point. The Rebels evacuated the place on our approach, and after a day or two at Holly Springs we went forward toward the south. Abbeville and Oxford were taken, and the Rebels established themselves at Grenada, a hundred miles south of Memphis.
From Corinth I accompanied the division commanded by General Stanley. I had known this officer in Missouri, in the first year of the war, when he claimed to be very “conservative” in his views. During the campaign with General Lyon he expressed himself opposed to a warfare that should produce a change in the social status at the South. When I met him at Corinth he was very “radical” in sentiment, and in favor of a thorough destruction of the “peculiar institution.” He declared that he had liberated his own slaves, and was determined to set free all the slaves of any other person that might come in his way. He rejoiced that the war had not ended during the six months following the fall of Fort Sumter, as we should then have allowed slavery to exist, which would have rendered us liable to another rebellion whenever the Southern leaders chose to make it. We could only be taught by the logic of events, and it would take two or three years of war to educate the country to a proper understanding of our position.
It required a war of greater magnitude than was generally expected at the outset. In 1861 there were few people who would have consented to interfere with “slavery in the States.” The number of these persons was greater in 1862, but it was not until 1864 that the anti-slavery sentiment took firm hold of the public mind. In 1861 the voice of Missouri would have favored the retention of the old system. In 1864 that State became almost as radical as Massachusetts. The change in public sentiment elsewhere was nearly as great.
During the march from Corinth to Grand Junction, I had frequent opportunity for conversing with the people along the route. There were few able-bodied men at home. It was the invariable answer, when we asked the whereabouts of any citizen, “He’s away.” Inquiry would bring a reluctant confession that he had gone to the Rebel army. Occasionally a woman would boast that she had sent her husband to fight for his rights and the rights of his State. The violation of State rights and the infringement upon personal prerogative were charged upon the National Government as the causes of the war. Some of the women displayed considerable skill in arguing the question of secession, but their arguments were generally mingled with invective. The majority were unable to make any discussion whatever.
“What’s you-uns come down here to fight we-uns for?” said one of the women whose husband was in the Rebel army. “We-uns never did you-uns no hurt.” (This addition of a syllable to the personal pronouns of the second and third persons is common in some parts of the South, while in others it will not be heard.)
“Well,” said General Stanley, “we came down here because we were obliged to come. Your people commenced a war, and we are trying to help you end it.”
“We-uns didn’t want to fight, no-how. You-uns went and made the war so as to steal our niggers.”
The woman acknowledged that neither her husband nor herself ever owned negroes, or ever expected to do so. She knew nothing about Fort Sumter, and only knew that the North elected one President and the South another, on the same occasion. The South only wanted its president to rule its own region, but the North wanted to extend its control over the whole country, so as to steal the negroes. Hence arose the war.
Some of the poorer whites manifested a loyal feeling, which sprang from a belief that the establishment of the Confederacy would not better their condition. This number was not large, but it has doubtless increased with the termination of the war. The wealthier portion of the people were invariably in sympathy with the Rebel cause.
After we reached Grand Junction, and made our camp a short distance south of that point, we were joined by the column from Bolivar. In the two columns General Grant had more than forty thousand men, exclusive of a force under General Sherman, about to move from Memphis. The Rebel army was at Holly Springs and Abbeville, and was estimated at fifty thousand strong. Every day found a few deserters coming in from the Rebels, but their number was not large. The few that came represented their army to be well supplied with shoes, clothing, and ammunition, and also well fed. They were nearly recovered from the effects of their repulse at Corinth, a month before.
Our soldiers foraged at will on the plantations near our camp. The quantities of supplies that were brought in did not argue that the country had been previously visited by an army. Mules, horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, and other things used by an army, were found in abundance.
The soldiers did not always confine their foraging to articles of necessity. A clergyman’s library was invaded and plundered. I saw one soldier bending under the (avoirdupois) weight of three heavy volumes on theology, printed in the German language. Another soldier, a mere boy, was carrying away in triumph a copy of Scott’s Greek Lexicon. In every instance when it came to their knowledge, the officers compelled the soldiers to return the books they had stolen. German theology and Greek Lexicons were not thought advantageous to an army in the field.
One wing of our army was encamped at Lagrange, Tennessee, and honored with the presence of General Grant. Lagrange presented a fair example of the effects of secession upon the interior villages of the South. Before the war it was the center of a flourishing business. Its private residences were constructed with considerable magnificence, and evinced the wealth of their owners. There was a male and a female college; there was a bank, and there were several stores and commission houses.
When the war broke out, the young men at the male college enlisted in the Rebel army. The young women in the female college went to their homes. The bank was closed for want of funds, the hotels had no guests, the stores had few customers, and these had no money, the commission houses could find no cotton to sell and no goods to buy. Every thing was completely stagnated. All the men who could carry muskets went to the field. When we occupied the town, there were not three men remaining who were of the arms-bearing age.
I found in Lagrange a man who _could_ keep a hotel. He was ignorant, lazy, and his establishment only resembled the Fifth Avenue or the Continental in the prices charged to the guests. I staid several days with this Boniface, and enjoyed the usual fare of the interior South. Calling for my bill at my departure, I found the charges were only three dollars and fifty cents per day.
My horse had been kept in a vacant and dilapidated stable belonging to the hotel, but the landlord refused to take any responsibility for the animal. He had no corn or hay, and his hostler had “gone to the Yankees!” During my stay I employed a man to purchase corn and give the desired attention to the horse. The landlord made a charge of one dollar per day for “hoss-keeping,” and was indignant when I entered a protest. Outside of Newport and Saratoga, I think there are very few hotel-keepers in the North who would make out and present a bill on so small a basis as this.
This taverner’s wife and daughter professed an utter contempt for all white persons who degraded themselves to any kind of toil. Of course, their hostility to the North was very great. Beyond a slight supervision, they left every thing to the care of the negroes. A gentleman who was with me sought to make himself acquainted with the family, and succeeded admirably until, on one evening, he constructed a small toy to amuse the children. This was too much. He was skillful with his hands, and must therefore be a “mudsill.” His acquaintance with the ladies of that household came to an end. His manual dexterity was his ruin.
There was another hotel in Lagrange, a rival establishment, that bore the reputation of being much the worse in point of comfort. It was owned by a widow, and this widow had a son–a lank, overgrown youth of eighteen. His poverty, on one point, was the greatest I ever knew. He could have been appropriately selected as the hero of a certain popular novel by Wilkie Collins. No name had ever been given him by his parents. In his infancy they spoke of him as “the boy.” When he grew large enough to appear on the street with other boys, some one gave him the _sobriquet_ of “Rough and Ready.” From that time forward, his only praenomen was “Rough.” I made several inquiries among his neighbors, but could not ascertain that he bore any other Christian appellative.
The first comprehensive order providing for the care of the negroes in the Southwest, was issued by General Grant while his army lay at Lagrange and Grand Junction. Previous to that time, the negroes had been disposed of as each division and post commander thought best, under his general instructions not to treat them unkindly. Four months earlier, our authorities at Memphis had enrolled several hundred able-bodied negroes into an organization for service in the Quartermaster’s Department, in accordance with the provisions of an order from District Head-Quarters. They threw up fortifications, loaded and unloaded steamboats, and performed such other labor as was required. In General Grant’s army there was a pioneer corps of three hundred negroes, under the immediate charge of an overseer, controlled by an officer of engineers. No steps were then taken to use them as soldiers.
The number of negroes at our posts and in our camps was rapidly increasing. Under the previous orders, they were registered and employed only on Government work. None but the able-bodied males were thus available. The new arrangements contemplated the employment of all who were capable of performing any kind of field labor. It was expected to bring some revenue to the Government, that would partially cover the expense of providing for the negroes.
The following is the order which General Grant issued:–
HEAD-QUARTERS THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
LAGRANGE, TENNESSEE, _November_ 14, 1862.
SPECIAL FIELD ORDER, NO. 4.
I. Chaplain J. Eaton, Jr., of the Twenty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, is hereby appointed to take charge of all fugitive slaves that are now, or may from time to time come, within the military lines of the advancing army in this vicinity, not employed and registered in accordance with General Orders, No. 72, from head-quarters District of West Tennessee, and will open a camp for them at Grand Junction, where they will be suitably cared for, and organized into companies, and set to work, picking, ginning, and baling all cotton now outstanding in fields.
II. Commanding officers of all troops will send all fugitives that come within the lines, together with such teams, cooking utensils, and other baggage as they may bring with them, to Chaplain J. Eaton, Jr., at Grand Junction.
III. One regiment of infantry from Brigadier-General McArthur’s Division will be temporarily detailed as guard in charge of such contrabands, and the surgeon of said regiment will be charged with the care of the sick.
IV. Commissaries of subsistence will issue, on the requisitions of Chaplain Eaton, omitting the coffee ration, and substituting rye. By order of Major-General U.S. Grant. JNO. A. RAWLINS, A.A.G.
Chaplain Eaton entered immediately upon the discharge of his duties. Many division and brigade commanders threw obstacles in his way, and were very slow to comply with General Grant’s order. Some of the officers of the Commissary Department made every possible delay in filling Chaplain Eaton’s requisitions. The people of the vicinity laughed at the experiment, and prophesied speedy and complete failure. They endeavored to insure a failure by stealing the horses and mules, and disabling the machinery which Chaplain Eaton was using. Failing in this, they organized guerrilla parties, and attempted to frighten the negroes from working in the field. They only desisted from this enterprise when some of their number were killed.
All the negroes that came into the army lines were gathered at Grand Junction and organized, in compliance with the order. There were many fields of cotton fully ripened, that required immediate attention. Cotton-picking commenced, and was extensively prosecuted.
The experiment proved a success. The cotton, in the immediate vicinity of Grand Junction and Lagrange was gathered, baled, and made ready for market. For once, the labors of the negro in the Southwest were bringing an actual return to the Government.
The following year saw the system enlarged, as our armies took possession of new districts. In 1863, large quantities of cotton were gathered from fields in the vicinity of Lake Providence and Milliken’s Bend, and the cultivation of plantations was commenced. In 1864, this last enterprise was still further prosecuted. Chaplain Eaton became Colonel Eaton, and the humble beginning at Grand Junction grew into a great scheme for demonstrating the practicability of free labor, and benefiting the negroes who-had been left without support by reason of the flight of their owners.
As the army lay in camp near Lagrange for nearly four weeks, and the enemy was twenty-five miles distant, there was very little war correspondence to be written. There was an occasional skirmish near the front, but no important movement whatever. The monotony of this kind of life, and the tables of the Lagrange hotels, were not calculated to awaken much enthusiasm. Learning from a staff officer the probable date when the army would advance, I essayed a visit to St. Louis, and returned in season to take part in the movement into Mississippi.
At the time General Grant advanced from Lagrange, he ordered General Sherman to move from Memphis, so that the two columns would unite in the vicinity of Oxford, Mississippi. General Sherman pushed his column as rapidly as possible, and, by the combined movement, the Rebels were forced out of their defenses beyond Oxford, and compelled to select a new line in the direction of Grenada. Our flag was steadily advancing toward the Gulf.
Satisfied there would be no battle until our army had passed Oxford, I tarried several days at Holly Springs, waiting for the railway to be opened. I found the town a very pleasant one, finely situated, and bearing evidence of the wealth and taste of its inhabitants. When the war broke out, there were only two places in the State that could boast a larger population than Holly Springs.
At the time of my arrival, the hotels of Holly Springs were not open, and I was obliged to take a room at a private house with one of the inhabitants. My host was an earnest advocate of the Rebel cause, and had the fullest confidence in the ultimate independence of the South.
“We intend,” said he, “to establish a strong Government, in which there will be no danger of interference by any abolitionists. If you had allowed us to have our own way, there would never have been any trouble. We didn’t want you to have slavery in the North, but we wanted to go into the Territories, where we had a perfect right, and do as we pleased about taking our slaves there. The control of the Government belongs to us. The most of the Presidents have been from the South, as they ought to be. It was only when you elected a sectional President, who was sworn to break up slavery, that we objected. You began the war when you refused us the privilege of having a national President.”
This gentleman argued, further, that the half of all public property belonged to the South, and it was only just that the State authorities should take possession of forts and arsenals, as they did at the inception of the war. It was the especial right of the South to control the nation. Slavery was instituted from Heaven, for the especial good of both white and black. Whoever displayed any sympathy for the negro, and wished to make him free, was doing a great injustice to the slave and his master, particularly to the latter.
Once he said the destruction of slavery would be unworthy a people who possessed any gallantry. “You will,” he declared, “do a cruel wrong to many fine ladies. They know nothing about working with their hands, and consider such knowledge disgraceful. If their slaves are taken from them, these ladies will be helpless.”
This gentleman was the possessor of several negroes, though he lived in a house that he did not own. Of course, it was a great injustice to deprive him of his only property, especially as the laws of his State sanctioned such ownership. He declared he would not submit to any theft of that character. I do not think I ever saw a person manifest more passion than was exhibited by this individual on hearings one afternoon, that one of his slaves had taken refuge in our camp, with the avowed intention of going North.
“I don’t care for the loss,” said he, “but what I do care for is, to be robbed by a nigger. I can endure an injury from a white man; to have a nigger defy me is too much.”
Unfortunate and unhappy man! I presume he is not entirely satisfied with the present status of the “Peculiar Institution.”
The cotton speculators at Holly Springs were guilty of some sharp transactions. One day a gentleman residing in the vicinity came to town in order to effect a sale of fifty bales. The cotton was in a warehouse a half-dozen miles away.
Remaining over night in Holly Springs, and walking to the railway station in the morning, he found his cotton piled by the track and ready for shipment. Two men were engaged effacing the marks upon the bales. By some means they had obtained a sufficient number of Government wagons to remove the entire lot during the night. It was a case of downright theft. The offenders were banished beyond the lines of the army.
In a public office at Holly Springs our soldiers found a great number of bills on the Northern Bank of Mississippi. They were in sheets, just as they had come from the press. None of them bore dates or signatures.
The soldiers supplied all needed chirography, and the bills obtained a wide circulation. Chickens, pigs, and other small articles were purchased of the whites and negroes, and paid for with the most astonishing liberality.
Counterfeits of the Rebel currency were freely distributed, and could only be distinguished from the genuine by their superior execution.
Among the women in Holly Springs and its vicinity snuff was in great demand. The article is used by them in much the same way that men chew tobacco. The practice is known as “dipping,” and is disgusting in the extreme. A stick the size of a common pencil is chewed or beaten at one end until the fibers are separated. In this condition it forms a brush.
This brush is moistened with saliva, and plunged into the snuff. The fine powder which adheres is then rubbed on the gums and among the teeth. A species of partial intoxication is the result.
The effect of continued “dipping” becomes apparent. The gums are inflamed, the teeth are discolored, the lips are shriveled, and the complexion is sallow. The throat is dry and irritated, and there is a constant desire to expectorate.
I trust the habit will never become a Northern one.
GRANT’S OCCUPATION OF MISSISSIPPI.
The Slavery Question.–A Generous Offer.–A Journalist’s Modesty.–Hopes of the Mississippians at the Beginning of the War.–Visiting an Editress.–Literature under Difficulties.–Jacob Thompson and his Correspondence.–Plans for the Capture of Vicksburg.–Movements of General Sherman.–The Raid upon Holly Springs.–Forewarned, but not Forearmed.–A Gallant Fight.
The people of Holly Springs were much excited over the slavery question. It was then early in December. The President’s proclamation was to have its effect on all States, or portions of States, not represented in Congress on the first of January following. The slaveholders desired to have the northern district of Mississippi represented in Congress before the first of January.
Three or four days after my arrival at Holly Springs I was with a small party of citizens to whom I had received introduction. The great question was being discussed. All were agreed that Northern Mississippi should be represented in Congress at whatever cost.
“Grant has now been in Mississippi nearly two weeks,” said the principal speaker; “we are clearly entitled to representation.”
“Certainly we are,” responded another; “but who will represent us?”
“Hold an election to-morrow, and choose our man.”
“Who will we send? None of us would be received. There isn’t a man in the district who could swear he has taken no part in the Rebellion.”
“I have it,” said the individual who first proposed an election. Turning to me, he made a somewhat novel proposition:
“You can represent us in Congress. We’ve all been so d—-d disloyal that we can’t go; but that is no reason why we should not send a loyal men. Say yes, and we’ll meet to-morrow, a dozen of us, and elect you.”
Here was an opportunity for glory. Only four days in a State from which I could go to Congress! I was offered all necessary credentials to insure my reception. My loyalty could be clearly and easily proved. My only duties would be to assist in fastening slavery upon my congressional district. Much as I felt honored at the offer of distinction, I was obliged to decline it. A similar proposition was made to another journalist. He, like myself, was governed by modesty, and begged to be excused from serving.
The desire of this people to be represented in Congress, was a partial proof that they expected the national authority restored throughout the country. They professed to believe that our occupation would be temporary, but their actions did not agree with their words.
They were greatly mortified at the inability of their army to oppose our advance, and frequently abused the Rebel Government without stint. They had anticipated an easy victory from the outset, and were greatly disappointed at the result, up to that time.
“Just see how it is,” said a Mississippian one day; “we expected to whip you without the slightest trouble. We threw the war into the Border States to keep it off our soil. Mississippi was very earnest for the Rebellion when Kentucky was the battle-ground. We no more expected you would come here, than that we should get to the moon. It is the fortune of war that you have driven us back, but it is very severe upon the cotton States.”
I ventured to ask about the possibilities of repudiation of the Rebel debt, in case the Confederacy was fairly established.
“Of course we shall repudiate,” was the response. “It would be far better for the Confederacy to do so than to attempt to pay the debt, or even its interest. Suppose we have a debt of a thousand millions, at eight per cent. This debt is due to our own people, and they have to pay the interest upon it. In twelve years and a half they would have paid another thousand millions, and still be as deeply in debt as ever. Now, if they repudiate the whole, the country will be a thousand millions richer at the end of twelve years and a half, than it otherwise would.”
In Mississippi, as well as in other Southern States, I frequently heard this argument. It is not surprising that the confidence of the people in their currency was shaken at a very early period.
In its days of prosperity, Holly Springs boasted of two rival papers, each of them published weekly. One of these died just as the war broke out. The proprietor of the other, who was at the same time its editor, went, with his two sons, into the Rebel army, leaving the paper in charge of his wife. The lady wielded the pen for nearly a year, but the scarcity of printing-paper compelled her to close her office, a few months before our arrival.
One afternoon, I accompanied Mr. Colburn, of _The World_, on a visit to the ex-editress. The lady received our cards and greeted us very cordially. She spoke, with evident pride, of her struggles to sustain her paper in war-time and under war prices, and hoped she could soon resume its publication. She referred to the absence of her husband and sons in the Rebel service, and was gratified that they had always borne a good record. She believed in the South and in the justness of its cause, but was prompt to declare that all the wrong was not on one side. She neither gave the South extravagant praise, nor visited the North with denunciation.
She regretted the existence of the war, and charged its beginning upon the extremists of both sides. Slavery was clearly its cause, and she should look for its complete destruction in the event of the restoration of national authority. Through justice to itself, the North could demand nothing less, and the South must be willing to abide by the fortune of war.
This woman respected and admired the North, because it was a region where labor was not degrading.
She had always opposed the Southern sentiment concerning labor, and educated her children after her own belief. While other boys were idling in the streets, she had taught her sons all the mysteries of the printing-office, and made them able to care for themselves. She was confident they would vindicate the correctness of her theory, by winning good positions in life. She believed slavery had assisted the development of the South, but was equally positive that its effect upon the white race was ruinous in the extreme.
She had no word of abuse for the Union, but spoke of it in terms of praise. At the same time she expressed an earnest hope for the success of the Rebellion. She saw the evil of slavery, but wished the Confederacy established. How she could reconcile all her views I was unable to ascertain. I do not believe she will take seriously to heart the defeat of the scheme to found a slaveholders’ government. In the suppression of the Rebellion she will doubtless discover a brilliant future for “the land of the cypress and myrtle,” and bless the day that witnessed the destruction of slavery.
At Oxford, our forces found the residence of the ex-Hon. Jacob Thompson, who has since figured prominently as the Rebel agent in Canada. In his office a letter-book and much correspondence were secured–the letters showing that the design of a rebellion dated much further back than the first election of Mr. Lincoln. Some of this correspondence was given to the public at the time, and proved quite interesting. The balance was sent to the War Department, where it was expected to be of service. The books in Mr. Thompson’s library found their way to various parts of the Union, and became scattered where it will be difficult for their owner to gather them, should he desire to restore his collection. If “misery loves company,” it was doubtless gratifying to Mr. Thompson to know of the capture of the library and correspondence of Jefferson Davis, several months later.
Our advance into Mississippi was being successfully pushed, early in December, 1862. There was a prospect that it would not accomplish the desired object, the capture of Vicksburg, without some counter-movement. A force was sent from Helena, Arkansas, to cut the railway in rear of the Rebel army. Though accomplishing its immediate object, it did not make a material change in the military situation. The Rebels continued to hold Grenada, which they had strongly fortified. They could only be forced from this position by a movement that should render Grenada of no practical value.
General Grant detached the right wing of his army, with orders to make a rapid march to Memphis, and thence to descend the Mississippi by steamboats to Vicksburg. This expedition was commanded by General Sherman. While the movement was in progress, General Grant was to push forward, on the line he had been following, and attempt to join General Sherman at the nearest practicable point on the Yazoo River above Vicksburg. The fall of Vicksburg was thus thought to be assured, especially as General Sherman’s attack was to be made upon the defenses in its rear.
General Sherman moved, to Memphis with due celerity. The garrison of that city was reduced as much as possible to re-enforce his column. The Army of Arkansas, then at Helena, was temporarily added to his command. This gave a force exceeding twenty-eight thousand strong to move upon Vicksburg. It was considered sufficiently large to accomplish the desired object–the garrison of Vicksburg having been weakened to strengthen the army in General Grant’s front.
I was in Holly Springs when General Sherman began to move toward Memphis. Thinking there would be active work at Vicksburg, I prepared to go to Columbus by rail, and take a steamboat thence to Memphis. By this route it was nearly four hundred miles; but it was safer and more expeditious to travel in that way than to attempt the “overland” journey of fifty miles in a direct line.
There were rumors that the Rebels contemplated a raid upon Holly Springs, for the purpose of cutting General Grant’s communications and destroying the supplies known to be accumulated there. From the most vague and obscurely-worded hints, given by a Secessionist, I inferred that such a movement was expected. The Rebels were arranging a cavalry force to strike a blow somewhere upon our line of railway, and there was no point more attractive than Holly Springs. I attached no importance to the story, as I had invariably known the friends of the Rebels to predict wonderful movements that never occurred.
Meeting the post-commandant shortly afterward, I told him what I had heard. He assured me there was nothing to fear, and that every thing was arranged to insure a successful defense. On this point I did not agree with him. I knew very well that the garrison was not properly distributed to oppose a dash of the enemy. There were but few men on picket, and no precautions had been taken against surprise. Our accumulation of stores was sufficiently large to be worth a strong effort to destroy them. As I was about ready to leave, I concluded to take the first train to Columbus.
Less than forty-eight hours after my departure, General Van Dorn, at the head of five thousand men, entered Holly Springs with very slight opposition. He found every thing nearly as he could have arranged it had he planned the defense himself. The commandant, Colonel Murphy, was afterward dismissed the service for his negligence in preparing to defend the place after being notified by General Grant that the enemy was moving to attack him.
The accumulation of supplies at the railway depot, and all the railway buildings, with their surroundings, were burned. Two trains of cars were standing ready to move, and these shared a similar fate. In the center of the town, a building we were using as a magazine was blown up. The most of the business portion of Holly Springs was destroyed by fire, communicated from this magazine.
During the first year of the war, Holly Springs was selected as the site of a “Confederate States Arsenal,” and a series of extensive buildings erected at great expense.
We had converted these buildings into hospitals, and were fitting them up with suitable accommodations for a large number of sick and wounded.
After ordering our surgeons to remove their patients, the Rebels set fire to the hospitals while the yellow flag was floating over them. General Grant subsequently denounced this act as contrary to the usages of war.
The Rebels remained in Holly Springs until five o’clock in the afternoon of the day of their arrival. At their departure they moved in a northerly direction, evidently designing to visit Grand Junction. At Davis’s Mill, about half-way between Holly Springs and Grand Junction, they found a small stockade, garrisoned by two companies of infantry, protecting the railway bridge. They sent forward a flag-of-truce, and demanded the instant surrender of the stockade.
Their demand was not complied with. That garrison, of less than two hundred men, fought Van Dorn’s entire command four hours, repulsed three successive charges, and finally compelled the Rebels to retreat. Van Dorn’s northward movement was checked, and our stores at Grand Junction and Lagrange were saved, by the gallantry of this little force. General Grant subsequently gave special compliment to the bravery of these soldiers and their officers, in an order which was read to every regiment in the Army of the Tennessee.
Our plans were completely deranged by this movement of the enemy. The supplies and ammunition we had relied upon were destroyed, and our communications severed. It was impossible to push further into Mississippi, and preparations were made for immediate retreat. The railway was repaired and the heavy baggage sent to the rear as speedily as possible. When this was accomplished the army began to fall back. Oxford, Abbeville, and Holly Springs were abandoned, and returned to the protection of the Rebel flag. Northern Mississippi again became the field for guerrilla warfare, and a source of supply to the Rebels in the field. The campaign for the capture of Vicksburg took a new shape from the day our lines were severed.
A few days before the surrender of Vicksburg, General Grant, in conversation with some friends, referred to his position in Mississippi, six months before. Had he pressed forward beyond Grenada, he would have been caught in midwinter in a sea of mud, where the safety of his army might have been endangered. Van Dorn’s raid compelled him to retreat, saved him from a possible heavier reverse, and prepared the way for the campaign in which Vicksburg finally capitulated. A present disaster, it proved the beginning of ultimate success.
THE BATTLE OF CHICKASAW BAYOU.
Leaving Memphis.–Down the Great River.–Landing in the Yazoo.– Description of the Ground..–A Night in Bivouac.–Plan of Attack.– Moving toward the Hills.–Assaulting the Bluff.–Our Repulse.–New Plans.–Withdrawal from the Yazoo.
On arriving at Memphis, I found General Sherman’s expedition was ready to move toward Vicksburg. A few of the soldiers who escaped from the raid on Holly Springs had reached Memphis with intelligence of that disaster. The news caused much excitement, as the strength of the Rebels was greatly exaggerated. A few of these soldiers thought Van Dorn’s entire division of fifteen or twenty thousand men had been mounted and was present at the raid. There were rumors of a contemplated attack upon Memphis, after General Sherman’s departure.
Unmilitary men thought the event might delay the movement upon Vicksburg, but it did not have that effect. General Sherman said he had no official knowledge that Holly Springs had been captured, and could do no less than carry out his orders. The expedition sailed, its various divisions making a rendezvous at Friar’s Point, twelve miles below Helena, on the night of the 22d of December. From this place to the mouth of the Yazoo, we moved leisurely down the Mississippi, halting a day near Milliken’s Bend, almost in sight of Vicksburg. We passed a portion of Christmas-Day near the mouth of the Yazoo.
On the morning of the 26th of December, the fleet of sixty transports, convoyed by several gun-boats, commenced the ascent of the Yazoo. This stream debouches into the Mississippi, fifteen miles above Vicksburg, by the course of the current, though the distance in an airline is not more than six miles. Ten or twelve miles above its mouth, the Yazoo sweeps the base of the range of hills on which Vicksburg stands, at a point nearly behind the city. It was therefore considered a feasible route to the rear of Vicksburg.
In a letter which I wrote on that occasion, I gave the following description of the country adjoining the river, and the incidents of a night bivouac before the battle:–“The bottom-land of the Yazoo is covered with a heavy growth of tall cypress-trees, whose limbs are everywhere interlaced. In many places the forest has a dense undergrowth, and in others it is quite clear, and affords easy passage to mounted men. These huge trees are heavily draped in the ‘hanging moss,’ so common in the Southern States, which gives them a most gloomy appearance. The moss, everywhere pendent from the limbs of the trees, covers them like a shroud, and in some localities shuts out the sunlight. In these forests there are numerous bayous that form a net-work converting the land into a series of islands. When separated from your companions, you can easily imagine yourself in a wilderness. In the wild woods of the Oregon there is no greater solitude.”
* * * * *
“On the afternoon of the 27th, I started from the transports, and accompanied our left wing, which was advancing on the east side of Chickasaw Bayou. The road lay along the crest of the levee which had been thrown up on the bank of the bayou, to protect the fields on that side against inundation. This road was only wide enough for the passage of a single wagon. Our progress was very slow, on account of the necessity for removing heavy logs across the levee. When night overtook us, we made our bivouac in the forest, about three miles from the river.
“I had taken with me but a single blanket, and a haversack containing my note-book and a few crackers. That night in bivouac acquainted me with some of the discomforts of war-making on the Yazoo. The ground was moist from recent rains, so that dry places were difficult to find. A fellow-journalist proposed that we unite our blankets, and form a double bed for mutual advantage. To this I assented. When my friend came forward, to rest in our combined couch, I found his ‘blanket’ was purely imaginary, having been left on the steamer at his departure. For a while we ‘doubled,’ but I was soon deserted, on account of the barrenness of my accommodations.
“No fires were allowed, as they might reveal our position to the watchful enemy. The night was cold. Ice formed at the edge of the bayou, and there was a thick frost on the little patches of open ground. A negro who had lived in that region said the swamp usually abounded in moccasins, copperheads, and cane-snakes, in large numbers. An occasional rustling of the leaves at my side led me to imagine these snakes were endeavoring to make my acquaintance.
“Laying aside my snake fancies, it was too cold to sleep. As fast as I would fall into a doze, the chill of the atmosphere would steal through my blanket, and remind me of my location. Half-sleeping and half-waking, I dreamed of every thing disagreeable. I had visions of Greenland’s icy mountains, of rambles in Siberia, of my long-past midwinter nights in the snow-drifted gorges of Colorado, of shipwreck, and of burning dwellings, and of all moving accidents by flood and field! These dreams followed each other with a rapidity that far outstripped the workings of the electric telegraph.
“Cold and dampness and snakes and fitful dreams were not the only bodily discomforts. A dozen horses were loose in camp, and trotting gayly about. Several times they passed at a careless pace within a yard of my head. Once the foremost of the _caballada_ jumped directly over me, and was followed by the rest. My comments on these eccentricities of that noble animal, the horse, provoked the derision rather than the sympathy of those who heard them.
“A teamster, who mistook me for a log, led his mules over me. A negro, under the same delusion, attempted to convert me into a chair, and another wanted to break me up for fuel, to be used in making a fire after daylight. Each of these little blunders evoked a gentle remonstrance, that effectually prevented a repetition by the same individual.
“A little past daylight a shell from the Rebel batteries exploded within twenty yards of my position, and warned me that it was time to rise. To make my toilet, I pulled the sticks and leaves from my hair and beard, and brushed my overcoat with a handful of moss. I breakfasted on a cracker and a spoonful of whisky. I gave my horse a handful of corn and a large quantity of leaves. The former he ate, but the latter he refused to touch. The column began to move, and I was ready to attend upon its fortunes.”
General Sherman’s plan was to effect a landing on the Yazoo, and, by taking possession of the bluffs, sever the communication between Vicksburg and the interior. It was thought the garrison of Vicksburg had been greatly weakened to re-enforce the army in General Grant’s front, so that our success would be certain when we once gained the bluffs.
A portion of our forces effected a landing on the 26th, but the whole command was not on shore till the 27th. Fighting commenced on the 27th, and became more earnest on the 28th, as we crowded toward the bluffs.
In moving from the steamboat landing to the base of the bluffs on the 28th, our army encountered the enemy at several points, but forced him back without serious loss on either side. It appeared to be the Rebel design not to make any resistance of magnitude until we had crossed the lower ground and were near the base of the line of hills protecting Vicksburg.
Not far from the foot of the bluffs there was a bayou, which formed an excellent front for the first line of the Rebel defenses. On our right we attempted to cross this bayou with a portion of Morgan L. Smith’s Division, but the Rebel fire was so severe that we were repulsed. On our extreme right a similar attempt obtained the same result.
On our left the bayou was crossed by General Morgan’s and General Steele’s Divisions at two or three points, and our forces gained a position close up to the edge of the bluff.
At eleven A. M. on the 29th, an assault was made by three brigades of infantry upon the works of the enemy on this portion of the line. General Blair and General Thayer from Steele’s Division, pushed forward through an abatis which skirted the edge of the bayou, and captured the first line of Rebel rifle-pits. From this line the brigades pressed two hundred yards farther up the hillside, and temporarily occupied a portion of the second line. Fifty yards beyond was a small clump of trees, which was gained by one regiment, the Thirteenth Illinois, of General Blair’s Brigade.
[Illustration: GENERAL BLAIR’S BRIGADE ASSAULTING THE HILL AT CHICKASAW, BAYOU.]
The Rebels massed heavily against these two brigades. Our assaulting force had not been followed by a supporting column, and was unable to hold the works it captured. It fell back to the bayou and re-formed its line. One of General Morgan’s brigades occupied a portion of the rifle-pits at the time the hill was assaulted by the brigades from General Steele’s Division.
During the afternoon of the 29th, preparations were made for another assault, but the plan was not carried out. It was found the Rebels had been re-enforced at that point, so that we had great odds against us. The two contending armies rested within view of each other, throwing a few shells each hour, to give notice of their presence.
After the assault, the ground between the contending lines was covered with dead and wounded men of our army. A flag-of-truce was sent out on the afternoon of the 29th, to arrange for burying the dead and bringing away the wounded, but the Rebels would not receive it. Sunrise on the 30th, noon, sunset, and sunrise again, and they lay there still. On the 31st, a truce of five hours was arranged, and the work of humanity accomplished. A heavy rain had fallen, rendering the ground unfit for the rapid moving of infantry and artillery, in front of the Rebel position.
On the evening of the 31st, orders were issued for a new plan of attack at another part of the enemy’s lines. A division was to be embarked on the transports, and landed as near as possible to the Rebel fortifications on Haines’s Bluff, several miles up the Yazoo. The gun-boats were to take the advance, engage the attention of the forts, and cover the landing. Admiral Porter ordered Colonel Ellet to go in advance, with a boat of his ram fleet, to remove the obstructions the Rebels had placed in the river, under the guns of the fort. A raft was attached to the bow of the ram, and on the end of the raft was a torpedo containing a half ton of powder.
Admiral Porter contended that the explosion of the torpedo would remove the obstructions, so that the fleet could proceed. Colonel Ellet expressed his readiness to obey orders, but gave his opinion that the explosion, while effecting its object, would destroy his boat and all on board. Some officers and civilians, who knew the admiral’s antipathy to Colonel Ellet, suggested that the former was of the same opinion, and therefore desirous that the experiment should be made.
Every thing was in readiness on the morning of the 1st of January, but a dense fog prevented the execution of our new plan. On the following day we withdrew from the Yazoo, and ended the second attack upon Vicksburg. Our loss was not far from two thousand men, in all casualties.
General Sherman claimed to have carried out with exactness, the instructions from his superior officers respecting the time and manner of the attack. Van Dorn’s raid upon General Grant’s lines, previous to Sherman’s departure from Memphis, had radically changed the military situation. Grant’s advance being stopped, his co-operation by way of Yazoo City could not be given. At the same time, the Rebels were enabled to strengthen their forces at Vicksburg. The assault was a part of the great plan for the conquest of the Mississippi, and was made in obedience to positive orders. Before the orders were carried out, a single circumstance had deranged the whole plan. After the fighting was ended and the army had re-embarked, preparatory to leaving the Yazoo, General Sherman was relieved from command by General McClernand. The latter officer carried out the order for withdrawal. The fleet steamed up the Mississippi to Milliken’s Bend, where it remained for a day or two. General McClernand directed that an expedition be made against Arkansas Post, a Rebel fortification on the Arkansas River, fifty miles above its mouth.
After the first attack upon Vicksburg, in June, 1862, the Rebels strengthened the approaches in the rear of the city. They threw up defensive works on the line of bluffs facing the Yazoo, and erected a strong fortification to prevent our boats ascending that stream. Just before General Sherman commenced his assault, the gun-boat _Benton_, aided by another iron-clad, attempted to silence the batteries at Haines’s Bluff, but was unsuccessful. Her sides were perforated by the Rebel projectiles, and she withdrew from the attack in a disabled condition. Captain Gwin, her commander, was mortally wounded early in the fight.
Captain Gwin was married but a few weeks before this occurrence. His young wife was on her way from the East to visit him, and was met at Cairo with the news of his death.
About two months before the time of our attack, an expedition descended the Mississippi from Helena, and suddenly appeared near the mouth of the Yazoo. It reached Milliken’s Bend at night, surprising and capturing the steamer _Fairplay_, which was loaded with arms and ammunition for the Rebels in Arkansas. So quietly was the capture made, that the officers of the _Fairplay_ were not aware of the change in their situation until awakened by their captors.
Capture of Arkansas Post.–The Army returns to Milliken’s Bend.–General Sherman and the Journalists.–Arrest of the Author.–His Trial before a Military Court.–Letter from President Lincoln.–Capture of Three Journalists.
The army moved against Arkansas Post, which was captured, with its entire garrison of five thousand men. The fort was dismantled and the earth-works leveled to the ground. After this was accomplished, the army returned to Milliken’s Bend. General Grant arrived a few days later, and commenced the operations which culminated in the fall of Vicksburg.
Before leaving Memphis on the Yazoo expedition, General Sherman issued an order excluding all civilians, except such as were connected with the transports, and threatening to treat as a spy any person who should write accounts for publication which might give information to the enemy. No journalists were to be allowed to take part in the affair. One who applied for permission to go in his professional capacity received a very positive refusal. General Sherman had a strong antipathy to journalists, amounting almost to a mania, and he was determined to discourage their presence in his movements against Vicksburg.
Five or six correspondents accompanied the expedition, some of them on passes from General Grant, which were believed superior to General Sherman’s order, and others with passes or invitations from officers in the expedition. I carried a pass from General Grant, and had a personal invitation from an officer who held a prominent command in the Army of Arkansas. I had passed Memphis, almost without stopping, and was not aware of the existence of the prohibitory order until I reached the Yazoo.
I wrote for _The Herald_ an account of the battle, which I directed to a friend at Cairo, and placed in the mail on board the head-quarters’ boat. The day after mailing my letter, I learned it was being read at General Sherman’s head-quarters. The General afterward told me that his mail-agent, Colonel Markland, took my letter, among others, from the mail, with his full assent, though without his order.
I proceeded to rewrite my account, determined not to trust again to the head-quarters’ mail. When I was about ready to depart, I received the letter which had been stolen, bearing evident marks of repeated perusal. Two maps which it originally contained were not returned. I proceeded to Cairo as the bearer of my own dispatches.
On my return to Milliken’s Bend, two weeks later, I experienced a new sensation. After two interviews with the indignant general, I received a tender of hospitalities from the provost-marshal of the Army of the Tennessee. The tender was made in such form as left no opportunity for declining it. A few days after my arrest, I was honored by a trial before a military court, consisting of a brigadier-general, four colonels, and two majors. General Sherman had made the following charges against me:–
First.–“_Giving information to the enemy._”
Second.–“_Being a spy._”
Third.–“_Disobedience of orders._”
The first and second charges were based on my published letter. The third declared that I accompanied the expedition without proper authority, and published a letter without official sanction. These were my alleged offenses.
My court had a protracted session. It decided there was nothing in my letter which violated the provisions of the order regulating war correspondence for the Press. It declared me innocent of the first and second charges. It could see nothing criminal in the manner of my accompanying the expedition.
But I was guilty of something. There was a “General Order, Number 67,” issued in 1861, of whose existence neither myself nor, as far as I could ascertain, any other journalist, was aware. It provided that no person should write, print, or cause to be printed “any information respecting military movements, without the authority and sanction of the general in command.”
Here was the rock on which I split. I had written a letter respecting military movements, and caused it to be printed, “without the sanction of the general in command.” Correspondents everywhere had done the same thing, and continued to do it till the end of the war. “Order Number 67” was as obsolete as the laws of the Medes and Persians, save on that single occasion. Dispatches by telegraph passed under the eye of a Government censor, but I never heard of an instance wherein a letter transmitted by mail received any official sanction.
My court was composed of officers from General Sherman’s command, and was carefully watched by that distinguished military chieftain, throughout its whole sitting. It wavered in deciding upon the proper “punishment” for my offense. Should it banish me from that spot, or should I receive an official censure? It concluded to send me outside the limits of the Army of the Tennessee.
During the days I passed in the care of the provost-marshal, I perused all the novels that the region afforded. When these were ended, I studied a copy of a well-known work on theology, and turned, for light reading, to the “Pirate’s Own Book.” A sympathizing friend sent me a bundle of tracts and a copy of the “Adventures of John A. Murrell.” A volume of lectures upon temperance and a dozen bottles of Allsop’s pale ale, were among the most welcome contributions that I received. The ale disappeared before the lectures had been thoroughly digested.
The chambermaid of the steamboat displayed the greatest sympathy in my behalf. She declined to receive payment of a washing-bill, and burst into tears when I assured her the money was of no use to me.
Her fears for my welfare were caused by a frightful story that had been told her by a cabin-boy. He maliciously represented that I was to be executed for attempting to purchase cotton from a Rebel quartermaster. The verdant woman believed the story for several days.
It may interest some readers to know that the proceedings of a court-martial are made in writing. The judge-advocate (who holds the same position as the prosecuting attorney in a civil case) writes his questions, and then reads them aloud. The answers, as they are given, are reduced to writing. The questions or objections of the prisoner’s counsel must be made in writing and given to the judge-advocate, to be read to the court. In trials where a large number of witnesses must be examined, it is now the custom to make use of “short-hand” writers. In this way the length of a trial is greatly reduced.
The members of a court-martial sit in full uniform, including sash and sword, and preserve a most severe and becoming dignity. Whenever the court wishes to deliberate upon any point of law or evidence, the room is cleared, neither the prisoner nor his counsel being allowed to remain. It frequently occurs that the court is thus closed during the greater part of its sessions. With the necessity for recording all its proceedings, and frequent stoppages for deliberation, a trial by a military court is ordinarily very slow.
In obedience to the order of the court, I left the vicinity of the Army of the Tennessee, and proceeded North.
In departing from Young’s Point, I could not obey a certain Scriptural injunction, as the mud of Louisiana adheres like glue, and defies all efforts to shake it off. Mr. Albert D. Richardson, of The Tribune, on behalf of many of my professional friends, called the attention of President Lincoln to the little affair between General Sherman and myself.
In his recently published book of experiences during the war, Mr. Richardson has given a full and graphic account of his interview with the President. Mr. Lincoln unbent himself from his official cares, told two of his best stories, conversed for an hour or more upon the military situation, gave his reasons for the removal of General McClellan, and expressed his hope in our ultimate success. Declaring it his inflexible determination not to interfere with the conduct of any military department, he wrote the following document:–
WASHINGTON, _March_ 20, 1863.
WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
Whereas it appears to my satisfaction that Thomas W. Knox, a correspondent of _The New York Herald_, has been, by the sentence of a court-martial, excluded from the Military Department under command of Major-General Grant, and also that General Thayer, president of the court-martial, which rendered the sentence, and Major-General McClernand, in command of a corps of that department, and many other respectable persons, are of opinion that Mr. Knox’s offense was technical, rather than willfully wrong, and that the sentence should be revoked: Now, therefore, said sentence is hereby so far revoked as to allow Mr. Knox to return to General Grant’s head-quarters, to remain if General Grant shall give his express assent; and to again leave the department, if General Grant shall refuse such assent.
With this letter I returned to the army. General Grant referred the question to General Sherman. In consideration of our quarrel, and knowing the unamiable character of the latter officer, I should have been greatly surprised had he given any thing else than a refusal. I had fully expected to return immediately when I left St. Louis, but, like most persons in a controversy, wished to carry my point.
General Sherman long since retrieved his failure at Chickasaw Bayou. Throughout the war he was honored with the confidence and friendship of General Grant. The career of these officers was not marked by the jealousies that are too frequent in military life. The hero of the campaign from Chattanooga to Raleigh is destined to be known in history. In those successful marches, and in the victories won by his tireless and never vanquished army, he has gained a reputation that may well be enduring.
Soon after my return from Young’s Point, General Grant crossed the Mississippi at Grand Gulf, and made his daring and successful movement to attain the rear of Vicksburg. Starting with a force less than the one his opponent could bring against him, he cut loose from his communications and succeeded in severing the enemy’s line of supplies. From Grand Gulf to Jackson, and from Jackson to the rear of Vicksburg, was a series of brilliant marches and brilliant victories. Once seated where he had his antagonist’s army inclosed, General Grant opened his lines to the Yazoo, supplied himself with every thing desired, and pressed the siege at his leisure. With the fall of Vicksburg, and the fall, a few days later, of Port Hudson, “the Father of Waters went unvexed to the Sea.”
While the army was crossing the Mississippi at Grand Gulf, three well-known journalists, Albert D. Richardson and Junius H. Browne, of _The Tribune_, and Richard T. Colburn, of _The World_, attempted to run past the Rebel batteries at Vicksburg, on board a tug at midnight. The tug was blown up and destroyed; the journalists were captured and taken to the Rebel prison at Vicksburg. Thence they were removed to Richmond, occupying, while _en route_, the prisons of a half-dozen Rebel cities. Mr. Colburn was soon released, but the companions of his adventure were destined to pass nearly two years in the prisons of the Confederacy. By a fortunate escape and a midwinter march of nearly four hundred miles, they reached our lines in safety. In books and in lecture-rooms, they have since told the story of their captivity and flight.
I have sometimes thought my little quarrel with General Sherman proved “a blessing in disguise,” in saving me from a similar experience of twenty months in Rebel prisons.
KANSAS IN WAR-TIME.
A Visit to Kansas.–Recollections of Border Feuds.–Peculiarities of Kansas Soldiers.–Foraging as a Fine Art.–Kansas and Missouri.–Settling Old Scores.–Depopulating the Border Counties.–Two Examples of Grand Strategy.–Capture of the “Little-More-Grape” Battery.–A Woman in Sorrow.–Frontier Justice.–Trial before a “Lynch” Court.–General Blunt’s Order.–Execution of Horse-Thieves.–Auction Sale of Confiscated Property.–Banished to Dixie.
In May, 1863, I made a hasty visit to Western Missouri and Kansas, to observe the effect of the war in that quarter. Seven years earlier the border warfare attracted much attention. The great Rebellion caused Kansas and its troubles to sink into insignificance. Since the first election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, Kansas has been rarely mentioned.
I passed through this young State in the summer of 1860. I was repeatedly told: “We have old grudges that we wish to settle; if the troubles ever break out again in any part of the United States, we hope to cross out our account.” When the war opened, the people of Kansas saw their opportunity for “making square work,” as they expressed it, with Missouri and the other slave States. They placed two regiments of volunteers in the field with as much celerity as was displayed in many of the older and more populous States. These regiments were followed by others until fully half the able-bodied population of Kansas was in the service. In some localities the proportion was even greater than this.
The dash and daring of these Kansas soldiers became proverbial. At Wilson Creek, two regiments from Kansas had their first experience of battle, and bore themselves most nobly. The conduct of other Kansas soldiers, on other battle-fields, was equally commendable. Their bravery and endurance was only equaled by their ability in foraging.
Horses, mules, cattle, and provisions have, in all times, been considered the legitimate spoils of war. The Kansas soldiers did not confine themselves to the above, but appropriated every thing portable and valuable, whether useful or useless. Their example was contagious, and the entire army soon learned to follow it.
During General Grant’s campaign in Mississippi in ’62, the Seventh Kansas Cavalry obtained a reputation for ubiquity and lawlessness. Every man who engaged in plundering on his own account, no matter to what regiment he belonged, invariably announced himself a member of the Seventh Kansas. Every countryman who was robbed declared the robbery was committed by the Seventh Kansas “Jayhawkers.” Uniting all the stories of robbery, one would conclude that the Seventh Kansas was about twenty thousand strong, and constantly in motion by fifty different roads, leading to all points of the compass.
One day a soldier of the Second Illinois Cavalry gave me an account of his experience in horse-stealing.
“Jim and I went to an old farmer’s house, and told him we wanted his horses. He said he wanted to use them himself, and couldn’t spare them.
“‘That don’t make no sort of difference,’ said I; ‘we want your horses more than you do.’
“‘What regiment do you belong to?’
“‘Seventh Kansas Jayhawkers. The whole regiment talks of coming round here. I reckon I’ll bring them.’
“When I told him that,” said the soldier, “he said I might take the horses, if I would only go away. He offered me a pint of whisky if I would promise not to bring the regiment there. Jim and me drank the whisky, and told him we would use our influence for him.”
Before the war was ended, the entire armies of the Southwest were able to equal the “Jayhawkers” in foraging. The march of Sherman’s column through Mississippi, and afterward through Georgia and South Carolina, fully proved this. Particularly in the latter State, which originated the Rebellion, were the accomplishments of the foragers most conspicuously displayed. Our army left very little for another army to use.
The desolation which was spread through the Southern States was among the most effective blows at the Rebellion. The Rebels were taught in the most practical manner, that insurrection was not to be indulged in with impunity. Those who suffered most were generally among the earliest to sue for peace. Sherman’s terse answer to the mayor of Atlanta, when the latter protested against the banishment of the inhabitants, was appreciated by the Rebels after our final campaigns. “War is cruelty–you cannot refine it,” speaks a volume in a few words.
When hostilities commenced, the Kansas regiments were clamorous to be led into Missouri. During the border war of ’55 and ’56, Missourians invaded Kansas to control the elections by force of arms, and killed, often in cold blood, many of the quiet citizens of the Territory. The tier of counties in Missouri adjoining Kansas were most anxious to make the latter a slave State, and used every possible means to accomplish their object.
The Kansas soldiers had their wish. They marched through Missouri. Those who had taken part in the outrages upon Kansas, five years earlier, were made to feel the hand of retribution. If they had burned the buildings of free-State settlers in ’56, they found their own houses destroyed in ’62. In the old troubles they contended for their right to make whatever warfare they chose, but were astounded and horrified in the latter days, when the tables were turned against them by those they had wronged.
Along the frontier of Missouri the old system of warfare was revived. Guerrilla bands were formed, of which Quantrel and similar men were the leaders. Various incursions were made into Kansas by these marauders, and the depredations were worse than ever.
They culminated in the burning of Lawrence and the massacre of its inhabitants.
To break up these guerrilla bands, it became necessary to depopulate the western tier of counties in Missouri, from the Missouri River down to the thirty-eighth parallel of latitude. The most wealthy of these was Jackson County. Before the war it had a slave population of not far from four thousand, and its fields were highly productive. Two years after the war broke out it contained less than three hundred slaves, and its wealth had diminished in almost as great proportion. This was before any freedom had been officially declared to the slaves in the Border States. The order of depopulation had the desired effect. It brought peace to the border, though at a terrible cost. Missouri suffered greatly, and so did Kansas.
The most prominent officer that Kansas furnished during the Rebellion, was Brigadier-General Blunt. At the beginning of the war he enlisted as a private soldier, but did not remain long in the ranks. His reputation in the field was that of a brave and reckless officer, who had little regard to military forms. His successes were due to audacity and daring, rather than to skill in handling troops, or a knowledge of scientific warfare.
The battle of Cane Hill is said to have commenced by General Blunt and his orderlies attacking a Rebel picket. The general was surveying the country with his orderlies and a company of cavalry, not suspecting the enemy was as near as he proved to be.
At the moment Blunt came upon the picket, the cavalry was looking in another direction. Firing began, and the picket was driven in and fell back to a piece of artillery, which had an infantry support. Blunt was joined by his cavalry, and the gun was taken by a vigorous charge and turned upon the Rebels. The latter were kept at bay until the main force was brought up and joined in the conflict. The Rebels believed we had a much larger number than we really possessed, else our first assault might have proved a sudden repulse. The same daring was kept up throughout the battle, and gave us the victory.
At this battle we captured four guns, two of which bore a history of more than ordinary interest. They were of the old “Bragg’s Battery” that turned the scale at Buena Vista, in obedience to General Taylor’s mandate, “Give them a little more grape, captain.” After the Mexican war they were sent to the United States Arsenal at Baton Rouge, whence they were stolen when the insurrection commenced. They were used against us at Wilson Creek and Pea Ridge.
At another battle, whose name I have forgotten, our entire force of about two thousand men was deployed into a skirmish line that extended far beyond the enemy’s flanks. The Rebels were nearly six thousand strong, and at first manifested a disposition to stand their ground. By the audacity of our stratagem they were completely deceived. So large a skirmish line was an indication of a proportionately strong force to support it. When they found us closing in upon their flanks, they concluded we were far superior in numbers, and certain to overwhelm them. With but slight resistance they fled the field, leaving much of their transportation and equipments to fall into our hands. We called in our skirmishers and pressed them in vigorous pursuit, capturing wagons and stragglers as we moved.
A year after this occurrence the Rebels played the same trick upon our own forces near Fort Smith, Arkansas, and were successful in driving us before them. With about five hundred cavalry they formed a skirmish line that outflanked our force of two thousand. We fell back several miles to the protection of the fort, where we awaited attack. It is needless to say that no assault was made.
Van Buren, Arkansas, was captured by eighteen men ten miles in advance of any support. This little force moved upon the town in a deployed line and entered at one side, while a Rebel regiment moved out at the other. Our men thought it judicious not to pursue, but established head-quarters, and sent a messenger to hurry up the column before the Rebels should discover the true state of affairs. The head of the column was five hours in making its appearance.
When the circumstance became known the next day, one of our officers found a lady crying very bitterly, and asked what calamity had befallen her.
As soon as she could speak she said, through her sobs:
“I am not crying because you have captured the place. We expected that.” Then came a fresh outburst of grief.
“What _are_ you crying for, then?” asked the officer.
“I am crying because you took it with only eighteen men, when we had a thousand that ran away from you!”
The officer thought the reason for her sorrow was amply sufficient, and allowed her to proceed with her weeping.
On the day of my arrival at Atchison there was more than ordinary excitement. For several months there had been much disregard of law outside of the most densely populated portions of the State. Robberies, and murders for the sake of robbery, were of frequent occurrence. In one week a dozen persons met violent deaths. A citizen remarked to me that he did not consider the times a great improvement over ’55 and ’56.
Ten days before my arrival, a party of ruffians visited the house of a citizen about twelve miles from Atchison, for the purpose of robbery. The man was supposed to have several hundred dollars in his possession–the proceeds of a sale of stock. He had placed his funds in a bank at Leavenworth; but his visitors refused to believe his statement to that effect. They maltreated the farmer and his wife, and ended by hanging the farmer’s son to a rafter and leaving him for dead. In departing, they took away all the horses and mules they could find.
Five of these men were arrested on the following day, and taken to Atchison. The judge before whom they were brought ordered them committed for trial. On the way from the court-house to the jail the men were taken from the sheriff by a crowd of citizens. Instead of going to jail, they were carried to a grove near the town and placed on trial before a “Lynch” court. The trial was conducted with all solemnity, and with every display of impartiality to the accused. The jury decided that two of the prisoners, who had been most prominent in the outrage, should be hanged on that day, while the others were remanded to jail for a regular trial. One of the condemned was executed. The other, after having a rope around his neck, was respited and taken to jail.
On the same day two additional arrests were made, of parties concerned in the outrage. These men were tried by a “Lynch” court, as their companions had been tried on the previous day. One of them was hanged, and the other sent to jail.
For some time the civil power had been inadequate to the punishment of crime. The laws of the State were so loosely framed that offenders had excellent opportunities to escape their deserts by taking advantage of technicalities. The people determined to take the law into their own hands, and give it a thorough execution. For the good of society, it was necessary to put a stop to the outrages that had been so frequently committed. Their only course in such cases was to administer justice without regard to the ordinary forms.
A delegation of the citizens of Atchison visited Leavenworth after the arrests had been made, to confer with General Blunt, the commander of the District, on the best means of securing order. They made a full representation of the state of affairs, and requested that two of the prisoners, then in jail, should be delivered to the citizens for trial. They obtained an order to that effect, addressed to the sheriff, who was holding the prisoners in charge.
On the morning of the day following the reception of the order, people began to assemble in Atchison from all parts of the county to witness the trial. As nearly all the outrages had been committed upon the farmers who lived at distances from each other, the trial was conducted by the men from the rural districts. The residents of the city took little part in the affair. About ten o’clock in the forenoon a meeting was called to order in front of the court-house, where the following document was read:–
HEAD-QUARTERS DISTRICT OF KANSAS,
FORT LEAVENWORTH, _May_ 22, 1863.
TO THE SHERIFF OF ATCHISON COUNTY:
SIR:–In view of the alarming increase of crime, the insecurity of life and property within this military district, the inefficiency of the civil law to punish offenders, and the small number of troops under my command making it impossible to give such protection to loyal and law-abiding citizens as I would otherwise desire; you will therefore deliver the prisoners, Daniel Mooney and Alexander Brewer, now in your possession, to the citizens of Atchison County, for trial and punishment by a citizens’ court. This course, which in ordinary times and under different circumstances could not be tolerated, is rendered necessary for the protection of the property and lives of honest citizens against the lawless acts of thieves and assassins, who, of late, have been perpetrating their crimes with fearful impunity, and to prevent which nothing but the most severe and summary punishment will suffice. In conducting these irregular proceedings, it is to be hoped they will be controlled by men of respectability, and that cool judgment and discretion will characterize their actions, to the end that the innocent may be protected and the guilty punished.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES G. BLUNT,
After the reading of the above order, resolutions indorsing and sustaining the action of General Blunt were passed unanimously. The following resolutions were passed separately, their reading being greeted with loud cheers. They are examples of strength rather than of elegance.
“_Resolved_, That we pledge ourselves not to stop hanging until the thieves stop thieving.
“_Resolved_, That as this is a citizens’ court, we have no use for lawyers, either for the accused or for the people.”
A judge and jury were selected from the assemblage, and embraced some of the best known and most respected citizens of the county. Their selection was voted upon, just as if they had been the officers of a political gathering. As soon as elected, they proceeded to the trial of the prisoners.
The evidence was direct and conclusive, and the prisoners were sentenced to death by hanging. The verdict was read to the multitude, and a vote taken upon its acceptance or rejection. Nineteen-twentieths of those present voted that the sentence should be carried into execution.
The prisoners were taken from the court-house to the grove where the preceding executions had taken place. They were made to stand upon a high wagon while ropes were placed about their necks and attached to the limb of a large, spreading elm. When all was ready, the wagon was suddenly drawn from beneath the prisoners, and their earthly career was ended.
A half-hour later the crowd had dispersed. The following morning showed few traces of the excitement of the previous day. The executions were effectual in restoring quiet to the region which had been so much disturbed.
The Rebel sympathizers in St. Louis took many occasions to complain of the tyranny of the National Government. At the outset there was a delusion that the Government had no rights that should be respected, while every possible right belonged to the Rebels. General Lyon removed the arms from the St. Louis arsenal to a place of safety at Springfield, Illinois. “He had no constitutional right to do that,” was the outcry of the Secessionists. He commenced the organization of Union volunteers for the defense of the city. The Constitution made no provision for this. He captured Camp Jackson, and took his prisoners to the arsenal. This, they declared, was a most flagrant violation of constitutional privileges. He moved upon the Rebels in the interior, and the same defiance of law was alleged. He suppressed the secession organ in St. Louis, thus trampling upon the liberties of the Rebel Press.
General Fremont declared the slaves of Rebels were free, and thus infringed upon the rights of property. Numbers of active, persistent traitors were arrested and sent to military prisons: a manifest tyranny on the part of the Government. In one way and another the unfortunate and long-suffering Rebels were most sadly abused, if their own stories are to be regarded.
It was forbidden to display Rebel emblems in public: a cruel restriction of personal right. The wealthy Secessionists of St. Louis were assessed the sum of ten thousand dollars, for the benefit of the Union refugees from Arkansas and other points in the Southwest. This was another outrage. These persons could not understand why they should be called upon to contribute to the support of Union people who had been rendered houseless and penniless by Rebels elsewhere. They made a most earnest protest, but their remonstrances were of no avail. In default of payment of the sums assessed, their superfluous furniture was seized and sold at auction. This was a violation of the laws that exempt household property from seizure.
The auction sale of these goods was largely attended. The bidding was very spirited. Pianos, ottomans, mirrors, sofas, chairs, and all the adornments of the homes of affluence, were sold for “cash in United States Treasury notes.” Some of the parties assessed declared they would pay nothing on the assessment, but they reconsidered their decisions, and bought their own property at the auction-rooms, without regard to the prices they paid. In subsequent assessments they found it better to pay without hesitation whatever sums were demanded of them. They spoke and labored against the Union until they found such efforts were of no use. They could never understand why they should not enjoy the protection of the flag without being called upon to give it material aid.
In May, 1863, another grievance was added to the list. It became necessary, for the good of the city, to banish some of the more prominent Rebel sympathizers.
It was a measure which the Rebels and their friends opposed in the strongest terms. These persons were anxious to see the Confederacy established, but could not consent to live in its limits. They resorted to every device to evade the order, but were not allowed to remain. Representations of personal and financial inconvenience were of no avail; go they must.
The first exodus took place on the 13th of May. An immense crowd thronged the levee as the boat which was to remove the exiles took its departure. In all there were about thirty persons, half of them ladies. The men were escorted to the boat on foot, but the ladies were brought to the landing in carriages, and treated with every possible courtesy. A strong guard was posted at the landing to preserve order and allow no insult of any kind to the prisoners.
One of the young women ascended to the hurricane roof of the steamer and cheered for the “Confederacy.” As the boat swung into the stream, this lady was joined by two others, and the trio united their sweet voices in singing “Dixie” and the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” There was no cheering or other noisy demonstration at their departure, though there was a little waving of handkerchiefs, and a few tokens of farewell were given. This departure was soon followed by others, until St. Louis was cleared of its most turbulent spirits.
A Hasty Departure.–At Harrisburg.–_En route_ for the Army of the Potomac.–The Battle-Field at Gettysburg.–Appearance of the Cemetery.–Importance of the Position.–The Configuration of Ground.–Traces of Battle.–Round Hill.–General Meade’s Head-Quarters.–Appearance of the Dead.–Through the Forests along the Line.–Retreat and Pursuit of Lee.
While in St. Louis, late in June, 1863, I received the following telegram:–
“NEW YORK, _June_ 28.
“Report at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at the earliest possible moment.”
Two hours later, I was traveling eastward as fast as an express train could carry me.
The Rebel army, under General Lee, had crossed the Potomac, and was moving toward Harrisburg. The Army of the Potomac was in rapid pursuit. A battle was imminent between Harrisburg and Baltimore.
Waiting a day at Harrisburg, I found the capital of the Keystone State greatly excited. The people were slow to move in their own behalf. Earth-works were being thrown up on the south bank of the Susquehanna, principally by the soldiers from other parts of Pennsylvania and from New York.
When it was first announced that the enemy was approaching, only seventeen men volunteered to form a local defense. I saw no such enthusiasm on the part of the inhabitants as I had witnessed at Cincinnati during the previous autumn. Pennsylvania sent many regiments to the field during the war, and her soldiers gained a fine reputation; but the best friends of the State will doubtless acknowledge that Harrisburg was slow to act when the Rebels made their last great invasion.
I was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac wherever I could find it. As I left Harrisburg, I learned that a battle was in progress. Before I could reach the field the great combat had taken place. The two contending armies had made Gettysburg historic.
I joined our army on the day after the battle. I could find no person of my acquaintance, amid the confusion that followed the termination of three days’ fighting. The army moved in pursuit of Lee, whose retreat was just commencing. As our long lines stretched away toward the Potomac, I walked over the ground where the battle had raged, and studied the picture that was presented. I reproduce, in part, my letter of that occasion:–
“Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, _July_ 6,1863.
“To-day I have passed along the whole ground where the lines of battle were drawn. The place bears evidence of a fierce struggle. The shocks of those two great armies surging and resurging, the one against the other, could hardly pass without leaving their traces in fearful characters. At Waterloo, at Wagram, and at Jena the wheat grows more luxuriantly, and the corn shoots its stalks further toward the sky than before the great conflicts that rendered those fields famous. The broad acres of Gettysburg and Antietam will in future years yield the farmer a richer return than he has hithto received.
“Passing out of Gettysburg by the Baltimore turnpike, we come in a few steps to the entrance of the cemetery. Little of the inclosure remains, save the gateway, from which the gates have been torn. The neat wooden fence, first thrown down to facilitate the movement of our artillery, was used for fuel, as the soldiers made their camp on the spot. A few scattered palings are all that remain. The cemetery was such as we usually find near thrifty towns like Gettysburg. None of the monuments and adornings were highly expensive, though all were neat, and a few were elaborate. There was considerable taste displayed in the care of the grounds, as we can see from the few traces that remain. The eye is arrested by a notice, prominently posted, forbidding the destruction or mutilation of any shrub, tree, or stone about the place, under severe penalties. The defiance that war gives to the civil law is forcibly apparent as one peruses those warning lines.
“Monuments and head-stones lie everywhere overturned. Graves, which loving hands once carefully adorned, have been trampled by horses’ feet until the vestiges of verdure have disappeared. The neat and well-trained shrubbery has vanished, or is but a broken and withered mass of tangled brushwood. On one grave lies the body of a horse, fast decomposing under the July sun. On another lie the torn garments of some wounded soldier, stained and saturated with blood. Across a small head-stone, bearing the words, ‘To the memory of our beloved child, Mary,’ lie the fragments of a musket shattered by a cannon-shot.
“In the center of a space inclosed by an iron fence, and containing a half-dozen graves, a few rails are standing where they were erected by our soldiers to form their shelter in bivouac. A family shaft has been broken in fragments by a shell. Stone after stone felt the effects of the _feu d’enfer_ that was poured upon the crest of the hill. Cannon thundered, and foot and horse soldiers tramped over the resting-place of the dead. Other dead were added to those who are resting here. Many a wounded soldier lives to remember the contest above those silent graves.
“The hill on which this cemetery is located was the center of our line of battle and the key to our position. Had the Rebels been able to carry this point, they would have forced us into retreat, and the battle would have been lost. To pierce our line in this locality was Lee’s great endeavor, and he threw his best brigades against it. Wave after wave of living valor rolled up that slope, only to roll back again under the deadly fire of our artillery and infantry. It was on this hill, a little to the right of the cemetery, where the ‘Louisiana Tigers’ made their famous charge. It was their boast that they were never yet foiled in an attempt to take a battery; but on this occasion they suffered a defeat, and were nearly annihilated. Sad and dispirited, they mourn their repulse and their terrible losses in the assault.
“From the summit of this hill a large portion of the battle-ground is spread out before the spectator. In front and at his feet lies the town of Gettysburg, containing, in quiet times, a population of four or five thousand souls. It is not more than a hundred yards to the houses in the edge of the village, where the contest with the Rebel sharp-shooters took place. To the left of the town stretches a long valley, bounded on each side by a gently-sloping ridge. The crest of each ridge is distant nearly a mile from the other. It was on these ridges that the lines of battle on the second and third days were formed, the Rebel line being on the ridge to the westward. The one stretching directly from our left hand, and occupied by our own men, has but little timber upon it, while that held by the rebels can boast of several groves of greater or less extent. In one of these the Pennsylvania College is embowered, while in another is seen the Theological Seminary. Half-way between the ridges are the ruins of a large brick building burned during the engagement. Dotted about, here and there, are various brick and frame structures. Two miles at our left rises a sharp-pointed elevation, known to the inhabitants of the region as Round Hill. Its sides are wooded, and the forest stretches from its base across the valley to the crest of the western ridge.
“It must not be supposed that the space between the ridges is an even plain, shaven with, the scythe and leveled with the roller. It rises and falls gently, and with little regularity, but in no place is it steep of ascent. Were it not for its ununiformity and for the occasional sprinkling of trees over its surface, it could be compared to a patch of rolling prairie in miniature. To the southwest of the further ridge is seen the mountain region of Western Maryland, behind which the Rebels had their line of retreat. It is not a wild, rough mass of mountains, but a region of hills of the larger and more inaccessible sort. They are traversed by roads only in a few localities, and their passage, except through, the gaps, is difficult for a single team, and impossible for an army.
“The Theological Seminary was the scene of a fierce struggle. It was beyond it where the First and Eleventh Corps contended with Ewell and Longstreet on the first day of the engagement. Afterward, finding the Rebels were too strong for them, they fell back to a new position, this building being included in the line. The walls of the Seminary were perforated by shot and shell, and the bricks are indented with numerous bullet-marks. Its windows show the effects of the musketry, and but little glass remains to shut out the cold and rain. The building is now occupied as a hospital by the Rebels. The Pennsylvania College is similarly occupied, and the instruction of its students is neglected for the present.
“In passing from the cemetery along the crest of the ridge where our line of battle stood, I first came upon the position occupied by some of our batteries. This is shown by the many dead horses lying unburied, and by the mounds which mark where others have been slightly covered up. There are additional traces of an artillery fight. Here is a broken wheel of a gun-carriage, an exploded caisson, a handspike, and some of the accoutrements of the men. In the fork of a tree I found a Testament, with the words, ‘Charles Durrale, Corporal of Company G,’ written on the fly-leaf. The guns and the gunners, have disappeared. Some of the latter are now with the column moving in pursuit of the enemy, others are suffering in the hospitals, and still others are resting where the bugle’s reveille shall never wake them.
“Between the cemetery and the town and at the foot of the ridge where I stand, runs the road leading to Emmetsburg. It is not a turnpike, but a common dirt-road, and, as it leaves the main street leading into town, it makes a diagonal ascent of the hill. On the eastern side, this road is bordered by a stone wall for a short distance. Elsewhere on both sides there is only a rail fence. A portion of our sharp-shooters took position behind this wall, and erected traverses to protect them from a flanking fire, should the enemy attempt to move up the road from Gettysburg. These traverses are constructed at right angles to the wall, by making a ‘crib’ of fence-rails, two feet high and the same distance apart, and then filling the crib with dirt. Further along I find the rails from the western side of the road, piled against the fence on the east, so as to form a breast-work two or three feet in height–a few spadesful of dirt serve to fill the interstices. This defense was thrown up by the Rebels at the time they were holding the line of the roads.
“Moving to the left, I find still more severe traces of artillery fighting. Twenty-seven dead horses on a space of little more than one acre is evidence of heavy work. Here are a few scattered trees, which were evidently used as a screen for our batteries. These trees did not escape the storm of shot and shell that was rained in that direction. Some of them were perforated by cannon-shot, or have been completely cut off in that peculiar splintering that marks the course of a projectile through green wood. Near the scene of this fighting is a large pile of muskets and cartridge-boxes collected from the field. Considerable work has been done in thus gathering the debris of the battle, but it is by no means complete. Muskets, bayonets, and sabers are scattered everywhere.
“My next advance to the left carries me where the ground is thickly studded with graves. In one group I count a dozen graves of soldiers belonging to the Twentieth Massachusetts; near them are buried the dead of the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh New York, and close at hand an equal number from the Twelfth New Jersey. Care has been taken to place a head-board at each grave, with a legible inscription thereon, showing whose remains are resting beneath. On one board the comrades of the dead soldier had nailed the back of his knapsack, which bore his name. On another was a brass plate, bearing the soldier’s name in heavily stamped letters.
“Moving still to the left, I found an orchard in which the fighting appears to have been desperate in the extreme. Artillery shot had plowed the ground in every direction, and the trees did not escape the fury of the storm. The long bolts of iron, said by our officers to be a modification of the Whitworth projectile, were quite numerous. The Rebels must have been well supplied with this species of ammunition, and they evidently used it with no sparing hand. At one time I counted twelve of these bolts lying on a space not fifty feet square. I am told that many shot and shell passed over the heads of our soldiers during the action.
“A mile from our central position at the cemetery, was a field of wheat, and near it a large tract, on which corn had been growing. The wheat was trampled by the hurrying feet of the dense masses of infantry, as they changed their positions during the battle. In the cornfield artillery had been stationed, and moved about as often as the enemy obtained its range. Hardly a hill of corn is left in its pristine luxuriance. The little that escaped the hoof or the wheel, as the guns moved from place to place, was nibbled by hungry horses during the bivouac subsequent to the battle. Not a stalk of wheat is upright; not a blade of corn remains uninjured; all has fallen long before the time of harvest. Another harvest, in which Death was the reaper, has been gathered above it.
“On our extreme left the pointed summit of a hill, a thousand feet in elevation, rises toward the sky. Beyond it, the country falls off into the mountain region that extends to the Potomac and across it into Virginia. This hill is quite difficult of ascent, and formed a strong position, on which the left of our line rested. The enemy assaulted this point with great fury, throwing his divisions, one after the other, against it. Their efforts were of no avail. Our men defended their ground against every attack. It was like the dash of the French at Waterloo against the immovable columns of the English. Stubborn resistance overcame the valor of the assailants. Again and again they came to the assault, only to fall back as they had advanced. Our left held its ground, though it lost heavily.
“On this portion of the line, about midway between the crests of the ridges, is a neat farm-house. Around this dwelling the battle raged, as around Hougoumont at Waterloo. At one time it was in the possession of the Rebels, and was fiercely attacked by our men. The walls were pierced by shot and shell, many of the latter exploding within, and making a scene of devastation. The glass was shattered by rifle bullets on every side, and the wood-work bears testimony to the struggle. The sharp-shooters were in every room, and added to the disorder caused by the explosion of shells. The soldiers destroyed what the missiles spared. The Rebels were driven from the house, and the position was taken by our own men. They, in turn, were dislodged, but finally secured a permanent footing in the place.
“Retracing my steps from the extreme left, I return to the center of our position on Cemetery Hill. I do not follow the path by which I came, but take a route along the hollow, between the two ridges. It was across this hollow that the Rebels made their assaults upon our position. Much blood was poured out between these two swells of land. Most of the dead were buried where they fell, or gathered in little clusters beneath some spreading tree or beside clumps of bushes. Some of the Rebel dead are still unburied. I find one of these as I descend a low bank to the side of a small spring. The body is lying near the spring, as if the man had crawled there to obtain a draught of water. Its hands are outspread upon the earth, and clutching at the little tufts of grass beneath them. The soldier’s haversack and canteen are still remaining, and his hat is lying not far away.
“A few paces distant is another corpse, with its hands thrown upward in the position the soldier occupied when he received his fatal wound. The clothing is not torn, no blood appears upon the garments, and the face, though swollen, bears no expression of anguish. Twenty yards away are the remains of a body cut in two by a shell. The grass is drenched in blood, that the rain of yesterday has not washed away. As I move forward I find the body of a Rebel soldier, evidently slain while taking aim over a musket. The hands are raised, the left extended beyond the right, and the fingers of the former partly bent, as if they had just been grasping the stock of a gun. One foot is advanced, and the body is lying on its right side. To appearances it did not move a muscle after receiving its death-wound. Another body attracts my attention by its delicate white hands, and its face black as that of a negro.
“The farm-house on the Emmetsburg road, where General Meade held his head-quarters during the cannonade, is most fearfully cut up. General Lee masked his artillery, and opened with one hundred and thirty pieces at the same moment. Two shells in every second of time fell around those head-quarters. They tore through the little white building, exploding and scattering their fragments in every direction. Not a spot in its vicinity was safe. One shell through the door-step, another in the chimney, a third shattering a rafter, a fourth carrying away the legs of a chair in which an officer was seated; others severing and splintering the posts in front of the house, howling through the trees by which the dwelling was surrounded, and raising deep furrows in the soft earth. One officer, and another, and another were wounded. Strange to say, amid all this iron hail, no one of the staff was killed.
“Once more at the cemetery, I crossed the Baltimore turnpike to the hill that forms the extremity of the ridge, on which the main portion of our line of battle was located. I followed this ridge to the point held by our extreme right. About midway along the ridge was the scene of the fiercest attack upon that portion of the field. Tree after tree was scarred from base to limbs so thickly that it would have been impossible to place one’s hand upon the trunk without covering the marks of a bullet. One tree was stripped of more than half its leaves; many of its twigs were partially severed, and hanging wilted and nearly ready to drop to the ground. The trunk of the tree, about ten inches in diameter, was cut and scarred in every part. The fire which struck these trees was that from our muskets upon the advancing Rebels. Every tree and bush for the distance of half a mile along these works was nearly as badly marked. The rocks, wherever they faced our breast-works, were thickly stippled with dots like snow-flakes. The missiles, flattened by contact with the rock, were lying among the leaves, giving little indication of their former character.
“Our sharp-shooters occupied novel positions. One of them found half a hollow log, standing upright, with a hole left by the removal of a knot, which gave him an excellent embrasure. Some were in tree-tops, others in nooks among the rocks, and others behind temporary barricades of their own construction. Owing to the excellence of our defenses, the Rebels lost heavily.”
A few days after visiting this field, I joined the army in Western Maryland. The Rebels were between us and the Potomac. We were steadily pressing them, rather with a design of driving them across the Potomac without further fighting, than of bringing on an engagement. Lee effected his crossing in safety, only a few hundred men of his rear-guard being captured on the left bank of the Potomac.
The Maryland campaign was ended when Lee was driven out. Our army crossed the Potomac further down that stream, but made no vigorous pursuit. I returned to New York, and once more proceeded to the West.
Our victory in Pennsylvania was accompanied by the fall of Vicksburg and the surrender of Pemberton’s army. A few days later, the capture of Port Hudson was announced. The struggle for the possession of the Mississippi was substantially ended when the Rebel fortifications along its banks fell into our hands.
IN THE NORTHWEST.
From Chicago to Minnesota.–Curiosities of Low-Water Navigation.–St. Paul and its Sufferings in Earlier Days.–The Indian War.–A Brief History of our Troubles in that Region.–General Pope’s Expeditions to Chastise the Red Man.–Honesty in the Indian Department.–The End of the Warfare.–The Pacific Railway.–A Bold Undertaking.–Penetrating British Territory.–The Hudson Bay Company.–Peculiarities of a Trapper’s Life.
Early in September, 1863, I found myself in Chicago, breathing the cool, fresh air from Lake Michigan. From Chicago to Milwaukee I skirted the shores of the lake, and from the latter city pushed across Wisconsin to the Mississippi River. Here it was really the blue Mississippi: its appearance was a pleasing contrast to the general features of the river a thousand miles below. The banks, rough and picturesque, rose abruptly from the water’s edge, forming cliffs that overtopped the table-land beyond. These cliffs appeared in endless succession, as the boat on which I traveled steamed up the river toward St. Paul. Where the stream widened into Lake Pepin, they seemed more prominent and more precipitous than elsewhere, as the larger expanse of water was spread at their base. The promontory known as “Maiden’s Rock” is the most conspicuous of all. The Indians relate that some daughter of the forest, disappointed in love, once leaped from its summit to the rough rocks, two hundred feet below. Her lover, learning her fate, visited the spot, gazed from the fearful height, and, after a prayer to the Great Spirit who watches over the Red Man–returned to his friends and broke the heart of another Indian maid.
Passing Lake Pepin and approaching St. Paul, the river became very shallow. There had been little rain during the summer, and the previous spring witnessed no freshet in that region. The effect was apparent in the condition of the Mississippi. In the upper waters boats moved with difficulty. The class that is said to steam wherever there is a heavy dew, was brought into active use. From St. Paul to a point forty miles below, only the lightest of the “stern-wheel” boats could make any headway. The inhabitants declared they had never before known such a low stage of water, and earnestly hoped it would not occur again. It was paralyzing much of the business of the State. Many flouring and lumber mills were lying idle. Transportation was difficult, and the rates very high. A railway was being constructed to connect with the roads from Chicago, but it was not sufficiently advanced to be of any service.
Various stories were in circulation concerning the difficulties of navigation on the Upper Mississippi in a low stage of water. One pilot declared the wheels of his boat actually raised a cloud of dust in many places. Another said his boat could run easily in the moisture on the outside of a pitcher of ice-water, but could not move to advantage in the river between Lake Pepin and St. Paul. A person interested in the railway proposed to secure a charter for laying the track in the bed of the Mississippi, but feared the company would be unable to supply the locomotives with water on many portions of the route. Many other jests were indulged in, all of which were heartily appreciated by the people of St. Paul.
The day after my arrival at St. Paul, I visited the famous Falls of the Minnehaha. I am unable to give them a minute description, my visit being very brief. Its brevity arose from the entire absence of water in the stream which supplies the fall. That fluid is everywhere admitted to be useful for purposes of navigation, and I think it equally desirable in the formation of a cascade.
The inhabitants of St. Paul have reason to bless the founders of their city for the excellent site of the future metropolis of the Northwest. Overlooking and almost overhanging the river in one part, in another it slopes gently down to the water’s edge, to the levee where the steamers congregate. Back from the river the limits of the city extend for several miles, and admit of great expansion. With a hundred years of prosperity there would still be ample room for growth.
Before the financial crash in ’57, this levee was crowded with merchandise from St. Louis and Chicago. Storage was not always to be had, though the construction of buildings was rapidly pushed. Business was active, speculation was carried to the furthest limit, everybody had money in abundance, and scattered it with no niggard hand. In many of the brokers’ windows, placards were posted offering alluring inducements to capitalists. “Fifty per cent. guaranteed on investments,” was set forth on these placards, the offers coming from parties considered perfectly sound. Fabulous sums were paid for wild land and for lots in apocryphal towns. All was prosperity and activity.
By-and-by came the crash, and this well-founded town passed through a period of mourning and fasting. St. Paul saw many of its best and heaviest houses vanish into thin air; merchants, bankers, land-speculators, lumbermen, all suffered alike. Some disappeared forever; others survived the shock, but never recovered their former footing. Large amounts of property went under the auctioneer’s hammer, “to be sold without limit.” Lots of land which cost two or three hundred dollars in ’56, were sold at auction in ’58 for five or six dollars each. Thousands of people lost their all in these unfortunate land-speculations. Others who survived the crash have clung to their acres, hoping that prosperity may return to the Northwest. At present their wealth consists mainly of Great Expectations.
Though suffering greatly, the capital and business center of Minnesota was by no means ruined. The speculators departed, but the farmers and other working classes remained. Business “touched bottom” and then slowly revived. St. Paul existed through all the calamity, and its people soon learned the actual necessities of Minnesota. While they mourn the departure of the “good times,” many of them express a belief that those happy days were injurious to the permanent prosperity of the State.