The voyage up the river from Ft. Donelson to this place yesterday afternoon was quite a pleasant one. The river just now is boasting of unwanted proportions, inundating all the bottoms, and – in some cases, compelling the inmates of the farm houses along the river banks to flee for safety to the neighboring heights. – In some instances a solitary hog, cow or other domestic quadruped, left behind on a stray yard or two of dry land, beside some deserted house, would present a most mournfully ludicrous picture of unwarrantable desertion, and would gaze at the passing steamers with an earnestness be speaking little or none of the nonchalance of the man of old who is reputed to have had as little faith in the extent of “the shower” as of the efficiency of the Ark. I fear that some of them have had to swim for [it ere] this. There are no villages along the river in the thirty five or forty miles intervening, between Donelson and Clarksville. Farm houses, however, are frequent, interspersed here and there with mills and foundries, which, in days gone by, were of considerable importance hereabouts. One of these iron mills (Cumberland Iron Works) twelve miles above Dover, has been of great aid to the rebels and, judging from the smouldering ruins now only left, must have been of no little magnitude. It was burned by order of Commodore Foote the day of the surrender of Donelson. – The private residence of the proprietor, and the smaller dwellings of the workmen, which were left unharmed, are very neat structures, and in all the glory of their white paint, looked very pretty in the afternoon sunshine. Many of the farm houses, too, are quite fine residences with well built barns and out houses, bespeaking of good farms and prosperous owners. From some of these houses the Federal flag was waving. From others a piece of white cloth was visible, and from still others, no insignia at all was displayed, but the closed windows and doors, and apparent absence of all white people about the premises, told, plainly enough the sentiments of the owners thereof. Not a few, however, waved a cheerful welcome to the passing troops, and it was easy to see that the re-appearance of the old flag was the cause of no little gratification. At one point where towards night we stopped to “wood up,” the owner of a flour mill adjoining claimed to be a good Union man, and spoke most touchingly of the sad state to which the country had been brought by the interruption of all business. A present of a hat full of coffee, a luxury which he said he had not seen for six months, rendered him one of the happiest mortals I have recently seen.
Clarksville, from which I now write, has a population of 5,000 or 6,000, and before the war was wont to be considered one of the most flourishing business points in the State. With a goodly number of fine business blocks, and not a few elegant private residences, it would be considered a pleasant town in any part of the country. With stores closed and houses deserted it has now, however, a very Sunday like aspect. It would seem though, that hardly so many of the citizens as would be supposed from a glance at the apparently deserted residences, have left the place. Not a few within the last day or two have been noticed, badger like, taking a survey of the surroundings from their hiding places, and discovering that our troops were neither vandals nor any other species of barbarians, have concluded to show themselves. This afternoon I have noticed even many of the gentler portion of the population sunning themselves on the porticos, and gazing with no little interest upon the federal passers by.
The place was formally occupied by our troops several days since, the enemy having deserted it two or three days before or, in other words, as soon as they could get out of it after the reception of the news of the surrender. The evacuation of the town, according to all accounts, was a most sudden as well as ludicrous operation. On Saturday the people of the place and the two or three regiments garrisoned here, received intelligence that the Yankees were rapidly being whipped back to their Northern homes, and a general jollification was at once indulged in. But, alas, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. They had hardly begun to feel the effect of their carousal, when, lo! and behold who should appear upon the scene but the brilliant heroes, Floyd and Pillow, with some items of information which hardly confirmed their previous veracious accounts of the evening before. There was then mounting in hot haste sure enough. The Lincoln gunboats which according to the yesterday’s accounts had all been sunk or crippled, were supposed to be in immediate proximity, and but few of the doughty champions of the South thought it best to stand upon the order of their going. An Alabama regiment stationed here chartered a steamboat fortunately lying near by, and went at once. A colonel of a Tennessee regiment gave orders to his men who occupied the fortifications below the city to prepare to march, and upon visiting the fort an hour afterwards found only eighteen of his men left to accompany him. The rest of them stealing horses, mules and every description of conveyance attainable, were already in full pursuit of their Alabama brethren in arms. I need not state that Pillow and Floyd did not either tarry long in Jericho, but pressed on with the speediest of them. It had only been about a week before that both of these distinguished rebels, together with Buckner, had passed through Clarksville, and had received not a little lionizing. Both Pillow and Floyd had been called on to make speeches, and responded in the most bloodthirsty of efforts making glad the hearts of all rebeldom hereabouts by the promise of a speedy extermination of each and every Lincolnite who had dared to pollute their soil. Referring to the surrender of Fort Henry by Gen. Tilghman, Pillow said, with peculiar grammatical elegance of the South – But, gentlemen, I never did surrender, and so help me God, never will surrender. Me, and Gen. Buckner and Gen. Floyd and our gallant troops, are now going down there, and we will sweep every Yankee son of them back to their frozen homes. (Great applause and hurrahs for Pillow). General Floyd also presented himself and made equally brilliant promises. General Buckner, who alone of the unworthy trio said nothing, was the only one who stuck to his troops, and included himself in the “ungenerous and unchivalrous” terms which Gen. Grant saw fit to impose upon him. I need not add that upon their return, neither Floyd nor Pillow stopped to favor the good people of Clarksville with any further promises of Yankee extermination and I doubt very much whether they would have taken much stock in his promises, even if he had.
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 8, 1862, p. 3