The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 1

We’d like to introduce our readers to more history about our People and their experiences during the War of Northern Aggression. Contributor Leonard Martinez has discovered the memoirs of Robert C. Carden. Robert Carden was born in Coffee County, Tennessee on July 4, 1843, the youngest of five children of Reuben and Sarah Carden. On May 23, 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army at Manchester, Tenn. He served in Company B of the 16th Tennessee Infantry until January of 1865. He, and the 16th Tennessee fought at Perrysville, Murfreesboro and Chickamauga and from there to Lovejoy Station below Atlanta. He was wounded at Perrysville and Nashville. This is his story.

In 1861, when the war clouds obscured the sky I was a boy of 17, living in Tennessee. In common with all the boys of my age, whether living north or south I had the military spirit and at the first opportunity placed my name upon the rolls as a soldier, volunteering to fight for my native state.

On the 21st day of May, 1861, I enlisted in company B, 16th Tennessee Infantry, under Col. Jno. H. Savage, and was sent to Estil Springs, on the N. C. & St. L. Railroad, where we stayed a few days, and then went to Camp Trousdale, north of Nashville on the Louisville & Nashville railroad, near the Kentucky line. We stayed there until there were enough Tennessee companies to form a regiment, when John H. Savage was elected Colonel and we were detailed for guard duty while there and had a very easy time until the measles broke out in our camp and several died. I took the measles and came very near dying. I was given a furlough and came home and stayed until I was able to join my regiment which in the meantime had been sent to West Virginia. Myself and brother James A. Carden, who was home on furlough started to our command sometime in the summer of 1861 and finally found our regiment, which was stationed on Cheat Mountain, near the Ohio line.

Our army had had a fight with Gen. Rosecrans’ forces just before we arrived there. We stayed there but a short time when we were ordered to Pocataligo, S. C., where we went by way of Lynchburg and Petersburg, Va., Wilmington, N. C., Charleston, S. C., to our destination. We landed there early in the spring of 1862 and did camp duty there. Two companies were sent out to Gardner’s Corners, eight miles from where our command was camped and a detail was sent out from Gardner’s Corners to Port Royal. Every day we did picket duty as the Yankees were in force on Buford’s Island. Right there was where I saw my first Yankees. We could see them walking around while we were on picket. When we were out we would gather oysters and lived high with plenty of oysters, sweet potatoes. We, being green and not knowing when the Yankees might run over on us, would get awfully scared sometimes at night, when we heard the porpoise splashing in the water, and we were sure the Yankees were coming and we would get ready to receive them, but they never came.

Immediately after the battle of Shiloh we got orders to hasten there and landed there a short time after the battle. Bragg’s army was then at Corinth, Miss. Our army fell back to Tupelo, Miss. And there I was taken sick and left in the hospital and the command went on to Chattanooga, Tenn. When I got able to travel I started after them. I had no transportation, no rations and not a cent of money and about a thousand miles to travel. Well, the first thing that happened to me after getting aboard the train was when the conductor asked me for my fare. I told about my being in the hospital and being left there but it did not suffice and he told me I would have to get off at the next station and I guess he would have landed me, but there was a big Confederate soldier on the train who said he would not put me off and if he fooled around me any more he would throw him through the window and I was not molested after that.

At Mobile, Ala., I ran across a soldier who had all the necessary papers for transportation, rations, etc, and I took them up to the room at the hotel and drew me off a set just like them. We went down to the landing and got aboard the boat and the captain said he was going to drop down the river to the commissary and that all who had the necessary papers could draw rations. Myself and partner, having papers, felt first rate. When we landed at the commissary, my partner told me to take his haversack along as it would not be necessary for both to go. I did as requested and on passing in there was a big fat fellow sitting in a chair, too lazy to stand up I guess, and he told me to go in, get some hard tack and meat and when I came out he would weigh them but he never done it, for when I filled one haversack with hard tack and put a ham in the other I slid out of the back door and went to the boat. My partner and I went clear up on top and located our quarters under a boat that was turned bottom up and there we stayed and slept every night until we arrived at Montgomery, Ala. Which is 450 miles. After the boat started I think I ate but one meal with my partner. When the bell rang I would go down below, walk into the dining room, hang up my hat and sit down at the table. None of the officers or waiters took any notice of me and I had a fine time. My partner told me they would get after me, but I said if they did I would quit. It took us four days to make the trip and when I got to Montgomery I boarded the train and went to Atlanta, Ga.

In Atlanta I went into a saloon thinking that something might turn up that I might put myself on the outside of some of Paddy’s eyewater. I did not have a red cent or any other kind of currency, but had some hope. I always had that, and while standing around seeing others drinking I looked down on the floor and saw a $3.00 bill, state bank money. Any kind of money was good those balmy days, so I stepped up to the counter and called for some of the article itself, and while my three dollars lasted I was in the swim.

I went from there to my command at Chattanooga and was awfully glad to see the boys. We stayed there some time planning where we could locate some Yankees to give them another threshing when we concluded to light out for Kentucky. We crossed the Tennessee river at Chattanooga, then across the mountains to Sparta, Tenn. In crossing the Cumberland mountains we had orders to fill our canteens with water as we could not get any until we got over on the other side. We marched over in the night and never saw a drop of water until we landed near Sparta, all tired and completely exhausted.

I remember that we laid over one ???? there and I got to thinking I would like to have some good old Tennessee applejack, and a comrade named Smartt and I started out to see if we could find just a bit of it. We would inquire of the natives and went to several distilleries and finally after going about eight miles we found it. We had two Yankee canteens apiece and had them filled and you never saw two happier fellows than we were when we started back to camp. We met some of Gen. Bragg’s escort and the captain of the squad asked us if we had any liquor, and Smartt, fool-like, said we had some of the best apple brandy he ever saw, and right there is where Smartt made the mistake of his life for the captain said, “Well, boys, you’ll have to pour it out.” That remark nearly broke my heart for I knew the jig was up, so we commenced to empty our canteens. As I emptied mine I stepped back through the soldiers, spilling the contents of one of mine on the ground. The other was under my coat and I saved that from devastation. Smartt got rid of all that he had. The captain then said if we would go back with him where we got it we should have our money back, so Smartt went back with them and I stayed where we emptied our canteens. One of the cavalrymen asked me if I did not have some left. I told him to hush for if the captain should find it out it would be Katy with me so he went with the rest of the crowd.

When Smartt got back we put ourselves in shape not to pour any of the rest on the ground and when we got back to camp about sundown Smartt was cutting up so the Colonel was about to put him under guard but he did not and neither of us was punished for our trip.

-To be continued in Chapter 2.