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Letters from Wesley R. Moore about his Civil War experiences

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1861
Location: Pulaski, Tennesseemap
Surnames/tags: Moore us_civil_war
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The following letters are transcribed from a set of pages of unknown source in the private collection of Burt Thompson Written by Wesley Richard Moore about his experiences in the Civil War supposedly published in Pulaski Tennessee newspapers, around 1890. When you read these letters, do remember Mr Moore was a Confederate Soldier and his thoughts represent the time and place in which he lived and his beliefs do not represent modern thought. NOTE: I searched newspaper sources for them, but found nothing as of 10/10/2020 and 11/18/2023. I have tried to stay true to the original transcription. Hopefully someday the originals as published will be found and any typos can be corrected.


Reminiscence

Was it a dream or a vision? In 1861 while the war clouds hung heavy and dark over our then distressed land from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. I, in common with many others was greatly troubled, in short, I decided to fight for my own dear southland. I volunteered, which I would do again under the same circumstances. I will call it a dream. While I slept I dreamed a man came along in a carriage. I got in and we drove on for a very considerable time on a pike. We then came to a bridge which was all right for some distance but after a time I saw some open places in the bottom of the bridge. As we advanced they got wider and the bridge became shaky and banisters were rotten. I saw we were over muddy water, the horse had to jump over the holes in the bridge and I fell into a sea of muddy water. I struggled in the water for a long time, for dear life; When on the shore, I stood up and looked. I saw one old horse and one old cow, both in very thin flesh. The background was desolation with a few panels of fence standing. I can’t enter into more detail.
I was mustered into the 32nd Regiment and put on Col Cook’s staff as Sergeant Major. We went to Camp Trousdale, from there to Chattanooga, then back to Bowling Green Kentucky, then to Russellville where I was taken sick. I was carried to Clarksville and left. My command was captured at Donelson. Capt. Tom Haner was also sick. After we recuperated we gathered all the absent of our old regiment and formed a company in which I was made Lieutenant. We went to Corinth and got there while the great Shiloh Battle was in full blast. General Albert Sydney Johnston (1803-1862) body was laid out on a stretcher in camp.
We were attached to the 5th Regiment, General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne (1828-1864)’s old regiment. Just before evacuating, we had what we called the Plum Orchard Fight. It was severe work. Mell Oliver and Mart Hammons were killed in our company.
I will skip all the other places we went until our army was gathering at Chattanooga. Our brigade was detached and sent to Knoxville, crossing the mountain under General Edmund Kirby Smith CSA (1824-1893), on through Kentucky to Frankfort, from there to Perryville into the line of battle with the main army commanded by General Braxton T. Bragg (1817-1876). Our line of battle moved forward and passed our line of artillery situated on a line of small hills and engaged in a duel with a line of federal artillery on opposite hills. Our line passed down into the valley and fought with small arms face to face without any trenches or protection of any kind. Finally our line pressed forward and the federals gave back. When we crossed the line where they stood, I saw more dead men than I ever saw on one line in any of the battles I have ever been in. I have thought it strange that there has been so little said about the Battle of Perryville. If there was such a battle fought today it would shake up the civilized world. But I am digressing. Captain Haner was on the sick list that day and I had charge of the company. Late in the evening, while we were at the crest of the hill, my men would lie down, load their guns, rise up, and shoot. The enemy came down in the woods to our right, nearer than the line in front. I, seeing the danger of an inflading fire, ordered my men to fire to the right. About that time, one of the men turned on his elbows to shoot. I heard a thud, saw the lint rise from his breast, he sank on his gun. In a short time one of the men came with his gun, his barrel being turned at right angles by shot or shell and said, “I got that man’s gun, he can’t use it.” I stood there giving orders; had lost sight of myself. John Paisley came and held his hand torn onto shreds. I ordered him to the rear. In a short time, I was struck through the side of the face and neck, I turned and fell.

W. R. Moore
Diana Tenn.


As stated before, I was struck through the side of the face and made fall on my face. One of my men pulled me and asked if I wanted to be carried off the field. I could not answer, being paralyzed, but what was going on. He took hold of my left arm and pulled it over his shoulder and around his neck and started with me, my feet dragging. We met one of the infantry corps and he assisted me. In about a quarter of a mile I began to use my limbs. The ball seemed to pull as it passed through my flesh. The pain was not acute. It felt much like a hand or arm “asleep” being rubbed to restore circulation. I make this statement for the information of the uninitiated. We got to the battleground hospital after dark. I laid in the yard that night, the house being full before I got there. The surgeon dressed my wounds next morning, putting me in an ambulance and starting to Harrodsburg, seven miles distant. I couldn’t bear the jolt of it. They got what they said was an easygoing horse, but I couldn’t bear the jolt of his steps. They took me down and started to walk. We left the pike and went through the woods, a cooler and nearer route, I was getting very weak. Two federal prisoners were walking nearby and each had an arm amputated. I heard one of them say “Oh, I shall die for water!” I had them called and had my canteen given them. They drank of the water, Their gratitude seemed unbounded.
In a short time I gave down; the men sat me down against a log. I was somewhat dazed; things looked dark about me. In a short time Dr. Erskine, our division surgeon, came along and felt my pulse. He had some good bourbon spirits with him and poured me out some in my cup. I protested, saying it would intoxicate me not being used to it, but he said a pint would not hurt me, being in the condition I was, and that I must drink some or I might not survive. I drank what he poured out for me and in a short while my natural feeling and strength began to return, and I got up and walked to the Harrodsburg Hospital.
Billy Harwell, now an itinerant preacher in the M. E. Church South was detailed as my nurse. He was the right man for me. In about 15 days I went out to Dr. Moore’s on the Lexington Pike. He claimed kin with me and of course I did not object. John Tolley, of Lincoln County, was there shot through the leg. We stayed for a long time. He could eat solid food, while I could only have liquid diet. My wound healed up, his did not.
When Bragg’s army passed over the mountains into east Tennessee the Federals sent a lot of us to Lexington and turned us over to a company of Kentuckians called Michiganders. The latter part of this name was a puzzle to us. We had heard of Ganders being pulled, but these turned out to be pulling Ganders for they came to our prison that night, hemmed us in one corner, pulled us out one at a time, picked our pockets of all valuables until there was nothing left; then turned him through the line. We denounced them from our windows; those that swore cursed them, One of our boys on his crutches, with his foot off above the knee, stood on the platform and said to the Ganders” Take care of the 25 cents(all the money I had) you stole from me last night, you D____ Theives!” There were at least one thousand brave Kentucky men and women who heard our statements, while the ripple of indignation and excitement was running high in the crowd, we pulled out for Louisville. It must not be construed that we believed the authorities endorsed the act for they sent down there from Louisville and pulled those Ganders until they got back most of the articles and some of the money. I give this incident not to stir up any feelings that existed between the sections, but to contradict the statement sometimes made that “all virtue was on one side” I am now in prison at Louisville. I have been in the muddy water part of my dream since I fell on the battlefield at Perryville. If you will grant me one more continuance in your excellent paper, Mr Editor, I will make an effort to get out.

W. R. Moore
Diana Tenn


In my last weeks statement I had got to the prison at Louisville Kentucky. Capt Smith of Alabama called me up to his bunk as a partner. We became very intimate. He showd me an oilcloth belt tightly drawn about his waist, containing about $4,000. He said he had drawn it to pay his calvary company and was captured with it on his person. I never knew what became of him or the money.
In a short time they collected about twenty of us on the way to Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio. Lieutenant Sanser was in charge, and I must say he was very nice to us.
After we had crossed the Ohio River several miles, the public passengers filling up the car back of the bar where the Lieutenant had placed guards for our benefit, the Lieutenant was called back there. After a bit he returned and said to us: ”There are two men back who want to come and talk to you prisoners (so called) and I want to say to you all, if you agree for them to come, you shall have the same rights in a discussion that they have.” We said, “Yes, let them come.”
They had on long black coats, white shooflies and bee-gum-hats with kid gloves, as they came down the aisle we lifted our caps. They sat down with hats on as though we were criminal prisoners. Sure enough the conversation soon ran into war question. The poor negro seemed to be their theme—his ability to be the equal of the white man if he had a chance; that the southern people were committing a crime in not giving them their freedom and allow them to become educated and refined and our equals in political rights. We said the truth is you know nothing about the negroes, We have been raised with them and among them, and we know they are not and will never be the equals of southern white people, but they may be the equals of the white people where you live. As to our right to them, the Constitution of the United States and the state both give them that right. The Dred Scott Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States guarantees the property to the owner of the slave in any state in the union. When they said the negro was deprived of an enjoyment, we told them about the negro singing the coon song and picking the banjo and dancing the breakdown.
They started on cruelty, saying the negro was driven, beaten, and starved to death. We dismissed that idea with contempt, stating that a child had more sense to believe a man would beat or starve to death a negro when he had a thousand or twelve hundred dollars in him. But if you want to talk about cruelty, we refer you to old John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry Arsenal, with hellish malice, filled with the intention of putting arms and firebrands in the hands of negroes and others much lower than the negro. Then began a massacre to extend to the Gulf of Mexico if not forced to stop sooner. And when old Herod of Herods was hung, your women went into swoons, your men cried out, “A great man has fallen!” A prejudice and fanaticism has blinded your folks and some of you are still blind. They did not try to explain that away, for they knew it was true. What seemed to bother them was that such a scrubby-looking set knew anything about what had been done north of the Ohio River.
They changed too, the Acts of Congress. Colonel Wright from Mississippi, a Member of Congress up to the breaking out of war, was one of our squad. He told us of many resolutions offered there detrimental to the South. Squatter sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska. They rose up, Lieutenant and soldiers, and helped us laugh them back to their seat in a rather demoralized condition. We went on to Camp Chase. Our treatment was good, everything considered. There were 19 in my mess, representing 11 states. I was the only Tennessee man in the prison at the time. Mr. Editor, I promised to get out of the muddy water part of my dream this week. I will be forced to skip every incident between here and home. Finally we were taken from here across the Allegheny Mountains by way of Pittsburg to Baltimore, then on a boat. The captain of the boats said to the Federals on the wharf, “come on the boat and to Richmond with these boys, for that is all the way you will get there now.” We passed down the bay and up the James River to Olo Point, and was there exchanged.
At our Mexican Veteran Association at Indianapolis last fall in a joke with some Federals, I told them I was as valuable as a yank, for I was swapped even for a Yankee Lieutenant on time.
Well I came to Knoxville, went out to see my father and mother who had heard that I had died of my wounds. My return was almost like the dead coming to life.
I will skip everything to my Giles County home, where I got out of the struggle in the muddy water part of my dream. But I saw the empty barns and cribs and the general desolation as a reminder. I traveled the pike from Pulaski to Nashville and there was not a panel of wood fence in sight in that 80 miles.
Mr Editor, I will not trouble you further at present. I thank you for your kindness. I don’t believe in witchcraft, hypnotism nor spiritualism, but a dream may come to pass.

W.R.Moore

Acknowledgements

Transcribed and posted for Burt Thompson by Lyn Sara (Driver) Gulbransen 23 Oct 2020





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