“GENERAL ORDERS NO. .–Captain Carter,—th Indiana Volunteers, is hereby relieved from his command indefinitely, and will report at these headquarters immediately.
By order of Major-General Rosecrans.
Lieut. Col. C. GODDARD. A. A. G.
The above order was read upon dress parade to the gallant old —th, in January 1863. The cotton fields and cedar thickets of “Stone River” were as yet scarcely dry from the loyal blood which had there been given up to freedom’s cause. The regiment was struck dumb, so to speak, and the captain most of all. What could such an order mean? Surely, none deserved censure less than Captain Carter. He was the idol of the regiment–a perfect specimen of manly strength; bold and fearless in battle, perfect master of the “sword” and “gloves,” kind and gentle-hearted, always found upon the side of the weak. He had been frequently spoken of by his superiors for his gallantry. These thoughts passed through the minds of some after this order was read, but none could give a sufficient reason why he should be thus relieved; for, said they, does not the order imply disgrace? But these mutterings were not heard at headquarters, and were of no avail. The Captain retired to his tent, relieved himself of his accoutrements, called his servant Tom, and set out for headquarters, with none but his sable companion.
General Rosecrans was quartered in Judge Ready’s house, and had a private suit of rooms on the second floor, with windows opening upon a veranda. He was sitting before a bright fire on the evening our story opens, in undress uniform, with nothing but the buttons to betoken rank. An orderly entered and announced Captain Carter. The General arose quickly, and advanced to meet him, with that easy, smiling look, that put the Captain’s fears at rest. The General took him by the hand, while his countenance assumed a more thoughtful look, or rather settled in repose, and said:
“This is Captain Carter, of the —th Indiana?”
“It is, sir,” replied the Captain.
“You received a peremptory order this evening to report forthwith.”
“I did, sir, and have done so.”
“Yes, yes; take a seat, Captain. I am in want of a man of some experience, Captain, who has not only a ‘hand to do and a heart to dare,’ but also has judgment to guide and direct both. General Thomas, after quietly looking through his command, has picked on you; and I have such confidence in the ‘grizzled old hero’ that I have summoned you here for secret service. Are you willing to undertake it, with all its risks?”
“Anything, General, for our country’s good.”
“Very well, sir; you will remain here to-night. Any of your effects you may need, send for by the orderly at the door. During the night I will inform you what your duties will be.”
General Bragg’s headquarters were at Tullahoma. The two armies were lying in a semicircle, the rebel right resting on the Cumberland at Hartsville, above Nashville, their left resting at the “shoals” below.
General Van Dorn commanded the left, with headquarters at Spring Hill. Our right rested at Franklin, which is nearly on a direct line between Spring Hill and Nashville. This much by way of explanation.
One morning in February, 1863, two persons were making their way on horseback from Shelbyville to Spring Hill. The first of these was dressed in Quaker garb, and bestrode a light-built, dapple bay stallion, whose small, sinewy limbs, broad chest, and open nostrils betokened both speed and bottom. Horse and rider were ill-matched, but seemed to have a perfect understanding.
The oter person was a negro, dressed like his master, broad brim, white neck-tie and all, mounted on a stout roadster. They were fast approaching a vidette post; were shortly halted by a cavalryman; they drew rein and dismounted.
“Is thee a man of war?” asked the Quaker.
“Don’t know; reckon, tho’, I mought be. But what’s your business, Quaker?”
“Does thee know a Mr. Van Dorn about here?”
“Well, I reckon I does; but he’ll mister ye if you call him that.”
“Well, I have business with him, and I desire admittance into thy camps.”
“All right, old fellow; wait till I call the corporal.”
General Van Dorn was examining some maps and charts, when an orderly entered and announced that a Quaker desired to see him.
“Admit him,” said the General.
“Is thee Mr. Van Dorn, whom carnal men call General?”
“What is your business with me, sir?” asked the General, without answering the question.
“I am sent, friend Van Dorn, by my society, to administer comforts and consolation to these men of war, and would ask permission to bring such things as they may need or my means may supply.”
“Have you any recommendations?”
“Yes, verily;” and the Quaker produced a bundle of papers, and commences assorting them out. “Here is one from friend Quakenbush, and here—”
“Never mind,” said the General, while the corners of his mouth commenced to jerk; “here, Mr. —”
“Thurston,” suggested the Quaker.
“Mr. Thurston, here is a pass through the lines at will for such articles as you may see proper to bring. This is all, sir?”
“May I ask, friend, how far it is to those ungodly men who are persecuting our people with fire and sword, whom the carnal men call the Yankees?”
“Yes, sir. About fourteen miles. See that you give them a wide berth, for they have a curious way of burnign men of your persuasion.”
“Yes, verily will I;” and with this the Quaker retired.
“Queer character, that,” remarked the General to himself; “but it takes all kinds to make a world.”
The Quaker passed out among the camps, meeting a smile here, and a rough jest there; but they seemed not to ruffle the placidity of his countenance, though the negro’s eyes flashed, who followed a few steps in the rear. The Quaker seemed to have a good supply of tracts and religious papers, which he scattered freely, with a word of gentle admonition to the card-players, and a hint of the world to come to all. He was particular in his inquiries for the sick, and even visited all the forts and fortifications, and made particular inquiries in and about them for the sick, writing a letter for one, furnishing a stamp to another; so that at the close of the day he had visited all, and made a memorandum of what was needed, and was preparing to leave camp when a Lieutenant came and accosted him with,” I say, stranger, haven’t we met before?”
“Nay, verily,” replied the Quaker, “I go not about where carnal men do battle.”
“No! Well, I must have seen you at some place, but I don’t recollect where. Likely I’m mistaken.”
“Very like, friend; good day to you.”
“Massa, did ye see dat debbil’s eyes brighten up towards the last? Tells ye, sure, we’d better be trablin.”
“Yes, Sam, I saw it, and my recollection is better than his, for I took him prisoner at Stone River, though he escaped soon after. We will pass out as soon as possible.”
Not long after, the Quaker and his colored companion were galloping over the smooth pike. As they approached a house, they slackened their speed, but when out of sight, they again increased it. Thus they pushed on till after dark, when they came to a by-road, into which they rode some miles, and finally drew rein at a little log-cabin, to which, after reconnoitring a little, the negro advanced, and knocked, and a voice from the inside bade him enter, which he did, followed by his master.
That night a despatch went to Gen. Bragg, which read:
“Look out for a Quaker, followed by a nigger. He is a spy. Arrest him.
“GEN. VAN DORN.”
The next day a negro rode into Murfreesboro’, and passed on to Gen. Rosecrans’ headquarters, and presented a pass, was admitted to his private apartments, and handed the General a paper which read: “2 overcoats and 6 hats, 37 shirts, 3200 tracts, 2000 for the unconverted at Spring Hill.”
Gen. Rosecrans was eagerly looking over the document when Gen. Thomas was announced. The latter was cordially met by Gen. Rosecrans, who immediately handed him the paper he had just received.
“This is all cipher to me, General” said Gen. Thomas.
“I suppose so,” said the former, who had been writing. “Well, here is something more intelligible: ‘Two forts of six guns each; thirty-seven additional guns; 3200 troops, 2000 of which are cavalry, at Spring Hill.'”
“Humph! Some of Capt. Carter’s ingenuity,” said Gen. Thomas.
“Yes, he is doing his work nobly, so far. I only hope no harm may come to him.”
“Well, General,” said Thomas, “Col. B—- of the —–th Indiana, was asking me to-day why the Captain was relieved of his command; of course I knew nothing about it.”
“That was right,” said Rosecrans; “the effectiveness of the ‘secret service’ would be greatly impaired by having the names of those engaged in it made known. I enjoined the utmost secrecy upon the Captain, and kept him here than night that he might not be questioned too closely by his comrades. We will hear from him by ten o’clock to-morrow.”
“Where do you reside?” asked Gen. Bragg.
“I live near Brandyville, General, and came down to see if something can’t be done to keep these infernal Yankees from our section. They was down there yesterday, and took off over two thousand bushels of corn, and nearly all the wheat in the country.”
The speaker was a middle-aged man of rather good features, but his countenance betokened the too free use of Confederate whiskey.
“What did you say your name was, Colonel?”
“Yes, yes, I have heard of your family. You have done nobly for our cause, from report.”
“We have tried to do our duty, General, and what little I have left you are welcome to, but I don’t want the Yankees to get it. I sent down by Gen. Wheeler’s command, the other day, a hundred bushels of meal as a gift.”
“I wish we had more like you,” said Bragg. “Let me fill your glass again, Colonel. I wish I had something better to offer you.”
“Permit me, General, to send to my portsmanteau for a bottle of wine.”
“Rare vintage, this, General. It’s one of a lot I got North before the war.”
“Excellent,” says Bragg. “I would like to have a supply. By the way, Colonel, did you see anything of a Quaker-like person on the road this morning?”
“Riding a bay horse, with a nigger following?”
“Why, yes. He came to my plantation last night. I insisted on his staying all night, but he was in a hurry, and could not stop.”
“He was a Yankee spy,” said Bragg.
“The devil! and to think I gave the rascal his supper!”
“Well, well, never mind, Colonel; we’ll pick him up yet. I’m going to make a feint on the enemy’s flanks to-morrow with my cavalry, and we’ll probably get him. He has information that would be valuable to the enemy. I look for a couple of officers back in a few days, that I sent up to Franklin to find out the enemy’s strength. If they bring me a correct report, I’ll match Rosecrans, with all his low cunning. Besides this, Colonel, I’m looking for some Georgia and Alabama troops up shrotly, and if the cowardly Dutchman don’t run, I’ll make another Stone River for him.”
“Good for you, General. Don’t leave even one of the cussed mudsills on our soil. But it’s getting late, and I must try and get some supplies before I go back. Will you accommodate me with a pass?”
“Certainly, and here is a bill of protection for your person and property. No thanks; good day to you.”
“Golly, Massa Cap’n, you’s bin talkin’ to de ole debbil hissef.”
“Hush! Not so load, tom. I’ve got one more to visit, and then we’ll be off, and take a straight shoot up Hoover’s Ga.”
“Cap’n, Cap’n! dey’s a regiment ob dese dirty rebels just started up de Manchester road, dat’s going up from Hoober’s Gap, for I heard de Kernel say so.”
“All right, Tom; we’ll take the Shelbyville road, and run the risk of meeting Van Dorn. Go out through the ‘abatis,’ the same way we came in with the horses, and I’ll meet you in half an hour by that old house.”
“Missus, dey’s a gentleman dat got a frow off his boss out here, and would like to stop awhile wid ye, if ye please, Missus.”
“Very well; I’ll send a boy out to help him in.–Are you much hurt, sir?”
“No, madam, I think not; my horse got frightened at some object in the road, and threw me heavily on my right shoulder. A night’s rest, madam, will enable me to pursue my journey, I think.”
Our hero found, upon examination, that there were no bones broken, and yet the bruise was severe enough to make him covet a night’s rest, in preference to passing it on the saddle. So without more ado, he submitted to his hostess’s desire to bathe the bruised shoulder, and prepare him a comfortable bed by the fire.
During the night he was awakened by the loud clatter of horses’ roofs, followed immediately by a loud “hilloa.”
During the conversation which occurred outside, he heard the name of Van Corn mentioned, and the thought that they might meet was anything but comfortable to him just at that time; but he resolved to trust to luck, and if that failed, he would try what virtue there was in “right angles, horizontals,” &c. Presently the door opened, and an officer entered, dressed in the height of Confederate style,–gilt buttons, gold lace, and all,–a glance at which showed that he bore the rank of Lieutenant-General. The conversation that ensued informed our hero that he had the honor of occupying the same room with Gen. Hardee. He had as yet feigned sleep. He heard the General ask the lady if she knew who he was, and her reply was, that she did not. Then followed the story of his getting thrown, and so on. He was anxious to establish his reputation with the General as a sound secesh, and a little ruse occurred to him, which he resolved to practise even to the extent of making himself ridiculous, suddenly by bawling out, as if asleep,–
“Run, Tom; the infernal Yankees are coming: put all the horses in the back pasture; take away every nigger with you.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the General; “he’s all right. I’ll bet on him. But you see, madam, there is a spy in our lines that we are anxious to catch, and he has, so far, eluded us, and if we meet a stranger, we are anxious to find out his standing. I’m satisfied with this one, for a man will tell the truth when he’s asleep.”
“Your supper’s ready, sah.”
“And I’m ready for it,” replied the General, and left the room.
Our hero moved, grunted, and finally turned over, and found his hostell still in the room, and behind her he saw Tom making motions for him to come out.
The lady asked if he felt comfortable, had he slept well, &c., to all of which he replied in the affirmative; upon which she left the room, and he followed soon after, and found Tom waiting for him.
“Massa, dese debbils has ‘sprised’ us, and we’d better be a _eabin. I’se got a ‘nigh shoot’ from de niggahs, dat we can cut across to Manchester and up fru de gap from heah.”
“All right, Tom; where’s the horses?”
“I’se got um, Massa, out below here.”
“Here’s for them, then, Tom; come on quickly.”
It is needless to follow them further; suffice it to say they reached our lines the following evening, and reported to Gen. Rosecrans.
The following order explains itself:–
SPECIAL FIELD ORDER, NO.—.
Capt. Carter (–th Ind. Vols.) is hereby ordered to return to his command, and is recommended for promotion. By order
W. S. ROSECRANS. Maj-Gen.
Lieut.-Col. C. GODDARD, A. A. G.