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A Grievous Mistake Which a Federal Sharpshooter Made

After the battle of Stone River, and the Confederate forces had fallen back to Tullahoma, Tennessee. General Rosecrans, then in command of the Union Army operating in Tennessee, proceeded to fortify around Murfreesboro while the Confederates were engaged in strengthening the defense at Tullahoma.

Our army which had done but little fighting after the battle of Stone River, moved upon Tullahoma in July, 1863, expecting to find the "Johnnies" prepared to receive them with open arms and bloody hands.

"It was there that I witnessed the saddest event of the war," said a veteran soldier in 1884 while relating the story to a newspaper reporter while on the trip from Murfreesboro to Tullahoma, and he proceeded to relate substantially the following:

"The Thirty-ninth Indiana was in advance, and moved cautiously upon the town, and found that the enemy had evacuated, leaving nothing but a rear guard to cover their retreat. The regiment then pushed on into the heart of the place, driving the remaining rebels out and across a small river beyond, at which our troops came to a halt; and seeing the enemy on the opposite side of the river, they awaited for our sharpshooters to come up before venturing across.

"The Confederates could be seen riding around the woods, and fields six or seven hundred yards away and just as they passed through a gap in a fence near a farm house, a man was seen to cross the road and enter the house, but soon came out again in plain view of our men. He was too far away to be reached with any common gun, and was not fired upon.

"It was not long before the sharp shooters came up to the river with their long-range, globe-sight rifles. The man could yet plainly be seen near the house, seemingly to defy our guns. One of the dead shot sharp shooters brought his gun up to his shoulder and fired. The man fell to the ground, and in a few minutes time a woman and several little children were seen about the fallen man.

"The enemy had now disappeared and our troops crossed the river and moved on down the road, feeling their way. When they came up to the spot where the soldier had been killed, there lay in that death's embrace - not a Confederate soldier - but an innocent little 12 year old boy, and his poor, heart broken mother and little brothers and sisters weeping over him, and praying that God might bring him back to them again.

"The boy was engaged in putting up the fence near his home that the army had thrown down to pass through in their retreat, and was mistaken by our men for a Confederate soldier.

"It was truly a sorrowful event; but the soldier who killed the little fellow would have laid down his own life as a sacrifice if it would have brought the boy back to life again, to comfort his mother, who had already been robbed of a husband and an older son by the cruel war.

"The regiment passed on in pursuit of the flying enemy, and left the poor woman weeping and wailing over the death of her dear boy.

"Several days afterwards, when the soldier of the Thirty-ninth regiment returned to Tullahoma and passed by the house where the sad affair occurred and saw a little mound in the front yard, near the road, a feeling of sadness crept over the hardened veterans, and they could not keep back the tears that chased each other down their bronze cheeks.

"Through twenty summers have come and gone since the death of the boy, that little mound near the door of his home, where he had spent many happy days, is still green in memory of those who saw him shot."


The Confederate boys fighting at Blue Springs in Greene County, Tennessee in the fall of 1863 were facing insurmountable forces from General Burnsides who had overtaken Knoxville. They were preparing for battle by building log barriers and filling in with stones for protection. They were also trying to make the enemy think they had more men than they actually had. The enemy appeared with waving flags and braying horns and beating drums. The Confederates were hit with three lines, one after the other.

One of the Confederates, George D. Ewing, said they were lying as "flat as pancakes on the ground." Near him lay one of his "messmates", as he called him, a humorous fellow who called out, "Boys, remember General Jackson and his men at New Orleans! On that day each of them were half hoss and half alligator. Can we not do as well?"

This saying was passed along the line, creating some merriment and greater determination.

The Confederate force of barely twelve hundred men faced seeminly unsurmountable odds - it looked bad for them, but still the beginning call was sounded, "HALF HOSS AND HALF ALLIGATOR!"

That day there were many of these men killed but they had fought with strong determination.


A roster of men, called the Upper East Tennessee Confederates Veterans Association, in the possession of the McClister family of Morristown, Tennessee, was loaned to the Tennessee State Archives for microfilming. Listed on this roster was Lieutenant Col. J H. Fleenor of Rogersville, Tennessee.

Fleenor enlisted on August the 6th, 1862, in A Company with the 48th Tennessee Infantry, CSA. He was discharged at the end of the war and lived in Rogersville after the war.

After Fleenor's name on the roster listed under remarks was this statement: "I have in my house a piece of the apple tree under which General Lee surrendered."

It is not known why Fleenor had this piece of the apple tree, whether he was there, or someone gave it to him. But just imagine having a piece of the old apple tree under which General Lee surrendered - what a conversation piece that would be when the boys all got together and started swapping war stories.

Former Citizen of Hawkins County Writes Recollections of Great Conflict

Guns boomed in and near Rogersville, Bulls Gap and Big Creek during Civil War days, according to an interesting book published by George R. Robertson of Clover S.C.. This book, entitled, "A Small Boy's Recollections of the Civil War" was written by a man who lived in Rogersville for many years, and who was an eye witness to many things during those trying days of the early sixties.

Mr. Robertson, known to a number of Hawkins County people, was a Presbyterian minister at Rogersville. He lived at Greeneville, Tennessee during the war. His father was editor of the GREENEVILLE SUN. He was eight years old when the war broke out. Mr. Robertson wrote his book along the lines of a small boy's recollections, and gave vivid accounts of fighting in that section.

Mr. Robertson told the following story about an incident after the war, the scene being laid in Rogersville. We quote him -

"A post-war story will illustrate the soldier's affection for the flag (Confederate flag). In the middle eighties there was a Confederate reunion at Rogersville, Tennessee, where I was living at that time. This was an East Tennessee affair, but many soldiers of the old Confederacy gathered there for the event. The speaker of the occasion was an eloquent Presbytertian minister, an ex-rebel soldier of the fearless type, Rev. Lynn Bachman, D.D. He spoke from the porch of the Old Female College building at the foot of the knobs east of town. Toward the close of his eloquent address the speaker referred most feelingly to the old flag - how the soldiers loved it and fought for it - how many had died under its folds, and how many were maimed for life in its defense, many of whom sat before him there with empty sleeves or dangling trousers leg. In this strain he talked a while and then drew from under his coat, a Confederate flag. It had been riddled with bullets, until there was not much of it left. He spread that flag before the crowd. Many of the old Rebs shouted. Many wept, and some laughed and some yelled. It was like the climax of an oldtime camp meeting when great jubilation was entirely in order and many joined in. Yes, the true soldier loved his flag."

(ROGERSVILLE REVIEW, August 25, 1932)

How a Wounded Yank and Johnny Fraternized at Shiloh

While so many are giving their recollections of Pittsburg Landing, through the soldier’s mouth-piece, “The National Tribune,” it occurs to me that my experience of that terrible affray might not be void of interest.

I was a private of company D, Fourteenth Illinois infantry, and about twenty minutes after ten on that fatal Sunday morning, was the recipient of a ball, which entered under the left shoulder and brought me to the earth. Our position, when I fell, was from sixty to seventy rods north of Shiloh church on the old Corinth road. When I was struck, I was just conscious of a severe shock, and thought I felt no pain, I knew I was wounded, and as I thought, fatally. as I fell, and before I reached the ground, consciousness departed. I think I must have staggered back a step or two before falling, as I remember clearly to this day that two of my comrades started towards me, as if to support me. Ben Johnson, the nearest one, I think, reached me and placed his hand on my right shoulder. as to what happened then, my memory is a perfect blank. The next think I realized was that I was half or three-quarters of a mile from where I fell, but how I came there I never could find out. Whether I had been carried or been assisted to walk, I will never know. However, I am inclined to the latter theory, as the first object that attracted my attention when I became conscious, was Ben Johnson lying across my feet and legs with top of his head cut completely off.

He was of course, stone dead. I turned partially on my right side to work myself clear of his body, and when I had assumed as easy a position as was possible under the circumstances, I began to think over the situation and calculate my chances of recovery. By this time you may be sure the pain from my wound had become severe enough. It must have been an hour or, perhaps, two after I was first shot that the experience I am about to relate occurred. as I say, I had gotten into as comfortable a position as possible, when I heard a groan and long-drawn sigh to the left and back of me. I could not see exactly where it came from, though I waited until I heard it repeated.

I then called as loudly as I could, which was just above a whisper, “hello”.

I waited a short time and, as there was no response, called out again, “who is there?”

The answer came, “a friend.” Said I, “are you wounded?”

“Both my legs are broken” was the answer.

I asked him what was his command, and he said, “the Twentieth Mississippi,” and added, “but for the love of God, Yank, for I know you are a Yank, as I saw you just before you fell, have you any water?”

“I think so,” I replied, “and if I can only get my canteen around, I will take a pull at it myself, for I think it will do me good.”

In fact my canteen was full, for I had returned from filling it not ten minutes before I was struck. The first think I thought of when I came to was my canteen, but I did not feel strong enough then to carry it to my mouth. However, when the Johnny called for water so pitifully I did make effort and succeeded. I must have drunk with a hearty good will and made some noise, for after a while I heard him call out, “Oh Lord pard, leave my a little.”

“Don’t be uneasy, Johnny,” I rejoined, “it is more than half full yet, I cannot see what good it will do you, as I certainly cannot walk, and you say both your legs are broken.”

“Well, said he, “let me try to get together some way. You crawl as well as you can, and I will do the same, and maybe I may yet get a drink before I die.”

We were about five rods apart and separated by a sharp ridge, but we went to work, and at the end of five minutes I saw a gray-back with the collar bearing the insignia of a C.S.A. captain, on the top of the ridge. There he stopped and I thought him dead, but as I was then quite near to him, I crawled on, and when I had reached him found that he had only fainted. A little water, which I managed to pour down his half-opened mouth, soon enabled him to speak again; and finally a good draught entirely revived him. He was quite a young man - not over twenty years, I think. I did not ask him his age, but I did ask his name an learned that it was Davis.

He was a son of Joe Davis, of Vicksburg, Miss., and nephew of the notorious Jefferson Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy. His first name, too, was Jefferson. He had been a medical student when the war broke out, and in the first months of the war had been connected with the medical department; now, however, he was on the staff of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston. He had been sent with an order by that general to Bragg, and had just reached the spot where poor Ben Johnston was shot, when his horse fell with a bullet through his head. He had then proceeded on foot and had just gotten over the ridge when a heavy missile shattered both his legs. He was also severely hurt across the abdomen, but whether his was done by a piece of shell, or by the fall from his horse, neither he nor I could tell. After we had both rested we proceeded to do what we could for each other, and also began to discuss politics and war, with its causes and probably consequences.

After awhile he said, “Comrade, your wound is by no means necessarily fatal, but unless we can stop the hemorrhage, and that, too, very soon it is all day with you.” As for myself, I think, I am a goner. If I could have these mangled limbs skillfully amputated at once, I might pull through; but then, I would rather die right here than to live and be such a cripple. then again I don’t altogether understand that numbness in the lower part of my body. I think the hurt across my bowels is, perhaps, worse than the other. But the flow of blood from your wound must be stopped.”

By this time he had me pretty well undressed and, looking wistfully at my shirt, said: “Now, if this shirt was like most of those your contractors palm off on the Government for the best of flannel, when, in fact, there is only a little wool on the outside of the body of the cloth, I would be glad, as then I could make a compress and bandage of it, and , perhaps save your life; but unfortunately in this case, your shirt is all wool.”

I was by this time getting angry and told him to stop his remarks about my shirt and my Government, - which was bound to be his Government too, - and if he thought he could do anything for me to do it without further words, or let me alone and roll over to the west and died, and I would turn over to the east and try to do the same. At this time he smiled - that ghastly smile I shall never forget, - and calmly tore off his own shirt, which was not cotton, but good linen which he tore into pieces and bandage and, with a little water from my canteen, gave my wound a fair dressing. He then told me to drink what I wanted of the water and give the rest to him. I tasted sparingly, for by this time it was quite low, and handed him the canteen, which he drained, and then let it drop on the ground.

“Now,” said he, “let me rest and you do the same.”

In two minutes I heard him snoring, an he continued to sleep for nearly or quite an hour, after which I no longer heard his hard breathing. Just as the sun was setting one of our ambulances came along and picked me up. I told them for God’s sake to assist the poor Johnny who lay just beyond, when one of the boys said: “What assistance can we give him: he is dead, and has been so for a good while.”

Yes, poor Davis had gone. His last act, if not a labor of love, was, at least, a labor of humanity. comrades, drop a tear to his memory. But for his disinterested kindness, this would never have been written.

John Tucker, in National Tribune, Westfield, Wis. Co D. 14th ILL.

(HAWKINS COUNTY TELEPHONE NEWSPAPER, Rogersville, TN, Wed., Aug. 15, 1883)

(Note: There were some Tuckers who lived in Hawkins County, but I am not sure if this is a branch of the family who had moved there or not - or why this was sent to the Rogersville newspaper - or if it was picked up from another paper?)

Copyright ©:1999. Sheila W. Johnston.


Copyright © 1999/2000/2001 by Sheila Weems Johnston, Rogersville, TN