The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 4

This is the fourth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. Chapter 4 covers more unscrupulous dealings and bartering for food, as well as, fighting around Chattanooga. Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and 3 are available on our website.

At Chattanooga we went into camp southeast of town and had a very good time there. As usual, when I didn’t have any Yankees to whip I was in some devilment. I had a chum who was always ready for anything and when necessary I would write a pass, sign all the necessary officers’ names to it and we would go to town. I had two trusty comrades, Bob Tucker and John Robinson. Robinson and I would go to town and he would borrow $10 of somebody, then we would proceed to enclose the quart. The quart cost $10. Then we would find where some citizen was selling it on the sly. I would take our canteens and go where it was kept for sale, go in and find that he had it, get my vessels full, sit down and have a big talk. About the time we got in a good way Robinson would rush in, the maddest man you ever saw. He would cuss and abuse me, threaten to kick me out of the house, etc., then he would turn to the man and tell him what he would do to me when he got me back to camp, and while that was going on I would quietly walk out with the liquor. They would talk a while (to give me time to get away) then Robinson would say he must go. When the man would say that I had not paid for the whisky, then Robinson was madder than ever. He would cuss and tear around and say he had given me the money to pay for it and he would go and bring me back. He would finally locate me out of town and as our business in town had been transacted we would go back to camp.

On another occasion I took Bob Tucker. Bob had been to town the day before and had partly made a deal for a lot of ginger cakes and had told the fellow he would go back to camp and come in the next day with his partner and close the deal. So I fixed up our credentials and we lit out for town. When we got to the fellow’s store, a small concern, he was very busy with customers and told us to walk into the back room, and he would be in soon. He had the cakes in sheets about the size of a door but had a lot cut up into regulation size. About this time we heard an awful noise in the alley and the door being locked I jumped up and caught the transom and held there to see what was the matter and while there Tucker was stuffing my haversack full of cakes. I held on till he filled it and then let loose and as he had his filled we thought while the commotion lasted we would walk out the door. The only thing that had happened was a white fellow had knocked a negro down in the alley. We returned to camp with about as many ginger cakes as anybody ever carried in tow haversacks.

A few days afterwards a fellow came to camp selling pies and other things out of a wagon. I went up to where he was doing business and at once saw he was in need of a clerk, as everything was going like hot cakes. I said: “Mister, you don’t seem to be able to wait on them all. I will help you if you want me to.” He said, “All right,” so I got up in the hind end of the wagon and the way I sold truck was a sight. Robinson, my partner, and messmate wanted a whole lot of stuff and would buy only of me. He would buy 75 cents worth and give me a dollar and I would give him three or four dollars change. Now and then when Robinson was gone I would hand over what money I had to the boss. But Robinson was the best customer we had.

In the evening the fellow went to the Colonel and told him he had a load that ought to have brought him $250 or $300 and he only got about $50 out of it. I felt sorry for the fellow and never charged him a cent for helping him. I’m telling these things as few would know of the kind traits of a soldier if I did not.

I was going down Main street in Chattanooga one day when I saw a crowd of soldiers gathered around a big fat fellow, a Colonel of a Tennessee regiment, who was full as a tick. He had a fish pole on his shoulder and seemed to be headed for the river. The boys were teasing him and they got him red hot. He would cuss them with all the cuss words he could muster up and he could muster a whole lot of them. He told them they would desert if they were not so far from home and he handed it out to them in fine style. One of the soldiers said, “Well, old man, go on about your fishing. I hope you’ll catch lots of fish.” He said, “I hope I won’t get a d–d bite.”

While we were camped on Missionary ridge we went up the river a short distance where a creek run into the Tennessee river above Chattanooga and the first we knew a lot of Yankees opened up on us and we got away from there in short order. I remember while we were camped there I took a couple of canteens and went down to a spring to get some water. The spring was in a narrow gulley and I saw three Muscovy ducks about half grown so I spread myself out like a woman spreads her dress when she is driving a hen and chicks; I did that to keep them from going by me. When one came near enough I would grab it, pull its head off and put it in my shirt bosom. I served them all the same way and they cut up and flopped until the front of my shirt was as bloody as though a hog had been butchered in my bosom. But I tell you they were fine eating on an empty stomach.

We camped around Chattanooga until the Yankees came down about the Chickamauga country and concluded to give us a spanking. We were not ready to take it so we ran together and put it to them in fine style. We were going to run them into Chattanooga and I guess we would have done it if it had not been for Thomas. We lost lots of men there and the other side lost heavily too. I drew one minie ball. It glanced across my cheek about half an inch from my right eye and the scar is there now. I don’t know how many I killed for I had no chance to count them. I was sent to a hospital below there but was back again in a week. While I was in the hospital it seemed that the authorities tried to starve us so we would want to go back to our regiments.

-Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden. Chapter 5 will be published in the future.