Memoir Chapter 27

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 27 – GOING HOME

After receiving our paroles and three wagons with four mules for each wagon to transport us to the Miss. river, as it was expected that the company would remain together until we arrived at the river and then turn our teams over to the proper authority and get transportation on boat to our homes in Mo. But just before leaving a proclamation issued by the acting Gov. of Mo. forbiding under penalty of arrest any MO. Confederate soldier returning to the State, was read to us, which made most of us change our plans and conclude not to go home until further notice. But agreed to divide ourselves into three squads, each squad to take a wagon and four mules and travel in the durection of the Mississippi river as far as they wished and finally to dispose of their teams and wagons, as they thought best.

Our Confederate Government had some silver coin in Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s keeping which was divided among his soldiers before disbanding, and we privates & officers so far as I know received $7.50 apiece. Each squad loaded their wagon on the morning of May, the 4th, and before seperating forever as a military body, that had stood together for four years in the face of overpowering numbers and every other disadvantage for independence as we saw, and understood the constitution.

I took the name and address of several of my comrades, to wit, W. Ward Child, James B. Hill, J.M. Gambel. T.W. Johnson, S.H. Young, John Hays, Lieut. S. Kanard, Lieut. Lawrence Murphy, F. Michan, all of whom gave their post office address as St. Louis, Mo. S.B. Dunlap, De Kalb, Mo., Fred Garlicks, St Joseph, MO. James Craddock, Rolla, George Oster, Potosia, John and Ollover Dickerson, Booneville, William F. Moss, Brunswick, Albert Walster, Fourche Arenault, John Tyler, Louisville Ky, Capt. A.W. Harris, St Joseph, MO. O.M. Baker, Millersburg, Ky, Charles Stell, New Brunswick, N.J. O.C. Hall, all of Missouri except Tyler, Stell, and Baker. After this act of tender affection I walked out to the Battery in park, and threw myself on my gun, that I had loved and gave it a long farewell embrace, and kissed it with tears in my eyes, a last farewell, walked away and never looked back at it again. A few goodbyes with warm hand shakes, and we sadly moved out of camp, and our soldier life was at an end.

There was a beautiful Quaker girl living near our camp, Miss. Emmer, I met her soon after arriving in camp, we saw each other often every day in passoing her home, I stopped to say good bye. She met me just outside of her yard gate, and with tears in her beautiful large dark eyes, asked me not to go away, and leave her. I told her that I had nothing and had to go out into the world and make my living, and thoughtlessly asked her if she would go with me. She said that she would. I explained to her in as cheerful a manner as possible, the impossibility of such a thing as I was a wanderer without a home, and that I might come that way again. She held twenty-five cents in silver in her hand and insisted that I should receive it as a present from her, which I did with thanks. My comrades were close by waiting on me, and I bade her good bye, and left her weeping. I was so sorry, that she, an innocent unsophisticated country girl should think so much of a poor destitute soldier boy. I trust that I was soon forgotten, and that she was happily mated to some pure true, faithful man, that would delight to make her happy. She well merited such a companion.

After several days march, two of our boys found a job, and wanted to stop and leave us. They sold out their interest in the wagon and team to me for five dollars, bid us goodbye and dropped out. In a few days I bought the undivided interest of another one who found a job, and this thing continued until there was only four of us left, and we four owned the property according to the law we had agreed upon, when the company made the division at Greenaboro, N.C. We kept a steady move on us from the latter place, on through S.C. and into Ga. starting early and marching late, and when we arrived at Matison, Ga. we concluded to make a hault and sell our wagon and teams as we could take the train at that place to Atlanta, and from ther by rail most of the way to Vicksburg, Miss. We had not met with any Federal authorities since leaving Greensboro, and were somewhat afraid to do so, on account of our unrecorded title to our property. So we went into camp in a grove near town, and divided ourselves into four squads to look for a purchaser, having agreed to take two hundred dollars for our outfit, about one sixth of its value. We knew it would be almost impossible to get its value as the people had but little gold and silver and no greenbacks. It would have been an evidence of treason to have found greenbacks in the hands of a Southern man at that time. In about three hours, one of our squads, consisting of Albert Walster only, marched into camp with a purchaser. He was a tall slim man very gentle, with business like manners. The property was all right and the bargain made him happy, even though he claimed to be light financially, and would have to ask until night to get up that much coin, as Confederate money at that time was far below par. Time was given and long before daylight the next morning he was in camp with the two hundred dollars in silver coin. We counted the money by the light of our camp fire, divided it into four parts according to stock. My four shares of stock amounted to forty dollars, others received more, some less. We made coffee, cooked breakfast and ate our last meal together, as comrades in our soldier way. After breakfast we gathered up every thing as usual packed them in the wagon, our blankets and all, and told our purchaser of the wagon and team that he might have all of our house-hold furniture, including our bedding, which we warranted to be clean and all right, if he would accept of our donation, which he did, being too much of a Southern gentleman to refuse. He drove off looking quite proud of his splendid outfit, which put him in a position to make a crop. We went down to the depot and learned that the train for Atlanta would not be in until evening. We rested until the train pulled in with a small squad of U.S. soldiers aboard, which got off at Madison, for what purpose I know not. After the soldiers were unloaded, we four got aboard, showed our paroles to the conductor and were allowed transpotation to Atlanta free. I say Atlanta, we were put off about three o’clock P.M. on May 24th, in a vacant place, called Atlanta. I looked around me for the beautiful Gate City, that I had left less than nine months before. Where is the depot? The beautiful blocks of business houses? The palacial homes? And still I asked myself, with pain and sorrow in my soul, and in a spirit that demands justice, where are the less pretentious homes of the laboring classes? Homes that months and years of daily toil, of the husband and father, and untold labor and sacrifice day and night, of the wife and mother, to own? They are not to be seen, no, not a house left in the Gate City, of some fifteen or twenty thousand inhabitants, except one brick building standing in a block to itself, marked in large bronze letters, First National Bank. It was a fire proof building. Alexander H. Stevens in his history of the United States, including the Civil war, says on page 822, “In the meantime Sherman after destroying and burning Atlanta, etc.” President Jefferson Davis in his Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, page 570, says, in speaking of Gen. Sherman, “Abandoning Atlanta, after having first utterly distroyed that city by fire, not a single house was spared, not even a church. Similar acts of vandalism marked the progress of the Federal Army at Rome, Kingston, Acworth, Marietta, and every town and village along its route, thus carrying out General Sherman’s order to enforce a devastation more or less relentless.” I knew as I looked upon the ruins of that once beautiful city, as well as the world knows today, that Gen. Sherman as well as the men that applied the torch, was responsible for that inexcusible, uncivilized and inhuman act of vandalism. Many other acts of a like nature are justly chargeable to him, and his soldiers, aand I remember as I stood in the midst of the ruins of those thousands of beautiful and precious homes, that Gen. Sherman, was not the only noted Federal officer, that was carrying on alike merciless, inhuman warfare, against a people, to say the least were their equals in every respect. These acts showed a spirit of deep rooted vindictiveness against the Southern people, unknown of any civilized people in history, and it is hardly possible, will ever be known again while time shall last. Think of the so called Christian Generals commanding socalled Christian armies, and representing socalled Christian people, some what proud and boastful of their culture and refinements, thrusting from their homes forever thousands of innocent, helpless women and children, loving and serving the same living Triune God, the Maker and Ruler of all things, and equally as cultutred and refined and then applying the torch to those homes, that all, that those pure innocent Christian wive and mothers possessed on earth in property, including fine libraries, filled with choicest works of the best writers of the world might be licked up in flame and smoke. And then remember that those thousands of weeping wives and mothers and children, and unprotected maidens, all as pure and refined and cultured, as any like body of women, that ever breathed the breath of life, were thrust upon a barren destitute community, that had given up everything, to the point of starvation, to feed and clothe their brave suffering, hungry army, then the most uncultured mind and heart can understand to some extent, the indescribable suffering and sorrow and anguish of mothers, too overpowering to be decribed by a finite mind, caused by the cries of their unprotected helpless daughters and hungry nmaked little ones. A large percentage of their husbands and fathers, filled soldier graves, the remainder were on the firing line unable to render them any assistance. If the reader could follow to the grave the furutre lives of those widows and orphans, they would have an awful story of sorrow and misery, and in some cases of shame, worse than death to record. All caused by a few military and political leaders, that represented and ruled the Northern people. And yet after more than forty seven years, have rolled by, you cannot find a representative public man or woman, in the North, who will dare stand up and denounce these uncivilized acts of vandalism and arson, but to the contrary, they rejoice to know, that they are still afflicting and humiliating the same people they have tried so hard to destroy, by drawing part of their living about $54,000,000 from the Southern people at this date about 1900 in way of pensions. Therefore doing the unmanly thing of punishing for a whole long lifetime, a brave generous manly foe, for daring to defend his own home and state from a destructive merciless foe. As I turned away from those blackened ruins, and walked towards the Atlanta cemetary, to search out and look upon the graves of my friends Kirkpatrick and Wharton, Ellis and others, the cries of those homeless women and children seemed to ring in my ears, and as I stood at the graves of Kirkpatrick and Wharton, and looked out upon the thousands of other comrades buried there, and remembered that their blood was poured out to prevent those cries and that thousands of other brave Southern men, myself the least of all among them, offered their lives at the same time, to hold back the destroying hand, but his overpowering numbers, given every advantage after Gen. Johnston was removed, by Gen. Hood’s poor generalship. proved too great an obsticle to hold back by our little army. So the cause of those peircing cries, do not rest upon the Southern soldiery. The fence around the cemetary was gone, as well as every fence within the corporation limits, of the city, a more complete job, was never known, It is a great pitty that any brave true man will have to confess, that he was a soldier under Sherman in the Georgia campaign, and in the march through Georgia. Comrade Albert Walster and I took the train the next day for Forsythe, Ga. and spent two days with Rev. haygood’s family and friends and would have stayed longer, but Walster courted the orphan girl, Miss. Foster and to keep them out of trouble, laft with him immediately, for Macon, and then to Columbus, and from there to Montgomery, Ala. Part of the way to Montgomery we traveled by R.R., the other half we walked, as the bridges were all destroyed by Wilson’s cavalry. The train was greeted at every station by hundreds of negroes, many of them had baskets full of wild plums to sell. When within thirty miles of Montgomery, we slept on the gallery of a house, occupied by negroes. I took off my shoes and placed them under a small pair of saddle bags in which I had a change of underclothing and a new pair of shoes, I had bought them from a comrade, and lay my head on them for a pillow. I had walked all day, and was tired, so of course slept sound. When I awakened the next morning and got up to make an early start, behold my shoes were gone. Some negro had stolen them from under my head. I took the pair out of my saddle bags, put htem on, and moved away for Montgomery. I passed an infantry officer (Confederate) sitting on the roadside very tired. He had a large volumn of Gen. Hardee’s tacktics, the Southern army was drilled according to his military tacktics, and offered to give it to me, said he was too tired to carry the book any furhter. I told him that I had enough of that kind of knowledge and was looking for something better. He layed the book on a crosstie on the R.R. and left it. As we came within a mile or two of the Capital city, we saw many camps of Northern soldiers, and negroes everywhere around these camps. They had left their homes to feel free, and were living on what the soldiers would give them, and when we arrived in the city, matters were much worse. Negroes were everywhere, they seemed to be looking for something that did not exist, “liberty without work”. At a R.R. crossing near the city, my attention was attracted down the road by a cloud of dust, and a continual yelling, I soon discovered it was a squad of some fifteen negroes riding farm mules with blind bridles and some of the mules had shuck collars on them. It appeared to me as if they had made a start to the field, to do an evenings work, and had suddenly changed their minds, and made a break for liberty, carrying the planters mules with them. I tried hard to stop some of them to get information, but they saw I was a Southern soldier,and applied whip and heels to the mules, and went by in spite of my efforts to stop them, but looking down the road again, I noticed a single rider advancing under whip and yelling at every leap of the mule, I told comrade Walster, that I intended to stop that fellow or knock him off that mule. I picked up a good size stone and placed myself in the middle of the road, and commanded him to hault, but to my astonishment he did not halt, but forced his mule by me, in spite of my threats, and commands to halt. And as he passed I let fly the stone, with all the power and vengence I possessed at his head, he was expecting it and kept his big eyes upon me, and managed to duck just in time to save himself, and to save me also from a world of trouble. The blow was a death dealing one and I did it without thinking. This was the first time I had ever known negroes to disregard the commands of a white man, and this circumstance was a faint shadow or foretaste of the future days of reconstruction, when the Southern men, to preserve their manhood and liberty and white supremacy, and their pure women from crimes, worse than death, had to organize, to bring order out of chaos. We took the boat at Montgomery and went to Selma, and from their to Demopolis. Walster and I seperated at thia point, each to see friends for a few days, and never got together again. I went to the country to see my Alabama Girl, and others, at what I called my soldier home. I expected to rest for a while, but I found them crowded with refregee friends, and I remained but a night, then bid them a regretful goodbye and started for Lexington, Ky. I took the train at Demopolis, for Meridian and Vicksburg. Some two or three sick Federal soldiers, were put aboard the cars at Demopolis; they were living skelletons, and were supported by a soldier on either side. I had seen a few of our own soldiers reduced by chronic diarhea, that looked almost as bad, they could not walk. I was told that these poor sick men, came from Andersonville prison. Their condition was extremely pittiful, and it seemed like cruelty to ship those men in that condition; they were dirty and their clothes old and filthy. It would have been the greatest blessing on earth to those men, to have given them a good warm bath, with a great abundance of soap, placed clean sweet smelling gowns upon them, placed them in bed and let them rest and sleep. It would have been a heaven on earth to them, but no those poor dieing men, were sent North, pghotographed and their pictures scattered throughout the country, to excite the people against the Confederate authorities, by falsely accusing them of starving the prisoners at Andersonville. I know very well, when I looked upon those suffering sick men, that they and all others that were sick and in prison at Andersonville and other Southern prisons, were starving for better food, better than I had been living on for nearly two years. Our own sick and wounded were in the same condition, and I am sure that many a sick woman and child in the South perished for the want of proper nourishment, to say nothing about the lack of medecine, which the North ruled to be contraband of war. Arriving at Vicksburg early the next day, I immediatly took passage on a boat for Memphis, but before leaving Vicksburg, I bought a linen suit and a pair of shoes, in paying the clerk for my suit in silver coin, he took each piece and threw it up and down on the counter to see if it had the proper ring. It was the first silver he had seen for years and was not sure that it was the genuine metal. Several pieces he rejected saying it did not have the proper ring, I replaced them with others, and laughed at his undue cautiousness. I did not buy this linen suit because I especially needed it just at this time, as I had on a good Confederate suit, with brass artillery buttons on my coat or jacket, but was told by several of our men, who were strangers to me, that the Yankees had cut the brass buttons off of many of our mens coats, and they knew that I could not travel through the lines, all the way to Kentucky wearing my Confederate suit. I tole those men that I believed they had been misinformed, as I could not believe any brave Yankee soldier would do such a thing, nor allow it done, by any coward, that had not smelt gunpowder in battle, but for fear I might meet up with some cowards I bought the suit and put it in my grip, not intending to use it, until I arrived at my destination unless compelled to. At Memphis I spent one day and enjoyed the fruits of the labors of the brace true women, of that beautiful city. They had rented a large hall or rather hotel, fixed it nicely as only women can fix things, for the reception and welfare of the Southern soldiers as they passed through their city on their way home. Everything that was good to eat, was placed before us without money and without price, and those noble women seemed so happy to have this last chance to prove to the Southern veterans of a hundred battles that they were still true to the principles, for which we had suffered and freely offered our lives. Such unselfish patriotism was inspiring to us. After I had feasted until I was more than satisfied, I seated myself in an easy chair and looked out upon the throng of Southern women as they, young and old, vied with each other, to do homage to their own Southern boys. I could not but feel proud of our Memphis woman. There was a stand in the large hall loaded with New Testaments and a notice “Free to All”, “Take One’. After bidding some some of those ladies goodbye, thanking them for their free hospitality, I passed by the stand and put a New Testament in my pocket. I took passage on aboat for Cairo, Ill. on which I found comrade James O. Baker of Millersburg, Ky. And four Kentucky boys, all bound for Cairo, at which place we had to reship and take a boat to Louisville. There was a regiment of Ill. soldiers aboard going home. The lower deck was crowded with them, many lying asleep, suddenly one arouse from his nap, and found his pocket book missing, which contained every cent of money he had. He was a rather old man, as his hair was silvery, and after searchimg a few minutes in vain, he became frantic, and wept aloud like a broken hearted child, saying that he had ninety dollars in his pocket book, which he had been saving to take home, and now he had to go home without a cent. It was so bad to think, that one comrade would steal the hard earned wages of another, and I felt truly sorry for the poor man. The officers came to his aid and told him that they would all get off at Cairo within an hour, and then he would line up the troops and have every man searched, to see if his money could be found. I never heard how the search terminated, but the chances were against the poor fellow. At Cairo we Kentucky boys found out that no free transportation would be furnished us any further, notwithstanding our paroles promising free transpotation to our homes, and here was six of us, ashore at Cairo, without friends so far as we knew and all except myself, without money. I went aboard a boat, that was soon to start for Louisville, and told the clerk our situation and wanted to know what he could do for us, he told me if we would take deck passage, he would take us to Louisville, for four dollars a piece, but would not feed us. I had $20.25 in silver, and I gave the clerk $20.00 which settled for five of us, the other poor fellow made a bargain with the mate to work his way to Louisville. James O. Baker was the only one that belonged to my battery, the other names of the other boys I neglected to write in my diarly and regret that I have forgotten them. Now we were aboard a boat with a three days trip ahead of us, and nothing to eat, things looked blue, until I noticed one of the boys coming aboard with a large box upon his shoulder. I knew he had no money, and felt sure he had stolen something, and would put us all in trouble, he threw down the box in the presence of the mate and with his hands tore off the lid, and revealed to our view about fifty pounds of Yankee “hardtack” they had left over. We were all happy for this timely gift from those brave Ill. boys, whom we must call enemies no longer. We have met them in battle and can testify that they are the bravest of the brave, on their side. We now had plenty of bread and water and knew we could pull through all right. We would not ask for a place to sleep, preferring to sleep on a goods box without any covering, than to occupy a bunk on the lower deck. On the first day one of the boys went to the cook and told him he would saw his wood, if he would feed him, the bargain was made, and he would bring his nice warm meal, three times a day, and eat it with us, using much “hardtack” with it. This was brotherly love in the true sense of the word. We felt sorry indeed for our young Kentucky comraade, who had to work his way, he was before us all of the time, and Oh, my, how that unmerciful mate did work him, he seemed to take pleasure in making his do his best at all times. the poor boy was delicate and not used to such hard work. I would have preferred walking home. Sunday morning, landed at Louisville, stepped ashore, put my hand on my lips, kissed it and then put it on Kentucky’s soil. My native state. We boys shook hands told each other goodbye and seperated forever. I went immediately to the Louisville and Lexington R.R. and as I had only twenty-five cents I struck out afoot for Col Joseph Beards station, but after getting out of the city limits I met a negro, and asked him if he could tell me where I could find the home of a good Union or Northern man, he said, “They are scarce around here”, but showed me a house about one mile away from the R.R. and said, that I would find him all right. I noticed a good comfortable home, about one half a mile ahead, and I asked him if a Northern man did not live there, he said, “Oh, no sir, that is a Rebel living there”, I bid Mr. Negro goodbye, and was soon at the home of friend Rebel. It did not take me long to convince him, that I also was a Rebel, and belonged to that breed which was so hard to capture. I was invited into the house, introduced to wife, grown daughter, and son, and after making my toilet, which first included a good bath, I was in a condition to spend a good, peaceful, holy Sabbath day at at a Christian Kentucky home, where sympathy and congeniality reigned, which I had not done since I left Shelby county, in 1856. On Monday evening Mr. Whipps, which is the gentleman’s name, gave me one dollar and had his son to drive me to the depot and purchase my RR. ticket to Lexington, which was my point of destination. It did make me feel so happy and thankful, to realize that God raised up friends to help me in every time of need. I can never thank those good people enough in this life. I do hope we will meet again, if not on earth, in the life to come. I had just paid out my last dollar on my comrades and now part of it was returned to me through Mr. Whipps, my Kentucky friend, to whom God had led me. If we do all we can, to help others in need, God will take care of us. I gave my young friend Whipps a warm handshake, a sad goodbye, with a God bless him, and was off for Lexington. In passing Christianburg depot, and Bagdad places where I had been hundreds of times in my boyhood days, my mind could not but dwell upon the four years spent near those places, first of my school boy days at Christianburg, with the Fords, Ratcliffs, Farmers, Wells, Claytons, and other boys, and the old and the new brick Baptist churches, and the near by Methodist church, where I attended Sunday school, and loved to look upon the beautiful daughter of the pastor, Rev. Rand, and also another sweet girl, Miss. Lizzie, that lived near them. The old Baptist church, is where the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin in 1854, under the preaching of some eangelist, Rev. T. Daniel was then the pastor, and then God gave me repentance and faith and I used those gifts and became a child of Gid, and from that day until the present He has been with me. I was soon in Lexington, and the next day was with my Sister in Jessamine County. No Yankee soldier ever said a word to me about my Confederate uniform, or my brass buttons, I was sure that none of them would think of insulting me in that way. I have met and talked with a host of soldiers in blue since I have been paroled, and all, officers and privates, have treated me nicely. Brave men of principal will never think of doing otherwise. After spending quite a while with my Sister and her Husband, I returned to my Grandfathers, near Lexington, my Mothers Father,. He being old and his sons all in business for themselves, he prevailed on me to take full charge of his farm, and run the business to suit myself, and relieve him of the worry and vexation, connected with the management of free negro labor. I continued to carry on his farming interest for about three years, in the meantime I took a full course of study in Hollingsworth’s Commercial College. Lexington is a beautiful City, located in the Eden of America, with its churches, schools; beautiful women and fine horses. The home of the great Henry Clay and family, of the Breckinridges, Prestons, Morgans, Hursts, Beards, and a host of other great men and families that belong to this section. The old Transylvania University, the Alma Mater of os many great men, none greater than the South’s beloved Jefferson Davis, who was of the class of 1824, its history will never die, and it stands forth today, under the management of Prof. Picket, an institution of great power.


Notes

Return to Table of Contents