W. H Younce.

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need it in view of the trip you"bef.':e you."
We followed as he directed, the sokiie/.- iiold-
ing their gu^iS in readiness for any emergency
that might happen. Wlien wc liad re..ehed the
porch near the corner of the liouse Koark and
Keedy made a dash for liberty.

Quick as tiioughc tlicy • dashevl around the
corner of the house, leaped over a low fc:ice, and


started across an open field toward a wood about
two hundred yards away. The gu aids were on
the alert, and four of thcni dashed around tlie
corner after them, getting in plain view of theia
just as they wore leaping the fence. I stepped
to the corner just in time to sec each guard place
his gun to his shoulder, take deliberate aim. and
lire. For a moment I held my breath, for I ful-
ly expected to see both boys fall, as they were
not more than twenty-five yards from them; but,
strange to say, neither one of them was touched,
and had they continued it is possible that thc}^
might have rciichcd the wood and escaped. Wli lie
the guards were re-loading they might have got-
ten beyond their reach; but they both stopped,
• turned around and came back. We tlien went
"into breakfast, while the guards stood in the'
room and at the door. We ate but little; in
fact, Roark and Reedy, after their excitement,
ate nothing, and when we were tliroughi, Wood
had brought and prepared a lot of ropes with
which to tie us. lie said it was fifteen miles to
Kogersville, and they would have to take us
down there, and perliaps it would be best to tie
us, and then wc vrould be sure not to get away.
A guard was ready to tie each of the other

TJjjo Ai)VJ-:x'iM;jn':.s O]-^ a c.o^'SOJa.i^T 23

tlirec men, aiul ^W^od came to liu; and slipped a
noose over one hand. I held my other liand from
him, and said: '"Sir, this is cruel. Why do you
tie us? You arc cowards, or you would not treat
helpless j)risoncrs in this \va3\" Looking me in
the eye, he hesitated, and said:

*'If you will pledge your word of honor not to
try to nu^ikc your escape, we will not tic you."

"As for myself," said I, ''I will make no
pledge. You would not believe me if I did. Do
as you please."

In the meantime he jiad slipped the rope
from my iiand, and after a private consultation
with the ofTicer of the Guard, they decided not
to tie us.

By this time '^Vood's liorse had been- brought
and saddled, and was standing with the horses
of the soldiers, ready to start. ^Ve were ordered
to go in front; the}'' mounted the horses and
rode close behind us, and our tramp of fifteen
miles began.

We did fairly well for the Hrst th:-ce or four
miles, but our feet were sore and blistered, and
they crowded us so closely tliat we soon began
to fag. They would not allow us to go to the
foot bridges that spanned the little streams, pre-


pared for pedestrians, but forced us to wade all
the streams in front of their horses, and we were
soon wet to our bodies; and to add still further
to our suffering, in the afternoon a wet, heavy
snow began to fall. We were almost given out,
and, had I been permitted to have done so, I
would have lain down in the snow by the road-
side and remained -there till death relieved inc.

Slowly and painfully we dragged ourselves,
along, with the horses of the soldiers almost
tramping us, till, just as darkness began to set-
tle down upon us, we reached Kogersville.


We well c straight to the jail, and Wood in-
structed the jailer what disijosition to make of
us. He ordered him to put us in aeell and keep
us tiiore until the proju-r authorities from Knox-'
ville should send for and take us down thei'e for
court-martial. }le accompanied us upstairs, the
jailer unlocked the cell door, and wl* walked in
as directed, the door swung back in its place,
and the great iron bolt clicked behind us. They
then turned and left us in darkness, without a
ray of light penetrating the dismal gloom.

The ceil, as I remember ic, looking back


through the intervening yenrs, was about six by
eight feet, and contained nothing suve the cold
bare floor. We had eaten nothing since morn-
ing, and were wet all over, ha\^iTig, as before
stated, waded all the streams on our jourriey,and
hiid been exposed all afteriioon lo the wet snow,
which at this time was about four inclies deep.

We lay down on the floor or sat and leaned
with our backs against the cold, iron grating to
rest. There was no one of us who felt like talk-
ing. We were too tired and iumgry ; but after
a while tl^3 jailer cariie up,brij^.ging us some sup-
per. It consisted of warr.i c.)rn bread, fried ba-
cori and water, ^^'e W(.Te so liuagry wc had no
coui^-.hiii.t ,to make at tiic bill of far.', and ato all
he gave us.

After wc liad finished our nR'al.we passed back
to him tiirough the iron graiing the tinware
frcun!^ wc had eaten our supper. He picked
up his ligiU and disaj^peared down the stairway,
Ici'.vir.g u> - ;igaiu in total dark r.e.-s.

0, the horrors and sull'ering o'j^ tlK.t niglu !

We Were sc) cold it seemed I'lirit we v/ould cer-
tainly freeze. ^Ve could ]10l lie dow;., but kept
moving Htoundall night. One of th.e boys had
grown melancholy. He said we vvouhi never get


out of thii? trouble; they would court-martial us ;
>YC could make no defense ; would be found guil-
ty, .and that meant death.

*'That is true," said I, '*but I tell you we will
not be court-martialed, if the Confederate
Government should court-martial arid shoot all
its deserters, it would decimate the arniy. It
cannot afford to. They might possibly, for poli-
cy sake, make an example of some one, and vre
might be the ones, but I believe I v.'ill yet make
my escape to the Union army. Just how I am to
get out of this i don't know, but I believe there
is some wa}" out."

As the boys were feeling so despondent,! tried
to cheer them up. I did not express t-o them my
own feelings, for my mental anguish as well as
my phj'sical suffering was terrible. As I would
stand and gaze into the black darkness that en-
veloped me it seemed that my very brain was
whirling, and 1 would cling to the cold iron,
grating for support —

*'Decp into that darkness peering long I stood there

wondering-, fearing;
Doubtin;;-, dreaming dreams no in< over dared

to dream before."

Finally, gathering all my strength, I shook o\Y


the despondency into which I }irid fallen, and


"There \va? never a night without a day,
Or an evening witiiout a nit-jrning."

And there was another cheering ihougla that
those on whose souls my misfortunes were the
the greatest burdens did not know where I was,
and that I was sulTering almost the agonic^ of
death in that prison cell.

The long, dreary night dragged slowly on, and
at last the gray streaks of the luorning began to
penetrate the iron-grated window. Our ck)thes
had partly dried, and the cold was less severe.

About eight o'clock the jailer came up, bring-
ing our breakfast, consisting of the same as our
supper the night before. We enjoyed the meal,
and, as before, ate all he brougl.t.

AVhile we were eating he sat dovrn on a stool
close to the cell door, and began talking about
the war. After he had been talking a short
time I gathered from his conversation that lie
was not in sympathy with the South. I then
felt more free to talk to him. He said it was
shameful and brutal to treat men as we were be-
ing treated. ''But," said he, "Wood, who is
known as one of the meanest rebels in all the



ntrj', liacl ordered you locked in tliis cell, and
1 have no jilternativo but to obey. ]>ut," suid
he, "I am your friend, and you liave my deepest
6ymp?uhy, and if you will proniise me that you
will not try to escape, I will take 3'ou out of
this cell, and letyou <i;() in another room across
the hall, where there is a stove, and I will keep
a fire for you, and Diake itas pleasant for you as
1 can; but, understand,! do this at my own risk,
and if you should escape I would have to suffer
for it."

''Kind friend," said I, ''I thank you for the
kind words you have spoken, and the sympatliy
you have expressed for us. You sec our pitiable
condition, and are familiar with tin; circum-
stances that have brought us here, and I assure
you on our word of honor that if you will remove
us from this cell that no act of ouis shall ever
brin^- trouble to you. Although v/c are liere in
a criminal's cell, \vc claim to be honorable gen-

He turned and went down stars, and in a few
minutes returned with u bunch of keys in his
hand. Thrusting one of them into the lock, the
heavy bolt Hew back, the great iron door swuiig
open, and wc walked out into the corridor of the


V^e followed him as he dirccled, u]\d fouiiu
ourselves in a warm, comfortable room, even
supplied wich seats. ''J'his was on Tvlonday
moriiing, and this good man spent a portion of
the day in the room with us, and when night
came provided sufhcient bed-clothes. Ke said:
"You ought to have a good night's rest, for to-
morrow they will be after you to tiike you to
Knoxville, ;ajid I do not know how you will fare
when you get there."

Night again settled down upon us, and as the
last rays of the fading twilight shone feebly
through the grated window, we prepared our
"bed on the fioor, with tlie bed-elothi::g that had
been furnish.ed us by the j;iilor, and slept
soundh' through the night. Tuesday iuorning
was clear and bright. When breakfast was
brought, hot coffee had been added to our bill
of fare instead of water. About ten o'clock a
Lieutenant with four men made th.eir appear-
ance at the jail, saying he had come up from
Knoxville with orders for four deserters tliat
were confined here in jail. He was conducted
to our roo'm, and ordered us to be ready for the
train in the afternoon. I said to him ; "We are
ready now; we have no preparations to make."


Just before train time, accompanied by the jailer
and guard, he entered our room, and we at once
started for the depot. Our good friend, the
jailor, whose name I never knew, accompanied
us to tlic station, and as we went aboard \he
train cordially bade each one of usgood-by, and
we were on our way to Knoxville, wondering
what would be our doom.


The train was frei;iucntly delayed, and made
slow time, and did not arrive at Knoxville till
i^bout eight o'clock at night.

We were immediately conducted to the Pro-
vost-Marshal's oflicc. He was sitting at his
desk when we walked in. The Lieutenant in
charge saluted him, and reported four prisoners.
The Captain (that was his rank, as I observed
from the insignia he wore^) arose from his seat
and walked toward us.

"What is the charge. Lieutenant," he asked.

"Desertion," was the reply.

"That is a serious charge," saia he. * 'Gen-
tlemen, what have you to say?" he clemanded
with an oath, adding tiiat it was strange that
stout, able-bodied young men would desert to


keep from figl'.tiJig for tlieir country, aiul he
proceeded to deliver us a lecture as to our duty.

"Captain," said J, "when you are fully in-
formed as to the facts in our case, you will per-
haps feel dilFcrently. Wc are not deserters ; we
did not desert to keep froiii f;;;hting for our
country. "\Vc have been in the service more
than a year, have seen perhaps more service
than you have. "When we left our regiment we
were but a short distance from our liomes. We
had never had nor asked for a leave of absence.
We simply started to our homes,. expecting to
remain a few days, and tlicn return to our regi-
ment. We were not arretted by our own com-
mand, but bv strangers, who did not know us,
and here we ore under guard charged witih de-
sertion; and now, sir, we mcisl humbly beg that
you will allow us the privilege of returning to
our regiment."

**What is your regiment?" he asked.

"The 58th N. C."

Said he : "You look like honest men, and I

. hope that your case is no worse tlian j^ou have

. stated, but for to-night the only disposition I

can make of you is to send you to jail," and

turning to the Lieutenant, said : "You will see


that these men are securely kept in jail till
morning; when I will further investigate their


That evening as we were coming down on the
train, at a station up the road a fish vender
boarded the train, and we bought from him a
fish weighing over nve or six pounds; and as
"W'e turned to leave the ^Marshal's oliicc he asked
us what we would take for that fish. I replied,
*'It is not for sale, but with the hope that you
will think of us in the morning and take us ouL
of juil, we will make you a present of it," and
with that I handed it to him. He took it, but
whether this had anything to do with his treat-
ment of us afterward of course I never knew.
We were then laken to the jail. It was more of
a barracks than a prison, guarded on the out-
Bide b}" soldiers.

This jail has been more fully described, than
it is possible for me to do, by Parson Brownlow,
in his book, written after he had been incarcer-
iited in it, and had been released and sent North.
There were perhaps one hundred to one hundred
and fifty prisoners confined there at this time,


all political prisoners. As is well known, East
Tennessee was lojal to the Union, and old, gray-
headed men of all classes— all to old for iiiilitary
service under the law — -were arrested for their
political faith and confined in this prison. It
was reeking with dirt and verniin. Old men
sixtj-five and seventy years of age vrcre there
who had not changed their clothes for three
months. They were so crowded in tliC prison
they coulu hardly all lie down at once on the
floor. There were no beds or provisions of any
kind for sleeping, or I saw noiu;, and the only
rest I had during the night was lying on a bench
I foinul along, the side of a room in the after-
part of the night. Still I was getting used to
hardships and stood it fairly well. I longed for
the morning to come; and wondered what the
day would bring.

When it did come I could see to cxamiiie of
the condition of the prison and t\ie kiiKl of pris-
oners confined there. About eiglu o'clock the
prisoners were marched out and lined up in the
yard in front of the building for roll-call and

When we were in line with tlic balance I rec-
ognized among the ofiicers present tlie Provost-


I 3i Ta..-: Ar)VEXTU]U^.S 07^ A CONSCRTIT


j ^larshal %vho had sent us to jail the nig'nt before.

I After we had been given our breakfast there-
was a call for the men from the 59th IS. C. to-
step to tlie front. We obeyed.

The Captain approached us, greeted us cor-
'dially, and took our names. He said he would

•" inform our regiment that we were here, and our
Colonel would send. for us, and he would then
deal with us as he saw fit, '*In the meantime,"
said he, "I will send you out to camp near the
city and detain you under guard until your
Colonel sends for you."

He then took two dollars from his pocket and
hnnded it to me, saying he would pay us for
the fish he got from us the night before.

We were then taken out to camp, at the e;ist
edge of the city, put in a tent, and kept under
guard about two weeks, and then released, and
detailed co do guard duty. .The soldiers in the
camp were stragglers and those absent from their
commands for various reasons. There was no
regular cooimand there, and we did all kinds of
duty. The fear of punishment had now entirely
disappeared, and' as the weather was cold and
the Winter just setting in, we decided not to-
try to get away at that time, but to wait and go


"back to our regiment and stay till Sprijig, and
tlicn make aiiother cfTort. The reason ^ve felt
sure we would not be punislied \vas that we
knew our Colonel knew where we were, and had
he intended to punish us he would have imme-
diately sent for us, or at least that is the way
we reasoned.

We were detailed as teamsters, and gone on a
trip to Kingston, about forty miles west of
Knoxville, with a wagon-train. The teams
were there turned over to another command, and
"sve were ordered back to Knoxville. This was
December 22nd, 1802. "We took the train, ar-
riving at Knoxville in the afternoon. When we
stepped from the train a Sergeant and four men
from our company were waiting at tlic station
lor us, and ordered us under arrest. Our com-
pany had at last sent for us, and we were ready
to go. We started at once on foot across the
■country to join our regiment, which moved
from Tazewell to Big Creek Gap, about fiily
miles north of Knoxville. AVe traveled that
evening five or six miles, when nigiit overtook
us. We stopped at a farm-house and rem^aincd
■over night. ■



^Ye continued our journey the next day whicli
was the twenty-tlrird, and on the evening of ti^e
twenty-fourth we joined our regiment. When
we were nearing the camp I asked permission
of the OiTicer who luul us in charge to allow me
to go at once to the Colonel's quarters, to wliich
he readily assented. When we reached his
quarters I walked in, saluted him, and said:

''Colonel, we have been absent without leave,
and we now report for duty, and beg that you
will pardon us for this oirensc."

lie proceeded to give us a lecture as to our
duty, said lie hoped this would be a lesson for
us, and that wc would never commit an error
like this again, and assured us that if wc ever
should that we would be punished to the full
extent 6f the law.

'*And now," said he, addressing the guard,
'*you are discharged:" and turning and address-
ing us, said: *'Novv, hoys^ go to your quarters,
and be better men in the future." We thought
that was getting oil" pretty eas}^, and I guess it

The boys were all glad to see us, and anxious


to know where we had been and liow it all had
happened. We now settled down to the ordi-
nary routine of camp life, wl^en not on duty
trying to pass the time at some kind of amuse-
ment, but every day I grew more and more rest-
less and discontented.

It was now ISIidwinter, and looked like a des-
perate undertaking to start on a tramp through
the mountains at this season of the year. I
fully realized the fact that when I started again
the oSth N. C. regiment must not and should
never get me again. But I was not idle. I was
constantly sowing seeds of disconteni among
the boy.s, alwuys talking for the Uriion, and
agjiinst the Soulli, to those whom I could trust,
and at least half of the regiment or perhaps
more were just as loyal to the Union as those
who wore the blue; but they were forced to go
to the army, and afraid to try to get awa}'.
Poor fellows, how often have I iu-ard tlic-m be-
moan their unfortunate and unriap]>y lot, and
with tears in their eyes send up a prr.yer
the Union army would crush the rebellion, and
again give them that freedom t'.cyonce enjoyed
under the old t1ag. I would then say to them :
*'Go with me, and we will find that freedom.'*


Often the}' have said to nie : ''If I were like
you I would go but I have a famil}^ — a wife
and little children, who will ciy for bread.
How can I leave them to sulTer? It may be the
war will end before long, and 1 can then go home
to tiicm."

This was about the kind of conversation that
was kept up around the camp fires. I began to
grow very impatient, and commenced to plan
another eifort to escape. Among those who
vranted to go v.'ith me this time was one who
had been with me before, and seven others,
whom I had selected, making nine in all.


They selected me as the leader, and pledged
allegiance and loyalty to me under any and all
circumstances. So we began perfecting our
plans and arrangements. It was now the first
of February, the worst month in the year for
such an undertaking. We tried to content our-
selves and put it oil till Spring, but we grew
more impatient every day, and at last decided to
start. Our plans were all completed, and on
the night of February 10, 1S63, after taps, when
all was asleep save the sentinel on his beat, we

Till": ADVKNTUiiJOy OI-^ A CONSCJaJ'T :v.)

hastily gjitlicrccl up the provisions we had pre-
pared to take with us, slipped from our tents
■while our comrades slept, and under the cover
of darkness paspcd the guards.

We soon found ourselves in'the open country
xind now commenced one of tlje most memorable
and perilous tramps that I experienced during
the period covered by this story.

The night was unusually di»rk and misting
with rain, and the ground soft and muddy. AVe
traveled as rapidly as we could, in order to get
as far as possible from the camp before morn-
ing. In the after part of the night we traveled
the road that led through the country in the di-
rection we thought we wanted to go. At the
first gray streaks of the morning v.-e left the
road and went into the woods, and when day-
light came a heavy fog had settled down on the
ground. There was a difference of opinion
-among us as to the points of the compass. We
were from eight to ten miles perhaps from v.'here
we had started. We sat down to rest and ate
our breakfast and consulted as to tlie direction
we ought to go. After some time we agreed as
to the proper course and started, which proved
to be right, as we found about the middle of the


forenoon by the sun bre<aking tlu'oufjh the

: Tiie ranges of tlie mountains in that country
run parallel, northeast and south vvest, with val-
leys thickly-settled between them. We had
reached the mountains east of the valley in
which we had been traveling, and we felt per-
fectly safe. We could follow the summit of
those mountains and see all the country up and
down the valleys on each side for miles. So in
daytime we would follow the summit and at
night cross the valley and reach the mountain
beyond, often wading creeks above our knees;
but we were used to hardsiiips, and really en-
joyed the excitement. If wc grow tirud and
wanted to rest, we would lie d(>wn on the dry
leaves that we would find under the trunks of
fallen trees or shelving rocks, and sleep as
soundly as though we had. been in a warm
bed. After we had been out about three days,
our provisions gave out. We tlicn had to de-
vise some means to get something to eat.

•V/e struck on a plan which proved entirely
satisfactory. We would keep a lookout for a
house that was pretty well isolated from the
neigiiborhood around it, in the coves or heads of


the little valleys along the foot of the r.iountnin.
We would approach the house as iicar as wo
could under cover of the woods. All the boys
would conceal themselves except myself and a
comrade by the name of Jones. He and I would
walk boldly' to the house, with the understand-
ing that if they were Union people we would
signal the boys to come, and if not we would
throw them off their guard by any kind of mis-
representation to suit the occasion, and join the
boys after we had passed out of sight of the
house. This plan worked all right, for nearly
all these poor mountain people in tr^at country
were loyal to the Union, and would divide the
last cnisl of bread, for the most of them had
sons, brothers or husbands who v;erc conscripts
and concealing themselves in rlic mountains at
that time. • ' '

Fortuiiately we were not beggars. V/e had
Confederate money suQiciciU to pay our way,
but these good people would never charge or
take an3^thing for their kindness. Ti^o}' would
not only furnish us with provisions, but would
often go with us and pilot us for miles, direct-
ing us around any danger that might be ahead
of us.


The worst thing we hcxd to contend with was
the weather. Itraineel a great deal of the time,
.and frequently was quite cold. Our clothing
was scant, and was beginning to get badly worn,
especially our shoes.

After we had been out about ten days one of
the boys began to complain. He said he believed
he would give out. He was one of two broth-

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Online LibraryW. H YounceThe adventures of a conscript → online text (page 2 of 6)