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I could hardly walk. But I was free, and going home, and that was the best tonic I could have.
AT CITY POINT.
At City Point our prison friend, Captain Patterson, came on board the vessel to see us, and there was a rush to shake hands with him. He said he was glad we were going home.
Notwithstanding all the searching, one man had succeeded in concealing his flag, and as soon as we were on the Confederate boat he unfurled it, and a deafening shout rent the air as the boys greeted it.
While in Richmond I met Colonel Lane, and was surprised to hear him say, "Why, how are you, Company I?" I told him how astonished I was that he knew me, and he said, "I never forget a Twenty-sixth boy."
My faithful and unselfish friend, "Perk" Miller, another Caldwell county boy, who had joined the first company that was formed in Caldwell, had shared every morsel of comfort with me during our long imprisonment, and was my companion still as we joyfully wended our way to our mountain home. A part of this journey was on foot, and although we felt in our hearts that we had only to show our pitiful selves to any North Carolina woman to get the needful food, we both felt like it was begging, and shrank from doing it, so we shared this duty also, taking time about "to ask for something to eat," which was always cheerfully given.
I was at home one month when Stoneman made his raid through the county and came to Lenoir.
I was in the yard in my shirt-sleeves when I first saw the Yankees, and might have made my escape, but thinking they were our Home Guard, I deliberately walked around the house in full view of them, and saw my mistake when the guns were pointed at me, and I could only throw up my hands in token of surrender. I was carried right off, without a coat, and was all night without coat or blanket, and almost frozen.
They issued no rations, but my mother was allowed to supply me with food. My sister went with my parole to General Gilliam and begged him to release me, but he refused to do it. This was Eastereve, 1865.
On Monday we marched twenty miles up the Blue Ridge, and camped at Yadkin spring, where we received our first rations—a
half-ear of corn for each prisoner-for twenty-four hours. And this in a land not yet despoiled of provisions, where our captors had plenty and to spare. I had some remains of my lunch, and did not want the corn; but half a dozen famished men were eager for it. Next morning we were turned over to Kirk, and marched on to Boone.
At Estes's school-house Lieutenant Shotwell and two other men made their escape, and but for an open path to the school-house would have been safe. When discovered, two surrendered, and Shotwell was captured just as he gave a sign of surrender. Kirk, with characteristic cruelty, said: “D―n him; shoot him!" and "Dhis orders were obeyed; and this gallant young soldier was murdered right before our eyes and left lying as he had fallen. A friend of his begged to be allowed to go to him, and when permission was given he went and straightened his body and took $50 in gold out of his boot, intending to send it to young Shotwell's father; but was soon relieved of it by an officer, and Mr. Shotwell never saw it. I was one who went with this broken-hearted man in search of his son's body many months afterwards, but must tell of this in a separate sketch.
Murder and robbery was the order of the day with Kirk's band. At Boone, while gathered around the court-house, Kirk rode into our midst, called us "cowards, cut-throats, damned rebels," and every vile thing he could think of, and threatened the most horrible vengeance if we attempted to escape. My good old friend, Mr. Sid
ney Deal, came up to me and said:
'Keep close to me, my boy,
and if anybody must fight for you, I'll do it.”
Mr. Deal had suffered every wrong from these men, and when one of them commenced to abuse him, he told him boldly how he, Ford, had robbed him of horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs, and the man went off without another word.
Our next stop was at Cool creek, in Watague county, but we drew no rations until we arrived at Greenville, Tenn., when we had some hard-tack and bacon. We were hurried on to Knoxville, where we were turned over to regular United States soldiers, and fared a little better. At Nashville we were lodged in the pen, but we had better rations than before. We crossed the Ohio river at Louisville, and on the other side, at Jeffersonville, saw the first signs of mourning for Abraham Lincoln-an arch bearing this inscription: "Abraham Lincoln, the Saviour of His Country, Is In His Grave."
We took the train to Indianapolis, thence to Columbus, thence to Camp Chase, where we were kept for three months.
About the 1st of August we were given the alternative of taking the oath, or going to hard labor on the fort. We took the oath, but none the less loyal to that banner that has been forever furled, and the grand old leaders of the "Lost Cause."
On our homeward journey, at Wheeling, W. Va., where we arrived in the early morning, and spent the day, an elderly gentleman and two young ladies came to us and inquired if we were Confederate prisoners, and when told that we were; gave us nice refreshments. At Baltimore we went to the Soldiers' Home, and had good food and every comfort. From there we went to Fortress Monroe, thence to Petersburg, and on to Danville. We switched off to B Junction, and there a kind old gentleman gave me my first greenback dollar, and I was glad to get it. Our next stop was at Greensboro, N. C., and then we were soon at home.
[From the Raleigh (N. C.) State, November 19, 1895.]
KIRKLAND'S BRIGADE, HOKE'S DIVISION, 1864-'65.
During the fall and winter of 1864, Longstreet's corps, composed of the divisions of Field, Kershaw, and Hoke, defended the lines on the north side of James river, confronted by General B. F. Butler's "Army of the James."
Late in December Butler's army was sent on its expedition against Fort Fisher, N. C., and Hoke's Division was ordered to proceed to Wilmington to meet Butler. Kirkland's Brigade, the Seventeenth, Forty-second, and Sixty-sixth North Carolina troops, was moved first to Richmond. Having been recruited in winter quarters, the command made a fine appearance marching through the streets of the capital, with three brass bands and three drum and fife corps, its steady step and fine bearing eliciting cheers from the people. Officers and men felt the thrill which comes to the young soldier's heart from "the pomp and circumstance of war" and the approving smiles of woman. The troops were very enthusiastic when told they were going to defend the soil of their native State.
As the railroad from Petersburg to Weldon was closed to us our only route was via Danville, Greensboro, and Raleigh.
Leaving Richmond by the Richmond and Danville railroad, Kirkland's Brigade reached Wilmington, N. C., after a long and fatiguing ride on the cars in extremely cold weather, and Kirkland marched at once with the two regiments which arrived first, viz., the Seventeenth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Sharpe, and Forty-second, under Colonel Brown, for Sugar Loaf, a point a few miles above Fort Fisher. Our horses and wagons had not come, so all of the mounted officers were on foot (as the Irishman would say). On the march at night we heard a loud explosion and saw a great light towards the ocean, which we thought was the bursting of a magazine on one of the Federal ships, and the men gave three cheers. But we afterwards learned it was the explosion of Butler's famous "Powder Boat," which he thought would scare the poor rebels away.
In the morning we halted at Sugar Loaf. The fleet had been bombarding Fort Fisher, but the enemy had not landed.
The Confederate forces under Bragg, outside of Fort Fisher, consisted of a small body of Senior Reserves, aged from forty-five to sixty, and some little cavalry. It was pitiful to see some of those gray-haired patriots dead in the woods, killed by shells from the fleet. Among those who carried a musket there was Mr. William Pettigrew, brother of the heroic General-now a venerable minister of the gospel.
Kirkland placed one company from the Forty-second, under Captain Koontz, in Battery Gatlin, a small fort on the sea-beach at the southern end of Masonboro Sound, and held the rest of his command on the road covered by the thick woods and dense undergrowth.
I had found a pony at an abandoned farm-house and mounted him, so as to convey orders, but he was new to the business and did not like my spurs. Kirkland ordered me to ride down to the beach to see if there were any signs of landing troops from the transports. I did so, and saw the ships extending as far as I could see down the beach, but no indication of landing. Returning, I reported this to the General, but in a few minutes a soldier came running up, almost breathless, and told us that the enemy had lowered his boats on the side opposite the shore, pulled rapidly to the land and captured Capt. Koontz and his company, but few escaping. We rode down through the woods and found a large force on the beach and more coming, while the woods around us were filled with shrieking shells. General Kirkland promptly ordered his small command forward to the edge of the woods which skirted the shore and deployed both regiments as skirmishers. By his direction I rode down the line and
told the men to keep up the fire upon the enemy and cheer as much as they could, but if they were hard pressed to fall back from pine to pine in the direction of Wilmington, and not let the enemy cut us off.
General Butler's forces, being thus very promptly checked, began at once to throw up breastworks on the sand shore. As they consisted of at least six times our number we could not have prevented their advance. But General Butler greatly exaggerated our force, and I have always believed that his examination of Captain Koontz had something to do with his false impression. As it was, these two regiments held his army at bay (or at ocean, perhaps I should say) the entire day, which was Christmas, 1864. By pushing our line close to his we escaped much injury from the ships' guns, their shells passing over our heads. We had the help of Sutherland's Battery of artillery and Lipscomb's South Carolina cavalry. During the night the troops began to come in from our division. But a reconnoissance the next morning showed that General Butler had taken advantage of the darkness, re-embarked his army, and abandoned his expedition.
The navy had bombarded Fort Fisher for two days, but inflicted slight loss. Kirkland's bold and spirited defense must have convinced Butler that we had a large force, as Koontz had told him that Longstreet was there with his three divisions-Hoke, Field, and Kershaw.
The fact is, that we did not have two thousand men of all arms to oppose him, and no infantry except the two regiments of Kirkland's Brigade. Why Butler was considered fit to be a general I don't know, unless his tyranny and oppression of non-combatants qualified him for "crushing out the rebellion."
Soon after this battle, General Bragg, the department commander, ordered Hoke's Division to Wilmington, not expecting a renewal of the attack on Fort Fisher. We marched, with colors flying and bands playing, into the city, and were enthusiastically received by the people as their victorious defenders. General Bragg reviewed the division and made preparations for a new campaign-for the capture of Newbern, N. C. This was kept a secret, but it came to my knowledge. Our brigade had orders to prepare three days' rations, and all got ready for a march-destination unknown. But during the very night previous to this intended movement we were suddenly ordered to move to the wharf and take boats down the river to Sugar Loaf, Kirkland's Brigade again in the advance, as the enemy had reappeared in front of Fort Fisher, the army this time being