The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 6

This is the sixth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. Chapter 6 covers hijinks, the purloin of liquor and snowball fights.

After the battle of Chickamauga we fell back to Dalton and went into winter quarters and had a very quiet time. I remember a few things that happened while there. There was a wood shed and water tank and a detail was sent out every night to see that nothing was molested. I was a non-commissioned officer and I took half a dozen privates and went out there on guard duty all night. On one occasion I remember a soldier came around there to wait till the train pulled in to get a jug of whisky that he had ordered. One of my chums and I found out that he had a bottle of whisky in his pocket and we wanted it. He sat around the fire for quite a while before he went to sleep. When he got to snoring about right I motioned to my chum to see if he could ease it out of pocket. He worked for quite a while but failed to land it so I motioned for him to get out of the way and let me try my hand at it. The bottle was a round one and I gave it a kind of a twisted pull and out it came and we went out in the dark and tanked up on it.

I think it was the same night when the train had pulled in, took on wood and water and had pulled out again a citizen who had come in on the train come into the shed where the guard was and told me he had brought a half dozen sacks of apples and that they were up the track about fifty yards. I told him it would not do to let them remain there, that the soldiers who were camped around there would steal every one of them, and that he had better carry them into the shed where they would be safe. I had several of the guard help him carry them in and put them around the fire under the shed. I thought that fellow never would go to sleep but he finally dozed off and when he had got to sleeping about right I told one of the guards to get a move on him. He picked up a sack of the apples and hid them. The fellow never missed them, for just before day a bunch of soldiers came in and gobbled up the whole business, but we saved our sack and took them to camp when we left.

We were at Dalton on Christmas day, 1863. We wanted to have something extra, so we put ourselves to thinking. One of our company, G. J. Newman, (Gabe, for short) drove a commissary wagon, and on Christmas day he had brought in a barrel of whisky, for the officers, I suppose, but Gabe let us into the secret, and after night Robinson took a water bucket and got it full and we filled our canteens and whatever we had to put it in. Just before day Gabe came over to our mess and said he had to go to Dalton after some more rations and wanted John Robinson to go with him. I was satisfied that when Robinson went we would have something in the way of a Christmas dinner that would be a hummer when Robinson filled up from a canteen before he left.

When Robinson and the teamster got to the depot at Dalton Robinson went in and saw a box that he thought would suit him, so he carried it out and put it in the wagon, then went back and got a side of bacon and loaded it. When they arrived in camp Robinson brought the box and meat to our mess and when we opened the box the stuff was there sure enough. The box had been sent from somewhere down in Georgia to some of their folks who were camped around Dalton but they never received it. The contents consisted of sugar, pies, eggs and plenty of other good things too numerous to mention. We invited our company officers and some of the regimental officers to take dinner with us. They inquired where all the good things came from but they never found out. Besides having plenty of good things to eat we had plenty of good old fashioned egg nog. It was a Christmas long to be remembered. We had good times at Dalton as there were no Yankees near to cause us any uneasiness.

I remember a couple of incidents at Dalton that had slipped my mind. One was a snow battle between some Tennessee soldiers and some Georgia troops. It commenced in a small way but grew to be a big battle with at least a brigade on each side with the officers and colors. The snow was five or six inches deep. There was a small branch between the combatants and sometimes one side, then the other would have possession of the field. Sometimes the Tennesseans would drive the Georgia men back, then they would rally and drive the other side. They used up all the snow on the field then each side had a detail to bring up big snow balls to be used as ammunition. Our Tennessee side finally charged the Georgia fellows and ran them back to their camp. I never got there for at the branch a Georgia fellow rolled up a snowball with a lot of ground with it and struck me in the eye, coming very near knocking my eye out, so I got knocked out and went back to the rear. I understood that several lost an eye in the fight.

While in camp at Dalton Gen. Johnston issued an order giving a furlough to one in every twenty-five, so each officer commanding a company put all the names of his company in a hat and let each man draw. A soldier of my mess drew one and as he had no place to go in the South he gave it to me for I had an aunt in Northern Mississippi. I fixed up in the best clothing I had which was the same I wore every day, and started with a little less than a hundred dollars. I had to go by way of Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala, and there boarded a boat for Selma, Ala. From there to Meridian, Miss then down to Jackson, the capital. There my troubles began, for an army of Yankees had come out from Memphis and done the railroad up in apple pie order. They had burned every bridge and car except one box car on the road from Jackson north to Grenada, the engines had been burned, all the woodwork about them being gone and I had to go fifteen miles in a hack to where the train was to start. I put up at a hotel and stayed all night and I thought I had better go down and pay my bill which I did. The clerk said the regular price was $5.00 but that he would charge me but $4.50. My money was growing short. I had transportation but I could not go north until the next day. I went back to my room and when the bell rang I would go down and take a meal with them and I kept that up till I left the next afternoon when I crossed the river and went up to the next station. I don’t know what I would have done if the clerk had got after me for the hotel bill, but he did not.

-Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden. Chapter 7 will be published in the future.