realty.
A few days in camp with earnest attempts at drill, when born on the summer breeze came the boom, boom of artillery, far to the north, but each shot sounding clear and distinct, which told us that the enemy was not far away and that the war was reality. How the boom of those guns thrilled me and made the desire to be an active participant in the battle. A feeling, I think, that was shared almost universally by men in camps. In fact, I think, most of us feared that it would not be our good fortune to be engaged in battle. About August lst, we took up the line of march toward Springfield, Missouri, then occupied by Federal troops under General Lyon. On the way we were joined by the Missouri troops under General Price. A few days march over dusty roads, and skirmishes in front, in which the battle of small arms was heard for the first time. A few wounded men were conveyed to the rear. A few new-made graves by the roadside gave us the first impression of what war was like. The evening of the 7th of August, we camped on Wilson Creek, a beautiful clear running stream of water, ten miles distant of Springfield. Late in the evening of the 9th, we received orders to be in readiness to march at a moments notice evidently with the intention of attacking the enemy at Springfield the next morning. Quietly we waited, hours passed and still no orders to march. Midnight came and the men were quietly sleeping, dreaming perhaps of home and loved ones. The early dawn of August 10th found us still waiting. There was life once more in the camp. Some were making fires preparatory to cooking their meals. Some of the earlier risers were eating their breakfast. Looking over the valley to the west, across the creek, where the public road led to Springfield passed though our camp, I saw a lone horseman riding at break neck speed, in the direction of headquarters, leaving behind him a trail of dust. A moment later, presently a hatless courier riding with speed of the wind through our camp. Boom! and a shell went shriekinq through the tree tops over head, followed by others in rapid Succession. “Fall in Line”, was heard on every side. With the hearing and confidence of veterans of many battles, these men, fresh from the plow handles, took, their places in line and marched away to the various places assigned to them.
The Joe Wright guards had been assigned to the fourth Arkansas Infantry, commanded by Colonel Dave Walker. This regiment was ordered to support Reid’s Arkansas Battery, which was quickly placed in position on a high point east of the creek, overlooking the valley to the west, giving an excellent view of the greater part of the battle ground. Reid’s guns, some 50 yards away, went into action at once. A few shells from the enemy’s guns dropped near us, but no assault was made on our position. In other parts of the field, the firing of artillery and small guns was terrific. Yells of the contending forces came over the smoke laden air to die away and later be renewed, whether by friend or foe, we could not tell. Hours passed, and still the battle raged. Men standing in line in that hot August sun grew thirsty and called for water. A detail was ordered with canteens to bring water from a spring, some two or three hundred yards distant. I was one of that detail. While filling canteens, a wagon was drawn up near the spring. Passing by the hind end of the wagon, which was open, I beheld the ghastly form of a number of dead men, from which the life blood had ebbed away, stained as they were with blood and dust and grime of the battle, what a picture for the inexperienced eyes of a boy fresh from the peace and quiet of the old country home. A memory of the old farm home flitted across my mind; the unplowed corn rows; the jingle of peaceful scenes; the picture that had so impressed me vanished when I returned to the thirsty, eager, confident comrades standing in line, expecting every moment to take a hand in the battle that was yet raging with unabated fury.
Gradually, the enemy was driven back and shouts of triumph told us that they were in full retreat and that the victory was ours. By noon the echoes of the last gun had died away among the surroundinq hills. Obtaining permission from my captain, with a young friend, who later gave his life to the southland, we started out to view the battle ground. Passing through the cornfield to the north, we saw our first Federal dead, lying among the cornfield, hands and faces blackened by the heat of the August sun. Turning west across the creek, on what was afterwards called “Bloody Hill”, on which the severest fighting took place, we found a great number of Federal dead and wounded. Some of the wounded groaning and writhing in agony, others in silence, patiently bearing their suffering. One poor fellow, with both legs mangled, the death pallor on his face, muttered in half audible voice, bitter curses about being deserted. Holding my canteen to his lips he drank deeply, looking the thanks his lips failed to speak. To other wounded we gave water till the contents of our canteens were exhausted. Over the heads of some of the wounded, friends, and all were friends now, had stuck bushes to ward off the sun’s hot rays. Here and there were horses, dead, or in the agonizing throes of death. Everywhere the grass trampled down, bushes and small saplings crushed and broken, where artillery had wheeled into position, advanced, or hastily retreated. Here and there, crimson stains blended with the green of the leaves and grass, or formed a darker hue as it mangled with the dust of the ground. On this hill, General Lyon was killed. His horse, a fine gray, fell near the same spot.
The horse’s mane and tail had been closely clipped and carried away as souvenirs by the Confederates. A hurried visit to the hastily improvised hospital of tents, where surgeons and their assistants were busy dressing wounds and amputating limbs amid groans and shrieks that were simply appalling. Trenches were hastily dug where our Confederate dead were laid side by side, uncoffined, to “sleep their manhood away”. Most of the Federal dead remained unburied till the next day. How I envied the men of the commands that; were engaged and lost numbers in killed and wounded and felt humiliated over the fact that my regiment fired not a shot nor shed one drop of blood.
Late that evening we moved camps some three or four miles up the creek, where we spent several days. When not on duty, I spent my spare time strolling over the battle grounds, till I became familiar with every hill and valley. One of the thinqs that impressed me was the entire absence of bird life; not even a vulture flapped it’s wings in the carrion scented air. In the course of three or four days all of the wounded had been removed to Springfield and the battleground deserted.
On the 6th day of the battle, a young friend, Lish Robertson and I strolled again, and the last time, over the field. A white object in a thick cluster of post oak runners attracted our attention. On investigation, we found the lifeless form of a boy lying on a pallet of straw, his only covering a white sheet. He was apparently about sixteen years of age, light haired and slender, with features almost girlish in looks. On his lips, half parted, the lingering trace of a smile. An ugly wound in the left side revealed the cause of death. With folded hands on his pallet of straw, we left him, alone in his dreamless sleep. Who he was, whether he wore the blue or gray, we never knew. With the next morning’s sunrise, we were on the march and away. I have always supposed that this boy was among the last to die at the camp hospital and that the detail left to bury the dead grew weary of their work and quietly laid the body away in this secluded place and doubtless reported all bodies buried.
About the 20th day of August, the Arkansas State troops were disbanded. A few weeks later, under a call from the Confederate States, another company was organized which I joined. H. H. Williams was elected Captain, my brother William W. Bailey, First Lieutenant, Israel Sigman and E. M. Spaid, second and third Lieutenant. On the discharge of the “Joe Wright Guards”, their old flag was returned to Miss Wright and was by her again presented to the newly organized company, and by the captain handed to me, as company color bearer. Again the good byes were said, by many who never again clasped hands, and we took up the line of march to Fayettsville, Arkansas.
Here we were joined by other companies, ten in all, forming the sixteenth Arkansas Infantry, Colonel J. F. Hill commanding. How proud I felt, when our company flag was selected from half a score, as the regimental colors, and prouder still, when the Colonel named me regimental color bearer, with the rank of Sergeant. The regiment went into camp at Elm Sprinqs in Washington County where we remained until about February 20, 1862. The winter was spent in drill and other duties incident to camp life.
About the 20th of February, we received orders to join other troops under General McCulloch, who had spent the winter at points not far distant, and proceed towards Springfield, Missouri and effect a junction with the troops under General Price, who were falling back from that place, hotly pressed by superior force of Federals under Generals Curtis and Siegel. At Cross Hollows in Benton County, Arkansas, we met the forces under General Price, slowly retreating before the enemy. We had marched all day and all night, reaching Cross Hollows early in the morning, thoroughly tired and hungry.
A rest of about two hours and the retreat was resumed. Several skirmishes between the enemy’s advanced forces and our rear guard occured during the day. Several times we formed line of battle, marching and counter marching, till by night fall, when we went into camps, we felt thoroughly exhausted, having been on the tramp for about thirty six hours, with no sleep and very little rest. A good night’s rest and we felt all right for the next days march.
The Confederates continued the retreat to Boston Mountain, some 25 miles south of Fayettsville. The federal forces established headquarters at Pea Ridge, Benton County. We remained in camp on Boston Mountain a few days while all the available forces of Confederates were being concentrated. About this tiine, General Van Dorn assumed command of the combined forces of Generals McCullough and Price, on the 3rd or 4th day of March we took up the line of march towards the enemy at Pea Ridge.
On the 6th of March, our advanced forces were in touch with the enemy. Frequent skirmishes ensued during the day between the opposing forces. The march was continued at intervals all of the following night. Halts were frequent, but of short duration. The men would lie down by the roadside to he aroused up in a few minutes. While we marched, only, a few miles during the night, yet we had no time for sleep.
On the morning of March the 7th, the attack was made from the north having passed to the west of the enemy’s right flank. General McCullough commanded the right wing of the Confederates and General Price the left. After severe fighting for the greater part of two days, the Confederates withdrew from the field, leaving most of the dead and wounded. The 16th Arkansas Infantry was under fire more and less during both days and lost quite a number in killed and wounded. General McCullough was killed early in the engagement on the morning of the 7th. His death, in all probability, lost to us the battle, as General McIntosh, next in command, was killed about the same time and General Hebar wounded, leaving the right wing without an officer higher in rank than a colonel, colonels of regiments without orders, and not knowing of the death of their commander, acted on their own responsiblity, which naturally led to more or less confusion and lack of concerted action. Had McCullough lived, doubtless a combined and vigorous assault would have been made on the enemy’s position in a very short time, as the troops were already in position for such a movement. Lines were formed facing the enemy, only a short distance in our front. The men were eager for the fray and confident of victory. As I have never seen any published account of General McCullough’s death, I will state what came under my observation. So far as I could see and know, my regiment formed the extreme right of the right wing of our infantry. After some skirmishing and a charge of mounted men to our right, in which a Federal Battery was captured, the Infantry moved forward in line of battle, haulting in some timber a hundred or more yards north of a field, lying east and west and apparently three or four hundred yards across from north to south. From this position we could get a glimpse of the enemy on the south side of the field, who gave us a few rounds of grape and canister. We had occupied this position only, a few minutes when General McCullough came riding along in front of our lines, passing from left to right, but I am now unable to recall the words. When near the right of the regiment, he ordered one or two companies, two I think, forward as skirmishers and rode on alone, into some rather thick woods to our riqht. He was carrying, as was his custom a short breech loading rifle and fieldglasses. In a very short time after he passed out of sight, the regiment was ordered by the right flank to a position some two hundred yards to our right, then forward right oblique, through thick woods to the fence on the north side of the field above referred to, driving a line of Federal skirmishers from the fence across the field. Colonel Hill, passing near, ordered me to lower the flag as it showed above the bushes and was drawing a fire from the enemy’s artillery.
Feeling at liberty to leave my position, I passed along the line to the right, where my brother, William W. Bailey, was in command of my old company, Captain Williams having out from exhaustion, to learn what loss, if any, they had sustained. Before reachinq my old company, a young man named Jones, some forty steps to the right and rear, called to me saying “Come here, here is General McCullough.” He was lying full length on his back with a bullet wound in his right breast. A bit of white cotton patching, such as was used at that time in the makeup of cartridges for the Miss. or squirrel rifle, was sticking in the hole made by the bullet in his coat, which showed conclusively, that he had been killed by one of the Federal skirmishers from behind the fence, as some of their dead and wounded near the fence were armed with Miss. rifles. I reported to Lieutenant Pixley, Adjutant of the regiment, who was only a short distance away, who took off his, Prixley’s overcoat and threw it over General McCullough’a body, covering his face with the cape, saying, “We must not let the men know that General McCullough is dead.” About this time Colonel Rector’s Regiment of Arkansas inquired who that was, pointing to the dead body. Lieutenant Pixley answered, “Sergeant ——— His horse, gun, field glasses and watch were gone. A detail of four men from my old company carried his body to the rear, which was later sent to Texas for burial. He had evidently started yards away. Whether he was killed from his horse or dismounted we never knew.
Before forming line of battle on the morning of March 7th, the men of my regiment deposited their blankets, each man carried one, in a heap by the roadside, leaving them in care of a guard. In withdrawing from the field that eveninq, we found the quard missing, and that our blankets had been taken by other troops. Indians under General Pike. Some hours after the death of General McCullough, my regiment, and I think practically all of the right wing was ordered to retire from that part of the field in which we had been engaged and take a position just in rear of the left wing, a short distance north of the old Elk Horn tavern, from which the Federals had been driven during the day.
That night we had for a bed the bare ground and the sky for a covering. For supper and breakfast, we had a ration of flour only, which we made into dough with cold water and baked as best we could, without any cooking vessels. The usual method was to roll the dough around a ramrod and hold it over the fire until done. Our sleep was disturbed that night by the rattle of ambulances and the groans of wounded men being conveyed to a hospital, a short distance in our rear.
In the early dawn we marched by the old tavern with the great elk horns, from which it took it’s name, perched over the gate in front of the house. All around were many evidences of desperate fighting the day previous. We were soon placed in position, forming a second line, the first about one hundred yards in our front. About sunrise, the enemy’s artillery opened a terrific fire on our lines, which they kept up for several hours. The firing of small arms was irregular and not severe at any one time. About noon, if my recollection serves me right, orders came to fall back a short distance and then retire from the field. The order was a surprise to us, as we supposed the battle would be renewed and had been expecting orders for a forward movement for hours. The retreat was severely criticized by many. So far as my personal observation went, the men were in good condition for fighting. At no time was there the slightest evidence of panic, or lack of confidence. The withdrawal was leisurely, and without confusion. There was no attempt at pursuit.
That night we camped about ________from the battle ground, at what was called Van Winkle’s Mill. It had rained very hard during the evening and to keep off the damp ground, I slept on a plank. There were a number of shoats, weighing perhaps about 40 or 50 pounds running around our camps. Some mounted men came riding by and one of them called out, “Hand me one of those shoats.” Sergeant Rush of my company stuck his bayonet through one of them and held it up to the calvaryman, who took it and rode off with a squealing pig under his arm.
The march south was resumed next morning. The day followinq, we remained in camp. Under orders to report with his command at Corinth, Mississippi, General Van Horn continued to march south across Boston Mountain via, Clarksville on the Arkansas river, a march of something over 200 miles. At Duvalle Bluff, we took passage on river steamers going down White River to the Mississippi, then up the Mississippi to Memphis, where we took cars to Corinth, arriving there a few days after the battle of Shiloh or Pittsburg Landing. For several days we camped near Corinth, and then occupied camps some miles south, near a little town called Rienzi. After a stay of about ten days at this place, we were ordered back to Corinth. During all this time the roar of artillery was heard daily to the north of Corinth and only a few miles away.
About this time my regiment was presented with a new flag, designed as a battle flag. Folding up my old flag, I placed it in my bosom for safe keeping, where I carried it for over 12 months. About the last of April, my brother Lieutenant William W. Bailey resigned on account of ill health. He had been in command of the company since the battle of Elk Horn. Captain was captured there and never rejoined the company. Lieutenant Sigman also resigned about this time.
On the eight of May, 1862, a reorganization of the company was ordered. Captain David Province of Battery was elected Colonel. Lieutenant and acting Adjutant Pixley, Lieutant Colonel, Pitman, Major E. G. Mitchell was elected Captain of company D, my old company, John Brittain, first Lieutenant. The writer, second Lieutenant and E. M. Spain was reelected third Lieutenant. Mark Buchanan of company G succeeded me as color bearer of the reqiment. A few weeks later, owing to the failure of Lieutenant Brittain to pass the required examination for a first lieutenancy, I was promoted to the rank, and Sergeant Rush was elected second Lieutenant.
The regiment was engaged in fight at Farmington in the early part of May and took an active part in the defense of Corinth, doing picket duty and engaging in a number of skirmishes, in which quite a number of men were killed and wounded.
After the evacuation of Corinth, the Confederates went into camp at Okolona about 40 miles south of Corinth. The only sickness I had during the war was while stationed at this place. A stay or two weeks in a hospital at Enterprise, Mississippi, and I was again able for duty.
In the early part of September there was evidence of forward movement, which resulted a few days in an attack on, and capture of Iuka, Mississippi, situated a few miles east of Corinth. We remained at Iuka three or four days when on the evening of September 19th, the Federals under Generals, made an attack on our left flank. The fight, though of short duration, was hotly contested, with results in favor of the Confederates, who held the battle ground and captured a six gun battery. At the beginning of the fight the 16th Arkansas and four Missouri regiments, forming what was called the first Missouri Brigrade under General Little, occupied a position about three miles west of Iuka, and towards Corinth, expecting an attack from that direction. We were double-quicked to the scene of action, going to line of battle about dusk, and just before the line of firing ceased occupying the battleground where the Federal Battery was captured. General Little was killed just as we went into battle. The Federals had fallen back only a short distance, as we could hear them plainly and were fired on several times during the night. Most of the dead and wounded of the enemy lay where they fell, some of them between the opposing lines. Their moans and calls for help and water were pitiful in the extreme. The cry of one poor fellow, not far away, was, John, Oh John!” Quite a number of the wounded in less exposed parts of the the field were carried back a short distance and laid in the yard of a farm house, some three or four hundred yards to our rear. Added to the groans of the wounded men was the rattling of chains and harness on wounded artillery horses, only a few yards away. The captured guns were only a few steps to our rear. Till midnight I was officer of the guard, which made it necessary for me to visit our pickets or guard, about thirty steps in front, to see that all was well. With the silent forms of the dead lying among the clusters of bushes, as I passed from sentry to sentry, my feelings can be better imagined than described. When I returned at midnight, I lay down with the men in the line of battle, but not to sleep. As the hours passed, the moans and groans grew less faint. The last hours of the night grew comparatively quiet, save the struggling of the wounded horses in their harness. We confidently expected a renewal of the fight with the coming of day, but to our surprise, just as day dawned we withdrew, leaving the battle ground and the captured guns in Possession of the enemy.
We returned to a point near our old camp at Okolona, where we remained in camp a few days. Again we took up the line of march, approaching Corinth from the west. On the third of October, after more or less skirmishing and some pretty severe fighting, the enemy withdrew to their mainline of defense around Corinth. Our line of battle was formed that evening in easy range of their guns, but hid from view by intervening skirts of timber. With the break of day on the morning of the fourth, our artillery, from a ridge in our rear, opened fire on the town and its lines of defenses. A few minutes later the enemy’s gun replied with vigor. This Artillery fire was kept up till about 9 a. m. when the order to move forward was given by General Bates, then in command of the brigade, in a voice that could have been easily heard a mile away. Passing through a narrow belt of timber, we emerged into open ground in full view of the enemy’s breast works, lining the crest of a ridge, some three hundred yards in our front. The enemy’s Artillery opened a terrific fire on our line as soon as we showed in the open ground, but there was no wavering. Steadily the men went forward to meet a death dealing fire both Artillery and Infantry, but there was no halt till the crest of the hill was reached and the works captured with numerous pieces of Artillery.
To our right a more vigorous defense was made, and the assaulting line was compelled to retreat. Looking to our right, I could see through the smoke that nearly enveloped the crest of the hill, our broken line falling back. Soon the enemy’s guns along the defense to our right from which our troops had been repulsed, were turned on us, raking our lines from one end to the other. The order to retreat was given by Colonel Cockrell of Missouri, then the Colonel of one of the Missouri regiments composing the first Missouri Brigade. Hastily and with no regard to order, we retreated to the friendly shelter of the timber, leaving our dead and most of our wounded where they fell. I have often thought of the havoc a few companies of Calvary could have made had they been hurled on us at the right moment. Our broken lines were reformed about 3/4 of a mile from the scene of the repulse. Buchannan, our gallant color bearer, planted our colors on the breast works and escaped unhurt, but the color bearers of the other Regiments of the Brigade were either killed or wounded. Company D lost several men, killed or wounded, among the latter was Lieutenant Rush, who died a few days later. Lieutenant Colonel Pixley was severely wounded but assisted from the field. Lieutenant Berry of Company E, now U. S. Senator from Arkansas, lost a leg and was left in our hospital established in the early part of the engagement. That night we bivouaced about five miles from the battle ground, resuming the retreat next morning in the road by which we advanced. When within a few miles of the Hatchie river, on the morning of the fifth, we heard the boom of artillery in our front. “Double quick” was the order for three or four miles, as we hurried to the assistance of our troops who were engaging the enemy, a fresh command Llnder General —— from Bolivia, Tennessee, who had captured and was holding the bridge across the Hatchie River, on our line of retreat. For a time the situation looked serious. A victorious array in our rear with a force of fresh troops holding the bridge, the only apparent avenue of escape, as the river was not fordable and pontoon bridges we had none. After some serious fighting near the bridge, and more or less skirmishing, marching and counter marching, in which several men of my regiment were wounded, we took a more southernly route and crossed the river on a temporary bridge hastily constructed over an old mill dam. Tired and hungry, we continued the retreat till after dark. Our last meal, and that of crackers only, had been eaten the evening of the third. Before day next morning by raiding a near by sweet potato patch, I had an excellent meal of roasted potatoes. But many a poor fellow went hungry another day.
In all the engagements I had been in up to the affair at Hatchie River, I had felt the utmost confidence in winning a victory, when we had been double quicked about three miles, and drawn up in line of battle on on side of a narrow field with the enemy’s guns just on the other side, in plain view. I freely confess I had but little courage and less confidence left. We occupied that position about 30 minutes, expecting every moment an order to charge, and feeling that I could and would obey the order, but I had no heart in the work and felt very much relieved when we quickly fell back out of range of the guns.
About the 15th of October, my regiment was detached from the first Missouri Brigade and ordered to Port Hudson, Louisana. Taking the cars near Holly Springs, Mississippi, we passed through Jackson, the capitol of the state and on to —– from which place we marched across the country to the little town on the Mississippi River, hearing the name of Port Hudson. About this time Captain Mitchell obtained leave of absence to return home and never rejoined the command, which left me in command of the company. Port Hudson, at that time, was a village of perhaps 150 people, mostly women and children. Some five or six thousand troops were in camp on our arrival. A line of earthen breastworks, some three or four miles in length, with the ends resting in the river, were being constructed. The remainder of the fall and the ensuing winter was spent in drill and picket duty. The federals, in force occupied Baton Rouge, some 40 miles below. Frequent skirmishes occured during the winter and eary spring. The enemy’s gunboats from below paid us frequent visits, throwing shell at long range into our camps.
On the night of the 14th of May, a number of their boats essayed to pass our batteries. Two of them, the Hartford and ________ succeeded. The Mississippi was disabled, set on fire and blown up. A few days later, the enemy in large force under comand of General Banks occupied all of the approaches by land to cut off all communication with the outside world. By the 17th of May, their lines were advanced, after sharp skirmishing on the outside of our breastworks, to within rifle shot in most places, of our line of defenses. Batteries were soon placed in the most advantageous position that raked our lines in many places. The superiority of the enemy’s guns, in numbers and otherwise soon enabled them to silence our guns on the land side. In fact, most of our gun carriages were shot to pieces in the course of a few days. On the 27th of May, after a heavy artillery fire, from numerous batteries, for two or three hours, an assault was made on our line of works held by the 16th, and some other Arkansas troops. The enemy advanced in column of Regiments four deep, across an open field, some five hundred yards in width. Our view of the advancing columns was fine, not a single obstruction to mar the view. It was a magnificent sight, but the great odds against us looked appalling as our line was weak, averaqing about one man to every five feet, and no reserve force. Of one thing we felt sure and that was that our men would do all that it was possible for men to do. Every company officer, so far as I could see stood in line with his men, musket in hand. To facilitate rapid firing, most if not all of the men, placed their cartridges on the works in their front. Varied were the expressions on the faces of the men. Some were serious and silent. Others joked, danced or sang short snatches of song, but here was an intense earnestness about it all.
All remembered our defeat at Corinth and many remarked that we would now get even. I don’t believe and doubted the result notwithstanding the disparity in numbers. Steadily they came forward with the precision of troops on review; bristling bayonets glinting the sunshine; above them, flags fluttering in the breeze. Officers in bright uniforms on spirited horses, all made a picture long to be remembered. In advance of their frontline, perhaps forty steps, were men carrying upright in their front, wooden boards about nine feet long and some sixteen inches wide, and sufficiently thick to support the weight of two or more men. Their aim was to lay these boards across the ditch in our front and thus enable the assaulting column to more easily scale our works. When within about one hundred and fifty yards the order to fire was given. The front line wavered, advanced and then fell back on the second. Reforming they again advanced to break under that withering fire and fell back the second time. By this time all the lines were more or less broken. Retiring a short distance they again reformed and advanced the third time to he again repulsed. After rough broken ground to their right, on which the timber had been felled. From this shelter they kept up a desultory firing on our works till dark.
The assaulting columns were supported on their left by a Regiment of New York Zouaves, the 165th. I think, whose brilliant uniforms made a conspicous mark for our riflemen. The enemy’s loss was heavy. Ours was light, but amoung our killed was Lieutenant Spain, one of my warmest personal friends. He was a general favorite and was known far and wide because of his genial happy disposition. He was brave almost to the point of recklessness. Sadly and with heavy hearts, about sunrise the next morning we lowered his body, uncoffined, to it’s final resting place, to be aroused never again by “beat of drum or bugle call”. After their repulse on the 27th of May, the enemy settled down to a regular seige, posting their batteries nearer and advancing their lines by means of parallels, till in some places the lines were less than one hundred feet apart. The artillery fire was almost incessant, day after day, continuing often, at intervals during the night. Our guns were nearly all disabled, some of them knocked to pieces and the carriages a mass of splinters. Mortars were also posted in front of our lines, throwing shells high in the air to drop down on us. These shells were as plainly visible as a ball thrown by hand, and we were often forced to “scatter out” as the boys expressed it, to evade these unwelcome visitors. Their gunboats from below kept up a somewhat irregular fire daily, and often at night we could trace the course of shells as they chased one another through the air, by their burning fuses. But most of their fire from their boats was directed at our shore batteries on the river, and at a long range, doing very little damage, either to men or guns. The qreatest trouble we encountered in our position came from a battery posted away to our left and beyond an angle in our works. This battery of 9 inch guns raked the inside of our line of defense for quite a distance. For protection from this raking fire, we dug trenches at right angles to our works usually about four feet deep and about the same in width, and in length from six to thirty feet. The dirt from the trenches we baked on the side from which the shells came as an additional protection. A sentry was detailed whose special duty it was to watch for the smoke from these guns, seeing which he would yell out, “lie down”, and every mother’s son would scamper to this hole in the ground or else into some neighboring trench. At night, when not on duty, we slept in the trenches or near by so as to be able to roll into them at a moment’s notice. In a short time our clothing took on the color of the yellow reddish clay of the ditches. The hot weather coupled with frequent showers made our positions everything but pleasant.
In the early part of the seige, we put up what few tents we possessed for protection against the rain and the hot sun, but these were soon shot to pieces. To add to our discomfort, especially at night, were swarms of mosquitos, that were terribly annoying. Often our faces in the morning looked like a patient just broken out with measles. As a slight protection, the boys would burn cotton or cotton rags when they could get them, near their heads all night. Late in the evening of May 27th, my Regiment was ordered to a position about one half mile north of the line we defended that day. This position we occupied during the remainder of the seige. At this point our line of breastworks had been built through an old field with the timber line about fifty to one hundred yards in our front. This timber which was very heavy, for about two hundred yards back, had been cut down, forming a tangle mass of logs and brush. The enemy’s sharpshooters took advantage of the cover thus afforded, by the stumps and fallen trees and made a target of every head that showed above our works.
Every morning a detail of men was made from each company as sharpshooters for the ensuing twenty four hours. For their better protection we placed sand bags made of tents and such like material, on the breastworks, end to end, leaving a space of five or six inches between. By placing another sack on top, and over this opening, we made an excellent port hole through which our sharpshooters returned the enemy’s fire. This was kept up with more or less severity day after day for weeks. It often happened especially of an evening that a lull would come in the firing when some fellow on one side or the other, would yell out some good natured taunt or inquiry, to be promptly answered by some one on the opposing side. By mutual consent, all firing would cease and heads would pop up all along the line. The Yanks would get up on the logs and stumps and our fellows would stand up on the breastworks, while a mutual exchange of words took the place of shots. Often a hearty laugh from both sides would greet some pointed joke or witty retort. Neither party ever took advantage of this exposure, but always gave friendly warning by calling out, “Look out over there we are going to shoot” when all parties sought shelter.
In numerous instances Yank and Rebel met on the half way ground under cover of darkness, to talk and exchange articles, such as sugar, coffee and tobacco. Of sugar, we had an abundance. Coffee and tobacco we had none. In these friendly day time talks, the Yanks delighted in teasing us about our mule meat and shortage of rations generally, and would tell us how they would feed us after our capture, on bacon, flour bread, coffee and other things, that would have been delicacies to us at that time. I mention these incidents to show that there was very little hatred or unkind feeling existing among the men on the fighting line in the regular service. On the morning of the 14th of June, about 4:00 A.M., their batteries all along the line opened up a terrific fire which was kept up without a moment’s cessation till about daylight, when under cover of a heavy fog they advanced, a strong force of infantry through the blockade or fallen timber, to the edge of the old field in our front. The distance being some fifty yards in the nearest place and perhaps one hundred or more at other points. We could plainly hear the commands of the officers as they advanced.
Under cover of this fog, the enemy to our left, about day break, made three desperate assaults on our works. Many of them reached the ditch, but none crossed the hreastworks except as prisoners. We could plainly hear their loud huzzas, mingled with the rattle of musketry, as they advanced to the charge, to be answered later by the old familiar “rebel yell’, gathering volume as it swept down our line. With the lifting of the fog, the energy in our front opened a vigorous and well directed fire on our lines. To show one’s head above the hreastworks, would often draw the fire of several rifles.
Momentarily expecting an assault, we returned the fire slowly and cautiously. After their repulse to our left, when we felt they would make no further assault, we began paying attention in earnest to the gentlemen in our front. With heads for targets a steady rifle fire was kept up by both sides, till after noon when the Yanks got tired of the job and wanted to get away. In order to do this, it was necessary to expose their bodies, more or less, as they ran fropi one cover to another, giving us a very great advantage, that we used to the fullest. Instead of going all together and at once, they fell back at will, singly, and groups of four or five, thus giving our marksman a great many more shots than they would have otherwise had. Many of us had shoulders bruised and sore from long continued firing that day. A Captain Cloud of my regiment, loaded rifles for me, so that I got a great number of shots that day. The enemy’s loss was very heavy. Ours was light comparatively; but we had a number killed and wounded. Among the killed was Lieutenant Colonel Pixley, a splendid soldier and officer. On the 17th of June, three days later, I went out under a flag of truce, on the ground occupied by the enemy, while their dead and surviving wounded were being carried from the field by details of Confederates, to designated points where they were received by the Federals. Their wounded who fell on the 14th and were tinable to get away lay where they fell for three full days and nights, in calling distance of friends. Those who survived were in a horrible condition fly blown and wounds full of maqqots. Why the Federal commander, General Banks, allowed this, I could only account for on the theory that his pride was stronger than his feeling of humanity. I felt sure that General Gardner, our commander, would willingly have allowed the removal of all dead and wounded if permission to do so had been asked. Under a flag of truce, the enemy removed their dead and wounded on May 27th in a few hours after the battle. General Banks may have felt that it could be humiliating to ask a second time for such a favor. In fact, it was generally understood among us, that General Gardner was the one first asked for the removal on the 17th of June. This I know, the flag of truce first went out from our lines in the morning, and the removal was made later in the day. I state these facts with more particularity than I otherwise would have done, because I never saw lines to our left where the principal assaults were made. In places, blacks, having been armed with hand gernades which they carried, one in each hand, to throw over the breastworks, then they should get in the ditch and then use their muskets. As stated before, a good many reached the ditch, but none crossed the breastworks, only as prisoners. In the ditch, in front of one short angle of our works, I counted twenty seven dead men and two shaggy New Foundland dogs, who had followed their masters to death. The scent from these dead bodies, lying in that hot June sun for three days was sickening in the extreme, and made the position of some of our men almost unbearable.
One morning shortly after the events narrated above, we discovered the enemy building a breastworks of sand bags, at the head of a ravine in the edge of the fallen timber, about one hundred yards in our front. They kept under cover, but we could see the sand bags as they were thrown up and placed in position, one after another. Steadily the work went on all day. At nightfall, Major Pitman, then in command of the Regiment, called for thirty volunteers, to make a sortie and destroy their works. The storming party was composed mostly of commissioned officers. Not that there was a lack of volunteers from the ranks, but because the officers insisted on going Lieutenant McKinnon of Company E, was placed in command. About an hour after dark, in single file, and one at a time, we silently crossed the works and as silently advanced on the enemy’s position. When within about twenty yards, the order to charge was given. The surpise of the Yanks was complete. They never fired a shot but ran for dear life. After partially destroying their works, we returned with three prisoners. Later Major Pitman ordered me with a detail of about twenty men, to return and complete the destruction of their works. While doing this, we captured three more prisoners. One a First Lieutenant of the 25th Maine Infantry. They had hidden in the brush and came near by, and were accidently discovered on our return. By the time our work was completed, minie balls were whistling uncomfortably close, and we were glad to reach the shelter of our breastworks. In general orders issued later, General Gardner highly complimented Lieutenant McKennon and those under him.
Our rations at the beginning of the siege were far from being good or plentiful, with the exception of sugar and molasses; of these we had an abundance. We had only a scant supply of bacon, which was soon exhausted. Beef of very poor quality was issued with more or less irregularity for about thirty days. Flour or flour bread we had none. Corn meal made from badly weevil eaten corn was our staple of life. This becoming scarce, cow peas equally as badly weevil eaten, was ground with the corn, equal parts of each. This made a compound offensive alike to taste and smell. But for weeks it was our only bread. Sometimes our corn was issued in lieu of this meal and was much preferred by all of us. The corn we prepared by parching or boiling. After our beef was exhausted, horse and mule meat was issued with more or less regularity, during the remainder of the seige. The flesh of these animals was fairly good though coarse grained and very poor, as they subsisted upon such vegetation as was to be found inside our breastworks. This meat we usually boiled and put over live coals to barbecue. Wharf rats were plentiful and large, and numbers of the men killed and ate them. I tried one only. Well cooked, they might have done very well. Having no grease of any kind, we could only boil, broil, or harbecue our meat; parched corn or bits of parched bread was our substitute for coffee. With this diet, and the incessant round of dtities and watching, all grew more or less weak. Yet with all of these hardships, there were no words of complaint.
Our hope of relief at the beginning of the seige was not strong and grew less as the days passed by. Still we hoped and that helped us to bear cheerfully our hardships. With the surrender of Vicksburg, July the 4th all hope of success vanished. On the 8th of June terms of our surrender were agreed upon. Privates and noncommissioned officers to be parolled, and allowed to go home. All commissioned officers to be held as prisoners. Early on the morning of the 9th, the Confederate forces, ragged and dirty, were drawn up in line near the river bank, just south of the village of Port Hudson. After a wait of about an hour the Federal troops with General Banks and staff at their head, came in sight nearer our line. With music and fluttering flags they passed, regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, till many thousand had marched past our short line. After thousands had passed in review, a line was formed facing us when the order to ground arms was given and we were prisoners. A strong guard line, forming a semicircle with each end resting on the river confined us to an area of eight or ten acres.
On the following day, the work of making our paroles for the privates and noncommissioned officers was begun, and by the 13th all of them were on their way home except the sick and wounded in the hospital. The Arkansas troops were furnished transportation by boat to points up the river. Our battle flag, torn by shot and shell, was not surrendered, but was concealed by the color bearer, Mark Buchanan, and carried away. My old flag, that I had kept all this time, I gave to Sergeant Tom Parker, who concealed in his bosom, with instructions to carry it home and qive it to some member of my father’s family. He sickened and died on the way but a comrade and member of my company delivered it as requested. In the fervor and innocence of youth, when I received that flag from the hands of my Captain, I pledged myself to surrender, I freely confess that I did not feel like making the sacrifice of life to save my pledge. With that old flag were entwined memories of my old home, here first it’s folds were unfurled to the breeze. Memories of a sister and the very dear friend whose deft fingers had fashioned it’s stars and bars. Under it’s shadow had stood the dark eyed slender girl who had promised sometime to be my wife. Her hands had toyed with it’s folds. Fanned by the breeze it had kissed her cheeks, and drooped lovingly around her form. To me, that old flag was as dear as to a mother, the “laid away garments of her precious dead”.
After the departure of the paroled men, the officers were confined to about two or three acres of ground on the river bank, embracing a few old businesses housed, with a double line of guards, to prevent any possible chance of escape. On the morning of the 14th we were notified that the next day we would be put aboard steamers and started north for imprisonment on Johnson’s Island. From the day of our surrender, I had hoped to escape but so far no feasible plan had presented itself. Lieutenant Billy Wilson of Company E, and I had talked the matter over everyday and now that we had only about twelve hours in which to make the effort, we had well nigh abandoned hope. Later in the evening, after discussing various plans, we separated with the understanding that we would meet again a little later. We had reached an agreement that in the event of an escape singly, we would go to a certain cross roads, about the center of the grounds embraced in the fortifications.
After separating from Lieutenant Wilson ahout dusk, I strolled towards the lower end of our enclosure where were situated some of the old business houses above referred to. Some wagons had just been unloaded of commissary stores in one of these houses. The last one unloaded had just started out with the cover on, and the driver riding one of the four mules. Quickly running to the hind end of the the wagon, I got a glimpse of a pair of legs as they disappeared in the wagon. I lost no time in gettinq in, and put out my hand, it was now quite dark, to find out who it was who had preceded me. The first object my hand touched was man’s heavy beard, which I recognized as that of Captain Poyner, of Company E, a warm personal friend. Not a word was spoken. We rode only far enough to feel sure that we had passed both guard lines. Quietly crawling out we found ourselves perhaps fifty yards past the other guards and among hundreds of Federal soldiers who thronged the streets of the village.
In the darkness, our uniforms were not distinguishable from those around us. Passing and touching elbows with the men on the street, we took the road leading to the cross roads meeting place agreed upon by Lieutenant Wilson and myself, meeting and passing Federals all the way. We had some whispered talks as to our plans as we walked along. In order to appear natural and unconcerned, I attempted to whistle, but my mouth refused to perform. While we had but little hope of meeting Lieutenant Wilson, we went to, or near the cross roads to find it occupied for quite a distance around by the tents of the enemy. Changing our course, we soon found ourselves alone in a skirt of timbered land where we breathed a little more freely, and paused long enough to exchange views as to our situation, and the best way out of it. We felt sure that the Federals would have a line of guards on the breastworks and this we yet had to pass. Once beyond that line we would feel reasonably sure of our liberty. A short distance to the right of the position held by my regiment during the seige, our line of breastworks crossed a ravine, about fifty feet deep, and perhaps two hundred feet across, in posting our guards on the breastworks, we always placed a sentry on each side of this ravine and we reasoned that the Federals would likely place their sentries in like manner. Entering this ravine some distance from the breastworks we cautiously crept along till near enough to see the forms of the sentinels silhouetted against the sky on both sides. Objects down in the ravine were hardly discernable twenty feet away. Pulling off our shoes, we noiselessly crept closer patising every few feet to listen, and to look for a sentry who might be in our front. Finding the way clear we were soon beyond the breastworks and out in the heavy timber and brush where we paused long enough to congratulate otirselves on our lucky escape. In the timber it was very dark and in many places dense thickets of underbrush, cane and briers. Through many of these places we had to crawl on our hands and knees, making our progress very slow. About midnight we lay down for a short rest, but on account of mosquitoes it was very brief. Twice during the night we came upon calvalry outpost or pickets, but luckily discovered them in time to evade an alarm. A short while before day, we entered some fields and felt that in this open ground we would make better progress and soon be beyond the danger line.
With the first glimpse of dawn, we thought we had better seek the shelter of the timber on one side of the field. As we entered the edge of the woods, we discovered horses tied to bushes and trees, and groups of men lying around on their blankets. Hurriedly we made for the opposite side of the field about one half mile distant. Just before reaching the fence in a piece of swampy uncleared land, we passed a large beach tree that had recently been cut down, the limbs of which were covered with the long grey moss common in that part of the country. A moment later a troop of calvary came galloping along a road just outside of the fence. Hurriedly we sought the cover of the beach tree with it’s mantle of long grey moss. Ever since then I have had a kindly feeling for that product of Dixieland. We had barely gotten under cover when bugles sounded, followed by the beat of drum on both sides of the field.
To our dismay we realized that in the darkness we had lost our courses and had wandered back into the enemy’s camp. The sun seemingly rose in the west that morninq. Just over the fence about sixty yards away, seemed to be a public road and near it a watering place of some kind, where men with buckets and canteens came and went all day long. The passing of troops along the road and at the watering place was plainly visible, from our hiding place. Our anxiety was intense as we feared discovery and were not certain as to consenuences. As we had sought shelter in different parts of the tree we spoke not a word during the day as we feared to make the least noise, or change positions. Lack of food and water gave us but little concern, as the hours passed we began to take hope. When good dusk I crawled out of my hiding place and went around to where Captain Poyner had sought shelter to find his legs, from the knees down in plain view.
When quite dark we ventured out, cautiously picking our way near the center of the field, both sides of which were lighted up by camp fires. About a mile from our starting place we came to a lane and heard a squad of Infantry passing. Listening we found they were posting guards along the lane. Crawling up near fence we waited perhaps half an hour. For a time they walked their beats exchanging a few words when they met. Presently the walking ceased. One struck a match and lighted a pipe, another made a noise by bringing his gun to an order. By this means we located the position of the two sentries nearest us and some forty or fifty yards apart. With shoes in our hands we cautiously climbed the fence, crossed the road and the other fence without being discovered. While in the open ground with the north star to guide us it was easy to keep our direction, but we soon struck the timber where we encountered the same trouble experienced the night before, darkness and tangled thickets through which we had to crawl, with the added fear of again losing our direction. With the exception of a short rest about midnight we traveled all night. Just before daylight we heard chickens crowing in our front and a little to our left. Knowing the people of the country were in full sympathy with the cause of the South, we concluded to go to this house for information as to our whereabouts and to get something to eat. Approaching the house from the back side, we found a negro woman drawing water from a well in the yard. In answer to our questions, she said a Ooctor Mills lived there and that he was home. We requested her to tell him that we would like to see him, which she did. In a few minutes the Doctor came out when we explained our situation. He was a man about fifty years of age and of very pleasing address. He greeted us cordially and told us we were then just five and one fourth miles from Port Hudson, and just one quarter of a mile beyond the enemy’s Cavalry outposts which were plainly visible from the road in front of the house. We felt like traveling but the good doctor said there was no danger, and that we must stay for breakfast and that he would keep watch, and so we concluded to stay, but we kept a sharp lookout along that road. We sat down to a breakfast that morning, the like of which we had not seen for many a day. In fact, it was the first meal I had eaten in a private home for over twelve months. Before leaving, with the characteristic hospitality of the old time Southern Gentlemen, the doctor took out his pocket book and said, “If you gentlemen need money my purse is at your service”. With feelings of gratitude we bade him goodbye.
Following his directions across the country and avoiding all public roads, we were soon practically free from danger. About noon we met a Confederate Scout and felt safe and free once more. At a number of farm houses we met with the most cordial reception, with offers of food, fruit, melons, etc.
I will here state that my friend Lieutenant Wilson succeeded in getting away that niqht by getting in possession of part of a Federal uniform and impersonating a Federal Officer. In the same manner, Captain Cravens of my regiment also escaped. Eight other officers of my regiment succeeded in getting away before reaching prison, most of them by jumping overboard while going up the Mississippi River and swimming ashore, I recall now, the following: Lieutenant Kigh Backard, Captain Dan Boone of Company II, Lieutenant Billy Lawson, Company I. There were others whose names I cannot now remember. A Lieutenant Meadows of the 14th Arkansas lost his life by drowning in the attempt. After reaching a point of safety, some twenty five miles from Port Hudson, we turned our steps in the direction of home, some five or six hundred miles distant.
The next day we overtook Lieutenant J. H. Berry of my regiment, now U. S. Senator from Arkansas, who had lost a leg at Corinth, October 4, 1862, and had followed the regiment of Port Hudson. He spent most of the time with friends, some distance but in the country, where he remained during the siege. With him was a younger brother, Billy Berry, under sixteen years of age, who had been dischared from the service a short time before the beginning of the siege, but who voluntarily remained to take part in the defense of the place. Having his discharge papers he was permitted by the Federals to go at will. Lieutenant Berry had hired a one horse conveyance to carry him and his brother to a point on the Mississippi River, some seventy five miles distance, and above Port Hudson about the same distance. Glad of the company of our friends and of our lucky escape, we tramped cheerfully over the dusty roads. As a rule, the people on the way were very kind and seldom charged us for meals or lodgings. We crossed the Mississippi River at Old Fort Adams in a skiff and in sight of one of the enemy’s gunboats. Occasionally we could get conveyance for short distances, but we walked by far the greater part of the way. Of course we had to get conveyance for Lieutenant Berry all the way. At Little Rock, Arkansas we separated. Lieutenant Berry and his brother goinq up the river to Ozark where their father then resided.
Captain Poyner and I continuing our journey afoot, across the country. When within about 75 miles of home we had the good fortune to get horses from friends and rode the balance of the way. The condition of the country at this time was comparatively quiet, though it had been overrun a number of times by Federal Troops, and was yet subject to raiding parties from Missouri on the north and the mountain country lying to the South. We soon found that patrols were disregarded by Federal Soldiers, as was evidenced by a company of Federals from Missouri under the command of one Captain Jim Moore, who killed in cold blood several men of my Regiment. On the same raid they captured and killed my former Captain, E. G. Mitchell. The killing was brutally done, after he had surrendered and given up his arms, in the presence of this wife and child.
The killing of Mitchell occurred about day break; he having been surprised at his home on the morning of September the 27th, hurriedly a pursuing party was organized and started in pursuit. These men were poorly armed and short of ammunition but they were in a fighting mood. The pursued and the pursuing party, numbered about one hundred men each. About midnight of the following night, we came upon their camp, situated in some lots, enclosed by an old fashioned staked and ridered fence, in which were situated a number of log stable, cribs etc.
We dismounted about one half mile away and made the assault on foot. The enemy took shelter in and around the cribs and stable and after a sharp engagement, lasting perhaps ten or fifteen minutes the assaulting party were forced to retire, but not until their ammunition was practically exhausted. Many of the men had only four to six rounds. After the first fire everybody in the darkness acted according to his own impulse. Sanguine of Victory, I ran forward to the lot fence, reloading a double barrelled shot gun as I went. Just over the fence the forms of several Federal Soldiers rose up. I called our “Surrender”. The answer was a pistol ball fired through a crack in the fence, striking me in the left breast just below the nipple. Taking hold of the fence, I let myself down on the ground. The pain was not intense, as many would suppose, but a feeling of numbness followed that rendered me practically helpless, but without any impairment of mental faculties, so far as I can now recall. Several of my comrades came up in a few moments, to one of whom I gave my gun. Mr. Mose Holmes, a neighbor, offered to carry me to a place of safety, but feeling that my wound was mortal, I declined. Some of the boys threw down the lot fence near me and took out a number of the enemy’s horses. In a short time the firing ceased, and I knew we had been beaten. I could plainly hear the Federals talking. I now thought of my situation more intently perhaps, than I had done while the fighting was going on. Feeling of my wound, I found that the ball had ranged slightly down, coming out at my back about three inches to the left of the spinal column. I was bleeding freely at both places and I felt that I had but a short time to live. More than once, the thought occurred to me that perhaps this is a dream from which I will presently awaken. As well as I can now recall my feelings, after a lapse of over forty years, I had no fear or dread of death. My greatest regret was the thought that I would die alone, and none would ever know how I died. I thought of my belief on religous matters, having been an agnostic for a number of years, but felt not the slightest desire to change my views. I had absolutely no fear of the hereafter.
How long I lay there, with these and other thoughts passing rapidly through my mind, I have but little idea. Thoughts of the old home and the home folks with the grief I knew they would feel. Thoughts of inexpressible tenderness for the dark eyed girl that I so dearly loved. Remembering the brutality of these Federals, I had no desire to fall into their hands and I pondered some time before I decided to call for help. They were only a few steps away and their voices were plainly audible. Finally I called to them. No answer came to my call, but in a few minutes I heard the footsteps of a man approaching slowly and cautiously along the fence. When in a few feet he asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I told him my name and that I was badly wounded. Stepping a little nearer without a word he presented a pistol to my face and snapped it once or twice, but failed to fire. Realizing his intention, I begged him to spare my life. His only answer, as he unstrapped a carbine from his shoulder was, ” Oh yes, God Damn you”. I felt the force of one blow above my eyes. When I regained consciousness I was alone and all around was quiet. Again the thouqht came to me that I was dreaming, and that I would soon wake up. When fully aroused I found that my boots were gone and a sword belt that I prized very highly, as it once belonged to Lieutenant Rush of my company, who was killed or died of wounds received at Corinth, Mississippi.
The wounds about my head and hands, I had evidently thrown up my hands to ward off the blows, were far more painful than my gun shot wound. Expecting no mercy at the hands of these men, and hearing their voices again close by, I decided to attempt to crawl away. In my first effort I succeeded in going several steps, crawling on my hands and knees, when I fainted, recovering consciousness I repeated the effort several times, fainting after each attempt. How far I crawled, I have but little idea, probably not over fifty yards. In my last effort I came in contact with a wounded Confederate soldier named Harrison. He was suffering from a gun shot wound through the fleshy part of the thigh. We carried on a whispered conversation concerning our wounds, and our situation generally. At the same time, lying as close together as possible, “spooning” as the boys termed it, for the warmth we derived from each other’s bodies.
In the chill niqht air, with the loss of blood we were thoroughly chilled. How long we lay there, I now have but little idea, but think from one to two hours, finally we heard a number of men approaching through the brush talking in low tones. When within a few feet of us and realizing that discovery was certain, and being a master Mason, I uttered the words of distress, known to all members of the craft. In answer I heard one of the party say: “I know him. He is a gentleman”. There was kindness in the tone of his voice that my ears were quick to detect; that gave me some assurance of protection. Also recognized the voice as that of a man named Towne Hopper; a man I had known very well prior to the breaking out of the war, and who lived only a few miles from my father’s home. He was a Mason. With the care and tenderness of a brother he helped to carry us to a nearby house where he made a pallet of blankets, before and open fire place, built a fire to warm us, gave us water, and otherwise administered to our wants, so far as lay in his power. But for his influence we would doubtless have shared the same fate as the other unfortunate who had fallen into their hands the day previous.
Another factor in my favor was the belief that my wounds were mortal and that I could only live a short time. I overheard some of them say; “He won’t last much longer’ and such like expressions. While the lungs meant certain death, I rather wanted them to think I was sure to die, and managed to breathe a little harder, because I was not certain as to whether they would let me die of my present wounds, or as to the friendhip of my friend Hooper but I know there were men in the party who would not hesitate to commit any act of cruelty.
Just before daybreak the Federals left, leaving us with the woman of the house, who treated us with scant courtesy. Her husband was in the Federal Army. A little after daybreak a scout of Confederates galloped up to the house, among then my brother, William W. Bailey. After their repulse they had fallen back about a half mile where they remained till morning. I have often thought that my brother suffered more from mental anquish, that night, than I did from my bodily wounds. He was one of the assaulting party but only learned of my being wounded when they retired to their horses. The scout only remained a few minutes, leaving with the understanding that they would return as speedily as possible with conveyances and move us to our homes, about thirty miles distant. Some neighboring women, a Miss Goforth and a Miss Erwin came during the day and were very kind and attentive, staying all day and the following night with us.
About day break the next morning the clatter of horses hooves announced the return of the scout with conveyance for our removal. With them came two unexpected visitors in the persons of my sister and the dark eyed girl, who was dearer than all beside. Taking a seat by my pallet on the floor, she placed one hand in mine, and with the other smoothed back the tangled locks from my forehead, looking the love her lips need not speak. In her presence the desire to live grew strong, and I think aided materially in my recovery. No time was lost by my scout friends consisting of about one dozen men in placing us in a “carryall” drawn by a single horse, and starting on our return journey. The roads were very rough, and in places full of small boulders that made the ride a very painful one. But the presence of one dearly loved who was also the driver, enabled me to bear with fortitude and I think I may add, with a feeling of genuine pleasure, the long tedious ride that September day. With the exception of a few slight hemorrages, no ill effects from the ride resulted. My wounded comrade, Harrison, grew rapidly worse, and was left at a farm house on the way, where he died a day or two later. About sunset we reached my father’s home, much to the relief of all of us. A day or two later a severe hemorrage set in and the attending physician, a Dr. Robertson, told me I had only a short time to live. The announcement was something of a shock at first, as I had been feeling very hopeful, but I soon accepted, with a spirit of resignation what I thought was the inevitable. I mention this to show how readily we can adjust ourselves to the inevitable. Following that hemorrage of the lungs, I felt perfectly easy, and soon fell asleep; to awaken several hours later with the feeling that I was going to get well. From that time on, hemorrages grew less frequent and lighter, and at the end of thirty days, from the time I received my wounds, I was in the saddle; feeling none the worse from my experience, except that I had not fully regained my strength. During the time of my convalescence the paroled men of my command had captured Little Rock and established posts at various points on the Arkansas River, as far west at Fort Smith; making it very dangerous to pass their lines, with small force, such as I would have been able to get together. For this reason I remained inside the Federal lines till the following April. I frankly admit that I was not sorry that I had such reasons as my inclination to remain was very strong.
Shortly after my recovery, a company of about fifty men, mounted, was organized of which I was elected Captain. John Cecil, First Lieutenant and Fielding Wilburn, Second Lieutenant. Later, owing to the difficulty of obtaining supplies for that number of men we broke up into smaller bodies. There were a few Confederate Soldiers in the country; mostly members of independent commands from North Arkansas and Missouri. Most of these men preferred the free but more hazardous life of independent soldier and scout, to the more irksome duties of the regularly organized forces of the Confederate Army. As from a corporal’s guard to fifty or more. As a rule they were well mounted, superb horsemen and experts with pistols, their main reliance in action.
The character of warfare carried on along the border, quarter seldom being asked or given, developed a type of desperate fighters, equal to any of like character, the world ever produced. There was practically no attempt at discipline. Every man went and came at his own sweet will; but all obeyed with promptness the order of defensive purposes they selected for the particular object in view one or more commanders from among those best fitted to command. A decided majority of the people, of the northern tier of counties in Arkansas, were confederates or in sympathy with the Confederate cause. The mountain counties to the south were dominated by Union men, mostly deserters from the Confederate Army. The southern counties of Missouri were also strongly Union in sentiment. Thus situated, we were subject to numerous raiding parties from Missouri on the north, and the mountain country to the South. Most of these raids were made more for plunder, than to wage war on armed men. Horses and cattle were the booty mostly sought, but household goods, such as clothing, bedclothing and in fact, anything of value that could be carried off. As a result of these raids many were killed on both sides, among them quite a number of noncombatants, old men and boys in their teens. The first invasion by any considerable force in the latter part of sixty three was by a battalion of Calvary with one piece of artillery, commanded by a Major Worthington. This Battalion was a part of the First Arkansas Calvalry, made up in good part by deserters from the Confederate Army. We gave them such a warm reception that they were glad to escape under cover of darkness; leaving a number of dead and wounded, as well as their wagon train. In connection with this affair, I will state that in looking over the official records of the war, I find a report of this raid by Major Worthington, in which he states that he inflicted a heavy loss on the Confederates, when as a matter of fact we suffered no loss, either in killed or wounded. I mention this to show the unreliability of the reports of many officers.
About this time a party of raiders visited my father’s house one night. While in and about the house, my mother stepped out on a gallery in front of the house and rang a bell for the purpose of making them believe that a force of Confederates were near by, and that the ringing of the bell was a signal they would understand. One of the party, a man named Guy, well known to the family, kicked her off of the gallery from which she sustained injuries that confined her to her bed for some time. The ringing of the bell, however, had the desired effect as Confederates struck a fresh trail of Federal raiders which we could easily follow as the ground was soft from recent rains. From the freshness of their horses tracks we knew they were only a short distance ahead of us. Pressing forward, we found where they had fed their horses from a nearby cornfield. Here the raiders divided. Following the trail of one party we overtook them about a mile away where they had fed their horses. Following the trail of one party we overtook them about a mile away where they had killed and one taken prisoner. Among the killed was the man Guy who had so brutally assaulted my mother only a few days before. The one prisoner taken, fortunately for him, fell into my hands, as he would likely have been killed by any others of the party as he was unknown to them. I knew him well and believed him to be an honorable upright man, notwithstanding the fact that some of his companions were bad. His father’s family were warm personal friends of mine and near neighbors of my father. Two of his brothers were in the Southern Army.
To show that I was not mistaken in my estimate of the man, Crump was his name, I will relate the following incidents. With the prisoner we immediately returned to the field where they fed their horses and took up the trail of the other party. This trail we followed till darkness compelled us to abandon it. Knowing that a Union family lived some miles ahead, we pushed on to that place hopinq to find the party there. When within a quarter of a mile of the house we dismounted, tied our horses in the woods and approached the house on foot, the prisoner going with us. I required a pledge from him that he would not attempt to escape, and that if we got separated in the darkness he would report back where our horses were tied. We captured two Federals in the house, but not of the party we had been pursuing. Crump had not only the opportunity to escape in the darkness but could have taken one or more of our horses as they were left without a guard. The next day I gave him permission to go to his father’s home where he remained some two weeks. A few days later I took dinner with him at his father’s. While there we saw a drove of wild turkeys nearby. Giving him a pistol, which by the way was one of a pair I had taken from him when he surrendered, we went out together to try our luck at turkey shooting. He got two or three shots but missed. My first and only shot brought down a fine gobbler. I think that one shot, which was a very fine one but quite accidental, gave him some thirty miles towards Missouri where he was entirely out of danger, and bid him goodbye. I often heard of him and from him, and on several occasions exchanged shots with Federal scouts when he was one of the party, but I never saw him again. An amusing incident occured one day about this time while scouting throught the country. A Union family named Jones lived a few miles from my father’s with whom I was very well acquainted. Jones belonged to the Union army, and from some cause we had reasons for believing that he and a scout of Federal soldiers were hiding somewhere in the country, and we were very anxious to some up with them, Most of our party, about forty in number were dressed in Federal uniforms. As Mrs. Jones knew me very well, we conceived the idea of going to the Jones house, with myself as a prisoner, and the men in Federal uniform as my captors. The scheme was a success so far as deceiving Mrs. Jones was concerned. Her husband with a scout of Federals were in the country, but she was ignorant of their whereabouts at that time. Assuming as best I could the roll of a prisoner doomed to be speedily put to death, I asked her to intercede for me and say a word in my behalf, which she promised in half hearted way to do. The boys related to her gleefully the circumstances of my capture, and from her manner it was easy to see that she was delighted over the fact that I was a prisoner. While pretending a friendship for me in my presence, she gave the boys to understand that I was no saint and richly deserved the fate that she felt was in store for me. While at the house some of the boys made mention the fact that they had nothing to eat for the last twenty four hours, Mrs Jones most cheerfully went in the house and took from under a feather bed a great number of pies and cakes, distributed them among her supposed friends, forgetting to offer any to her prisoner. The play was now getting serious for me because I wanted some of those pies and cakes and wanted them bad, but I was playing prisoner and couldn’t say a word. Finally some of the boys suggested giving the prisoner something to eat, but this raised a storm of protest from some of them, who said it to be a waste of victuals and let the damned rebel go hungry. Finally the prisoner got his share and we rode away. I learned afterwards, that Mrs. Jones, as soon as we left, hurried over to the neighbors houe, friends of mine, to tell the news of my capture; when she learned to her great discomfort that she had given her pies and cakes to the hated rebels. If the good Saint Peter requires for all the wrongs done us in this world as a condition precedent to entering in at the “pearly gates” I am afraid that Mrs. Jones will never enter there.
The winter of 1863 was noted for the extremely cold weather and the amount of snow that fell. As we seldom dared to sleep in houses, one might think that we suffered from cold; but such was not the case. As a rule we were very well clothed and most every man had two or more army blankets, captured from the Federals. By two or more sleeping together we were usually quite comfortable. Our time was spent in scouting more or less during the day, often till long after dark. Sometimes on the hunt of an enemty, but very often to evade him. When we wished to stop for the night, we usually selected some secluded spot in the woods, first supplying ourselves with feed for our horses from some field or corn crib, where we would build a fire in a ravine or some depression in the ground, from which the light of our campfire could be seen only a short distance away. When the enemy was in force and we knew they were nearby we always left our campfires and slept elsewhere. We seldom kept guard, but all lay down to sleep with horses tied close by. We soon found that our horses could detect the approach of any unusual object in the darkness and at much greater distance and more quickly than we were able to do. In various ways they gave warnings of any unusual happenings. A slight snort, uneasy movements or a listening attitude always called for investigation. From incessant watching both day and night, it took but a slight noise to arouse us from sleep. When morning came, we would usually go to some nearby farm house for breakfast, and always felt sure of welcome. If quite a number were in the party, we would divide and go to different places; to meet again at some designated point. On many occasions we went hungry, sometimes missing several meals in succession. To feed and groom our horses was our first great care, as our lives often depended on their speed and endurance. That we became very much attached to our horses, under the circumstances, was natural. Had it been necessary, we would cheerfully have gone hungry to feed them. Knowing the country however, and the people as we did, we usually had but little trouble in getting something to eat ourselves and horses. I was the owner of a dark gray horse, one I had captured from a Federal in the early part of the winter, that I named ” Wild Bill”. He was of medium size, fleet of foot, a splendid saddle horse and endowed with wonderful powers of endurance. To say that I became attached strongly to Wild Bill is but a mild expression of my feelings toward him. And I somehow felt that he had in a limited degree at least, a fondness for me. But for his speed and endurance, on several occasions, this story would not have been written.
In the latter part of 1864, while serving with the infantry, I sold him, and the last time I saw him he was doing service, in the field artillery in southern Arkansas. Notwithstanding the intervening forty years, between then and now, there is yet a warm place in my heart for Wild Bill. In after years, when I was the owner of a well filled barn, I often thought what a pleasure it would be to feed and care for my faithful horse in it’s old age. Reverting back to the severity of the winter, and the danger of sleeping in houses, I will relate the following incident. In the early part of January 1864 some of the boys had arranged for a dance one night at a neighboring house, a few miles from my father’s home. There were a dozen boys and about an equal number of girls present. The snow was ten or twelve inches deep and the night was bitterly cold. After spending some time with them, I concluded to go home and spend the remainder of the night with home folks. All had retired for the night sometime before my arrival. Tying my horse out some distance from the house, I went in and lay down on a pallet before the fire and was soon sound asleep. Suddenly the tramp of feet, going around the house in the dry powdery snow awoke me. Listening a moment, I felt sure the house was being surrounded by Federals. Feeling that I had been caught like a rat in a trap, and believing that death was a penalty, I leave to the reader to imagine my feelings. The noise had awakened all the family, and had made up their minds to the same thing, but all kept very quiet. Cautiously pulling the door ajar, I saw to my inexpressionable relief cattle instead of soldiers. A gate in front of the house had in some way been opened, and the cattle came, some going one way and the rest going another way around the house. I think that was the worst scare I had during the four years of war. For sometimes after that I preferred the deep shadows of the woods to the shelter of a house, regardless of the weather. A house was liable to be surrounded or be waylaid at any time, and many lives were lost in that way, by parties returning home for the night. During the fall and early winter, I had an almost constant companion, Fillie Berry, referred to heretofore as having been discharged at Port Hudson, on account of being under sixteen years of age. He was far above the average in intelligence and was a most companionable youth. For sometime we had shared the same rations and slept under the same blanket. He was brave, generous and true and I was very fond of him, and he was devotedly attached to me. With a company of about fifty men, under a captain named Cecil, we were scouting in the mountains south of us, on the hunt of Federals, who frequently made jayhawking raids through the Crooked Creek Valley. I was in command of the advance guard, of seven or eight men, when late in the evening of the first day, a Federal, well mounted and well armed, showed himself in the road about one hundred and fifty yards in advance, waving a pistol over his head. We immediately gave chase. After a run of about one mile, Wild Bill was close enough for me to take a shot, when the Federal threw up his hand and called out that he would surrender. Some of the boys wanted to kill him, and I had to threaten to shoot one fellow, whose mother’s house had been robbed by the prisoner, in order to save him from instant death. With us at the time was a brother of the captured man. Thus it happened that brothers met on opposing sides. In the afternoon of the second day as we were advancing up a valley, a Federal mounted on a gray horse came to meet us. When within about one hundred yards he wheeled and put spurs to his horse. We gave chase, and when after a short run, he quit the road and led us along the foot of a very steep ruqged hill, heavily timbered. We were gradually lessening the distance hetween us, when to our left and a little to the front, not over fifty yards away, we saw a company of dismounted men, twenty one in number, waiting to receive us. There were only seven of us in the pursuing party, but every man reined his horse’s head in the direction of the enemy and opened fire, which was promptly returned. Bullets from the rifles of these mountain men flew thick and close. My young friend, Berry, who sat on his horse only a few feet away, called to me, saying he was shot, and asked me to take him from his horse. Dismounting, I took him in my arms and laid him down behind a tree. Rolling over he continued firing at the enemy, who were now retreating. By this time the welcome sound of horses’ feet told us that our friends were coming. Owing to the steepness of the hill and the rough nature of the ground, most of the Federals escaped. Four were killed and one taken prisoner. Most of their arms, and all their horses, twenty one in number, were captured. Returning from the chase, I found my young friend lying where I had left him. Bending over him to change his position, he put his arms around my meck, and looking up into my face said, “I love you.” Words were inadequate to express my feelings at that moment.
And after these long years the memory of that incident touches my heart with the deepest emotion. Knowing that the end was near, yet he uttered no word of complaint, and scarcely a groan excaped his lips. He met the last enemy, death, like he had met the enemy of his country, bravely and fearlessly. Amoung the hills of northern Arkansas, in the Crooked Creek Valley, the “boy soldier” is sleeping his manhood away. But his memory will ever be dear to me.
As an evidence of the close shooting of these mountain men, I will state that in addition to the wound received by my young friend, his horse was also shot and a ball passed through the coat tied behind his saddle.
My brother, Lewis Washington Bailey,(father of Alice Jane Bailey Ethridge, mother of Lois Marie Ethridge Farris Brady, mother of Barbara Jo Farris Cunningham) who was one of the party, had his horse severely wounded, and three separate balls pierced his clothing. Others of the party had marks of bullets through their clothing. The names of the men not mentioned who were in the advance guard on this occasion, were Ren Adair, James Parker, Irvin Beller, and Guinn Deering. About the 20th of January 1864, a strong force of Federal Calvary, three regiments, with artillery swept down through the Crooked Creek Valley, and established camps at Marshall’s Prairie, in the eastern part of Carroll County. A small party of Confederates, twelve in number concluded that we would reconnoiter their camps, and at least exchange a few shots with them. We were well mounted and well armed, and felt a qood deal of confidence in ourselves. As we neared their camp, we were joined by a man named Gibson, and his son, probably eighteen years of age. They were armed and well mounted, and were evidently going to join the Federals but at the time we had no suspicion as to their intentions. As we drew nearer the enemy’s camp now about a mile away, Gibson and his son still with us, we were suddenly confronted by a scout of federals 75 or 100 strong. We got the exchange of shots allright and in addition, a three mile run for dear life, with the enemy in hot pursuit. After a run of perhaps a mile the elder Gibson halted, evidently to surrender, but was killed at once.
A few days later the young man joined the Federals. My brother, Lewis W. Bailey, received a slight wound in the shoulder, and all of us got such a scare that we didn’t go on a jaunt for the enemy, without taking some thought as to numbers. From this camp the Federals sent out scouts in all directions, and in such force that our only safety lay in keeping out of the way, or in flight if come up with, as we could not hope to win against such odds. Another factor against us was the fact that if man or horse was disabled, death was almost certain as very few prisoners were taken.
After occupying this camp at Marshall’s Prairie for sometime, they moved to Bellefont and later to Klepper Mill on Crooked Creek, about three miles from my father’s home. Led by Union men who lived in the country, and who knew every path as well as we did, they scouted over every hill and valley, woodland and mountain, till one place was no more secure than another. For over two months, we seldom missed hearing their morning bugle call, and scarcely a day passed that we were not in sight of some scouting party. The trails of their scouting parties were to be found in every direction. We could easily tell the trail of a Federal scout from that of a Confederate. Usually their horses were larger than ours and the size of the tracks was one sign, but the sign we relied on mainly, was the eight nails in the horse shoe, where we used only six nails. For weeks this scouting was kept up till most of the Confederates were either killed or driven out of this country. A full record of all the events that happened in the Crooked Creek Valley, and adjacent country, during the months of January, February, March, and April in 1864 would fill many volumes.
There were many acts of cruelty. Sick and wounded men were dragged out of their beds and brutally murdered in the presence of their families. House burning was almost a daily occurence. It was not an unusual sight to see from some elevated localities at the same time. During the latter part of the winter and early spring, probably half the houses in Crooked Creek Valley were burned and their occupants, mostly women and children, driven to seek shelter elsewhere often in stables in cribs and rail pens, hastily constructed by the women and larger children as a partial protection from the inclemency of the weather. Thus the greatest hardships of the war fell upon old age, women and children. That the enemy paid in human life a heavy toll is evidenced by the numerous graves, scattered over a wide expanse of country where sleep men who wore the blue.
Some time in the early part of the winter a party of six Confederates discovered a Federal scout of probably 100 men, with about a dozen men, foraging at a neighbor’s house. Knowing the route that they would take on their return to camps, we took a favorable position on the road, with the view of firing on them from ambush. We had been in position a short time when we saw two officers of the command, galloping leisurely along the road, some distance in advance of the main body. We let them pass quickly then mounted our horses, that were tied a short distance in our rear, and by taking a short cut through the woods rode into the road a short distance behind them. They were still riding in a gallop and never discovered uir presence till we were in thirty steps or less. To our summons to halt or surrender, they cast one glance behind them and put spurs to their horse. In the first fire one man and horse went down. The other rode perhaps fifty yards when a bullet from my pistol, not over three feet from the finder brought him to the ground. I secured his arms, a very fine Remington pistol and a new hat, richly adorned with ostrich plumes which I felt was quite a feather in my cap. By this time, the advance guard of the enemy was in sight and we beat a hasty retreat. They gave no pursuit, but loaded their dead on their wagons and went their way. One of the men killed was named Cross, a lieutenant in the quartermaster’s department. The other was a first lieutenant in Company — Second Arkansas Calvary, and named Kelly.
Only a few days prior to this affair, this man Kelly had in a boastful way said to my sweetheart, Miss Baines, whose home was near by, “We will get your Rebel Captain some of these days and put his head on a pole.” Such is the fortune of war. He fell at the hands of the man whose head he threatened to put on a pole.
My sweetheart’s home was in a very public place, and only five miles from the enemy’s camp, and their scouts were passing and repassing every day. Notwithstanding the danger, I made numerous calls sometimes at night, and often in the day always keeping a sharp lookout for the enemy. A few days after the incident narrated above, I concluded to call early one morning. In company with seven others we spent the niqht previous, within a couple of miles of her father’s home, so leaving the boys where we had spent the night, I rode off alone, with one understanding that I would return in a short time. I found my sweetheart at a neighbor’s house, about a mile away from home. For greater security, we walked out along an unfrequented road about hundred yards from the house, and took a seat on a fallen tree, and were quietly talking of the many interests to us; blissfully forgetting for the time being the dreadful state of affairs fly which we were surrounded.
We had been seated but a few minutes when something attracted the attention of my horse. Looking in the direction indicated, the woods looked blue with Federal Calvary, about seventy yards away, riding staight toward us. For a moment I think I stood perfectly still paralyzed with fear. “Run, run” from the lips of the girl by my side, broke the spell. Amid a shower of bullets, the danger which was shared equally by my sweetheart, I mounted my horse and race for life began. My horse was more or less jaded from recent hard riding and I soon found that a number of them were gaining on me. Once my horse ran against a sapling in the thick woods that brought him nearly to a standstill and a moment later, an overhanging limb nearly unhorsed me. I had ridden perhaps a quarter of a mile, not fully recovered from my fright, with the formost of my pursurers not over thirty yards behind and shooting at every jump, when for the first time I thought of my arms. Turning in my saddle I fired twice. The report of my pistol restored confidence and made me feel equal to any emergency. Looking back after my two shots I saw that the enemy had halted and that a horse with an empty saddle was running away at full speed. Believing that I had wounded one of their men I felt jubilant. As I learned later I had wounded the leader, a man named Watkins, in the shoulder and knocked him from his horse. About a mile away, I met my friends, who had heard the firing and suspecting that I was in trouble, were coming to my assistance. After the Federals had given up the pursuit, they returned to the house and taunted my sweetheart with statements to the effect that they had killed her lover. Crump, the man whom I had once befriended and captured told her the truth. Miss Baines had picked up one of my gloves that I had dropped in mounting my horse. One of the soldiers, more brutal than the others, snatched it from her.
In the run I lost my fine feathered hat, and for several days after, my only headgear was a bandana handkerchief, worn turban fashion. A week or so later passing over the same ground, I found my hat, where I had lost it in the thick brush, but mice, or something of that sort had cut off all the fine feathers.
The Federals soon took up our trail, burning the house nearest the place where we had camped the previous night. The ground being very soft from recent melted snow, our trail was easily followed, as we made no attempt to conceal it, as we often did by scattering and coming together again at some designated point.
The following night which was a very stormy one, we camped within a quarter of a mile of each other, neither party being aware of the other. Early the next morning some of the boys rode to the nearest house, about a quarter of a mile away to get breakfast, and found the enemy in possession of the house and premises. After feeding our horses and getting breakfast at a place some two miles away, we leisurely traveled through the neighborhood, making circuit of three or four miles, returning to the road traveled an hour earlier. Finding that they had not passed in pursuit, we concluded they had given up the hunt.
Anxious to learn something of their whereabouts, we took the back trail over the road we had traveled earlier in the day. We had ridden but a short distance when we saw them coming around a short turn in the road about seventy five yards away. We saw them first and got the first fire, which they promptly returned, but showed no disposition to retreat. After a short run we halted and gave them another round. Again they halted, notwithstanding they out numbered us eight or ten to our one. A running fight of a mile or more ensued, in which one of our party, Jack Thomas, a splended soldier was killed. A short time after this occurence a party of Federal raiders from the mountains to the south made a jayhawking raid through the Crooked Creek Valley one moonlight night; robbing a number of homes, returning booty laden, to their homes in the mountains. This occured in the early part of the night and it so happened that two or three small parties of Confederates, numbering all told ahout twenty five men, were nearby. Word was quickly passed around and we were on the move, the main body under Captain Cecil going up a valley, where other Union men lived; with hiqh steep rugged hills on either side. By this time it was broad daylight. After going a short distance, we discovered two federals on top of one hill to our right. Both were a foot, but one was leading a horse. They were three or four hundred yards away and we saw that they had not discovered us. Riding close up to the foot of the hill and out of their sight, we began the ascent along a narrow winding trail, riding single file. I was in front and we neared the crest of the hill, suddenly from behind a big tree, not over thirty feet away, a man leveled a double barrel shot gun, calling out, “Who are you?” “Surrender” was the answer, as his gun came in range with my body, I dropped by the side of my horse, and the charge passed harmlessly over. The man who fired attempted to mount his horse which took fright and started to run off with the man holding to the bridle and horn of the saddle, and making desperate attempts to mount. In a short distance I came up with him. He had given me such a close call I fully intended to kill and ignore any offer of surrender. Just as I was in the act of firing and only a few feet away, he let his horse go and called out, “I’ll surrender.” The words and the report of my pistol were almost simultaneous. He turned and fell full length on his face. I believed I had given him a death wound, but I fully intended shooting him again, but a cap caught in the cylinder of my pistol and it would not revolve.
I think he must have divined my intention, as he suddenly sprang to his feet and made a wild run down a steep rugged hill, falling two or three times over logs and brush. I easily kept near him, still trying to remove the cap but feeling sure of my man, and still resolved to kill him. Finally he fell over a fallen tree and seemed unable to rise. Turning his face toward me, he beqged me not to kill him. With that appeal for mercy, all desire to kill vanished. Raising partly up, he supplemented this appeal with the statement that his wife had died recently, leaving five helpless children depending on him for a home and support. On my assurance that he should suffer no further harm, he staggered to his feet and held out his hands, the tears streaming down his face. I took the proferred hand and freely confess that in spite of my greatest effort, sympathetic tears streamed down my cheeks. Such is the fickleness of the human heart. One moment ready to commit murder and the next melting with tenderness. His wound, though serious, proved not to be fatal, and I rejoiced later when I learned of his recovery. I have never thought of this incident without feeling greatful for the part played by the cap in the cylinder of my pistol. This man’s companion, who was with him behind the tree, threw down his gun and ran, jumping off a bluff near by, crossing a ravine and starting up a hill on the other side, was shot down and killed by two of the boys as they sat on their horses on the edge of the bluff.
Returning to the main body, we found that they had surprised and captured a party of six of the previous night’s raiders. These men had in their possession when captured, a part of the booty taken on their raid, consisting mainly of the bed clothing and wearing apparel. There was an unwritten law among these independent commands, that prisoners when taken were disposed as their captors saw fit. The captors of these men meant to kill all of them I had no doubt. Several miles away on the return trip a halt was made and the word passed around that the execution of the prisoners was soon to take place. Among the prisoners was a man named Blackwell, of whom I knew something as to his general reputation, which had been considered good. I felt sure that this was the first time that he had even engaged in jayhawking. He was a man of family and of about forty years of age. He was also a master mason. There were only two masons in that party besides myself and the question with us was, how can we save the life of this man. We discussed the matter among ourselves, and resolved to make the effort. A special quard had been selected by the captain from among the most desperate men in the company, one for each prisoner. With my two associates, we rode up to the captain just as they were reactsy to resume the march and said, “We will take this man”. Our intentions seemed to be understood and they further understood that this action on our part was because this was a mason. A storm of protest was raised by men who declared masonry would not save them and for a time the result seemed in doubt. But we took our man and started back on the way we had come, leaving the others sitting on their horses. We had gone perhaps half a mile with our prisoner, when a volley of small arms in the direction from which we had come told the fate of five men. Reaching a point in the woods where we felt our man would be safe, we bid him goodby. Returning along the road a short distance beyond where we had left the company, we saw lying on the roadside, five prisoners, just as they had fallen shot from their horses. I have always regretted that I did not make an effort to save the lives of these men. While to have done so would likely have resulted in the execution of six instead of five, but I would have felt better had I made the effort. With the advent of spring, 1864, provisions for the people as well as for horses were well nigh exhausted.
Luxuries, such as sugar, coffee, and tea were unknown even on the tables of the most fortunate. The plainest of food was only to be had and many families were destitute and dependent on their fortunate neighbor for bread. The Federal troops stationed in the country drew their food and supplies from the homes of the Confederates and Southern sympathizers, and as a result the corn cribs and smoke houses of our friends were empty. Only hiding as best they could the remnants of their supplies, were they able to save anythinq in the way of provisions or feed. Under these circumstances to feed our horses, or even accept food for ourselves, made us feel that we were taking bread from the mouths of women and children. Yet we knew that we were welcome to the best our friends were able to give us. The Southern woman would, if it had been necessary, have crawled on their hands and knees, day or niqht, to supply our needs. Our struggle to regain and hold control of the country against the odds that confronted us, was utterly hopeless. Taking this view of the situation, a party of us, twelve in number, decided to make our way through the Federal lines on the Arkansas River, and join the Confederate forces further south. The Federal force at this time in the country consisted on one reqiment, the second Arkansas Calvary, commanded by John Phelps, was stationed at the Klepper Mill, in the heart of the Crooked Creek Valley. For some time past the officers of this regiment, had been threatening to banish Miss Baines or send her to prison, giving as a reason that she had on several occasions conveyed news to the Confederates, and had in various ways been conspicious of her disloyalty to the Union cause. Fearing that they would put their threats in to execution we decided to marry so that it became necessary for her to leave Confederate lines. Many would think our conclusions were foolish, under the circumstances, very foolish, as neither of us had any worldly possessions. But we had youth and health, and a great store of love and hope, besides which the double wealth pales into insignificance.
Having made all necessary arrangements with my friends for our departure south on the morning of the fourth of April and also having arranged with my sweetheart to meet me at the house of a friend, on the morning of the third, we proceded to the house of a justice of peace, under the Confederate States Government accompanied by three friends. The Justice of Peace was named Adair and his home was situated in a small field about three miles from the Federal camp. Throwing the fence down near the house and also at the back of the field, we could pass out either way, in the event that Federals would appear on the scene. We dismounted and went into the house where the old squire, as briefly as possible, said the words that entitled me to say wife instead of sweetheart. Remounting our horses, we rode back to the house from which we started, leaving the old squire and his family putting up the fence and destroying the tracks of our horses. Had the horse tracks about the house been found by the Federals, it could have meant the burning of his home. In less than an hour after our departure, a Federal scout was at the house.
The next morning only five of our friends showed up at the place of meeting so after a short wait, we decided to wait another day for the other parties. In order to give our horses a days needed rest, we decided to spend the day in a unfrequented piece of woods not far from my father’s old home. Most of the houses had been burned in that part of the country and as very few people lived near, we thought that there was less danger from scouting parties at that point. A public road lay about a half of a mile away and a creek between us and the road. In the afternoon a couple of us went to the creek to water our horses. While there we saw a scout of twelve Federals with two wagons going toward the Federal camp about three miles distance. Hurrying back to our friends we decided that we could not let an opportunity like this pass. Taking the road behind them we overtook them about half way to their camp. I think we were in thirty steps of them before they discovered us. Four of them were riding behind the wagons, the rest in front. Riding behind the hindmost men were two women. At the first shot the women let all holds go and tumbled to the ground. Of the four riding behind two were captured and two were killed. One captured was mortally wounded and died the next day. The other fell in my hands. Relieving him of this arms, I told him to care for his wounded comrade. He fully expected to be killed and the reader can imagine how grateful he looked when told that he was at liberty to go. The Federals were so badly frightened that they failed to fire a single shot.
Being so near their camps we knew they would hear the firing and would have scouts on our trail in a few minutes, so we separated, going in pairs, to meet again the next morning. Before the set of sun, my companions were near and in sight of two scouting parties. At daybreak the morning of the fifth, T bid my wife goodbye. Going to the meeting place agreed upon, my friends, eleven in number, were all present. Sorrowfully we turned our faces to the south, leaving our friends and loved ones to the mercy of our enemy, who had sown but little of that amiable quality in the past, and we had no reason to hope for improvement in the future. Our trip across the Boston Mountains and through the Federal lines on the Arkansas River was uneventful for those times. We barely missed two scouting parties on the river and near by, but came in contact with none. After a ride of five days we were inside the Confederate lines where we could lie down at night with a sense of security, a feeling to which we had been strangers for months. After a few days rest I reported to my command at Camden, Arkansas, two days after the battle of Jenkins Ferry. My old regiment, the sixteenth Arkansas Infantry, had been consolidated with other Arkansas regiments. I was immediately put in charge of a detail of six men, with thirty of forty head of horses belonging to dismounted men of the command, with orders to proceed to Southern Arkansas or Eastern Texas, and sell for the benefit of the owners. This duty performed I reported back to my regiment at Camden. Under reorganization of the command, I was assigned to duty as first lieutenant of the fourth company, first consolidated regiment company, Colonel Cravens in command. My Captain was J. B. Cloud of my old regiment. For some time we remained in the vicinity of Camden; later moving to Monticello some fifty miles east, where we spent the remainder of the summer. The latter part of September, as well as I remember, while at Monticello, I received orders to proceed to North Arkansas for the purpose of recruiting for my company and regiment. This order was very gratifying to me, as I had grown somewhat weary of the monotony of camp life, and longed for the more exciting life that I knew awaited me on the border. General Price was just then starting on his famous raid in Missouri.
Joining Colonel Harrell’s Battalion of General Cabbell’s Brigade, among whom I had many friends, I proceeded with them to Clinton, in Van Buren County. I was with the command of the advance guard one day but we encountered no Federals that day. From near Clinton, with two men we crossed the Boston Mountains, then infested and partially controlled by Federals who ranged over the country in small fields along the creek bottom. In one of these fields we saw a man in Federal uniform gathering apples from a tree on the opposite side of tlie field, and near a creek that ran just outside the fence. The fence being low, we jumped our horses over it, hoping to capture him, in order to get any information regarding any scout that might be near. As we entered the field he discovered us. Throwing the apples down he jumped the fence and was across the creek by the time I reached the fence. I could see only his head and shoulders as he ran through some willow bushes, forty or fifty yards away. Dismounting, I took deliberate aim, firing only one shot. I could see nothing more of him, and told my companions that I believed that I had killed him. Throwing the fence down, they rode cross the creek, and found him lying on his face dead, with a bullet hole in the back of his head. I had no desire to see him and did not go over. Quickening our gate, we rode three or four miles, passing several houses before making a statement of the occurrence. Riding up to a house near the road, a young woman apparently twenty years of age answered our call. To her we told the circumstance of the killing and described the place where the body lay, little dreaming that she was the wife of the unfortunate one. The facts as we learned later were, that her husband with three or four other Federal Infantrymen were on their way home from one of the Federal posts on the Arkansas River and had stopped nearby to rest, when this man went to get some apples with the above result, as stated above. According to the rules of war, I was justified in what I did, but the facts as developed later made it a source of deep reqret. Perhaps the thought of another young wife made me regret it more deeply. I afterwards learned that his companions witnessed it from a nearby hill.
The following day we reached our home in the Crippled Creek Valley. The federal Troops were stationed in the valley when I went away, left in the early part of the summer, but the country was still subject to raiding parties, from the north and south as formerly stated. There was still a remnant in the country of the southern men who had remained during all the servituded of heartless cruel struggle. Many had been killed in the unequal contest. Old stone chimneys greeted us on every hand, silent monuments of once happy homes. Here and there a family living in some stable, crib or some old cabin, not deemed worthy of the torch. The ones nearest and dearest to me I found in good health and cheerfully hopefully bearing their hardships and privations. The Federals I left in the spring had treated my wife with some degree of kindness, due in part likely, to the fact that I had set at liberty the two prisoners I captured before going away. I found my father’s family still living on the old home place, in an old log cabin, that had long been used as a corn crib. Partisan warfare was still being waged with more heartless cruelty than ever.
The following incident will serve to show something of the intense bitterness of the struggle for supremacy and revenge. Two brothers named Atchley, lived near the boundary line between Carroll and Newton Counties. Each had a wife and a family of small children. Their sympathies were with the south but they were taking no active part in the fierce struggle; preferring to keep out of harm’s way and care for their families as best they could. They were noted as men of that quiet gentle disposition who would suffer wrong rather than have trouble. They were surprised and captured at their homes and taken captive by Federals and brutally murdered in the presence of their wives and children. No appeal on the part of their wives could touch the hearts of these men.
These same men, sometime before this had dragged a young man named Byson from a sick bed, from which he was unable to move, out in the yard and killed him in the presence of his mother and other members of his family. The first of these incidents occured only a few days before my arrival home. The morning of the day on which I reached home, a party of Confederates, nine in number all well known to me, started afoot into the section of the country where these Federals lived. On their way they passed the homes of these Atchley men, and heard from the lips of the bereaved widows the pitiful story of the murder of their husbands, and looked into the mute strange look of the children. Can it be wondered that deep in their hearts was planted a desire for revenge. In this party of nine was a father and a brother, a boy in his teens, of the young man Tyson, who had been brutally murdered as related above. Leaving the home of the Atchleys, this party made their way through the woods, evading all roads to prevent any discovery to the neighborhood of these Federals. Late in the evening of the second day out, from a high point looking over the valley below, they discovered a party of nine Federals, killing and dressing a beef at a house in the valley. Keeping their presence concealed, they gradually drew nearer, keeping a close watch on every movement of the enemy. Observing that they turned their horses loose in a small pasture near the house, the Confederates rightly guessed that they intended to spend that night at the house. In the early dusk of the evening the Confedrates drew near not losing sight of the enemy for one moment. Shortly after dark they saw them take their blankets and make their beds about one hundred yards from the house, in a peach orchard, and near a fence on the bank of a creek. In the dim starlight they were not able to tell whether the entire party went to the orchard so they detailed two men to take position near the house and await results. Waiting a short time for all to get quiet, the remaining seven crept single file along the outside of the fence, till opposite their unsuspecting foes. Here they waited for a short time and could plainly hear the conversation carried on by Federals who were yet awake. They commented on the brightness of the stars and the great number of them. Finally all grew quiet, when the Confederates noiselessly crossed the fence and at a distance of only a few yards, delivered such a well directed volley that only one of the party succeeded in getting to his feet, and he was promptly felled by a clubed gun. Seven men lay in a heap, most of them just as they were lying when fired upon. To make sure in the darkness that none should escape pocket knives were brouqht into use and a juglar vein severed. Doubtly the memory of a sick boy dragged from his bed to be murdered in the presence of his mother, whose prayers for mercy were unheeded, coupled with the pitiful story of the two widows the day previous, kindled in the hearts of these men that desire vengeance that blood alone could appease. The two guards at the house, after the firing in the orchard, seeing no one attempting to escape hastened to the aid of their friends in the orchard, leaving the house unguarded from which two Federals made their escape. The next morning after their return, I saw these men with their horses, arms and bloody blankets of the slain, who confirmed in every detail, the story as related as above. Incidentally, I will state that one of the men who participated in this affair, which was called the peach orchard scrap was afterwards a member of congress, for several terms from that congressional district.
The most frequent and persistent raiders of the Crooked Creek Valley came from the border counties of Missouri on the north. Led by Union men and deserters from the Confederate Army who had refuged from Carroll and adjoining counties, who knew the country and the people, it was an easy matter for them from their places of comparative security to make raids through the valley, kill, rob, burn houses and drive off cattle and horses. Shortly after my return a party of us, fifteen strong, resolved a retailatory raid. The settlement we wished to strike was on the James River about seventy five miles distant. Starting one morning we rode the first fifty miles by dark, through a section of country practically deserted. The night and the followina day we spent on White River, where we found a deserted field of corn, from which we fed our horses. Near night fall we resumed our march, arriving near the Union settlement a little after midnight. Tying our horses, we lay down in a clod drizzling rain for a short rest. With the break of day we were on the move. We knew a company of Federals too strong for us to cope with was stationed five miles distant above us, so we struck the settlement nearby, hoping to find some of the men at their homes. In this we were only partially successful, finding two men only, one of whom was killed, the other escaping. We captured several head of horses. We expected pursuit as our trail could be easily followed on account of the soft condition of the ground. But none was made. The most noted raider and houseburner from that section, and the most brutal was Captain Jim Moore. The same party into whose hands I had fallen when wounded. His home was on Crane Creek between Cassville and Springfield, Missouri. In his houseburning and murderous raids through Carroll County, he claimed to be acting under orders from the general in command of that department, General Conby, I believe. His statements were probably true as we then understood such orders had been given. Regardless of his orders, or his duty as a soldier may have been, we felt a strong desire that he should be made to suffer, for the wholesale burning of our homes in Crooked Creek Valley.
With this object in view and in the hope that we might surprise him or some of his men, we organized a scout of fifteen men for the raid. Camping the first night on our way some twenty miles, at a farm house on Sugar Loaf Creek. Shortly after dark, we received word that Federal scouts had gone into camp at the next house about a mile distant. Their number was estimated at two hundred. We concluded to give them a round or two. Leaving about half of the number with our horses, half mile distant from our camp, we proceeded on foot. Coming to a small field on the opposite from which we were camped, we discovered that they had turned their horses loose in the field. We immediately conceived the idea of capturing some horses.
We halted for a few moments in a few steps of the fence for consultation where we could see the horses. The moon being an hour or two high, some of the party suggested that we wait until the moon went down. Others more impulsive said, “Hell, no we want those horses and we’ll go and get them right now”. With one accord we all started forward to be greeted by a volley of bullets from behind the fence, not over thirty feet away. We returned the fire and drove the quards away, but we got no horses as the camp was fully aroused. The next morning we were joined by three brothers named Byrd, who previous to the breaking out of the war were neighbors of Captain Moore and knew him and the country well.
With these men for guides we proceeded on our way, reaching White River late in the evening. Here we found a deserted farm, with a field of corn and a number of fat hogs running at large. Also, an apple orchard bountifully laden with a beautiful crop of ripe apples. Here we spent two days and nights, feeding and resting our horses and feasting on roast pig and apples, but without bread and salt. Here we were joined by eight or nine others, making our force about twenty five men. Late in the evening of the second day we started on our ride for forty miles or more, planning to reach the Moore home on Crain Creek at daybreak the next morning. With the exception for a brief stop to feed our horses about three o’clock in the morning, we were in the saddle all night. Just at daybreak we rode up to the Moore house. The wife and two daughters only were at home. We told them of the house which had been destroyed by Captain Moore in our county and the object of our visit. They entered no protest, but said it was no more than they had been expecting. They were ladylike in their deportment and seemed to be above the average in intelligence. Being in the enemy’s country we lost no time in applying the torch and soon the buildings were a mass of flame. Looking back to the occurrence now, after a lapse of forty years, when all the bitterness engendered by the war is a thing of the past, I sincerely regret the burning of the Moore home, not that I feel any sympahty or regret for him, but because women were the immediate sufferers, but that was war and “war is hell” said
General Sherman of the Federal Army, who made homeless more women and children than any other man in the conflict. It has always been a source of pleasure to me to contrast the orders of General Lee in his invasion in Pennsylvania and Sheridan’s of Virginia and Sherman’s on his march through Georgia and the Carolinas. We could have burned many more homes had we chosen to do so but we were content with the burning of one, which was one object of our last ride. We surprised two men at their homes, one of whom was killed and the other escaping.
On our return trip several miles away we met a superior force of Federals and were forced to retreat; having one man killed in the skirmishes that ensued. Whether the enemy suffered any loss we never knew. We had expected pursuit as we learned that there was considerable force of mounted men near where we had passed, so we kept a couple of men one hundred yards or so in our rear to guide against surprise from that quarter, and were somewhat surprised at meeting the force in our front. Dick was the name of the young man killed. He was a fine young fellow and a good soldier. Some two hours after dark we stopped for the night having been continuously in the saddle for over thirty hours, except the brief halt referred to the previous night, and had traveled over ninety miles. The time limit of my orders being nearly up, which were sixty days, I got together what men I could, about twelve in number, and again bid goodby to friends and loved ones, and set out on my return trip back to my comand. We passed through Federal lines without incident worthy of note, crossing the river at Ozark. I reported to my command near Camden, Arkansas shortly afterwards we moved camp to Lewisville, about fifty miles distance, where we built log cabins and went into winter quarters.
About this time Captain Cloud was detailed for court martial duty, leaving me in command to the company with Lieutenant Blackard second in command. Sometime in February, 1865, we were ordered to camp near Minden, Louisiana. Many of the men were barefooted and otherwise illy prepared for a march in the wintry weather. Those without shoes were given the opportunity of remaining in camps until shoes could be had. But when marching orders were given, these men fell in line and tramped through the mud and cold without a word of complaint. Our fare now and for several months past had been very poor. Corn meal of a very inferior grade, with a poorer quality of beef and sugar or molasses constituted our rations, for practically all the winter and spring of sixty five. Wheat flour was seldom to be and when issued, we found it full of worms that made it almost unfit for us. In the matter of pay as well as memory serves me now, we received two months pay in November and a like amount in March. Confederate money about this time was worth in specie about three to five cents on the dollar. But the matter of pay was a trifling factor with the Confederate soldiers. The service rendered was as efficient and as cheerfully performed as would have been the case, if payment had been made in gold.
The infantry forces, of the Trans-Mississippi Department were in a high state of efficiency at the time of General Lee’s surrender. In looking over the record (official) of the war, I find reports of Federal spies, in which they comment at length on the discipline and behavior of the Confederates. A few weeks were spent in camp at Minden, Louisiana, where we were ordered to Shreveport, and later to Marshall, Texas, where we received the news of General Lee’s surrender. I will not attempt to depict the gloom that prevaded our camps when the news was fully confirmed. General Johnson’s surrender later convinced us of the utter hopelessness of further resistance. Many favored the disabandonment of the regular army and the organization of independent commands and a resort to querilla warfare. But wiser and more conservative council prevailed. After the surrender of Lee and Johnson, know that the end of the war only a matter of a few days, a young friend, Captain Crump and I resolved to secure mounts for a ride home, some three hundred miles distant. With this in view, we obtained leave of absence for a few days. We next arranged with teamster of another brigade, for consideration, to get fellow teamster and the two to saddle and mount two good mules and ride along a certain road, through a piece of thick woods after dark the following night, when Captain Crump and I were to meet them and play the part of highwaymen. I was on time, but Crump was late. A wait of a few minutes and I heard the teamster coming. I must play the act alone or give it up. Stepping from behind a cluster of bushes I seized the bridle of the mule ridden by the teamsters, who was ignorant of the plot and ordered them to dismount, emphasing my dem and with a slight punch in the side with the muzzle of my pistol. No further persuasion was needed as he hit the ground running, saying, “don’t shoot.” The other fellow pretended resistence, but soon left me in possession of two good government mules. Mounting one and leading the other I met Captain Crump a short distance away. I had some friends about seventy miles in South Arkansas where we arrived the second day following. Leaving our mules in care of my friends for our future use we set out afoot to rejoin our command.
A day’s march from our camp we met a part of my regiment, about one hundred fifty men whose homes were in the northern part of Arkansas, on their way to Little Rock to surrender. They had their arms and camp equipage. As the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi force had been agreed upon, it was now optional with men and officers as to the course they would take. I decided not to accompany the command to Little Rock. Taking my orderly, Sergeant George Burt and orderly, Sergeant Newton Clark of the fifth company, splended fellows and good soldiers, we returned to Marshall, hoping to secure mounts for them also.
My friends and I fell in with General Shaver’s Brigade, on the march to Shreveport to surrender. On the way we camped a few days at a village called Greenville. Strolling through the woods one day I found five bales of Confederate States cotton hid in some thick woods. With the aid of a Quarter Master who furnished transportation, we took possession of the cotton, destroying all marks of ownership, and sold it to a citizen for fifty Mexican dollars, which we divided equally. Cotton was then worth seventy-five cents a pound, but the belief was general that the Federal government would confiscate all cotton, regardless of ownership. This was the first money that I had come in possession of, after the close of the war, and twenty-five silver dollars was a big sum to me. While camped at Greenville, on a fishing trip one day to a nearby lake, with Sergeant Burt, a friend named Wilson and one other whose name I have forgotten, we found on an island two Confederate States Government mules, tied in the thick woods. We quit fishing, took possession of the mules and swam them across an arm of the lake to the main land. Here we were met by six men with rifles in their hands, claiming ownership. We were also armed and by playing a bold game of bluff retained possession. We eased our conscience in the matter by reasoning that these men were at home, while there was a long weary stretch of over 300 miles between us and our homes. There being four of us only two mules it was now a question of how we could make an equitable division. As I had some money I paid for one man’s interest, fifteen dollars I think. As neither one of the others had anything of value to give, they drew straws for possession, orderly Sergeant Burt being the winner. On our return to camp, two of the boys took a near short cut through a big plantation, and in a piece of thickly wooded ground, discovered two tents, some covered wagons, camp equipage and about twenty head of fine horses and mules four or five men seemed to he the sole possessors. We very easily came to the conclusion that these men had more than their share of government property. So ahout ten o’clock three of my friends, who were yet afoot, Clark, Wilson and one other, whose name I now forget, visited the camp and rode off three exceptionally fine mules. All well mounted now, we rode towards home about forty miles. Going to a farm house, we explained the situation telling the owner all the facts in the case and requested him to keep our mules for us, until we could go to Shreveport, to get our payroles and return. This he cheerfully agreed to do. We returned to Greensville and went with the command to Shreveport, arriving in the city just in time to witness the landing of the Federal troops under General Banks, who came up Red River by transports. Quietly and without demonstration of any kind, the Federal troops relieved the Confederate guards, posted order prevailed. The surrender was a very informal affair. Small arms artillery and other Government Property were deposted at various designated places. Several days were spent in making out paroles for the Confederates, before final disbandment.
Securing our paroles, my friends and I set out for home. We found our mules all right, and were just weary after our forty miles walk to enjoy a ride. Arriving at the home of my friends where Captain Crump and I left our mules some days before, I was taken violently ill, and was confined to my bed for several days. As I was among friends, my companions continued their journey home where they all arrived in due time. My friend, Captain Crump, during this time had gotten his mule and started home, going by the way of Clarksville, Arkansas, where was stationed a command of Federals, who appropriated his mule to their own use so he had to walk the remainder of the distance, about seventy-five miles. After recovery of my illness, I started alone on my trip home.
About a month previous to this time, while stationed at Shreveport I had loaned a horse to a friend, Lieutenant McConnell of my regiment who obtained leave of absence with the view of getting his wife and baby from Clarksville, Arkansas out of the Federal lines, to some place of safety inside the confederate lines. After a couple of days ride homeward, I met some friends who told me that McConnell and family had passed there a few days previous on his way to Clarksville, Texas. Being anxious to get my horse, I concluded to follow. A ride of three days took me to Clarksville to find that my horse had been stolen, while passing through southern Arkansas about a week previous. Feeling somewhat disappointed I turned my step homeward again. After a ride of two days alone, I over took three mounted exconfederate soldiers, two of whom I knew, and who lived not far from my home. Meeting with these men was a great pleasure as many miles of our route lay through sparsely settled section of country, noted for its outlawry. We found most of the people on our way, in very destitute circumstances, but ready to divide cheerfully anything they had of provisions, with hungry Confederates. We arrived at the Arkansas River to find it nearly about full, and looking ugly to a landsman. There being no ferry, our only chance of crossing was by means of an ordinary skiff which the owner preferred to loan us, but we would not undertake to row us over. I was the only one of the party who had ever used oars, and my experience was limited to a few short pulls in still water. With some misgivings, we resolved to make the attempt. Taking the oars while the other parties looked after our horses, we pulled out. Two of the horses refused to swim which made it harder for the oarsman, but we effected a landing, after a hard pull nearly a mile below our place of entering. Not being accustomed to hard work during the war I found before we were half way across that blood was flowing freely from my hands.
We met several squads of Yankee soldiers, after crossing the river, but we were not molested. We spent a day and a night with my friends, Sergeant Clark and Lieutenant Blackard, who lived near Clarksville, and then resumed our journey across the Boston Mountains to our homes in Carroll County, arriving there two days later. My brothers were all at home having preceded me some three or four weeks. I found my father’s family living in the old log stable of which I have already made mention, having been burned out since I was at home the previous fall. While I have recited many incidents of barbarous cruelty, it should not be forgotten that there were many acts of kindness and heroic self sacrifice, highly creditable to the soldiers of both armies. It has always been a source of gratification to me to recall, that during the four years of bitter strife, I spoke no unkind words to an old man, a woman, a child, or prisoner.