Friday, July 1, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Wednesday, June 3, 1863

Bishop Elliott left for Savannah at 6 A.M., in a downpour of rain, which continued nearly all day. Grenfell came to see me this morning in a towering rage. He had been arrested in his bed by the civil power on a charge of horse-stealing, and conniving at the escape of a negro from his master. General Bragg himself had stood bail for him, but Grenfell was naturally furious at the indignity. But, even according to his own account, he seems to have acted indiscreetly in the affair of the negro, and he will have to appear before the civil court next October. General Polk and his officers were all much vexed at the occurrence, which, however, is an extraordinary and convincing proof that the military had not superseded the civil power in the Southern States; for here was an important officer arrested, in spite of the commander-in-chief, when in the execution of his office before the enemy. By standing bail, General Bragg gave a most positive proof that he exonerated Grenfell from any malpractices.1

In the evening, after dark, General Polk drew my attention to the manner in which the signal beacons were worked. One light was stationary on the ground, whilst another was moved backwards and forwards over it. They gave us intelligence that General Hardee had pushed the enemy to within five miles of Murfreesborough, after heavy skirmishing all day.

I got out of General Polk the story of his celebrated adventure with the ––– Indiana (Northern) regiment, which resulted in the almost total destruction of that corps. I had often during my travels heard officers and soldiers talking of this extraordinary feat of the “Bishop's.” The modest yet graphic manner in which General Polk related this wonderful instance of coolness and bravery was extremely interesting, and I now repeat it, as nearly as I can, in his own words.

“Well, sir, it was at the battle of Perryville, late in the evening — in fact, it was almost dark when Liddell's Brigade came into action. Shortly after its arrival I observed a body of men, whom I believed to be Confederates, standing at an angle to this brigade, and firing obliquely at the newly arrived troops. I said, ‘Dear me, this is very sad, and must be stopped;’ so I turned round, but could find none of my young men, who were absent on different messages; so I determined to ride myself and settle the matter. Having cantered up to the colonel of the regiment which was firing, I asked him in angry tones what he meant by shooting his own friends, and 1 desired him to cease doing so at once. He answered with surprise, ‘I don't think there can be any mistake about it; I am sure they are the enemy.’ ‘Enemy!’ I said; ‘why, I have only just left them myself. Cease firing, sir; what is your name, sir?’ 'My name is Colonel –––,
of the ––– Indiana; and pray, sir, who are you?”

"Then for the first time I saw, to my astonishment, that he was a Yankee, and that I was in rear of a regiment of Yankees. Well, I saw that there was no hope but to brazen it out; my dark blouse and the increasing obscurity befriended me, so I approached quite close to him and shook my fist in his face, saying, ‘I’ll soon show you who I am, sir; cease firing, sir, at once.’ I then turned my horse and cantered slowly down the line, shouting in an authoritative manner to the Yankees to cease firing; at the same time I experienced a disagreeable sensation, like screwing up my back, and calculating how many bullets would be between my shoulders every moment. I was afraid to increase my pace until I got to a small copse, when I put the spurs in and galloped back to my men. I immediately went up to the nearest colonel, and said to him, ‘Colonel, I have reconnoitred those fellows pretty closely — and I find there is no mistake who they are; you may get up and go at them.’ And I assure you, sir, that the slaughter of that Indiana regiment was the greatest I have ever seen in the war.” 2

It is evident to me that a certain degree of jealous feeling exists between the Tennesseean and Virginian armies. This one claims to have had harder fighting than the Virginian army, and to have been opposed to the best troops and best generals of the North.

The Southerners generally appear to estimate highest the north-western Federal troops, which compose in a great degree the armies of Grant and Rosecrans; they come from the states of Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, &c. The Irish Federals are also respected for their fighting qualities; whilst the genuine Yankees and Germans (Dutch) are not much esteemed.

I have been agreeably disappointed in the climate of Tennessee, which appears quite temperate to what I had expected.

1 I cut this out of a Charleston paper some days after I had parted from Colonel Grenfell: Colonel Grenfell was only obeying General Bragg's orders in depriving the soldier of his horse, and temporarily of his money:—

"Colonel St Leger Grenfell.—The Western army correspondent of the ‘Mobile Register’ writes as follows:— The famous Colonel St Leger Grenfell, who served with Morgan last summer, and since that time has been Assistant Inspector-General of General Bragg, was arrested a few days since by the civil authorities. The sheriff and his officers called upon the bold Englishman before he had arisen in the morning, and after the latter had performed his toilet duties he buckled on his belt and trusty pistols. The officer of the law remonstrated, and the Englisher damned, and a struggle of half an hour ensued, in which the stout Britisher made a powerful resistance, but, by overpowering force, was at last placed hors de combat and disarmed.3 The charges were, that he retained in his possession the slave of a Confederate citizen, and refused to deliver him or her up; that meeting a soldier coming to the army leading a horse, he accused him of being a deserter, dismounted him, took his horses and equipments and money, stating that deserters were not worthy to have either horses or money, and sent the owner thereof off where he would not be heard of again. The result of the affair was, that Colonel Grenfell, whether guilty or not guilty, delivered up the negro, horses, and money to the civil authorities. If the charges against him are proven true, then there is no doubt that the course of General Bragg will be to dismiss him from his staff; but if, on the contrary, malicious slanders are defaming this ally, he is Hercules enough and brave enough to punish them. His bravery and gallantry were conspicuous throughout the Kentucky campaign, and it is hoped that this late tarnish on his fame will be removed; or if it be not, that he will.”

2 If these lines should ever meet the eyes of General Polk, I hope he will forgive me if I have made any error in recording his adventure.

3 This is all nonsense — the myrmidons of the law took very good care to pounce upon Colonel Grenfell when he was in bed and asleep.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 164-9

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