“In response to a request that I write a sketch of my services as a Confederate soldier, I will do my best with a very much impaired memory.
I joined the 2nd company of Infantry volunteers that went from Caldwell parish: J. A. Boyd was our first captain.
Our first destination was Camp Moore for training under General Tracey, and from there we went to Columbus, Ky. There we stayed – built breastworks, magazines, mounted cannons, and buried our companions that died there from pneumonia. My company lost 31 men in 30 days from that disease.
Columbus was the best fortified place in the South. Jeff Davis’ brother-in-law, who was said to be one of the best civil engineers in this country at that time, assisted in planning the fort. I was within a few feet of him when he was shot by accident after which he lived only a few hours.
Belmont, Mo., is just across the river from Columbus. Our commander thought advisable to keep a guard at that point. So there were stationed two small Arkansas regiments at that place. On the morning of November 7th, very early, Gen. Grant, who at that time was Colonel Grant, took this little guard by surprise and had them completely surrounded before they knew it. They had only a few rounds of cartridges for each gun. The Arkansans put up a brave fight as long as they had ammunition. They were soon driven into the river and killed without mercy with their hands up begging to surrender.
On the east side our army of 75 thousand men was soon in line for battle. The 11th and 12th Louisiana regiments were ordered to cross over to support the Arkansas troops or what was left of them. The 11th was marched on board of a steamer first and then the 12th followed. When the boat started across, Col. Marks shouted: “Attention, 11th Louisiana – load at will; “ – next command, “fix bayonets.” As soon as the boat neared the bank, the old colonel ordered charge at will and give them the bayonet. That was the only time during the war that I saw the bayonet put to use. The 12th commenced shooting as soon as the boat got near enough to them.
About this time, the noted rifle-cannon “Lady Polk”, which was stationed on the east bank, came into action throwing nearly a half-bushel of canister shot among the enemy’s lines every few minutes. This soon ended the Battle of Belmont.
Col. Grant and his escorts mounted their horses and made their escape through the country back to the main army – leaving the infantry of his command to get back to the boat that brought them down as best they could.
While we were there in camp suffering from the cold and working almost day and night trying to be ready for the great battle that we thought was going to be fought at that place – there appeared in our camps (as we supposed) an old Irish woman who peddled daily with her handle-basket on her arm selling cider, cakes and pies to the soldier, but who proved to be an accomplished spy sent by Gen. Grant to investigate the situation.
In his report he says: “Gen. Grant, we have not enough men in our army to take that place – what are we going to do about it.” Grant replied: “I never cross the bridge until I get to it. Perhaps we can’t go through, under, nor over it – but there is room to go around it.“ This proved the case, so that all hard work was for naught.
Our next move was to Fort Pillow, where we withstood the siege for 8 long weeks, during which time the enemy was constantly throwing shells into our camp, day and night, from their fleet of boats anchored just above and out of reach of our small guns.
From Fort Pillow we went to Memphis, Tenn., where we remained one week and then left for, I think, Union City, Tenn.; thence to Grenada, Miss. And then to Holly Springs.
At Holly Springs, early one morning while we were preparing our scanty breakfast, the battle cry was sounded. The Federals had secretly approached and was firing on our out-posts. They were soon on the retreat with our army following until they reached Corinth, where they made a stand and the second battle of Corinth was fought with great slaughter to both armies, especially the Southern. Corinth could have been captured the 1st day of the battle if Gen. Prices had been in command.
For some unknown reason we were kept in line of battle all night under the fire of the enemies pickets during which time, we could hear the trains coming in with loads of re-inforcements for the enemy every few hours. The first evening after we arrived at Corinth, Gen. Price wanted to make a general attack from all sides. He thought that by so doing he could capture Corinth in 40 minutes. I believe it could have been done in 20 minutes. I think it was Gen. Grant’s plan to have us capture Corinth, so that he could have our forces concentrated so that he could surround in a state of siege until we could be forced to surrender just as he did at Vicksburg. Gen. Lowell was criticized as a traitor for not taking Corinth. I think he could see into Gen. Grant’s plans and refused to go into the trap, and had us retreat before Grant could get his army stationed, so as to hold us in.
Our retreat for the first 10 miles was on the “Bone-yard” road; it was extremely rough and rocky, which we traveled over during a very dark night. We got back to Holly Springs in a state of semi-exhaustion with a lot of our men left behind dead without having accomplished any good.
From Holly Springs we went to Jackson, Miss. Just before we reached Coffeeville, the Kansas Jay-hawkers ambushed us. A few shots from our muskets put them to flight.
From Jackson, we went in back of Vicksburg, where the Battle of Baker’s Cree was fought; some thought we gained a victory there. I think the whole maneuver was just as Gen. Grant planned it, except that Johnson refused to into Vicksburg with his army. Then followed the siege of Vicksburg with it’s horrors, privations, and suffering that words cannot describe.
After the fall of Vicksburg, came the siege of Jackson, which lasted 8 days, during which time skirmishing was kept up. My brigade was stationed above Jackson, near the river in the edge of large field of corn. We prepared for battle by throwing up light breast-works the entire length of our brigade when deployed in double line.
Early one morning we saw the skirmish line approaching, followed closely by the enemy’s line of battle coming in perfect military order. Our colonel ran up and down the front of our line and coached us not to shoot until he gave us the order. After they got within about 60 yards of us, the order came: “Attention, battalion, make ready – take aim – fire!” It sounded almost as one gun. What few that were not killed or wounded that made the trip, surrendered. The enemy consisted of only one brigade, mostly from Indiana and Illinois.
That night I was place in vidette with six of my comrades. We were placed about 60 yards apart with orders to remain until the night following which meant 24 hours we had to be placed before relief. After dark on account of the enemy’s guns, each army was protected by such a line as a protection against a surprise. We were ordered to shoot anyone who might approach from the enemy; these were long hours. Every time a stick would crack, we expected the enemy.
After a very tiresome waiting, the night vanished and day approached. I could see no sign of a living human – had been squatting very low behind man and decided they were gone. I sat on a log which was very tiresome to me. The man that was in front of me on the enemy’s side must have seen my head, for a bullet came close enough to my face to feel the wind as it passed. I saw the smoke from the gun, but never did see the man. We did not expect to be relieved until about 11 o’clock at night. We waited all night, and no relief came. After the sun was up I called to the enemy and got no answer. The, I gave the signals for my comrades. They were soon with me. We were lost in bewilderment, so we started for our camp, ad met up with an old citizen that told us that both armies were gone. We went into Jackson and found that both armies had evacuated that night. We were fed by some of the citizens and after a good breakfast, we started to find our command, which had gone to Morton Station.
About this time, Sherman’s raid was being made. We were kept on the move for more than two weeks trying to intercept Sherman, who was always somewhere else when we got there.
We were then rushed to Port Hudson to protect the fort there. It was the custom to give the soldiers who had been on guard duty all night the privilege of the camp that day. Myself and Dan Higdon went on a stroll together. A dense smoke at the fort drew our attention. On investigation, we found four men hard at work firing a furnace that was heating cannon balls. In answer to our questions, they informed us that Commodore Farragut’s fleet of gun boats that was anchored just below had orders to weigh anchor at 8:30 o’clock that night and start north; they were heating those balls to use when the boats made their appearance.
We were anxious to see the fight and volunteered our help which was accepted. We did not have to wait long after 8:30 before we could hear a rumbling noise on the river. We could see nothing as it was very dark night, yet we knew from the noise there was something moving along the water. When the proper time arrived, the gunner switched his light on the river [editor’s note: I would certainly like to hear more of this “light”, then again, this story is being recalled in 1926 and may be a memory lapse]. There it was in plain view and close by the first boat was passing. It was then that we all got in a hurry as the gunner gave orders.
First, a sack of powder (I suppose about 12 pounds) was rammed down in the big gun; then a wad of dry moss, a wad of wet moss and another wad of dry moss; next the big red-hot cannon ball that was near a white heat went down. It was handled with tongs made for the purpose. The gunner sighted and maneuvered his gun a little, then jumped back and gave a jerk which caused the earth to shake where we were standing. It was no trouble to see the course of the red-hot missile from the time it left the muzzle of the great gun until it reached its destination.
The first shot fell short; the second glanced off to the right and then went into the bank; the third was a center drive and immediately the flames went up many feet above the boat.
The spread was so rapid that many of the boat’s crew jumped into the river. Our men went out in a small boat and brought in 15 the first trip. I think the crew was all saved. They reported that the hot-shot disabled the machinery in the engine room and went into a tank of turpentine which accounted for the rapid spread of the flames. The machinery being disabled, the boat was helpless and drifted with the current. The loaded shells soon began to explode with great rapidity. The balance of the fleet turned back and kept a safe distance, expecting the magazine to blow up at any time, which happened about 2 o’clock. Thus went one of the best gunboats the government owned at that time.
We were then kept on the move for several weeks back to Jackson, Selma, Montgomery, Atlanta and finally to Morton’s Station.
We were stopped at Meridian on account of a plea from Enterprise for help. Gen. Grierson was there and had demanded surrender of the fort. Within a short time we were placed in line along by the side of the railroad. There were about ten flat cars run in, and we were ordered to get aboard in double quick time. Gen. Loring took charge in person.
We got to Enterprise as quick as the train could make the run – to find Gen. Grierson was gone. We were then put in hot pursuit, which was kept up for about five miles. From thence, back to Meridian, and then up into Virginia with Lee, through many hard fought battles until the end of the war.
- The Caldwell Watchman, Columbia, LA Friday June 4, 1926