EIGHTH CONFEDERATE CAVALRY 1861- 1865
[Original deposited in Alabama, Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. Transcription provided by James S. "Sam" Bodie, jr., Channelview, TX]
The end that fair record may be made and preserved commemorative of sacrifices made, trials, hardships and sufferings endured, perils, wounds and death encountered by flood, field and in prison-pen, of the six Alabama and four Mississippi volunteer companies, composing what the Confederate Government pleased to designate by the misleading, if not meaningless, title of 8th Confederate Cavalry Regiment, the following monograph has been prepared for Alabama’s Department of Archives and History. An outline history of this splendid regiment of "light horse" has already been written and deposited with the Department by my gifted friend, Col. John Witherspoon DuBose, not being a member of this particular Regiment, has, I fear, been over partial to the writer and exalted him above his deserts in telling the story of 1000 men, many hundreds of whom were fully deserving of equal if not greater honor. I have therefore written to commemorate the deeds of my comrades and companions in arms, and to bring out more fully some facts in reference to the organization and to bear testimony not only to my Alabama comrades, but to the equally heroic Mississippians who were so intimately associated with them; the more so since I learn that virtually no record of their deeds has been preserved in the Archives of Mississippi.
In its preparation the writer craves indulgence for quotations from letters written by him from the smoke of the camp-fire, the intervals of rest on the hurrying raid or under the lullaby of the monotonous rifle crack on the skirmish line. These "letters from the front" to a most fair daughter of South Carolina whose devotion to the South may be inferred from the fact that amid the gloom of the disasters suffered at Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Mission Ridge, she was willing to give hand and heart in marriage to a Captain of cavalry, "just from the front", arrayed in a gray jeans uniform, standing in top-boots, at the altar.
Conceiving that these missives from the field of conflict come nearer speaking "by the card" than the blurred remembrance of events spread over four years of time and occurring in eight of the Confederate States (of blessed memory), and recalled at the end of nearly a half century filled with constant labors in wholly different pursuits, is, I trust, a pardonable excuse for intruding them into a public record, solely in the interest of true history.
- George Knox Miller
The Act of the General Assembly of Alabama of 1859, to organize and arm 8000 volunteer soldiery, was passed in less than 90 days next following, and in response to the abortive attempt of Abolitionists of the East ("the John Brown raid") to incite general rapine and massacre of whites of the South by their Negro slaves.
Under this act a company of cavalry was immediately raised in the County of Talladega, and Andrew W. Bowie, son of Ex-Chancellor Alexander Bowie, a local lawyer of prominence who had seen active service under Col. Jack Hays of Texas, in the Mexican war, was chosen Captain. This company was, in large measure, made up of young men, sons of farmers with a small number of professional and business men from the villages; was elegantly uniformed, armed with regulation cavalry pistols and sabers, with mounts of the best breeds furnished by the stables of Tennessee and Kentucky. From its organization in 1859 down to Alabama’s secession, this company was regularly drilled, and immediately offered its services to the State government of active duty in the field. Until provisional government of the Confederacy was organized, the State declined to call any cavalry organization, and many members of this company, impatient at the delay, joined companies of infantry then organizing for active duty.
We may obtain some historical estimate of the war spirit abroad in the State, at that period, in an extract from a private letter under date, Talladega, June 10, 1861:
"It is impossible to do anything at home, and besides when a Southern home is threatened, and the spirit of resistance is irrepressible, next week our County will have four full companies in the field. We have a Ladies Aid Society, supplying the soldiers with comfortable clothing and the necessaries of the occasion. All men, rich and poor, are coming up generously and paying the amount of their taxes extra for the benefit of the soldiery and their families. This, the paying of a double tax, is done voluntarily, and in all cases with the greatest cheerfulness. Once a week, every place of business in our village is closed for one hour, and all people with one accord repair to one of the churches to offer up prayer to the God of Nations and of battles to preserve our country and shield our armies. A God fearing people will never be delivered over to their enemies."
Captain Bowie was a lawyer, but under the same law the Reverend Jefferson Falkner, a minister of the Baptist church, about sixty years of age, organized a cavalry company in the County of Chambers, like Talladega, itself not a great plantation country but having a considerable slave population.
In July 1861, Bowie’s and Falkner’s companies were offered and accepted for service in the Confederate army and in August were in rendezvous at Iuka, Mississippi.
On the 18th of April preceding, the writer was attending lecture in the Law class at the University of Virginia. On that day Virginia adopted an ordinance of secession, and the excitement preceding that enactment, with trains filled with troops passing by, the formation of two or three companies in the student body, rendered study impossible, and on the 19th he, with quite a number of Alabamians, laid books aside and embarked for home. Reaching Talladega I at once attached myself to Captain Bowie’s Calvary Company, was chosen 2nd Corporal and appointed secretary of the company by the Captain: and having given my personal note for a horse, rode away with the company on July 29th for the front. The company had enlisted "for three years or during the war", but when mustered into service on the 13th of August at Decatur, Ala., by Lieut. J.S. Lanier, of General Polk’s staff, it was only for one year as "his instructions so directed."
The following letter is used here to indicate, as far as may be, the character of the rank and file of the Confederate armies. They were neighbors and friends at home, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned. All were in battle array with one common purpose, the defense of altar and fireside:
"Camp Obion, Hickman Co., Ky., Oct 8th 1861
"***** The scene has materially changed from my guard tent at Iuka, from which I last addressed you. I have paid a flying visit to many strange places, seen many, to me, strange sights and have been much more thoroughly introduced to the trials, hardships and excitements of ‘glorious war’.
"I believe I stated in my last that we had just received marching orders for Union City, Tenn. We left the morning after I wrote and reached Corinth, Miss., that day, but failing to get transportation to Union City, were compelled to remain one week. On Sept. 2nd we again took up our march (by rail) and reached our destination, 110 miles, the same day safely.
"On arrival we cleared off a camp ground and were preparing for a stay of some weeks at least, but were destined to be somewhat disappointed, for the second night, about 12 O’clock, a messenger from Gen. Polk came, posthaste, asking if we could be ready to march ‘in two hours’. Our Captain answered "ready", and in twenty minutes we were in our saddles and formed in line. We were then ordered to sleep the remainder of the night on our arms and to keep our horse’s saddled. At daylight we were again in the saddle with canteens filled and our blankets strapped behind us. At sunrise we proceeded to headquarters and in a few minutes were on the march as the vanguard of the ‘Army of Occupation’ of Kentucky.
"We took up the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad and marched all that day through suffocation dust and under a burning sun, without a morsel to eat, as time had not been allowed to cook. Detachments were left at all the (railroad) bridges along the way to keep the road open to the transportation of infantry and artillery, to pass up to Columbus.
"After posting a sufficient guard at all the points requiring protection, I was sent on with the remainder of the company to Columbus. We halted on the outside of the town, near a private house, the proprietor of which furnished us a pasture for our horses, killed a fat beef, and his wife, with a nice, pretty, dear young lass, worked till nearly midnight in the kitchen, cooking our bread. We had no shelter for the night, except for six or eight sick men. The rest of us, worn out with the day’s march, threw ourselves on the grass and slept as soundly as if on ‘downy beds’. I awoke at daylight with a terrible pain in my side, got up and found I had been sleeping on a great big apple!
"We entered the town just in time to see the Yankee gunboats steaming up the river, after letting fly several bombshells at a crowd of unarmed citizens. In 12 hours we had 12,000 troops in the town and batteries arising at every available point.
"Two days after was Sunday, I was sitting under a tree reading when I heard firing up the river. In another moment the bombs came whistling over the town. The gunboats had come down and fired a few rounds to wake up our batteries. Failing to bring any response, they left for Cairo, 20 miles away.
"We remained three days in Columbus on short rations and it was more than a week before we had any shelter, as our tents had been left at Union City. I was then sent off on a scout up the river, remained two days and came back just in time to be sent off, 12 miles, to guard a bridge on one of the most important approaches to the town. Here I remained for another week, with nothing for shelter but swamp trees, but fared well in the eating line, as the citizens around were very kind and supplied us with an abundance. During the week, and the week previous, I had never slept more than four hours a night.
"Our 12 men at the bridge were recalled to Columbus and the whole company, with two other cavalry companies and one piece of artillery were sent to Bayou Obion, six miles from Columbus, to act as picket guard in that quarter; and from that point I am now addressing you.
"I went to Columbus the other day in company with the Captain and 1st Lieut. While there, the gunboats came down again, to within three miles and opened fire. We went upon a high bluff, where there was a strong battery, to make observations. We were well repaid the trouble of climbing. For an hour and a half a brisk cannonade was kept up on both sides. We could distinctly see the flash of the Yankee guns and follow with the eye the bombs and round shot in their course. Some shells would fall in the river, far short of the mark, then burst and throw up immense volume of water; others would burst high in the air and send forth spiral clouds of blue smoke. Some passed, hissing over our heads, and one fell within 30 feet of where we were sitting on our horses, burst and threw dust and trash all around us. Fortunately ‘no body was hurt’ – on our side - although crows exposed themselves, anxious to see the display. We have something of this kind every few days.
"We have at our head Gen. A. S. Johnston, the long looked for military chieftain, who has been the subject of so much remark and anxiety. Generals Polk and Cheatham are also here with their commands. General Hardee arrived here day before yesterday from Missouri and left, with his entire force, for the interior of Kentucky, today. We are expecting every day to make an advance on Paducah, 60 miles above us, where there is a strong Federal force, and when we do, you may expect a big fight.
"Camp life agrees with me finely. I never enjoyed better health or endured so many hardships. I mess with Captain Bowie and two of the lieutenants. We have a servant (slave negro) to cook but attend to our horses ourselves. At present and for the last two weeks, our cook has been sick, and I was installed chief of the culinary department. I had never cooked before except occasionally on a camp hunt. All hands predicted evil of my present assignment but I took the place. You ought to see what nice biscuit I make, how finely I smother a steak or cook an egg! And when it comes to batter cakes, I find my forte. We have abundance from the surrounding country – milk, eggs, butter, poultry, etc., and draw plenty of coffee, flour, rice, beef. Unfortunately about half our men are sick with chills, fever, etc. My horse "Don Pedro", is fat and too full of mischief. It is curious, what strong attachments are formed between us and our brute servants. Our horses are the nearest objects of our care and soon begin to occupy a part of the room in our affections, usually given to a more tender devotion."
General Albert Sidney Johnston commanded the Department of the West, both sides of the Mississippi. His headquarters were at Bowling Green, Ky. General Leonidas Polk commanded at Columbus, General Hardee to the East of that point. General Beauregard was second in command under Johnston, with headquarters at Jackson, West Tennessee.
Lieutenant Richard H. Brewer, a native of Maryland, graduated from West Point, resigned from the Cavalry of the United States Army, was made Major, and put in command of a battalion consisting at first of Bowie’s, Falkner’s and a company from East Feliciana, Louisiana, commanded by Captain Cole.
Brewer was a stern, taciturn, strict disciplinarian, remarkably cool and self possessed in battle and a typical Kellerman? Under him the battalion was perhaps as thoroughly drilled and disciplined as any Confederate cavalry organization, the drill being in the double rank formation and according to Hardee’s Tactics, prepared for the U. S. Dragoons. Later, the tactics prepared by Gen. McCook for the Federal cavalry, were adopted and served a better purpose, owing to the nature of the country and the largely changed uses to which the so-called cavalry branch of the service was put.
Under Brewer the battalion, known officially as Brewer’s Mounted Rangers, discharged outpost duty in Western Kentucky until the fall of Fort Donelson, in Johnston’s rear, forced him to evacuate Kentucky speedily.
Upon the evacuation of Columbus by Polk in March, Brewer’s battalion was left to dismount the guns and dismantle the fortifications at Columbus, then followed on to the vicinity of Corinth, Miss., where "The Army of the Mississippi" as organized late in March 1862, under General A. S. Johnston.
On April 6th and 7th, the great battle of Shiloh was fought and the battalion, joined on the field by Baskerville’s battalion of five companies, all under command of Brewer, was in the midst of the two days’ carnage, losing a number of good men. Brewer, Writ Adams and Forrest were assigned the duty of covering and protecting the rear of Beauregard’s retreat to Corinth, which was successfully accomplished by some very hard fighting.
Beauregard took position at Corinth. The enemy at Pittsburg Landing was busy reorganizing and enlarging his forces for an advance. By order of General Moxey, we find Major Brewer employed on April 14th destroying bridges in the vicinity of Purdy.
The following extracts from a letter written from Purdy, Tenn., under date April 15th, 1862, tell of events in which Brewer’s Battalion participated and a non-commissioned officer’s description of the great battle of Shiloh.
"I am still among the living but write from a sick bed out in the wild woods near the town of Purdy and about six miles from a Yankee army of about 120,000 men. … So many and varied have been the scenes through which I have passed since last I wrote that I scarcely know where to begin anything like a lucid narrative, knowing that, if I were to indulge in details, it would extend to a small volume; consequently I will have to omit much and give only a slight hint at more. On the 6th of February our own and three other battalions of cavalry were ordered from Camp Beauregard to the assistance of Fort Henry on the Tennessee, but before we reached it the gallant Tilghman was forced to surrender. We then proceeded southward to Paris, Tennessee to protect that place from the forays of the enemy. While near this place we had several little encounters with the Lincoln cavalry. From Paris we were ordered to Columbus, Ky., which we reached about the 1st of March, just in time to aid in dismantling the fortifications at that place prior to its evacuation, which done, we covered the retreat of our army and burnt the winter quarters of about 25,000 troops as we retired. We then proceeded to Union City, Tenn., where we remained several days still covering the retreat of Gen. Polk’s army. From Union City we marched through almost impassable swamps to Humbolt, Tenn., and at last fell back to Purdy, Tenn., where the left wing of the army of the Mississippi was stationed. While here a small squad of our men had a skirmish with the enemy, killing eight or ten and capturing three.
"On the 4th of April we received orders to prepare three days rations and send home all our baggage except what we could easily carry upon our horses. Our tents were at the same time taken from us and the night of the 4th we passed, without shelter, in a pelting rain. On the morning of the 5th the left wing marched out from camp at Purdy and took a Southeasterly direction and at night reached the main body of our forces drawn up in line of battle at Pea Ridge some four miles from the Tenn. River and within two miles of the enemy whose camps extended from Pittsburg Landing some two miles to the West and about five miles up and down the river bank.
"The night was beautiful and we slept on our arms in the open air. At five and a half o’clock next morning we were awakened by the rattle of musketry immediately in front of where we were bivouacked and in a few minutes we were in the saddle and marching toward the enemy. At six o’clock our artillery opened on the enemy and by 7 the battle became general all along the lines. On the right the contest was raging and we could tell by the deafening discharges of heavy and small arms that Bragg was pressing the enemy hotly. Before reaching the line our battalion was halted in a beautiful grove where we could see the smoke rising from the contending columns. The scene had a commingling of the sublime and beautiful. A balmy spring morning, the air purified by recent rains, the sun just rising in all its splendor, the trees with their buds just peeping forth and the little birds caroling forth their mating hymn. Add to this the marshalling in arms, the serried ranks, with flashing swords and glittering bayonets moving with steady tramp to the field of carnage. And then to see those ranks where stood many of our noblest sons, the darlings of the family circle, reared to manhood with all of fond parents’ care – to see them, when the stern "Forward"! rang out, lifting their straining eyes to heaven, consecrating their souls to God and presenting their bodies a living sacrifice to their country. Such a scene I never beheld, and with all thought upon the subject, fell far short of realizing it until it was presented face to face.
"Our halt in the grove was short; our battalion being ordered to support one of our batteries that was playing on the enemy’s right. We were soon in the midst of the fight and subjected to a perfect storm of grape, canister, bombs, and winged shot. We had been behind our battery but a few minutes when one of my comrades, Corporal Murphree, was shot dead within a few files of me – his head was almost entirely shot away. In about a minute afterwards another man was struck with a grape shot about six feet to the left of me and fell dead with a single groan. The enemy’s battery that was making such havoc with our ranks was soon silenced by our battery, and the infantry having dashed forward, we soon had the enemy’s advanced camp and were pushing steadily on. Passing over the space where our battery stood and the enemy’s camp, the ground was literally covered with dead. The camp was a shocking scene – the large and splendid tents were riddled with cannon shot and in them were numbers of dead and dying - having been wounded had crawled there for protection. Here we had captured the first of the enemy’s batteries, and a splendid one it was. In this one of our shots had played sad havoc – having struck a caisson, bursting it and killing nine men and six horses. But I cannot attempt to describe every scene for it would be impossible. The battle raged now over an extent of at least five miles, and from one end to the other of this vast line, shout after shout from our brave boys told that we were driving the enemy before us. Inch by inch the enemy stubbornly contested the ground but never for once did they await a bayonet charge – running generally or at least retreating, when our men came too close upon them to allow time to load.
"Position after position and camp after camp was taken, and when night closed in we had driven them from all their camps except one near the river bank where it was under the protecting fire of their gunboats. Seven or eight brigade encampments, five batteries and some 5,000 prisoners were the fruits of the hard day’s fight. At length: ‘Our bugle sang truce, for the night cloud had lowered ‘And the sentinel stars set their watch in the sky, ‘While thousands had sunk on the ground overpowered ‘The weary to sleep and the wounded to die’. Oh, what a scene was that for a Sabbath’s Eve’s moon to look down upon! There over a span of miles lay "rider and horse, friend and foe, in one red burial blent."
"Our wounded were mostly carried from the field but the ground was strewn with the dead of both armies and hundreds of the enemy’s wounded.
"The enemy had the most beautiful camp I ever beheld – everything was neat and orderly – the tents, handsome in themselves, were beautifully arranged and supplied with all the conveniences that one could think of. Clothing of the finest quality, in abundance, in the quarter – master’s department, while the sutlers tents and cabins furnished almost any luxury that an epicure might ask for. On these luxuries our soldiers feasted highly, and I am sure they were duly appreciated as many had been on short allowance for several days. Some got suits of clothing. Others stationery and I am now writing with a Yankee pencil on Yankee paper. Daguerreotypes, letters, &c were in abundance. *****
"I was sent on picket at night and had to stand about a quarter of a mile from the enemy’s position and where I could hear their teamsters cursing and swearing during the night. About midnight a heavy rain fell, adding to the sufferings of the wounded who made night hideous with their groans and cries. I could hear and count the arrivals and departures of the Yankee boats during the night and, from their number, knew that they were either withdrawing or reinforcing heavily. Dawn explained it all, for with the light came the sharp – shooters all around us and I came very near being cut off and taken prisoner – five minutes and I would have been a gone case together with 12 men that were with me. I had just rejoined my command when the enemy in overwhelming numbers advanced against our left wing, at the same time making a feint against our right. On our left the fight raged furiously until two o’clock in the evening, when the line of battle became changed and our left fell back about a half mile. The fight continued about an hour longer, when Beauregard ordered Gen. Bragg to draw off his forces, our men being worn out with the two days fight while the enemy outnumbered us four to one with fresh troops.
"Our army withdrew in good order and at a slow pace, the enemy being too badly crippled to follow even through their own camps. We brought off almost all the artillery that we had captured, numbering some 38 splendid brass pieces, together with sixty or seventy wagons and teams – a great many arms – ammunition and camp equippages. We burnt one or two of their camps and would have destroyed all but for the fact that many wounded would have been consumed in the flames.
"General Albert Sidney Johnston fell the first day and also General Gladden, the same who led the Palmetto regiment in Mexico. Our loss in officers was very severe. The Federal General Prentiss was among the prisoners. Such was the great battle of Shiloh, fought on the 6th and 7th, with no definite result. The enemy’s loss was much greater than ours, but altogether it may be considered a drawn battle. We had about 35,000 men on the field while the enemy at no time had less than 75,000. I passed through the whole of the fight without a scratch. Our company had but one man killed and two or three wounded, but some half dozen of our horses fell on the field. ***** Before this reaches you the intelligence of a great battle will probably have anticipated it as the armies are gradually approaching each other. When it does come off it will either be a great victory or a severe defeat on our side. The enemy comes with overwhelming numbers on whom much is staked. If we fail in this there is yet plenty of ground to fight the invader on". ****
On April 20th, Brewer, still commanding his own and Baskerville’s battalions, was ordered by Gen. Beauregard to the protection of the Mobile and Ohio railroad, menaced by frequent flanking expeditions of Federal cavalry, which Brewer successfully repelled.
General Halleck left St. Louis after Shiloh to take personal command at Pittsburg Landing. He organized there an army of 120,000 men in three corps under Pope, Buell and Grant. In a month’s time he began a slow approach to Corinth, fortifying heavily as he advanced, clearing away the timber and courduroying the roads. Practically every yard of road he left behind him was protected by entrenchments. In the last days of May, he appeared before Corinth.
Beauregard, his forces of all arms not exceeding one third the enemy’s numbers, secretly and skillfully retired upon Tupelo, some 40 miles in the interior of Mississippi, on the Mobile and Ohio railroad.
The several cavalry commands with the Confederate army were well distributed south of and close to Corinth and served as a curtain to our army’s orderly and successful change of base. A few days after the evacuation of Corinth, and while still covering the front far in advance of Tupelo, the cavalry was reorganized. Brewer’s battalion, now reduced to two companies by assignment of Cole’s Louisiana Company to some other regiment, Bell’s Alabama battalion of three companies and Baskerville’s battalion of four Mississippi and one Alabama company, were organized into the 2nd Mississippi and Alabama Regiment" and assigned to General James R Chalmers’ Brigade of Cavalry, Chalmers having been transferred from the infantry.
The "Second Mississippi and Alabama" had its title soon after changed by the War Office to 8th Confederate"; a cumbersome title, altered to a dubious one, since there was no regiment of regulars in the cavalry arm of the Confederate service.
Upon the organization of the regiment the field officers were:
Richard H. Brewer, Colonel; Charles Baskerville, Lieutenant Colonel; Solon Bell, Major; L. L. Goodrich, Adjutant.
The regiment had no sooner been organized, when Brewer was promoted Brigadier General and ordered to Virginia, where after most distinguished services, he fell in battle in the Valley in 1864.
The companies comprising the Regiment at the time of its organization were: •Co. "A" (Talladega) -- A. W. Bowie, Captain (resigned, 30 May 62) •Co. "B" (Chambers) -- Rev. Jefferson Falkner, Captain. •Co. "C" (Lowndes County; MS) -- George Abert, Captain. •Co. "D" (Pickens) -- B. B. McCaa, Captain. •Co. "E" (Lowndes County, MS) -- Thomas W. Golden, Captain. •Co. "F" (Chickasaw County, MS) -- I. W. Fields, Captain. •Co. "G" (Lowndes County, MS) -- Felix W. Flood, Captain. •Co. "H" (Randolph) -- John Thompson, Captain. •Co. "I" (Tallapoosa) -- John T. Wright, Captain. •Co. "K" (Chambers) -- Francis Pickard, Captain.
Upon the promotion of Colonel Brewer, early in June 1862, Lieut. Colonel Baskerville commanded the regiment for a few days and was in command at the engagement at Blackland, Miss., hereafter referred to. By reason of some disagreement between Baskerville and Chalmers, on the field, Baskerville resigned.
About the 15th of June 1862, William B. Wade, a Mississippian, but not then a member of the regiment, was, by General Bragg appointed to the Colonelcy. Colonel Wade was a remarkable soldier; combining the great skill in handling a brigade of cavalry in desperate, aggressive action; in careful disposition while covering a retreat, and yet personally taking the lead in acts calling for desperate intrepidity. Unfortunately, much of his capacity as a commander was negatived by an irascible and, at times, uncontrolled temper that led to insubordination and serious friction between him and those in authority over him. He was a veteran of the Mexican war, lead a company of accomplished riders, expert with pistol, and was at home in a charge with sabres.
General Chalmers lost no time in finding work for his brigade. Disposing a part of his force so as to cover the army’s front, with the remainder he made a notable raid into West Tennessee, destroying cotton, either already or liable to fall into the enemy’s hands, harassing Halleck’s outpost and riding down his foraging parties. Physical collapse soon, however compelled him to return to the less arduous task of the infantry command and Colonel Joseph Wheeler of the 19th Alabama Infantry was detached to take his place never to be returned to his regiment.
General Halleck, while occupying the abandoned town of Corinth, followed up Beauregard with an army of observation, General Chalmers yet in command, the 8th Confederate was sent on picket in Tishimengo County, with two Alabama infantry regiments, the 18th and 24th.
On June 4th the cavalry, infantry and town pieces of artillery were attacked at a village called Blackland. The pickets were turned in and hardly had the cavalrymen time to "saddle up" when the enemy rushed upon them in strong force. The 8th Confederate in the lead, the charge was ordered. The enemy were repulsed but not without loss to the Confederates. The Southern war-whoop, the weird song known as "rebel yell" to the enemy, rang through the swamp and the foe was put to full flight.
All the companies of the regiment seemed not to have been held together for this event, since Captain Falkner with his Chambers County men, was placed at the intersection of Iuka and Jacinto roads, while other companies were posted at points too distant to cooperate in the charge. Company "A", in command of Lieut. John S. McElderry, suffered the severest loss in killed and wounded, both in men and horses. While leading the charge, first in "column of fours" and then in line, Lieut. McElderry was among the desperately wounded, and under his belief that he was permanently incapacitated, soon resigned, leaving company "A" with but one commissioned officer, Lieut. N. B. DeArman.
Ten days later Colonel Philip H. Sheridan commanding United States Cavalry, had an experience with Chalmers. Referring to the affair, General Beauregard issued a special order for Tupelo under date 17th, June 1862: "The general commanding takes pleasure in calling the attention of the armies of this Department to the conduct of Captain B. B. McCaa and his command, of Brewer’s cavalry regiment, on the morning of the 14th inst., when by a bold and dashing charge, he put to flight a superior force of the enemy’s cavalry. In this affair private John Graham was specially distinguished and will be rewarded by a badge of honor on some suitable occasion. This success should teach our cavalry forces what they can accomplish by bravery and daring and should incite them to like deeds of valor".
Prior to the time when Capt. McCaa, as senior Captain and in command of the regiment, was winning honors in Mississippi, Captain Falkner of Co. "B". had his hands full in his assigned duties on another field in connection with the evacuation of Corinth. The following report from him attest to some of the perplexities of his work.
"Camp near Clear Creek, Tenn. June 6th 1862.
[Report without address] "On the night of 29th ultimo, I received an order in writing at Cypress Bridge, about 1 o’clock, directing me to take my company and Captain Elliott’s and march immediately to Kossuth, and to leave Lieut. Prather and ten men; for him to wait until daylight and then to burn the railroad bridge and to do it effectually, and not to burn it until daylight as many trains would pass during the night. Having to send after my pickets and of other causes, I did not leave the camp until about daybreak. As I was about leaving, a man came and inquired for Lieutenant Prather, and informed him that Colonel Searcy had sent him to direct him (Prather) not to destroy the bridge at daylight, as there was yet a number of trains to pass, but stated that the order was not in writing, and the Colonel said it was not necessary it should be. Neither myself or Prather knew the man or whether he was a soldier or not. I then left.
"I think about one hour after sunrise I met a man on horseback inquiring the way to the bridge, and how to find Prather. I told him how to find him. He informed me he had an order for Prather, and it not being sealed, I examined and found it to be from Col. Lindsey. He went on and soon after he had time to get there, I saw the smoke ascending from the bridge. I afterwards saw as many as four trains passing the railroad in that direction. The only order I received was the order in writing above referred to". "J. Falkner" "Captain Chambers Cavalry".
There was much confusion relating to the destruction of this bridge and others on the Memphis and Charleston railroad at this time.
On July 4th, General Chalmers led the 8th Confederate and two other regiments to attack the enemy, as strong or possibly stronger than himself, at Booneville, Miss. The fight was very warm for two hours, when the invader took to his heels in complete rout. Chalmers reported lost four killed and five wounded; he captured some 40, and prisoners reported as many as 40 killed and wounded.
General Beauregard retired from command on surgeon’s certificate. Major General Bragg was immediately promoted to General and given the command. He was a rigid disciplinarian, even to harshness. He shot men for many causes; stealing chickens was avenged by death. The new commander sought to oust officers he did not consider satisfactory and supply their places by his own selections. The law in the premises was naught to him. He raised the lower above the higher arbitrarily and even in the ranks sought out men upon whom he might bestow commissions. An instance of this kind occurred when he appointed the writer, then 3rd Sergeant of Company "A", 8th Confederate Cavalry, much to his surprise, to be captain of his company, and Sergeant James F. Morris of the same company to be 2nd Lieutenant of the same. By resignations and promotion this company had but one commissioned officer on its roster; Col. Wade had no confidence in him, and the General ignored him in filling the company’s complement.
Bragg paid special attention to his cavalry and kept it constantly employed harassing the enemy and keeping them in constant apprehension. In all the last nine months of hard service, however, the Government had not paid a cent to, at least some of the companies of the 8th Confederate. The outpost duty, with no commissary in reach, reduced the men to the necessity of living off the country, both themselves and their horses, and to bear the expense, they were without means; to forage without orders was against General Bragg’s strict rules. They were without needed clothing and the government furnished none.
General Bragg had been startled at the original promotion of 1st Lieutenant of Artillery, Joseph Wheeler, to be Colonel of the 19th Alabama Infantry and bitterly complained to the Secretary of War. Wheeler gained his confidence at Shiloh and since then had been specially ordered, by Bragg’s influence, upon various important duties in command of cavalry.
When Chalmers reported to General Bragg on July 19th his physical incapacity to discharge the duties of commander of cavalry, at least for the time being, the General of the Army without a moment’s hesitation ordered Colonel Wheeler to take the place. Wheeler then lacked about two months of being 26 years of age.
Thus began the career unsurpassed, in many respects, in the history of the world’s cavalry leaders.
The commanding General ordered the cavalry on a raid into Western Tennessee. The Colonel had first to find his cavalry for it was scattered over a front extending from Ripley, Miss., to the Alabama state line, the men, with the exception of a portion of the 8th Confederate, but little disciplined, the horses generally jaded and very poor and many unshod. Owing to the situation of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, Col. James Clanton, for some weeks previous to the evacuation of Corinth, the horses of this regiment were so markedly emaciated as to be referred to as the "skeleton cavalry".
Colonel Wheeler understood that General Bragg wished to invade Tennessee and Kentucky from Chattanooga, and that his expedition into West Tennessee was intended to deceive the enemy at Corinth and in Northern Alabama. He therefore set out to attack Grand Junction in Northern Mississippi. This strategy proved eminently successful. General McClernand hastened to Bolivar with 3,000 men. From Corinth large bodies of troops were hurried to Bolivar. Wheeler, seeing this, burned the railroad and destroyed the track behind Bolivar. He then sent out select and careful parties to burn cotton which the enemy had bought and in all destroyed about 300 bales. Colonel Wheeler returned from West Tennessee to Holly Springs, Miss., and August 1st, 1862 reporting to Gen. Bragg said, in conclusion:
"With but 500 cavalry, much worn and jaded by previous service and privations, we penetrated 70 miles behind the enemies lines, destroyed the railroad bridges in his rear and met him in eight separate engagements, in all of which, except the skirmish with Captain Henderson he was thoroughly defeated, many of his horses and men being killed, or wounded or taken prisoners by our troops, who were only prevented from continuing their pursuit by the proximity of larger bodies of the enemy."
I am certain that the Colonel minimizes his force in this expedition. He had the 8th which numbered fully 500 effectives, besides other commands took part.
About the 13th of August, most of Bragg’s army having been transferred to Chattanooga, the 8th Confederate was withdrawn to the neighborhood of Aberdeen, had a partial reorganization of the field officers, and some of the companies, whose term of service of one year was expiring, elected company officers. Captain Jefferson Falkner of Company "B" was elected Lieutenant Colonel, Lieutenant John S. Prather of the same Company, Major, with Wm. B. Wade still retaining the Colonecy. Company "B" elected Robert J. Moor, Captain, Thomas Staples, 1st Lieutenant, Jefferson M. Falkner, 2nd Lieutenant, and Wm. Harwell, 3rd. Captain G. K. Miller was elected to the captaincy of Co. "A", with Mark S. Curry 1st, Jasper N. Wade 2nd, and Belton O. Nabors 3rd Lieutenant. About the middle of August Wade’s regiment, among the last of the organized bodies employed in masking the movements of Bragg’s army, moved from near Aberdeen to Chattanooga from a part of Wheeler’s Brigade in the invasion of Kentucky by General Bragg. Gen. Sterling Price commanding at Tupelo asked General Bragg not to take Wade.
By some military convenience on the march, the 8th Confederate was left in Tennessee while Bragg entered Kentucky. While at Chattanooga the men of the regiment received some ten months, much needed, pay; a large portion of which they remitted to their families.
The regiment joined Wheeler, however, on October 10th, while fighting was in progress between Bragg and Buell about Perryville, Ky. Colonel Wheeler was not quite satisfied with Colonel Wade’s excuse of not joining him earlier. This was perhaps the inception of that lack of cordiality between the two officers that eventuated in insubordination on the part of Col. Wade and materially affected the discipline of a portion of the regiment during its last year of heroic service. The next day, October 11th, Wheeler encountered the enemy in a severe engagement and in this conflict the Eighth participated heavily.
Bragg began his retreat from Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. The object of his expedition had failed. Three Kentuckians went to the United States army to one who engaged with the Confederacy.
Wheeler was now designated by Bragg as Chief of Cavalry. John H. Morgan, Ashby and Wharton were under him. Buell pressed Bragg closely on the retreat. Kirby Smith’s forces, with the main body under Bragg, were retreating, for a large part of the distance to be covered before reaching the Gap, on parallel roads and stoutly pressed on both. Wheeler as chief had to so dispose his cavalry as to cover both and yet preserve communication between the two. This he did with consummate tact, and for nearly one hundred miles the cavalry had almost a continuous encounter through a barren and devastated country.
On one occasion Wheeler reported:
"At this moment, receiving orders from Gen. Polk to clear the road of the enemy, we charged the enemy, throwing their entire force of cavalry into confusion and putting it to flight. We pursued them at full charge for 2 miles, capturing many prisoners and horses in single combat and driving the remainder under cover of their masses of infantry. The enemy also fled terror-stricken from a battery placed in advance of their general line and left it at our disposal". Many of these hot and desperate hand-to-hand encounters were lead in person by Colonel Wheeler with a mere handful of men.
After Gen. Bragg had placed his army, on its return from Kentucky, at Murfreesboro, Tenn., Wheeler’s Brigade was reorganized to consist of 1st Alabama, Col. W. W. Allen; the 3rd Alabama, Major F. Y. Gaines commanding, for the time; the 51st Alabama, Col. John T. Morgan; the 8th Confederate, Col. W. B. Wade; the 1st Tennessee cavalry, commanded respectively by Major DeWitt C. Douglass and Major D. W. Holman. To the cavalry was attached an Arkansas battery commanded by Capt. J. H. Wiggins.
Preparations being under way both by Rosecrans and Bragg to join battle, Wheeler was on outpost at Stewart’s Creek, some ten miles in advance of Bragg’s head-quarters at Murfreesboro.
The following letter is descriptive of the cavalry service preliminary to the bloody field of Murfreesboro yet many days in anticipation:
"Stewart’s Creek, Tenn." "Dec 7, 62".
"More than a week has elapsed since I last wrote and I am still very unwell and confined to camp, while my gallant boys are in front, engaged in picket skirmishing almost hourly with the enemy. Yesterday, I was by a log fire almost all day, listening to the heavy boom of cannon. The day before there was heavy fall of snow for 8 or 10 hours, covering the ground several inches deep and bending the tree tops around me with crystalline burden. On the same day, there was an advance along our lines, General Cheatham’s Division passing up the pike, on which we were encamped, from Murfreesboro to LaVergne, 15 miles from Nashville. All that day and night the poor fellows were plodding past, in snow and ice, -- a silent march broken only by the rumbling of the heavy guns as they rolled over the hard, smooth pike. Yesterday the uninitiated were on tiptoe, expecting a general engagement, which seemed all the more probable, when the artillery opened at 12 M. But it proved to be only the attack of our regiment and one other upon a large foraging party of Yankees, in the habit of coming out almost daily, 4000 to 6000 strong, driving in our pickets and skirmishing while their wagons in their rear despoiled farms of grain, poultry, meat, etc. Yesterday a stop was put to their proceedings by an attack from our forces just after they had got their usual supply. Several hours fighting resulted in the capture of 57 Yanks, 12 fine army wagons, 60 mules, several horses and the loads in the wagons, consisting of corn, turkeys, chickens, etc. I have not yet learned whether any of my company were hurt; but presume not by no one returning to camp. Company "B", in the same squadron with my own, had two or three slightly wounded. Lieutenant Nabors was in command of my company, the only one of my Lieutenants present; one being absent on special duty and the other detained in camp with some friends, visitors from home. Our visitors brought a wagon with clothing for several of the ‘boys’, the handiwork of anxious mothers, sisters and, in some instances, sweethearts.
"Having donned their ‘Alabama wide cloth’, as they term it, they present quite a tidy, comfortable appearance. How lucky they got these necessities before the last three days of snow and ice! It is bitter cold, and the suffering endured by the poor picket as he sits his horse, hour after hour, I fear will never find a page in history, but will be known only in the memory of him ‘who suffers and is still’. But many prefer to be on picket rather than a stay in camp. In the former case, they often have an opportunity, when not on post, of stepping into a house and getting a good warm meal, and thawing their frozen fingers and toes. In camp there are no comforts, not even covering from the weather, and only half rations of beef and corn meal.
"I have met with quite a disappointment since I last wrote. I believe I informed you that I had applied for a leave of absence. Well, I had it approved by commander of the regiment and of the brigade, but it found no favor farther on and was yesterday returned ‘disapproved’ by Generals Wheeler, Hardee and Bragg. Of course, I was out-generaled and withdrew, defeated. ******* There have been ten furloughs granted in the Virginia army to two in the Army of the Mississippi. The cause is obvious. Here we are either preparing for an advance, when every man should be at his post, or making a retreat when none can be spared.
"This will account for the terrible orders that we have at almost every dress parade, such as: "If any soldier or enrolled man be found one mile from his camp without written permission from his regimental commander, he shall be considered a deserter, and sent to the rear in irons’. This is a specimen. It all results from the demoralizing effects of retreat."
The following is an extract from a letter written from Camp Nelson, on the same outpost, two weeks later:
"Sunday, December 21st :"
I am happy to see that General Bragg has, by a general order, dispensed as much as possible with military duties, such as drilling, drawing and issuing commissaries, etc. on the Sabbath day. This is a wise order and one that should have been issued long since. Men and beasts need the ‘one day in seven’ and although military duties often sadly interfere with its observance, there are times such as the present, with the Army of Tennessee, when necessity makes no such calls. The soldier should at least be reminded when the Sabbath comes but I know from experience that it is otherwise, often. ***
"I yesterday saw Parson Elliot of Nashville, who had just come through the enemy’s lines. He says things look hopeful for us, viewed from a Northern standpoint. The great battle just fought on the banks of the Rappahanock (Fredericksburg) where our brave legions again repulsed the haughty invader, has caused a feeling near akin to despair among the more rabid of the North. They acknowledge a loss of 18,000 to 20,000 and say (one of the members of Congress from Kansas) that unless the greatest success attends their arms in the West, all is lost and the cause had better be given up. *** "A few afternoons since, Maj. John S. Prather, of our regiment, went out with a small detachment, slipped into the Yankee lines and captured their entire reserve picket on the Murfreesboro and Nashville pike. Six were killed and about 40 taken prisoners, with their fine repeating rifles, horses, saddles, etc. this was quite a brilliant little exploit."
The next Sunday Wheeler’s entire command was confronting the slow advance of Rosecrans’ whole army upon Bragg, and Bragg was busy collecting his divisions in battle array upon Stone River, about three miles out from the town of Murfreesboro on the Nashville pike.
The better to understand the field of battle, it will be remembered that several broad pikes ran out from Nashville in the general direction of Murfreesboro, some twenty-two or three miles Southeast; that the roads ran through the valley, a beautiful farming country, most of it cleared of forest but the forest remaining was, to considerable extent, comprised of cedar growth, the trees appearing in thickets and branching out from near the ground, so as to impede passage of men or horses, in some places, seriously.
Under date January 10, 1863, eleven days after the terrible clash of the armies, the following letter was written, giving a subaltern’s description of what he saw of the Murfreesboro campaign, so desperate in its work:
"I spent a quiet Christmas (Thursday) in our camp at Stewart’s Creek, not choosing to engage in the sports and pass-times resorted to by our officers generally – drinking, gambling, horse racing, etc, etc. I felt much better than I had in several days and found pleasure enough in that feeling. The next morning  I was still weak but wanted to be with my boys in their work and accordingly reported for duty. We had a drill in the morning but about 12 o’clock heavy firing in the direction of LaVergne warned us that the enemy were not spending their holidays in festivities at Nashville. The cannonading gradually drew nearer and an order came for what of the Brigade was then in camp to come up to LaVergne in all haste. We were soon in the saddle and a trot of 5 miles soon brought us to LaVergne. In front of that place we found the enemy. It was now 3 o’clock and as they did not retire, as when merely out foraging, we knew pretty well that something more stirring than common was in the wind.
"Our regiment was sent forward to the left of the pike to support the 3rd Alabama, which the enemy was pressing pretty vigorously. After going about a mile we dismounted, left our horses under protection of a hill and dashed forward as skirmishers. A quarter of a mile brought us upon the enemy well concealed in a cedar thicket. They opened upon us at about 150 yards. Now the order came to us to charge. Forward we dashed, over two fences and to within 30 yards of the Yankees. We had as hot a little brush as one would want on a December day. The Yanks were well posted, and it was near dark and they had the advantage of the light on the field where we marched. Besides, their uniforms were so near the color of the cedars behind which they fought that it was almost impossible for our men to see them. For nearly an hour we fought them, each man to his tree. I was on foot and walked a little in advance of our line to find better ground for some of the boys, who were very much exposed, when kneeling at the foot of a tree and drawing a bead on a big rascal, a minnie ball grazed my trousers just above the knee. It cut the orange cord I wear for a stripe but did no other damage. Bark from stricken trees fell into my eyes from time to time but I was not hurt in the least.
"Finding the enemy well supported, we withdrew, inch by inch, until it grew so dark we could not distinguish one object from another. Nothing but the flash of the random gun remained to tell us that the enemy had taken his position for the night. We could see in the distance, the whole horizon lighted by his campfires. It required no ghost to tell that Rosecrans had begun his long expected advance from Nashville. And this view was confirmed by the fact that all day long we had heard heavy cannonading to our left on the Nolensville pike, showing his advance in heavy column on each road. The next day being our turn in course to go on picket, our regiment returned to camp to prepare rations. We got in about 10 o’clock, cooked until 12, laid ourselves down to be thoroughly drenched with rain and aroused by the bugle call at 3. At daylight we started for the field and had just thrown out pickets when the enemy advanced upon us. I commanded the pickets on the extreme left. As the enemy advanced we fell back slowly, skirmishing all the way. Our forces on our right, and between me and the pike, having fallen back faster than I anticipated, threw me, for a time, in the rear of a large body of the enemy, where I had full view of the heavy column as it rolled down the pike – infantry, cavalry and artillery. I saw one whole regiment of their cavalry mounted on white horses. I was so close that I could distinctly hear the commands of the different officers.
"Gradually we fell back, keeping parallel with the pike, and opposite to our two pieces of artillery, which moved slowly, shelling the advance of the enemy at intervals.
"Stewart’s Creek is a driving stream, with very steep banks, and our intention was to cross it at the bridge on the pike. But when we reached this point we found that our artillery had already crossed over and General Wheeler had destroyed the bridge and the enemy’s artillery was then raking the pike. Fortunately we found a narrow path leading to a ford, about a quarter of a mile above the burnt bridge. Barely had we time to cross when the enemy came close upon our heels. Night came on and we established a picket line, for the night, on the south bank of the creek, on the ground where, a few hours before, our camps had been but were now removed backwards in the direction of Murfreesboro.
"A cold drenching rain had fallen all day and there was another cheerless night before us. My squadron formed the second relief and was to stand four hours, from 11 P.M. to 3 A.M. I was lying on a wet blanket, nearly freezing, when I was called to go on duty. I immediately aroused my wet and sleepy boys. The enemy’s picket line was on the opposite side of the creek and so near we could hear them in low conversation. While I passed along the bank, going from one post to another, one of their pickets fired on me, not more than 50 yards distant. His aim was only a little wide of my head and I called to him, that he had little to do! I moved on.
"Our high position gave us a full view of the enemy’s camp. As far as the eye could reach to the North, the whole earth seemed covered with their fires, from which a murmur rose, like a swarm of bees.
"I slipped down to within 50 yards of the burned bridge and could hear a hundred hammers on the pontoon being laid to replace it. I was certain that the morning would bring hot work for us, but nothing disturbed the scene except occasional shots exchanged between our pickets and the enemy’s sharp shooters. The sun came out as genial as on a spring day, this last Sunday in December 1862.
"I took advantage of a house near the creek. There I stood and viewed the Yankee horde as it filled the woods and open fields in front of me. At 11 o’clock my relief came on again and I posted my boys behind trees and fences, where for hours they amused themselves shooting at the Yankee sharp shooters on the other side of the creek. One of my boys, John C. Duncan, a very jovial fellow, singled out a Yankee and the two fired away at each other for over three hours, all this time in speaking distance; abused each other heartily, incessantly. At last John bantered the other man to cease firing and make an exchange of newspapers. After considerable parleying the proposal was agreed to, an armistice was arranged and firing ceased. John succeeded in getting possession of a Confederate newspaper and walked down to the creek; the Yankee did likewise. While the two pickets were thus amusing themselves, the whole Yankee army about the place came to look on. Newspapers were exchanged and compliments passed. The enemy proved to be federal Kentuckians. They asked many questions about friends and acquaintances in our army. At sundown all returned to their places. But, true to their instincts, the foe took advantage of John Duncan’s armistice to throw sharp shooters over the creek and drive our pickets from a hill which commanded the road. We soon double-teamed and sent them back, in Gilpin style.
"Another cold night on picket and Monday 29th dawned upon us. The sun was an hour high but all was yet quiet and we began to think the day might pass as Sunday had. Soon, however, we saw a column moving down to the ford at which we had crossed. A company was sent down to oppose the crossing. The enemy opened with artillery upon it. Our regiment was covered by a house, and when Col. Wade gave the order to fall back across an open field they turned their guns on us. In this firing a shell struck a horse and burst inside of him, tearing the animal up but injuring the rider not at all. The enemy crossed the creek in full force and we slowly fell back toward Murfreesboro.
"General Bragg’s order to the cavalry came 'not to fight back the advance too steadily but to let them come on.'
"We reached our infantry lines about sundown and passing through crossed Stone River and drew up in line of battle not far from Murfreesboro. There we received orders to feed our horses and rest, prepared to take up the line of march at midnight. I was sure that the order meant the evacuation of Murfreesboro, but far otherwise did it mean, as will appear.
"Promptly at midnight we were aroused from our stolen slumbers and in a few minutes had saddled and mounted and were following General Wheeler up the Lebanon pike at full gallop. The rain was falling and the darkness so dense that a man could not see the comrade riding at his side. Two miles further on, we left the Lebanon pike and took the one leading to the little village of Jefferson, which was directly in the rear of the Yankee army. Daylight found us near that village, where we halted and fed our horses. Soon mounted and off again, we left the main road, took by-paths and by noon had come close up to the village of LaVergne. We dashed in, four or five regiments, at full speed, fired a few shots and we had possession of an army train of over three hundred wagons, richly laden with quartermaster’s and commissary stores. The officers went quickly to work patrolling prisoners, while the men set fire to the train. It was a scene that would have rejoiced all rebeldom to behold! Mules stampeded, Yankees running for dear life – a multitude of appliances brought out to subdue us.
"We tarried only one hour at LaVergne and then turning in a westward direction had gone only a mile or two when we heard the Yankees in revenge shelling the innocent village of LaVergne, thinking no doubt they were scattering death in the rebel ranks.
"A liberal application of the spur for two hours, and down we swooped like a tornado upon quiet, little Nolensville. It was scarcely more than LaVergne repeated. We found scattered squads of Yankees, here and there, and 150 wagons, mostly loaded with ammunitions and medicines. Also several fine ambulances, which we took along. The rest of the spoils of war were consigned to the flames, and the Yankees sent on their way rejoicing, with paroles in their pockets. You could not have made them happier, by presenting them a western homestead.
"We tarried but a short time at Nolensville, pushing down a fertile little valley where we found large numbers of their wagons filled with corn, bed clothing, house furniture, eggs, poultry, butter, etc., etc., just plundered from the farms. We mounted their guards, bare back on their mules, burned their wagons and rode on. Our achievements for the day summed up 450 to 500 wagons, 600 prisoners and many mules – not a man lost on our side.
"Thus was spent my birthday, December 30th. We rested a part of that night, West of Nolensville, having made a circuit of Rosecrans’ whole army in motion, 60 miles.
"At daylight Wednesday the 31st , we found ourselves on the extreme left wing of General Bragg’s army then fighting the great battle of Murfreesboro. As stated in my last, I was very weak when I went on duty. Four days of continuous riding, through drenching cold rains, completely exhausted me and on that morning I was so sick I could not sit my horse. So I got one of the boys to carry me back to a wagon train".
Bragg hurled Hardee, on his extreme left, against Thomas on Rosecrans’ right, at dawn the last day of the year, 1862. The enemy were surprised at their breakfast, and by one o’clock had been driven four miles from the field. Thomas, however, reformed behind the other wing of army, at right angles to his original position of the morning. Bragg threw Polk and Hardee against the foe all that afternoon but could do nothing more. He captured from the field of the forenoon some 4000 prisoners and between 30 and 40 guns, with thousands of small arms.
On the afternoon of Friday, January 2, 1863, General Bragg hurled Breckenridge’s Division alone, practically, against the whole army of Rosecrans, in a fortified position. The repulse was bloody. On Saturday night, January 3rd, Bragg evacuated Murfreesboro to fall back, some 20 mile, to Tullahoma.
Wheeler’s cavalry slept on the field of battle the night of the 31st. Next day it operated in the rear of the enemy, on the pikes leading toward Nashville, repeating the destruction of trains. These trains were loaded with officers and men wounded, and bound for the hospitals of Nashville. Captain B. B. McCaa of Co. "D", 8th Confederate, was mortally wounded Jany. 1st in one of these attacks on the trains. The officer was lifted from his saddle by Sergeants Alfred Atwater and A. C. Oxford, and taken to a farmhouse nearby where he died that night. The detail of four men that had been sent to bear him to the house were employed the next morning in making a box for the body and digging a grave. A company of the enemy came up and arrested them. Sergeant Oxford gave the Royal Arch Mason’s society "obligation" to the Captain, whereupon the prisoners were released. Pickens County, Ala. contributed no nobler man or more gallant soldier to the Confederacy than Captain B. B. McCaa.
General Bragg desired to delay any possible purpose in the enemy advance promptly from Murfreesboro on him at Tullahoma. With this end in view, on January 7th he ordered Wheeler to raid along the pikes to Nashville in Rosecrans’ rear, picking up wagon trains that might be found hauling supplies to the army, and breaking railroad; then to strike for the neighborhood of Clarksville on the Cumberland, some 30 miles below Nashville. The enemy used the Cumberland river largely for transporting men and supplies of all kinds from Louisville, landing them not far from Nashville at a point called Ashland on the North side of the stream, whence they were taken by wagons to Nashville. Wheeler was expected to disable or capture the transports on the river and, if possible, to destroy several acres of army supplies deposited at Ashland.
The 8th Confederate, Colonel Wm. B. Wade commanding, acted a most important and conspicuous part in this expedition.
The day after General Bragg issued the order to enter upon the raid the work began and on Jany. 8th Captain Richard McCann, of Wheeler’s forces, with a detachment destroyed a train of cars and burned the railroad bridge at Mills Creek. Four days later, January 12th, Wheeler drove into Nashville a large foraging party and proceeding on his way, approached the Cumberland near Clarksville. Here he divided his force, sending Colonel Wade with the 8th and one of his three pieces of artillery up the course of the stream to a point near Harpeth Shoals, while he struck the river near by. 
About 8 P.M. of the 12th, General Wheeler having disposed of his cavalry, dismounted, and his two guns on the bluff awaited the approach of the steamer Charter and a companion transport. He opened fire upon them; both hauled down their colors and came to shore prisoners. The soldiers aboard and crews were paroled and both boats with their rich cargoes burned to the water’s edge.
Colonel Wade in position on the bluff near Harpeth Shoals, the morning of January 13th, espied the steamer Trio coming down stream. A shell from the six ponder gun on the bluff through her cabin and a second peremptory order from the Colonel, brought her with colors down to shore, a capture. The load aboard consisted largely of troops wounded in the Murfreesboro campaign now en route to Louisville hospitals. Before the Trio could be unloaded two other steamers turned the bend in the river. The Colonel, seeing them, ordered his men to the bluff, where they concealed themselves effectually. No heed being given to a call to come to shore, a shower of bullets from rifles fell upon the pilot house and deck of the Hastings from the bluff. Surgeon Gaddis was on board with 260 wounded soldiers besides guards. For beds cotton bales were used. The surgeon took command of the boat and in reply to a demand from shore, shouted back that the boat was loaded with wounded and could not stop. Three volleys of musketry delivered caused him to call to the pilot, "Round the steamer to shore".
The Parthenia, companion of the Hastings, turned to escape back up stream, but a shot from the six-pounder on the bluff into her side brought her to shore. The Hastings was paroled to carry the wounded, the paroled soldiers and crews of the three steamers to Louisville.
Wade allowed the cotton bales to remain on the Hastings, beds for the wounded. His parole of the boat and prisoners and the solemn agreement with Surgeon Gaddis, that the cotton, escaping for the purpose indicated, should be burned on arrival at Louisville, were all alike repudiated by the Commander of the Department. There was an existing stipulation, between Bragg and Rosecrans, in regard to paroles and neither Gaddis nor Wade has authority in the premises.
The Hastings having been sent out of reach of the flames, the and the Parthenia were set on fire. Colonel Wade, standing on the forecastle of the Hastings, pistol in hand, heard the report of cannon up the river – a gunboat shelling the woods. Presently the gunboat Sidell turned the bend, still shelling the woods. In hailing distance, the Colonel shouted: "Pull down your colors, or, by G-d, I’ll blow you out of the water!" The response was a broadside from the Sidell upon the bluff, where Wade’s gun rested. No one was hurt. The Colonel yelled, "Fire!" The small arms and the little iron piece on the bluff flashed; the Sidell dropped her colors, came to shore and surrendered.
While all this was going on, General Wheeler, some miles down the river, was hotly shelled by gunboats from the river against which his two light guns and small arms could make no impression. He sent an urgent message to Colonel Wade to hasten to him. The Colonel did not leave off his work in hand. Captain Burbank, Adjutant of the Brigade, brought a second message which failed to bring Colonel Wade, but when he burned the Sidell and paroled Lieutenant Van Dorn, it’s commander and his 21 men, he withdrew his forces and joined Wheeler that night for further desperate and arduous operations then impending. It was bitter cold and snowing. When Wade’s 8th rejoined Wheeler, at least one of his bare-footed troopers was frozen to his stirrups and had to be thawed with warmed blankets by sympathizing comrades before he could dismount. Having reunited his forces, the next day, the 14th, General Wheeler sent a part of them across the Cumberland by fording, swimming and some captured boats and, after a sharp action, burned all the Federal stores at Ashland. The six days raid, terminating with the 15th of January, was filled with as many hardships and as much physical suffering as ever fell to a cavalry command within the same length of time. In its marching and counter marching, the 8th Confederate forded Harpeth River, ice-cold and pummel deep, not less than six times. The only solace was the surplus rations and some sustaining grog recovered from the burned steamers.
Four days later one of Wheeler’s detachments burned another transport on the Cumberland.
General Bragg, advised by courier daily of the operations of the cavalry, lost no time in applying to the President for the promotion of Wheeler, and before the "horse marines" had ridden back within army lines, the appointment of their commander to the rank of Major General of Cavalry was received. A re-arrangement of the cavalry forces was made, and Colonel Wade was placed in command of a Brigade comprising his own and several other regiments, but still with the rank of Colonel. He never after had a separate command of his regiment. From then on Lieut. Colonel John S. Prather, of Chambers County, Ala., with a few isolated exceptions commanded the regiment with consummate skill and undaunted courage.
After Wheeler’s raid into Sequatchee valley, following the battle of Chickamauga and his campaign into East Tennessee in support of Longstreet’s operations around Knoxville, in the fall of 1863, Colonel Wade was called before court-martial for acts attending the Sequatchee raid and also for disobedience of orders. His refusal to promptly obey orders while engaged in the capture of the boats on Jany. 13th 1863 was incidentally brought up on this trial, though not embraced in the specifications. He was acquitted on the charges, but the trial and its incidents ever after rankled in his breast and he successfully refused ever after to serve under Wheeler.
As General Bragg remained at Tullahoma, his forces spread out before him for 30 miles, from Shelbyville, where Polk commanded, to Wartrace, where Hardee commanded, the cavalry was hard worked on picket next to the enemy in an attenuated line extending east and west from McMinnville to Columbia and subjected almost daily to attacks from heavy reconnoitering expeditions sent out by the enemy.
About the last of February 1863, while on this outpost duty, the 8th Confederate suffered its first serious reverse. About 80 officers and men, Lieut. Col. Prather commanding, were posted at the little hamlet called Rover, 10 miles in advance of Shelbyville, the nearest supporting force. The remainder of the regiment was either on other roads or on scouting duty. Our videttes were driven in closely followed by a brigade of cavalry consisting of the 4th Regulars, 4th Michigan, 3rd Kentucky and 7th Pennsylvania. They came down the pike in column at a charge with flanking battalions in line on either flank in the open fields. Colonel Prather formed his men in column on the pike between high staked-and-ridered cedar fences on either side. We met the enemy’s column with a counter charge and after a glorious but ineffectual, hand-to-hand combat with pistols and sabres, were simply overwhelmed. Captains Moore, Thompson and Miller yielded under sabre strokes and with some twenty-five of the men were captured, carried to Eaglesville and were safely guarded that night by a division of infantry, two batteries of artillery and the brigade of cavalry under General Minty that had comprised the whole expedition on our pike. Next day the prisoners, nearly all with sabre-cuts, were escorted to Murfreesboro by a detachment of 4th Michigan, the 8th Confederate’s old acquaintance at Blackland, Miss., and its fated opponent on almost every field until the 8th Confederate wiped out the score of Rover by the drubbing given it near Kingston, Ga., in May 1864, when it captured its Major Grant and more of its men than we lost at Rover. The captives at Rover were sent to various northern prisons and were on boats for exchange lying at Fortress Monroe, listening to the roar of guns up the Rappahanock where Lee and Jackson were knocking "Fighting Joe Hooker" out of his arm-chair in the Chancellor house and giving a very black eye to "the finest army on this planet". The prisoners were all back at and much beyond Rover by the middle of May. Not one of them was killed or permanently disabled, though some carry scars of that combat, if they are alive, though most all have "crossed over".
His government importuned and threatened General Rosecrans, but could not prevail upon him to advance upon Tullahoma. He needed more cavalry, he cried. He received several thousand more horses equipped, but did not yet advance. That "Devil Forrest" and Wheeler were still raiding his rear and lines of communication even though they did singly fail to capture "Dover" on the Cumberland on the 3rd and 4th of February after a prolonged and sanguinary attack.
The arduous outpost duty continued as the season advanced. Brigadier General Will T. Martin reported May 22nd from Fosterville: "Enemy have captured my piece of artillery on this pike and a large part of the First Alabama and 8th Confederate. The gun was immediately recaptured by a detachment of the 51st Alabama Cavalry. Major Horace Howland of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry gave this of the occurrence: "Marching all night to the 21st with a detachment of his own regiment, the entire First Cavalry Brigade, about dawn of the 22nd the force charged through the thin line of Confederates". The same day General Martin reported that the enemy had retired and he had restored his lines at Middleton. The enemy did not capture a large part of the 8th Confederate. Most of the men were a mile or two in rear of our lines with their horses grazing in the clover fields during the night while their riders stretched themselves for sleep close by. There were a few men, in the camp proper, who were so suddenly aroused that they did not have time to dress or saddle the few horses tethered in camp, but many of them buckled on sabres and pistols, mounted bareback and beat a hasty short retreat until they could be properly aligned and then charged the enemy and drove them pell-mell from the camp, capturing some of them. Private John C. Duncan of the "Stewart’s Creek" armistice, lightly clad in his shirt only, but with pistol and sabre on, came prancing back with bare legs dangling by his horse’s side leading a horse with a full dressed and equipped Yankee trooper on his back and presented his capture to his commanding officer with his "morning compliments". The enemy left the field in great disorder and in such haste that they neglected to carry most of the prisoners they had taken in the camp of the 1st Alabama. The 8th Confederate didn’t lose a man. General Martin evidently sent off his report without being fully informed.
General Rosecrans, having completed his elaborate preparations, early in June, began to concentrate his army to move upon Tullahoma. About June 22nd General Bragg ordered Wheeler to ride to the rear of this great army in motion, to destroy its transportation and force it to delay progress. Wheeler entered upon this duty with his accustomed energy, fighting heavily at various points, penetrating even to the neighborhood of Nashville.
Bragg with great reluctance and upon the urgent advise of Lieutenant General Polk, next in command, resolved to evacuate Tullahoma and retired upon Chattanooga. He therefore sent orders to Wheeler to return to the protection of his line of retreat. Forrest, in command at Spring Hill, the left flank was given due notice.
It should be borne in mind, that phenomenal rainy weather had prevailed in late spring and early summer in all the Southern country, East of the Mississippi, greatly interfering with the movement of the invading army in Tennessee, and with the efficiency of Wheeler’s cavalry, provided insufficiently with rain-proof cartridge boxes.
The following is an extract from a letter dated July 10th, Trenton, Ga., explaining the part taken by the 8th Confederate regiment in the notable fight at Shelbyville, on Duck River, and other associated incidents:
"Our adventures and trials would fill a volume, but I have not physical strength to play narrator. On June 22nd our Division was relieved by General Whorton and we fell back some 4 miles to our reserve camp, spent the night there and next morning started towards Columbia. We had gone about eight miles when we were recalled to assist General Whorton against the Yankees, who had attacked his lines in force that morning."
In order to understand this situation, it would be well to remember that General Bragg had ordered Wheeler to send Martin’s Division to co-operate with Forrest, on the left wing, apprehensive lest the enemy should attempt to flank the Army of Tennessee in that direction, and come in between Columbia and the Tennessee River, upon its rear. It should be borne in mind that the enemy, with Stanley’s cavalry, 10,000 strong, and Gordon Granger’s Division of mounted infantry, 3,000 strong, had been driving Wheeler upon Shelbyville for five days.
We resume the narrative where dropped:
"A run of four miles brought us within hearing of the battle. ** Martin’s men came up in time to assist Whorton in repulsing the enemy’s advance. ** "and after a round or two night came on and we resumed our course, General Wheeler presuming that it was nothing more than a foraging party of Yankees.
"That night it commenced raining, and continued every day for two long weeks. The object of our expedition (I thought) was to make a raid on Cumberland River; and then fall back below Columbia and recruit and reorganize the whole command, but a great disappointment awaited us. On the 24th we were at Spring Hill, the scene of Van Dorn’s victory, but next morning we were retracing our steps under orders to fall back upon Shelbyville. We reached that town about the middle of the day on June 27th.
"We had rested about an hour, after five days constant marching, when our forces in front on the Murfreesboro pike were driven back pell-mell upon Polk’s old breastworks in front of the town a few miles. We were ordered out to meet the enemy, but in what condition! Four days incessant rain had rendered our arms useless and destroyed almost all our cartridges. We dismounted and took position in the trenches intended for infantry. The enemy drew a heavy column upon our left wing, composed of the 51st Alabama Partisan Rangers. This Regiment fought and maintained its ground as long as it could fire a gun and until its Major [James T Dye] and some 40 men were captured. The enemy seeing their advantage pushed on rapidly, when our entire command fell back rapidly on the pike and began retreating towards Shelbyville. The Yankees now charged our rear, seeing which our Regiment formed line on the right of the pike, but had scarcely done so, when the rear of our column came rushing thro breaking our ranks, with the pursuing enemy close upon its heels, not 50 guns would fire and our stand was ineffectual and our retreat became a rout. For two miles we were pushed at headlong speed thro cedar boughs and over fences by a cloud of Yankees cavalry and mounted infantry. My Company having stood after most of the line was broken, suffered severely in men and horses. The wildest confusion now prevailed. A party of the enemy got between me and town and as I rode forward, they fired several times not ten feet off. I attempted to fire on one fellow. My pistol snapped but scared him a little and I, taking advantage of the moment, dashed through unharmed. I made my way to Shelbyville and there rallied the few remaining men of my company. We again formed line of battle. General Wheeler placed his artillery on the square and opened on the Yankees but it was of no avail. Their heavy columns rushed on, captured three pieces of our artillery and drove our shattered ranks toward Duck River Bridge. Here our most serious disaster occurred. The mass of men and horses all rushed for the bridge and men were trampled under foot and killed. I came near being killed myself. Having an ankle badly sprained and was at one time lifted entirely off the ground by the throng. Many plunged into the stream and were drowned, others were shot while swimming. Generals Wheeler and Martin narrowly escaped both being among the last to swim the river, the latter losing his sword and pistol.
"Ten of my best and bravest boys are among the missing; I am uninformed whether killed, wounded or captured. Altogether, it was the greatest cavalry disaster of the war".
It is claimed that General Wheeler fought at Shelbyville to give General Forrest, supposed to be near, time to cross the bridge over Duck River. Forrest, on the other hand, having approached near enough to see that the enemy were numerous enough to overwhelm both his own and Wheeler’s force combined, rode around the town, Northward, and crossed the river over a bridge four miles away.
Polk’s infantry had that morning marched out of their long encampment at Shelbyville and his wagon train was not more than ten miles away while the fighting prevailed in the town. The army moved by way of Decherd to Bridgeport, Ala., where it crossed the Tennessee, Wheeler and Forrest guarding the rear and fighting back to the very water’s edge.
The letter continues:
"Our army crossed the Tennessee on July 4th and 5th inst. Our Division is now camped in Little Wills Valley some 20 miles Southwest of Chattanooga. Both men and horses have suffered terribly on the retreat from hunger and marching. Our wagons are towards Decatur, Ala., and I have not had a change of clothing in nearly three weeks and present as ‘seedy’ an appearance as you can well imagine. Our army is considerably depressed at the news of the fall of Vicksburg but find some consolation in the news of Lee’s victory in Penn. (Our first information was that Lee was victorious at Gettysburg). Our division is so badly cut up that I fear it must be some weeks before we can be of any service to the country. Our cavalry has been shamefully treated and yet has had to do almost all of General Bragg’s fighting. We receive refused arms and accoutrements, the poorest rations and have increasing duties to perform".
The 8th Confederate, at the beginning of this campaign, was directed to discard the shot guns of various sizes, make and caliber with which they had been compelled to do much of their fighting for two years, and this left the Regiment armed with pistols and sabres only and was thereafter fought mounted and reserved for the charge mounted. One or two other regiments in Wheeler’s Corps operated similarly; the bulk of his troopers were armed with Enfield, muzzle loading, carbines and with a variety of other arms captured from the enemy, and dependent for ammunition on the capture of a supply from the enemy. Brewer’s History of Alabama states that the 8th Confederate in the "Dalton-Atlanta" campaign "fought mostly dismounted". The reverse is true; and the statement would fully apply to the 1st, 3rd and 10th "Confederate" in the same brigade, but the 8th was strictly "light-horse cavalry" and so operated to the end.
General Bragg gathered his army about Chattanooga the cavalry, as usual, holding the front, along the south bank of the Tennessee, the 8th Confederate with headquarters at Guntersville and extending Westward to near Decatur, Ala.
Bragg evacuated Chattanooga early in September and the invader moved in.
The Confederate Cavalry under Wheeler and Forrest, the former on the left below Chattanooga and the latter on the right above, were very active but no extraordinary instance of encounter took place before the time of the general battle of Chickamauga.
A week after Chickamauga, General Bragg ordered Wheeler with some 2700 of his own and Forrest’s forces, to cross the Tennessee, capture and destroy the enemy’s wagon trains in Sequatchie Valley and ride on upon the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, destroying the tracks and bridges and burning the depots of army supplies known to be maintained there. A very small portion of the 8th Confederate formed a part of the force engaged in this historic raid, the larger portion of the regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Prather being retained to protect Bragg’s left flank from surprise. The Brigade under Colonel William B. Wade, with this exception, took a very active part in the expedition.
Lieut. Colonel Jefferson Falkner had resigned after Bragg’s Kentucky Campaign in 1862 and Major John S. Prather promoted, while Captain John T. Wright had been appointed Major.
Lieutenant General Longstreet was ordered to East Tennessee about the middle of November. General Wheeler accompanied the expedition, with General Martin second in command. Generals Whorton and Kelley were left with the main army except that one brigade of Kelley’s Division commanded by Colonel Wade was detached to go with Wheeler but leaving the 8th Confederate of that brigade with General Kelley.
At the time of the rout of Bragg’s army at Missionary Ridge Kelley’s Division was on observation and scouting up the Tennessee River and about the mouth of the Hiawassie. Bragg fell back to Dalton and about this time Wheeler in person returned and his cavalry was concentrated and again took position in front of Bragg’s beaten army, the lines extending along the foot of Taylor’s Ridge with headquarters at Tunnel Hill. Some of the cavalry were sent into Alabama and to other points in North Georgia to secure subsistence for men and horses.
The last week in December, General Wheeler took General Kelley with some 1200 men, among them the 8th Confederate, to overtake a wagon train sent by General Grant from Chattanooga to Burnside at Knoxville. The very heavy roads and bad weather checked the pursuit somewhat. By hard riding, the night of December 27th, the train was overtaken at Charleston on the Hiawassie but had crossed the bridge. General Sheridan was in position on the overlooking eminencies to protect the bridge and the train. Colonel Wade was ordered to the attack with his brigade. Numbers, both in infantry and cavalry, were greatly against him. He was shot from his horse and the attack repulsed. Fourteen killed and wounded and 78 missing from his brigade were the casualties. The entire command was thrown into confusion and retreat, Generals Wheeler and Kelley distinguishing themselves cutting their way through the enveloping enemy.
It was after the fight that the court-martial sat and heard charges against Colonel Wade heretofore noted. He had not been quite in favor with General Wheeler since the Kentucky campaign of 1862. After the court-martial, leave of absence was allowed him. He returned to Mississippi and never rejoined Wheeler. Having determined never more to serve under Wheeler, Colonel Wade set about the task of having his regiment, the 8th Confederate, withdrawn from Wheeler and placed with him under Forrest, then operating in Mississippi. Four companies of the regiment being from that State it was natural that many of the men and officers of those were so far successful that he actually obtained orders from the General commanding that Department for the 8th Confederate, belonging to forces in another Department, to report to Colonel Wade. This caused such friction as to require the interference of the War Department at Richmond. Some of the men, especially those on furlough or convalescing in hospitals or in their homes, to ignorantly obey the orders so that Wade finally secured about 100 men from the Regiment with which, added to quite a large command, Wade did some brilliant service under General Forrest during the last year of the war. It is generally conceded that he became a Brigadier General but there seems to be no tangible evidence that he was ever commissioned as such. The Colonel’s action had a bad effect on the discipline and morale of a portion of the regiment, but the four Mississippi Companies in large measure abided with their colors and followed the 8th,s flag to death or final surrender at Greensboro. Notable soldier as he was, Colonel Wade, survived the casualties of war but was killed in his own apartments, in a hotel at Columbus, Miss. by some soldiers of the United States garrison there, the result of a personal difficulty he had with one of their officers whom he shot and seriously wounded. This occurred shortly after the surrender of General Dick Taylor’s forces.
Colonel Y. M. C. Humes, a citizen soldier, Chief-of-Artillery of Wheeler’s corps, was promoted Brigadier General and took command of Wade’s Brigade. He marched it to Oxford, Ala., in February 1864, to recruit the ranks and rest the horses. Soon Humes was transferred to another brigade and Brigadier General W. W. Allen succeeded him. Wheeler had under him Generals Martin, Kelley, Humes, Allen, Robertson, Iverson and Dibbrell, and was undoubtedly well supported, as they were all good disciplinarians and men of high capacity. General John A. Whorton, at his own request, was transferred to General Richard Taylor in the Trans-Mississippi Department.
After gathering together the remains of the Army of Tennessee at Dalton in November, General Braxton Bragg resigned, and for a time General W. J. Hardee remained its commander, then about the beginning of 1864, General Joseph E. Johnston took command. He was very energetic and successful in reorganizing his army. Strict discipline, without harshness, was enforced. Soon everything moved or was conducted with clock-work precision; new life, with a new commander in whom this army had full confidence, as it had had in no other since the spirit of its beloved Albert Sidney Johnston had so unfortunately been wafted aloft from his victorious field of Shiloh, took possession of the whole military establishment. Buoyant hope and confidence in ultimate victory animated every breast from teamsters to the General Staff. Such was the magical influence of this quiet, self-poised, consummate Commander – this Genius of War incarnate.
General Thomas, and, after him, General Sherman labored in preparations to begin the long and perilous descent upon Atlanta. Cavalry outpost duty was thoroughly well performed by both sides until the first week in May, Sherman broke up his camps about Ringold, pressed Wheeler back from Tunnel Hill and while facing Dalton, proposed to move around under cover of Taylor’s Ridge and through its gaps upon Resaca. In the meantime, the 8th Confederate was constantly active on the outpost. April 13th at dawn, the Regiment started out to surprise Colonel Brownlow, son of the celebrated Tennessee parson, editor and, by grace of the "Reconstruction Acts", afterwards yclept, Senator, from that doubly harried State. This son commanded a Regiment of East Tennesseeans in the invading host. The Confederates found the camp for which they searched, charged and captured all but two or three of the 40 men and horses. Colonel Brownlow, however, had taken his departure with most of his Regiment before the arrival of the 8th.
Among the incidents of the picket lines about the same time was the arrest, by Private A.G. Beck of Talladega County, of Doctor Mary Walker, a surgeon with the army of the invader. Dressed in a semi-military "bloomer" costume, a short military cloak over her shoulders, she came riding astride down a cow trail that led from near a picket post of the 10th Confederate Cavalry over Taylor’s Ridge where the bulk of Sherman’s army was being mobilized. This female riding astride was something entirely new "under the sun" to a Southern soldier. Her approach to our outpost was ostensibly to deliver a letter from a Confederate soldier imprisoned at the North. Another excuse was that she was a physician and was doing some charity practice among the poor residing on the mountain. The sangfroid of her deportment and the fact that she had found a practicable way for a military expedition to cross the mountain aroused a suspicion lest she be a spy. The faithful picket detained and held her under arrest against her strong protest and bland beseechings, until his "relief" came, when she was marched to Headquarters and sent forward as a prisoner to the Secretary of War at Richmond. Wheeler kept his forces ever on the alert covering General Johnston’s front and flanks entailing daily combats with heavy reconnoitering parties sent out to "feel" our position.
Finally by orders from Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, commanding all armies of the United States, General Sherman, in the first week in May, began his "on to Atlanta" march. He found preparations which checked him at Dalton.
Dalton lies in a narrow valley flanked on the West by a high, mountainous ridge, extending from near Tunnel hill, some five or six miles North of the city in a Southwesterly direction to the Oustenala River. In this ridge was Dug Gap, almost due West from Dalton, and another some 12 miles to the Southwest made by Snake Creek cutting through the ridge.
On the East side of the Dalton Valley a smaller ridge extends North and South and abruptly terminates in what is known as "Rocky Face" just Southwest of Tunnel Hill.
One or two Divisions of infantry with several batteries of Artillery were thrown forward of the main body of the Confederate Army and occupied Rocky Face. On the 7th of May there was some heavy fighting between the Confederates occupying "Rocky Face" and one corps of the three into which Sherman had divided his army of 90,000 of all arms. Wheeler had on the same day dispatched the Kentucky Brigade of his cavalry corps to occupy Dug Gap in the mountain ridge West of Dalton. Here on May 8th Colonel Grigsby commanding this Kentucky Brigade dismounted his men and held this gap against repeated assaults of the enemy, many times exceeding the Kentuckians in numbers. It was a desperate attempt of the enemy to come in on Johnston’s left flank, and was gloriously frustrated by the hand-to-hand fight put up by one cavalry brigade. Having sent one Division of his cavalry on the morning of the 8th May to Snake Creek Gap, some 12 miles to the left rear of the army at Dalton to make observation as to whether or not the enemy was endeavoring to reach Resaca in Johnston’s rear through that pass, Wheeler, with Kelley’s Division and two or three Brigades additional, moved up the Dalton Red Clay road and, with a portion of his force, formed lines connected with our infantry at Rocky Face and extending thence Eastward and covering the Red Clay Road.
Advance parties of skirmishers were thrown out until they came in contact with those of the enemy. The Federals did not seem to be pushing forward during the morning of the 9th of May, but were really throwing up breastworks expecting to be attacked.
The day was growing apace and the sound of firing at Rocky Face and on our skirmish line became a roar of battle, when, from towards the skirmish line, General Wheeler and staff came dashing down the road to where Kelley’s Division was "standing to horse". Orders were hurriedly passed down the column to "mount", and a staff officer, riding down from where General Wheeler had reined up, directed Col. John S. Prather, commanding the 8th Confederate Regiment, to move his regiment up the road at a gallop. As the 8th passed General Wheeler he directed the Texas Brigade to follow our regiment at the same pace. We were in column of fours and Wheeler, and staff dashed off in a canter at our head. The mile or more to the skirmish line was swept over in a few minutes. Arriving near a cottage on the left of the road, we found our skirmishers dismounted, their line extending to the right and left at right angles to the road. That portion on the right of the road in the edge of a wood, with a half mile or more of open field in its front, filled with line after line of blue coated Federal cavalry; that portion of the left of the road was in open woods endeavoring to hold a ridge that extended Westward from, and at right angles to, the road. Half way up this ridge in their front was a heavy line of dismounted Federal skirmishers; at the foot of the ridge was a still heavier line of Federal cavalry, and, at the top of the next ridge, back of them, still another line, and back of all, the held horses of the enemy. By proper order Col. Prather put the 8th in line to the front on the left of the road, and , as the 8th cleared the road, the Texas brigade, pistols in hand and in column of fours, swept up the road charging in column. Simultaneously, the 8th Confederate, pistols in hand, passed in a gallop through our skirmishers and charged down the ridge with a wild yell, rode over the first line of the enemy, then, firing at close quarters, dashed on to the second line and crushed it, killing some, wounding others and capturing nearly all of the second line. The quick charge, the brief fight with pistols against both guns and pistols, the capture of prisoners, the casualties in our own ranks both in men and horses, and whirlwind of hand-to-hand battle disconcerted the splendid alignment, with which we threw ourselves upon the enemy, and the line became ragged and, for the time being, somewhat disorganized. The writer’s squadron (Companies A and B) was near the left of the regimental line in the charge, with Captain John S. McElderry’s company "H" on the right of Company A. In the charge over the enemy’s second line, Private Edmund Ross Riddle of Company "A" fell from his horse shot through the heart. Orderly Sergeant James W. Hardie of the same company was grievously wounded, while some three other men together with horses were wounded. About the time that Riddle fell, the writer glanced to the right and saw near the top of the next ridge, Sergeant Baker Thompson of Company "H", wounded and unable to manage his horse which had carried him, in advance of his Company almost up to the enemy’s last line on top of the ridge. Just then his horse sank down with the wounded and helpless Sergeant still astride; but, though wounded and helpless, a Federal officer trotted out from his line and, rising in his stirrups at each stroke, was splitting the head of the wounded Thompson with his sabre. The writer still had a shot or two in his "navy six" and fired at the cowardly fellow, but being some forty yards to the right front the shot went wild. Captain McElderry, who was rallying his Company, seeing the dastardly action, dashed forward and shot the coward from his horse. Three or more of the dismounted Federals rushed out to the assistance of the officer and one of these shot Captain McElderry, who fell from his horse dead. The Federals in our front then broke into a run, and at this time General Kelley, sword in hand, came dashing up in front of our reforming line, ordered that portion of the writer’s squadron that had lined up to make a left oblique wheel and to charge the enemy to our left, which was as yet unbroken and greeting us with a hot enfilading fire. Up the ridge like a whirlwind in a sabre charge, Companies "A" and "B" went, but before we reached them the enemy broke and fled in wild disorder through the woods. Following them in their flight brought us again to the main road and a view of the open fields. Here a scene was presented that to the Confederates was exhilarating beyond expression. Over that open field, in wild disorder, hats dropping, canteens flapping, officers yelling, steeds dropping their riders, every man for himself and all for a place of safety, madly rushed, scrambled, hobbled, struggled and roared a mass of more than 2500 defeated, disorganized, demoralized Federal cavalry, while behind them with pistol, sabre or carbine in hand, yelling like Comanches, their long hair flowing behind them, their nimble fingers pulling the triggers of their trusty six-shooters, rode in indomitable, if not incomparable, Texans and Arkansans, not more than 800 in all told, but every man a host. We pursued the discomfited, routed Federals until they found shelter behind their infantry and artillery entrenchments, when General Wheeler had "recall" sounded and we fell back to the line where we had first struck them, and unmolested held the field until nightfall and until we were called to another post of danger and battle.
On the line where the 8th Confederate had struck its blow, within a few rods of each other lay cold in death Sergeant Thompson, shot twice through the body and with his skull split in three places by a poltroon’s sabre; near him lay his Captain, John S. McElderry; close by was 18-year-old E. R. Riddle with other dead and wounded 8th Confederates marking the line of the superb charge and hand-to-hand grapple. Close by and corralled in and about the cottage were between 100 and 200 wounded Federal prisoners and among them a Colonel. Within a few feet of where Ross Riddle lay was the still, cold form of a red haired German giant, with a wounded German comrade close at hand so recently from the father-land that he could neither speak or understand but few words of English. Here was a group of figures on a battle field presenting, (as was frequently the case in the Confederate War) food for reflection. Captain McElderry was the son of Col. Thomas McElderry of Talladega County, who in 1813 was numbered among those gallant Tennesseans that volunteered with "Old Hickory" to do battle for Anglo-Saxon civilization in subduing the murderous Creek Indians in Alabama, and had gallantly fought at Talladega, Enitachopko, Emuckfau and Horse Shoe, and whose ancestors before him were numbered among the indomitable Scotch-Irish who had fought Tories at King’s Mountain and British regulars at Guilford. Captain McElderry while a Lieutenant of Company "A", Brewer’s Battalion, had ridden a wounded horse through a withering fire at the close of Shiloh’s second day to carry the order from Beauregard to Bragg to withdraw his forces from the field; and who, while commanding his Company at Blackland on the 4th of June following, had been so desperately wounded that he thought himself permanently disabled and resigned his commission. The same gallant trooper who, when recovered of his wounds, returned to his old comrades and offered his services as a private in the ranks, but who was unanimously called by the men of Company "H" to take the place of their old Captain, John Thompson, now resigned from age and wounds.
Sergeant James W. Hardie was one of five brothers, sons of noble Scotch parents, who served most gallantly on Southern fields. Edmund Ross Riddle was the oldest son of S. S. and Maria Riddle who were among the pioneers of Talladega County from Pennsylvania and whose ancestors had fought Hessians at Trenton and Brandywine. The giant German lying dead within ten feet of young Riddle, and his wounded comrades gathered close by, could perhaps have traced their ancestry to some of the mercenaries who, fighting for British gold, had with their leader, Col. Rall, surrendered to Washington on a winter’s morning at Trenton, New Jersey.
The fight on the Red Clay Road on May 9th, made by a Confederate cavalry force not exceeding a thousand, hurled back McCook’s Division which, in a general order issued by Sherman a few days before, was designated as the command that was to press forward and occupy Athens, Georgia. The fight there made, protected Johnston’s right flank and enabled him three days later to retire his infantry, artillery and supplies from Dalton to Resaca intact, whither we followed him, slowly and stubbornly, contesting the enemy’s advance all the way. During those three days, a reconnaissance made by a portion of Wheeler’s cavalry acquainted General Johnston with the fact that while Sherman confronted our army at Dalton and Rocky Face with two army corps, he had sent McPherson with his corps on a flank movement made under cover of the ridge lying West of Dalton, with Resaca, by way of Snake Creek Gap, as the objective point. This was in Johnston’s rear and on his line of communication. A stubborn resistance in and through Snake Creek Gap developed the purpose and strength of the enemy, and by the 12th of May, most of our army had taken position at Resaca, where a two days’ bloody engagement ensued.
When our forces were withdrawn from Resaca, the 8th Confederate was the rear guard and last Regiment to cross the pontoon over the Oustenaula, which was accomplished just before dawn. After crossing and with the enemy close behind us we came across a battery of 4 brass pieces that appeared never to have been fired, with their caissons, with no horses or men with them. A portion of our cavalry was dismounted and by hand dragged the guns and caissons several miles until men and horses could be brought up to take them on the retreat. All guns were saved. These guns had probably been sent up by rail for the use of the army and unloaded from the train by the roadside where we found them.
Late on the same evening we found Hood not far from Kingston with his corps formed in line to check the enemy’s advance. As the artillery on both sides began firing, an order came to our Regiment to move at a gallop to our left rear. As we climbed a pretty steep ridge of hills, the rattle of small arms was plainly heard in the direction we were going and becoming louder and more distinct as we swept on through the thick undergrowth. A volley was delivered into the head of our column with several casualties to horses. It came from Gen. Ferguson’s Confederate cavalry brigade, fighting dismounted, and who were being rapidly pushed back by Garrard’s Federal cavalry. Our men mistook us for a flanking body of the enemy. We scarcely halted, but facing in line to our right, we went at the enemy in a sweeping charge, broke their left wing doubling it back on their center, when the whole force gave way and attempted what at first seemed an orderly retreat, but which soon turned to a rout and we pursued them a mile or more to the cover of their infantry. It was our old familiar enemy, the 4th Michigan, that we first struck and we captured its Major Grant with a goodly lot of his men. The Major, a very handsome man, being overtaken by a small "tallow faced" Alabama private, hesitated about surrendering to him and asked for a Confederate officer to whom to deliver his sword. The Alabamian, coolly eyeing him, said: "Do you see this six-shooter? That is officer enough for you", and marched him to the rear. Lieut. Jeff M. Falkner, of Co. "B", graced the Major’s splendid roan on many a well fought field for months afterwards. The 8th Confederate participated with distinction in the entire Dalton-Atlanta campaign, so dependent on the Confederate side upon Wheeler’s cavalry. The fighting was daily, at some points on General Johnston’s lines or within Sherman’s.
On the 19th of May, General Johnston retired all his army except Wheeler’s Cavalry across the Etowah River, Wheeler covering the crossing by stubborn fighting, and then retired his own forces and destroyed the bridges. On the 22nd, Wheeler, with three brigades, having posted the remainder of his corps to protect the flanks of the army, re-crossed the Etowah East of Sherman’s main army and, by hard riding, was soon in Sherman’s rear. Near Cass Station and also at Casville, we fell upon immense Federal wagon trains moving to the rear for supplies. The 8th Confederate in the lead struck this train at right angles about its center as it was strung out for several miles along the country road. Part of the regiment went down the train to the left while the remainder followed it up to the right. Most of the teamsters and wagon guards were captured and the wagons turned as rapidly as possible in the direction of the road by which we approached. By vigorous use of our flattened sabres on the mules, and with dire threats for the celerity of the drivers the whole train was soon under way; a Confederate supervising the movement of each wagon and its captives. Just as the rear of the captured wagons was passing off the field, a splendid body, with brigade front, of Federal Cavalry came thundering across the field. Before reaching our captured wagons, Wheeler had brought up the Texas Brigade, supported by a Regiment of Tennesseeans. On came the Federals in a sweeping charge. The dust raised by the advancing hosts and the smoke from the sharp rattle of small arms obscured the combat for a few moments. The Federals were hurled back in utter rout, pursued by the Confederates. We brought off more than 100 wagons with many prisoners, some of whom made their escape during a terrific thunderstorm that overtook us that night in the narrow mountain gorges.
We safely re-crossed the Etowah and at once proceeded toward New Hope Church. Sherman had by this time crossed over with the main portion of his army and was moving his right flank in the direction of Powder Springs, with the intention of getting in Johnston’s rear. Wheeler’s Cavalry detected and reported the movement and Johnston, to counteract the same, moved a large portion of his force and established his lines at New Hope Church, thus halting the enemy by offering battle which continued with great fury during the 25th and 26th of May, Wheeler occupying the right of our lines with most of his cavalry. Baffled in this attempt to turn Johnston’s left, Sherman began to draw his forces back to the line of railway. On the 27th, Howard’s 14th Corps fell upon our right occupied by the cavalry and with great celerity of movement massed the larger part of the Corps against Wheeler’s line of dismounted cavalry, occupying a ridge parallel with Pumpkin Vine Creek. While the dismounted troopers were gallantly defending their line, Govan’s and Granb[ury]’s brigades of Cleburne’s Division came to their assistance at double-quick, formed line immediately behind the cavalry, and then moved forward into line with the cavalry, and the unique spectacle was presented of cavalry and infantry fighting in mixed rank, and all lying flat on the ground with no breastworks for protection and repulsing charge after charge of Howard’s hosts, covering the 20-acre field in their front with dead and wounded Federals, nearly destroying General T. J. Wood’s Division, and hurling back the masses of the enemy without a momentary break in the mixed Confederate line. Our Cavalry horses were protected by being led into a ravine immediately in our rear. There were a number of casualties in the dismounted cavalry and many among the officers of the field and staff who remained mounted. General W. W. Allen commanding our brigade had his horse shot from under him while several of his staff and escort were wounded. On the 28th, Wheeler extended his line to the right, threw up hasty breastworks of dead logs and rails, and skirmished heavily with Howard’s Corps supported by Stoneman’s Cavalry. Stoneman made one attempt to break our lines with a cavalry charge but the 8th Confederate met the effort with a counter charge which sent them back without "standing upon the order of their going".
As Sherman gradually moved back to the railroad, Wheeler extended his lines to the right, covering Johnston’s movement in the same direction. Wheeler’s line extended and preserved a front of three miles and keeping up constant heavy skirmishing and daily moving to the right as Sherman moved to his left. This continued from May 30th to June 15th, thus preserving an unbroken front to the enemy at every point. About the 10th of June, Colonel R. H. Anderson with the 5th Georgia Cavalry, nearly 1000 effectives and well mounted and uniformed, came up from the coast where they had long served as coast guard but had engaged in comparatively little fighting. The Regiment was added to our Brigade, then commanded by Gen. W. W. Allen.
On the 15th of June a division of the enemy’s cavalry advanced and attacked our right at Noon Day Creek. While the attack was in progress, Wheeler charged the enemy’s flank at Noon Day church and one of the most stubborn cavalry combats of the war ensued. The enemy, armed with Spencer repeating rifles, were dismounted, a large body inside the church, with their lines stationed behind a high rail fence with a hedge of undergrowth concealing their position. The 8th Confederate charged down to the church in column, but was met by a withering and incessant fire from those of the enemy barricaded in the church and the concealed line behind the fence; a number of its horses were killed at the church steps, one of its lieutenants was killed in a few steps of the church and many of the men wounded and some killed. The charge failed to move the enemy, and the Regiment was rallied within 100 yards of the church under protection of the hill. One squadron of the 5th Georgia then made a most gallant charge on the church, some of the horses and riders being killed on the enemy’s line behind the fence. The remainder of the 5th Georgia was dismounted, and with their Enfields charged the church on foot, while the 8th Confederate charge mounted to their right. At the same time, some other command charged through the woods on the left of the road and the enemy gave way and sought safety in flight. Their retreat led them through a marsh where many of the horses bogged and were abandoned by riders in their effort to escape. The 8th pursued them to the marsh, capturing a number of prisoners and horses. The 8th Confederate had again struck the 4th Michigan. Wheeler’s Cavalry, mostly dismounted and behind breastworks, formed the right wing of Johnston’s army while he held the line of Kennesaw Mountain. Wheeler’s troopers were attacked daily now and did some of their most effective fighting.
On July 3rd, Johnston retired from Kennesaw toward the Chattahoochee, where he massed his infantry and artillery. Wheeler with his cavalry was left to cover the retreat, which was done in a most masterly manner and with severe punishment inflicted on the enemy in its many attacks. We had to do the most desperate fighting in securing the crossing of the cavalry and our wagon trains across the Chattahoochee at Pace’s Ferry. The 8th Confederate was with the rear-guard and directly under the eye of General Wheeler, and had to make charge after charge on the troops of Howard’s Corps, which were endeavoring to crush us. The dismounted men having, with horses, been safely passed to the South bank, Wheeler led us in one last desperate charge on the North bank, repulsed the enemy and then by a quick movement, rushed his rear-guard to the pontoon. The enemy had succeeded in placing artillery on an elevation that commanded the road as it wound down to the pontoon, and also the pontoon. Shells were bursting over our heads and close to our ranks when the Regiment started across, but with splendid discipline and composure, we wound our way over the narrow bridge of boats with shells bursting around and sprinkling us with water. Wheeler was among the last to leave the shore and before the entire Regiment had debouched on the southern bank, the pontoon had been cut from its fastenings and was swinging around to the Southern shore. General Johnston placed his cavalry on either flank, keeping himself well informed of the enemy’s movements. On the 8th of July, the enemy began crossing the river at Isham’s Ford and advanced slowly throwing up lines of breastworks. By the 4th, almost all of Sherman’s army was on the South bank and gradually pressed Wheeler’s cavalry lines back to Buck Head. General Johnston had formed his lines on the West bank of Peachtree Creek, and by the 17th had laid his plans and prepared to give battle to the enemy. On the night of the 17th, he was relieved from command by President Davis and retired to Macon, while General John B. Hood was placed in command.
For 70 days Johnston, though outnumbered more than two to one, had so successfully retarded the invading host that its progress had not averaged exceeding a mile a day, with losses in killed and wounded equaling fifty per cent of Johnston’s forces of all arms. Not once during those 70 days of battle on any portion of his lines, had those lines been broken or penetrated by the hosts that were hurled against them. Not a gun, caisson or wagon had been lost to the Confederates, while the losses in killed and wounded were absolutely insignificant when compared to those of the enemy. No army on which the sun ever shone had a higher morale, a greater confidence in its commander and in the firm conviction that he would lead it to a crushing defeat of the enemy. History will be searched in vain for more brilliant generalship than that displayed by Joseph Eggleston Johnston in that less than 70 miles retreat of 70 days, pressed by an enemy skillfully lead, of 90,000 men against less than 40,000 effectives.
The effect of Johnston’s removal on his buoyant and devoted army was simply appalling. Words are inadequate to properly describe it, and can never be properly or fully appreciated except by those who had the high distinction of being component parts of that devoted organization, so soon to be offered up in sacrificial shambles.
On the 21st and 22nd of July, Hood rushed his infantry and artillery upon the impregnable fortifications erected by the enemy on the North and East of Atlanta, and used his cavalry on both days against the enemy’s left wing resting on Decatur. Wheeler’s men did their part well, drove back the enemy and captured many prisoners. For the next five days, Wheeler’s cavalry was occupying the entrenchments from which Hardie’s corps had been moved, and was incessantly engaged in fighting and repulsing the frequent attacks of Logan’s corps of infantry and artillery.
About the 26th of July, Sherman started his 9,000 cavalry, in three separate detachments, to strike and destroy Hood’s lines of communication to the South and West of Atlanta. General Stoneman, with 2200 cavalry, started from the neighborhood of Decatur, some seven miles East of Atlanta, to go to Macon, 120 miles to destroy that depot of supplies; General Garrard, with some 3500 men, was started from the main body of the army by a still more easterly route, with instructions to destroy the railroad between Macon and Atlanta, which largely fed Hood’s army in Atlanta, and which he was expected to accomplish while Stoneman was pressing straight on to Macon; General McCook with some 3500, simultaneously was to cross from the North side of the Chattahoochee, to strike the Atlanta and West Point railroad West of Atlanta, then to pass on to the rear of Hood’s army and operate upon Hoods’s wagon trains and his communications, North of where Garrard was to strike the Atlanta and Macon road.
General Hood at first refused to allow Wheeler to withdraw his cavalry from the trenches to meet these formidable raids; but on the night of the 27th, Wheeler was released for that purpose.
McCook crossed the river, tore up several miles of the Atlanta and West Point railroad, then bore around to Hood’s rear and destroyed several hundred wagons and the teams belonging to them, mostly of Loring’s Division. The enemy’s plan was for these three bodies of cavalry, after destroying the railroads, devastating the country through which they rode, capturing Macon and its depot of supplies, to join forces and press on 50 miles from Macon to Andersonville and release the 30,000 Federal prisoners, arm them as far as possible, and return with them to the main army in front of Atlanta. Wheeler left a portion of his cavalry in the trenches assisting the infantry. With not exceeding 2500 men, he started forth on the night of July 27th to overtake and drive back the powerful raiders, the most dangerous menace to the Army of Tennessee it had thus far encountered. General Kelley, with his Division, was sent in pursuit of Stoneman. Kelley overtook Garrard at Flat Shoals on South River some 20 miles South of East from Atlanta, attacked and pressed him so hard that he turned back homeward via Stone Mountain, and found it less dangerous in the rear of Sherman’s infantry.
General Wheeler now joined Kelley in person and hearing of McCook’s raid to the Westward, put himself at the head of Anderson’s Brigade, composed of the 1st, 3rd, 8th and 10th Confederate and 5th Georgia cavalry, and started after McCook. The following extract from a letter written from near Newman, Ga., on August 1st 1864, gives an outline of what followed:
"Our brigade was again put in motion for Jonesboro 18 miles distant and 20 miles South of Atlanta, on the Macon railroad. We reached Jonesboro about 11 P.M. where we heard that a large cavalry force had crossed the Chattahoochee near Campbellton, and, passing around our left wing, had cut the Macon road, burned a large number of our wagons and was going towards Fayetteville (a village on the Macon railroad below Jonesboro) with Jackson’s one Brigade and Humes with two, close upon their heels. Hearing this our brigade pushed on all night, reaching Fayetteville early next morning. There we found the enemy retreating towards Newman on the Atlanta and West Point railroad. We followed at full speed, under a broiling sun. Four miles brought us to the place where Ross’ Texas Brigade had come up with and charged the enemy. Dead and wounded Yankees, with the usual debris of the battle field were scattered along. My squadron being rear-guard, and the road being filled with stragglers and men with broken down horses, I was necessarily delayed. Our forces drove the enemy along at a rapid rate; so fast that they had no time to damage the people much along the route. The Yanks intended to pass through Newman, where we had large hospitals, but on nearing the town found a force of infantry ready to receive them (It was really Roddy’s dismounted cavalry) and turned around the town. Five miles from Newman we had pushed them until they were compelled to halt and give battle."
At the battle near Newman, General Anderson of our Brigade was wounded; McCook was routed and escaped across the Chattahoochee with about one third of the force he had led forth a few days before. Our forces captured between a thousand and two thousand horse, generally well equipped in regulation style and selected for this expedition.
General Iverson, as we have seen, pursued Stoneman. As Stoneman approached Macon, General Howell Cobb gathered up a few hundred old men and boys of Joe Brown’s militia, and in addition mustered in citizens and clerks of the town generally, hastily organized them with the aid of convalescent officers, commissaries, quarter-masters, etc., and arms from private houses, such as could be found. He took this improvised force two or three miles from town, met Stoneman on the way, fought him several hours and drove him back. General Iverson at this juncture came up with Stoneman’s main force some 20 miles from Macon, and captured him and the larger part of his force, dispersing the others, which Col. W. C. P. Breckenridge pursued, capturing many. Thus terminated the effort of Sherman, with cavalry, to destroy the Confederate lines of communication, and to force Hood out of Atlanta. Fully one third of Sherman’s 9,000 cavalry were either killed, wounded or captured by Wheeler’s troopers, numbering in all less than one half the entire well equipped force sent out by the enemy, with losses quite small comparatively on our side.
General Hood now resolved to force General Sherman from the siege of Atlanta by destroying the Atlanta and Chattanooga railroad which fed him entirely and on which he depended for his supply of ordinance and other military supplies.
Wheeler was ordered to rendezvous four thousand of his best cavalry, the horses in best order among them, where all were thin in flesh and jaded, at Covington East of Atlanta, and to start on August 10th on a raid in Sherman’s rear along the Atlanta and Chattanooga railroad, thence across the Tennessee, along the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad.
In the opinion of the writer, this was a most unfortunate and hazardous disposition of practically three-fourths of Hood’s entire effective force. Sherman’s and Hoods’s armies faced each other in a comparatively open and level country. In the 70 days campaign from Tunnel Hill to Atlanta, Wheeler’s cavalry were the eyes and ears of the army; always on its rear when retiring, its flanks when in battle line, and scouting in every direction, giving prompt and full information as to every movement of the enemy. In less than 20 days after detaching this efficient arm, with but a small cavalry force retained with the main army, Sherman had entrenched two corps of his army in front of Atlanta and, ere Hood was aware of the fact, had swung one corps from his left flank to Jonesboro, 20 miles in Hood’s rear and on his main line of communication. Hardie’s corps was hastened by piecemeal to attack this Federal force and undergo the terrible but fruitless slaughter of the battle of Jonesboro, and the surrender of Atlanta was thereby necessitated.
Wheeler’s men were assembled at Covington as directed; all baggage, even to a change of clothing, all wagons, except enough to transport an inadequate supply of ammunition, were left behind, and the expedition started on a raid that was to separate it entirely from the army, and inside of the enemy’s lines, until late in September and, a portion of it, until the middle of October.
Anderson not yet recovered from his wound, Lieutenant Colonel Felix H. Robertson, whilom Commander of Artillery, was promoted Brigadier General and placed over the Brigade of which the 8th Confederate, Lieut. Colonel Prather, was a part.
General Wheeler captured, and for a few hours held, Marietta and one or two other small posts; captured Dalton, but not the forts overlooking the town, and held it one night, tearing up the railroad for a few miles, which we saw the enemy rebuilding the next morning, their engineer and construction force supported by a heavy infantry force under General Steadman, faster that Wheeler’s men without appliances had been able to destroy it during the night. Wheeler captured a large herd of Sherman’s beef cattle, to secure which he had to detach Colonel Hannon and a large number of effectives from his own command and send them back to our own lines, thereby depleting his own force. Wheeler turned Northeastward from Dalton and destroyed many miles of railroad between Chattanooga and Knoxville, which road did not cut much figure in supplying Sherman as it was only under Federal control Eastward to near Greenville, Tenn., and East Tennessee was already stripped of supplies.
The excessive rains, causing the rise of the Tennessee, compelled General Wheeler to attempt its crossing well up to the neighborhood of Knoxville. Arrived in that section, he allowed or sent General John S. Williams, known as "Cerro Gordo" Williams, with what was known as the Kentucky Brigade and General Felix H. Robertson’s brigade, to veer off the right of his course to capture Strawberry Plains, a post held by the enemy, while he was effecting a crossing with the remainder of his force. When General Williams reached his objective point, he found it too well protected by a strong force behind earth works to make a serious attempt to capture it and, after some heavy skirmishing, turned back to rejoin Wheeler as he had been directed, the next day. Wheeler had succeeded in fording the river but heavy rains had set in, and upon Williams’ arrival at the same ford, the rise in the river had rendered the fording hazardous and necessarily slow. Williams succeeded in crossing with his two brigades and four pieces of artillery and pushed on after Wheeler, but fully 24 hours behind him. Upon reaching Clinch River at the point where Wheeler had crossed, Williams found it a raging torrent and past fording. This necessitated a ride of fully 30 miles further up that river before Williams could find a crossing. This threw Williams some 48 hours behind. Wheeler, with the remainder of his forces, had pushed on Westward with all speed by Sparta, McMinnville, and thence on to the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, which he crossed and partially destroyed for a few miles between Nashville and Murfreesboro, thence on to near Franklin, where in a minor engagement, General Kelley, our brilliant Division commander, and other valuable and skillful officers were killed.
Williams still pushed on after Wheeler, but crossed the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad South of Murfreesboro. From near Murfreesboro, Williams was hotly pressed by a large force of the enemy’s cavalry as far as Cornersville. The Confederate Brigade was in the rear and it was a continuous retreating combat, at times requiring the whole brigade to deploy in line of battle. This continuous fighting late in the day resulted in the exhaustion of the cartridge boxes of all the brigade armed with rifles, and squadron after squadron of the 8th Confederate had to be sent to one wing or the other of the brigade to make mounted charges, with pistol or sabre, to preserve the integrity of the brigade. The writer, by some chance, as Senior Captain, was during that day in command of the 8th Confederate. The detachment of company after company to the wings reduced the Regiment to one squadron on the main road. The enemy finally seemed to make a supreme effort in an attack on our entire line and came very near to putting us to rout. At this juncture, General Robertson placed a piece of artillery in the main road, directed me to form my remaining squadron in column of fours, and prepare for the charge. The enemy came sweeping down the main pike in column of platoons, and when within one hundred yards of us, a shell from our gun was landed in the head of their column which did some execution and caused the enemy to endeavor to halt, and in so doing they naturally "bunched up" about where the shell had burst. Then General Robertson ordered us to charge and led us mounted on a lively little black mule. In a few moments, we dashed forward with well charged revolvers and at close quarters used them most effectively in hand-to-hand combat. My squadron did not number exceeding 50 men, but we struck them in such excellent and solid column that we soon had them on the run in their center, and their wings followed suit for about one half mile. General Robertson shot the Kentucky Federal Lieut. Colonel at the head of the column from his horse, but he was game and as he fell, threw his pistol at Robertson. We killed some, wounded more, and captured several in this stirring combat. We pursued our course after this at more leisure until we reached Cornersville, where General Williams had placed artillery, and now formed his two brigades in echelon of regiments and awaited the enemy’s attack. The enemy came to a ridge a few hundred yards from our front and, seeing the array, did not attack.
Seeing that Wheeler and the rest of the command must turn South into Alabama before he could overtake him, General Williams, finding that there was still another strong force of the enemy between him and Wheeler that he could not hope to successfully drive with but a scant supply of ammunition at hand, the ordinance wagons being with Wheeler, determined to retrace his steps. He first moved South to Fayetteville, Tenn., thence Northeast to Shelbyville, which he captured with a large supply of subsistence for men and horses besides numerous sutler’s stores, thence back East to Sparta and across the mountains via Wartburg, and regained our own lines near Greenville in East Tennessee. Having supplied himself with ammunition and some additional arms, he made preparations to attack General Gillom, who held Bull’s gap with a division of East Tennessee Federal cavalry. The night before the attack was to be made, information reached Williams that General Burbridge with a heavy force, mounted, was pushing from Eastern Kentucky toward the Confederacy’s principal salt supply at Saltville, East of Abingdon, Va. By marching day and night with out stopping except to feed horses, Williams reached Saltville about 2 o’clock A.M. on the night of about the 28th of September. Burbridge, with his raiding column, had camped some 4 miles from Saltville, the evening before. There were two siege guns mounted on a hill and one Regiment of raw, hastily organized, militia as the only protecting force. Williams placed Col. John S. Prather of the 8th Confederate in command of this Regiment of it’s militia, some of its companies were in command of officers from the same regiment, and one company had for its commander Private Marcus McElderry of the writer’s own company. The Kentucky Brigade was placed on the left wing, the militia and all of Robertson’s Brigade on the right, except the 8th Confederate, which was held mounted and in command of the writer on the main approach to the works and in support of the artillery. Soon after sunrise on the 28th, the enemy began feeling our position and by 10 A. M. the battle was general all along our right and center. Our troops were all dismounted, except as indicated, the 10th Confederate, under either Major Rudolph or Captain Vanson, holding our extreme right. The main attack, which was several times repeated during the day, was made on our right and center, some of the attacking force being a brigade of negroes enlisted largely in Kentucky. Failing to break our lines by repeated charges of his dismounted men, as the day was past the meridian, Burbridge thought to pierce our left center by a mounted cavalry charge, and for that purpose assembled a finely mounted regiment of white troopers who approached our lines in fine array. The Confederates holding their fire until they had quickened their approach into a sweeping charge, when the gallant Kentuckians who had been lying prone upon the ground and partly behind fences, rose up and poured a volley into them at close range, causing their column to stagger, reel and then the 8th Confederate went dashing down upon them, but they did not wait but fled in confusion, followed by the parting compliments of the Kentuckians rifles and the shells from our artillery which was well served under the immediate direction of General Williams. Night soon came on and we held the Salt works. The enemy retreated during the night, but had to make a wide detour around a range of mountains, so that on the second night after the battle they encamped but a few miles from Saltville with a mountain range intervening. On the day after the battle, Vaughn’s Brigade came into the neighborhood, and General John C. Breckenridge, the Commander of that Department, having arrived on the ground, a plan was devised to surround Burbridge and force him to surrender. Vaughn’s forces were to make a detour to the Westward and be posted on Burbridge’s line of retreat while Williams, by a night march over the mountain by a cow trail, with his forces, was to fall upon Burbridge’s camp at daylight. We crossed that mountain in the darkness on foot, each man leading his horse and holding the tail of the horse in front of him. We debouched into the valley at early dawn just in time to see Burbridge’s rear-guard scampering away from their camp. The detour of Vaughn’s forces was too great to get in position before the Yankees were on the road towards Kentucky. We pursued them hotly, caught up with and fought them until they abandoned their battery of beautiful mountain howitzers, which we were careful to take charge of as trophies. We captured a number of prisoners and released one officer and a few men they had captured on our skirmish line early in the main battle. After the pursuit ended, General Williams was placed under arrest, Robertson was put in command of the Division, and Williams was afterwards court-martialed for disobedience of orders in this campaign. I do not know the result, but at all events he did not afterwards command the Kentucky Brigade, but it was by reason of his presence in East Tennessee at the time, his terrible forced march and his admirable generalship in command of all the forces engaged in the battle for the Salt works, that this inestimable asset of the Confederacy was saved until the closing hours of its life.
On the 1st of October snow fell upon us at Abingdon, Va. As General Robertson led us back to the main army by way of Asheville, N.C., Greenville, S.C., and thence across Georgia to rejoin Hood at Gadsden while on his fatal move towards Franklin and Nashville. Wheeler’s brilliant raid did not retard Sherman’s operations in the least, but did give much work to his pioneers in rebuilding railroads supposed to have been destroyed, and in teaching the Federal officers how much an effective force of from 10,000 to 20,000 well mounted soldiers, led by competent officers, could accomplish in an enemy’s rear.
All accomplished by the raid did not compensate the Confederacy for the great loss sustained by the death of General John S. Kelley, to say nothing of the misfortunes sustained by the main army in the temporary loss of its "eyes and ears".
At Gadsden, General Anderson, having recovered from his wound at Newman, reported for duty and took command of his Brigade. The 8th Confederate was sent with other commands into Calhoun and Talladega counties, Alabama, to recruit their ranks and freshen their jaded horses. On the long raid begun on August 10th, the men had not time given to even wash their clothing and had no change with them. From the time they started from Covington, they had ridden day and night with never more that a few hours rest in each 24, had lived largely on roasting ears hurriedly cooked in bivouac fires, and eaten as they rode. From exhaustion, from scant food and want of sleep and rest, men toppled from their horses as they marched along on gaunt and often shoeless horses. In East Tennessee they were fired upon from hill-tops and impenetrable jungles by hostile bushwhackers, while sons were captured and never heard from again. These conditions lasted from the time we struck the hills of extreme North Georgia until we approached the more hospitable lines of Virginia and had fought at Saltville for the integrity of her soil. The long ride in filthy and vermin infested clothing produced an epidemic of boils among the officers and men, while many of their horses had to be abandoned from exhaustion or want of shoes, with no means of being replaced except by captures from the enemy or impressment from citizens. In their distressful physical condition, some of the men abandoned their arms in order to lighten their burdens, while some of the wounded were transported two hundred miles in such vehicles as their devoted comrades could seize, rather than leave them to the tender mercies of the murderous bush-whackers. Even after our cavalry had been gathered back into friendly and hospitable lines, discipline had been so shaken that some of our own forces had lost respect for the rights of property even among friends, and abused their privileges by killing milch cows and stock hogs of farmers and in other ways depredating on the country. But many of these troopers were from distant and inaccessible states, and their government not providing for them, they argued that it was depredation, or desertion and in devotion to the cause for which they had fought and bled and suffered for three years, they scorned the latter and chose the former to meet their actual or imaginary necessities. The conditions attending the cavalry during the operations in the fall and winter of 1864 were such that they were ever in battle; desert they would not; fight they must and subsist they must. From the thoughtless, the heartless and those whom the exigencies of war were unknown, arose a cry against the men who were exposing their lives daily, if not hourly, for home, country and liberty; and this continued down to the very hour when, from utter exhaustion, they furled their banners and sullenly surrendered their arms.
General Sherman first depopulated and then, with torch and explosives, utterly destroyed Atlanta, and with 65,000 splendidly armed and equipped men started on his "March to the Sea". November 15th he rode out of Atlanta behind his caravan of wagons fifteen miles long. Five thousand of his force were cavalry under Major General Judson Kilpatrick, specially selected for the march. Orders from the commander were to live upon the county. Sherman says he destroyed ruthlessly on his march at least one million dollars of property more than his army could consume or carry off.
General Anderson’s Brigade was part of the force of 4,000 cavalry with which Wheeler hung upon the flanks and rear, and at times the front of Sherman’s host. Wheeler’s was the only opposition offered by the Confederate authorities to this devastating march. General Hood had marched all that was left of the Army of Tennessee, away into Tennessee. Anderson’s Brigade was a portion of Wheeler’s forces that hung on Sherman’s right flank and opposed to Osterhous’ corps, with which it had daily encounters from the neighborhood of Macon, Georgia, and with the portion of our cavalry that opposed, in the trenches, the entrance of Sherman’s forces into the city of Savannah; and was with the remnant under General Hardee had gathered for its defense, when he retired across the Savannah River on the pontoon bridge into South Carolina.
Wheeler’s heaviest and most desperate fighting was in the three engagements had in the vicinity of Waynesboro, Ga., some 30 miles South of Augusta, on the road to Savannah. At that point, Sherman diverted Kilpatrick and a corps of infantry to march upon Augusta to destroy the Confederate arsenal there, the cotton mills, the thousands of bales of cotton and, most important of all, the long bridge over the Savannah. Wheeler divided his forces, some holding the front on the Carolina side, the remainder taking position on the Georgia side of the river. Wheeler’s headquarters were established near Hardeeville in Beaufort District, S. C. Anderson’s Brigade occupying the Smith rice plantations across the river from Savannah, keeping up a line of picket post at a number of landing places on the river. About the first week in February 1865, Sherman laid his pontoons and began his march Northward through South Carolina, spreading fire, destruction and death as he moved. Wheeler’s cavalry was about all that had the semblance of organized force left to oppose him. This was done by destroying bridges, encountering his marauding host on each of the many roads, assailing him on his flanks at every opportunity, limiting the breath of the devastation by picking up or driving back on their main body, his countless foraging parties. Scarcely had Sherman’s army set foot on South Carolina soil when the location of his forces and the routes by which they were advancing could be easily located by the columns of smoke arising from burning dwellings, barns and mills – pillars of smoke by day, pillars of lurid flames by night. By the 10th of February, this besom of destruction had crossed the Edisto River confronted by Wheeler’s troopers near Branchville on the line of railroad leading from Augusta, Ga., to Charleston. On that day, Wheeler learned that Sherman had detached practically all his cavalry under General Judson Kilpatrick to march Westward by way of Aiken and Graniteville to seize and destroy Augusta. Gathering a large portion of his cavalry hastily together, by an all night march and fording both forks of the Edisto, Wheeler reached Aiken just at daybreak on February 11th. Kilpatrick had approached to within three miles of the town, encamped and thrown up entrenchments the evening before. Wheeler posted his forces hastily in the from of a V, with the town between their two arms. He threw forward a small regiment Eastward of the town and towards the enemy, with instructions to make as stout a resistance to the enemy’s advance without being enveloped, and when near the town on their retreat, to break into precipitate fight. The ruse worked like a charm, and it was not long until the firing in front indicated that the enemy was rapidly pressing back our decoy regiment. Soon our little regiment came flying back in great disorder, with the enemy in serried columns in hot pursuit. Our decoys, as instructed, fled wildly through the main street of the town. Then the order was given and from the base of the V, a counter-charge was made by the 8th Confederate on one street and 8th Texas on another parallel to it; at the same time, the two wings of the Confederate forces closed in on the enemy’s flanks. The enemy being excellently armed with Spencer repeating carbines, made a stubborn resistance, but seeing that they were being crushed, extricated themselves as best they could and were soon in full flight, which continued until they reached their entrenchments of the night before. The forces were not far from being equal in numbers in this engagement, and it was on account of their superior arms that prevented the practical destruction of the flower of Sherman’s cavalry in this well fought engagement. We captured a large number of prisoners, killed and wounded many of the "blue-coats", but lost some of our best men killed, and quite a number wounded.
The great straits under which the Confederacy was then contending, and the natural confusion resulting in its final collapse some two months later, resulted in but small notice being taken of this day’s battle, which was really one of the most notable and hardly contested purely cavalry engagements of the war, resulting in the defeat for the fourth time, of most determined efforts on Sherman’s part of capturing the city of Augusta, its arsenal, so vital to the Confederacy, with its stores of subsistence, its cotton and especially its cotton mills. Each of these four attempts had been frustrated by the dogged and persistent fighting of Wheeler’s cavalry, unaided by any other arm or force of the Confederacy. Yet even at this very time, many of those who had known little of the ravages and horrors of the war except from hearsay, were making loud complaints because Wheeler’s men from the exigencies of the case were compelled to subsist themselves and their horses as best they could out of the cribs and barns of the people for whom they were fighting, and suffering with a gallantry and heroic devotion as sublime as when they flashed their maiden words, four years before, in repelling the insolent invader of their homes and firesides.
Yet, just at this time and evidently for political reasons, the authorities at Richmond promoted Major General Wade Hampton, commanding cavalry in the army of Northern Virginia, to be Lieutenant General and, without a force of his own save Brigadier General K. C. Butler’s small Brigade of Cavalry, placed him in command of all the cavalry operating in South Carolina. The reason assigned for this promotion over Wheeler would have come with better grace had it been true, but it was not, and the promoting authorities knew or should have known that Wheeler ranked Hampton as a Major General by about six months in date of commission. Wheeler, however, did not complain and exerted his authority in suppressing a "Round Robin" from a large number of his officers and men who had served under him since July 1862, and on the battlefields of seven states, to which number the eighth was soon to be added.
From the well contested field of Aiken, after a few hours of rest for men and horses, Wheeler struck Northward to Lexington District, South Carolina, where he again encountered Sherman’s main army, easily found by the smoke of burning buildings, covering a front of 20 miles. In striking Sherman’s left flank we had numerous and almost continuous encounters, in the too great prolonging of one which, Allen’s Division, in which Anderson’s Brigade was included, came very near being hopelessly enveloped by Sherman’s infantry, but fortunately the peril was observed barely in time to enable us by a bold charge to cut our way through the cordon that encircled us. As we were gradually falling back up the Congaree in the direction of Columbia, but still on the Lexington side of the river, Captain Joel W. Matthews, commanding Co. H. of the 8th Confederate, while riding ahead with General Anderson and staff, was shot by a volley delivered from ambuscade, while several horses were also killed and other officers and men wounded. The 8th Confederate, being immediately behind General Anderson, at once charged the ambushing party, capturing some and chasing the remainder back to safety within their infantry lines. An ambulance was improvised for the occasion and Captain Matthews, wounded to his death, was borne on towards Columbia.
Wheeler crossed the Sooluda and Broad rivers just above the Columbia with his cavalry, burning the bridges behind him. Captain Matthews died that night, and the next day the writer, with his squadron, was detailed as his funeral escort. Approaching the cemetery with the squadron mounted, the enemy in plain view across the Congaree opened up on us with a rapid fire of shells. We dismounted and led our horses to the shelter of some buildings and then returned on foot and consigned the gallant young Mississippian to a soldier’s grave, while shells from the enemy’s artillery were alternately fired at the burial party and the handsome marble capitol of Palmetto State. They did us no harm, but the vandal scars are yet visible on the cornice, frieze and walls of that harmless State House.
The Brigade of General Anderson was the rear-guard on the evacuation of Columbia, and rounded up quite a number of stragglers who were found looting stores and commissaries in the city, and as we retired from the city while the process of surrender was in progress, the city certainly was not burning, the only fires started being a warehouse where were stored a large lot of supplies that it was deemed proper not to suffer to fall into the hands of the enemy. This warehouse was not in the remotest connected with the main business portion or the residence section of the city.
General Hampton with his escort followed immediately behind us. We bivouaced several miles from the city about dark. Within an hour after sunset the heavens were lighted up by the blazing city, one of the most beautiful on the continent. So general was the conflagration that our camps several miles away were so well lighted by the fires of the doomed city that a pin on the ground could have been readily seen. From the many mansions whose consuming fires we had been seeing from Savannah Northward marking the vandals invasion, no one in our forces was surprised at the illumination furnished by the fires consuming Columbia. Sherman had said that, "War is Hell", and he had simply usurped the functions of his Satanic Majesty, and organized it on Earth for his own delectation, and the gratification of a malignant heart.
General Wade Hampton took command of all the cavalry and a meeting between him and General Wheeler took place near Blackstock, when he had the gallantry to tell General Wheeler to operate his forces according to his own best judgment. The pillars of smoke by day and the pillars of fire by night still marked the more than twenty mile front of the invader until it reached the North Carolina line, and then in great measure ceased for lack of mansions to burn or from a glutted appetite for fire. In charging into and driving the enemy’s marauding cavalry from their camps before leaving South Carolina, the crockery, table ware and even the clothing of women and infants, looted from unprotected and destroyed homes, were found scattered around and abandoned in hasty flight from a mere handful of men in arms offering them honorable battle.
On entering North Carolina, Sherman moved his forces Eastward through Anson, Richmond, Cumberland and Hornet Counties towards Goldsboro, on the river Neuse. In the meantime, General Robert E. Lee had been Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Army and at once recalled General Joseph E. Johnston to the command of the shattered remnant of that splendid army of 45,000 men, from whose command he had been removed in the previous July, to quiet the clamors of unsacred politicians or as a result of personal pride and pique. This remnant had been brought by rail in part to Augusta and then carried by overland marches into North Carolina, and was now assembling South of Raleigh. Still hanging close on to Sherman’s front and flanks, Wheeler’s troopers, now augmented by General M. C. Butler’s Brigade from the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 10th of March attacked at dawn the cavalry camp of General Kilpatrick, captured a large number of his troops, the General’s saddle horse and concubine, and released some 600 foot-sore Confederates that had been picked up from General Hardee’s forces that had moved Northward from Charleston. Kilpatrick’s cavalry were easily discomfited in this engagement, veterans though they were, but a quagmire prevented Hume’s Division of Confederates from reaching the enemy, and the infantry camp of the Federals adjoining that of their cavalry furnished a force that compelled the Confederates to withdraw, but they brought safely away their prisoners and released comrades in arms. Our losses in officers was especially severe, some brigades losing nearly all their field officers by wounds inflicted by the rescuing Federal infantry. At Fayetteville, General Anderson of Allen’s Division was again severely wounded while covering our retreat through that town. After this, his brigade was commanded by some Colonel up to the time of the surrender. At Averysboro, a sharp conflict took place between Hardee’s infantry supported by a portion of Wheeler’s cavalry.
On the 19th, 20th, and 21st of March 1865, was fought the hard contested and sanguinary battle of Bentonville. General Johnston, having gathered the small remnant of his own splendid army of Tennessee, boldly took position on the West Bank of the Neuse River at the hamlet of Bentonville on Sherman’s line of march towards Goldsboro. His line of battle was crescent shaped, each wing resting on the river with but a single bridge crossing the unfordable stream in his rear. Before the whole line could be entrenched, the enemy attacked with great vigor, only to meet successive repulses. While the battle was progressing on the 19th and 20th, Wheeler’s cavalry was harassing by repeated attacks the approaching columns of the enemy as they were being hurried forward to swell the numbers of the attacking enemy. On the 21st, Wheeler brought all his cavalry to Johnston’s battle line as the infantry were too few in number to man the entire line. Our cavalry were almost all dismounted and placed in the entrenchments of the left wing. Anderson’s Brigade manned the extreme left entrenchments, but there was a space extending from its left to the river that was not entrenched and was occupied by some cavalry from the Army of Northern Virginia. A portion of Blair’s 17th Corps attacked with great vigor the entrenchments occupied by the dismounted cavalry but without success, being repulsed repeatedly. Just as the last of these repulses was suffered, Mower’s Division of Blair’s Corps was hurled against the cavalry occupying the open woods between the Confederate breastworks and the river. The cavalry line was driven back in confusion towards the only bridge in Johnston’s rear, closely followed by the double line of Mower’s infantry. General Hardee, with his staff close to the entrenched line of our cavalry, seeing the movement of the enemy and their near approach to the bridge, hastily called up the 8th and 11th Texas and a portion of the 4th Tennessee cavalry that was standing to horse in reserve, and directed them to charge the rapidly advancing enemy, his own son going with the Texans as a volunteer, and at the same time ordered up Cummins’ remnant of a brigade of infantry, not exceeding 500 in line. The Texans moved to the Eastward at a gallop some 300 yards so as to get in the immediate front of the enemy, then formed line to the right and in an impetuous charge, fell upon the enemy with pistols and sabres. Mower’s men stopped, but before they could fix bayonets, the cavalry were riding them down. Then the 8th Confederate from behind the entrenchments made a quick move to their left, struck the flank of Mower’s Division, and the enemy’s whole line in open woods gave way and beat a hasty retreat, with a parting volley from Cummins’ men who came up at a double-quick. The charge of the Texas and Tennessee horsemen upon the Federal infantry was one of the most brilliant ever witnessed though it was costly, as many of these gallant troopers were wounded, some killed, and among the Confederate dead was the gallant young son of General Hardee. The 8th Confederate captured a number of prisoners, many of whom were too fresh from Germany to speak or understand English.
The little foot-sore, battle-scarred remnant of the once indomitable Army of Tennessee, under the eye and guiding genius of their much loved Joseph Eggleston Johnston, in the three days battle at Bentonville fought with enthusiastic willingness and performed prodigies of valor as notable as any that marked a battlefield of the Confederacy during its existence. On the afternoon of the 20th March, General Edmund W. Pettus of Alabama, in a smoke-begrimed roundabout, his sword in his right hand, his bridle reins and a half plug of tobacco in his left, the juice of the weed trickling from each corner of his mouth, led his heroic Brigade against the enemy’s breastworks, broke their lines, captured a battery at close quarters and held his position until nightfall. Two companies of the 20th Alabama had penetrated the enemy’s lines so far that the enemy closed in behind them, preventing their return, and they closed ranks and, by a night, march made a detour of 20 miles and returned to their own lines late the next day. On the morning of the 21st of March, General Johnston withdrew his army across the Neuse safely, the cavalry covering the movement in the face of overwhelming odds. General Johnston stood by the roadside and superintended the withdrawal. As the leading troops caught sight of their chieftain they greeted him with a shout, but by his order it was at once suppressed, and the order "no shouting" was passed down the line. The enemy was in their entrenchments and in hearing. Everything was brought off except the battery captured by Pettus’ Brigade, which could not be brought through the swamp behind which it had been posted when captured. Sherman’s army passed on to Goldsboro, where it remained in communication with the Federal fleet until early in April.
Johnston took post at Smithfield with his cavalry thrown well out towards Goldsboro busily engaged in suppressing the marauding parties sent out by the enemy and watching the enemy’s movements. Sherman having met and conferred with Grant near Petersburg, returned to his army and early in April Grant’s army began its movement to crush or drive Lee’s army from the lines in front of Richmond and Petersburg. At the same time and by concerted movement, Sherman advanced from Goldsboro on Johnston at Smithfield. Johnston with his little army fell slowly back through Raleigh in the direction of Greensboro, his cavalry covering the movement and retarding, as much as possible, the enemy’s advance.
Kilpatrick entered Raleigh as Wheeler, bringing up the rear of the army, marched out. About April 10th, Kilpatrick threw forward a strong force to push Wheeler. Allen’s Alabamians were faced about and ordered to charge the foe. The action was vigorously taken and the enemy driven, with loss in officers and men killed and captured. The last cannon shot fired by Sherman at Johnston’s forces was late in the afternoon of that day, and just after Crew’s Georgia Brigade had hurled back Kilpatrick’s advance. The enemy had placed a piece of artillery on a hill overlooking an open valley some half mile wide in which Crews had made his charge. General Allen and staff were clustered together at the edge of the wood on an opposite hill. The writer’s regiment being close at hand, he had moved up near to where General Allen and staff were located and was exchanging greetings with an old schoolmate and county man belonging to the 51st Alabama. A shot from the enemy’s gun aimed at General Allen and staff, fell a few yards short of the target, but the shell bursting gave quite a number of us a copious sprinkling of dust and dirt but did no other harm. No other shot was fired as the movement of one of Crews’ regiments caused the gun to limber up and get away. During that night General Wheeler withdrew his forces to near Chapel Hill, formed his lines and awaited events. On the morning of the 11th, our pickets picked up two Confederate soldiers who said that General Lee had surrendered. Their story was not believed until they exhibited their paroles. On this day negotiations were opened between Johnston and Sherman looking to a surrender of the Army of Tennessee. This was not finally concluded until the 26th of April, the flags of truce in the meantime passing through the advance line occupied by the 8th Confederate with the other regiments of Anderson’s Brigade. This Brigade retained its organization to the last, amidst the demoralization and confusion attending the negotiations pending for so many days between the Generals of the opposing armies. Many of Wheeler’s Cavalry, under the inspiration of the General himself, refused to stay until the surrender could be consummated, and withdrew in greater or less bodies. The 8th Confederate was on duty and on the line during all this but its discipline of nearly four years was still with it, and to it were issued the last of the paroles given on the field.
The great drama was ended and the curtain rung down, so far as the battle with arms was concerned, to be followed by one, in many respects, of equal intensity and of longer duration for civil existence on native soil.
All was lost save honor, which did not fail to abide with every surviving true Confederate soldier.
The Army of Tennessee, "like the dew on the mountain", at once dissolved, the officers and men leaving, generally in small squads, seeking home, as far as possible by the less frequented roads in order to better find subsistence by the way; the infantry on foot, and by rail wherever possible, the cavalry and artillerists, by terms of surrender reserving their horses, mounted.
The writer, having had his last and best mount, of a dozen or more ridden during the four years, killed at Bentonville, and being on the horse of a wounded comrade which had to be sent to his home, hurried off, without waiting for a parole, to the brigade quartermaster to secure a mule. He refused under the plea that he had orders from General Anderson to drive his teams to Savannah. He was told that General Anderson (who, by the way, was absent wounded) and his orders were functus officios, and, vi et armis. Some comrades soon had their Captain perched on top of a very tall, very thin but youthful mule. Other dismounted men of the regiment were in like manner provided with mules, to carry them to their distant and devastated homes, from at least two six-mule teams. Those who were present of my own company were each given a silver dollar by another quarter-master, and all hiked homeward, sad but not disheartened, overwhelmed but not cast down, paupers in this world’s goods but millionaires in experience, carefully wrapped in a "wallet" of nil desperandum.
Of the regiment, at the surrender in North Carolina, there were present for duty about 250 men, rank and file, including the Lieut. Colonel, two captains and some dozen lieutenants, while there were about 100 with Colonel Wade in Mississippi who were comprehended in the surrender, about the 10th of May, of General Taylor’s Department.
Of the losses of the regiment by the casualties of nearly four years service, in the absence of official data, it is impossible to speak with accuracy, but, estimating as nearly as possible from data in hand, of those suffered by one company, fifty per cent would be a low approximation.
The regiment was made up of the early volunteers, augmented from time to time by some who were enrolled in it under the influence of the Conscript Act of 1862, but its recruits were largely made up of very young men who had not attained military age, but enthusiastic volunteers who soon developed into superb troopers, not a few of whom yielded their young lives on their Southland’s altar among the last of its precious sacrifices. Made up of such material desertions were consequently rare – only one from Company "A" and he a substitute and a bastard.
Three of the regiment’s Captains were killed in battle, while all others, perhaps save one, had scars for a testimonial that they had met the enemy while following Wheeler’s black plume. It is impossible now, after diligent search, to give the names of all the gallant lieutenants who met the "grim reaper" in the thick of the fray, but Staples of Co. B., Winslow of G. and Wallace of I. are now vividly recalled. Company A, as an organization, was handicapped from the first by the high order of its membership. Before it had completed one year’s service and thence on, fully one fourth of its roster was detached, or on detail for, special duty of some kind. Two of its lieutenants – Jasper N. Wade and Belton O. Nabors were special favorites of Brigade, Division and Corps Commanders for perilous scouting service. It furnished two surgeons and all the buglers the regiment ever had. It supplied the regiment with a quarter-master and commissary sergeant, had clerks at brigade and division headquarters, while blacksmiths, couriers and even expert teamsters were drawn from its ranks for regimental or brigade service.
The regiment, while on the last and most exhausting of its many raids – within the enemy’s lines from August 10th to the last of September, 1864 – lost a number of its devoted troopers whose end was never known; murdered, in all likelihood by the bushwhackers of East Tennessee. Having no tents after Shiloh for officers or men, save the few "flys" that were captured from the enemy, the consequent exposure brought disease and death to many, while fully 75 per cent of those captured died miserably in northern prisons. After the Murfreesboro campaign, the regiment had but two field officers; the Colonel being in command of brigade or on duty in another department. Its Major never could learn tactics sufficient to move the regiment, while in line, to the front, flank or rear by a proper command; but being a born woodsman and a fearless soldier, was conveniently kept busy leading scouts. Hence the command devolved on its intrepid Lieut. Colonel, John S. Prather, or, in his absence, on one of its captains.
In this connection, digression is made to pay feeble tribute to the 10th Confederate Cavalry Regiment, composed of four companies of Georgians and six of Alabamians. Armed with Enfield rifles, it generally fought in the open field. Lieut. Colonel M. M. Slaughter, of Talladega, had the misfortune to attract bullets in almost every fight he entered and as a result was generally disabled from wounds, but with its superb Major John B. Rudolph, of Lowndes, or its no less accomplished Captain Vason or Holt in command, it could be as safely relied on to do its full duty as Caesar’s indomitable tenth legion.
It was my earnest desire before attempting to write this outline history of a regiment so fully identified from beginning to end with the operations and fortunes of the Army of Tennessee, to procure and append full muster rolls of each and all of its ten splendid companies, in order that the name at least of those who had followed its flag might be somewhere preserved to answer the inquiries of those coming after.
But alas! Through the lapse of nearly a half century of time, the dispersion of the survivors and the inroads of the "grim reaper", nearly three years of correspondence, with numerous interviews and the searching of records, have resulted in utter failure to obtain a complete roll of the entire membership of a single company aside from my own.
Out of the respect to and strong attachment for the noble band which selected me to share with them their hardships, privations and perils as their Captain, in the full enjoyment of their confidence, esteem and respect through nearly four years of close association, I herewith close the narrative with a muster roll of Company "A", 8th Confederate Cavalry [available via email.]
Foot Notes: • Official Records] • Friday, the day Rosecrans put his entire army in motion to fight General Bragg • For verification of dates here given see Wheeler’s report and the Enemy’s Report, Official Records Series 1, Vol. XX, Part 1, pp. 958, 980-81 et al.