11, Letter on the Confiscation of Civilian Arms in Nashville
[Correspondence of the Louisville Journal.]
THE SEARCH FOR ARMS IN NASHVILLE.
Nashville, April 11, 1862.
The sword and the bayonet may subdue physical resistance, but these cannot tame the unkindled passions, nor win back the alienated affections. I therefore feel happy in being permitted to wield the weapons of thought in the great battle of public sentiment. In the arena of politics I have been an unswerving advocate of every constitutional Southern right. My prejudices and prepossessions were on that side-it was the home of my fathers. I boasted of Southern hospitality, and was proud to have descended from a noble Southern ancestry. I believed them to be zealous votaries of reason, and generous to those who honestly differed with them in opinion. I am not yet changed in my purposes nor entirely revolutionized in my opinions. Permit me to say, however, that I have been mortified and disappointed.
Our officers have been exceedingly kind and forbearing to citizens at Nashville. I have studies to win their affections; I have sought to converse with them mildly and reason with them liberally; yet I have met little else than insult and indifference. When I have bowed to them to them, they have turned from me with insulting sneers, and on meeting ladies to whom no gentleman would return an insult, I have been reputed with the epithet Yankee. Under the heading "Our Rages," a stirring article appeared in the Nashville Patriot some days since, and was copied in the Banner on the next day. In this article we were severely criticized for searching the housed in Edgefield for concealed arms. To which article I wrote a reply. The paper ceased, and we are left with the censure upon us. Permit me to assure you that the Patriot misapprehended our motives. We intended no outrage, and we, as much as the Patriot, regret the causes which impelled us to this alternative.
The news came to us in the evening, that a crowd of men had been heard to say that they intended to arm themselves on that night, and shout into a camp of cavalry close by us, and we had heard guns fired at different hours in the night for some nights previous. Our men had been openly insulated whilst quietly passing along the streets. We could but believe that this bad blood and these threats were backed by implements of human destruction. These are the circumstances, together with the earnest entreaties of officers who knew the citizens, under which Lieut. Col. Heffren consented to the search, and in behalf of our men, and in defence of that gallant officer, who is now absent by affliction, permit me to ensure you that our men went quietly to each house, knocked at the door and informed the inmates that they were compelled by threats to search for concealed implements of war, and that nothing else was intended, and that all that was private property should be promptly restored. If, therefore, any were abused or insulted, the 50th regiment Indiana volunteers must be exonerated from the charge. God forbid that any soldiers should do anything to aggravate a people already overburdened with apprehensions of our barbarity, and whose minds were poisoned by demagogues with ungenerous falsehoods.
Had the South been united they might have a sound national Democratic President; has Southern Representatives and Senators stood to their post they might have had the Crittenden compromise. I would to God they would stop and reason. We would love to be friends with them. We would gladly lay down our arms and embrace them. We will gladly guarantee to them every right they have hitherto enjoyed. We aim not to subjugate them. All we want is the government of our fathers-the Union as it was. This we will have or all perish upon the battle field. We must be one or nothing. The severed or fraternal ties must again be united, or the storm of revolution will roll over us all and bury us together with all of our aspiring hopes in ruins in one common grave.
P. W. Hervery, Ass't. Surgeon 50th Reg't Ind. Vols.
Louisville Daily Journal, April 17, 1862.
The Nashville Patriot of Tuesday [8th] announced that squads of soldiers had entered dwelling-houses in Edgefield at midnight in search of guns, pistols, and knives. The Patriot admitted that they found the weapons they were looking for, but it denounced the search as "the greatest outrage upon decency and propriety ever committed in a civilized township." The next day the paper gave notice of its own dissolution. This is the second time it has died within a few weeks. It sprang up in a new but not much better form from its first death, and, Heaven and Gov. Johnson willing, it may raise in some shape or other from its second.
The Nashville Banner copies the Patriot's violent denunciation of the searching of the houses-revel houses no doubt-and the seizure of the arms, and says that "the vile wretches of the Louisville and Cincinnati press have been laboring hard to bring about this state of things." As for ourselves, for whom no doubt a portion of this goodly rebel-compliment is, we haven't said one word about searching houses in or around Nashville, but we have certainly favored the adoption of a firm policy toward the rebels there, and we certainly think it right to search all houses where rebel arms are believed to be concealed, and to search them at whatever hour of the day or night may be thought most favorable to the success of the search. If to hold such an opinion is to be a "wretch,": then every man is a "wretch" who isn't either a traitor or a fool. Men not more deeply steeped in treason than the Editor of the Banner are in prison as traitors, and ought to be upon the scaffold.
That Editor, though he tries not to hide his treason, is as much a traitor in soul as he was when the rebel flag floated over Nashville. And then, as the correspondent of a Cincinnati papers says, be "out Judas Isacrioted Judas Iscariot." Here is the language, which, after the surrender of Mason and Slidell, an act which elevated our country in the estimation of all nations, be applied, not to the president or any other functionary, but the United States:
["]Look at the spectacle to-day. See the mean and despised braggart, stripped of his feathers, humiliated and disgraced before the eyes of men. Utterly cowed. Backed down from everything. A renegade from principle and a recreant to promise. A self-stultified, brutal, swaggering, swearing wretch, forced to lick the dust and end in the most groveling for mercy.["]
In noticing some suggestions as to the desirableness of a peace between the United States and the Southern Confederacy, the Nashville traitor talked thus:
["] Peace! peace! There can be no peace without Maryland! No peace without Kentucky! No peace without Missouri! And if we had our say, none without poor little forgotten Delaware.["]
If he had his say! We wonder what chance the fellow thinks there is just now of a peace on the terms he indicated. We certainly have no objection to being called a "wretch" by a chap who calls our Uncle Sam "a self stultified, brutal, swaggering, swearing wretch." We can stand the "wretch" without the ornamental epithets as well as our good Uncle Sam can with them.
Louisville Daily Journal, April 11, 1862.
11, Observations on the camp life of Confederate soldiers in Middle Tennessee
Shelbyville, Tenn., April 11, 1863.
…I started out by saying that all is quiet here as yet. I should have stated quiet, according to the meaning of the word in this region. That is to say, that whilst our infantry camps continue to be scenes of peace and good humor—the men becoming fat with their long rest, and models of perfection in drill—and whilst the farmers around are hard at work for heavy crops this summer, and tranquility and gaiety prevail on all sides, all is not quiet along the immediate front. There our gallant cavalry are hard at work all the time, night and day, sweeping back those little waves of invasion, which if not checked, might open heavy sluices and soon precipitate the whole Northern flood upon us. I am of opinion that our cavalry do not receive a fraction of the praise they are entitled to, because they are not sufficiently heard from. No rest for them. No fattening up in camp and daily exercise in drill, for months, for them. No grand reviews with brass bands playing and flags flying, big Generals present, and ladies around, for them. No—nothing of the sort.
They are chiefly heard of as playing a secondary part around the edges of big battles, and making raids into the enemy's country; for all which I admit they receive full credit. But those seem to be the cavalryman's only hope of renown. He gets no praise for being constantly in the saddle, or for constantly riding and exposing his life just as much as he ever did in a big battle or in a raid.
Every day the distant rumble of cannon is heard from some part or another of our sixty mile front. The sound is tranquilly heard, maybe in an infantry camp, or among the plowmen in the field; it elicits only the remark—"Skirmishing up at the front," and all goes on as usual. It is forgotten that the few men engaged in these skirmishes are fighting about as hard, individually, as ever any equal number of individuals fought in the solid phalanx of battle. Perhaps only two light batteries, and not more than two light batteries, and not more than two hundred mounted men are engaged in the exchange of cannon ball, shell and minnie ball; most of these miss, as in greater engagements, but once in a while something hits.—A horse goes down under his rider—a piece of shell broke somebody's arm, or tears away his leg—the shrill whiz of a minnie ball is heard to cease with a little "thud," and a large bearded man is seen to drop his gun and fall from his horse limberly, without exclamation.—The wounded are supported away on horseback; so is the limber man, whose placid face proves that he died very suddenly. After a while a widow weeps somewhere, but the world never hears anything about it—it was only "a skirmish up at the front." And so of lesser skirmishes, where small scouting parties meet. Many of the noblest and bravest spirits of this war have thus fallen; but no halo of battle glory brightens their names—they fell "skirmishing up at the front."
Between outpost, picket and mount duty, precious little rest does the cavalryman see. If no skirmish requires his aid, there is the tiresome and stealthy ride through the thickets, over the hills and down the valleys, or the weary, silent waiting at the deserted cross road or lonesome hill top; through sunshine and darkness, through all weathers; no tent to shelter them from the drenching rain, no fire to thaw their numbed fingers or warm their scarce, scanty rations. Cavalry men, this last winter have been frozen to death in their saddles, and numbers have received frost bites that they will carry to their graves. Once in a while, the cavalry man is sent to the reserve camp for a few days' rest, not for himself but for his horse. His greatest and most constant care is to keep his horse shod and otherwise in order; for he well knows that if once he loses his horse his glory is gone. Many, in spite of their best care, are wearing out their horses, and being dismounted and sent to the infantry; a stern necessity of war, anything but agreeable to those who have learned how to fight on horseback. But of cavalry men and their hardships, and the unappreciativeness of the people for whom they are fighting, enough for the present.
My neighbor, old Brown, told me this morning there was a "wedding" at his house the night before. There have lately been many "weddings" of the kind referred to by Brown, in this part of the country. Let me describe one of them.
A brave soldier, after a year or a year and a half's marching and hard fighting, hears that his wife is very sick or in some other trouble, at his home "away down South." He applies for a short furlough. It is bluntly refused. He becomes down-hearted, and more than ever prays for a speedy ending of the war. At last he is wounded in battle, or stricken down by disease. Again he asks for a furlough; he is very sure of getting well faster at home than in a hospital; and again the boon is cruelly denied. He is sent off, half dead and despairing, to a hospital at Chattanooga or Atlanta, where he is well cared for. But for all this he pines for weeks; and perhaps his worst pining is that of the heart for "home, sweet home":
"Though doctor and nurse are here
Within this drear confine,
There are never the faces to cheer
A weary soul like mine.
It's oh, for a mother's care,
A sister's affectionate zeal,
A wife's deep love and devotion rare,
To banish the pain I feel!"
Finally he gets well and is sent back to duty. His home now seems to him as some far off dream of happiness, which perhaps he may never realize. The end of the war looks farther off than ever—so does his home. But he goes on bravely with his duties, little dreaming of the surprise that is preparing for him. A lady, pale and fatigued after some days and nights of the crowded and horrible travel of our Southern railroad reaches Tullahoma—reaches Shelbyville. Some kind soldier, a fellow traveler, carries her carpet bag and basket, and inquires about town until some citizen directs where the lady can get accommodations for a week or so. The kind volunteer assists her to Smith's, or Brown's, or some other good country place between town and camp. She pens a note, and after some trouble manages to have it sent out to camp. The note gets mislaid; but our soldier receives word that a lady at Smith's or Brown's wishes to see him. He obtains a short leave, and comes flying in, his horse and heart in an equal gallop. "Can it be she?" he asks himself—"she never wrote she was coming!" He dismounts at the gate, hastily flings the rein over a post, double quicks it up the yard, and greets the door with a nervous "rat-tat tat." The door opens—the servant asks him into the parlor—he enters—a lady rises (she is not pale now)—and the next moment, with only the exclamations, "John!" "Mary!" her face is buried in the bosom of his woolen shirt, whilst his manly arms, that so oft in his dreams had clasped the empty atmosphere, are now at last firmly locked round the real thing itself!
Such meetings as these are what the people around here have got into the habit of calling "weddings." The name isn't such a bad one, is it? Wouldn't mind having one or two such weddings myself!
A peculiar institution of our army here is the "colored wing"—the military niggers [sic] —I mean the officers' servants. They dress well, ride thousand dollar horses, smoke two-bit cigars, live on the fat of the land, get up five dollar dancing parties, put on airs over the country niggers, break the wenches' hearts, and lay over the army and mankind in general. So far as ease, comfort and pleasure go, they seem to be the finest gentlemen in the army. They observe keenly the distinctions of rank; a General's nigger won't associate with the Colonel's or Captain's nigger [sic] if he can help it; and they look upon the white foot soldiers as the wretchedest of mankind. Very often a tired and dusty volunteer, trudging along the road with his gun and knapsack, hears a clatter behind him, steps aside, and a dandy nigger gallops by without turning his head, stiff and dignified as a Major General. The soldier looks as if he would rather make a target of the saucy black rascal; but as he happens to be quite as rich a man as the nigger's [sic] master, and has pet niggers [sic] of his own at home, he doesn't do it. Here's a specimen of the stunning process adopted by some of the officers; niggers. [sic] Old country nigger with his jaw hanging over a fence, stupidly staring at the crowds passing up and down the road. Young dandy nigger in gold lace comes clattering along on a spanking stallion. Sees the old one and reins in suddenly, with this question: "Nigga [sic] has you seen Gen'l Bragg pas dis way?"
Old one grants a surly "no," and dandy travel on as though he were going to a council of war. He doesn't know Bragg from Adam, and has no business with him. The old one stares after him in evident disgust, tinctured, however, with a wonder whether that whipper-snapper is Bragg's Adjutant General, or only some Brig.-General or Colonel. A week or two since the niggers [sic] had a grand shindy at McMinnville; admittance five dollars, to keep common niggers [sic] out. Two splendid military niggers [sic], strangers to each other, got in each other's way whilst bucking up to the bell-wench of the ball; they put on tall airs and tried to look each other down; but they were of equal grit and neither backed down. At last, in a manner intended to crush, one asks, "Who is you?" "I'se boss barba' on Gen. Morgan's staff!" was the spunky reply, "who is you?" Drawing himself up to the utmost stretch, the other answered, "Ise boss barba' on Gen. Wheeler's staff; I ranks you, I does; you commands a division, but I commands a corps!" The Morgan nigger [sic] "went under," and his superior officer sailed off with the wench. Of a verity, these army niggers [sic] are a gay set of birds.
I notice that my friend "Ora," in speaking of the victory of the 18th-20th Louisiana regiment, in the challenge drill at Tullahoma, dubs it the "Irish Creole" regiment. You should know the regiment better, Ora should know enough not to call Creoles Irish, or Irish Creoles, and not leave out the Americans, Germans, Dutch, Prussians and others, that assist in the composition of this cosmopolitan and truly model regiment. Are Col. Richard and Lieut. Von Zanken "Irish Creole" names? The epithet seems to infer a little disparagement because being a Louisiana regiment it is not composed exclusively of Creoles; this is unjust. The regiment should rather be the more admired in that it so truly represents the mixed character of the population of New Orleans, whilst typifying its loyalty; showing how completely men of different nationalities can become welded together as one man in the one great cause. Call it "Irish Creole" or whatever else you choose, this is a true Louisiana regiment, reflecting honor upon the noble old State that sent it forth, and upon the army to which it is attached.
Mobile Register and Advertiser, April 19, 1863.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214