On Friday afternoon we stopped at a Baptist church, south of Knoxville, and I
set out to seek a place of shelter. I found near by an old school-mate that I had
not seen since about 1827, in the person of Alfred Kinkaid, who gave me some
friendly directions; and next evening we were fortunate enough to get into a
small house with two small rooms; three families of us together, but we were
thankful for the accommodation; and my gratitude to Mr. Reuben Holman has
not dies out yet. Here we remained together until my brother found another
cabin for himself and family, and there I remained during the winter.
It may be asked whether the order prohibited us from going back to our homes
and bringing away the goods left behind us. I do not know that the order in
express terms either permitted or prohibited it; but to some extent it was done
by those who dared to venture back into what very properly might have been
called “the dark and bloody ground”; and I must say that the authorities were
more lenient in carrying out the order than the general was in making it. The
cause which declared that all grain and hay at a distance from garrisons should
be destroyed, I think was never carried out.
About a week after locating on Crooked River in Ray County, I and my brother
and daughter (Mrs. Tate) returned to the vicinity of Mount Hope (Odessa) and
carried to our temporary home what goods we had stored there; and about a
week later I and my daughter returned to Chapel Hill and obtained hers.
About the first of November I returned with my son and daughter to my farm
and collected together as many of our cattle and hogs as were not too wild and
unruly to drive, and drove them out of the doomed and wasting territory; sold
the hogs near Lexington, and drove the cattle to Ray. On all of these trips I saw
men in arms, on each side; the guerillas by twos and threes, and the Union
soldiers in larger bodies; but fortunately, I was not molested by either party.
Many other refugees, also, ventured back as I did, to seek and to save some of
the necessaries of life. Most of those who did so were women and small boys,
they being less liable to suffer violence than men.
When I arrived in sight of my home, after leaving it under such disagreeable
circumstances, I was agreeably surprised to meet with some of the women and
boys that I had left in company with on the memorable 6th of September.
Some of Mr. Hunter’s, Cave’s, and Ousley’s families were there for the purpose
of driving off the live stock that had been abandoned or left behind. And again
I was, perhaps, of some help to them, and I know they were a great help to me,
as we drove out stock off together.
Those who have never witnessed a similar scene can not realize how lonely and
how desolate everything appeared. While the presence of domestic animals,
the crowing of domestic fowls, would indicate that the country was inhabited,
everything else spoke of desolation and ruin. Dogs appeared to have
transformed themselves into wolves; a calf had been killed in my door-yard and
they were feasting upon its body.
The winter passed, and the scattered exiles banished by Order No. 11, though
exempted from many of the alarms and annoyances to which they had been
subjected at home by the depredations of men in arms and the bloody deeds of
violence so often occurring, were nevertheless exiles and sojourners in a land
of strangers, and away from the scenes of former happiness and cherished
homes, which they could not and did not wish to forget.
In March, 1864, General Brown, then in command of the district, issued
another general order, which was also numbered 11, proclaiming that loyal men
and families, by making proof of loyalty and getting permits for commanding
officers at certain posts, might return to their homes. A limited number did so,
and returned with much fear and trembling; but by far the greater number felt
that it would be unsafe to trust themselves back again where they had
experienced so much of bitter partisan strife and so many scenes of blood,
wand where some had personal and political enemies. Only a few families
returned to any neighborhood and I some localities none.
On the 5th of April, with my family, including my daughter and her children, I
arrived at my home, having been absent seven months. Enough corn and
wheat remained unconsumed to subsist on until a crop could be made; some
few hogs were also left. My farm, too, remained, the buildings and fencing
much less damaged than I had expected. Such, however, was not the case with
all; for hundreds of farms, or at least the building and fencing upon them, in
the western part of the county and on the large priories, were entirely
consumed by the prairie fires of the preceding autumn. Some, on their return,
found nothing but the naked land—buildings, orchards, fences all gone.
Of those neighbors who left in company with me, none returned until the war
was nearly over and tranquility was partially restored. They all, however,
ultimately returned; some of them are now living on their former homes. Old
Mr. Hunter, now in his 94th year, the oldest man in the township, and with one
or two exceptions the oldest man in the county, is still alive (1882), on his old
farm, on which he located in 1836. His daughter, Mrs. Cave, owns a part of it
and lives there also, and Mrs. Owsley is on her former home.
My then nearest neighbor, Jacob Bennett, who was in Ohio when the order was
promulgated, and whose family left with us, is still my nearest neighbor, each
of on the same farm occupied before the war. When he read, while in Ohio, the
famous Order No. 11 (issued by one of Ohio’s favorite sons), requiring that all
person in Jackson County should leave it, and knowing, as he did, how hard it
would be to get transportation, and unwilling to trust himself back in a country
from which he had fled to avoid compulsory service on one or the other side of
the struggle, he employed a brother-in-law to start at once and convey his
family to him in Ohio. I met with that gentleman quite recently, and had from
his own lips an account of what he saw and witnessed of Order No. 11 while on
that errand; which account, or a synopsis of it, I give, in connections with my
own, as near as I can in his own language. Speaking of the occurrences of the
6th of September, he said:
“I came very near being with you in that tragedy and if I had been left to myself
and had had my own way, no doubt would have been.
“When my brother-in-law employed me to repair to Missouri and escort his
wife and children to him in Ohio, I obtained from the military authorities at
Cleveland papers of protection that would pass me safely through the Federal
lines to Missouri. Arriving at Hamilton, on the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad, I
obtained passage to Lexington; and on arriving there, and even before, the
effects and the consequences of Order No. 11 were apparent in the moving
masses of wretched fugitives. The roads were full of them, and the ferry-boat
was crowed with them, passing to the north of the river; and the streets of the
town were scarcely ever clear of them. I arrived in Lexington on Friday, the
4th, intending to go to Lone Jack the next day, make my preparations on
Sunday, and start back on Monday; but Providence ordered otherwise. On
going to the office of the provost of the place, whose name I think was
Johnson, and telling him my business and asking for a passport to your part of
the country, he told me he could give me what I asked for, but that it would do
me no good; and he dissuaded me from what he called the foolhardy attempt to
reach Lone Jack at that time. ‘The country’ said he, ‘up there is full of
guerrillas, and a Federal passport in your pocket would insure your death from
them. Besides, there are numerous scouting parties of Union soldiers, and you
will not know one from the other, and will not be able to tell whose company
you are in, as they are so much in the habit of playing off the citizens and on