Friday, January 3, 2014

1/3/2014 Tennessee Civil War Notes

        3-4, The Pink Varble Affair

Returned from Nashville.-Messrs. Dan'l Richards, Barney Seales, Dan'l McLaughlin, Wm. Varble, Geo. Dickinson, and Wm. Brown, together with five deck-hands, the party who took the Pink Varble up the Cumberland river some time ago, returned to this city on Wednesday by the steamer Sunny Side. We learn from then that the Varble has been detained by the authorities at Nashville, and that the owner, in this city (Louisville), will be paid to the amount of her value. The crew of the Varble, after having been kept under guard in Nashville for several weeks, obtained passes through the rebel lines from Gen. Johnston. They left Nashville on Christmas day, and had rather a tough experience on their journey to this city. They were detained at Dover, Tenn., in jail, for twenty-seven hours, and was regarded everywhere with suspicion. Benj. Miller, who was a passenger for Nashville by the Varble, went to Bayou Sara, La., as an agent of Mr. I. I. Hatton this city, for the sale of coal. Some of the men inform us that they were well treated while in Nashville and others complain bitterly of the treatment they received at the hands of their old acquaintances. One of them informs us that Milt. Moore was particularly inhospitable, and in various ways added to the embarrassment which surrounded his old acquaintances.

Louisville Daily Journal, January 3, 1862. [1]


The Pink Varble Affair.-We learn in reference to the return of the crew of  the Pink Varble, from Nashville, that they came back in consequence of the fact that they were unable to bring the boat back through the blockade. They left Nashville under an order from Gen. A. S. Johnson [sic], that they should be escorted beyond the rebel lines at the expense of the government, and that the rebel government would remunerate Captain Varble for the loss of the boat. We have this assurance from Captain William Varble, who was in command, and Mr. George Dickinson, one of the engineers of the boat.[2]

Louisville Daily Journal, January 4, 1862.[3]



        3, Action at Somerville

GERMANTOWN, TENN., March 5, 1863.

Capt. R. M. SAWYER, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.:

CAPT.: On the 3d day of January last, I arrived at Moscow, Tenn., from Holly Springs, Miss., with my command, consisting of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry and ten companies of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry. I had few rations, and subsisted on the country.

On the 5th of January, I was directed to move north of Wolf River, and endeavor to clear that country of Richardson's (Confederate) cavalry.

At 10 a. m. of that day I moved, meeting with much delay in crossing Wolf River.

Distant 7 miles from Moscow, I received the following telegram:

HDQRS. LEFT WING, LaGrange, January 2, 1863.

Col. LEE, Moscow:

The following just received:


Let Lee collect horses, mules, saddles, and bridles, and mount as many infantry as possible, to clean out guerrillas between Hatchie and Tallahatchee [sic].


Take all serviceable animals you can find as well as saddles, and we will soon fit up a force.


I immediately detached companies from my column, directing them to bring in all horses, mules, saddles, and bridles fit for use.

At 7 p. m. I bivouacked at a plantation 6 miles from the town of Somerville. It was rumored that the enemy was in small force at that place, and I gave orders to move at 3 a. m. on the following morning, hoping to surprise and capture any force there. We had marched some miles after dark, and I was satisfied that no one in advance of us knew of our presence in the vicinity. No fires were allowed, and the men were forced to lie down supperless. Soon a severe rain-storm commenced, and continued all night.

At 3 a. m. I moved my command on Somerville. We reached and surrounded that town before day, finding no force of the enemy.

I immediately appointed Lieut.-Col. Herrick, of the Seventh Kansas, provost-marshal of the town, placed six companies at his disposal, and directed him to examine and search the town for Confederate officers and soldiers; also to gather all horses, mules, and equipments they could find.

I here was informed that Richardson's force was camped about 12 miles north of this point. I immediately sent a force in that direction to learn the accuracy of the report.

I also dispatched companies on all roads leading from the town, directing them to bring in all animals fit for service which they could find.

In town many citizens were arrested suspected of connection with the Southern Army. These I personally examined and released.

The people of the town treated the soldiers well, and offered them in singular profusion wines and liquors of all kinds. The town was literally full of intoxicating liquors. At one store-house I discovered fourteen barrels of whisky which belonged to the Confederate Army.

As a result of this unfortunate profusion of strong drinks, many soldiers, who had neither supper nor breakfast, and laid on the ground without shelter, through a night of pelting storm, were induced to drink, and as a consequence I suddenly discovered that many were intoxicated.

Here occurred a melancholy incident. At the southern border of the town, Company B, of the Seventh Kansas, Capt. Fred. Swoyer, had been stationed as a picket. The captain had discovered a quantity of commissary stores in a building near, and stationed a guard at the entrance. The captain himself had visited a house near by to obtain a breakfast, and there drank to such an extent as to become somewhat exhilarated. During his absence, a couple of men of his company persisted in an endeavor to pass into the store-house mentioned, but were prevented by the guard. On his return to his company the case was reported.

He directed the company to fall in, and the men alluded to deliver their arms and go in arrest. His tone was harsh and peremptory in the extreme. One of the men demurred, and attempted to explain. He commanded him to desist and remove his arms, drawing his pistol, and telling him he would shoot him if he said another word. The man again spoke, when the captain fired, the ball passing into the body of the man. Instantly one of the company fired at the captain, but did not wound him. The captain rode toward him and the man ran. The captain soon overtook him, both riding rapidly, and shot him through the head, killing him instantly. At the same moment the man fired, and his ball passed through the body of the captain. The company was in confusion, and many shots were fired at the captain, who rode rapidly into town. He was taken into a house and died the following day.

During this occurrence I was at the court-house, a half mile from its scene. I immediately dispatched the commanding officer of the regiment with a company to quell the mutiny. It was readily quieted, though the men remained much excited.

The state of my command and the inclemency of the weather convinced me that it would be unwise to continue a further search for the enemy, especially as we were burdened with many led animals. I immediately withdrew the main portion of my command from the town, leaving Lieut.-Col. Wallace, of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, in charge of a detachment of the Seventh Kansas, to await the return of parties sent out. The main body proceeded some distance, there fed their horses, halting till all came up.

That night we bivouacked south of Wolf River, near Moscow, and next morning reached our camp, bringing with us nearly 300 head of captured mules and horses.

At Somerville two or three stores were opened and some plundering effected by drunken men. From complaints made and proven to me, I have no doubt, too, that robbery and outrages were committed by drunken men. No plunder of goods, however, was made to any considerable extent, as nothing that could be seen was carried by soldiers from town.

The officers of the command were sober, and did all in their power to enforce order among the men. My personal staff especially risked their lives in quelling insubordination of drunken men.

Arriving at camp, I directed regimental courts-martial, to try all men who had become intoxicated. This was done, and the next day the command was paraded, and sentences of the courts, depriving more than 200 of one month's pay, and inflicting further punishments, were published.

At my request, a general court-martial was immediately called to try the graver offenses, which has continued to session till a recent date. Regarding this unfortunate expedition, I can only say, in mitigation of its excesses, for more than a month immediately preceding these troops had been engaged in the most arduous, dangerous, and fatiguing service, and during most of that time had subsisted alone on what could be gleaned from the country. They were almost worn out. The absence of two successive meals, and the suffering incident to the severe exposure of the night previous, induced them readily to drink, and the liquor was necessarily speedy in its effects. Before any one could suspect the possibility of such an event, numbers were drunk.

In our campaigns we have, with this single exception, never found in country or town intoxicating drinks. Its present scarcity in the South is proverbial; hence no special precautions suggested themselves to prevent inebriety.

I am, captain, your obedient servant,

A. L. LEE, Col., Cmdg. Second Brigade, Cavalry Division.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 24, pt. III, pp. 142-143.


HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE, Memphis, Tenn., January 20, 1863.

Brig. Gen. C. S. HAMILTON, Comdg. District of West Tennessee:

GEN.: Complaints have come in from Somerville from the few Union men of the outrageous conduct of the Seventh Kansas, and in one case of Col. Lee's conduct where he was informed of the status of the party. This was the case of Mr. Rivers, who called on Col. Lee to try and get him to restrain his men, and was replied to by being made to dismount and give up the animal he was riding.

If there are any further complaints, well substantiated, I wish you to arrest Col. Lee and have him tried for incompetency and his regiment dismounted and disarmed.

The conduct of this regiment at New Albany, in their pursuit of Van Dorn, stopping to plunder the citizens instead of pursuing the enemy when they were so near them, and again when after Richardson, about the 8th of this month, they passed near where they knew or at least were informed he was and went on to the town for the purpose of plunder-all the laurels won by the regiment and their commander on the pursuit of the enemy from Holly Springs to Coffeeville have been more than counterbalanced by their bad conduct since.

Their present course may serve to frighten women and children and helpless old men, but will never drive out an armed enemy.

I am, general, with great respect, yours, &c.

U. S. GRANT, Maj.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 17, pt. II, p. 575.


The account of a member of the 7th Kansas Cavalry

Near Moscow, Tenn., Saturday, Jan. 3, 1863-We were called out at 3:00 A.M. without the sound of bugle or loud orders and were not allowed any fires or lights. It began raining about that time. We move out at 4.30 A. M. and reached Sommerville, five miles  distant, soon after daylight. We surrounded it and posted pickets on every road. The town was searched. 175 horses and mules were found, and a large number of arms and several prisoners. A large amount of liquor was also found, and as the men were cold and hungry, many of them embibed [sic] more or less and became intoxicated. Company "B" became quite disorderly, and in trying to quell them, Capt. Sawyer killed one man and severely wounded another, and then was fatally shot, himself, by his men. This compelled Col. Lee to retire from the place. We left town about noon. It rained hard nearly all the forenoon. We marched twelve miles and are bivouacked in the woods. It is raining hard and we have no shelter.

Pomeroy Diaries, January 3, 1863.



        3, "God bless the Rebels. I would risk my life a dozen times a day to serve them-think what they suffer for us –" January, Sunday 3, 1864

Another day has passed, and not one word from Bettie or Uncle Elum-no communication with Memphis today, too cold to go out side of the doors. Still sleeting-house still full, if not a little fuller. Tate is growing very impatient to leave for Dixie-she is really cross about Bettie, but I still have hope that it will be all right. Eddie feels badly about it, as the risk was run for him-God bless the Rebels. I would risk my life a dozen times a day to serve them-think what they suffer for us-

Henny Furgeson and Lieut. Spotswood left for Dixie. Henny F. bought Helen's pony, gave $200 for it, he rode it off-It does not seem like the Sabbath, though this is the first one of '64. We spent the day as usual, laughing, talking, and trying to keep warm. Julien Simmons and Dashiell Perkins came over from Col. Perkins-Dashiell staid we sat up very late, and Poor old-looks like the noise will run him crazy.

Diary of Belle Edmondson



        3, Confederate foraging in the White County Cherry Creek community, an entry in the journal of Amanda McDowell

Rebels again. I am sorry for the farmers on Cherry Creek tonight, for if all accounts are true, their corn and fodder will go up tonight. Mrs. Mansel came up here tonight to save her mare. Mr. Hickman met a great many, and one took his gloves off his hands, and they pressed Mrs. Simms' team and some meat and Mr. Cooper's team also and some come up [sic] after Will Snodgrass' horses and were going to take Mr. Hickman's wagon, some come [sic] to Hickman's and called for supper and feed for their horses, and [said] they were Rebels and were going to camp on the creek, that they were from Kentucky and would be passing till after midnight. They were all well dressed and mounted which corroborated their tale of being just from Ky. for they always come back from there in a good fix, unless they are pursued too closely, and they have to be hard run to prevent their taking time to get what they want if they find it. Mrs. Mansel was at Mr. Hickman's and feared they would take her mare.

Diary of Amanda McDowell.


[1] PQCW.

[2] A biography of  riverboat captain Pink Varble found in Kentucky: A History of the State, Perrin, Battle, Kniffin, 8th ed., 1888, Jefferson Co. 
instructs that  Captain Pink Varble was" one of the best known river men in Louisville, and one of the safest 
and best Falls pilot ever on the Falls, having piloted more boats over the Falls than any one man in the business." 
The biographical statement mentions him piloting a boat to New Orleans delivering some fifty-two street cars in 
1861. This required obtaining special papers from Federal and Confederate authorities. The statement does not 
mention this Cumberland river affair; likewise there is nothing to indicate what it was the Pink Varble was doing
 on the Cumberland in the first place.

[3] As cited in PQCW.

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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