The Exploits of Patrick Griffin: "Finding A Gold Mine"

Rebecca Blackwell Drake

Patrick Griffin was a child soldier when he joined the Sons of Erin, Nashville, and left for war. During his first year
as a Confederate solider he ended up in prison at Camp Douglas. The next year found him fighting on the battlefield
 in Raymond. Following the Battle of Raymond, he was taken prisoner and kept in a make-shift prison in town.
This three-part series is based on Patrick Griffin's memoirs called
"The Famous Tenth Tennessee"
, Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1905.

Part II

Orderly Sergeant Patrick Griffin was just short of eighteen years of age when he arrived in Raymond with his Nashville brigade, "The Bloody Tinth" Tennessee, Irish. Unlike his commander, Colonel Randal McGavock, Griffin survived the Battle of Raymond but was taken prisoner immediately afterwards. His exploits during and after the Battle of Raymond were later published in a 1905 issue of the Confederate Veteran.

"Following the Battle of Raymond," Griffin reminisced, "We were taken to a hotel in Raymond that had been vacated by its owner and was being used as a prison by the Yankees. They put me in a room with two other officers who were prisoners, one of whom was Captain Broughton of Dallas, Texas. The room was about 12 x 14 feet square and was quite bare as to furnishings.

Oak Tree Hotel was used as a Confederate Hospital it is most likely
that it was the same hotel used as the prison referred to by Griffin.

"We had to sleep on our blankets," Griffin recalled, "and use our canteens for pillows. Just after sunup the next morning, the Yanks marched in Lieut. Billy Foote. We called him 'Tinfoot'. I was sorry for Billy to be a prisoner but so many things had happened in the past few hours, that I could have cried for joy at the sight of his friendly face."

Having already served seven months as a prisoner at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Griffin was determined not to be taken prisoner again. When he found himself locked in the small hotel room in Raymond, the only thing he could think about was how he could escape.

"I looked around the little old room in which we were confined and discovered that there was a door leading into another room. This door was locked but it did not take me long to effect an entrance, and there I found stored away boxes of plug tobacco that reached halfway up to the ceiling. Well, that find was equal to a gold mine, for tobacco was very scarce at that time."

Realizing that his 'find' could mean a good many dinners, suppers, and breakfasts for him as well as his fellow prisoners, Griffin quickly warned everyone in the room to keep a closed mouth and guard the door leading to the tobacco. Billy Foote promised that he would not let anyone enter the room under any circumstances.

"After my capture and finding the tobacco, I called for a guard to accompany me down to breakfast," Griffin recalled. "On the way I asked the bluecoat if he chewed tobacco. He said that he did, and I immediately presented him with a plug. He asked me where I got it, and I told him that I had a friend who would furnish it. He said that I could sell a wagon load. I told him we would divide the profits on the sales if he would help me to dispose of it. That Yank must have been a retail clerk before he went into the army, for he sold tobacco right and left.

"On that first morning we sold eleven dollars' worth of the weed before breakfast. I had three extra meals put up for my comrades. Whenever the Yank was off duty after that, he came around to get a fresh supply. That next morning I went to see Captain McGuire {Yankee} and told him that I could not stand being confined in that little old room, and I handed him over a sample of plug tobacco. He cut off a chew and passed it back to me. I told him to keep it, that I knew where I could get plenty more. The tobacco helped to win him over, and he gave me a permit good within city limits during the time of our stay in Raymond."

Thanks to his lucky find, Patrick Griffin was not only given 'free run' of Raymond but also accumulated $500.00 in tobacco sales as well. The pot of gold would serve him and his fellow prisoners well.

After a brief imprisonment in Raymond, Griffin and his fellow prisoners were marched to the Mississippi River where they were put on a boat to begin their journey to a Northern prison. Recalling that fateful journey toward Memphis, Griffin said, "On board the boat, I had Colonel McGavock's watch, his valuable papers and nine hundred dollars in Confederate money. On board the boat, the officers had to pay for their food or starve. My comrades had no money, so I had to come to the rescue with my five hundred dollars tobacco money. Captain Broughton borrowed one hundred dollars from me, and whatever was mine was Billy Foote's and , of course, we had to pay for rations for the rest of the fellows. Well, when we landed at Two Mile Island, above Memphis, I had just one twenty-five shinplaster left."

For a lad of eighteen, Griffin had served himself, his fallen commander, Colonel McGavock, and his fellow prisoners well. For his efforts, he was later promoted to the rank of captain.


Source: Patrick Griffin, "The Famous Tenth Tennessee", Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1905.

Editor's note: Patrick Griffin, 10th Tennessee, was a 19-year-old soldier who was awed by his commanding officer, Col. Randal McGavock. Historians now agree that he could have fabricated many of his stories.

Editor's note: Since the Oak Tree Hotel was used as a Confederate Hospital it is most likely that it was the same site as the Confederate Prison mentioned by Pat Griffin. Billy Foote, 10th Tennessee, who was injured and taken prisoner along with Griffin, was the son of Mississippi's Governor Henry S. Foote - elected in 1851. Governor Foote later moved to Tennessee.


Part III - "The Great Escape"


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