27, 1862, Lynching and church; a day in the life a Federal soldier posted in Nashville
Monday 27th the left wing our our regiment on picket left camps at the usual time and relieved the Michigan at 8 oc [sic] last night was very cold…about 10 of our caverly [sic] run about 50 rebel caverly yesterday they found two of our cavelry [sic] hanging to a tree they were captured by the rebels a few days ago they belonged to the 1st Tennessee Cavelry [sic] it is believed they ware [sic] hung tight up when they ware taken prisener [sic] by the rebels and has [sic] remained there ever since as they ware [sic] stiff and cold hanging by the neck when our cavalry found them yesterday. I went to church last night accompanied by N. Pancher, Joseph Blackman and several others I was very much inrested [sic] in the evening service although the preachers complained of being unwell & only preached a short sermon yet the Congeration [sic] seemed to be very much interested I think the text was John 10 & 9 the house was crowded with soldiers: as usual: a report in campt of Bragg and one division of his army being captured by [sic]
John Hill Fergusson Diary.
27, The Corrupt "Colonel" Truesdail
The Fall of Rosecrans.
Startling and Scandalous Charges Brought Against him by the Washington Chronicle
[From the Washington Chronicle, Oct. 24]
An octavo volume has just appeared, from the press of Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, which is likely to be severely criticized by those who are familiar with the events it professes to record.
That portion of the work which will probably arrest more attention than any other is the police record of the spies, smugglers and rebel emissaries-being, in fact, the narrative of the doings of the "army police' attached to Gen Rosecrans' army. This has been published, also, in a separate and cheaper form, and contains a sketch of the Chief of the Army Police, Mr. Wm. Truesdail. Upon this portion of the "annals" we propose to throw some additional light. As the work is anonymous, the authorship being simply, that of "An Officer," we may canvas it with all freedom. It is possible, and by no means improbable, that, as Mr. Truesdail, though holding no military rank, if familiarly called "Colonel" in the army, he is the "officer" who has written the book. Certainly, no "enemy: of his had "done the thing." The "chief" in his connection with the army, first attracted attention, we believe, while in the employ of General Pope. He was then sort of a sub-mail agent. After the evacuation of Corinth an important command was tendered to General Rosecrans, which included portions of General Pope's Army of Mississippi, and Mr. Truesdail thus came under General Rosecrans' orders. He soon contrived to persuade that general to authorize him to establish an "army police," the ostensible object of which was to capture deserters, arrest rebel citizens and spies, watch the movements of federal officers, &c.. Experience showed, however, that the chief object of the distinguished chief was individual aggrandizement and gain. Soon after his appointment, he associated with himself one Russell (who, of course, soon became "Major" Russell, inn police and army parlance) and the power of the "army police" soon began to make itself felt, and its doings talked about; so much so, that complaints about their proceedings were formally made to General Grant; accompanied by a representation that General Rosecrans was countenancing and fostering a brigade of cotton thieves.
An inquiry was instituted, and it was shown that this class of hangers on about General Rosecrans' headquarters were habitually committing depredations on the country around, apparently with the consent of General Rosecrans, and certainly by the assistance of his soldiers. The mode of operations was adroit and cunningly devised. Truesdail would report to General Rosecrans that "Major" Russell had discovered at a certain place-generally twenty or thirty miles distant from our line of pickets-a small band of guerrillas, or a depot of provisions for the rebel army. Wagons would thereupon be sent out under a strong cavalry escort: but they generally returned laden with cotton, instead of with bacon or grain. Very rarely indeed were guerrillas brought in by these expeditions, though sometimes parties would be captured who could not have been guilty of any great crime, as they were invariably released after taking the oath of allegiance. So satisfied was General Grant that the whole affair was a gross abuse that he turned the whole of the operators out of the army.
Truesdail would probably have found "his occupation" gone had not General Rosecrans about this time been placed in command of Buell's army. The "chief" no sooner heard of this than he hied him to Bowling Green. He was promptly reinstated as "chief of the army police."
When the Army of the Cumberland arrived at Nashville, "Colonel" Truesdail took a house at the corner of Church and High streets, and a quiet, and we suspect, a profitable business for a few weeks. By that time his force was fully organized and his ambitions rose accordingly. He removed his office to a house owned by Zollicoffer's daughter, while for his own headquarters he took the elegant mansion of Dr. Jennings, located at the corner of High and Cedar streets, and thenceforth the chief of the army police was second only to General Rosecrans. His detectives had found their way into many private families. The bearing of his officers, alike to loyal and disloyal citizens, was often insulting in the extreme. They would ride through the streets in a manner perilous to life and limb, and carried themselves so offensively that earnest remonstrances were addressed to Governor Johnson, who himself appealed to
General Rosecrans to have the nuisance checked. The General replied that the governor must apply directly to General Truesdail for redress; but that gentleman had long since ceased to be approachable by civilians. He had taken the ground that neither his acts nor those of his agents were to be questioned. Ere long, and without the issuing of any order, the chief demanded and seized all the Confederate money in the banks and bankers' offices at Nashville. The right of the Chief of Police to do that was questioned by Governor Johnson who addressed Mr. Truesdail upon the subject, but received no reply. Elated by his success in this mater, he next contemplated a seizure of the banks themselves and conducting under his own supervision, his "judge advocate" counseling hi thereto. Luckily, before he took the step, he mentions his purpose to the Secretary of State, Mr. East, who gave him "a piece of his mind." Of such weighty, proportions that the discomfited "chief" abandoned that speculation. However,, he consoled himself soon afterward by inaugurating a system of confiscation, which he successfully carried on for months, He was also invested with authority to give passes, which power was withheld from all legitimate commanders. He seized goods; arrested whom he would, on a charge of treason; tried them in his own court, convicted them and sent them to prison and confiscated their property. Indeed, the power of "William Truesdail, Chief of the Police of the Army of the Cumberland" was the talk of the whole army, and a source of regret and mortification to all the general officers, who feared that both the government and the army would lose confidence in their commander when it came to be known that he tolerated such an institution, with such a head, in his army. Soon however, the chief's power was made still more conspicuous and profitable. He assumed the entire charge of the mails, letters, newspapers, &c., to and from the army, farming out this profitable monopoly to his son and a man named Scott, who both rapidly acquired wealth by it.
Again Governor Johnson remonstrated with Gen. Rosecrans about these proceedings, but the general turned a deaf ear to his appeals. It passed, in fact, into a byword that William Truesdail was commander in-chief of the Army of the Cumberland. Wearied with his fruitless efforts to obtain from General Rosecrans a remedy for this evil, and becoming anxious about the consequences if it were permitted to continue, the faithful Governor repaired to this city [Washington, D. C.] and laid out the whole thing before the government. Circumstances at the time were unfavorable for grappling with it, and Governor Johnson returned home disappointed. Truesdail was now in the meridian of his power, and he exercised it unblushingly. He began to boast that he could not be removed, and it was the common talk, especially among officers from Grant's army, who visited Louisville, that he had a hold upon General Rosecrans which would one day destroy the latter. Of course the General's reputation was seriously damaged by these things, for some officers openly charged Truesdail with dishonesty, and Rosecrans with participating in it. The "Annals" overlooks all these facts, and its anonymous author, speaking of Truesdail, says-
["]As may be readily supposed, such an extensive army organization ere long attained considerable notoriety. It marshaled the friends and its enemies in almost regimental numbers. Even in the army it has been most violently assailed, not only by the victims in the ranks, but by officers, whose evil deeds were not past finding out. If any direct charge was made, however, to General Rosecrans, it was at once and fully investigated; and in no one instance has the charge been maintained as affecting the good character of its chief or of his principal aids [sic].The breath of calumny has been even wafted to the President's ears, and the newspapers of last spring contained the announcement that a special commission had been appointed at Washington to investigate the operations of the police of the Army of the Cumberland. Many weeks elapsed, and this was not done. At the solicitation of its chief and his assistants, General Rosecrans then appointed a special inspector, Captain Temple Clark, formerly a member of his staff in Mississippi, and now chief upon the staff of Brigadier Johnson, of Kentucky, to examine into the operations of his army police and make a report.["]
One man, and he ranking only as captain to investigate charges of such magnitude and gravity! The "Annals" does not tell what its author must have known, that Capt., temple Clark was the intimate friend of Rosecrans and Truesdail, and that, on his arrival at Nashville, he so conducted himself in a place of public amusement that Captains Pratt and Garret, of General Mitchell's staff, were, for the honor of the profession, constrained to make charges against him for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," and that, when his conduct was about to be officially investigated, an order from General Rosecrans put an end to the proceedings. Was it to be wondered at that Captain Temple Clark made a favorable report. The incidents in the life of a spy or detective policeman must always be interesting, and an organization of such magnitude as the police of the Arm of the Cumberland could not well help discovering many offenders. But what we complain of in "The Annals" is that favoritism and partiality are shown in the selections from the police records. It becomes our duty, as it happens to be in our power, to describe other doing of this great organization. Soon after Chief Truesdail first moved into Zollicoffer's house a negro appeared at the office Governor Johnson, representing that he had run away from his master, and had brought with him a horse valued at $1,000. The Governor ordered him to hand the horse over to the quartermaster, who would return it to the owner, if he was a loyal man. It turned out that "Major" Russell had got possession of the horse, and when the negro presented himself with the Governor's order for the horse to be transferred to the Quartermaster. Russell put him in prison. Remonstrance from Governor Johnson only brought a reply from Truesdail that he obeyed no order except from Gen. Rosecrans. Again, an Irish man, who had lost a limb in the federal service, and whose loyalty was well attested, obtained a permit to take a hundred bushels of potatoes to Nashville for sale. Truesdail seized the potatoes on the plea that the owner was disloyal, and that joint representations of the Governor, and the joint representations of the Governor, the Secretary of State, the Postmaster and the Comptroller failed to recover the poor man's property. With regard to detectives, who, in disguise, entered secession families, they were, of course, generally successful in convicting the persons of disloyal sentiments and practices, and confiscation of their property speedily followed. But not seldom innocent parties suffered by the doings of the police. One case particularly deserves attention. One of Truesdail's detectives called one day upon a lady who was loyal, but who had a son in the rebel army. He represented himself as belonging to the same regiment as her son, adding that he should return in a few days, and that if she would prepare a letter and some under clothing he would convey them to him. She informed him that, although she would not regard such an act as wrong in view of the destitution of her boy, yet, as a loyal woman, she could not send such articles without first obtaining permission from the authorities. The detective's answer was that she would be refused, and her boy would continue to suffer. The temptation was strong, and she packed up an undershirt and a pair of drawers, enclosing a letter. The next day the "army police" took every thing valuable from her home, including nearly $300, which was all she had. She laid the case before Governor Johnson, but he declined to have anything more to do with the organization. This is but one of many cases of the same nature. Mr. Truesdail superintended the pressing of negroes and horses, and too the latter work he was once caught handsomely. He was sending off two splendid animals he had pressed for the cavalry service, but instead of sending them to Murfreesboro he ticketed for St. Louis As his word was law they went safely until they arrived in the department of General Boyle, who seized them and turned them over to the proper authorities.
The "Annals" contain some stories which are true, but a great many which are mutilated, and the handsome part given to the public, as in the case of Mrs. Molly Heydein [?] . The books in Truesdail's office will show that had certain officer declined giving passes to the handsome widow, she would have committed no harm. But our space is exhausted. Than any army police can do much good; that Mr. Truesdail's spies and detectives procured such valuable information is certain; but such an organization should be held to strict accountability, or it may do incalculable mischief.
The New York Herald, October 27, 1863.
27, Attack on steamer Belle Saint Louis at Fort Randolph
OCTOBER 27, 1864.-Attack on Steamer Belle Saint Louis at Fort Randolph, Tenn.
No. 1.-Col. James N. McArthur, Fourth U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery, commanding post of Columbus, Ky.
No. 2.-Maj. William H. Jameson, Paymaster, U. S. Army.
No. 3.-Col. Loren Kent, Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry.
Report of Col. James N. McArthur, Fourth U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery, commanding post of Columbus, Ky.
HDQRS. OF THE POST, Columbus, Ky., October 28, 1864.
GEN.: The steamer Belle Saint Louis, coming up, while attempting to land at Fort Randolph at 12 o'clock last night, was attacked by 100 men under Col. Jesse Forrest. Maj. Beeler, of Illinois, and Maj. D. C. Smith, of Minnesota, were killed. Maj. Beeler killed a captain and wounded and captured another. The heroic conduct of Col. Kent, Twenty-ninth Illinois, and officers on board, and Capt. Zeigler, of the steamer, and his crew, saved the boat from capture. One paymaster's clerk was wounded, also 2 of the boat's crew. The wounded prisoner reports that Chalmers was at or near Jackson, Tenn., and that Jesse Forrest's command are flankers of the main force, and that Chalmers intends coming into Kentucky.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES N. MCARTHUR, Col. Fourth U. S. Colored Artillery (Heavy), Cmdg. Post.
Brig. Gen. MORGAN L. SMITH, Cmdg. District of Memphis, Memphis, Tenn.
Report of Maj. William H. Jameson, Paymaster, U. S. Army.
SAINT LOUIS, October 29, 1864.
SIR: I would respectfully report that having completed the payment of the troops in and around Memphis, in obedience to your orders, I left Memphis with the paymasters ordered to report to me, viz., Maj.'s Whiting, Dickson, Beeler, Smith, and Patrick, on the steamer Belle of [sic] Saint Louis, on the evening of the 27th instant, on our way to Saint Louis. About midnight the boat landed at Randolph, Tenn., sixty miles above Memphis, for the purpose of taking on some cotton. As soon as the staging had been run out and the deck-hands went on shore, the captain discovered a large number of armed guerrillas rushing toward the boat and immediately gave orders for the boat to be backed out from the bank, but before that could be accomplished eight or ten of the rebels succeeded in getting on board and a large number of rebels on shore commenced firing with musketry on the boat. The rebel who succeeded in getting on board immediately stationed a guard of three men over each of the two engineers who were working the engine and ordered them to immediately land the boat again, threatening them with instant death if they refused to do so. Two or three others at the same time rushed up to the cabin and in a loud tone demanded those in charge to land the boat, and commenced robbing some of the passengers of their pocket-books and money, just at this point, as the boat was again approaching the landing, and we all felt that the boat and all on board were surrendered to the tender mercies of Jesse Forrest (who was said to be in command) and his rebel force, Majs. A. Beeler and D. C. Smith, paymasters, and members of our corps, took their revolvers and boldly approached the two rebels who were at the cabin doors. As they approached one of the rebels shot Maj. Smith, mortally wounding him. Maj. Beeler immediately shot the man who fired upon Maj. Smith, and, mortally wounding him, he then turned his attention to the other rebel. They both fired simultaneously, the rebel falling dead and Maj. Beeler mortally wounded. The rebels for a moment quailed, and, just as the bow of the boat neared the shore a second time, the engineers commenced backing the boat with all the power of the engine, the rebels on board jumping overboard, and amid volleys of musketry fired upon the boat, we were soon backed out of range to a place of safety.
All on board the boat acknowledge that the gallant acts of Maj.'s Beeler and Smith were the means of saving the boat and probably the lives of all on board. We all felt that they had lost their own lives in their successful efforts to save ours, and also to preserve the Government property on board, and we shall always hold them in affectionate remembrance and mourn the loss of two such efficient and gallant officers from our corps. Mr. L. F. McGowan, clerk to Maj. Dickson, was also seriously wounded, his left arm having been broken by a musket-ball, which also passed through the fleshy part of his breast.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. H. JAMESON, Paymaster, U. S. Army.
ADJUTANT-GEN. U. S. ARMY,
Washington, D. C.
Report of Col. Loren Kent, Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry.
CAIRO, ILL., October 29, 1864.
SIR: As the senior officer on board, under orders from headquarters District of West Tennessee, I have the honor to submit the following as a report of the trip of the steamer Belle Saint Louis, from Memphis, Tenn., to this place:
We left Memphis at or about 6 p. m. of the 27th instant with a large number of passengers, including several officers and about fifty discharged and furloughed soldiers. Of this number six were paymasters returning to Saint Louis from payment of troops in the field. They had with them, I was informed by one of the corps, about $40,000. The steamer reached Randolph, Tenn., about 12 o'clock of same night, landed, and proceeded to take on board eight bales of cotton under permit of the military authorities at Memphis, the port from which the boat was cleared. The cotton belonged to one Harris, who was the first to leave the boat. He appeared to hasten at once to the top of the bank and immediately a party of armed rebels, numbering, I should think, at least fifty, rushed toward the boat, discharging their arms, and attempted to get on. Only six of them succeeded, as Capt. Alexander Zeigler, master, as soon as they were discovered, ordered that the steamer be backed into the stream, which was done, leaving the second clerk, Mr. George Atherton, and crew ashore. The rebels on board entered the engine-room at once, ordered the engine to be reversed, and the boat run to the landing. By their knowledge of their duties and their coolness they succeeded in only complying with part of their orders, and kept the boat at a sufficient distance from the shore to prevent others from getting on board. Defeated in their effort these rebels then attempted to reach the pilot and compel him to execute the orders they had given the engineers. But this time the passengers had not only become thoroughly aroused, but most thoroughly panic-stricken. The appearance of the rebels in the cabin and their orders to surrender gave rise on the part of many to the belief that we were then past relief. The only arms on board were pistols in possession of officers, and in many cases these were either with their baggage in the party's room or in unserviceable condition. My first effort upon observing the critical condition of affairs was to see that orders were given not to land the steamer under any circumstances, knowing that under way these rebels on board could be easily disposed of by superior numbers. Maj.'s Smith and Beeler, paymasters, with their pistols, advanced to the forward part of the boat just as the men before mentioned were ascending to seize the pilot. Shots were at once exchanged and Maj. Smith severely wounded, from the effects of which he died on the evening of the succeeding day. Maj. Beeler received a severe wound in the breast, but continued to fight until he had killed one and mortally wounded another. He then was able to return to the cabin and lingered until about noon of the succeeding day. The rebels then observing their failure to capture the boat and being aware of their own danger, escaped by jumping overboard. I do not know whether they succeeded in reaching the shore or not. Mr. L. F. McGowan, paymaster's clerk, one of the engineers sick in his berth, and a negro [sic] were severely, though not fatally, wounded. Maj.'s Smith and Beeler deserve great praise for their bravery and presence of mind. Both had previously served in the line of the army with commendable distinction.
The pilots, S. A. McPheeters, Lewis Moan, and assistant Charles Zeigler stood by the wheel and never flinched, though shots were repeatedly discharged at them. John McBride, engineer, and John Dorris and George Beebe, assistants, never left their posts, even while their lives were threatened. To all the officers of the boat, and these in particular, especial credit is due for a display of coolness and bravery which saved the boat and passengers from capture. Permit me to say that no suspicion of collusion with the rebels, who were a portion of Forrest's command, rests upon Capt. Zeigler or any officers of the steamer. The permit for the boat to land was seen by the Government aide on board, Mr. Peterson, who also gave his consent to have the cotton taken on board. With the exception of Mr. Harris, who was left with the rebels, all are exonerated from blame.
The steamer arrived at Cairo on last evening without further molestation.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. KENT, Col.
OR, Ser. I. Vol. 39. pt. I, pp. 879-882.
James B. Jones, Jr.
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN 37214