Memories of War Times

Personal Reminiscences of Happenings That Took Place From 1861 to the Grand Review

by Reub Williams

The oppressed of the earth to that standard shall fly,
Wherever its folds shall be spread.
And the exile shall feel 'tis his own native sky,
Where its stairs shall wave o'er his head;
And those stars shall increase till the fullness of time,
Its million of cycles have run--
Till the world shall have welcomed their mission sublime,
And the nations of earth shall be one!
---George E. Cutter

Readers of these "war-time memories" will remember that in my last reminiscence I broke off the sketch at that time while the party of prisoners already named were resting through the day at Winchester--the first county seat north of Richmond where the battle of that name was fought on the last day of August, 1862 --preferring to travel in the night time owing to the excessively hot days. The wound of General Manson heretofore alluded to was becoming more and more painful, and riding in a buggy was not at all helpful or conducive towards its healing and his condition gave the rest of us considerable uneasiness. However, we pledged ourselves not to desert the old gentleman; and if we were compelled to leave him on the way, to make such arrangements as would contribute to his comfort so far as it was in our power to do so. It was a flesh wound and not at all dangerous, if he could have proper care; but it became very painful and seemed to be growing worse from the jolting of the vehicle, and the subject being fully discussed, it was determined, if his wounds grew no better, to arrange to leave him at Paris, the next town of any size, on the line of the route we had decided to take previous to leaving Winchester.

The party of prisoners, in all, consisting of six or eight persons, left the latter place at about 5 o'clock in the evening of our arrival there at an early hour in the morning, as already described. Throughout the day, on one or two occasions I met some of the men who formed the party in the saloon where the incident occurred that put them into such a hilarious mood, and on meeting me in person the gentleman who proposed to pay for the breakfast and drinks for Major Kempton and myself, broke out again in a loud guffaw; but as I was ignorant of the meaning of the joke perpetrated in the early morning I was unable to respond even with a smile, and I would give anything in reason to this day to know just what was behind the jest, for that it had a hidden meaning at somebody's expense was plainly understood by myself and Major Kempton, who reaped the benefit of the joke in our two very excellent breakfasts. The road to Paris was fairly good and we trudged along at a pretty lively rate through nearly all of the night, our only solicitation being for Gen. Manson, who declared that he would be compelled to stop at Paris, and await the healing of his wound. As near as I can recollect without examining a map, Paris lay somewhat north of (and?) west of Winchester. It was a town located on the railroad leading from Lexington to Cincinnati --the route most of the returning prisoners followed from the battlefield on their way back to their respective States, and was known then as viciously in favor of secession, so far as its citizens were concerned, a fact we learned to be so after reaching the place. We arrived there early on the following morning and all of us stopped at the principal hotel in the place. Colonel Reuben Keis secured a room for Gen. Manson, as well as a surgeon to dress his wound and care for him during the time he would have to remain there, for it had been determined to leave him as he was by this time utterly unfit to travel further.

During the day following our arrival we remained quite close. Prisoners from the battlefield had been arriving in Paris for some time and the secession element was highly elated over the victory the Confederate troops had won, and were inclined to be quite insolent in the presence of Federal officers, and in order not to bring about any unnecessary brawl, as well as for our own safety, we staid (sic) close about the hotel awaiting the coming of the night to renew our homeward march. However during the day--almost inadvertently I had asked the clerk of the hotel as to which was the nearest point on the Ohio river. He replied by telling me that Maysville was considerably the nearest of any of the important towns, and on further inquiry I found it was twenty-five or thirty miles nearer to Paris, where we then were , than Covington, the Kentucky town immediately opposite Cincinnati; but it was sixty miles above Cincinnati, the objective point for which all the paroled prisoners were headed. I also discovered by consulting with other citizens and guests of the hotel that an excellent pike road led from Paris straight to Maysville; so Major Kempton and myself resolved to cut loose from the party there and go to Maysville, well aware of the fact that on reaching that place there would be no difficulty in securing a boat to Cincinnati. This determination was reached for the same reason that we took the route by way of Winchester rather than that straight to Lexington when we left Richmond, for the reason that so many traveling the same road would not only cause a scarcity of food supplies, but also have a tendency to rouse the people along the route in hostility to a body of men who were compelled to forage upon their smoke-houses, hen-coops and spring-houses. There were many Union people along the route, but the victory at Richmond had enthused every one who sympathized with secession to such an extent that they had already become quite insolent in their manner and in their treatment of the Federal prisoners who were trying to get back to the Ohio river in the best and shortest way possible.

After Major Kempton and myself came to the conclusion to take the Maysville route, we suggested the plan to the rest of the party, but all of them were disinclined to take a road that although thirty miles nearer to the river would reach that stream sixty miles away from the destination of all of us; so that us two along decided for the proposed route and during the latter part of the afternoon we made all the necessary inquiries and along the latter part of the afternoon, when the sun was about an hour high we determined to set out on the trip alone. Those who are perusing these "war-memories" will remember that I have already stated I had only a dollar and a quarter in money when I left Richmond and Major Kempton was the proud possessor of forty-five cents. In order to have no trouble anywhere I had informed the landlord of the state of our finances on first arriving at his hotel. "All right," said he. "You need take no trouble on that account," and I answered by saying that I would send him his bill on reaching Cincinnati.

Just as we were about leaving the hotel, the Major and myself, aware of the fact that a night's march was before us, concluded to fortify the inner-man with a sup of Bourbon whiskey --that being the region in which it had its home --and so we entered a side room with that object in view. I did not know, however that the Major had already indulged to some extent before this last invitation to imbibe. He was at such times a pretty loud talker and did not care much what he said. On entering the saloon I at once discovered that it was pretty full of rough-looking characters, and as we stepped up to the bar, I could see that all eyes were upon us two, and some of them with exceedingly vicious looks as well. The Major in a boasting way declared that "we would whip h__l out of 'em yet," perceiving that he was surrounded by almost as ruffian-looking men as is often met, I also noticed one or two of them quietly rolling up their sleeves. I whispered to Kempton to keep still, and look around him. He did so, and for a wonder --because he was a very high tempered man, quick to resent anything of an insolent nature --he took the situation in at a glance. Had he imbibed one more drink nothing that I could have done would have quieted him. As it was, I took him by the arm and led him out into the hotel office through the door which we had entered. Looking back at the incident now, every survivor of the regiment, I know, will bear me out in saying that if he had been slightly more under the influence of "Kentucky Bourbon" he would have insulted and fought the biggest ruffian in the crowd. All through the day this ill-feeling against the returning Federal prisoners was growing and it was a wonder that us two officers escaped that villainous-looking crowd at Paris, Kentucky.

The clerk at the hotel came to the door and pointed out the spot where we would leave the main street of the town, and the turn of the corner placing us right on the very fine turnpike that led to Maysville, eighty miles distant, and the last remark he made to us as he bade us good-bye, was that he hoped to see both of us return again under happier and more auspicious circumstances; and, "by the way," said he, "a woman lives in the house on the opposite corner where you turn there, whose husband is in the Union army under Colonel Metcalfe." We thanked him, of course, and judged by his remarks that he was a Union man, but had given us no inkling that such was the case till then. The sun just at this time was not over a half-hour high, we expected to utilize the cool of the night rather than the oppressive heat of the day. We soon reached the corner shown us where the Union soldier's wife lived and seeing a pump in the yard, in order to get to speak to at least one Union woman, we made the excuse that we had stopped to get a drink of water. "Aint you Union soldiers?" said she. Of course the reply was in the affirmative and she soon confirmed the story of the hotel clerk by announcing the fact that her husband was in Colonel Metcalfe's cavalry. We told her that we were paroled prisoners and had concluded to go to Maysville rather than to Covington, the way that most of the soldiers who had been in the battle had gone. "Well, " said she, "You will find the Maysville pike a good road." There was a flouring mill right opposite the woman's house and she incidentally made the remark that the man who owned that one-horse wagon at the mill door lived about six miles out on the Maysville road and perhaps we could ride with him as far as he went.

Thinking the suggestion a good one, we went over and climbed into the seat without seeing anybody, at first. Pretty soon, however, a tottering old man came out of the mill with a fair-sized bag full of flour or cornmeal on his shoulder. Perhaps no man was ever more greatly surprised than the old gentleman with the bag on his shoulder on seeing two Federal officers occupying the principal seat in his vehicle. "What you fellows doin' in there?" he said. I at once assumed the speakership of the occasion, and told him we were going to ride out with him as far as he went. "No you ain't," he replied, "and I want you to git right out." Jump in, old man," I replied, "we are in a hurry to get out of town." Hev you fellows been licked at Richmond?" he said. "No," said I, "we licked Kirby Smith and all his army three times in one day but we are tired, and wan't to go home." "Well you can't ride in my wagon, anyhow!" "Now, look here, old man," said I, "if you are going along with us, dump in your sack and jump in, or we'll drive off without you." Very reluctantly the old man dumped his sack into the fore-part of the small wagon in such a way that he could sit upon it as the driver, and thus we started. He was decidedly anxious to talk with us about the battle of which he had heard some bits of truth and much fiction. He was in sympathy with the South through and through and wanted to discuss the question from his standpoint. I told him that discussion came too late just now. The war was on, and it would be ended only when one side or the other "threw up the sponge." "What d'ye mean by that," he said, the pugilistic quotation being new to him.

Finally, however, we got the old man into a more amiable frame of mind by jesting with him, and telling him a story or two, so that by the time we reached his place, he was quite kindly disposed. He told us that about four miles further on was a woman whose husband was in this d__d abolition war and had gone out to fight with you Northerners under Colonel Metcalfe in a cavalry regiment and she might keep us all night. We bade the old man good night and I hollered back at him that as soon as we got rested up, back in Indiana, we were coming back to "lik 'em again". The facts are that while at the mill I was awfully tempted to drive off with the horse and vehicle and make an all-night run to the limit of the horse's endurance; but on examining the animal and discovering him to be an old, lazy, overfed piece of horseflesh, I saw that we could not get far before the horse would break away and as it was very probable that General Kirby Smith's cavalry was not very far behind us it would be hardly an explainable matter should we be caught by them running away with a horse and vehicle stolen from a sympathizer with the South and containing paroled prisoners at that, so we determined to let things take their course and trudged on afoot.

When we came to the house of the man who had enlisted in Metcalfe's Union cavalry regiment, we stopped, at about 8:30 at night. We told the lady who we were and at once she had some of her help set to work to provide us with supper and we spent a couple of hours very pleasantly with her; found her to be an intelligent lady, thoroughly enlisted in the Union cause and the lady-head of a very delightful country home, whose husband was a Captain in the cavalry regiment referred to which had been fully organized only quite recently. In a private talk with Major Kempton we decided to go on our way even thought the lady insisted on our remaining all night. We concluded that the Confederate forces would follow up their victory by pressing on towards Cincinnati and in foraging over most of the intervening country it might be to her discredit with the Confederate authorities were it known that she had harbored Federal officers; so at about 11 o'clock p.m. we set forward on our way to Maysville. At about 3 o'clock the next morning we lay down side by side from sheer weariness until awakened by the fierce rays of an early September sun.

From the point where we had slept we could see that there was a village or town a mile or so ahead of us on our way, and so we determined to push on to it, and rest there during the hot hours of the day, then in its infancy. On reaching the place it was found to be Boonesborough in other words the original spot where Daniel Boone first settled when he emigrated from North Carolina into "the dark and bloody ground," afterwards known as Kentucky. Here we stopped at a hotel and I told the proprietor about our financial condition right at the start. "All right," said he, "you can have whatever you want while you stay with me under such circumstances." We were sent to a room and rested until late in the afternoon, when we arose to a piece of good luck. The leading man of the place owned about twenty head of very fine blooded horses, and just then his greatest fear was that the Confederate army would make its appearance --a detachment of it, at least --and confiscate all of his fine animals for their cavalry and artillery, and he was on nettles to get them to Maysville. Here was a chance for myself and the Major. We could help him out and we did so, riding an animal each and leading four, two on each side, and never was a man more pleased than was the owner when we safely arrived with his horses at Maysville, which we did the next morning.

On arriving at the city we went to the crack hotel in the place and once more I told the financial situation of both of us. "All right," said the proprietor, "you are welcome to whatever you want." I asked him about how soon we could get a boat for Cincinnati. "Why," he replied, "the Forest Rose is due here right now, and by the way, there she is now," so we heard an loud and hoarse whistle up the stream; so after enjoying a first-rate supper, we were in time to go on board the Forest Rose, after she had just put the freight on board that lay at the wharf. The fair to Cincinnati was $2 each. I told the captain the situation. "D'ye think I'd charge men in your situation anything after what you have passed through?" he said, and so we arrived at Cincinnati with the identical money in our pockets as when we left Richmond, and had had a pretty fair time, too! We hadn't gone a square in Cincinnati before both of us were arrested by the provost guard. The city was under martial law; sixty thousand men from all over the State with their squirrel rifles and old-fashioned powder horns and shot pouches had come from every county of the Buckeye State to defend the city. Every man in the town was in the trenches on the Kentucky side engaged in building fortifications, forts for artillery, etc., and as every man on the streets was liable to military duty, we, among the rest, were forced to give an account of ourselves. General Lew Wallace was in command of the city and its defenses, with his headquarters at the Burnett House. We were taken to him by the guard, and, of course, immediately released and given a pass with the freedom of the town. Here Major Kempton and myself borrowed $15 each and forwarded the amount due to each of the hotels that we owed, and as we had reached Cincinnati several days ahead of those who came direct to Covington by tramping over the ties of the railroad, I was ordered by Gen. Wallace to remain at Cincinnati and take charge of all the paroled prisoners from Indiana back to Indianapolis after they had arrived in Cincinnati. This I did, waiting till the fourth day after our own arrival before the last one of the State's soldiers reached Cincinnati following the battle of Richmond, Kentucky.

Something can be understood of the pluck and endurance of those men who got home as best they could, using the railroad as a highway for pedestrians, when it is a fact that the enlisted men pushed a car --one that is used for carrying the iron rails of a railway--loaded with thirty sick comrades all the way from Lexington to Covington --one hundred and thirty miles being the distance. There was a specimen of hard work persistently but conscientiously performed, for they would not desert their sick comrades, although some of the men were in an almost starved condition, and of course, completely worn out by pushing so heavy a car and its cargo of thirty sick soldiers that long distance. This incident was a fair illustration of some of the hardships of war times. Another incident of a different sort, was that after the war was over and the Twelfth was returning to Indianapolis from Washington it was the same Forest Rose that brought the survivors of the regiment from Parkersburg, West Virginia, to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, the same captain in command who very pleasantly remembered our former ride with him from Marysville to Cincinnati.

Warsaw Daily Times April 18, 1903

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