Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Camp fires of the confederacy: a volume of humorous anecdotes, reminiscences ... By Benjamin La Bree

Every Inch a Hero.


One of the saddest and most thrilling events of the Civil War was the hanging of Sam Davis, in Pulaski, Tenn., November 27, 1863. He was a young man of excellent habits, and possessed a



(From a photograph, the property of S. A. Cunningham, Publisher and Editor "Confederate Veteran." Nashville, Tenn.)

courage that nothing could daunt. He was reared in the country, and up to the time of the breaking out of hostilities labored on the farm. He entered the army in 1861, in his seventeenth year. joining Colonel Ledbetter's company of the First Tennessee regiment, and in a short time his bravery, prudence, and zeal recommended him to his commanding officer as one fitted to perform the arduous and perilous duties of a scout. He was accordingly detached from his regiment, and made a member of Coleman's scouts.

Toward the close of October, 1863, it was considered highly important to the success of Bragg's movements that the strength of the Federal fortifications of Middle Tennessee should be accurately known, and young Davis was selected to procure this information.

He set out on his dangerous mission, and, after securing all the information that was expected or desired, he was arrested on his return, on the 20th of November, within the Federal lines, with the plans of the fortifications of Nashville and all other places in Middle Tennessee on his person. The accuracy of these plans and the minuteness of details showed at once that his informant was a man holding a high position among the Federal engineers, and when questioned concerning his sources of information, young Davis candidly admitted that the plans had been furnished by an officer high in command in the [Federal army , but resolutely refused to disclose his name. A free pardon was offered him and a safe return within the Confederate lines, on the condition that he would impart the sources of his information, but nothing could shake his resolution.

General Dodge, finding it impossible to move him in his stubborn determination after repeated conferences, summoned a military commission, of which Colonel Madison Miller, of the Eighteenth Missouri Infantry, was president, for the trial of Davis on the following charges and specifications :

Charge I: Being a spy. Specifications: In this, that he. Samuel Davis, of Coleman's scouts. In the service of the so-called Confederate States, did come within the lines of the United States forces in Middle Tennessee for the purpose of secretly gaining information concerning these forces, and conveying the same to the enemy, and was arrested within the said lines on or about November 20,1S63. This in Giles County, Tennessee.

Charge II: Being a carrier of mails, communications, and information from within the lines of the United States Army to persons In arms against the government. Specifications: In this, thai the said Samuel Davis, on or about November 20, 1863, was arrested In Giles County, Tennessee engaged in carrying malls and Information from within the lines of United States Screes to persona In arms against the United States Government.

To which charges and specifications the accused pleaded as follows:

To the specification in first charge, " Not guilty "
To the second charge, " Guilty."

After a patient investigation of several days, the following were the findings and sentence:

The court finds the accused as follows :

Of the specifications to the first charge, " Guilty."

Of the first charge, "Guilty."

Of the specifications to the second charge, " Guilty."

Of the second charge, " Guilty."

And the Commission does therefore sentence him, the said Samuel Davis, of Coleman's scouts, in the service of the so-called Confederate States, to be hung by the neck until he is dead, at such time and place as the commanding general may direct; two thirds of the members of the Commission concurring in the sentence.

Brigadier-General G. M. Dodge approved of the findings and sentence. The sentence was ordered to be carried into effect Friday, November 27, 1863, between the hours of 10 o'clock A. M. and 6 o'clock P. M., and Brigadier-General T. W. Sweeney, commanding Second Division, was ordered to cause the necessary arrangements to be made for carrying out the order in the proper manner.

The prisoner was notified of the findings and the sentence of the military commission by Captain Armstrong, the local provost marshal, and though manifesting some surprise al the severity of the punishment to be inflicted, he bore himself bravely, and showed not the quiver of a muscle. Later in the day Chaplain Young visited him, and found him resigned to his fate. After prayer by the chaplain he inquired concerning the news of the day, and upon being told that Bragg was defeated he expressed the deepest regret.

The scaffold for the execution of the prisoner was built upon an elevation on the eastern side of the town of Pulaski, near the college, and commanded an extensive view. The position could be seen from almost every part of the town. At precisely 10 o'clock on the morning of Friday, the 27th of November, 1863, the prisoner, with pinioned arms, was placed in a wagon and seated upon his coffin. In this condition he was conveyed to the scaffold. Davis stepped from the wagon, and, without any nervousness, seated himself on a bench at the foot of the scaffold, glancing occasionally at the coffin while the assistants were taking it from the wagon. He displayed no trepidation, and seemed to be the least interested of all those present. Quietly turning to Captain Armstrong, he asked with an unshaken voice

how long he had to live, and being told just fifteen minutes, he remarked in substance that the remainder of the battles for the


, Do you suppose, I would betray a friend? No; I would die a thousand times first! ,

freedom of his government and the liberties of his people would have to be fought without his assistance.

Captain Armstrong, turning to him, said, " I am sorry to be compelled to perform this painful duty." To which Davis replied, " Captain, I am innocent; I have only tried to serve my country and my people ; I die in the discharge of duty, and am prepared to die. ! do not think hard of you."

Captain Chickasaw, then approaching, asked the prisoner if it would not be better to save his life by disclosing the name of the officer who furnished the facts concerning the fortifications, etc., and then intimated that it was not yet too late. Upon hearing this the prisoner turned and, with a glowing indignation, said, "Do you suppose, sir, that I would betray a friend ? No; I would die a thousand times first. I will never betray the confidence reposed in me."

Committing then a few keepsakes to Mr. Lawrence, a Methodist minister, he mounted the scaffold with a serene countenance, in company with Chaplain Young, whom he requested to pray with him. After a prayer by the chaplain, the delicacy and appropriateness of which on this occasion may well be questioned, the prisoner stepped upon the trap, and paid the severe penalty of devotion to principle and duty. He died with the calmness of a philosopher, the sternness of a patriot, the serenity of a Christian, and the courage of a martyr.

Never did a deeper gloom spread over any community than did over that of Pulaski when Davis' tragic death was made known. The deed was openly and boldly stigmatized by the common soldiery as a needless assassination. No man ever awakened a deeper sympathy. His youth, his courage, his inflexible devotion to the principles of honor, his coolness under trying circumstances, all pleaded powerfully in his behalf. His sad fate is one of the touching themes of the county, and even now, after the lapse of thirty-four years, whenever his name is mentioned a tender sympathy causes the tear to rise unbidden to the eye. His memory is cherished by the people he loved so well; his name is embalmed in the hearts of his kindred and friends ; and they regard him as a martyr to what he conceived to be his duty—the preservation of the sacredness of confidence. His case furnishes a melancholy example of the atrocities still permitted under the usages of civilized warfare.

In reviewing, after the lapse of years, all the facts connected with this sad affair, it must be admitted that there were many mitigating circumstances in the case of this dauntless young soldier which pleaded powerfully for clemency on the part of the post commander. Davis was captured fifteen miles from Pulaski. He pretended no disguise, but wore at the time of his capture his arms and the Confederate uniform. It is true that the plans of the fortifications in Middle Tennessee were found on his person, biri no proof further than his own admission was adduced to show that he was in possession of them in any other capacity than as a courier or letter-carrier, and might, in the discharge of his duty as such, have unconsciously come within the lines, la addition, his youth, his manliness, his high courage and sense of honor, his unflinching constancy under the severest trial and the greatest temptations, and his heroic conduct to the last, were qualities that should have induced a noble-hearted commander to give the prisoner the benefit of a doubt.

Camp fires of the confederacy: a volume of humorous anecdotes, reminiscences ... By Benjamin La Bree


At the end of April, 1863, General Streight, an Indiana officer, was designated by the Federal General commanding the Army of Tennessee, to prepare for a raid into Northern Georgia, the object being to cut the Confederate communications by destroying railways, bridges, and to burn commissary stores and, above all, to wreck the splendid arsenal at Rome, Georgia.

It was calculated that Streight's raid would require a march of some 300 miles. He was given picked troops and supported by a large force for reconnoissance, to hide as long as possible the real purpose of the incursion.

Streight began his real operations on April 28th, and by the 29th General Forrest, who had been ordered to pursue and baffle the Federals, was close at his heels.

Forrest was one of the wonderful men of the war. Judged by his resources and opportunities, no man who wore the gray accomplished more, and an enemy who opposed him was bound to fight, conquer, run or die.

The moment Streight felt the first stroke of Forrest's hand, he


• Forrest, like a mighty and tireless Noodhound, would follow the prey.'

realized that a tireless, skilled foe was on his track, and for ninetysix hours, never by day or night, was the Federal column at rest.

Like some insatiate monster, the Confederate General followed the Federal column, and, whenever and wherever found, there was a vigilant and relentless attack. In 164 miles he fought eight battles by day and three by night, and in two of the latter, where artillery was drawn by his men to within 100 feet of the enemy's line, the only guide or light was the flash of rifles and the blaze of cannon.

Streight was himself a man of nerve and resource. Skillfully

[graphic][merged small]

arranged ambuscades, tierce charges and stubborn resistance met Forrest, and in a fair proportion of the conflicts the Federals held their own ; but they greatly outnumbered the Men of the Gray. The fierce onslaught of Forrest, his impetuous attack, his unyielding tenacity and uncompromising assaults, combined with his swift and rapid movements, were enough to paralyze the stoutest heart and make the bravest soul question the outcome. Like as a mighty and tireless bloodhound would follow the prey, so this wizard of the saddle pursued the hard-marching Federals, and never for a single instant in these days or nights was tliere otner thought or plan but to destroy the invaders.

Streight found friendly guides and helping hands amongst the Union men and women of Northern Alabama ; but these could not hide him from the eagle eyes or the smiting arm of those following the trail, or stay the avenging hand that was ever uplifted in his rear.

With horses dropping dead in the roads, with men falling in the unconsciousness of sleep from their steeds, and with their guns sliding from their paralyzed grasp, Forrest still hunted the foe. One-half of the command, on the third day, was killed, wounded, or broken down ; but still, with only 500 soldiers he hunted the Federal raiders, and, on May 3d, within twenty miles of Rome —the objective point of the expedition—Streight and his 1,600 men laid down their arms and surrendered to the Confederate General, who could then, after his terrible pursuit, muster less than 500 followers.

Every mile of the 164 was covered with war's wrecks. Dead soldiers, mutilated animals, wounded men and stricken beasts, broken wagons, abandoned trains and scattered supplies, told the story of the relentless and pitiless assault. Nearing the end, in forty-eight hours, four battles and ninety miles marching and four hours' sleeping.

Surely these deeds of the Cavalry of the Army of Tennessee are not unworthy of Confederate valor.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Brave Man.

One of the Alabama regiments was fiercely attacked by a whole brigade in one of the battles around Richmond. The Alabamians, unable to withstand such great odds, were compelled to fall back about thirty or forty yards, losing, to the utter mortification of the officers and men, their flag, which remained in the hands of the enemy. Suddenly a tall Alabamian, a private in the color company, rushed from the ranks across the vacant ground, attacked a squad of Yankees, who had possession of the flag, with his musket, felled several to the ground, snatched the flag from them, and returned safely back to his regiment. The bold fellow was of course immediately surrounded by his jubilant comrades and greatly praised for his gallantry. His captain appointed him to a sergeancy on the spot, but the hero cut everything short by the reply: "Oh, never mind, captain! Say no more about it. I dropped my whisky flask among the Yankees and fetched that back, and I thought I might just as well bring the flag along."

Camp fires of the confederacy: a volume of humorous anecdotes, reminiscences ...

By Benjamin La Bree



The following extract from the famous address delivered by the late Henry W. Grady before the New England Society of New York, on the occasion of its annual dinner in 1886, derives special interest and appropriateness from the associations of Memorial Day:

"Dr. Talmage has drawn for you, with a master hand, the picture of your returning armies. He has told you how, in pomp and circumstance of war, they came back to you, marching with proud and victorious tread, reading their glory in a nation's eyes. Will you bear with me while I tell you of another army that sought its home at the close of the war—an army that marched home in defeat and not in victory, in pathos and not in splendor— but in glory that equaled yours, and to hearts that were as loving as ever welcomed heroes home ?

" Let me picture to you the footsore Confederate soldier, as, buttoning up, in his faded gray jacket, the parole which was to bear testimony to his children of his fidelity and faith, he turned his face southward from Appomattox in 1865. I think of him, as ragged, half-starved, heavy-hearted, enfeebled by want and wounds; having fought to exhaustion, he surrenders his gun, wrings the hands of his comrades in silence, and, lifting his tearstained and pallid face for the last time to the graves that dot old Virginia's hills, pulls his gray cap over his brow, and begins the slow and painful journey.

"What does he find? Let me ask you, who went to your homes eager to find, in a welcome you had justly earned, full payment for four years' sacrifice—what does he find when, having followed the battle-stained cross against overwhelming odds, dreading death not half so much as surrender, he reaches the home he left so prosperous and beautiful ? He finds his house in 2 " (17)

ruins, his farm devastated, his slaves free, his stock killed, his barns empty, his trade destroyed, his money worthless, his social system—feudal in its magnificence—swept away, his people without law or legal status, his comrades slain, and the burdens of others heavy on his shoulders.

" Without money, credit, employment, material or training, and, besides all this, confronted with the greatest problem that ever confronted human intelligence—the establishing of a status for the vast body of his liberated slaves — what does he do, this hero in gray, with the heart of gold ? Does he sit down in sullenness and despair ? Not for a day. Surely God, who had stripped him of his prosperity, inspired him in his adversity. As ruin was never before so overwhelming, never was restoration swifter. The soldier stepped from the trenches into the furrow; horses that had charged Federal guns marched before the plow, and fields that ran red with human blood in April were green with the harvest in June ; women reared in luxury cut up their dresses and made dresses for their husbands ; with a patience and a heroism that fit women always as a garment, they gave their hands to work. There was little bitterness in all this. Cheerfulness and frankness prevailed. 'Bill Arp' struck the keynote when he said, 'Well, I killed as many of them as they did of me, and I'm going home to work.' "