HISTORY OF COMPANY M
FIRST TEXAS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
Hood’s Brigade, Longstreet’s Corps,
Army of the Confederate States
By D.H. Hamilton
Sergeant Company M
1st Texas volunteer infantry C.S.A.
Retyped by W. M. Greenwood as close to the original as possible.
Great grandson of Sam Watson
With permission granted by Mr. Leroy McPhail
Grandson of D.H. Hamilton
The story must be remembered!
This document should be read in context of the times and not be offended by pejorative terms. Of particular note is the use of the words "Negro" and the word "Nigger". During the war and in particular the siege at Petersburg Black troops assaulted positions defended by Hood’s Brigade. The Rebel soldier did not take kindly to the Black troops trying to kill them and as will be noted they were referred to as "Niggers". Interestingly enough you can also read an undercurrent of respect for their bravery under fire. In the end of the text you will also see the Blacks referred in a respectful manner using the term "Negro’s".
These men considered themselves true patriots in the same mold as our founding fathers. In fact if one is entirely honest, the similarity is much more than skin deep.
Slavery was certainly not what these men fought and died for. The ideal of states rights was the paramount motivation.
William M. Greenwood
To the memory of my comrades of Company M,
First Texas Volunteer Infantry, Hoods Brigade,
Soldiers without fear, and to our Sainted Mothers whose devotion to their cause was "steadfast as the stars," this volume is
If it be true that Republicans are ungrateful it is because the people are ungrateful: to restate it more exactly it is for they are forgetful.
While it is not the purpose of this unpretentious volume to present a history of the large military and political events of that memorable conflict, the war between the states, for that is the task of the historian: But I feel that I should not permit the opportunity to pass without admonishing the sons and daughters of the Old south that they are neglecting to study and disseminate the truth of the grievances which impelled their fathers to secede from the Union; and they are neglecting to inform themselves of the truth of the great incidents, political and military, as they actually happened.
I commend to their study the "Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" by Jefferson Davis, "Pictorial History of the United States," by Alexander H. Stephens, and "Service Afloat" by Admiral Raphael Semmes of the Confederate Navy for a true statement of the cause for which the South contended and a true story of the military and naval operations of that struggle.
The motives and the purposes of the leaders of the South which led to secession, as well as the operations in the field, have been grossly and willfully misrepresented by partisan historians of the North.
The taught, and are still teaching, that Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet, and Lee, and Jackson, and Johnston, and Beauregard, and all Confederate Generals were traitors, and that Admiral Semmes was a pirate.
Having the ear of the world, and having their falsifications but meekly challenged, these partisans historians have created general false impressions, and the shame of it is that the young men and women of the South are themselves grossly ignorant of the truth of the history of that struggle and its cause.
The South did not secede from the /Union and fight that bloody war to perpetuate the institution of slavery.
Not one man in ten in the Confederate service had any interest in slavery.
On the other hand it is probably true that a majority of the men in the Federal Army were opposed to, or at least cared nothing about emancipation of the slaves; They fought to preserve the Union.
The "Abolitionists," a party pledged to abolish slavery, elected a President and took charge of the government in 1861 with the avowed purpose of liberating all slaves by an act of congress, or a proclamation of the President, in spite of the Constitution.
They were unwilling to brook the delay incident to the emancipation of Slavery by the respective states, as this had already been accomplished in half the states by constitutional methods; and when they were admonished that under the Constitution, this was a domestic affair over which the states had exclusive power under the Constitution, they openly denounced the Constitution as a "League with the devil and a covenant with hell."
The Clergy in the North took the lead in agitation and they reasoned, as they usually do in politics, that it was a case where "The end justified the means>"
This was the first violation of the States Rights and the Constitution by force. The Purpose was accomplished by force of numbers and power but the price paid staggered the world.
While the appalling loss of life and sorrow and devastation harrowed the souls of the sufferers and enlisted the pity and sympathy of the world, the fanatical ecclesiastics and the self serving politicians who incited all that riot of woe, as usual with such people, shed not a tear nor experienced a heart throb of pity or remorse.
Generation after generation of such people come and go, always ready to meddle in the affairs of other people; always pointing you and me to the highway of morality in which they never make a track.
The doctrine of States Rights as taught by the fathers, and for which we fought under the Stars and Bars, was the most zealously guarded of all rights, except that of personal liberty, when the Union was formed. Without an express declaration of the doctrine of States Rights in the Constitution the Union could not have been formed.
Strange to say degenerate sons of the South have been foremost in surrendering to the Federal government this blessed doctrine for which their fathers made such heroic sacrifices.
In recording what has been said here I am but discharging a duty to my dead comrades who, could they now speak for themselves, would rebuke more emphatically than I have done, the inexcusable surrender to the Federal government of police power over the citizens of the States, in which conduct time serving politicians of the South have acted a conspicuous part. The right to secede from the Union was settled by the sword, but the more valuable right of the States to control their internal affairs is still a living issue, upon the result of which depends the life of this government. In my humble opinion if this government is to survive we must return to that simple and frugal Federal government established by the fathers, with its activities confined to interstate and foreign relations, leaving to the States supreme authority over their internal affairs. This is the firm conviction of one who is an humble way has participated in, and observed the workings of this government for more than sixty years.
When men of the South advocate encroachments upon the doctrine of States Rights, as expounded and defended by their fathers, they profane the cause for which their fathers fought and discredit the devotion of the Spartan mothers of the South whose every hearthstone was a fane at which they knelt each night to invoke, the blessings of God for which they fought.
What I have written here may be considered out of place in this little volume: it may even be scoffed at by some of the few who chance to read these pages, but a single earnest seeker for the truth may chance to read this voice from the past and, having verified what I have said from the history of that eventful time, he may resolve for himself that he will preach to the world the gospel of Constitutional Democracy as taught by the fathers. If this much be accomplished, I shall be content to bear the aspersions of those who see fit to criticize and consider feeble my effort to warn against a present danger amply repaid.
THE ACTIVITIES OF COMPANY M FIRST TEXAS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY,
ARMY OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA,
FROM THE VIEW POINT OF A PRIVATE IN THE RANKS,
DURING THE CIVIL WAR,
1861 to 1865.
At the request of old friends and in obedience to a sense of duty to the dead comrades, with whom I served under the Stars and Bars, I am moved to endeavor to record, ere the final call shall come, the story of the services and of the trials and hardships through which they passed during the war between the states.
Without any attempt to write of the larger problems of war and politics - the task of the historian - I will confine myself to recording only the incidents of the road, the camp and the field, as witnessed by a private in the rank, a member of Company M, First Texas Volunteer Infantry, Hood’s brigade, and to the life and activities of that company this story will be chiefly devoted.
This task is undertaken in order that the children of those who gave their services and their lives to the lost cause, and their children’s children, shall have preserved the story of their heroic service and sacrifice, through which they themselves have an incontestable heritage of honor more to be esteemed than great riches.
Sixty years have elapsed since the six survivors of that company stacked arms at Appomattox. It is to be regretted that the infirmities of age and memory have obscured much that ought to be recorded here.
Company M, First Texas, was organized at Sumpter, then the county seat of Trinity County. No sign of that once flourishing town now remains. It was located about four miles east of where Groveton stands and one mile north of the railroad.
Our company was organized with about 125 men and boys, about half were boys, from 17 to 19 years of age. Howard Ballinger and Thomas Sanford, two young lawyers were elected Captain and First Lieutenant, respectively; Dr. Wm. Cecil was elected Second Lieutenant, George Wagnon Third Lieutenant and Zed McClain Orderly. I can now recall the names of only 97 members of the company as shown in the following list.
It will be observed that in many cases it is noted that they died in hospitals or died in Virginia; some of these men died of wounds and others of measles, typhoid fever or pneumonia, brought on by exposure and want of food.
Where it is noted that they returned, in the majority of the cases they returned from hospitals or Federal prisons at the end of the war. Some returned maimed and crippled before the war closed; very few of the company escaped serious wounds, and in many cases several wounds were received at different times by a single man during the service. Some of those who returned lived many years in Trinity County and died leaving children and other relatives.
All were drilled on the public square during the day and attended balls and entertainment’s given for our benefit every night, during the few days necessary to organize and prepare to leave.
We marched out of town about 2 P.M. of May 5th,1862. On the previous night a grand ball was given for us at which we danced all night. That night I promised the girls that I would never dance again until the independence of the Confederate government was declared, and I have kept my word to this day.
The boys spent the afternoon of the 5th visiting and bidding goodbye to their girls. They all made the girls great promises about how they would whip the Yankees when they got to Virginia.
We marched out of town in double file to the tune of "Dixie" played by two "Fiddlers" at the head of the column and the "Kids" in the line were yelling lustily, fully believing that they constituted the main part of the army.
At nightfall we struck camp on the banks of Bull Creek, a beautiful clear stream, about eight miles out. The "Kid" bunch fiddled, boxed, wrestled, yelled and whipped the Yankees all night, preventing the older men from getting any sleep. It was impossible to sleep in a mile of our camp. After eating an early breakfast we took up the march again and traveled all day, striking camp at night. By this time the "Kids" had cooled down somewhat; their feet were too sore to dance very much and everybody rested better than on the previous night. The next morning we crossed the Angelina River at Jordans ferry, and a day or two later, in the morning we crossed the Sabine River at Burr’s ferry. When we stopped at noon that day Captain found himself one man short; it was Harvey Pinson that was missing. Harvey was one of the youngsters, and like the rest of us, without any knowledge of military requirements or responsibilities. He had volunteered to go and he thought he could volunteer to go back. This change of heart, however, was caused by the fact that he was footsore and worn out and there was something like one hundred miles of rough road to walk before we reached transportation at Alexandria, Louisiana. This was what induced Harvey to resign from the Confederate army. The Captain detailed Eph. Dial (generally known as Eph Jenkins) and Willoughby Tullos to go back after Harvey and bring him in. In due time they overtook him and started back with him. Somewhere on the trip they managed to get a bottle of whiskey and all three of them got drunk. Somehow during the spree Willoughby Tullos shot off a portion of the end of the trigger finger of his right hand. His finger was so badly wrecked that they decided it was necessary to operate on it, a perfectly natural conclusion for boys in their condition to reach. The only surgical instrument they had was a dull pocket knife; with that knife Eph performed the operation by unjointing the finger at the second joint. When this was done it occurred to them for the first time, that the remaining part of the finger ought to be dressed and bound up, but they had nothing to do this with. Eph decided that he would go to a house near by and get some sugar and turpentine to put on the finger, but when he got there the people had neither sugar or turpentine. He then decided to use salt which they kindly gave him. When Eph returned he found Willoughby and Harvey both down, but he bandaged Willoughby’s finger up in the salt, using cloth torn from his shirt. After taking another drink they all went to sleep and did not wake up until nine next morning when they resumed the march, overtaking the company after being out three days. Willoughby’s finger got well and he made a gallant soldier. During all the war he had to pull the trigger with the second finger but he pulled it many thousands of times. Harvey Pinson made a splendid soldier and gave his life for the cause.
On about the eight day out we reached Alexandria, with sore feet, and worn out. We had marched something like two hundred miles over bad roads. This was a character of exercise that very few men in the company knew anything about, but during the next three years they were destined to know more about it, and were destined to know hardships and privations the like of which no army ever suffered for that length of time.
We were detained at Alexandria some time, waiting for a boat to move us forward. The Yankees had cut the levees on the Mississippi and the floodwaters had covered several parishes like a sea. We had to go down Red River to the mouth of Black River where =we were transferred to a small boat, so small that it would dip water if we moved about on it, therefore we were compelled to sit in a cramped position during the trip which lasted four days.
We went up Black River to the mouth of Tensas and after going several miles up the Tensas the boat quit the river channel and followed the public road in the over flow, passing through one little town where nothing was to be seen but the tops of the houses. We continued through the overflow until we came near the Mississippi at Powder Horn there we had to debark in the shallow water and wade out with our baggage on our backs.
In the hurry and confusion of this landing we overlooked our flag and left it on that boat.
By this time we were rested, our sore feet heeled and we were all in high spirits again and ready for another dance, though the boys were not quite so "rank" as they were on the first day out. They were still fighting the Yankees, however, and were afraid they would not get there in time to help take Washington.
The next morning we crossed the Mississippi by boat and moved on foot to Brookhaven where we took the train to Jackson. We remained at Jackson a short time to guard government supplies, and then took the train for Richmond, Virginia. The battle of Seven Pines was on when we arrived. We were ordered to Camp Lee at Richmond for drilling and remained there a while. During that time measles broke out in the camp and several of the boys died from it. On about August 10th we joined the regiment and started into the campaign for the second battle of Manassas where we got our baptism of fire and first pleasures of victory. Willis Reddin was killed in that battle and seven or eight others were wounded. After the second battle of Manassas we waded the Potomac River and started on the march to Sharpsburg and encountered the Yankees, first at Antietam Creek in a minor engagement, Sept. 17th. We crossed the creek and formed a line in front of Sharpsburg, where we remained the balance of that day. The Yanks crossed the creek that afternoon. Jeff Bowman stole away from the company and secreted himself in the upper story of a building near where the Yanks were crossing the creek and about one hundred and fifty yards from them. From a window in the house he could see them distinctly and could not resist the temptation to shoot. He fired about sixty rounds at them before they located him and dislodged him. They trained a piece of artillery on the house and when the first shot passed through it Jeff "skedaddled" back to camp. It is highly probable that Jeff did effective work in that little battle staged all by himself. We laid in line of battle all night and next morning moved forward into the battle of Sharpsburg. On the first charge we drove the Yanks about one half mile in our front when they brought up re-enforcement’s and drove us back. A desperate battle raged back and forth over the field during that day and the next, finally resulted in what seemed to be a draw, but we held the battle field.
On the third day at night we started to fall back in the direction of Sheppardstown near the Potomac River.
The battle ground at Sharpsburg during the two days fighting was littered with dead and the wounded. J.T. (Turner) Evans was shot down in this battle just as we started to fall back in one of the retreats of the first day; W.J. (Bill) Towns picked him up and got him on his back and ran with him about a half mile and prevented him from being captured. He was wounded in the hip from which he finally recovered but being unable to do infantry service was discharged and returned home. When he had sufficiently recovered he joined a company of Rangers stationed in North West Texas to protect that country from the Indians, at that time depredating on the settlements.
In the battle of Sharpsburg we lost a number of men killed and wounded. Lieutenant Thomas Sanford, Josh Boon, James Story, Wade Turner, Shady Roach, Vondry Wizby and Jeff Bowman, the man who but two days before had fought the Yankee army by himself from the upper story of a house, were killed and fifteen or twenty were wounded. On the retreat toward Sheppardstown before referred to, our Brigade held the difficult position of rear guard. The Yanks followed along unpleasantly close. Every time they got too close we opened fire on them and drove them back.
On arriving at the Potomac River we found that all the army except our brigade had waded across. The river was about a mile wide at that place and about waist deep. There was no way to cross except to wade. When we got out of the water on the opposite side we discovered A.P. Hill’s division lying concealed on the second bank, in line of battle. As we walked out of the river we were ordered to strike a trot. This was done as we afterward found out to deceive the Yanks and induce them to continue the pursuit. They walked - or ran- unsuspectingly into the trap. As soon as they got to the river they all plunged into the river and started to wade across. When the front rank reached a point about 100 yards from General Hill’s position, and while the river was full of men from there back to the other bank, Hill’s men were ordered to fire. Volley after volley was fired into them. The slaughter was fired into them. The slaughter was terrible. All the wounded who could not stand up were drowned and those who survived scrambled back to the other side. So many were killed and wounded that the water was bloody for a mile down the river.
This wound up the fighting for the time and all went into camp and rested a short while. We next moved to Winchester Springs where we remained two or three months. About this time the Yanks began to move in the direction of Fredericksburg. We moved to that place and went into winter quarters. When spring opened we whipped the Yanks back across the Potomac and both armies remained in this position without any general engagement until about the 3rd day of May.
During a part of that winter our Brigade stayed at Falling Creek near Richmond. While at this place a detachment from our Brigade was ordered to Ashland Court House, about forty miles from Richmond, to meet a command of Yankee cavalry that had dashed into that section.
We left Falling Creek early in the morning and marched all day in the snow. When we got to Ashland Court House we found that Stewart’s cavalry had preceded us and whipped the Yanks back across the Potomac. We camped there that night and marched back to Falling Creek next day.
About the 3rd of May General Lee ordered Longstreet’s Corps to Suffolk, Va.; at this time I was in the hospital at Petersburg with a very bad case of pneumonia. Dug. Rigsby and John Harrell were in the hospital at the same time. Rigsby and John Harrell both died. I recovered but was not able to get out of the hospital until about the 3rd of June. Before I got back into ranks the battle of Chancellorsville had been fought.
Longstreet’s Corps had been ordered back and about the 3rd day of June crossed the Potomac. Myself and three others got there after the army had crossed. We waded the river and struck out to overtake the command but by mistake took the wrong road, which, later we discovered, was the road leading to Washington. After going several miles we approached a turnpike just in time to see an engagement, up the pike about three hundred yards, between a squad of our cavalry and a Yankee command of considerable numbers. After an exchange of shots the Confederate squad was of course compelled to retreat and, as they did so, they passed by where were, with the Yankee’s in hot pursuit. This placed us in a bad fix; but there was no time to make calculations or go into an argument about what we should do to avoid being killed or captured and there was not much difference between the two from our viewpoint - so it was up to us to get out of sight, and we did not stand on the order of going. We made for a friendly thicket near by in an enclosure and succeeded in reaching it and concealing ourselves by lying down. In my haste to get over the fence I dropped my gun but there was no time to recover it and I had to leave it. The Yanks passed us only a short distance when they stopped. It was up to us to move again. We could not get out where we came in, and therefore I could not get my gun, so we moved out down the fence in another direction about a quarter of a mile and crossed the fence into an apple orchard near the river and then went up the river about four miles where we fell in with the same squad of our cavalry that had been in the skirmish spoken of. They had several extra horses and obligingly supplied us with horses to ride, which was the only time I was to be on the back of a horse from the first I left home until I returned. We rode about twenty miles that night and overtook the army at Sheppardstown. The army was on the march to Gettysburg. On the way to Gettysburg we had several small engagements but none of much note.
So much has been said and written about the battle of Gettysburg that there is little to be added to its well known history. It is one of the world’s historic battles and in point of casualties, for the numbers engaged, was up to that time probably the bloodiest battle in history.
Incidents which the individual soldier sees never enter into the published history of great battles of course, but it they could all be remembered and related such a history of the battle of Gettysburg, given by some member of each company in Lee’s army, would tell a story of valor and fortitude, of death and carnage such as the world has never read. The sixty-two years that have passed since that day have not erased from my mind the tragic picture of that battle; but this unpretentious little story of activities of Company M is no place to record anything more than which I personally witnessed. Longstreet’s Corps, of which our Brigade was a part, was on the right of the line. Our first important engagement in the battle was to charge the enemy at the Peach Orchard which was a severe struggle in which we had a number of men wounded but none killed on the field. In order to counter on this charge and save their line the Yanks undertook to flank us with a strong cavalry command. Our regiment was hastily moved to meet that attack and formed in line of battle in the edge of an old field where we were partially concealed. The Yanks took us to be only a light skirmish line. They formed and charged us. To phrase it in modern slang, I would say that "what we did to that bunch of surprised Yankees was a plenty"; not many of them ever got back to tell what happened to them.
It was simply a picnic to fight cavalry under such conditions. My experience is that, under fair conditions, good infantry soldiers who will stand their ground and fight can always defeat cavalry without any trouble. The battle raged all day of the 2nd and 3rd, during which time the field was fought over again and again, in charges and counter charges, and in desperate firing from lines of battle.
Next in importance to Pickett’s charge was the charge of our Brigade on Little Round Top. Our losses were not so heavy as in Pickett’s charge but the carnage was frightful.
On the night of the 4th we began our retreat to recross the Potomac, hungry, footsore and exhausted, but not discouraged. In that battle we were greatly outnumbered and the enemy had the heights and all advantageous positions occupied by their artillery.
From daily association with the men in the ranks and in camp the soldier knows the temperament and spirit of an army better than its commanders. During all the war our men always had the most implicit confidence in their ability to whip the enemy whenever and wherever we met them on equal terms, even when outnumbered, if the odd were not too great. This confidence was inspired and justified by what was done in every battle until we were literally overpowered with numbers and exhausted.
When I look back upon the trials and hardships of the campaigns, the scant food, clothing and equipment that we had, and the comparatively little protection from rain, cold, and snow, to which we were all unaccustomed, it is astonishing how such a splendid spirit was so long maintained.
For Hood’s Brigade, I can say that it w a great fighting machine, always ready and willing to fight, from the day it was organized until the day when the ragged half starved remnant of a few hundred men surrendered at Appomattox. After the battle of Gettysburg we were transferred to Bragg’s army and went at once into the Tennessee-Georgia Campaign where we fought several engagements, the principal one being the battle of Chickamauga, which was one of the major engagements of the war; resulting in killed, wounded and missing on our side , estimated at 16,000 men, while the killed, wounded and missing on the Yankee side was estimated at 18,000. The Federals were forced to retire behind their fortifications at Chattanooga.
The battle of Chickamauga was fought on the 19th and 20th of September. On the morning of the 19th we were deployed in line of battle on a ridge on which was some timber. We remained there under a heavy shelling until two o’clock in the afternoon; by this time the Yankee batteries had about topped all the timber around us. The shells had kept every man as busy as a Cranberry Merchant dodging their flying fragments. We could hear the singing noise of the shells and their frequent crashing in the timber about us. At last we were ordered to advance down a slope under heavy fire of the Yankee batteries. About the time we got up and began to form in a line a shell cut the top of a tree out nearby and knocked John Stewart down and addled him very badly. The field surgeon ran to him and called for litter bearers to take him from the field but about that time John began to regain his senses, just enough for purposes of locomotion, and to feel the sense of fright. When he regained his feet his face happened to be toward the rear and his legs and feet commenced rapid operation. He ran like a deer, except that he made as much noise as a yoke of oxen. He left the surgeon cursing him, Willoughby Tullos, who stood nearby as he ran off, yelled, "whoa Muly." "Muly" was a nickname by which John was known in the company - but Willoughby’s "Whoa Muly" did not stop him. He never stopped until he got to the hospital, where he remained three days having the injuries on his head and face repaired.
The Yankees in front of us occupied an old farm; they had torn down the rail fences and made brest works of them about a mile in length and were lying behind this barricade when we charged them. When we got within about 100 yards of them they arose, fired one volley and ran like turkeys. That one volley, however, was very destructive. All who were not killed or wounded raised the Rebel yell and took up the chase. After we had chased them about a half mile another command relieved us and we marched back over the field. Our company had five killed and about twenty five wounded in that charge. Among the killed were Jack Adams, George Oglesby and Joe Ratcliff, but I do not recall the names of the others. We rested that night and the next morning we were moved to the front and formed in line of battle, and at about three o’clock we were ordered to charge with Law’s Brigade on our right and Jenkin’s Brigade on our left. We charged, but somehow, the command was misunderstood by the Brigades on our right and left and they failed to charge until we had driven the enemy in front of us some distance, making a gap in their line. The first notice we had of the failure of the Brigades to charge was that a hail of bullets was coming from three ways, the front and both sides. We were ordered to fall back and did so. About that time George Lock was shot down near me. When I got to him I found him unconscious. I poured all the water I had in my canteen on his face to revive him and picked him up and carried him out. About that time General Hood, who was nearby riding up and down the line, was shot from his horse. Another Brigade relieved us and, upon a general charge of the line, as was intended, the enemy was driven back about a mile. It was in fact a regular stampede. By this time it was nearly night but the Yankees never stopped running until they got behind their fortifications at Chattanooga. In their flight they left batteries, wagons, horses, guns and all kinds of baggage and equipment scattered from the battle field to Chattanooga. We gathered up all this plunder next morning.
We formed a line next day fronting the Chattanooga breast works and remained there two or three weeks. A creek separated the two armies in front and it was infested with Yankee Sharpshooters who gave us a lot of trouble. One in particular would come out to the creek every day and climb a tree and sit up there and shoot among us. We had no long range guns with which to reply to him but our General reported it to General Longstreet and he sent over a sharpshooter named Serrell with all his accouterments - long range rifle and glasses.
Serrell soon located the Yank and sneaked up near enough to make certain of him the first shot. At the first shot he fell out and Serrell got his rifle and all his outfit, including his hat and boots, which in those hard days were more highly prized than anything that could be captured. We were not bothered any more with sharpshooters while we remained there.
In a few days we were moved around to the foot of Lookout Mountain and from there we crossed Martins Creek and fought a night fight while it was so dark we could not tell one man from another. We recrossed the creek and went back to the foot of Lookout Mountain, on the east side, where we remained for several days. While there we discovered a cave in the mountain which were told extended several miles. Three of us decided to we would explore it and see what was in it. We took three day’s short rations and, having no lanterns, we had to supply a good supply of pitch pine for torches. It was dark as midnight in the cave. We set bravely out on the exploration at about nine o’clock in the morning. The first thing we found was about a ten foot jump-off into an open chamber as large as a house, with smooth stone floor, all dry and dusty. We found a door leading out of this room which led us into a tunnel and, after going thirty or forty feet in it, we found another large stone room, the floor of which was wet from constant dripping of water. In this room we found two doors leading into tunnels. We selected one and after going thirty or forty feet we found another but a smaller stone chamber. Continuing our explorations, in a short while things began to seem creepy. I began to mistrust my luck. For some time the other boys had ceased to be talkative. Our lights were getting dim and the pine supply was short. When I looked at the boys their eyes looked like fried eggs, and no doubt my own looked the same. I was waiting for them to say go back but I was afraid to speak first because I was afraid they would laugh at me, and yet I was afraid to go on. We found another tunnel door and followed that some distance when we came to another chamber more dismal and ghostly than all the others. By this time our torch pine was nearly exhausted and I was getting more and more creepy. I was afraid to give the boys a hint of my feelings and I thought they would never say quit. I kept watching them and finally I discovered that they were as badly frightened as I was, but they would not talk.
At last I saw that it was up to me to talk, laugh or no laugh, so I just came out with it and, when I did, they jumped for joy for by this time they were almost scared speechless.
We replenished our torches and got out of there much faster than we went in. We got out about one o’clock, having been four hours in the cave, and all considered ourselves to be lucky to get out. It seemed to me like we had gone into the cave about a mile but under the circumstances my judgment as to distance was by no means reliable; it may not have been more than two or three hundred yards.
My next trip out of camp was to inspect Lookout Mountain. The summit was reached by wagon road seven miles in length which wound about the mountain to the summit. The other route was a banistered stairway about a mile long; this was the route I took. It was the longest stairway I ever saw, and it was some job to climb it. It looked a little dangerous but not half as bad as the cave trip. At the top I found a level space which seemed to be two miles square and on which was located a beautiful summer town, but it had been deserted and was in the hands of a few caretakers. From Lookout peak I had a good view of the surrounding country reaching away beyond the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, and Moccasin Bend. From Moccasin Bend the Yankees batteries threw shells over and beyond Lookout Mountain, and dismantled our artillery on the peak. Our term of rest at the foot of Lookout Mountain was interrupted in a very few days when Longstreet’s Corps was sent to meet Burnsides who was coming down to reinforce the Federals at Chattanooga.
We crossed the Tennessee River on he road to Knoxville and after marching about a half day came in contact with Burnsides’ cavalry scouts and fought them back to Knoxville where we fought and routed Burnsides’ army, drove them back into Knoxville and besieged them until we had about starved them out. They were reduced to one cracker a day. About this time Bragg’s army was defeated at the battle of Mississippi Ridge and the Federals were at liberty to send General Thomas with a large force to relieve Burnsides at Knoxville. Being then badly outnumbered, we had to withdraw and turn Burnside loose. We then went to Morristown in East Tennessee and went into winter quarters where we remained through that winter. This was a mountainous country full of "Bushwhackers," "Moonshine" stills and "Jay Hawkers." It was a rough country and a tough set of people, men and women, and we had to fight all of them. One day a detail, consisting of four wagons and twenty five men, of which I was a member, started out on a foraging expedition to get meet and wheat. We crossed the "Cheekey" and French Broad Rivers and entered the mountains through a pass. We had to fight the "Bushwhackers," about a hundred strong, at intervals all day, but had no difficulty in routing the cowards every time they appeared. By the middle of the afternoon we had loaded our wagons and had reached the mountain pass on the return trip when we found that the "Bushwhackers" had cut down the large timber in the pass, making a complete barricade which we had to remove. They intended to give us a fight there but they took cold feet and fled as soon as we fired a few shots at them. We cleaned out the gap and passed through about sundown.
We went to a flour mill on the French Broad, owned by an old man, and got our wheat ground and crossed the river and returned to Morristown after an absence of two days. The casualties of the trip were one dead "Bushwhacker" that we found, and we had one man slightly wounded. We got flour and meat enough to do us two or three months.
As spring was opening we were ordered back to Virginia. We gathered up what little we had, and it was little enough. In the first of the winter I had pulled off a shirt which had done full six months hard and constant service. It was worn into tatters and I thought could never be worn again so I laid it on a stump where it remained all winter. Upon examining the one I had worn all winter, and looking at the old shirt on the stump which had taken the rains and snows of the winter, I changed my former opinion of its merits. It looked like a new shirt by the side of the one I was wearing. The one was rags, to be sure but the other was only strings. I accordingly exchanged shirts with the stump with grateful thanks in my heart, and felt myself more fortunate than the majority of the boys. The "cooties," as they are now called, in the old shirt had survived the rain and snows and the winter. Some of the "Cooties" of those days were exceedingly husky; occasionally you would find one with "R.I.B." (Royal Irish Brigade) in gilt letters on his back. A pot of scalding water turned the trick for the inhabitants of that old shirt and, with the occasional tying up in places , it served out the remainder of the war and was paroled with me at Appomattox. That old shirt got to be somewhat aristocratic. It was continually trying to escape to fresh atmosphere through the slits and holes in my old pants. It seemed to resent the association. By lacing up numerous rents and holes in my pants with an assortment of strings, of all kinds and colors, I succeeded in adjusting this serious difficulty. Needles and thread , and rags to patch with were aristocratic luxuries entirely beyond the reach of the Confederate in Longstrees Corps.
My shoes were worn out, and when I say worn out, that is exactly what I mean. The pieces had to be tied together on my feet. It was necessary to do that because no rawhide was to be had to make moccasins. These were made by cutting wet rawhide into a semblance of feet shape and sewing it around the foot with rawhide lacing. They were popularly known as "Longstreet’s Moccasins" and needless to say they were not only popularly known but popularly appreciated as a luxury, when they could be had at all.
When we started on the march back to Virginia winter had only partially broken and it was cold. Our guns and forty rounds of ammunition, a scrap of tent cloth, an old threadbare blanket and the tattered cloths we wore, was the extent of our equipment It took us about three days to reach Strawberry Plains. At Beans Station, on the way, we met a command of Yankee cavalry, fought them all the way to Strawberry Plains and finally routed them. When we got to Strawberry Plains, Buck Strother and myself were entirely barefooted and both exhausted through attempting to march and fight in the cold over rough roads. We tore up one of our old pieces of tent cloth and tied up our feet with the pieces.
At Strawberry Plains we had to cross the Tennessee River in a small flat boat that carried only one hundred at a trip. While waiting for our turn to cross we suffered from the cold so that our officers had us build fires. In spite of the conditions we sleep as soon as we got warm. Later in the night our time to cross came and we were ordered into line at the ferry. We had then to stand in line on the frozen ground about an hour. Buck Strother and myself could not stand it any longer; we slipped out of the line and went back to one of the fires to warm and as soon as we were warm we fell to sleep again from exhaustion. Just before daylight I was aroused by the Provost Marshall’s men who were out picking up the stragglers. They told me that a body of Yankees were advancing and that we must cross the river at once, and that the boat was to be sunk as soon as we could be crossed. I hunched Strother in the ribs and said, "Did you hear that?" He said, Yes, let them go to the devil, we are barefooted and cannot stand to walk on frozen ground." I told him we would be bound to try it and that when we had once crossed the river we could dodge the Provost guard and hide out again. Strother got up and we went direct to the boat. We were not required to march in line with the others. The floor of the boat, from so much splashing of water, which had frozen, was covered with ice. When I stepped on the ice it was like walking into hot embers. I could not stand it, but at Strothers suggestion I threw the blanket down on the floor and put my feet on it. I never in my life felt a more pleasant sensation than when I felt the warmth of that blanket to my feet. As soon as the boat landed on the opposite shore, according to our prearranged plan, we ran as fast as we could up the bank ahead of the other men and officers and, turning abruptly to the right behind a bank, were soon out of sight from the road. We continued to run until we found a secure place out of sight of any houses and, as we thought, in what appeared to be an old field. We took some of the rails and made a good fire and were soon asleep. We did not wake up until nine o’clock in the morning and to our astonishment we found ourselves in a grave yard. The two old ridges between which we built our fire were in fact graves. We got out of there on short order and went back to the road at the ferry. Everything was quite. The boat had been sunk and, there being no Yankees in sight, we felt secure and set out to overtake the army; but on account of the condition of our feet we did not overtake them until late that afternoon, where they had gone into camp. We remained there the next day and then proceeded. At the end of three days we reached Friend Station, Tenn. By this time the Yankee Cavalry that had followed us from Beans Station to Strawberry Plains had succeeded in crossing the river and continued their pursuit. Which brought on a fight every few days, but were minor engagements. They just skirmished a little and ran as we got into action with them. We were at Friend Station about two months. While there we got some rawhide and our "Moccasin Man" got busy at making moccasins. Buck Strother and myself, and large numbers of the others in the same fix, were supplied with comfortable footwear.
In making a moccasin the hand is the pattern by which the hide is marked and cut. When the hide is sewed on the foot and becomes dry it fits like the skin.
There was no bother about lacing Longstreets moccasins when you retired at night or got up in the morning, for once you were shod with them you were relieved of all the exacting requirements of polite society which oblige you to take your foot wear off at night before retiring. Once they were put on they "stayed put." There was a binding obligation between the moccasin and the man that they would never part as long as life lasted - for the moccasin. They were not gaudy footwear but many thousands in Longstreets Corps blessed their good fortune when they were able to get them.
During our stay at Friend Station our regiment was sent out beyond the town on picket duty, leaving about a dozen me, myself among the number, to take care of the camp. Our provisions had been very scant for several days and we were hungry. A ragged, starving soldier in the ranks owes the world no apology for appropriating from the bounty of some one more fortunately situated, that which he needs to sustain his life and keep him fit to march and fight.
It was our duty to cook such scant provisions as we had and to carry it out to the men on picket duty. Appropriating something to eat was politely called "foraging" and we had some very skillful "foragers" in Longstreet’s Corps. The state of supplies about that time required some foraging and we accordingly strolled about over the vicinity during the day to see what we could locate. Sam Watson, of my company, was an expert forager. He had found, out on the edge of town, a fat hog in a farmers pen near the house. Sam made a mental survey of the premises and mapped in his mind a plan of attack to be carried out that night. Sam had noted that the farmer had some vicious looking dogs, and surmised that he had a good gun; but Sam had also noted that there was an apple orchard in the rear through which the horse-lot and pig-pen could be reached without arousing the dogs. Sam called John Parker and myself aside and told us of his discovery and his plans, and we of course consented to assist in the expedition. To a bunch of hungry soldiers a chance to get a fat hog overbalanced all the risk of fighting those vicious dogs, and the risk of a shot in the dark, from the old mans gun.
At about midnight we started out. We approached the horse-lot carefully, through the orchard, but the dogs met us at the pig-pen and brought on the fight. We succeeded in whipping the dogs back into the yard but the noise aroused the people in the house. We could hear the people in the house. We could hear them moving about but they probably thought the dogs had made a false alarm and did not come out. When we reached the pig-pen we found that the hog was very large. The problem was to kill him so that he would not squeal, and without making any noise. We were afraid that if we made much noise we would have the old man and all the neighbors on us before we could escape with the hog. After canvassing the whole situation we found no way to kill the hog but to shoot him. John Parker took sight over his gun barrel as well as he could in the dim light and he thought he could shoot him so dead that he would not squeal, and we told him to try it. When the gun fired it sounded to me like the report of a piece of light artillery. I never heard an army rifle make such a loud report and, to make matters worse, the hog let into squealing, and all this noise aroused the people in the house and in the neighborhood. We had found meat and by this time we were determined to have it if we had to fight for it. We hastily retreated into the apple orchard for a better position and waited events, determined to fight it out with them for possession of the hog. Contrary to all expectations, the people only stirred about but did not come out of the house. After a while it became perfectly quite and we crept back to the pen, tore a part of it down and drug the hog down into the apple orchard where we skinned and quartered him. Leaving the head and feet, we strung the quarters on a rail and carried them back to camp reaching there just before day light. We found a good hiding place for the meat. We knew the officers of the town would come on a hunt for it as soon as the old man made his complaint. We replaced the leaves on top of the meat so that it would not be noticed that they had been disturbed. We spread our blankets to get some sleep but before we got to sleep the town officers appeared in camp and made complaint to Capt. Rice, who was in command of the camp, about the taking of the farmers hog. Captain Rice had been out on the picket line during the night himself. He told the officers that he only had ten or twelve men in the camp and that the hog must have been taken by some of the men in the army, out on picket duty surrounding the town, but he tendered his services to assist them in the search, which of course resulted in failure to find the meat. When they came to our camp we told them we did not know anything about it and they went on to another camp. We slept all day and as night approached we got up and got busy getting up wood and cleaning our camp kettles to cook up a lot of the meat, intending to take it out and give the boys on duty a good feed.
Captain Rice had observed these proceedings and had his suspicions that no such elaborate preparations would be made to cook the little food we had. He came over to our camp and said, "Boys this is a dead give away. You have slept all day and now you are cleaning up these camp kettles that you have had need for in a month. You got the old man’s hog last night. I am as hungry as you are and you must give me some of the meat." We told him to just be quiet and come back at nine o’clock, at which time we would make a search of the camp, and if we found it we would cook a lot of it to take to the boys the next morning. At the appointed time Captain Rice came and we went to the old log and got the meat and gave him a piece. He shook our hands and said, "Boys when you get a good thing count me in and I will hold you harmless."
We cooked and ate all night and next morning we carried to the company out on picket line a good supply. Company M, the few that remained of it, had plenty to eat and were happy, while the old mans hog lasted, and then it was the same old story, hungry again until some lucky forager could find something. In a country ravaged by war there is never very much to be found. Foraging had been bad for some time when, one evening, Jim Martin, who had been nosing about over the country, reported a rich find late in the afternoon. He told about seeing an old farmer driving several milk cows into his pen for the night. He had reconnoitered the promises and planned to return with a helper and milk the cows that night. Canteens were the only available vessels for the purpose. Bill Forsythe and Sam Watson were the only men in our company that could milk a cow and they were expert enough to milk in a canteen. Sam volunteered to go with Jim and at about ten o’clock at night they reached the pen. They found it to be a large pen with a spring branch, about twenty feet wide and a foot deep, running through it. The cows were of course afraid of strangers and they had a lot of trouble to get near them in the dark. After chasing them in the dark about the lot for some time and wading the branch three or four times they succeed in closing in on one in a fence corner. Jim took a rail and placed one end in a crack and held the other end, thus making a guard behind which Sam could safely do the milking. Sam, after much petting and coaxing, started in to the milking when, to his astonishment, he found that it was a work ox. Not to be outdone, they chased them around until they found there was not a cow in the bunch.
While the question of foraging is up and before going on with the story I will relate a few more of the thousands of incidents of like character that occurred, in order that the reader may have an isea of the camp life of Hood’s Brigade.
At one time somebody discovered some bee hives at a farhouse about a mile from where we were temporarily camped. This farmer had been supplied a detail to guard his premisis because of previous depredations. He had pigs, chickens, bee hives and many other temptations to the forager. Notwithstanding the presence of guard, the boys considered a well stored bee hive worth all the risk. It took a strong man to carry a beehive, and Jim Day was selected for that job because in strength and proportion he filled all the requirements.
A short distance from the fence of the orchard, where the beehives were, was a creek of considerable size, and the only means of crossing it on that side was a foot log, from which a path led to the house along the orchard fence. In the stillness of the night, the leader (I do not recall which one of the boys it was) and Jim and their companion crossed the creek on the foot log, and reached the orchard by way of the path. Climbing the rail fence they wrapt a hive in a blanket, placed it on Jim’s back and started noiselessly back. The venture would have been a perfect success, but - how often that little insignificant word but mars a good story,- Jim and the beehive were too much for that old rail fence. It crashed with a loud noise under their weight. Fortunantly Jim and the Beehive fell on the outside. The boys, in a few seconds, had the beehive again wrapped up in the blanket and on Jim’s back and were going in a trot for the foot log with Jim in the rear. Most of the bees had escaped and were, of course, following their hive in a swarm.
About the time Jim reached midway of the footlog the guard at the house had caught the direction of the retreating foragers and opened fire on them in the dark. At the same instant a bee stung Jim and he cried out to the boys ahead that he was shot. He held on to the beehive, however, until he reached land and threw it down and fell on the ground. The firing had ceased and there seemed to be no pursuit, so that the boys carried Jim out to one side to examine the wound. They soon found that it was only a bee sting. They had risked too much to allow the bees to drive them away from the hive and they accordingly matched a fight with them and got the honey, but not until all were severely stung about their hands and faces. Our company had plenty of honey next day but the faces of Jim and the boys were swollen out of all natural proportions and their eyes were almost closed.
The usual complaint was made by the farmer and the usual search of all the camps in the regiment was made. On this occasion the search of our company quarters was made by an officer of this regiment. He found no honey,of course, but when he got to our company he found Jim Day and his two companions in the tent where they were trying to avoid the eyes of the curious public, for the obvious reasons, well knowing too that the usual search would follow. When the officer pulled the tent flap back and looked at them he said, "There is no use to ask you boys any questions about beehives and honey, I can tell by your looks that you have not seen a beehive in ten years; you don’t know what honey tastes like." The officer walked away and that was the end of it. That officer deserved a part of the honey and no doubt he found it at his mess that night. In all probability other officers had honey left at their tent without explanation.
On one occasion, and while the army was on the move, Enoc Raines foraged a fine shoat. In making the capture he of course fell behind the marching command. With the hog on his shoulder he was hurrying along to overtake his company when to his dismay he walked right up to General Hood’s headquarters before he knew it. Enoc got a very severe reprimand from General Hood.
Newt Berryman of Company I, who was raised at Alto, Cherokee County, was probably entitled to the reputation he bore as the best forager in Longstreet’s Corps. Many interesting stories of his skill could be told if space permitted. One will be sufficient to illustrate his resourcefulness. On one occasion while the army was on the move Newt discovered, piled on the ground and under guard by a sergeant and two men, a fine lot of provisions and supplies assembled from some source, probably captured. He "swiped" or borrowed, a Captain’s uniform in which he dressed himself and taking several men along, went back to where the stores were, and marching his men up in proper order, saluted the officer in charge and informed him that he had orders to relieve him. Without questioning the apparent Captain’s authority, the sergeant ordered his men out and they retired. As soon as the coast was clear Newt and his men and the best of the supplies also disappeared. The hungry in Newt’s mess and company were well fed as far as the supplies went.
Newt Berryman was a splendid soldier and a man of the highest integrity; and so were the others mentioned in all these foraging incidents. Foraging was a necessity when food was not supplied and could not be supplied; and during the last two years of the war this condition very frequently existed.
When we first entered the war we looked upon it as highly improper to take anything from the body of a dead soldier on the field. We felt like shooting a man who would do such a thing; but before the war was over our hardships and dire necessities had changed our viewpoint. We got so that we could, without compunction, take the shoes from a dead Federal soldier’s feet and walk off in them.
While we were encamped near Richmond we had a hard boiled Provost Marshall named Scott who had a command of about two hundred men stationed somewhat like a picket line around the army, at about a mile distant, the purpose being to prevent straggling and foraging. Scott’s tyrannical disposition was well known in the army.
Bill Goodson had been given a pass to go to Richmond and while out he, of course, kept an eye out for something to eat; in fact that was his principal business out, and Bill was some forager himself. All that he found was a fine looking turnip patch about four miles from camp. On the return trip he had carefully noted where Scott’s pickets were posted so that he would know where to go through their line and avoid being seen when he returned to the turnip patch that night. Soon after dark he started out, but contrary to calculations, Scott’s picket line had shifted and, the first thing Bill knew he was standing in front of one of Scott’s posts and they came forward to arrest him. Bill’s resourcefulness came temporariily to his rescue. As soon as he discovered he was walking up to a picket and had been discovered, he struck an attitude of suffering and began grunting as though he was in great pain. His pass was demanded; he had none. His explanation was that he was trying to get to the hospital (which he knew was located in that direction) and that the Surgeon told him "a sick man did not need a pass to go to the hospital"; meanwhile Bill kept up his grunting. The guard called a Lieutenant to whom Bill told the same story. The lieutenant told him that it was too bad that a sick man had to be marched about that way, but he would have to send him to Scott’s headquarters, which was about a mile distant; and called for a volunteer to take the sick man to headquarters. Bill said that he knew that he "had his hook hung" and said he knew that man who volunteered to take him to Scott was getting himself into trouble, for he was determined to fight it out with that guard before he ever got to Scott’s headquarters. Bill kept watching for opportunity. After going about a mile they came upon a spring branch about ten feet wide with perpendicular banks about six or seven feet high above the water, in which the water was four or five feet deep. The only means of crossing was to walk a pole. The guard inquired of Bill if he could walk the pole to which Bill replied that he could, whereupon the guard ordered him to cross first. When Bill reached the opposite bank he stopped at the end of the pole and stooped down and pretending to be fastening his shoe, but just as the guard finally reached midway of the stream Bill seized the pole and dashed the man and pole both into the ditch and took to his heels. When the guard finally reached the top of the bank Bill was out of sight. Old Scott never got Bill. He had given his name to the lieutenant as Brown, Company I, 18th Georgia. After this was discovered to be false there was no use to pursue the hunt any further.
I left the thread of the story at the end of the Tennessee-Georgia Campaign where we were on the march back to Virginia. Winter was not entirely gone in that section, but the Federals had started their campaign by crossing the Potomac into Virginia and this was the need for Longstreet’s recall.
The battle of the Wilderness opened as we approached; We could hear the guns as we drew near. Without stopping we went at once into the engagement. This battle ground was in fact a wilderness, the brush was so thick that it was difficult to get about.
Out of our company Jim Martin and Mut Morgan were killed outright in this battle and about eight of our company were wounded. It must be remembered that this was May 1864 and Company M had been reduced to a small squad, therefore our casualties, though apparently small, were in fact large in proportion to the number remaining in the old Company.
A few days later we fought the battle of Spotsylvania Court House where the Federals charged over the works of our regiment and we had a hand to hand fight with them. We killed nine of the Federals in front of our company, inside of the works. They frightened a good many very badly, myself among the number.
The command that charged us was drunk. When they came over our works the situation looked ugly but there was no time or inclination to pass the complements of the day with them. There was nothing to do but fight and we soon cleaned them up. They did not have the nerve to stand the cold steel. They bolted back across the field. This was our opportunity and we mowed them down in piles as they attempted to escape. In a few moments it was over and the field in front of us was strewn with dead and wounded Federals. This was the end of that fight. We remained there a day or two waiting for the Federals to either move or fight; they finally started in the direction of the James River and General Lee moved his army accordingly, keeping between the Federal army and Richmond.
On June 3rd, 1864 the Battle of Cold Harbor opened. Grant was in command of the Federals and it was said that he had under his immediate command at Cold Harbor 100,000 troops. They were, as usual with the Federals, splendidly equipped and well fed. At the beginning of this campaign of the Wilderness General Lee’s army did not exceed 60,000 available men. Cold Harbor was the shortest and bloodiest general engagement of the whole war. The soldier in the rank in battle only knows that which comes within his own vision, and that which he hears going up and down the line just previous to and after the battle, but in this way he acquires a fairly accurate knowledge of what has happened and the general features of an engagement.
Soon after daylight General Grant opened the battle of Cold Harbor by driving his whole army against the confederate front. In front of our Brigade they charged with seven lines of battle. We occupied well but hastily prepared earth works that would have been difficult to take from a skirmish line. When they reached within twenty steps of our line we opened fire. The slaughter was fearful to look at. It was one of the most horrible sights of all that war of slaughter and suffering. But after three years of similar sights, such occurrences had not the shocking effect upon us that it had in the first few engagements. The battle in front of us was over in thirty minutes, and from the appearance of the field, it looked like we had killed or wounded most of the men who charged us. The Federals loss was estimated at 13,000. We captured a few prisoners. The captured prisoners reported General Grant was drunk at this battle. Whether this story was true or false, he at least showed a very slight regard for the lives of his men, to order them to charge our position. Our loss in this battle was comparatively small. In Federal circles it was reported that Grant ordered a second charge but his soldiers refused to go in only to be slaughtered.
This campaign by Grant to capture Richmond began at the Wilderness, May 6th, and ended in complete failure at Cold Harbor, June 3rd. It was one of almost continuous fighting in which, according to reliable estimates, Grant’s losses were not less than 60,000 men, a number equal to General Lee’s entire army engaged in the campaign. We remained at Cold Harbor until Grant began withdrawing his army. He moved by the left flank and General Lee moved by his right flank keeping always between the enemy and Richmond.
Having failed in his campaign to take Richmond he retired across the James River and began his campaign against Petersburg, which brought about numerous engagements at outlying points and many assaults on General Lee’s entrenched line at different places before the several major engagements between the two entrenched armies were finally fought.
During the fall and winter of 1864 we were held in front of Richmond. During that time there was a division of Yankee Niggirs in front of us. On one occasion this Nigger division charged our works. It may be true that Grant wanted to humiliate us and also give the Niggers some glory. Whatever his purpose was, the effect of it was like flaunting a red flag before a mad bull. No man in our old Brigade would have retreated from. Or surrendered to Niggers. When they charged up within good range the fun began. Every man made his shots count. Only a few of them escaped. We killed in our front about a million dollars worth of niggers, at current prices. At another point, on our right, which was defended by a regiment of old men and boys, the niggers ran over them, broke the line and charged on to Richmond. This caused our Brigade to make a three mile run to Fort Gilmer to head them off. At that place they charged us. We killed or captured the whole bunch and put them out of business. We were then charged by a line of white soldiers which we whipped out, and then the main line of Federals retreated leaving a skirmish line in front. Immediately in front of us was a large cornfield on which the corn had been cut and shocked. The Federal skirmish line got behind these corn shocks and from these vantage points kept up a very annoying "sniper’s" attack on us all the afternoon. One of these snipers was more skillful and troublesome than the others. He was behind a large shock in front of our company. He would step out and fire and jump back behind the shock. When Eb Eaves fell dead from one of his shots we all got busy with him. Several of us tried shots at him without effect. My two shots fell short because I miscalculated the distance. Dr. L.M. McLendon put in his application for the next shot; raising his sights to three hundred yards he waited for the Yankee to step out and, when he did, he fired and downed the man, where upon there was rejoicing in our company. Dr. McLendon had avenged the death of Eb Eaves.
Soon after this our General sent out a line and whipped the Federals back. We then advanced and in passing the shock where the sniper had stood there we found his body shot through the heart, with his loaded gun by his side. Before we left that position we laid Eb away as best we could. His tattered bloodstained uniform encased his body; his worn and grimy blanket made his shroud; a mound of earth, which soon vanished by the wearing of the elements, was all we had to mark the final resting place in which we buried him, without religious ceremonials. Such was the final passing of the confederate Soldier who fell on the field of battle with Hood’s Brigade.
Those who distinguished themselves in civil life are comforted in their last extremity by all that love and devotion can do, and lasting monuments, bearing some account of their virtues, point future generations to the spot where their dust reposes. The Confederate Soldier faced and made the last supreme sacrifice without loved ones to comfort and minister to him, but with the same sublime courage and fortitude which marked the uncomplaining, cheerful performance of his duty amid privations and hardships hitherto unknown in human warfare, and his remains were finally laid to rest unceremoniously by the hands of his comrades in an unmarked grave upon which no loving hand may ever lay a flower.
So long as the people of Texas are true to themselves and to their traditions they will devotedly cherish the memory of those who lie in unmarked graves of the old Brigade, scattered from Manassas to Appomattox. In their hearts they will carry the eloquent sentiment of Theodore O’Hara who said:
"The muffled drum’s sad roll was beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shell meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead."
Next day after the last fight at Fort Gilmer we moved at double quick a mile and a half to a Fort on our left to meet a Federal command that was moving on that point, which was held by a small squadron only, and which fact the Federals discovered, and advanced on the Fort, still believing it manned by a small squadron. The Fort was in fact fully manned on our arrival and we were lying behind breastworks in front of it, well concealed and with orders to remain quiet until we got orders to fire. When the Yankees advanced, the batteries of twenty guns opened up on them with grape shot and in a short time we were ordered to fire, and fired three rounds before we were ordered to cease firing. By this time the smoke was so dense that you could not see any distance, but everything was perfectly quiet, which was a strange thing after so much noise and confusion. It took the smoke about fifteen minutes to clear away so as to give us a view of the field. To our astonishment when the smoke cleared away there was not a Yankee anywhere to be seen, although we got up and looked for them in all directions. Ephriam Dial, always a dare devil, jumped up on top of the breastworks and said he was going down to see what had become them; that he knew they were there when we fired on them. The officers made no effort to stop him. He went down in the direction of where we had seen the Yankees approaching, meanwhile we were watching him. He found a squadron of them lying down in a depression and walked right up to them. We could see him making motions and directly he took his hat and waved it in the air and yelled, whereupon the Yankees all rose and waved their hats. What really happened was Eph suddenly walked upon them lying down, he boldly ordered a surrender. This order was couched in vigorous terms, not fit for publication in a Sunday school journal. Approaching the officer he commanded him to form his men in line leaving their guns where they were. This was promptly done and they were marched to the rear, about a half mile distant, and turned over to the Provost Marshall, from whom he demanded and received a receipt for them.
We remained at this place a few days when we were ordered across the James River in the direction of Petersburg. We found and engaged the Federals at a place called the Hewlett House and in a short engagement whipped them out of their works and made them retreat to a fortified line of works further back from which they shelled us. In this engagement W.C. (Button)Evans was killed by a shell. After dark we buried him and continued our march crossing the Appomattox and reaching Petersburg the first day of June 1864. The long struggle
between the two armies, before referred to began in earnest at Petersburg June
17th and was continued with short intervals of rest until October. After
about four unsuccessful general assaults on our line the operations settled
down to a siege, in a sense, but not in fact, because our lines of communication,
both north and south, were kept open in spite of the numerous attempts to cut
them. The object of this campaign was to cut Richmond off from the remainder of the South by cutting the communications and compelling its evacuation. Petersburg was the key to the communications of Richmond. For this purpose Grant had concentrated large forces around Petersburg.
While the operations about Petersburg were going on, numerous other engagements were fought at other places about Richmond and Vicinity. It was, in fact, almost a continuous fight at some point on the extended line about Petersburg or nearby places where detachments were hurriedly dispatched to protect railroad lines of communication or weak places. J.M. Motes was killed at Petersburg.
In the engagements about Petersburg the Federals gained no important success up to October, when both armies had to cease major operations because of winter. They outnumbered our forces probably three to one about Petersburg during that long struggle, and made many unsuccessful assaults on our entrenched lines, always suffering heavy losses.
When the spring campaign opened in March, Grants army about Petersburg had been extensively reinforced while the confederate forces had been diminished by the casualties in constant fighting and by sickness, and the cavalry and artillery horses were actually unfit for service. Unlike the Federals we had no reserves to fill our ranks or recruits to call on. Under the circumstances it was impossible to hold Petersburg any longer, and this meant the evacuation of Richmond also. General Lee made an attack on the enemy on March 31st which was only temporarily successful. On April 1st the Federals made a general movement on our lines, with forces outnumbering us four to one which we could only hold in check until arrangements for the evacuation of Richmond and for our retreat could be made. On April 2nd we retreated from Petersburg, crossing the Appomattox at day light. All stores of supplies and ammunition had been set on fire before we left. We started in the direction of Lynchburg with only one cup of flour for each man and no meat.
We fought and marched seven days, reaching Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865, a day long remembered by me. The Federals in great numbers surrounded us and surrender was inevitable. Only six of the old company remained to surrender at Appomattox, Sam Watson, Willoughby Tullos, Sam Stubblefield, John Wilson, Ephriam Dial and myself. A few of the boys had returned home during the war maimed and crippled and a few were in federal prisons, but the great majority had been laid to rest in soldiers graves. They left to those who loved them an incontestable heritage of honor, more to be esteemed than a royal title.
When we surrendered there was not a commissioned officer in the bunch. Being a sergeant I had the distinction of being the ranking officer of the company but there was no distinction to be noticed, in rank or appearance, between the sergeant and the privates. We were ragged, starved and exhausted.
We were paroled on the morning of the 13th of April. Our regiment, the First Texas, which then consisted of only one hundred men, struck out together on foot on the long journey home, without rations and without a cent of money. Major Martin, afterwards a famous Texas Congressman, commonly called "Old Howdy," was the head of the crowd and offered to stay with us and lead us through. We marched seven or eight miles that day coming upon a large farm, the owner of which had about a hundred bushels of corn in his barn. He agreed to let us have two ears apiece. I was detailed to take a squad and count out the corn. While doing so, I slipped about half dozen ears extra into my haversack. I was so hungry that I could have eaten a piece of rubber boot. We went into camp there and parched and ate corn all that night and consumed all the corn we had, but luck was with us for the next day we came upon a large flour meal. We were all about sick but still hungry. We got a supply of flour at that mill but we had nothing else; no lard, soda or salt, nor had we anything to bake the bread in. The boys scattered out among the houses and told ladies of our troubles. They took our flour, and supplying all that was needful, made us the finest biscuit I ever ate in all my life. We had been on short rations, just enough to keep us alive, for eleven days. We had nothing to go with the biscuits but we ate until we were satisfied and then laid down on the ground and went to sleep. About 3 o’clock in the morning a cold rain fell upon us. Four of us got up and renewed the fire, ate two more biscuits each, and then held a council of war over the general situation. Major Martin had agreed to remain with us and thought it best for us to all remain together. He was a good man, and we all liked him, but we four decided that we had been under bosses for four years and wanted to be free to act for ourselves. We thought it would be easier to procure subsistence in small squads than in a body of one hundred men. We had to subsist on charity and there was very little for charity to bestow in that part of the country at that time. War had devastated all that section of the South from Richmond to the Mississippi River.
About three hours before day the four of us, Willoughby Tullos, Sam Stubblefield, Jim Curry and myself, hit the road for Griffin, Georgia. Our feeding up on parched corn and biscuit had improved our strength, and being we trained to walk, we made about forty miles that day and night. We continued our march until we finally reached Griffin, hungry and exhausted again.
At Griffin there was a Confederate Commissary of two houses, about one block apart, one filled with bacon and the other with flour. There was a squadron of about fifty well armed Confederate Cavalry there and they wanted some of the meat and flour but the manager would not let them have it. When we arrived on the ground and they found that we were paroled men out of Hood’s Brigade they came to us with the whole story, assuming that we were ready for any kind of adventure, and they guessed us off about right, for in fact, we were desperately hungry that we would have fought the manager and all his men for some of that meat and flour. We looked the ground over, under the guidance of some of the cavalrymen, and told them the best thing to do would be to divide the forces and attack the two warehouses at the same time. They requested one of us to lead each party. We were not certain they would stand and fight, if that became necessary, and we did not like to take charge of the expedition. After consulting among ourselves and getting from the cavalrymen a solemn pledge to stand by us and fight, if necessary, we agreed to take charge of it.
We decided to make the attack at noon when but few people would be on the streets of the town. Willoughby Tullos took one squad and I took the other and, at the appointed time, I advanced on the store where the bacon was, and Tullos charged on the flour warehouse. We were provided with railroad iron for battering rams. I halted my squad at the back door of the warehouse and stepped up and knocked on the door. The manager answered but did not open the door. I told him that if he did not open the door at once I would break it down. He then opened the door at once just enough to get his head out and take in the situation. I told him that we needed the meat and were going to have it, and we did not want any back talk about it. I gave him five minutes to open the door wide. He opened the door and had four minutes and fifty nine seconds of his time to spare. I directed the boys to go in and get what they needed but not destroy anything. I walked in and got a fine ham, and when the boys had secured as much bacon as they needed, I called them out and thanked the man in charge for the supplies and walked out. A number of citizens who had collected about the door took charge of it.
The other squad had succeeded in obtaining a supply of flour from the other building. In a few minutes the streets were full of people loaded down with flour and bacon and all running in all directions.
The ladies kindly boiled our ham and cooked us some excellent bread.
We started next morning for Selma, Alabama, which we reached a week later, but we traveled only at night and in the cool of the morning, resting and sleeping during the day. Our next objective was Jackson, Mississippi, which it took us quite a while to reach.
Mention was made of the devastation of all the country from Virginia to the Mississippi River. It was a common practice of the Federals, like vandals, to burn and destroy homes and farms and property of all kinds and to appropriate jewelry and silverplate of private families. Sherman in his "March to the Sea" laid waste to a large scope of the of the richest country in Georgia and the Carolinas. He subsequently boasted that if a crow should attempt to fly over the country he had traversed he must carry his rations with him. In contrast with this conduct it will be remembered that when Lee’s army invaded Pennsylvania strict orders were given that we should not even take an apple from a tree.
The supplies we got a Griffin, Georgia, lasted until we got to Jackson, where we replenished our rations, and after resting two or three days started for Vicksburg, where we remained about three days waiting for transport to take us down river. By this transport, which was our first ride on the trip, we went down the river to the mouth of the Red River and up that river to Wilson’s landing about twenty miles below Alexandria, where we were compelled to again resort to "brogan transportation" for the remainder of the distnce home, which was about 225 miles. We lost no time on the last lap of the journey. Being in good condition we walded day and night.
When we got to the Texas State line we found a house on the hill and a fine spring branch near by. We decided that this was a good time and place to boil out our and clean up our old clots and part company with the remaining members of the "Royal Irish Brigade," still secreted under the seams of our clothing. We did not think that it was just the proper thing to do to take these veterans home and introduce them to polite society. One thing of their fortitude may be said, they never surrendered to anything but boiling hot water or fire.
When I went to the house on the hill to secure the necessary pot and tubs for the cleaning up, to my astonishment I found that it was the home of Mr. Ritter, who had formerly lived in Trinity County about five miles north of where Groveton now stands, near Ritter Lake, which took its name from him. He kindly gave me a pint of home made soap and directed me to the family wash place down the branch, where we found the necessary pots and tubs. That incident occurred about sixty years ago and I have not seen a "cooty" since.
We were then 100 miles from home. At night we resumed our march and walked until about nine o’clock, and then took up the march again. It took us several days to get home on account of the way we traveled, at night principally.
I had been gone three years and twenty days, my folks had not heard from me during that time and supposed that I was dead. My mother did not know me. When I left home I was a large fleshy boy of seventeen years old. When I returned I was Tall lean man with a heavy black mustache.
The close of the war was followed by what was called "Reconstruction." It was in fact an arbitrary government by "Carpetbaggers," backed by Federal soldiers. These vultures of prey had swarmed to the south as soon as hostilities ceased, to hold the offices. Local "Scalawags," a name conferred upon the few men who had resided in the south before the war but who were in fact traitors to the south, shared with the "Carpetbaggers" the spoils of the public service. At the first opportunity , after all danger had passed, and they had the protection of a command of Federal soldiers at each county seat, the "Scalawags" showed their real colors.
An office was created by Federal authority to adjudicate all controversies between the negro and the white man and to see that the negro got his rights. The incumbent was called a "Bureau Agent". He was clothed with arbitrary authority and used the military to make arrests and carry out his dictatorial orders.
The "Carpetbaggers" were abolition emissaries from the north sent to hold the offices and teach the negroes "what their rights were." They belonged to that class of people of which John Brown, of Harper’s Ferry fame, was an extreme example. These men and the Federal soldiers fraternized freely with the negros. The soldiers were regular attendants at all the negro dances and took conspicuous part in the dancing, to the astonishment of the home people.
When the negroes were liberated they were of course without the simplest rudiments of education and they thought that emancipation meant that they would never have to work any more. Large numbers of them flocked to the towns and cities and filled to overflowing every habitation available for them. After a few months of idleness, revelry and coaching by the "Carpetbaggers" and social equality with Yankee soldiers, a bad state of demoralization existed.
The "Carpetbaggers" were of the same class as those who before the war had been sent into the south by stealth to induce the slaves to revolt and liberate themselves. Some of the negroes were induced to believe that they were of right entitled to an equal division of property of their former masters, and to social equality also. Be it remembered to their credit, however, that the older heads among the negroes were not seduced by these teachings. They remained on the plantations and made crops on liberal terms offered by them by the owners.
The trouble was augmented when the necessity for something to eat and to wear confronted these town idlers. Some managed to earn enough to live on but others had to steal, starve or go back to the plantations and help work the land. Liberal farming terms induced but few to return and make an honest living as the older heads had decided to do in the beginning.
Ere long elections were ordered for state and county officers for a civil government. In order to hold office a man was required to take what we contemptuously called the :Iron Clad Oath," which contained the affirmation that affiant had "never aided, abetted or sympathized with the rebellion." This of coarse excluded all Confederate soldiers and all other self respecting Southern white men, and left the offices to the negroes, "Carpetbaggers" and "Scalawags." Other restrictions excluded from the polls those who voted for secession or previously held office. The additional encouragement of the privilege to vote and hold office went to the heads of many of the negroes and brought about an intolerable and dangerous condition for which there was no remedy except force. In this emergency and solely to protect the lives and property and the women of the country, the Ku Klux Klan was organized and it had a salutary effect. It, in fact, saved the country from open warfare.
Some one has erroneously stated that the present organization called the Ku Klux Klan is a revival of the old Klan and based upon the same principles. Speaking from personal knowledge I must say most positively that this claim is absolutely untrue. The present organization does not in the least respect accord with the old organization in principles or purposes, and this is well known to every living southern man over seventy years of age. This statement is not made to disparage the present organization in the least particular, but it is made for the sake of the truth of history.
The first state administration, after the close of the war and before the "Reconstruction" plan was put into effect, was by general suffrage, and was elected by the Democratic party. James W. Throckmorton was the Governor; but’ in a short time, he and all the state officers were removed by Federal order, as were the Governors of all the Southern States, because as the Federal authorities stated it they "constituted an obstruction to the reconstruction of the Union." E.J. Davis, a Texas man, who had raised a regiment and entered the war on the Federal side, was the first and last "Reconstruction" governor. He exercised an extensive appointing power given him to foist the "Carpetbaggers" and "Scalawags" in office, including an occasional negro. Very few negroes could read or write and could not therefore discharge the duties of an office. In some counties they were appointed, notwithstanding their unfitness. In Trinity County there was but one Negro who could read and he was placed on the Registration and Election Board. His name was Anthony Colbreath. This board administered an oath to every applicant for registration and rigorously tested his qualifications under the restrictive rules before referred to.
Elections were held at the county seats and three days were required to hold them. The very few "Carpetbaggers" in Trinity County and the "Scalawags," were not eligible to serve on that board because they were all candidates. School boys had to be pressed into service to keep the tally sheets. It finally became necessary , in Trinity County, to prevail on young Democrats to accept some of the offices in order that the public business might be transacted.
A general amnesty act was finally passed by Congress about 1870 dispensing with the oath previously required of voters, and other disqualification’s were also removed, the effect of which was to restore to white men the right of suffrage. When this was done the Davis regime was put out at the succeeding election, and that was the end of Reconstruction and of Republican rule in Texas. But this election in our county was not carried without difficulty. The majority was small. More men than the county had voters volunteered and went to the war. In fact all men and boys from 18 to 60 were in the service. The county sent out three large companies besides a large overflow that went to other counties to enlist. While the other commands did not suffer like Company M, large numbers of them never returned. This reduced our voting strength very materially. Proper credit is due the negroes of that day in Trinity County to say that a large majority of the older ones took the advice of their former masters and white friends, and in this last struggle to depose the Davis regime, voted for the Democratic candidates, as they did many times later on in political emergencies.
The first command of Federal troops to be quartered in Sumpter was in about 1866. This was three companies of the 13th Illinois, under command of a hard boiled Yankee Abolition Major. They occupied some vacant stores on the west side of the public square. The few business men in town who had means to do so resumed business at the close of the war. Among the number was E.B. (Ed) Robb, a cousin of Col. Sam T. Robb, the well known attorney of that county. In some way Ed Robb had at the close of the war secured a suit of Confederate uniform and was wearing it about his store every day. About the second day after the Yankee soldiers arrived this hard boiled Major discovered Ed Robb in his Captain’s uniform and sent a sergeant and two men with fixed bayonets over to the store to cut the buttons off that suit. As they entered the door Ed suspicioned something and stepped to the end of the counter, where he kept a large six shooter under a bolt of domestic. When the officer approached, knife in hand, and attempted to cut the buttons off Ed downed him with a blow of the pistol and, covering the two soldiers, made them run. He then kicked the officer out of the store. In a few moments excitement was intense. After reflecting over the insult a short time Ed became so furious that he could not be controlled. He walked over to the newly erected flag pole, which stood out in front of the barracks, took the flag down, tore it to pieces and kicked it about in the dirt. It was now expected that the hard boiled Major would take drastic action. Men armed themselves and collected in groups about the stores and the Plaza determined to fight if necessary, to protect Ed Robb. Finally a committee waited on the Major and informed him plainly that he had transcended his authority and if that was the kind of treatment he proposed to deal out to the people, to declare himself, and they would start the war over again in an hour. The Major declined the challenge and sullenly submitted. Complaint was made to military headquarters about his conduct and he was transferred. The Colonel who succeeded him was a true soldier who had seen service at the front.
This Colonel and his officers soon became acquainted with the leading citizens, and finding that the people were fair and honorable, they favored the cause of the best citizenship and we had no trouble while that command remained.
Many conflicts occurred between citizens and Federal soldiers in other counties and many indignities were suffered by the people at the command of Bureau Agents and "Carpetbag" office holders. This was particularly true at places where negro troops were stationed as at Tyler.
Soon after restoration of Democratic control of the government John C. Madden, a Confederate soldier, was elected sheriff of the county. He was desperately wounded in the war as he boarded the Harriett Lane in the retaking of Galveston as a member of Kirksey’s Company from Trinity County. A piece of shell struck him on the side of the head. He never entirely recovered from this wound and could not discharge the active duties of the office, and desired to resign, but at the suggestion of Sam T. Robb, or mutual friend, he continued to hold office nominally, and I was made his deputy and acting sheriff for two years. I was married to Miss Mary Gaston November 8th,1867.
I farmed and raised stock a while, operated a saw and grist mill a while, but finally engaged in mercantile business at Centralia for ten years, during which time a Democratic convention unexpectedly nominated me as candidate of the party for the Legislature, and in due time I was "convicted" and sent to the 23rd Legislature, in preference to a populist opponent, and served one term; after which I moved to Haskell County, where I served two terms by election as County Judge and declined to offer again.
In view of the fact that this narrative is intended chiefly for distribution among the descendants of my old comrades of Trinity County, it may not be amiss to relate here, for their information, some of the early history of the county, and particularly, the history of Sumpter, its first county seat, and at one time one of the best towns in East Texas, but now entirely effaced from the map.
Trinity County was organized in 1850 and Sumpter the county seat was located on the land of Solomon Adams, the father of Jack Adams of our company, and the grandfather of Solomon Adams now living near Grapeland.
My father, John W. Hamilton, moved from Oxford, Mississippi, my birth place, to Rusk County, Texas in 1846 when I was a child. In 1852 he moved to Trinity County and located at a spring near the center of Nogilas prairie. He sold this place to Byrd Kerr and settled two and a half miles north of there on a small prairie which went by the family name. In 1854 my father was elected County Surveyor and moved near Sumpter opening a farm, one and a half miles east of town, on Homer or Clark’s ferry road. This was our home until the early seventies.
About 1857 a railroad was chartered from Beaumont to Fort Worth, and active operations were commenced on the surveying and grading at Beaumont. It was understood that Sumpter was to be made a division point, and a railroad town of importance. Business and professional men flocked to the place, and by 1861 many business and professional men had moved there, and numbers of slave holders had moved to the county and opened up plantations on the rich bottom land and uplands, and the place became one of the best towns in East Texas. Among the principal slave holders were Ratcliff, Estes, Rees, Mangum, Talliaferro, Wagnon, Evans, Sims, Hawthorne, Davis, Blacksheare, Lundy, Darby, Wortham, and Mass. Business and professional men owned house servants only. The Principal business men of Sumpter were Smith, Crockett evans, Cramer, Teagarden, Berliner, Halff Bros., Kiam, Samuels, Estes, Felker, and Hunsaker. Besides these there were numerous drugstores, saloons, and ten pin alleys and other business enterprises.
Merchandize for the town was shipped by boat to Sebastopol on the Trinity River, about fifteen miles southwest of the town, during the season when the river was navigable up to that point, which usually covered the fall and winter. Nearly all the cotton went by river steamers to Galveston but when the River was not navigable, wagon trains hauled cotton to, and merchandise back from, Liberty to Lynchburg. The leading merchants, Smith, Teagarden, Berliner, and Cramer built large stores and carried large stocks. When the county seat was first established , Sumpter was a primative village. Solomon Adams had cleared a small farm north of where the plaza was located and erected a large double pen log house on what was later the Northwest corner of the plaza. He had a small store in which he carried general merchandise. His home was also a hotel. (That log house is all that now remains of Sumpter). On the southeast corner of the square was old man Bob Wright’s Blackamith Shop, in the back room of which he kept a barrel of whiskey. Near the southwest corner of the plaza, under the shade of a large cottonwood tree, stood the Court House, a building about twenty feet square, built of about eight inch pine poles. These constituted the sum of the business and public buildings.
At a later date a large hewn log school house was erected, one block west and two blocks south of the plaza. I attended this school a short time only. My father was accidentally crippled and when he recovered, his frequent absense to attend to official business required me to remain at home and to take charge of part of the surveying.
There was no stealing or robbing, or other crimes, in the county, and rarely were any civil controversies between citizens tried, and therefore there was not much court in the early days. In those days a man’s word was his bond; he always complied with it and no written obligation was necessary. Such a thing as a mortgage was unknown. The people would not tolerate a thief or a rascal in the community.
With the exception of the several prairies, the county was covered with a splendid and dense forest of large trees of hardwood and pine, with no underbrush of any consequence except in the numerous creek and river swamps. It was a hunter’s and fisherman’s paradise, and the best cattle range in the world. Bear, panther, deer, turkey, wolves and small animals were numerous and the lakes and streams were full of fish.
In the early days it took but little effort to make a living. This was usually taken from the woods except bread, for which corn was hauled from Shreveport, at that time our market town, and ground on hand mills. Flour was unknown. A little later we raised our own corn and sweet potatoes and lived at home in good comfortable log houses with split puncheon floors. Transportation was altogether by wagons. They were driven ten to fifteen miles a day and the oxen were turned out at night to hustle their feed.
When the count and county seat began to settle up, a saw and grist mill was located four miles south of Sumpter at Indian Camp Springs, on the Livingston road; this supplied the lumber to improve the town and replace our log houses with good frame homes. This mill was operated by Goodwin Woodson and Bob Crow.
After the war an effort was made by Mr. Teagarden and others to revive the railroad from Beaumont to Fort Worth, and they succeeded in getting men of ample capital interested, and had it chartered by the legislature, but Davis vetoed the bill and it was abandoned.
About 1872 the Great Northern Railroad was built up to Trinity Station where building was suspended several months. It was plain to be seen that Sumpter was doomed and the people began to move.
The County Seat was moved first to Trinity, then to Pennington, and when the T. & S. Ry. Was built it was moved to Groveton. The finest of homes and business houses of Sumpter were moved to and contributed to the construction of Trinity and Pennington. One store was moved to Crockett and the school building was moved to Lampasas. The Teagarden home was moved to Trinity by Brown Martin and used to construct two homes.
About 1922 I was at Groveton, and desiring to take a last look at old Sumpter and my old home, I went with a friend out there. The whole country looked unnatural. That splendid forest had all been cut and made into lumber and the country and all the old plantations were a mass of brush and bramble. The old town of Sumpter is in cultivation and it was with difficulty that I could locate myself. I did not succeed until I found the large cistern at the old home of Dr. Teagarden on the southeast corner of the plaza. I could then locate the plaza and streets and where the buildings formerly stood. I found nothing remaining of my fathers nice home and farm except that good old well of water, and a small patch of land cultivated by a negro who lived nearby. The farm was in brush and the old home, around which clustered the happiest memories of my life, lay in the ashes under my feet. My father and mother and all my brothers and sisters, save one had gone to their eternal rest. Alone I stood on that hallowed spot, my dear old home, to which I had returned in sorrow, as to a shrine, before which to stand for the last time with reverence, and permit my mind to turn back the pages back and recall the past associations on that sacred spot. Only those who have had such experiences can fully appreciate the sadness of a return under such circumstances, to stand, in old age, the sole survivor and alone upon the ashes of childhood’s happy home.
Similar feelings came over me when I stood where the fine, bustling, business, town of Sumpter once stood and thought of all its activities, of my old schoolmates and friends and happy times we enjoyed in the long ago. They too have all preceded me to their last rewards.
Battles: Freestone Point (September 25, 1861)
Occoquan [skirmish],(February 28, 1862)
Eltham Landing (May 7, 1862)
Seven Pines (May 3 1 -June 1, 1862)
Seven Days Battles (June 25-july 1, 1862)
Gaines'Mill (June 27, 1862)
Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862)
Freeman's Ford (Au-ust 21, 1862)
Thoroughfare Gap (August 28, 1862)
2nd Bull Run (August 28-30, 1862)
South Mountain (September 14, 1862)
Antietam (September 17, 1862)
Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862)
Washington Siege (March-April 1863)
Washington (April 4,1863)
Suffolk Campaign (April 1863)
Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863)
Front Roval [skirmish] (July 22, 1863)
Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863)
Chattanooga Siege (September-November 1863)
Wauhatchie (October 28-29,1863)
Knoxville Siege (November-December 1863)
The Wilderness (May 5-6,1864)
Spotsylvania Court House (May 8-21, 1864)
North Anna (May 23-26, 1864)
Cold Harbor (June 1-3, 1864)
Petersburg Siege (June 1864-April 1865)
New Market Heights (September 29, 1864)
Chaffin's Farm (September 29, 1864)
Fort Gilmer (September 29-30, 1864)
Williamsburg Road (October 27, 1864)
Appomattox Court House (April 9, 1865)