Monthly Archives: December 2017


Among the beauties of the war in Western Virginia was the “mixed-up” way in which the combatants manoeuvre among the mountains. Here is an instance where a single loyal soldier halted an entire rebel regiment:

Serg. Carter, of Tippecanoe, Ohio, was upon the post first attacked by the enemy. The advance-guard of the Second Virginia, (rebel,) consisting of twelve men, came suddenly upon him and his three companions. The bright moonlight revealed the flashing bayonets of the advancing regiment. He was surrounded and separated from his reserve. With great presence of mind he stepped out and challenged: “Halt! Who goes there?” The advance-guard, supposing they had come upon a scouting party of their own men, answered, “Friends, with the countersign.” At his order, “Advance, one, and give the countersign.” they hesitated. He repeated the order peremptorily, “Advance and give the countersign or I’ll blow you through.” They answered, without advancing, “Mississippi.” “Where do you belong?” he demanded. “To the Second Virginia regiment” “Where are you going?” “Along the ridge.” They then in turn questioned him,–“Who are you?” “That’s my own business,” he answered, and taking deliberate aim, he shot down his questioner.

He called for his boys to follow him, and sprung down a ledge of rock, while a full volley went over his head. He heard his companions summoned to surrender, and the order given to the Major to advance with the regiment. Several started in pursuit of him. He had to descend the hill on the side towards the enemy’s camp. While he eluded his pursuers, he found himself in a new danger. He had got within the enemy’s camp pickets! He had, while running, torn the U. S. from his cartridge box, and covered his belt plate with his cap box, and torn the strips from his pantaloons. He was challenged by their sentinels while making his way out, and answered, giving the countersign, “‘Mississippi,’ Second Virginia regiment.” They asked him what he was doing there. He said that the boys had gone off on a scout after the Yankees, that he had been detained in camp, and in trying to find them he had got bewildered.

As he passed through, to prevent further questioning, he said, “Our boys are up on the ridge; which is the best way up?” They answered, “Bear to the left, and you’ll find it easier to climb.” Soon again his pursuers were after him, as he expressed it, “breaking brush” behind him; this time with a hound on his trail. He made his way to a brook, and running down the shallow stream, threw the dog off the scent, and, as the day was dawning he suddenly came upon four pickets, who brought their arms to a ready, and challenged him. He gave the countersign, “Mississippi,” and claimed to belong to the Second Virginia regiment. His cap box had slipped from his belt plate. They asked him where he got that belt. He told them he had captured it that might from a Yankee. They told him to advance, and, as he approached, he recognized their accoutrements, and knew that he was among his own men, a picket guard from the First Kentucky.

He was taken before Col. Enyart, and dismissed to his regiment. His motive in halting a whole column of the enemy was to give intimation to the reserve of their advance, that they might open upon them on their left flank, and so, perhaps, arrest their progress.

Originally posted 2008-11-17 03:00:08.

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The typos of the Thirteenth Illinois regiment of volunteers amused themselves at Camp Rolla, Mo., by printing a paper entitled “Our Regiment.” A correspondent thus made his shot:

CAMP ROLLA, July 17, 1861.

To the Editor of Our Regiment:

Heavy? Yes, sir! Bound to shoot rebels. This is the report. Chicago boy, the undersigned. I’m always boasting of Chicago. I’m full of fight. Although fighting is not my forte, I do not think I would stand being knocked down. I joined this August body in April, and we May March daily, for we are getting stronger weekly. I may say in good season, if we Spring upon the enemy he is sure to Fall, for our Summer-saults will be a dose that will prove “the Winter of his discontent.” He will have to evacuate. We won’t strike light, for the South is no match for us. When the country called all hands to arms, I thought it a proud legacy to leave posterity that I joined a division for the Union. I set my name down, and there it stands. Nice uniform. Had my hair cut with a knife and fork. Red hair, yellow jacket, blue shirt, white hat, plantation shoes, pink trousers, bell buttons on behind, where I never saw them before. Left the city under encouraging circumstances. Toothache, nail in my shoe, forgot my rations, something in my eye. Chap in rear file rasping my skins. Got out of step and hurt my instep. While marching, washwoman handed me a bill. Had no money, and she had no sense–wanted to know where our quarters were. Asked her who gave the order to charge. Bad boy on sidewalk crying out, “Pay the poor woman.” Loaded the little sun-of-a-gun with abuse, and he went off. Arrived at Camp Rolla all right, nobody being left. Intentions to sleep in tents, but were intensely disappointed as we slept on the grass, which, after all, served as well to all intents and purposes. Placed minute-men on watch, who moved all hands every second, until we really thought it time to strike. Took my turn in going round. Shot a cow and calf. “‘Tis meet to be here.” Fighting, you see, for the public weal, places our lives at stake. Took the hindquarters into headquarters. Pork in various shapes for rations heretofore. Not Jew-dishes. Serg. Hinmann would like to have some mutton. Told me to stir up, get a horse and find a saddle. Serg. Hinmann’s drilling is a complete bore, and he thinks he augurs well on the whole. Marches us around in a body, until he almost wears out our soles. Makes our squad run so we will be fully able to sail in when we have the enemy at bay. Of course we have our fine times. Had some light reading sent me by a Sexton: “Annual Report of Rose-Hill,” “Ghost Stories,” and his business circular, with price list of coffins, &c. I should like to overtake that undertaker. Serg. Hinmann speaks disparagingly of our literary tastes. Says the only thing red in the camp is my nose–my nasal “organ.” I mention it because it’s a military move to right about face. Music by the band. I must come to a full stop now for a period. Flip flap.

Your, jolly and con-tent-ed,
G. N. L. Scotty.

Originally posted 2008-11-16 00:06:28.

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On almost every vessel, after the fight, the men were called aft, and publicly thanked by their respective Captains. On the ship “Bienville,” particular mention was made, and special thanks returned, in presence of the ship’s company, to William Henry Steele, a boy not fourteen years old, who conducted himself with distinguished bravery. He is a powder boy, and not only never flinched or dodged a shot, but when two men were killed at his gun, he did not turn pale, or cease for an instant his duties, but handed the cartridge he had in hand to the gunner, stepped carefully over the bodies, and hastened below for more ammunition.

The case of Thomas Jackson, coxswain of the “Wabash,” deserves notice. He was struck by a shot, or a splinter, which so nearly cut his leg off as to leave it hanging but by a small portion of the muscle and skin. Partially rising, and leaning painfully against a gun, Jackson glanced at his mangled limb, and in an instant perceived as hopeless condition. Feeling behind his back in his belt, where seamen always carry their knives, he drew his sheath-knife from its leather scabbard, and deliberately began to saw away at his leg; but the knife was dull, and he could not cut the limb off. As he was borne below by his mates, and afterwards, he asked continually how the fight was going, and kept saying, “I hope we’ll win it; I hope we’ll win.” In two hours he died, his last words being a wish for our victory in this battle, and a word of thanks that he had been able to do something for the honor of the “dear old flag.”

The enthusiasm of the soldiers for the blue-jackets, after the action, literally knew no bounds. Whenever a boat’s crew of men-of-war’s-men came alongside a transport, there was a rush to the side to catch a nearer view of a gallant sailors, and, if possible, to clasp a tarry hand; and whenever they appeared, the cheers were frantically loud, and long drawn out, and the brave Jacks were as happy and proud as men can be.

Originally posted 2008-11-14 12:45:22.

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A good deal of interest was felt at the time when the Confederate officers, prisoners on board the “Maple Leaf,” captured that steamer, and made their escape to Currituck, in North Carolina. A correspondent furnishes the following instances of heroism connected with the affair, the hero of which is “a poor old man bowed down with age and poverty.”

The writer says:

“A few days after their escape, a squad of Federal cavalry, in scouring the country to arrest them, came upon the subject of this notice–Dempsey Kight by name– in the highway. A small tin bucket, which the old fisherman was carrying in his hand, attracted their attention. They halted, and asked him if he had not been feeding the escaped rebel officers. Too proud to utter a falsehood, he unhesitatingly answered to the affirmative. Whereupon they demanded of him to reveal the place of their concealment, and with threats and blows sought to wrest it from him. But the principle of honor was too strong in the old man’s bosom, and to all their impotunities he yielded not–their brutality he could not resist. They swore they would have the secret, or that he should die. With this intention, they hurried him aboard a gun-boat, and again tendered him the alternatives of death or of compliance with their wishes. He answered that he was convinced that they intended to hang him, but that he was resolved to die before he “would tell where those officers were.” Immediately they suspended him by the neck until life was nearly extinct. They then cut him down, and after reviving him, they repeated the same question, and received the same answer. Again his body hung in the air, and when his life was far more spent than before, they again unloosed the halter, receiving, as before, the same firm denial. Exasperated to fury, they told him that this was his only chance, and that they would not cut him down again. Sustained in this hour of sore trial by his sense of honor, which was stronger than his fear of death, the old man replied that he was convinced of his approaching end, yet he deemed death preferable to dishonor, and that he was ready to meet his fate. Again, and for the third time, his aged frame quivered in the agonies of death, and when he had ceased to struggle, they once more released him. Applying powerful stimulants, they succeeded in restoring him, when, with a determination worthy of the elder Brutus, he drew forth a knife, and attempted, by cutting his own throat, to free himself from his persecutors. By violence they forced his knife from him, when, by a mighty effort, he dashed the fiends aside, and plunged into the boiling surf to drown himself. With boat-hooks they fished him up, and baffled by his unyielding will, they permitted him to go ashore. This is a true statement of this infamous transaction. Dempsey Kight still lives, and plies his humble calling as a fisherman, and that he is one of God’s noblemen none will gainsay.”

Originally posted 2008-11-13 17:05:33.

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