Tuesday, May 6, 2014

5.6.14 Tennessee Civil War Notes

        6, Newspaper report on conditions in Memphis
Dullness and Distress in Memphis.
Memphis, according to the refugees, is dull as an abandoned cemetery; and so many people have left there that they do not think out of a population of thirty thousand, claimed there before the commencement of the Rebellion, there are now no more than twelve thousand in the city. Nearly all the stores are closed, and the proprietors of the few that are open, keep very few goods to sell; having secreted the greater part of their stock to prevent its being stolen.
No one wants to sell anything, but endeavors to avoid selling; knowing that the wretched shinplasters, which form the staple of the currency in retail circles, are entirely worthless. There is no gold or silver in Memphis or vicinity, and no notes [scratch in film] of the Bank of Tennessee, but in their stead the town is flooded with five, ten, and twenty-five and fifty cent issues of the Tennessee and Mississippi Railway.
Great distress prevails among the people, and has prevailed for six months, in consequence of the severest poverty, and a great many laboring men and mechanics have been compelled to join the Southern army to obtain the common necessaries of life.
Nashville Daily Union, May 6, 1862.

        6, "I knew nothing about reconnoitering, never did such a thing and didn't know how to go about it…." Federal reconnoitering at La Vergne
No circumstantial reports filed. [1]
....On the morning of May 6th an order came transferring us from this brigade in which we have always been to this new brigade....
On the same morning desptaches [sic] came from General Steedman at Lavergne [sic], a place on the railroad midway between here and Nashville, saying that he had been driven in the day before by about 6000 [sic] cavalry and mounted infantry, advancing from Lebanon, and that the railroad was in imminent danger...[we were ordered to] proceed immediately to Lavergne [sic]....I started to see the brigade commander, found him, and he told me where to find corn, and he also told me to have my command in the saddle by 6 in the morning as he would send me in command of a reconnoitering force to hunt up the enemy. Here was a fine fix.
I knew nothing about reconnoitering, never did such a thing and didn't know how to go about it, and here now I was to take four or five hundred men, with a guide, and strike out among the cedar thickets, rocks, hills and ravines of this abominable Stone [sic] River county to find the location, strength &c of an enemy who knew the country well, and were reported to be five or six thousand strong. As I laid down on a brush pile in the woods to sleep that night visions of Libby prison loomed up before me, and as I started in the morning I looked at my blankets strapped to my saddle and wondered whether I could sleep comfortably under the next night while one of my southern brethren stood guard over me; but my duty was to obey and let results take care of themselves; I dare not plead ignorance, so I was up betimes, and with my own command reinforced by 150 men from another regiment I struck out into a bridle path over the hills and after moving northward about 8 miles came to a ford across Stone River. Halting here I sent 150 men across the River with orders to divide into 5 parties of 30 each and scour the country as far as they could safely go, in search of rebels, "contraband" horses and mules, and report to me at the ford at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Posting pickets then around my remaining force I sat down to await the result; everything was quite until noon and I went into a house near by where I found a fine old lady and her handsome intelligent daughter -- intimated that I could eat some dinner, and soon had a very good dinner.
While eating word was brought from one of my pickets that he had seen a party of mounted men some distance from him and supposed them to be rebels. To drop the dinner, mount and hasten to the picket post was the work of a moment; just as I reached the post I saw a man dismount and enter a house on a hill about a half mile distant; I could see the flashing of his saber scabbard but couldn't distinguish the color of his uniform, by concluded it was a rebel, as my men were miles away by that time and I determined to "bag" him, so sending back for 5 men, I made a circuit through the timber and surrounded the house, then dismounting, with pistol in hand I walked to the door of the house and on looking in saw one of Uncle Sam's boys quietly putting himself outside of a chunk of "pone" and a bowl of milk. I ascertained that he belonged to another force...who...had lost his way....My hope of capturing a live butternut having thus vanished, I sent the man off to find his command and pilot them through to me, while I returned to my party, and in about an hour the Major with about 100 men reached me; being his senior he asked me for orders and I sent him across the river with his command to follow up and join my men sent out in the morning, which he did, just as a party of 100 rebels had attached a detached party of 50 of my men. They drove the rebels, killing one, wounding two and killing two horses.
My scouting parties were all in safely by half past three o'clock and we moved to Lavergne [sic], having learned that there was no considerable force of the enemy nearer than Lebanon....
Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland, pp. 59-61.

        6, "A Dangerous Toy"
For several months past we have noticed as a favorite amusement among the juveniles of our city the use of a certain ingenuously contrived toy for throwing missiles such as small stones or pieces of brick, We never have known a boy who was not fond of casting stones, either at some target or in the air, and when a youth is the happy possessor of a sling, or some such a plaything as that which we have alluded to, he is delighted and consequently indulges in the use of it almost constantly. This might [pass?] in the country, but in town where there are more windows and more people which may accidentally come between the lad and the target which he shoots at, throwing stones will not begin to do. Last evening a Mr. Murphy, while standing on the corner of Union and Second streets, received quite a severe wound in his face from a missile, which was accidentally shot in that direction from one of those playthings in the hand of a little boy upon the opposite side of the street, who was as much alarmed at striking him as he was injured by his carelessness. The use of this toy should attract the attention of parents.[2]
Memphis Bulletin, May 6, 1864.

        6, "While the two were engaged in robbing the house one of the other two seized me and commenced taking liberties with my person." Martha Marshall's Narrative; A Post-War Bushwhacker Attack in Franklin
On Saturday the sixth day of May A. D. 1865 about one o'clock a party of four men rode up to my house in Franklin County Tenn. They came to the door and pushed said door open. Geo Pless who was then living there opened the door. They asked who lives here. He answered Pless. They then asked if this was the place Nelson was killed at. This Nelson was a Guerrilla Capt & killed my brother in law while surprised in robbing the house, some time previous. Pless answered them no sir this is not the place. The same man then came in and hitting Pless over the head forced him to sit down. They or two of them then commenced robbing the house. While the two were engaged in robbing the house one of the other two seized me and commenced taking liberties with my person. I broke away from him, and going to one of the others appealed to him to make the other stop which he did. They then dragged Mr. Pless into the floor and told him they were going to kill him that if he wanted to pray he must do so then. Mr. Pless got to his knees to pray just at that time I started to leave with my two little children just as I got to the door the one who was about to kill Mr. Pless stepped to the door and told the two who were there to guard us and to see to it I did not get away. He then took Mr. Pless out of the house to kill him when the same man who made the one spoken of above leave me alone took him Pless from the other. Mr. Pless succeeded in slipping off and affected his escape. Three of them then rode off leaving one of their party behind. The man left behind entered the house and catching Mrs Pless was about affecting his purpose on her person when she begged him to desist saying it would kill her since she was expecting every moment to be confined. He says then by G__D___ I'll have that other woman and catching hold of my babe which I had in my arms threw it in the backside of the bed. He then caught holt [sic] of me & threw me up on the bed and threatened to kill me. I again jumped off when he caught both hands and forced me down in the bed striking me in the side with his fist or pistol he said G___D____ you, you push me off & I will kill your baby. He succeeded in attaining his purpose.[added] I with Mrs Pless & children left the house and went over to my fathers. While at my fathers the four again entered but left. While we were at the house the one who raped me there jumped on the bed for the purpose of burning the house. Mrs Pless extinguished it. Their brutality toward me was most inhumane. The whole party was very large but four entered the house. I did not recognize any of the parties.
Blood and Fire, pp. 162-163.

[1] Listed neither in OR nor Dyer's Battle Index for Tennessee.
[2] It is not known what this toy looked like or how it operated. It is tempting to call it a "war toy," some class of spring-loaded gun which fired stones. It does not sound as though it was a sling (or "slung") shot.

James B. Jones, Jr.
Public Historian
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN  37214
(615)-532-1550  x115
(615)-532-1549  FAX

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