The Old Confederate’s Story: Chapter 14

This is the fourteenth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. This chapter continues the discussion on the brave women of the South and their endeavours during the War of Northern Aggression, including terrible fighting against Missouri federals.

I remember another heroine. Lieut. Buford, of an Arkansas regiment. She stepped and walked, the personification of a soldier boy, had won her spurs at the battle of Bull Run, Shiloh and Ft. Donelson and was promoted for gallantry. One evening she came to Gen. Steward’s headquarters at Tyner’s station with an order from Major Kinlock Folconet to report for duty as a scout but upon finding that he was a woman she was sent back and the order was revoked. She has written a book. In point of devotion to duty, nursing our soldiers in distress, the sick and wounded, the women of the south were all Florence Nightengales. It would be invidious to discriminate but I will mention some other noteworthy deeds.

I have another heroine, bless her sweet soul. I have forgotten her name. One day Gen. Morgan sent a squad of us on a scout and we were pursued by Col. Funkerhauser’s regiment in Denny’s bend of the Cumberland river near Rome, Tennessee. My heroine, a girl of 14 directed us to Bradley’s Island for safety, a place of about sixty acres in cultivation. On the river side it was encircled by a sand bar with driftwood lodged on an occasional tree. This sweet little girl brought us a square meal and watched like a hawk for our safety during the day. Hinking that it was only a foraging party and that they were gone, we ventured to leave during the afternoon, but run into them and a running fire ensued. After eluding pursuit we concluded to go back. In a short time a company of Federals appeared on the island, evidently having tracked our horses. We left our horses without hitching them and took shelter under a big fallen tree. The troopers were within ten steps of us at the time. We could hear them distinctly. One fellow said, “If we catch them this is a good place to hang them.” Another one said, “Let’s go into the drift wood on the sand bar and bag them.” Our hearts throbbed and our legs trembled for we thought that we were gone. One of our squad said, “Let’s give up,” but the rest of us were too scared to answer, and they passed on without discovering us.

Our heroine came to us after nightfall she called and we answered. She was happy over our escape and said she saw them leaving and seeing no prisoners she had mounted her horse and followed them to the toll gate two miles away and learned that they had returned to Lebanon, after which she brought our supper and put us on a safe road. Such heroines the soldiers often met with in disputed territory between contending armies. They evidenced a devotion to country that only might and not right could subdue.

There was another class more nearly comporting with the female character–sock knitters, clothes makers, needle pliers, God servers, rebelling in sentiment, in touch with the times. From wealth they drank the dregs of poverty’s cup until now nearly fifty years, by frugality, they have been instrumental in our Southland’s blessed resurrection. Female clerks, teachers, stenographers, from authoresses to cooks, they attest the courage and praiseworthiness that exceeds belicose valor.

The following account of heroism in saving her father’s life is contributed by J. M. Bedichek, brother of the heroine, and now principal of the Eddy Literary Scientific Institute of Eddy, Texas. Mr. Bedichek was under Gen. F. M. Cockrell, in the 1st Missouri Brigade. His sister and father were left alone, their mother having died before the war. It was on the night of the 6th of June, 1865, when the most cruel phase of horrible war was seen nightly in ghastly murders and lurid flames, that a band of soldiers was seen in our front yard seven miles north of Warrensburg, Johnson county, Missouri. A knock was heard at the door and Sister Mary Bedichek, then 16 years old, asked, “Who is there?” “Friends,” said a voice outside. “What do you want?” she asked. “We want to come in and warm.” “You have guns?” “Yes.” “If you will leave your guns outside you may come in,” she said. “Oh, well, if that will please you, we will do so,” whereupon the leader came in. No others appeared to care to enter and sister closed the door and locked it. The soldier asked if there were any bushwhackers in the house. “There’s no one but Father and I,” she said. “Your two brothers are in the Rebel army, ‘eh?” “Yes.” A search of the room by the dim light of the fire place was made. It was near bed time, and when the militiaman had satisfied himself that nobody but father and sister were in the house he said: “Old man, I have come to kill you,” drawing his pistol at the same time. “Ah!” As father made this laconic response he grabbed the pistol and a most terrible scuffle ensued. The assailant wrested the pistol out of father’s hand and began to beat him over the head with the pistol. Sister Mary, not idle, ran to the kitchen, seized a corn knife, a very large one, and directed an effectual blow at the uplifted arm and with rapid blows chopped his head until he cried for help, saying “For God’s sake let me out,” where upon one of the party outside ran to the north door, opened it, gun in hand and tried to see which one to shoot. My sister, hearing him seized the gun with her left hand and dealt him a blow. He jerked the gun from her and she gave him another blow and pushed him out of the house. She then locked the door and put the window shades down so they could not see where to shoot. Those on the south of the house opened fire at the window and with a beam broke the door down. No one attempted to come in but the wounded man staggered to the door and down the steps. Some one asked if he was hurt and he said, “I am a dead man.” He fell within ten steps of the door and they took him away.

Father sent word to Warrensberg that his house had been attacked and Col. Thos. Crittenden, of the Federal army, later democratic governor of Missouri, sent out a scout under Capt. Box. As they approached the house and were about to enter the yard he ordered them to halt outside. Sister thought they had come for revenge and she procured a long dagger, hid it in the folds of her dress and waited at the door for the approach of the captain.

“Well,” said the captain, “you have had a battle here I understand. It looks very much like it from the looks of the room.” There was blood, hair, a hat, gloves, etc. strewn over the house. The captain said: “Tell me about it.” As sister was telling her story the company came up close in order to catch what was said. One of the soldiers said, “I wish she had killed the other one too.” Another said, “I wish she had killed the whole outfit.”

Col. Crittenden made my sister a present of a fine pistol as a mark of her heroism and to emphasize his disapproval of murdering old men by brutal soldiers and bushwhackers. This account is as father and sister told me soon after the terrible tragedy.

Signed J. M. Bedeker.

– Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden.