Spencer Talley, Part 6
Hospitalization and Recovery, Continued
Though my wound had not healed and still needed daily attention, on arriving at the hospital the doctor said I would have to stay with them a while longer. The old surgeon had discovered that before I left the hospital with my gangrenous trouble that I was handy with the pen and at request had written several letters for wounded soldiers to their home people. This was a considerable tax on the time of management for they had their hands full of other matters to look after. So I was kept busy writing letters and also doing some of the office work until I left a second time.
Looking over our daily paper I saw that Jefferson Davis, our President was visiting our army and that there was a possibility of our army starting back to Tennessee. This so enthused me that I decided to go back to the army regardless of my wound which had not completely healed. The old surgeon very strongly opposed my leaving and wanted to have me permanently detailed to assist them in the clerical part of the hospital business but my inclination was so strong that I gave no heed to his want. I have always thought that if I had been a private he would have had me detailed regardless of my wishes in the case. In after years, when I became wiser and more considerate, I realized that I made a great mistake in not remaining in the safe and easy place. I had now been away from my home boys for a little more than two months and had a desire to be with them again. So gathering my little wad of clothing, I made my way to the depot to await a train that would take me to Ringold where our army was stationed.
Return to the Army and Tennessee
On my arrival at camp, Captain Holman, Lieutenant Carver and all the boys greatly rejoiced to see me back and had many things to tell me of the happenings that had taken place since I left them in July. On the day before we started on what has always been called Hood's raid into Tennessee, our entire army was caused to assemble in a shady grove where President Davis and Howell Cobb of Georgia made fiery and inflammatory speeches. The cheering was just wonderful at times and the rebel yell could have been heard for miles. They were foreshadowing our march back to Tennessee and the restoration of our lost territory. This plan and determination on the part of our high officials so pleased and enthused our army that there was no bounds to their expressions of approval and dogged determination to carry our the program of die in the attempt. When these great men had finished their red-hot speeches the applause was just deafening. The bands playing the "Bonny Blue Flag" and boys singing "I'll Make My Way To Tennessee To See The Girl I Left Behind Me".
I think if was about the last days of September 1864 when Hood started from Ringold and Lovejoy Station, Georgia to make him famous raid into Tennessee. The forces turned over to him by General Joseph E. Johnson had been very much depleted in the battle around Atlanta and Jonesboro where he sacrificed thousands of his men without gaining even the shadow of victory. We had started on a long raid and being badly equipped for conveyance of munitions and war supplies of every kind our progress of necessity had to be slow and we could only average fifteen or twenty miles per day. Occasionally we were intercepted by small Federal forces that would cause some delay. However, we met with very little resistance till we had crossed the Tennessee River. In making this long campaign our division was diverted a little from the body of the main army for the purpose of capturing a regiment of Negro Yankees stationed in a black house in the suburbs of Dalton, Georgia. We approached the garrison of negroes, who were commanded by white officers in a manner that they could have a plain view and estimate of our strength. A messenger was then sent in under a flag of truce demanding that they make an unconditional surrender under the penalty that if they fired a gun at us, no quarter would be shown them when captured.
They immediately surrendered and my company was sent in to have them stack their arms and march them out. We took the white men as prisoners but the negroes were taken as livestock or other property. The separation of these white officers from their Negro commands was as interesting as well as a sickening scene to our Southern boys. The white officers in bidding farewell with their colored men showed in no uncertain way their love and devotion to the colored race. Their hearty handshakes and expressions of sorrow over their separation will never be forgotten. It was also a part of our business to tear up the railroad and burn the bridge at the place. So we marshalled this body of negroes out to the railroad and piling the crossties, while the crossties were burning, the rail were laid across the heap and when hot, strong men would take hold at each end and rush against something solid, and so bend the rail. They could not be used again. Now we had a little slim black Negro with us named "Verge". He had been with us for a long while and did our cooking and washing. Verge was happy when we marched those negroes out. He would curse and vilify them and take from them whatever they had, that he wanted. Verge's abuse and treatment of those negroes will never be forgotten by any of those negroes. It has only been a few years since I was standing around a stove in a store at Rome, Tennessee when an old Negro named Henry Harris said to me "Boss whar you speck is de first place I ever seed you" "Down about Bellwood I reckon Uncle Henry, why do you ask? "Boss you mistaken" "Well where did you first see me? "The first time I ever seed you Boss was at Dalton, Georgia". "Well were you one of those Negroes I marched out of that black house and stockade?" "I sho was Boss". "Well how did you know me?" "Nick Seay pointed you out to me when you come in. Nick said I know dat man commanding that Squad, dat's Spencer Talley and I do hope he won't know me". Nick belonged to the Barton's, our kin. "Well Henry do you remember a little black Negro that we had with us who cursed, robbed and abused you all so much." "Yes Boss I remember him and I been looking for him ever since the war and if I ever lay my eyes on him, I'd kill him quick as I would a snake". Old Henry is still living and makes his living by peddling of country produce. I often see him bringing in his weekly load of chicken, eggs, butter, etc. to market and never fail to think of him being one of our Dalton Negroes. There were many other interesting incidents in the capture of this regiment of negroes which I cannot undertake to write out in this brief sketch of my war recollections.
On leaving Dalton, we took a North Westwardly course on through Alabama until we reached the Tennessee River at a point not far from Florence. Here we were delayed for a considerable time in making and launching a pontoon bridge that we might cross over. This pontoon or floating bridge was a shaky, crazy, affair and the crossing over it was an uneasy and ticklish tramp and especially so with teamsters who had heavy loaded wagons. Nothing, however gave way and all crossed safely. It was now, about two months since we started on the raid, and many of our boys were barefooted, their shoes having worn out and the weather was now getting cold. At night when our poor cattle were being slaughtered, barefooted boys were thick around the carcass for the skins which they would wrap around their feet with the hairy side next to the foot and ankle.
This was a severe test of Southern patriotism, and as an illustration of the optimistic spirit which pervaded this army, will say that on the 27th of November, 1864, I had charge of the advance guard. A cold, drizzly rain fell until about noon, when it began snowing and continued until night. I was halted just before night for camping, and while waiting for my company to come, which was far back to the rear, I sat on a fence corner and was watching the hundreds and thousands of poorly clad and many barefooted soldiers splashing through the mud and slush which was now from four to six inches deep. A big Irish fellow, barefooted with pants rolled up to his knees in passing, bellowed out, "Oh how glad I am to live to see it snow one more time". This incident is given just to give you an idea of the cheerful spirit prevailing this army of half fed and poorly clad soldiers, who now had a hope of regaining Tennessee and again freeing their homes from the terror of an invading foe.
Spring Hill and Franklin
When we crossed by, Schofield or Thomas was located at Pulaski, but on our approach, fell back to Columbia, thence to Spring Hill, where was made the great blunder that virtually destroyed the success of our raid, the particulars of which you can read in almost any Southern history of the war. The blame for this failure to strike the enemy at Spring Hill in it's demoralized flight has never been fully and satisfactorily explained or made known. However it is a fact that we stood still and let them pass out of Spring Hill when we had them cut off and could have forced a battle or their surrender. The next morning we pushed forward in pursuit of their fleeing and demoralized army. The road was strewn everywhere with the wreck of thrown away stuff that they were unable to carry in their flight. Many wagons just set on fire and abandoned were saved from destruction.
We pushed them on to Franklin. There they had trenches, and were well fortified, and had their batteries planted for a strong defense. We could have made a flank movement and gone around them and forced them to fight us in the open but our leader failed to use this strategy and attack them in the trenches. Our battle lines were formed about a half mile in their front. Our brass bands were playing "Dixie" while the cannons gushing thunder from both sides was almost deafening. The order to charge was given. The rebel yell was terrifying as we never heard it before. We rushed on and on through a field and opening in which was no protection. The battle raged with fury and swiftness from start to finish. Our men were mowed down like grain before the sickle. Our company started in this fray with fifty seven fighting men and only eight or nine escaped death or being crippled and wounded. Captain Holman was killed in the midst of the charge, leaving the company in my command. We rushed through the locust thicket to the breast works where I fell with a broken skull. It was now between sundown and dark, and I lay as I fell in an unconscious condition until about midnight when I came to myself, I realized that I was wounded in the head. I made many efforts to rise up on my feet, but in every attempt I would fall back to the ground. My vision was impaired and it seemed that I must climb a very steep hill. The ground and everything I could see was right up in front of me and I could only be convinced of my impaired vision by trying to place my hands on objects that I apparently saw.
I was just recovering from the shock and could stand on my knees some bit before I could on my feet, as stated above we were in a locust thicket and it was by holding to these little bullet shattered trees that I could stand and stagger along by holding to them. The moon shown brightly and I could see the ground covered with the dead and dying, over which I had to pass in making my way out. Once out of this thicket I was soon in the hands of our litter corps who helped me into an ambulance of wounded men, which took us to the field hospital where Dr. O.C. Kidder examined my wound and removed some of the sharp splints that would prevent healing, and I was glad when he said you will soon get over this provided the inner bone lying next to the brain is not fractured. The next day I could walk about without any assistance, and went back on the battlefield to see that Captain Holman's grave was plainly marked and easily located. About a year after the close of the war his remains were brought back in interred in the family graveyard, not far from Hunter's Point on the Cumberland River.
After the battle at Franklin, a serious problem confronted our officials. We had more than a thousand wounded soldiers on the ground, and no railroad or other means of conveying them to Southern hospitals. People for many miles around came for their relatives and friends and did much to relieve the situation. All the wounded who could walk were given "Leaves of Absence" to go to their homes provided they were in any reasonable reach of the same, or friends who could care for them until able for further service. This was the best and only reasonable thing that could be done for our relief. It was the 4th day of December before this plan of relief was put in operation and on that day myself and two other wounded men of my company, John Colton of Putnam County and John Bryan of Macon County started for our homes.
A Perilous Journey Home
We traveled about six or seven miles per day. After crossing the Nashville and Murfreesboro Pike we had to make our way off of any public road for the reason that the Yanks cavalry were scouting throughout the country and to avoid capture, had to be cautious. In spending the night we always chose the most out of the way place. We remember staying one night with a family by the name of Lea. My wound was needing attention badly and a daughter of Mr. Lea named Kate, spent an hour or more trying to clean my hair of the dried blood which had caked hard about and around the back of my head. While there I wrote my name and home address on the leaf of a book. This girl after marrying settled at a place not far from Nashville on the Lebanon Road. Thirty years after the war, she was in conversation with Gabe Thomson, who spoke to her of living at Big Springs, Wilson County. When she asked him if he ever knew a man by the name of S.B. Talley living in that section, he told her he did and that he was living there now. She said to him, "Tell that man that if he ever travels this road to be certain to call here for I want to see him." Sometime after this, Gabe met me and spoke of having this conversation and how earnestly she had requested him to deliver her message. So in a few months I had occasion to go to Nashville and made it convenient to stop and call on her. She was much delighted to see me again, and could remember twice as much about dressing my wound and other things that was said and done as I could. She said her motive in sending me word to call was that her children might see the rebel soldier whose wounds she dressed after the Franklin battle and of whom she had so many times made mention to them and for the further reason that she wanted to write her aged parents she had met me, because they had so often spoke of the three wounded rebels spending a night with them and were not to know what ever became of them. The hours or so spent with this lady was full of glad recounts of events of that day and the perils and dangers hovering over the entire country.
We were six days in traveling from Franklin to Tuckers Cross Roads in this county. It was here we separated. John Patton and John Bryan, were still many miles from their homes. While I was only about five miles from mine. I had a sister living near Tuckers Cross Roads with whom I took lodging that night, while Patton and Bryan went on a mile further and took refuge with Cecil (?) Murphey. The next day the Yanks got on track at Tuckers Cross Roads and soon over took Patton and Bryan, took them prisoners and started with them to Cookville. They were a reckless and drunken set of homespun Yanks and before they had gone far, got mad at Patton because he could not ride well on a horse behind them owing to his wound in the leg and shot him to death at the foot of a steep hill not far from Gordonsville. They then told Bryan they would kill him when they got over the top of the hill and that his death might be painless, made him drink a quart of whiskey. In crossing the hill, they came to a very steep precipice covered with undergrowth. On reaching this, Bryan sprang from the horse and shot down through the undergrowth, and was out of sight in less than a minute. Several shots were fired at him but none took effect. I saw Bryan several years after the war at Red Boiling Springs and he narrated his thrilling experience and narrow escape from the cold blooded murderer. I could never make any know or realize how glad I was to meet John Bryan after the war and hear him tell of this wonderful experience after our separation at Tuckers Cross Roads. He lived near Red Boiling Springs at the time and I went with him to his home and spent a night with him in hatching over the many sad scenes and sorrows that we had visited upon us in the war of 1861-65.
My brother-in-law, Charles Palmer, having heard of these outlaw Yanks being on our track, kept me in hiding all day and under the cover of night I made my way home which was only four or five miles away, though it was far into the night before I reached it. My father and mother and all of our home people were taken by surprise and greatly rejoiced to see me and to know that my life had not been lost in the awful conflict at Franklin. No telegraphs had come into use at that date, and mail service was poor coming only once a week, under such conditions our people were slow in their information concerning army matters. I was kept in hiding for some weeks and not many of our neighbors knew that I was at home. The greatest fear that my father and mother had was that I would be seen of negroes who would report it to the Yanks and cause my arrest and imprisonment, besides this every head of the family had been made under the military rules of the Yanks to take an amnesty oath binding them under the severest penalties for in anyway whatever aiding or abetting the Confederate service.
Only a few days after my arrival at home, before Hood's army at Nashville had met defeat and great disaster, and was on its way back to Southern soil, leaving our people completely and entirely in the hands of the enemy, being wounded I could not make my way out to rejoin our army. It was a sad and sorrowful time with our home people, the bright ray of hope and sunshine cast over them by the coming of Hood's army began to fade away, and when it became an assured fact that he had crossed the Tennessee River and was making his way into South Carolina, the last spark of hope for southern success had vanished. The fall of Richmond and surrender of Lee's army was looked for and expected daily because Sherman had marched through Georgia to the seacoast and was now headed to cut off all southern supplies and communications. When it had thus become plain and evident that there could be no southern success, my friends and kin people all urged and advised that I cease hiding out and go and take the Federal oath and cease to be a menace to their lives and liberty. I took their advice and never once in my life thought there was a person living who would or could say that I did wrong until more than fifty years after the war the board of pensions examiners refused me a pension on the ground that I took the amnesty oath before the final end of the war. To have done otherwise would not only been contrary to human nature but a failure to use common sense and good judgement. Every true southern spirit regretted seeing the inevitable downfall of the Confederacy, and when the crisis came to submit to the inevitable was compulsory. The chess board showed that only a move or two could be made before the game would be played. However, owing to the bad roads and weather conditions through January and February and well into March no heavy army movements could be made and it was therefore the 2nd day of April before the full and final surrender of Lee's army.
The war having ended the Confederate soldiers soon made their way home, and began the work of rebuilding their wasted and desolated country. Most all the live stock of any value, such as horses, mules, and oxen had been taken by the Yankees. The old and worn out was all we had to depend on till younger ones grew to be serviceable. The negroes being recently freed were still among us and many of them remained and worked faithfully for their former masters at just and reasonable wages, while others seemed insolent and pouty, and could not enjoy their former homes. In some instances they became so puffed up, and arrogant in their ways as to be very offensive to the Southern soldiers and to suppress their social equality with the white people and to cause them to stay in their own camp, the Confederate soldiers organized the "Ku Klux Klan". While the Ku Klux Klan was an unlawful assemblage of men it did a good work for the South in the days of reconstruction and rebuilding the farm industries.
I was not a member of this clan and was never in an unlawful secret assemblage of any kind. I enjoyed some of the doings of this Klan while I greatly disliked and condemned other features of their work and could here narrate some of their acts, but am inclined to think it would be useless and unprofitable at this late date.
I was married on the 23rd day of March, 1865, about ten days before the final surrender of the Confederate forces. The occasion was one of considerable monument in that day and a goodly number of our friends and relatives were present to extend congratulations and to participate in this happy and social affair. The bride was a lovely sweet girl of 19, and her beauty and winsome ways had won for her love and admiration of a wide circle of the younger people. She was the oldest daughter and child of Marion B. Kittrell, one of the most widely known and progressive farmers and livestock and real estate dealers in Middle Tennessee, and his career has such left an imprint on the community in which he lived for honesty and fair dealing that has lived and will still live for many years after his passing away. There is no wonder that Miss Francis with so noble a sire and her young fashion should have won my earliest, my sweetest and best affection. Fifty four long years have passed since this happy occasion took place and many and various problems have come up to be solved but with complete oneness and harmony we have met and disposed of them all. Our occupation in life, together with a serious affliction which helped me in my early manhood forbade that we could gather a great deal of this worlds goods or give to our children the education and training which might have led them into higher spheres and callings and which might have given prominence and popularity. Yet, these drawbacks have in no way hindered our efforts in growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And we rejoice now in our old declining days to see all of them happy and devout servants in the Master's Kingdom and we realize more than ever that the inculcation of habits of industry and economy in the rearing and training of children is more helpful and lasting than great riches.
It is now late in the evening of our lives and it gives us great pleasure to know that our children all have comfortable homes of their own and that each of them is surrounded by numerous friends.
We began keeping house in October 1865 at Taylorsville where we had a country store and sold goods for a few years. We then sold the store and bought the farm upon which we lived until about fourteen years ago. When my poor health and declining strength was insufficient to look after and care for the farm we then bought a house and lot in Rome and lived there four years. We then came back to Bellwood where we remained until after the marriage of our last child Bertha. This left us alone and too feeble to keep house. We then at the earnest solicitation of our children disposed of our home in Bellwood and have since that time been happy and contented in a home with Bertha and her husband E.G. Walker, who have spared no means of making our lives pleasant and happy with them. Our other children have been constantly mindful of our wants and necessities and have contributed heartily to our comfort and happiness.
In concluding our short biographical sketch of our civil and military experience, we wish to say that but little attention had been paid to the punctuation or grammatical construction of our thoughts. Our only aim and purpose being to leave on record some of the events, trials, troubles, and pleasures visited upon us down the long pathway of nearly seventy eight years. This brings my notes to a close. In looking over this narrative covering the events of a long life, I notice many things that could have been said in a more readable and interesting way and that very many events and happenings have been entirely left out which might have been more interesting than many I have written, however I submit this hoping ourchildren may be interested in my feeble effort,
by Grandpa, Spencer B. Talley.