William Callender.

Thrilling adventures of William Callender, a Union spy from Des Moines online

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Thrilling Adventures
















1916 L

Entered according to Act of Congress in the year one thousand eight himdred
and eighty-one,

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, Washington, D. C.





The following pages embrace, in the form of an autobiography, a
recital of the thrilling adventures of William Callender, a member
of company D, Second Iowa Infantry, who was a scout for some time
under General Dodge at Corinth and Pulaski, and afterward under
General Stockweather. I have known the author many years, and am
confident that he does not diverge, in a single instance, from the lit-
eral truth as he understands it from his point of observation. He
tells his story in an artless and unaffected style, which must impress
all readers with his earnestness, and his dominant love of truth.
There is none of that personal vanity, which is too often found in
works of this class. I venture to say that no other work, descriptive
of personal adventure, which has been published in Iowa, will be
found as attractive and absorbingly interesting as this.

For several reasons the Second Iowa Infantry achieved as high
a historic reputation as any other regiment organized in Iowa. It
was the first one sent from the State under the call which authorized
its enlistment; and being first in the field, its march to the front was
followed with profound anxiety by the hearts of its friends at home;
and its deeds of valor, and its martyi-s, were written up for publica-
tion by graphic reporters and given to the world at so early a date as
to make this band of brave men illustrious before the numerous
regiments organized in 1862 had any existence. The names of Gen-
erals Curtis, Crocker, Tuttle and Weaver, along with Colonels Mills


and Baker, and Adjutant Godfrey, are, with many others, identified
with this regimental organization; and of company D, the names of
Ensign, Davis, Tunis, Dykeman, Marsh, and others, have gone into
history in connection with the world's victorious heroes. Of these,
several have already gone to their reward. Curtis died years ago;
and in 1865, Crocker died at Washington; Mills and Baker fell at
Corinth mortally wounded; and Dykeman died at Philadelphia two
or three years since. The others, so far as I know, are living, as par-
ticipants in the political blessings and franchises which their own
arms and courageous spirits helped to create. The war has now
receded from us nearly two decades, in point of time; and the period
will soon come when the soldiers for the Union who survived the war
will pass out of existence; and now, while many of them are still
living, the opportunity is presented to take down their report from
their own lips of the thrilling adventures through which they passed,
when their lives were exposed to a storm of rebel bullets.

Des Moines, June 15, 1881.




My Sister — Early Life — Removal to Des Moines — Trip to Denver-
Going to War — Company D — Donelson and Shiloh — Strategy-
Appointed a Scout. 9 — 16.



Harrison — Start Scouting — Railway Station — Dangerous Answer — My
Fears — Rebel Horseman — Roddy's Command at Bay Springs — •
Our Success — The Deer Scare, and Return to Corinth — Harrison's
Promotion. 17—21.



Col. Newsome — George Noris — Citizen Moon — ^Three Rebels — Horses
Shot— The Doctor — The Ambuscade — Fall from Horse — Mulharen's
Mule. 22—25.



Stop with Citizen— My Fellow Scouts — Capture of Seven Rangers —
Our Captured Steeds — Servants in the Field — Angiy Planter —
Blackberry Cordial — Thrilling Charge — My Horse Killed— Miracu-
lous Escape — Night Ambuscade. 26 — 33.




Hensal — We Go to Ripley — Stop in Suburbs — Skirmisli at Hotel —
Capture Three Rebels — Drive Two Rebel Companies — Capture
Town — Visit Des Moines— Back to War — Capture Job, the Guer-
illa — Capt. Stinnett's Guerillas — Strategy by Moonlight — A Jolly
Prisoner Captured — Seizure of Horses, o-i — 43.



War-widows at Sugar Creek — The Out-building — The Dark Night-
Rebel Horsemen — Capture of Five Rebel Officers by Strategy—
Their Mortification — Captain Hamra — The Bridge at Night — The
Surprise — The Leap for Life — Lost in the Swamp — Escape — Cap-
ture of a Spy — Rebel Retaliation — Price on Hensal's Head —
Brown's Treachery — Keeping the Appointment — Brown Outwitted
— Union Women — In the Hands of the Rebels — Death Stares me in
the Face — Charge of Union Troops — My Deliverance. 44 — 60.



The Conscript Sergeant— Pursued by Guerrillas — Flight through the
Woods — Lost in the Forest — The Baying of Blood-hounds — The
Raft — Swimming for Life — Startling Strategy on the Road — Reach
Savannah — Form a Union Company — Sleeping in the Woods —
Five Guerrillas Killed — Rebel Vengeance — We Lodge in Court-
house — Invaded by Guerrillas — The Warning Cry — An Awful
Leap — Murder of my Friends — Fleeing to the Brush — My Blistered
Feet — Kind Union Friends — Hulse and Britton — We Cross the
River — In the Brush — Blood-hounds again — Leaky Skiff — More
Friends — Horses Bought — Headed Off — Wander in Forest all
Night — Kii-k's Guerrillas — Return to Pulaski. 61 — 81.




Trestle-work — In the Rebel Lines — Brown's Corral — Fun with Col-
ored Men — The Comic Flight — The Block-house — Dispatch to Mor-
gan — Rebel Cavalry Scared from Rogersville by Midnight Ruse —
Dispatch to Rosseau — Two Recniits — Start for Pulaski — Pray for
Darkness — House on Hill — Rebel Ambush — Bishop's Capture —
The Retreat— The Path and the Hill— The Hot Pursuit— The Man-
trap — Scaling the Hill — The Night-watch — Tracks in the Road —
Oa to Pulaski— Bishop and his Mother. 81—88.



James Holly — Rebels at Junipertown — Pierce and his Company —
Rebels in Line — The Signal Gun — The Traitor — Our Retreat —
Scene at the Bridge — Capture of Pierce and his Men — Flag of
Truce — The Guerrilla Chief — All Night with him — Lieutenant
Gardiner — Parole of Pierce — Swim the River — The Man with the
Portmanteau — Ten Thousand Dollars — Murphy — The Refugee —
We Go to his Home — His Union Overcoat — Assault on his House
by Guerrillas — Shot-gun and Revolver — The Fight from Door and
Window — Defeat of Foes — Killed and Wounded — Expected Re-
turn of Guerrillas — Mm-phy's Sad Farewell and our Return to
Corinth — An Old Rebel — Mischief against Him — Visit the Cal-
vins — My Threat — Arrested as a Guerrilla — My Acquittal. 89—101.



Run Down by Rebels — Leap from Horse — Old Colored Woman— Her
Kindness — Sleep in Cotton-gin — Find Slriff^Escape — The Log
and Bushes — Roddy's Army — The Rattlesnake — My Disgust —
The Old Planter— The Three Daughters— The Little Strategy—
The Brothers— A Miscarried Letter. 102—107.




Hood's Raid — Condemned Stock — Colored Exodus — Lost Children —
Pontoon Bridges — Drowning of a Child— Reach No^hvilie — Hun-
dreds Perish — Patience of the Colored Race. 108—110.



Minerva Perkins — Out of Money — At Athens — Down with theTj'phoid
Fever — No White Unionists — Three Friends — My Faithful ISurse —
Her Sacrifices and Devotion — Recovery — Colored Troops at Hunts-
ville — Send for Minerva— Chicken Pies — Restaurant Business Fail-
ure — Prospecting for Lead — Back to Des Moines — Send for Minerva
again — Our Marriage. Ill — 114.



My Relation to the Army— Enlistment— Detailed as a Scout — Fur-
loughed — Return to the Army — Offered a Lieutenancy — Statement
of Captain Griffith. 115—116.

Thrilling Adventures.



My Sister— Earl}' Life— Removal to Des Moines — Trip to Denver —
Going to War — Company D— Donelson and Sliiloh — Strategy —
Appointed a Scout.

Early in tlie'war, while at St. Louis with ray regi-
ment, I had a singular dream, which I propose to relate.
I thought tliat my sister Elizabeth, who died in Ohio
thirteen years before, appeared to me, and while she
looked at me affectionately, said:

" My brother, there are many trials and dangers be-
fore you; but if you do your whole duty you will escape
unharmed, and come home safely at the end of the war."

Saying this, she passed from my sight; and then, by
one of those sudden transitions which often occur in
dreams, I imagined myself in the South, wandering
blindly around among a group of old buildings, with
the blackness of darkness ens^eloping the scene; I could
not see my way out, and despair seemed to settle on my
mind. Another change came, and darkness was succeeded


by the blessed light of day. I was ascending the Mississippi
River on a steamer, the water of which was as clear and
transparent as crystal. Every object I saw was bathed
in luminons and glorions light. The dream then ended,
and when I awoke it was so photographed on ray mem-
ory I knew it never wonld be forgotten. From that night
the confidence I felt in my own safety could not be
shaken during the war, and from that night, too, I was
more than ever guarded in reference to my conduct and
duty. As a soldier I tried to perform the most effective
service, and never, at any time, was 1 under arrest, or
even censured for disobedience of orders, or inefficiency,
or anything else. My relation to other Union soldiers
was always fraternal and kind. The dream I had at St.
Louis was prophetic, and the reader alread}' knows its in-
terpretation. When at home on furlough I told the
dream to my mother, whose faith in it saved her from
many an hour of anxiety concerning her soldier son.

I was born in Defiance county, Ohio, in the year 1838.
My parents were in very moderate circumstances and my
early life in the Buckeye State was obscure and unevent-
ful, marked by no incident of sufficient importance to
merit a place in this narrative. Sometime before our re-
moval to the "West, and when I was about sixteen or sev-
enteen years of age, I became acquainted with the daugh-
ter of a neighbor, named Sarah Cleland. To this estimable
girl I became devotedly attached, and though the inti-
macy formed between us did not terminate in marriage,
her memory has been enshrined in my heart, never to
yield up its consecrated place. If the theory of guardian
angel be true, I am confident that in times of peril and
anxiety she has sustained that relation to me. * * *
Thousands of times has vivid memory brought her back


into my presence from the long ago, encouraging me in
life's weary pilgrimage.

In the year 1856 my father's family removed to Des
Moines, Iowa, where I was engaged in active toil until
the spring of 1860, when I went to Nebraska City. There
I hired out as a teamster in Russell's train, bound for
Denver, and transporting supplies to the infant settle-
ments of the gold region. To my charge were confided
six yoke of cattle.

Not long after starting on this trip the index finger
of my left hand was attacked by a felon which gave me
untold agony for many days and nights. Despite the
pain I was enduring I carried out my resolution to go to
Denver with the team, though the trip was TOO miles,
and distinguished for hardship and peril. I was paid $20
a month for my services as teamster, and on my return
to Des Moines, which occurred the same year, I trans-
ferred my entire earnings to my father, to help him. along
in his struggles to obtain a living for the family.

The spring of 1861 was signalized by the inauguration
of the war for the Union. Early in that year the Second
Iowa infantry was organized and sent to the front — com-
pany D of that regiment, to which I had the honor of be-
longing, was as illustrious, perhaps, as any other band
of brave men ever sent from the State. The lamented
Crocker belonged to it, as also did Noe W. Mills, and
many other brave officers and men whose bodies are now
slumbering in the graves of patriots.

Our regiment was sworn into service at Keokuk; not
long afterward it was en route for Hannibal to do service
in northern Missouri. The train on which our soldiers
had embarked stopped for a brief time, one morning, at
a small station between Hannibal and St. Joe. There a


violent secessionist made his appearance, with pistol in
hand, breathing threatenings and slaughter against the
Yankee invaders. He was acquainted with a soldier in
company A of our regiment, whose presence was the
pretext for his volleys of insane abuse. In the midst of
his crazy exclamations he was shot down, and his body,
writhing in the agonies of death, was dragged by his
mother backward into the house before which he had
been standing just as the train was leaving the dej)ot.

We tarried for a time at St. Joe, stemming the tide of
hostility in that disaffected city. Finally we proceeded
to Bird's Point, near Cairo, from which place, after the
regiment had been somewhat depleted by hard service,
we were ordered to St. Louis to recruit our decimated
ranks. Some time before this latter movement was
effected my acknowledged expertness in the care and
control of animals took me from the ranks to assume the
duties of teamster. In due time I reported to my regi-
ment at St. Louis, from which jjlace, after we had passed
through the historic humiliation imposed on us for the
alleged offenses of some of our boys in McDowell's Col-
lege, we proceeded to Kentucky and Tennessee to par-
ticipate in the grand victories which were subsequently
achieved by the Union army under command of the
man of destiny.

It was a chilly time in February when the regiment
left the Cumberland River to find its way to Ft. Donel-
son, five miles distant. Not a blanket nor an ounce of
provision did we take with us in this perilous expedition
in an enemy's country. Unprotected as we were against
the elements, it is not to be wondered at that the soldiers
suffered intenselj' from the cold. The want of food, too,
made our condition greatly worse. On the afternoon of


the second day after our disembarkation two barrels of
crackers were opened for the benefit of onr famishing
boys; and we were about to fall to to build up our
wasted tissues when an order peremptorily came for
the Second Iowa to charge the enemy. Colonel Tuttle
was in command, and was, by the way, one of the
bravest and best officers in the Union ranks. The
charge made that day through the field, and up
that hill at Donelson, and over fellen trees, and a
thousand other obstructions which hostile ingenuity
had placed in our way, and in the face, too, of a storm
of leaden hail poured out upon us, perdition hot, from
the beleaguered fortress, belongs not so much to this per-
sonal narrative as it does to the province of general his-
tory. One thing is certain, however, that but few of the
crackers were eaten. Two hundred and fifty members
of our regiment were included among the killed and
wounded as a result of this fearful charge. It is certain
also that three gallant Southern regiments, including the
famous Mississippi Tigers, were literally swept out of ex-
istence on that day by the impetuous onslaught of the
Second Iowa. It is true, too, that our regiment was the
first to plant the standard of the Union over the hostile
defenses of Fort Donelson, After the battle was over
and the victory won rebel prisoners who had belonged to
the three demolished regiments expressed a great desire
to see that gallant band of men who had so efiectually
driven them from the field.

It was worthy of remark here that Coi. Tuttle was
made brigadier-general for his gallant services at Don-
elson. Theodore Weeks, a soldier from Des Moines,
and one of the first to fall in defense of the Union fiag,
was shot through the temple and fell dead near my side.


His body and tliat of Sergeant Doty, both of company
D, and both killed in this charge, were brought to Des
Moines for interment, and both are slumbering in "Wood-
land Cemetery.

On the night following this decisive charge I was
placed on picket duty near the breastworks of the enemy.
A mournful scene surrounded me in the dim obscurity.
Rebels and Union men, some of whom were dead, and
others dying, were here and there lying in tlieir helpless-
ness. A little distance from my post of duty Lieutenant
Edgar Ensign, of company D, lay prone on the ground
and suifering from a terrible wound. It was a cold
night in February, and this circumstance made the ex-
periences of that night all the more bitter and painful.
Some time in the night, while pursuing my monotonous
rounds, I came upon the body of a dead rebel whose
canteen and haversack gave me a timely supply of water
and provisions. I also appropriated his blanket, as he
had no further use for it. It will be remembered that I
had not eaten anything for many hours; and while a
fellow-soldier and myself were engaged in stowing away
these provisions we felt indeed grateful that the chances
of war had so signally favored us.

Early the following morning Fort Donelson surren-
dered to the victors, giving to the loyal North the first
grand triumph of the war, and proving to the rebel con-
federacy that if they succeeded in their mad attempt to
break up the American Union they must do it by con-
quering soldiers as prompt to fight and as efficient with
their weapons as themselves.

The army was transferred to the vicinity of Pitts-
burg Landing on the Tennessee River. Just before the
battle of Shiloh took place some of the regiments — and


among tliem I remember the Seventeeiitli Iowa — made
the hills resound bj many a song, gotten up for their
amusement. In a spirited manner thej sang the well-
known hymn beginning with —

"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand," etc.

I told some of these patrotic ministrels that their tune
would change before long. There was a general expecta-
tion that a great battle was imminent; and that ex-
pectation was soon realized. On the evening of that
day thousands of Federal troops, driven to the mar-
gin of the Tennessee River, were ready, to all human
appearances, to throw themselves into the water to escape
the victorious charges of the enemy. Songs and hymns
of triumpli were converted into wails of agony. On
that eventful evening, however, the vanguard of Gen-
eral Buell's reinforcing army, forty thousand strong,
crossed the river to participate in the battle and in the
grand victory for the Union on the morrow.

After this battle I was appointed wagon-master. For
several months the regiment w-as stationed at Camp
Montgomery, two and one-half miles from Corinth. One
day while engaged in the duties pertaining to my office,
several of my teamsters were attacked by a large body of
Confederates. Being apprised of this sudden movement
of the enemy I spurred back to the outskirts of our
camp, where, as luck would have it, I found a number
of stragglers and convalescents, whom, to the number of
forty or fifty, I rallied in quick time and led them on to
rejDcl the charge. This counter-stroke of strategy was
eminently successful. The rebels, numbering about 800^
were pursuing our men through the woods; and as the
trees intercepted their view it was easy for them to im-


agine our force to be greatly more formidable in num-
bers than the facts of the case really warranted. This
circumstance threw them into a panic, and they fled in
the wildest confusion, having done but little damage to
our men or our jDroperty. A rebel major, who was an
actor in this raid, reported afterward to his colonel that
the soldiers under his command had fought against three
Yankee regiments.

iN'ot long after this spirited action a fellow soldier
named Frank Harrison came to me with a request from
General Grenville M. Dodge that I should accompany
him (Harrison) on a scouting expedition to discover the
whereabouts of the rebel General Eoddy, who liad es-
tablished his headquarters in Tuscumbia valley, fifty or
sixty miles from Corinth.

Here I will close the first chapter of my history, de-
signing in the next to detail some of my thrilling ex-
periences as a Union scout and spy.



Harrison — Start Scouting — Railway Station — Dangerous Answer— Mj
Fears — Rebel Horseman — Roddy's Command at Bay Springs —
Our Success — The Deer Scare, and Return to Corinth — Harrison's

As the reader is aware, I was now entering on the per-
formance of duties of the most thrilling and dangerous
character, y^t, nevertheless, there was a fascination about
them which strongly invited rather than repelled adven-
ture. In all military enterprises there is constant danger,
but the army scout, occupying as he does a position out-
side of the general military system, literally takes his
life in his own hands. If he be captured by the enemy
he may expect no quarter. From time immemorial the
laws of war have consigned the captured spy and scout
to' a prompt and ignominious death.

My first duty as a Federal scout was to discover, in com-
pany with Frank Harrison, hitherto mentioned, the
whereabouts of the cruel and formidable rebel band un-
der the lead of General Eoddy. He had been raiding a
large portion of the Tuscumbia valley, committing -just
such depredations as a guerrilla chieftain, during the war
for the Union, would be expected to perpetrate. We

18 THPwiLLiNG advj:ivtukt:s.

started afoot on our perilous journey, moving through
the woods as far as practicable, thus avoiding the high-
ways, so that we might the more easily escape detection
if we were cross-questioned by interviewing rebels. Our
appearance was of the most simple kind, calculated in it-
self to deceive the most wary and vigilant of the enemy.
It was understood beforehand, in case we were confronted
and questioned by the enemy, that Harrison should pass
himself off as quartermaster and I as wagon-master of
the Second Iowa infantry. We would also represent our-
selves as deserters, hastening southward to find protec-
tion within the Confederate lines. We footed it along
for hours, mostly in the shadow of the luxuriant forests,
meeting with no incident of any special moment.

Shortly after night-fall we came to an old railway sta-
tion, twenty miles south of Corinth. The building was
occupied by a man and his family, all of whom, I sup-
posed, sympathized with the rebel cause. The man did
not seem to be very curious or inquisitive. On our en-
trance into the house he accosted us with but one lead-
ing question, but this was fraught with significance to

" Whar be you'ns from? "

" From Corinth," was the prompt, and I thought at
the time fatal, reply of my companion. In my judg-
ment he had inadvertantly given us both away to the en-
emy. His response was a wide departure it seemed from
the programme on which we had started out, and though
he was a loyal man and true, meaning all for the best,
his answer to the question of our host for the night filled
me with vague uneasiness and alarm.

As we were permitted to remain all night, we were
conducted to bed upstairs, while the family remained be-


low. About midnight, as nearly as I could guess, sev-

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Online LibraryWilliam CallenderThrilling adventures of William Callender, a Union spy from Des Moines → online text (page 1 of 8)