The rest of the girls made a fine exhibition of the lung-power acquired
in climbing their precipitous mountains, when they came in on the chorus
Hurra! Hurra! for southern rights Hurra!
Hurra for the homespun dress,
The Southern ladies wear.
This ended the entertainment.
On our journey to Bristol we met many Rebel soldiers, of all ranks,
and a small number of citizens. As the conscription had then been
enforced pretty sharply for over a year the only able-bodied men seen in
civil life were those who had some trade which exempted them from being
forced into active service. It greatly astonished us at first to find
that nearly all the mechanics were included among the exempts, or could
be if they chose; but a very little reflection showed us the wisdom of
such a policy. The South is as nearly a purely agricultural country as
is Russia or South America. The people have, little inclination or
capacity for anything else than pastoral pursuits. Consequently
mechanics are very scarce, and manufactories much scarcer. The limited
quantity of products of mechanical skill needed by the people was mostly
imported from the North or Europe. Both these sources of supply were
cutoff by the war, and the country was thrown upon its own slender
manufacturing resources. To force its mechanics into the army would
therefore be suicidal. The Army would gain a few thousand men, but its
operations would be embarrassed, if not stopped altogether, by a want of
supplies. This condition of affairs reminded one of the singular paucity
of mechanical skill among the Bedouins of the desert, which renders the
life of a blacksmith sacred. No matter how bitter the feud between
tribes, no one will kill the other’s workers of iron, and instances are
told of warriors saving their lives at critical periods by falling on
their knees and making with their garments an imitation of the action of
a smith’s bellows.
All whom we met were eager to discuss with us the causes, phases and
progress of the war, and whenever opportunity offered or could be made,
those of us who were inclined to talk were speedily involved in an
argument with crowds of soldiers and citizens. But, owing to the polemic
poverty of our opponents, the argument was more in name than in fact.
Like all people of slender or untrained intellectual powers they labored
under the hallucination that asserting was reasoning, and the emphatic
reiteration of bald statements, logic. The narrow round which all from
highest to lowest–traveled was sometimes comical, and sometimes
irritating, according to one’s mood! The dispute invariably began by
“Well, what are you ‘uns down here a-fightin’ we ‘uns for?”
As this was replied to the newt one followed:
“Why are you’uns takin’ our niggers away from we ‘uns for?”
“What do you ‘uns put our niggers to fightin’ we’uns for?” The windup
always was: “Well, let me tell you, sir, you can never whip people that
are fighting for liberty, sir.”
Even General Giltner, who had achieved considerable military reputation
as commander of a division of Kentucky cavalry, seemed to be as slenderly
furnished with logical ammunition as the balance, for as he halted by us
he opened the conversation with the well-worn formula:
“Well: what are you ‘uns down here a-fighting we’uns for?”
The question had become raspingly monotonous to me, whom he addressed,
and I replied with marked acerbity:
“Because we are the Northern mudsills whom you affect to despise, and we
came down here to lick you into respecting us.”
The answer seemed to tickle him, a pleasanter light came into his
sinister gray eyes, he laughed lightly, and bade us a kindly good day.
Four days after our capture we arrived in Bristol. The guards who had
brought us over the mountains were relieved by others, the Sergeant bade
me good by, struck his spurs into “Hiatoga’s” sides, and he and my
faithful horse were soon lost to view in the darkness.
A new and keener sense of desolation came over me at the final separation
from my tried and true four-footed friend, who had been my constant
companion through so many perils and hardships. We had endured together
the Winter’s cold, the dispiriting drench of the rain, the fatigue of the
long march, the discomforts of the muddy camp, the gripings of hunger,
the weariness of the drill and review, the perils of the vidette post,
the courier service, the scout and the fight. We had shared in common
The whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
which a patient private and his horse of the unworthy take; we had had
our frequently recurring rows with other fellows and their horses, over
questions of precedence at watering places, and grass-plots, had had
lively tilts with guards of forage piles in surreptitious attempts to get
additional rations, sometimes coming off victorious and sometimes being
driven off ingloriously. I had often gone hungry that he might have the
only ear of corn obtainable. I am not skilled enough in horse lore to
speak of his points or pedigree. I only know that his strong limbs never
failed me, and that he was always ready for duty and ever willing.
Now at last our paths diverged. I was retired from actual service to a
prison, and he bore his new master off to battle against his old friends.
Packed closely in old, dilapidated stock and box cars, as if cattle in
shipment to market, we pounded along slowly, and apparently interminably,
toward the Rebel capital.
The railroads of the South were already in very bad condition. They were
never more than passably good, even in their best estate, but now,
with a large part of the skilled men engaged upon them escaped back to
the North, with all renewal, improvement, or any but the most necessary
repairs stopped for three years, and with a marked absence of even
ordinary skill and care in their management, they were as nearly ruined
as they could well be and still run.
One of the severe embarrassments under which the roads labored was a lack
of oil. There is very little fatty matter of any kind in the South.
The climate and the food plants do not favor the accumulation of adipose
tissue by animals, and there is no other source of supply. Lard oil and
tallow were very scarce and held at exorbitant prices.
Attempts were made to obtain lubricants from the peanut and the cotton
seed. The first yielded a fine bland oil, resembling the ordinary grade
of olive oil, but it was entirely too expensive for use in the arts.
The cotton seed oil could be produced much cheaper, but it had in it such
a quantity of gummy matter as to render it worse than useless for
employment on machinery.
This scarcity of oleaginous matter produced a corresponding scarcity of
soap and similar detergents, but this was a deprivation which caused the
Rebels, as a whole, as little inconvenience as any that they suffered
from. I have seen many thousands of them who were obviously greatly in
need of soap, but if they were rent with any suffering on that account
they concealed it with marvelous self-control.
There seemed to be a scanty supply of oil provided for the locomotives,
but the cars had to run with unlubricated axles, and the screaking and
groaning of the grinding journals in the dry boxes was sometimes almost
deafening, especially when we were going around a curve.
Our engine went off the wretched track several times, but as she was not
running much faster than a man could walk, the worst consequence to us
was a severe jolting. She was small, and was easily pried back upon the
track, and sent again upon her wheezy, straining way.
The depression which had weighed us down for a night and a day after our
capture had now been succeeded by a more cheerful feeling. We began to
look upon our condition as the fortune of war. We were proud of our
resistance to overwhelming numbers. We knew we had sold ourselves at a
price which, if the Rebels had it to do over again, they would not pay
for us. We believed that we had killed and seriously wounded as many of
them as they had killed, wounded and captured of us. We had nothing to
blame ourselves for. Moreover, we began to be buoyed up with the
expectation that we would be exchanged immediately upon our arrival at
Richmond, and the Rebel officers confidently assured us that this would
be so. There was then a temporary hitch in the exchange, but it would
all be straightened out in a few days, and it might not be a month until
we were again marching out of Cumberland Gap, on an avenging foray
against some of the force which had assisted in our capture.
Fortunately for this delusive hopefulness there was no weird and boding
Cassandra to pierce the veil of the future for us, and reveal the length
and the ghastly horror of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, through
which we must pass for hundreds of sad days, stretching out into long
months of suffering and death. Happily there was no one to tell us that
of every five in that party four would never stand under the Stars and
Stripes again, but succumbing to chronic starvation, long-continued
exposure, the bullet of the brutal guard, the loathsome scurvy, the
hideous gangrene, and the heartsickness of hope deferred, would find
respite from pain low in the barren sands of that hungry Southern soil.
Were every doom foretokened by appropriate omens, the ravens along our
route would have croaked themselves hoarse.
But, far from being oppressed by any presentiment of coming evil, we
began to appreciate and enjoy the picturesque grandeur of the scenery
through which we were moving. The rugged sternness of the Appalachian
mountain range, in whose rock-ribbed heart we had fought our losing
fight, was now softening into less strong, but more graceful outlines as
we approached the pine-clad, sandy plains of the seaboard, upon which
Richmond is built. We were skirting along the eastern base of the great
Blue Ridge, about whose distant and lofty summits hung a perpetual veil
of deep, dark, but translucent blue, which refracted the slanting rays of
the morning and evening sun into masses of color more gorgeous than a
dreamer’s vision of an enchanted land. At Lynchburg we saw the famed
Peaks of Otter–twenty miles away–lifting their proud heads far into the
clouds, like giant watch-towers sentineling the gateway that the mighty
waters of the James had forced through the barriers of solid adamant
lying across their path to the far-off sea. What we had seen many miles
back start from the mountain sides as slender rivulets, brawling over the
worn boulders, were now great, rushing, full-tide streams, enough of them
in any fifty miles of our journey to furnish water power for all the
factories of New England. Their amazing opulence of mechanical energy
has lain unutilized, almost unnoticed; in the two and one-half centuries
that the white man has dwelt near them, while in Massachusetts and her
near neighbors every rill that can turn a wheel has been put into harness
and forced to do its share of labor for the benefit of the men who have
made themselves its masters.
Here is one of the differences between the two sections: In the North man
was set free, and the elements made to do his work. In the South man was
the degraded slave, and the elements wantoned on in undisturbed freedom.
As we went on, the Valleys of the James and the Appomattox, down which
our way lay, broadened into an expanse of arable acres, and the faces of
those streams were frequently flecked by gem-like little islands.
ENTERING RICHMOND–DISAPPOINTMENT AT ITS APPEARANCE–EVERYBODY IN
UNIFORM–CURLED DARLINGS OF THE CAPITAL–THE REBEL FLAG–LIBBY PRISON–
DICK TURNER–SEARCHING THE NEW COMERS.
Early on the tenth morning after our capture we were told that we were
about to enter Richmond. Instantly all were keenly observant of every
detail in the surroundings of a City that was then the object of the
hopes and fears of thirty-five millions of people–a City assailing which
seventy-five thousand brave men had already laid down their lives,
defending which an equal number had died, and which, before it fell, was
to cost the life blood of another one hundred and fifty thousand valiant
assailants and defenders.
So much had been said and written about Richmond that our boyish minds
had wrought up the most extravagant expectations of it and its defenses.
We anticipated seeing a City differing widely from anything ever seen
before; some anomaly of nature displayed in its site, itself guarded by
imposing and impregnable fortifications, with powerful forts and heavy
guns, perhaps even walls, castles, postern gates, moats and ditches,
and all the other panoply of defensive warfare, with which romantic
history had made us familiar.
We were disappointed–badly disappointed–in seeing nothing of this as we
slowly rolled along. The spires and the tall chimneys of the factories
rose in the distance very much as they had in other Cities we had
visited. We passed a single line of breastworks of bare yellow sand,
but the scrubby pines in front were not cut away, and there were no signs
that there had ever been any immediate expectation of use for the works.
A redoubt or two–without guns–could be made out, and this was all.
Grim-visaged war had few wrinkles on his front in that neighborhood.
They were then seaming his brow on the Rappahannock, seventy miles away,
where the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac lay
confronting each other.
At one of the stopping places I had been separated from my companions by
entering a car in which were a number of East Tennesseeans, captured in
the operations around Knoxville, and whom the Rebels, in accordance with
their usual custom, were treating with studied contumely. I had always
had a very warm side for these simple rustics of the mountains and
valleys. I knew much of their unwavering fidelity to the Union, of the
firm steadfastness with which they endured persecution for their
country’s sake, and made sacrifices even unto death; and, as in those
days I estimated all men simply by their devotion to the great cause of
National integrity, (a habit that still clings to me) I rated these men
very highly. I had gone into their car to do my little to encourage
them, and when I attempted to return to my own I was prevented by the
Crossing the long bridge, our train came to a halt on the other side of
the river with the usual clamor of bell and whistle, the usual seemingly
purposeless and vacillating, almost dizzying, running backward and
forward on a network of sidetracks and switches, that seemed unavoidably
necessary, a dozen years ago, in getting a train into a City.
Still unable to regain my comrades and share their fortunes, I was
marched off with the Tennesseeans through the City to the office of some
one who had charge of the prisoners of war.
The streets we passed through were lined with retail stores, in which
business was being carried on very much as in peaceful times. Many
people were on the streets, but the greater part of the men wore some
sort of a uniform. Though numbers of these were in active service, yet
the wearing of a military garb did not necessarily imply this. Nearly
every able-bodied man in Richmond was; enrolled in some sort of an
organization, and armed, and drilled regularly. Even the members of the
Confederate Congress were uniformed and attached, in theory at least, to
the Home Guards.
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