Friday, December 13, 2013

A Young Tennessean's Experience During the Late Unpleasantness, 1883

The following story was on the front page of the Public Ledger for December 13, 1883.  Although not specifically about Memphis it shows that Memphians were interested in stories about other Tennesseans as well as stories of the "Late Unpleasantness." 

The reminiscing Tennessean is Hugh Stevenson, the son of Vernon King Stevenson and Maria Louise Bass. Hugh was born about 1855.  In 1880 the Stevenson family was living in New York City.  Hugh was an attorney and his father was listed in the census as president of a trust company.  V. K. Stevenson was also a railroad magnate and served as the Quartermaster General of the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War.  His tomb is located in Mount Olivet at Nashville and is a replica of Napoleon's tomb.

A New York Letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer says: You well know V.K. Stevenson, of Tennessee.  I lately met his son, who is one of our most enterprising real estate men.  Said he:  "When the war broke out I was a small boy, and was sent to the Confederate West Point at Marietta, Ga., where we had about 600 cadets.  My father subscribed to $100,000 of the Confederate loan at par.  He lost all his negroes, and I am glad of it.  Although I was on the opposite side, I am perfect satisfied with the result, and so is everybody else of good sense that I have talked to.  Our ladies in the South were so gallant for the war that they really made me believe I could go out with a wheat straw and whip every invader across the lines.

"My grandfather, after the Federals got into Chattanooga, became so patriotic that he wrote my father a letter that I ought to be taken out of the military school and sent to the battle field.  My father merely inclosed (sic) the letter to me without any remarks, and thereupon I went to the commandant of the academy and asked for my discharge, as I was going to enlist in the ranks to be sent to the front.  I enlisted in an Irish regiment, entirely composed of railroad laborers, and we started for the battle field of Chickamauga in box cars, every soldier being possessed of a canteen filled with New Orleans rum.  You can imagine what a diabolical scene was in that car--fighting all the way along; but I was regarded as quite a young hero.  We had a terrible battle, and in the excitement I had no time to think.  It got out, however, who my father was, and I was put on the staff of a man named Benton Smith, who was only twenty three years old and a General.

"Benton Smith," resumed Mr. Stevenson, "being called the boy General, concluded that he must have a staff entirely of boys.  He was a prodigy of audacity and courage, but his high, nervous nature at lost wore him out.  He always kept his aids right up to the front, and I saw that unless something happened I would be shot.  Just before the big battle at Atlanta, where McPherson was killed, Smith's brigade was reinforced by a Georgia regiment nearly a thousand strong.  I went to a hospital the morning of that battle where I saw a pile of legs and arms amputated, and it made me sick at the stomach, being quite another lesson of the war.  Finding one of our aids with several canteens of peach brandy, I asked him to let me have one to settle my stomach, and drank the whole of it.  Smith then ordered me to lead the Georgia regiment into the battle. I was blind drunk, and charged my horse right over the Federal ramparts.  He had both eyes shot out and both knees broken; and as I went up the rampart I could hear the Yankees cry all down the line, "Don't shoot that boy."  My life was really saved by my youth.  It was that charge, as I have understood, which led to McPherson's death.  I was twice promoted for gallantry on the battle field, and upon my soul it was nothing but that peach brandy."

"What other battles did you go into?"

"I was in the fight at Jonesborough, where we were badly whipped, and then went to Tuscumbia, Ala., and continued on with Hood's invasion of Tennessee.  At the battle of Nashville I had the good fortune to be captured, and was sent to Fort Delaware for a good many months.  There my mother's brother, Judge Catron, of the Supreme Court, sent me $100 a month.  Toward the close of the war my father, with R.T. Wilson, of this city, Mr. Evans, President of one of the Wall street banks, and one other, established the Bee Line of blockage runners from Wilmington to Liverpool, and they put their profits in bank in England.  So, when I came to New York I found my father quite comfortable, and I have been but 36 hours in Tennessee since the war closed."
Published in the Public Ledger, December 13 1883

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this wonderful, informative account!