JOTS OF MEMORY
WAR OF THE REBELLION
AVERY H. STONE
1st. Lieut. Co. K 2nd. Wis. Cavalry
San Jose, Cal. Nov, 18th., 1912.
You will note that the above date marks a period of fifty-one years from the date of my enlistment in 1861. You will also observe I was twenty three years old.
When Fort Sumter was attacked by rebel forces, that memorable April day 1861, I was visiting my uncle in Pennsylvania. The news came to the town by a special train on a newly built railroad (Erie & Sunbery) and the excitement that followed the next few weeks was tremendous. The fife and drum was heard day and night, and the old flag was to be seen everywhere, and three months men volunteers were being organized into companies and regiments.
Through my uncle's influence, I did not enlist then. Three months went, and then three more. The demand for volunteer soldiers was increasing; some of my friends at home in Wisconsin had gone in the early three months service and had been discharged, and were going in again for three years—or during the war. A cavalry Company was being enlisted in the vicinity of my home and I returned to enlist, and the record this book contains tells the rest of that part of military service.
I have no thrilling accounts to relate of hair-breadth escapes from the enemy's bullets. Our cavalry service in the south west required much hard riding nights as well as days, Our first experience in the rounding up of rebel sympathizers and recruits for the rebel service, was from Cassville--a military post in Cass County, in the south west corner of Missouri. We left our camp at 8 o'clock in the evening and a very dark night I remember. Our guide took us over rough and rugged byways and byways we knew not. At intervals we came to settlements of one or more houses, which we surrounded and took possession of the male population old enough to shoot a gun, and any guns they had. The guns were broken around a tree and the prisoners, tinder guard, were taken with us. We captured a large number and destroyed many guns during the .two days and nights. The prisoners were taken to headquarters at Cassville and those who would take the oath of allegiance to the U. S. Government were allowed to go to their homes again, but about all of them violated their oath and later served in the rebel army or as bush whack bands. After leaving our camp at Cassville that night, our first halt to feed horses or prepare anything for ourselves was 23 hours later at a point forty odd miles distant. That being the first scout—as they were known, is fresh in my memory. We were frequently fired on from the mountain sides as we were passing. Where it was possible a squad would charge up the hill in pursuit of the shooters. On one of those occasions the bullets came uncomfortably near, and the horse in front of mine was hit.
Shortly after, that post was abandoned and we served as body guard for General Brown, in command of the Brigade. At the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, Dec.7th. 1862, my Company "K" with Co. "D" was in charge as guard of the supply train, and during the battle prisoners were sent to us to guard. The following night the Rebs. withdrew and retreated, leaving our little army as victors and in possession of the battlefield with the dead and wounded. I had an opportunity to visit part of the ground fought over and saw where several prominent rebel officers that were killed had been carried together and a fence of rails built around them to prevent hogs from getting to them, I remember one of them had a piece of paper from a note book pinned to his coat with the name Gen. Stein.
About a year after that we captured two rebel officers who were placed under my care to guard, and I. learned one of them was a Lieutenant Stein, and a cousin of the Gen. Stein.
It must be understood that the cavalry service in the south-west was of a nature that required endurance and a little nerve at times. Our opposing foes were bands of "Bush-whackers" and "Jay Hawkers"—, called so because of their manner of warfare. Such notorious leaders as Quantrell, Marmaduke, Coleby—and several other smaller bands. The James and Younger brothers, who became such notorious outlaws after the war, were with some of those bands that we encountered. Fortunately our casualties were very few in comparison with risk of life and limb from the bullets fired from behind rocks and trees on a hillside. When on escort duty guarding a supply train of mule teams, it was tiresome and slow, and we disliked the duty. We done very little picket guard duty.
Our Lieutenant Colonel (Thomas Stevens), had been an officer in the English Army, and he was an extraordinary swordsman, and our first lessons in the sword exercise were directed by him personally. Many of the boys became quite proficient in fencing.
On a scout the evening of the 3rd. day of July 1862, about 8 o'clock, we halted for the night. Our provisions had been exhausted the day before. We left camp with three days rations of bacon, hard-tack and coffee, and this was the 6th day. We had built fires with rails, or anything we could find in the darkness. We were in northwest Arkansas—in a very poor section of country. About 9 or 10 o'clock some fresh beef was distributed among the boys, and hardly anyone had salt. The Captain and myself broiled our pieces on the coals, but, hungry as we were it was difficult to eat without the salt. The next morning at daylight the bugle sounded (Boots and Sads)—that meant saddle horses, and immediately Assembly Call—that meant—hurry up, get mounted and into line. We had a battery of light artillery with us, and they had prepared to fire a salute in honor of the day, after which we started out for the day's march. We passed along by the pond where the water used came from in the darkness. There were many expressions from some who had imbibed freely, but they didn't want any more. About 2 o'clock we came to a plantation where they had something, and me got some fried ham and hot biscuit. We marched until late in the evening, and our guide took us by a road we found blocked by large trees felled into it from both sides and it was so dark we had to stay there until daylight next morning. We got to our camp (Cassville, Mo.) about 3 o'clock that afternoon tired and very hungry. We dined on our bacon, with numerous "skippers", and mouldy hard-tack and it seemed wonderful that anything could be got there. At that point we were more than 150 miles from the nearest railroad. We took possession of grist mills and ground wheat and corn. We used the ashes from burnt corncobs for soda in making bread and pancakes. When we were hungry enough we could eat the kernels of corn from the cob, but it was a failure on satisfying hunger.
On one occasion after a long hard ride, in the rain all day and our clothes wet through and spattered with mud, we halted for the night in the rain and darkness. We had no orders farther. We seemed to be in an open field of mud and water, and we knew our tents and provisions would not be there later, as sometimes happened, so it meant for each to make the best he could of the situation. One of the boys suggested going to a very dim light we could see in quest of something—either to eat or burn—either would be acceptable. We rode about half a mile across open ground splashing through water and mud—so dark we could not see each other's horses. We followed the direction of the light and came to some buildings. I went to the door of the cabin that the light came from and found it occupied by four of my company boys, and they had a good fire going in the fire-place. They assured me there was room for me. There was a good bed; a space of about four feet between the bed and the fireplace. A spinning wheel filled the space at the foot of the bed. The darkness prevented our rustling anything to eat, so the few hard-tack we had was divided and eaten. Our water-soaked overcoats we hung on the wall and very soon rivulets of water were coursing across the floor. Our other clothing was also very wet. The small apartment and a hot fire and five wet Yankees got up considerable steam very soon. We piled ourselves across that bed of downy feathers our feet towards the fire and slept. At daylight the bugle call brought us out of our dreams of home sweet home to the saddle—without breakfast. It was very cold that morning, our horses had not been fed any better than ourselves, and I guess they thought as we did that War was Hell. We came to a village about 10 o'clock. The Major gave the order to break ranks and get something to eat for ourselves and horses. I found some corn for my horse, and went to a house where four or five boys were waiting to learn whether the little rebel woman was going to get up some hot biscuit and fried chicken or allow them to do the trick themselves. We assured her we wanted to pay for what we had; she very reluctantly set about the task, and she done nobly towards satisfying our hunger with biscuit, fried chicken and sweet potatoes. We gave her more U.S. fractional currency than she had ever seen before, and said she didn't know if the "Dog-on Yankee" stuff was any good or not. That was early in the war before we got a supply of Confederate money to give those who rather have it.
On one occasion when we were out on one of our raids we halted to feed our horses and it was a cold rainy day and some of the boys were in one of the log houses called the Elkhorn Tavern—not very far from the Pea Ridge battle ground. They had a fire in the large fire-place and were standing around pretty thick trying to warm their feet, with hands against the chimney and standing on one foot and holding the other to the fire, and one of the boys felt a stone move a little, and worked it out of its place, and putting his hand down the opening pulled out a roll of confederate money. There was about $1200.00. It was all made good use of in buying hams, eggs, chickens, &c. Many of the people would prefer it to Yankee money. It was our custom to take corn for our horses and animals to kill and the commanding officer would give the owner a voucher and he could go to the nearest Military Post and if he could prove he was not disloyal to the U.S. Government, he could get his pay. If he was a rebel he got nothing. But in years after the war about all of those claims were settled and a large amount that were not genuine. Whenever Congress had enough Democrats, they allowed appropriations to pay off a lot of old war claims.
These few jots of memory recorded here are intended for my grand children, that may be interested some future time—if not now, and perhaps feel a pride in knowing their ancestry were prominent characters in helping to found this Government and maintain the principal of good government from its earliest period down through the several generations from 1630 to the present.
My father was a Captain in U. S. Militia organization after the war of 1812. His Grand Father (Banajah Bushnell) was a Lieut. and Captain in Connecticut—soldiers in the Revolutionary War. His Great Grand Father was an officer in the French and Indian War.
My mother's Grand Father (Aaron Davis) was a soldier in Revolutionary War in Rhode Island and her mother was own cousin to Commodore Perry—the hero of Lake Erie