The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 5

This is the fifth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. Chapter 5 covers regrets, fierce fighting in Georgia and a brief peace with Yankee troops.

I got very hungry and one day while at Chickamauga I sauntered out to where some citizens were selling things that a hungry soldier likes and there I did one of the meanest tricks I was guilty of during the war. I never have felt just right about it to this good day. While I was standing around seeing others buying and eating I saw a woman selling half moon pies. She had an old horse and buggy and I walked up to her and said, “Madam, do you see that man walking off there?” pointing to a fellow about twenty steps away. She said she did and I said, “That fellow stole a lot of your pies.” She went after him, and as soon as she started I commenced to pile half moon pies into my bosom. I stored away my goods and by the time she got through with the fellow I had business somewhere else, I went out behind a big pine tree and soon got outside the pies and went to my command.

Soon after this I was on the battle field the first day after my return. The Yankee soldiers that had been killed had not been buried and it was about a week as I recollect after the battle. The bodies were swollen so one could hardly see that they were men. They were actually as large as a horse. That was the worst sight I saw in the war. There was another thing I saw the same day, that I have always felt a delicacy in telling, that was our forces had gathered up all the small arms that was left on the field, a week before, the guns of our killed and wounded and the Yankees too, for we were in posession of the field, and the guns were racked up like cord wood. I never measured how long the ricks were but feel safe in saying that they were seventy-five yards each.

In the battle of Chickamauga after I was wounded I went for the rear and in going back a cannon ball struck a limb on a big pine tree over me, I heard it hit the limb and stopped a second or so when the limb fell just in front of me. I believe I stepped over it the next step I took after it fell. I have always thought this was the closest call I had in the war.

We moved down to the railroad toward Atlanta and we had more or less fighting and skirmishing until we got to Atlanta.

We had quite a hard fight at or near Resaca, Georgia. I will never forget the experience I had in fighting there. We were on one side of a hollow and the Yankees on top of the hill on the other side. The first evening we were there most of the fighting was an artillery duel and we hugged the ground closely as some of our batteries were up on the hill just behind us. Gen. Polk and his escort came up on the hill behind the battery and we could hear the minie balls strike their horses and they soon left.

Two of my company, R. E. Garrett and James McGuire were lying down behind a log. A cannon ball went under the log and came out between them, covering them with dirt. The Yankees made it hot for us that evening as we did not have time to throw up works. That night we worked nearly all night and by morning we were fixed for them.

Just before ‘day next morning I was detailed with others to go on picket duty about seventy-five yards down in front of our lines. I had been sick all night and was really in no condition to go, but this was no time to falter, so I went. Right down there on the picket line I had about the worst time I ever experienced. Our officer scattered us along about seventy-five yards apart. When day began to appear the Yankees began to shoot at us. I discovered a big pine stump near my post and I proceeded to get behind it. Then I was not safe as they could see me and commenced to cross fire on me. I saw that it was a bad proposition so I laid on my stomach and with my bayonet would dig up the sand and shove it out at each side and push the rest down with my feet and finally got a respectable war grave dug, I was still very sick, suffering from diarrhoea and I was sleepy. The Yankees were still pegging away at me, a ball would strike the stump or a shell burst near me and wake me up but I would fall asleep as quickly as I would wake, so I laid there in the hot sun until about the middle of the afternoon when I saw if I staid until night there would be a dead Rebel and he would have his grave already dug for him so I concluded to attempt to run back to the breastworks, about seventy-five rods up hill. You can imagine how sick I was to attempt such a dangerous trip for I was safe from Yankee bullets behind that stump. Well, I lit out as fast as I could run and every Yankee in sight took a shot at me. The bullets would zip by me and hit the ground but I kept pulling for the shore and when I got to breastworks I just simply fell over them down among the boys and not a scratch on me.

Soon after that the officer on picket duty was driven in and he had 18 bullet holes through his blanket but came out with a whole hide. A Lieutenant-Colonel was killed just on our right. Our regiment was not engaged but on our right they had it hot and heavy. After dark we commenced to retreat and marched until we got back as far as Gen. Joe Johnston wanted to go, formed again, and we kept it up until we landed south of the Chattahoochie river, with plenty of fighting all along.

I will tell some of the things I saw before we landed near Atlanta. While we were on Rocky Face Hill or Ridge, when we had nothing to do we would carry large rocks up on the ridge and turn them loose. The Yankee pickets were down on the side of the hill and the way those rocks would run and crash against trees was a caution. The Yankees could stand lead and cannon balls but the rocks were enough to break any of Sherman’s lines that he could form.

It was fighting and falling back all the time. I will go south of the Chattahoochie river where the Rebel pickets were on the south side and the Yankees on the north. We got very friendly there and frequently some would cross over and do a lot of trading. The currency was coffee on the Yankee side and tobacco on the Rebel side. We would trade for U. S. stamps as we could send mail around by Richmond and Washington to our folks back in the territory occupied by the Federal army.

The way we did was to get a small flat rock, tie on a piece of tobacco and throw it across the river. The Yankees would wade out in the water and pick it up if it fell short. I was the only one on our side who could throw across the river and there was a red faced, red headed Yankee who was left handed who could throw over to our side. I remember on one occasion I put a piece of tobacco on a rock and threw it over saying “This is for the officer,” and the soldier that got it took it to the officer. I saw him pull out a long book that he carried his papers in and handed the fellow five stamps. The red headed fellow threw them over to me.

One day while I was on picket there a handsome young fellow swam over. He was a fine fellow and I would be awful glad to meet him again. He came over on a trading expedition and while he was on our side I got in conversation with him. I told him I had a mother back in Tennessee who had not heard from me in a long time and asked him if he would mail a letter for me. He said he would and I wrote to my mother and he took it with him. On the way back he was so heavily loaded that he nearly drowned. We got him back and one of the boys went about a quarter of a mile and got a rail and he then made it all right. When the war was over and I got home I found the letter all right. He had mailed it as he said he would.

-Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden. Chapter 6 will be published in the future.