Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7.22.14 Tennessee Civil War Notes

22, -"…she was stripped to the waist, and thirteen lashes given her with a strap, and the right side of her head shaved." The Memphis Vigilance Committee, a.k.a., "Committee of Safety."


His Arrest by a Vigilance Committee and incarceration in a Memphis Prison – Eighty five Union Men Whipped and have their heads shaved-the Cruelties of Siberia Exceeded-A Northern Woman Brutally beaten with a Knout [sic] –Escape to Cairo

So many discrepancies have found their way into the statements published by me respecting my arrest, imprisonment and escaped, in and from the City of Memphis, Tennessee, that I must request the use of your columns to correct the, and reconcile what now see, and justly, conflicting statements.

I think no one will question the assertion, that in Memphis there exists a feeling of greater hostility to the North than in any other portion of the South; that the public sentiment of that people countenance and approve more flagrant outrages upon the persons and property of those known or supposed to have Union proclivities, that would be tolerated anywhere else. I presume this to be the fact, because there is scarcely an account of some indignity towards those who are indisposed to blacken their souls with treason, and subject themselves to the just censure of true men everywhere.

To those who are familiar with the state of affairs in that vicinity for the past five months, this has been known; and it has been accounted for solely upon the ground that in no city [in the] South   is there a larger proportion of Northern men, and of a class, too, who have no regard for the principles which should actuate all Americans in this crisis. Men who have learned, in the midst of starving, to forget all the principles which they were so well calculated to instill, and have become more Southern than the Southerner, and are now seeking, with the zeal of apostates, to prove themselves worthy [of] the of those among whom their lots have been cast; trampling under foot, in their eagerness to accomplish this end, all the claims of a common humanity, and rendering themselves amenable to the just vengeance of every man who loves his country, or abhors cruelty and oppression.

In the statement I am about to give, I shall speak only of "that which I have seen," and in no case draw upon my fancy.

I am a Southern man myself, by birth, education and feeling all my prejudices have been with the South, and I would not now say one work to cast odium upon a people whom I love, and for whom I would willingly sacrifice my own life, were it necessary, in defence of their rights, or in the maintenance of any principle. But when no wrong has been inflicted, no injury sustained, and no principle is contended for on their part, I cannot, and will not, prove my devotion to the South by avowing myself a traitor the country, for the sole purpose of aiding in the aggrandizement of those who have long since proven themselves unworthy [of] the confidence not only of the South, but of honest men everywhere. Men who, were it necessary to accomplish their own ambitious ends, would lay their hands upon the pillars of the temple of liberty and pull them to the earth, though in the doing so they buried every hope of freedom throughout the world. Men politically and morally lost to all the principles of honor, and actuated solely by the selfish desire to elevate themselves event to ignoble positions, if they promise power and wealth.

It was my misfortune to view the present revolution in this light; and hence I became at once obnoxious to the goof people of Memphis, who are unable to understand how it is possible for anyone to regard it otherwise than as a war for freedom and the rights of man.

Being thus blinded, I had the temerity to address a communication to the New York Tribune, in March last, commenting somewhat severely upon the conduct of the Memphians in according an honorable reception a band of sturdy souls from Mississippi, on their way to the seat of war in Florida. In that latter some surprise was expressed, and a body of men marching under a flag hostile to their own, with the avowed purpose of joining an army soon, as was expected, to engage ours in deadly conflict, should receive such cordial welcome, and bear away with them such unmistakable manifestations of friendship.

The character of Tennesseans had always been that of honorable men, and it could but excite surprise that, while receiving all the benefits and blessing resulting from the Union, they should permit those avowedly their enemies to march unmolested through their streets, and carry with them the impr5ession that Memphis was already as unanimous as Mississippi.

This was regarded as a crime far too heinous to go unpunished; and accordingly, when the contents of that letter became known to the people of that righteous city there was an universal demand for the author-couched, however, in such terms and promising him such evidences of their regard ad induced him-modest man as the was-to keep them ignorant as to his identity thus avoiding the hospitalities and honors which have been thrust upon him. Let no one imagine, however, that I was safe, unless some proof was brought forward and the authorship of the letter clearly established. Noting could be more erroneous than such an ideal Suspicion only as requisite, and this could easily be directed against me by anyone who cherishes any ill will towards me.

This was soon apparent, and a few days after the letter had been copied from the Tribune into the Avalanche,[1] I had the honor of being visited by a select number of the immortal "Vigilance Committee," who respectfully requested to examine my effects. Nothing could have been more respectful than their demeanor; indeed, it was entirely too much so, and excited itself some apprehension and gave me a tickling sensation in the region of the thorax. After a thorough examination had been made, and innumerable questions asked, tending to fix the authorship of that particular letter upon me, all of which were in vain, I was politely informed that they "believed me to be a ____ Abolitionist, and intended to settle my case in the morning.

The precise meaning of this was readily understood, and I was locked up, that evening, under the firm conviction that it was my last night on earth. Excitement ran high, and the general demand was for the execution of an Abolitionist, or one supposed to be tinctured with this heresy. And, from what I knew and had seen of the disposition made of such, I was justified in regarding my position as exceedingly critical.

In the morning, however, I was brought before the Vigilance Committee and underwent another examination, in which all the members who desired participated. It was evident that there was no disposition to find me "not guilty?' the only object being to find an excuse to justify my execution. Here I stood before sixty men, every man of who was eager to sign my death warrant. Not one of them evinced the least disposition to give me their benefit of circumstances in my favor; but all were actuated by the determination to find me guilty, and where justly or unjustly. And while admitting that there was no tangible evidence against me, going to show that I was even a Northern man, much less an Abolitionist, they communicated their intention to confine me in the dungeon of the jail until they could ascertain from their friends in Baltimore and Washington what my real sentiments were. Accordingly, I was thrown into an underground apartment, rendered horrible by the absence of light and air, and loathsome by the presence of the accumulated filth of years; a prison quite equal to the famous "Black hole of Calcutta," in its abominations.

The fare was in keeping with the quarters, and consisted of corn bread and as small quantity of water doled out in the morning of each day. Here, with the thermometer at about 95, I was compelled to remain from the 25th of April to the 6th of June, denied the privileges of communicating with my friends, and all access to me from them forbidden.

While here, I was frequently an eyewitness to some of the cruelest outrages that I believe it [is] possible for the ingenuity or depravity of man to devise. Outrages so entirely at variance with all my former conceptions of Southern character as (had I not witnessed them myself,) would have appeared not only improbable, but impossible, to have been committed by them, and I cannot believe that in any other portions of the South, or among purely Southern men, such acts would be tolerated for a moment-indignities and enormities towards not only men but women, which have almost frozen the blood in my veins, and aroused "a vengeance blood alone can quell;" a feeling of bitter and unrelenting hostility, which cannot be eradicated until a retribution as righteous as just, have been visited upon every man who has been a participant in such demoniac pleasures. Towards men, these cruelties were of daily occurrence, and the evidence of every man in Cairo connected with our army, will corroborate my statement-that more than eighty five men have had their heads shaved and their backs lacerated by the knout since the middle of last April. [sic] More than that number have found their way to Cairo, and are not waiting an opportunity to return and inflict summary punishment upon the people of that doomed city.

To this I had almost become accustomed, and looked quite naturally every morning for the perpetration of such outrages, but even this had not prepared me for what I had to witness before I left their prison. In all my imaginings, I never dreamed that in any moment of excitement there could be found, in any portion of this land, one single man who would be base enough and fiend enough, to lay the lash upon the back of an innocent and defenceless woman. [sic] Incredible as it appears, it was done in the City of Memphis, on the 19th of May. [sic] The victim was a young, beautiful, refined and accomplished lady, who had resided there for one year. Her offence was being from Maine, and expressing too loudly here wishes for the success of our arms.

She purchased a ticket for Cairo, and it appears was congratulating herself upon soon reaching a land of liberty, when an officer by the name of THURMAN arrested and brought here in the jail. She was confined all night, and in the morning about six o'clock she was brought in front of the rear door of the jail (in the yard), and after three [sic] men had been whipped with the knout, [sic] and their heads shaved, she was stripped to the waist, and thirteen lashes given her with a strap, and the right side of her head shaved. [sic] The wretch who did the whipping is named John Durall, and was originally a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, while this other fiend who held her arms, had recently left Syracuse, New York, and is named Thomas McElroy.

The outrage took place not more than five feet from where I was standing, inside the passage in the yard, and she fell back against the door when released. I spoke to her fully five minutes, and know her name and address, and have her likeness now in my possession. I shall never forget her appearance while suffering the infliction of this tremendous outrage. No one work escaped her lips; not a groan came up from her breast; not a sight was audible. But, the livid hue of her face, the compressed lips, the quivering of every muscle, attested how terrible was her woe, how keenly she felt the impious wrong. Would to God the advancing columns of our army could, at that moment, have entered that yard, and torn those incarnate devils limb from limb, and meted [sic] out to all concerned in this infamous proceeding-whether as participants or spectators-a punishment commensurate with their crime. And should the day come, when Union men dare to avow their sentiments in that city, and the presence of our army enable the eye witnesses to this transaction to return, there will be a terrible reckoning required at the hands of these barbarians.

I remained in this prison until the 6th of June, when, through the instrumentality of a true and noble woman, I was enabled to affect my escape. Money, of which there was a scarcity, triumphed on the fidelity of one of the attaches of the jail. My den was opened and I was free. That I lost no time in finding other quarters may readily be imagined, and I succeeded in securing a hiding place with an old Irish woman until I could leave the city. This I did on the 11th of June, with but five dollars in my pocket, which carried me to Jackson, and from that point I was compelled to make my way to Cairo-one hundred and twenty miles without one cent, and through a section country where I would have been hung in a moment if suspected of being from the North. I succeeded, however, after a journey of three days, with a mouthful to eat, in reaching the land of promise.

When I came in sight of the "Stars and Stripes" floating from the encampment at Bird's Point, all fatigue was forgotten, and with horse speed I ran until I was with the line of our troops No mortal man, unless under similar circumstances, can form an idea of the feeling which possessed me at that moment-the deep and profound gratitude to God for having guided me through so many perils and dangers, and brought me once again to freedom….

~ ~ ~

July 18, 1861

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 22, 1861. [2]



        22, Affair at Tazewell, violation of flag of truce

JULY 22, 1862.-Affair near Tazewell, Tenn. [3]

Report of Col. James P. T. Carter, Second Tennessee Infantry.


GENERAL: Yesterday, soon after 6 p. m., with 450 of the Second East Tennessee Regiment and 30 men of the Forty-ninth Indiana (the latter under command of Capt. Peckinpaugh), with two days' rations and sixty rounds of ammunition, I left camp to carry out your instructions to endeavor to cut off the rebel cavalry which have been in the daily habit of visiting Tazewell. I crossed Powell's River near Cotterell's Bridge about sunset, intending to take the woods until I reached the vicinity of Tazewell; but soon after nightfall, finding the night so dark, I moved slowly and with caution up the old road for some distance, until I had advanced nearly to the point where it enters the main road. There I was met with information that from fifty to sixty of the rebel cavalry had passed down toward the river on a scout. Not long afterward one of my advance came back hurriedly with word that two of the rebels had just passed on their return toward Tazewell. I at once hurried forward my men, dividing them into three parts, and placed them in an advantageous position to await the arrival of the main body of the enemy. In a short time they were heard approaching and when up with our position a portion of my command opened fire upon them. The night was very dark, and it was impossible to distinguish either horse or horseman. Not many shots had been fired when I distinguished the voice of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana, calling me by name, and telling me to cease firing, as he was with a flag of truce. This was the first intimation I had that a flag had been sent out. Of course I ordered the firing to cease, and, hurrying down to the road with my men, rendered every assistance in my power to the wounded. It is with extreme regret that I have to report that two of the rebels were killed on the spot and some fifteen wounded. Several of their horses were also killed. Fortunately, my men were placed on a bank a good deal higher than the road, and as the darkness prevented any accuracy of aim, the loss of life was providentially small. No one can regret more than I do this most unfortunate occurrence. If I could have had the least idea that a flag of truce was on the road, I need scarcely assure you this would not have happened, nor how far I should have been from failing in the slightest degree in giving it every protection and extending to the escort the courtesy shown it among civilized nations. The surgeons and ambulances from the Twenty-fourth Brigade arrived on the ground so soon as they could be sent by your orders. The wounded were taken to a house near at hand and every attention was shown them. It was not until some time after the damage was done that the courier reached me with your order recalling the expedition. I sent the ambulances with the wounded, accompanied by Doctor Neat, of the Second East Tennessee, and Surgeon Berry, of the Third Kentucky, to Tazewell. I remained on the ground until this morning, when I returned with my command to camp.

Respectfully, &c.,

JAS. P. T. Carter, Col., Comdg. Second Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 108-109.



        22, "The Yankee Brigades in McMinnville"

We have reliable information

Concerning the Yankees occupation

Of McMinnville. They are supremely sweet

To every man and woman on the street,

They say their aim is not subjugation,

Grand larceny, or extermination,

All they ask of the people is that they

Will let king Abraham have his own way.

To be sure, a most solemn affirmation,

Is required of the whole population,

That they will not use a finger or arm

In trying to do the yanks any harm.

Our informant heaped a deep curse upon these yankee [sic] declarations, as well as their requirements and proclamations; and like a true son of the South, he threw a rifle over his shoulder, mounted his horse and made tracks for Bragg's army. Scores of others will do likewise.

Chattanooga Daily Rebel, July 22, 1863.[4]

        22, Confederate Recruiting Notice, Chattanooga

The attention of the young men of this section is directed to the advertisement of FRANK BATTLE [sic] in the Rebel of today. Captain Battle has authority from General Wheeler to raise for immediate service, a company of scouts, to be attached to Carter's scouting battalion. A braver or more dashing young Captain than Frank Battle could not be selected. He comes of a fighting stock, whose reputation for patriotism and pluck have been fully established in this war. Frank signally distinguished himself at the battle of Murfreesboro. Two of his brothers fell gallantly fighting in the van of the 20th Tennessee regiment at Shiloh. He is the son of Gen. Battle, State Treasurer of Tennessee, and late Colonel of the 20th Tennessee regiment, of Fishing Creek memory.

Chattanooga Daily Rebel, July 22, 1863.



        22, "…loyal East Tennesseans demand public attention; and little popinjay shoulder-strapped gentry need not think that because we have submitted thus long that we have not spirit;" Editorial Column on East Tennessee Unionists

For the Nashville Union.

What is to Become of the East Tennesseans?

The above inquiry is one of grave importance, and the urgent necessity for a prompt answer is made manifest by the wasted farms and pillaged houses of thousands of the loyal citizens of this neglected section.

Our farms are wantonly laid waste, all our horses and cattle are taken unnecessarily, all the hogs killed that will do to eat, and the stock hogs shot down to prevent us from raising more.

Our best farmers will not be able to start a single plow when spring comes, and if they had the horses they have nothing to feed them on. In such a condition of things, what is to become of a population of near one hundred and fifty thousand women and children? It is a high time we had some intimation of the policy of the Government towards the loyal people of East Tennessee, now that such easy terms are given to the Rebels.

After near three years of a reign of terror over this people by the most unfeeling, relentless of oppressors that ever lorded it over humanity; after their friends, sons and fathers have been shot, hung, drowned, imprisoned, starved to death, poisoned, hunted down with bloodhounds and savages; robbed, sacked and plundered; after near twenty thousand of her loyal citizens have gallantly enrolled themselves under their old flag, and have shown themselves ever willing to battle for its honor, we find the families of these same soldiers robbed and plundered of everything by our own army, and are now left in mid-winter begging for bread. The spectacle presented in this country would melt a heart of stone; but it seems the large force lately sent to Knoxville and back to Chattanooga, contained but few hearts of such soft material. That army will long be remembered for its wholesale plundering and robbing along the road. It is true they were just from the battle-field, where they had done some good service in breaking up the siege of Chattanooga. Many a brave companion had fallen in the bloody fray, but they fell fighting the enemies of the country, not its friends.

Much allowance should be made, however, for the conduct of some of those men, from the fact that they had to subsist on the country, not having rations to take with them. But no allowance can, or should, be made for the officers in command, for not giving proper vouchers to the loyal people for their subsistence and forage. The Rebels had already gleaned the country of nearly all its surplus, and but little was left more than was absolutely necessary for the support of the families living in the country. But what there was would have been spared cheerfully, had the officers in command desired it or asked for it. But no, none were asked for anything! The poor woman, whose husband had been gone for two years in the Union army, was suddenly deprived of the little stock of corn, hogs, and cattle, and herself and children left to beg; and when she demanded vouchers or pay, she was insulted, and told to go to Chattanooga, and prove her loyalty and she would get pay!! A soldier's wife have to prove her loyalty before she can get pay for the corn which herself and daughters raised!! And after they had thus robbed a poor soldier's wife, or the widowed mother of some of our soldier boys, shoulder strapped gentry feast upon their ill-gotten booty and laught [sic] at what a handsome thing they have done for the old lady. After a long continuance of such outrage as this, are not loyal people entitled to be heard? If this is to continue, for what do we East Tennesseans fight? We thought we were fighting for the protection of the Government. We certainly did not suppose that after we had aided in bringing the arms of the Union to our hearth-stones, that these arms would be turned on our women and children, to force from them the last morsel of subsistence without compensation.

But in all this there is a deep laid policy and the attention of every East Tennessee Union soldier should be called to it. That policy was indicated very freely and frequently by a Major General in the United States army, not long since, to be to lay waste the country, destroy the towns and farmhouses and improvements; in fact, leave the whole country a barren waste, and then, (to use his classic language) "if the rebels want the damned country, let them take it! After all, then, is our country to be given up to the rebels? Certainly such cannot be the intention of the Government. But for a Major General in the army to use such language; and, not only that, but to instruct his soldiers on the march to pillage and ransack every house along the road, it is high time we began to inquire, what is to become of us. The worst, however, is yet to be told. This same General used language that must and shall be remembered by every loyal East Tennessean as long as life lasts. They can forgive him for laying waste their houses, and leaving their women and children in mid-winter at starvation's door. But after thousands of her loyal men have had to leave their houses and all they held sacred, and swim rivers, and toil hundreds of miles through rugged mountains to join our army, to engage in what might at one time have been regarded as a doubtful issue; after near two years of absence, and many much longer than that, to return to their houses and find them laid waste by our own army, and then be denounced publicly by a Major-General in the army as COWARDS, and their families pronounced disloyal, is more than every loyal East Tennessean can bear without complaint. Speaking for the East Tennessee soldiers in our army, I take pleasure in pronouncing the statement as to our disloyalty or cowardice, a base slander, and challenge a test of the matter in any way desired by those maintaining the opposite opinion. But there is a point, to which I would call the attention of both the authorities, military and civil, as well as the truly loyal people of the nation. That is, the threat to burn the towns, lay waste the farms, and make the country uninhabitable, and then if the Rebels want it, let them take the damned country."

We have been fighting to restore East Tennessee to the Federal Union, and now after we have buried hundreds of our companions in Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, have suffered all the calamities and misfortunes incident to camp life and the vicissitudes of war, for two, and many of us for near three years, now to be told that our "damned country" is to be given up to the rebels, is enough to arouse an inquiry as to what is to become of us. Whatever may be the opinion of strangers as to the merits or demerits of our country, yet to us, it is the one dearest spot of earth—it is our home. It is to restore this, our home, to the Federal Union, the Government of our choice, that we have engaged in the cause of the Union; and he who denies us the privilege of living in the Union, or who would agree to our abandonment to the secessionists, is himself a secessionist, and a traitor to the cause of the Union, and if, in authority, should be dismissed the service.

There is but little difference in my judgment between the red-mouthed, fire-eating secessionists of the South, who advocate secession for protection to the nefarious slavery traffic, and the equally disgusting and red-mouthed abolitionist, who either advocates or agrees to "let the South slide," in order to get rid of slavery. Each doctrine leads to the same end--disunion; and the advocated of disunion or secession were pronounced by General Jackson to be traitors to the country, and the law of the land pronounces against such the penalty of death.

We East Tennesseans assimilate the unity of the States to the lion's den--"all tracks go inward, but none outward"--all States can come into our Union, but none can go out. This is the doctrine held by loyal East Tennesseans, and we adjudge no man truly loyal who believes or advocates the doctrine that any power under the sun can relieve the people of a State of their fealty to the Union. Suppose, however, after all our troubles and difficulties, after being robbed by the rebels, our women and children insulted and treated as menial slaves, by the lordly Georgia and Alabama slave-dealer, and the product of their summer work snatched from them at harvest time, and then our army comes along and takes not only what was hid away for the winter's support, but also the household furniture in many cases, and then when the country is laid waste they and their section of country is to be abandoned to the Southern Confederacy, in what light will be held up to the world in the history of this new Government? Do you not all remember the story of the traitor Arnold? If this accursed Southern treason is to be allowed to establish itself and write its history, it will set us down in the same light. He then who advocates the abandonment of this or any other part of the United States to the Rebels advocates secession, and is a co-worker to that extent with Rebels and traitors, and should be treated accordingly.

Then, East Tennesseans, let us stand by our colors independent of the jeers of Southern or Northern secessionists, and still show to the world an example of heroic devotion to the cause of the Union that should challenge the admiration of our Southern enemies, and heap shame and confusion upon the heads of those in our ranks who take such pride in slandering your fair fame, and disgrace the cause by robbing your families. Let us by our devotion to the Union, independent of slave-dealers or abolition fanatics, prove ourselves worthy descendants of the noble band who marched from East Tennessee to King's Mountain in the old Revolution, and the time will come when we may again be proud to be called East Tennesseans.

This appeal, however, to East Tennesseans to stand by their colors, is superfluous, as they are unconditional Union men, and cannot be driven from duty by the thieves who rob their families, nor by the jeers of irresponsible, cowardly letter writers, who are continually writing to Northern journals about their ignorance, nor by that "most unkindest cut of all"--the charge of cowardice. They will still "rally around the flag," with a faith in the perpetuity of the Union as unfaltering as that which animated the Israelites of old in following the "pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night."

It would be improper to conclude this article without giving proper credit to Major General Howard, who has won golden opinions from all loyal people everywhere through East Tennessee, and is everywhere regarded by them as a friend, not an enemy. And it may be proper to further remark that there are many officers who disapprove of such conduct as I have narrated, among whom I may mention Gen. Thomas. Yet there are many who not only permit, but seem to countenance and encourage the devastating process which has been resorted to in East Tennessee. I may say further, this public complaint of the conduct of certain portions of the army, would not now appear, were it not for the fact that longer silence on the part of East Tennesseans, might be construed by the pusillanimous scribblers who write about us, into an acknowledgment of the of the charges of cowardice and ignorance. Such insinuations and charges made wholesale by these scribblers is intended to beget in the minds of Northern people and Government officials a sort of contempt for our people, in order that no attention may be paid to or sympathy shown to them when they complain of their losses. No doubt such scribblers are paid by some Quartermaster to do so. At any rate such attacks are mean and cowardly, and in bad taste, and no man having the least particle of principle would thus attack a people who have shown such devotion to the cause of the Union. To all such, a general challenge from East Tennesseans is tendered, to go into the ranks with them and stay on the field as long as they do. This is all the East Tennesseans will demand of any who believe them cowards or ignorant of their rights. This communication is already too long, but the enormities and outrages committed on loyal East Tennesseans demand public attention; and little popinjay shoulder-strapped gentry need not think that because we have submitted thus long that we have not spirit; and the day may not be far distant when they will find, instead of women and children, some manlier forms will be there to protect the loyal families of the soldiers of East Tennessee.

Nashville Daily Union, July 22, 1864.[5]


[1] Not extant.

[2] See also Lowell Daily Citizen and News, (Lowell, MA) August 10, 1861.

[3] The violation of the flag of truce was due more to night fighting than intent, or so the report indicates.

[4] See also Knoxville Daily Southern Chronicle, July 23, 1863.

[5] As cited in: http://www.uttyl.edu/vbetts.

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-770-1090 ext. 123456

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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