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A Rebel's Story. 213
morning had asked me the latest news from the city, I asked the first man I met, * Any news V—prepared to hear only of victory.
"* News! What's the last you've heard?'
"i Last night's dispatches.'
"* None since? The latest out, and plenty of it. Fort Donelson has fallen, and Nashville is surrendered! They say the white flag is waving now on the capitol, and the gunboats will be up before sundown.'
"I 'bought he was hoaxing me, but quickened my pace. The next morning confirmed it all and more. I saw there was literally a cloud of witnesses pouring along the turnpike leading to Franklin. Convalescent soldiers, quitting the hospitals, were waddling along with their scanty baggage. Travelers in groups and squads had left the hotels, carrying carpet-bags and satchels, and saddle-bags in hand. The family of the owner of the omnibus line were rolling out in those vehicles. Double and one-horse carriages were full of living freight. On reaching the toll-gate, on the top of the hill overlooking Nashville, I strained my eyes to see the white flag on the capitol. The tall flag-staff was naked. There was no flag of any sort on it.
"Passing down Broad-street by the Nashville and Decatur road, the first man I saw was Gov. Harris, about to leave on a special train, with the Legislature and archives of the State. The town was in commotion. Over the wire bridge that spans the Cumberland, Geia. Johnston's army were passing, taking the direction of the Murfreesboro turnpike. The train of wagons and soldiers reached out of sight, and did not get over that night. The sight of a withdrawing or retreating army is very disheartening.
"My residence is in Edgefield, a little village separated from Nashville by the Cumberland River. For several days Gen. Johnston's headquarters had been established on that side of the river, and near me. The lady with whom he and his staff took their meals is my neighbor and friend, and tells me that the General opened the news to her at table, in these words:
* "Madam, I take you to be a person of firmness, and trust your neighbors are. Don't be alarmed. Last night, my last dispatch, up to 12 o'clock, was favorable, and I lay down expecting a great victory to-day; but this morning, at 4 o'clock, I was waked by a courier, with the news that our forces at Fort Donelson were surrounded and must surrender. They are not made of steel. Our soldiers have fought as bravely as ever soldiers did; but they cannot hold out day after day, against fresh forces and such odds. I cannot make men. Stay at home. Tell all your friends for me to stay at home. I cannot make a fight before Nashville, and, for the good of the city, shall retire. I know Gen. Buell well. He is a gentleman, and will not Buffer any violence to peaceable citizens, or disturb private property.'
"It might have been well if the General had issued a proclamation. He and staff crossed the bridge that night at 11 o'clock. Gen. Breckinridge followed, and your correspondent followed soon after.
"The question has often been asked: 'Why didn't the people of Nashville make a stand? What! give up their city without striking a blow?'
"The people were astonished and indignant at the way they were handed over to the enemy's mercy and occupation. But what could they do? When generals, and armed and drilled soldiers give up and retire, what can unarmed and undisciplined citizens do before a foe advancing by land and water?
"* Throw brickbats at them,' said one. Indeed! that would be well enough, if the enemy would deal in the same missiles.
"The bones of Gen. Jackson, the defender of New Orleans, must have turned in his grave at the Hermitage, a few miles away, at such a surrender.
"A few months before, on urgent call, every man who had a rifle or double-barrel gun, had brought it forward and given it up for army service. Not fifty serviceable guns could our citizens have mustered. No, not even pikes, though they had just enrolled themselves and resolved to have them made, and if Gen. Johnston made a stand before the city, they were resolved to stand with him. Such of them as were not willing to be surrendered to the uncovenanted mercies of Lincolndom, with the prospect of having the oath tendered them or the bastile, followed the retiring army.
"After taking my family as far as Decatur, I returned to Nashville on Wednesday. The stores were closed and bolted; the streets deserted, save by a guard here and there, and a press-gang taking up every man they could find, and sending him to load government pork into barges, upon which it was being taken up the river, and put out of the enemy's way. Had a stand been made before the city, or even a feint of a stand, no doubt all the government stores could have been removed safely. As it is, vast amounts have been thrown away, wasted, given out, both from the quartermaster's and commissary's departments. At one time the doors were thrown open to whomsoever would, under the impression that they had better let the poor have these provisions than the enemy, who was expected instantly. A friend said he sawquantities of meat lying on the roadside, where persons, having overloaded their carts, had thrown it out. Barrels of flour, sacks of coffee, tierces of lard and meat, were rolled into private houses and back yards, with hundreds of boxes of candles, bolts of cloth, etc. Afterwards this order was countermanded, as the enemy was not exactly at the door, and a guard placed over the stores, and an effort made to get them off by railroad and boat. Private carriages, hacks and carts, were stopped in the street and pressed into service, and some of my friends had to get their baggage to the station in wheel-barrows. Advantage was taken of the confusion and dismay of the hour for private injustice and irresponsible oppression. The selfishness developed in such a crisis is humiliating. ******
"The opinion prevails there that Nashville will be burnt, first or last—if not when we leave it, then when we drive the enemy out of it. For Tennesseeans are resolved that the enemy shall not rest on their soil. Gen. Floyd and staff left Thursday morning, and it was understood that Capt. John H. Morgan, with his company, would retire slowly, as the enemy in force entered. The Louisiana cavalry, Col. Scott, were near Franklin, on their way to the vicinity of Nashville, where they will act as scouts and hold the enemy closely in bounds.
WHAT REBELS WILL DO. 215
"As far out as Brentwood, Franklin and Columbia, some people are leaving their homes and sending off their slaves. Others, deeply committed Southerners, stand and risk the consequences. They look for inconveniences and heavy losses, staying or going.
"In reply to the question often asked, whether any Union element has been developed by these events: There was always some of this element in Nashville, but in very inconsiderable proportion to the population. Let Unionists show their hands and heads now; it is hoped they will. We have friends enough left to watch them; and when the tide of war rolls back, the country will finally be purged of them, for they will have to leave with the Lincoln army.
"The great mass of Tennesseearis, especially Middle and West, are sound to the core, and thoroughly aroused for the first time. They chafe under the humiliation and disgrace of the surrender of their capital. Those that can will move their famines out of the reach of immediate harm, and return to face the foe on a hundred fields. The great battles of the war are to be fought in the West. This is but the beginning. The people realize now what is at stake, and they will measure out wealth and blood without stint."
From Nashville the division of Mitchell made its way through Tennessee into Alabama, while Gen. Buell was to co-operate with Gen. Grant in the terrible field of Shiloh.
COLUMBUS: ISLAND No. 10: PEA RIDGE.
Federal Strategy—Results— Columbus—Halleck's Dispatch—Gunboats—" That Flag"—Rebel Strength—General Pope—A Cavalry Skirmish—Capture Op New Madrid—Morgan's Gallant Brigade—Evacuation—Pope's Dispatch— "island No. 10"—Naval Bombardment—Buford's Dash On Union City—Col. Robert's Daring Exploit—Running Batteries—The Surrender—General PreSentment— Gexneral Pope's Command—Battle Op Pea Ridge—Incidents—MajobGeneral Curtis—Brigadier-general Eugene A. Carr—General Julius WhiteColonel Greusel—Colonel Post.
THE demonstrations upon Fort Henry and Fort Donelson were really part of the siege of Columbus and Island No. 10, the rebel strongholds, which were relied upon to permanently close the Mississippi River. The Federal strategy pierced the enemy's center, isolated and turned his wings, by the brilliant movements on the Tennessee and Cumberland. Bowling Green and Nashville were the first fruits, and then Columbus and the Island. So much had been said and believed in reference to the strength of Columbus, that a long siege was anticipated, and therefore the country was surprised above measure when it was announced on the 3d of March, 1862, that it had fallen without a struggle!
General Halleck's dispatch of March 4th, modestly said:
"The cavalry from Paducah marched into Columbus, yesterday, at 6 p. M., driving before them the enemy's rear-guard. The flag of the Union is flying over the boasted Gibraltar of the West. Finding himself completely turned on both sides of the Mississippi, the enemy was obliged to evacuate or surrender. Large quantities of artillery and stores were captured."
The naval force under Admiral JBoote consisted of six gunboats and four mortar-boats. There were four transports conveying CoL Buford's 27th 111., a battalion of the 54th and 74th Ohio and 55th COLUMBUS. 217
111., six companies, of the 55th, commanded by Major Sanger, forming a brigade under Brigader-General Sherman. The expedition moved cautiously to Lucas Bend from which the bluffs of Columbus were visible in the morning light. The fleet was made ready far action, and then doubts arose if there was anything to attack. An examination showed the batteries in position, but where was the foe? On the right-hand side of the river a man was seen in a cornfield, retreating. A boat was sent to him, and he gave the information that Columbus was deserted by the rebels, who had carried with them arms and ammunition as far as possible, and had burnt most of the town. A flag was seen which puzzled the officers of the expedition, for it wore too many stripes for Secessia, and yet had not the appearance of the national bunting. On landing a party the facts were ascertained. On the previous afternoon a detachment of the 2d Illinois' Cavalry, numbering about 600 men, under charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Hogg, had arrived from Paducah and taken possession. The strange flag was one improvised from pieces of calico.
General Polk had with him not less than 20,000 men, and they were within fortifications of great strength, but he deemed it necessary to give up their stronghold and retire without a blow. A singular evil-fortune has attended every effort of the rebels to hold posts on the Mississippi from Paducah to New Orleans. Among the relics was Pillow's great chain, costing forty thousand dollars, designed to obstruct the river against Yankee gunboats. One end was anchored in the bluff, and the other stretching across the river, but alas! it was destined to serve no better purpose than the famous ditch excavated aforetime, within the breast-work by order of the venerable warrior-sage! The chain was broken!
General Pope, with a formidable land force was operating against the enemy. On the 28th of February he moved toward New Madrid, encamping the first night, twelve miles from Commerce. The second day there was a cavalry skirmish near Sykestown, the Union force being under Captain Webster, 7th 111., resulting in the capture of three small rifled cannon and four rebel prisoners. Approaching New Madrid the command was formed in line of battle including the 7th Illinois Cavalry, and 26th Infantry. The rebel