W. H Younce.

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First, on account of my ignorance of tlic usages
of war; I fully believed if I should go to thern
v.nder those circumstances that they would take
me a prisoner, send nic North, incarcerate me in
prison, and exchange and send me back; and
second, they were perhaps one iumdred and fifty
miles outside the Union lines, and witli little
hope of getting back themselves, and I was, un-
der the circumstances, afraid to fall into their
hands, not knowing what, kind of treatment I
might receive. I feared that my v/ord would
not be taken as to my loyalty to the Union when
I was caught bearing arms for the South.


To return to my story, we traveled till about
three o'clock in the morning, when we came to a
large farmhouse not more than four or five miles
from the town. The people were all up; the
women of the house, for there were no men there,
invited us in and of course were eager to hear
the news. I told them that the Yankees had
burned ^yytheville to the ground, torn up the
railroad for miles, and our whole regiment was


either captured or killed. So far as we knew
%ve were the only ones that escaped, and the
whole country was full of Yankees, burning,
murdering and destroying everything in their

They were frightened almost to deuth, and
could hardly refrain from shedding tears of
sympathy for us. They offered to prepare us
something to eat, which we gUidly accepted, and
after they had given us an elegant breakfast
they sent a boy to conduct us into the hills,
where their men folks had their horses concealed
anc] were liiding,themst Ives. We told them the
same story we }jad told tlic women. Tiicy said
we were welcome to remain wiih Ihcm until the
Yankees left that i)art of the country. We sal
around and began to get drowsy, having slept
none tl-e nig[ii before.

We sug.gested tliat we would go for some fresh'
water and walk around a little; we v/ould then
perhaps feel better. They gave us tlieir bucket
and directed us the way to a spring some dis-
tance around the side of tlic mountain. We told
them we would roLurn soon, but after we left
them we counseled as to what we would do, and
we agreed not to go back, but go on home, which


was only forty or fifty miles i^wny, and then go
on to the Union array at Knoxville, Tennessee.
We threv.' their buckets over a precipice and
started on oiir tramp. The story we told these
people served us v.cU for a day and a half. "We
told them our regiment was at Saliville, some
distance on the road in the direction we were go-
ing; that our bottery had been sent to AVythe-
ville ; it was captured, and all the company
killed and captured except us.

Every time we would tell this story, which
was fifty times a day, they would express great
sympathy for us, and they gave us the best to
eat the country ailorded. Before wc loft the
main road and turiied in aiu>ther Jircciion,
where I had to invent a new story, I had told
the old one so long and so often lh;»t I began to
believe it myself, and as I would tell of all our
company being killed and captured, I could
hardly keep back the tears, and that of course
helped me to win the sympailiy of every one
with whom we came in contact.

On the morning of the third day after v\ o
started wc arrived in the neigiibc>rhc»od of our
homes, but we took the precaution to stop in
Tennessee. I stopped with the san»c friends


whom I had left tlic April before. Tliey were
glad to have me among them, and were again
much interested in the story of my adventurers.
I only ventured to go to my father's house at

I was determined that the authorities there
should never get me. I was still about tv/o
hundered niilcs from the Union army; but just
at this time Gen. Burnsides was advancing up
the line of railroad from Knoxville toward the
Virginian line, and I felt sure in a month or tv.'o
I would have no trouble to get to the Union

About this time I learned that my Captain
had been killed in the fight at Wytlieville, and
that thirty-sevf}! of the company hud deserted;
that our company had been transferred to the
cavalry service, and was then only about thirty-
five or forty miles from my home. So, after
taking in the situation, I at once decided to go
back to my company and wait there for the
nearer approach of the^Union arniy. I believed
this to be the safest course for me to pursue.
So, slipping to my father's home at night, as I
had done before, I again staled my purposes.
•Said I, "I will go back to my company, help


the Lieutenant reorganize and nil it iip», if possi-
ble to do so, and v.'hen the Union inriny is close'
enough, so that I will not have so far to go, I
will again desert, conie by home, and go on to
the Union lines. In from three to six weeks you
may expect me back."


So on the first of August, I left again for my
company, arriving on the next evening. 'My
Lieutenant was glad to see mc back. We talked
over the situation and of the probability of our
company organization being disbanded. He
begged me to assist him in every way I could to
recruit the company; said there were but thirty-
five or forty men left. I told him I had come
to help fill our rank?, so as to maintain our or-
ganization, and when that v.'as done of course I
expected to be rewarded with a commission, to
which he gladly assented. My purpose in mak-
ing this f«tatement to him was to win his com-
fidcnce. I had an object in view, and thought
he could be of service to me, and perhaps save
me trouble ; and I can say that I succeeded ad-
mirably in worming into his good graces, and in
a short time he would have done anything for
me that I would ask of him.


Through ihe niontli of August \vo lay in camp
with nothing to do. Kow and then one of the
boys who had deserted would come straggling
in, and frequently bring a recruit with him. No
one was punished for deserting. They were too
glad to get them back to jthink of punishing
them. That was the reason I went back. I
knew I would not be punished, and that I was-
safe then, and scouting in the mountains was
not only extremely hazardous, but the most
miserable life any one could be subjected to. In
fact, I never could scout. I was not cautious
enough, buL was constantly exposing myself to
danger. 1'iiou^i;h, I knew men personally that
lay in those mounlaijis during the three years
of the war afLcr they were conscripted, and
were never captured; but thoy had to lie in the
mountains like wild animals, theii beard and
hair grew -down over their shoulders, and the}""
were really like wild men.

We were having quite an easj^ time in camp.
We had no duty Lo do, not even guard duty.
Every day I was v/atching the movements of the
Union army. It v/as steadily advancing, and
the Confederates injniediately in front of it fall-
ing back. About the first day of September it


was reported that in a day or two we would draw
horses ahd receive marching orders. I watched
every movement carefully, and at last I thought
it was time for mc to act. On the morning of
September 6, .18C3, a day that will ever be mem-
orable with me, I went into Lieutenant Hume's
tent and began to talk to him about the reorgan-
ization of the compan3' ; told him 1 thought we
ought to make an effort to get some more men
and recruit the company up to seventy-five at
least. He agreed with me, buD said: ''Where
can we get them?"

I said to him: "Eieutcnant, 1 have an idea
that 1 desire to submit to you for your considcr-
ution, and if it should meet your a])piovai we
can try it; and if not, there will be lio harm

"I am willing," said he, "to. hear any sug-
gesti(ni you may wish to make."

"Then," s;iid I, "Lieutenant, you know the
mountains along the State line between North
Carolina and 'i'ennessee in tlie vicinity of n^y
home are full of conscripts who have iicvor bceii
in the army, and you know further tiiat yoti
could nevt-r find one of them in a year's; hunt;
but th.ese men are not afraid of ii:e, and ] could


go into a crowd of twcuty-iive of them in an
hour after I would get there. I was with tliesc
nieu, sleeping with them in the woods, a month
ago. They expressed themselves as being very
tired of that kind of life, ajid some of them said
to me that they were very much tempted to
ccTme with me and join our company, and had I
encouraged them I really believe several of them
would have come. Now what J want to suggest
is that you give me a leave of absence, say, for
a week or ten days, with authority to recruit,
and I v.'ill go over among those men and I will
guarantee to bring back not less than fifteen, or
more, who will enlist in our company."

After talking and thinking over the matter
for some time, he said: "I believe your sugges-
tion is a good one, and there is but one thing in
the way, and that is, will you come back?"

Said I: "Lieutenant, I know my record as a
soldier is bad, and I have suffered a great deal,
as you well know, on account of it; but my vol-
untary return a month ago should be sufhcient
evidence to you that I am trying to retrieve that
which by my own conduct I have lost. But if
my pledge of honor is not sufllcient, you need
not act on my suggestion. It is your commis-


sion that is in danger, and not mine, fori never
had one, but have the promise of one now, and
I believe this to be the proper thin^ for mo to do
to get it."

After further conversation, he said: **We
v.'Ill go to the Colonel, and talk to hira about

We walked dov.'n to the Colonel's quarter^,
and the Lieutenant at once stated the proposi-
tion. The Colonel said: "Who is this man you
are sending on so important a mission as that?
Is he a man you can trust?" To which the
Lieutenant answered: "Colonel, if I can not
trust him, I can not trust any man in my com- '

The Colonel, without further remarks, picked
up his pen and wrote me a leave of absence for
eight days on recruiting service. I thanked
him, and stated that I felt sure I would do good
work, and be able to return with fifteen or
twenty men.

- I was feeling in good spirits, and felt that 1
had scored a great victory.

Bidding the Colonel good-bye, v/e walked back
to our company quarters. It was then about
nine o'clock in the forenoon, I wanted to start


as soon as possible, and I hastily began making
preparations to leave. It had got noised through
the camp that I was going av.'ay, and the boys
gathered around to say good-by, little thinking
they would never see me back again, but I knew
they would not. Many of them were as loyal
to the Union as I. I had not communicated my
plans to a single one of them; but we had been
together so long an attachment had grown up
between us, and it was with a feeling of sadness
that I took each one of them by the hand,
Lieutenant Humes included, and turned my back
upon them for the last time. I had made up my
mind as to my future course. I believed that
the time of my deliverance had come. The leave.
of absence I had was good any place except in
my own County, where I was known; but my
p-urpose was not to let the autlnn-ities in my
County^ know I was there, if it were possible to
keep it from ihem. TIjc next evening, after I
left camp, I was in the neighborhood of my
home. I at sought the men and friends
whom I had come to sec. 1 told them howl
came to he there, and asked tliem how Uiany
were ready to go witli me to the Union army. 1
fiaid to them : "Leave this kind of a life; get


out of these mountains. The way of escape is
now possible, and if we fail to take advantage
-of this opportunity we deserve to still continue


Some of them agreed with me and some did
"not, but as soon as one ^vould come on my side
he would help me in my work, aud it was but a
few days until there were tv.-enly-fiVO of them
just as enthusiastic as I was. We uiade our
headquarters in Johnson County, Tennessee.
There were but few southern sympathizers in the
County, and no soldiers, and we felt secure, al-
though we would make no shov-.' of ourselves in
daytime, but would do all our moving around at
night. A\nien we had got all the recruits we
thought it possible to get, we began to arrange
a place and time to meet and start on our trip.
We finally agreed to meet on top of Iroii INIoun-
tain, where the road passes through, a gap, on
Saturday night, at ten o'clock, September 28.
After these arrangements had been coiiipletcd,
and it was all understood, we sper.c the last
week visiting around among our friends at night
and having a good time generally.


jvly leave of absence had expired, and 1 knew
my Lieutenant was looking for nic, and expect-
ing me every day, but that did not disUirb mc
in tlie least.

There \vae a disposition on the part of some
of the boys to commit depredations of some kind
on wliat few rebels lived around in that part of
the country, in way of revenge for the many
mean things they had done to tiiem; but the
majority of us counseled against it, for the rea-
son that we were leaving friends behind, and
when we were gone they would be made to suf-
fer the more for anything wemic^ht do.

It was almost impossible to control fifteen or
t>venty young men burning for revenge, espec-
ially when they had suffered what these men
had. They expressed no desire to take any
one's life but thoy did want to do something
that would make their enemies reiiiember them,
and a great many tilings were suggested. I v/ill
here relate one suggestion that was carried into
etTect. 1 simply relate this incident to show
the-ir temper, and how determined tliey were to
do some mischief. In the neighborhood lived a
man by the iiame of Robinson. .He owned a nice
farm in the valley, just one mile from Mountain,


City. lie \vas a cattle fancier,' and claimed to
have sorjo very fine stock, and among them a
blooded bull that he pri/,ed very highly. Ho
was the Oiily rebel save one in the iicighborhood.
One day there were tweiity or twenty-five of us
together and in order to appease our thirst for
tragedy, and to satisfy our longing to seek some
kind of mild revenge, we decided that on tliat
night we would hang Robins.Tii's bull. Wc pro-
cured a sheet or tv/o of legal cap, and prepared
a document purporting to be his v/ill, gathered
up some ropes and log chains from different
places, and about ten o'clock at night started
for Robinson's farm, and hanged the bull to an
old apple tree. We then tacked the document
containing his will in the middle of his forehead,
and left, feeling that our thirst for blood had
been satisfied.

Many times in later years I have thought of
this incident, and wondered why we did it.
That apple tree is standing to-day in that or-
chard, and is noted and known all over the
country as being the tree on which Robinson's
bull was hanged.

As the time for us to start was drawing near,
I decided to visit iny liome once more, and


while I knew it was hazardous, I believed with
tlie proper precaution that I could . make the
trip. Some of my comrades insisted that I
ought not undertake it, but I felt tiure I could
do it. So on AVedncsda}^ afternoon before the
time set to start on Saturday night, 1 started to
my father's house, following^ the summit of the
mountains. I shortened the distance many
miles from that of the road, which ran around
the base of the mountains. Night settled down
about the time 1 crossed the summit of the Alle-
ghany rvlountains, but being used to liardships,
and familiar with the path thii.t led through that
dense forest, I hurried on and niade rapid time.
About ten o'clock I readied my old home at the
back of the farm.

I hurried through tiie fields and down the
path leading to tlie barn — the little path I liad
€0 often traveled over in my childhood days. I
cautiously approached the barn, made an exam-
ination to Pee if any strange horses were there,
and finding everything all right, I softly slipped
through the back gate an'd up the path to the
house, made an alarra at the door, and ^vas ad-
mitted. Father and mother much sur-
prised at my presence, as well as alarmed, and


asked mc wluat in the world I was doing there,
when I knew I was in danger of being killed;
told uie the authorities there had just heard of my
desertion, and the}' would make a greater effort
than ever before to get me. I reassured them
and quieted their fears, telling them my plans.
Then I said good-by for tlie last time, turned,
and hurried through the back door, down by
the barn, out aloiig the little path along the hill-
side, and was soon in the woods. By noon I had
arrived' at my destination aniong my friends. I
was tired aiul worn out, and lay down and slept
till nighl, and was not yet rcsied from my long,
hard trip across the mountains. I did not go
out with the boys, but slept all niglu, and next^
morning was full}' rested, and folt cqua'l for any
•emergency that might happen.

My story would not be complete were I not
to relate the circumstance tluit occurred the
night before we set out. During the day I re-
■ceivcd a note from 2^Iiss Edith Carroll, wb.o, the
reader will remember, figured in the first' part of
this story in my first arrc<l. She hi\d sent the
note by an old man, a good friend of mine, and
who knew mc well. He lived less than a mile'
from her father's house, where I was first cap-


tared. He was also t\ good Union man. She re-
quested that I meet her at the house of the
bearer of the note at from 10 to 11 o'clock that
night. She had something important to tell
me, and 1 must not fail to be there.

Kno^Ying that iier sympathies were with the
South, I hesitated. 1 did not \vant to make any
mistake, and fall into a trap just when the, way
was clear for my escape. I asked the old man
if he thought it would be perfectly safe for me
to go. He said he was sure it was. Said he:
"The girl seems to be very much excited about
something, and said siie must sec you. Come
to-night at 11 o'clock, and I will stand guard, so
there will be no possibility of your falling into
a trap.

"Tell her I will be there at 1 1 o'clock to-night."

I procured a horse that was fairly fast of foot.
I had about six or seven miles to go. About
10 o'clock at night, after disguising myself to
the extent that anyc^nc meeting me in the dark
along the road would not recognize me, I
mounted my horse and was soon dashing across
the country at a rapid pace.

I arrived at the place at about the time desig-
nated.-' They were expecting me. The old gen-


tlcman and Miss Edilh met meat tlicgate. The
old man said lie would sit and hold my horse,
and give the alarm should any danger appear,
jind Miss Edith could tell n^e what she desired
to see me for.

We walked to the house, were sliown into the
sitting room, and left alone.

. Miss Edith said : **I am so delighted to see
you. I heard last night that you had again de-
sorted and was in this part of the country. I
heard it from Maj. Long, who captured you a
year ago at my father's house. He came to see
me and wanted me to assist in 3'our capture ;
said there was a reward ofl'ered for you, and if I
V'ould become a party to your capture he would
share it with me. And he suggested that I
scheme to meet you at my home or any place you
might designate, with the understanding that
he be concealed witli a squad of men and sur-
round and capture you. Further, h.e said when
they get you again you would never givo them
or any one else any more trouble. I knew what
he meant, and those words vrent like an arrow
to my heart. I remembered that at our parting
a year ago I registered a vow in Heaven to pro-
tect you in every way I could. I spurned his


offer, told him I was not doing that kind of
business, and even if I was I doubted very much
my ability- to accomplish your capture. He
swore with an oath that lie would never rest till
he got you. This threat at once became a great
burden to me, and I deterinined to see you, but
did not know how it was possible for me to do
60 until I at last conceived the idea that I have
just carried out; and I dare not let my family
know anything about this. I slipped from my
room an hour ago, and they do nc^t know I am

I thanked the young lady heartily for her
interest, and assured her thnt I felt sure of es-
caping this lime to the Union lines.

After sonjc furtlicr conversation 1 arose to
start. Siic walked down to the gate witli me^
where the old man was holding my horse. 1
took him by^tlic Imnd and bade liini good-b3'e,
and he turned and walked to tlie house. "And
now," said 1, ''Miss Edith, again I thank you
lor your kindness," and taking her b}' t^ie hand
said good-bye. li(jlding my haiid slie said:

*OIay the[^God in whom we trust guide and
protect you." Then, mounting n\y horse, I was
soon Hying across the country on my way back.


It was now about luidniglU, and I soon arrived
among my friends.

The next day was Saturday, our last dv^y there.
Wo spent, the day visiting our friends and bid-
ding them good-bye, and as the evening sh.adows
began to gather along the valley, we moved in
crowds for our meeting place on ihe mountain,
two or three miles away. Myself and tliose
with me arrived there long before 10 o'clock,
but they soon began to gather in from all direc-
tions, and when 10 o'clock had come we lined
them up and counted them. V.'e found we had
just eighty-five ready to start.

• AVc traveled all nigiit as fast as Wc- could, and
when daylight came v.'c would inquire of the
Union people along the road as to the probabil-
ity of there being any dai^.ger ah.; '. The best
information we could gel iho way was clear.
The rebel army la}' some distance to our right.
We were keeping close to the buse of the moun-
tains, and the only danger we feared wus that
we might be reported to the Confederates, and
cavalry might dash across the country and
head us oil.

About 2 o'clock in the afternoon we came up
with two Union scouts who were perfectly famil-


iar with the country. We placed ourselves in
their hands, for the reason that they could lead
us to the nearest route into the Union lines. "We
were all extremely tired, and some nearl}' given
out. We went down in a deep ravine some dis-
tance from tlie road and lay down, and rested
perhaps two hours. The scouts said it was yet
twent}^ to twenty-five miles to the Union army
by the nearest way we could go, and we would
have to double-quick a portion of the way.
They said the rebels were maneuvering on our
right, and extending their lines east in front of
us, but we would have no trouble to flank them
when dark cauie. So after we had rested we
again started on our h.ome stretch.

It was a long, hard pull. I am sure .1 v/as
never so tired in m}^ life as I was that evening
about dark. And to add to my sufTering my
feet were almost a solid blister on the soles. I
thought several times 1 could get no further,
and I was not alone; others were in the same
fix. I shall never forget the suffering of that
night, and had it not been that the goal of my
ambition was but a few miles ahead of us,
I would have lain dov/n by the roadside and
given it up.


Vic traveled on till about 2 o'clock in the
morning, when wo came up to the Union pickets.
The two scouts advanced and reported. The
ofilccr in charge lined liis men up by tiie road-
side, and we njarched past in double file, while
the guard stood at present arms.

We marched into the town of Jonesboro, or
the edge of the town rather, where we found a
large old barn, and we all found a place in it to
lie dovrn, and being so tired and exhausted were
soon asleep.

"We slept till daylight, when vre began to get
up and look around. We started up town alto-
gethiCr, and the first thing that attracted our
attention was the flag — the Old Stars and Stripes,

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Online LibraryW. H YounceThe adventures of a conscript → online text (page 5 of 6)