The Civil War Diary of William A. Montgomery
Montgomery, noted Confederate scout, enlisted in the 12th Mississippi
The Diary - Books 1 and 2, 95 pages in all. This part contains a 37 page narrative written in the first person, provided courtesy of W. H. Montgomery of Edwards, Mississippi.
W. A. Montgomery, eldest son of Charles W. and Olivia F. Montgomery was born on Noxubee Creek in Winston County Mississippi on the 18th day of October 1844. His father owned a mill on the creek, and sold it when William was about 2 years of age and moved to Hinds County in the same state, where his father and brothers were living on what is known as14 Mile creek, about 6 miles from the present town of Edwards. He settled on what was then known as the Watson Estate place and purchased it at commissioner’s sale ordered by the probate court. Upon this farm William spent his boyhood, attended after he was nine years of age for several years a country school together with his brother, Lawson Rochester, and the two oldest sons of his uncle A. K. Montgomery, Geo. W. and E.G. The two brothers living within 3/4 of a mile of each other and both having several children to send to school, adopted the plans of engaging between them private teachers for the instruction of their children, hoping thereby to raise them unhurt by the demoralizing atmosphere that almost invariably pervades the playgrounds of public schools. The last but one of these private teachers was Mr. Gill, now of St. Louis, a northern gentleman who advanced the boys well and was doing a good service till one day in the school room for what he conceived to be too much impudence from Geo., he attempted to correct him with the slap of the hand; Geo. resisted and Wm. now about 13 years of age seeing his cousin in a difficulty, with the teacher getting the advantage, rushed in and took a hand, the two together owing to the long beard of the preceptor, gave him more than he wanted inflicting severe bodily pain by pulling out his whiskers. This broke up the school for the time till the services of Mr. John Brady of South Carolina, a young man, who had just graduated at Princeton, N.J. were engaged. He and Wm. occupied the same room and quite an intimacy and friendship grew up between them. Mr. Brady prepared the three older boys, Geo. and Edward, sons of A.K. and Wm for college where they were at the time the war broke out.
Wm, up to the time Mr. Brady was employed as private teacher had been considered quite dull and it was hard to beat much Latin and Greek into his head, but a new animus seemed to take hold of him under Brady's tutorship and he acquitted himself creditably at college. Though not standing in his classes so high as his two cousins, George a year older and Edward 11 months younger. The younger brothers of Wm were L.R., C.W., A.G. and R.K., all of whom have passed at this writing over the river, V.V. and J.G. Montgomery who are the youngest and are still living.
Fond of horses, guns, and dogs as a boy, the comparative independence of his father up to the breaking out of the war and his disposition to allow the liberty possible to his boys, gave him an opportunity of indulging much in hunting and fishing and though Wm was considered slow in his books, in the chase, the field or on the lake none were ahead of him. A reckless rider of indomitable energy, much perseverance made him foremost in the competitive sports of his companions. His fondness for reading was limited to the tales of the Wild Western Adventures among the Indians, the great men of wars of the past and especially the individual lives of the stirring men of the revolution. Marion was his hero and as a boy would raise his hope in reading his life and exclaim, Who would not be a Marion!
Enlistment in the War
The War broke out and he and George first volunteered in the Hinds County Light Guards, but when they were mustered in for three years or the war Wm's father persuaded them to apply for places in the Raymond Fencibles, a 12 month company, that was then at Union City, Tenn. was of the 12th Reg. Miss Vol. The inducement was that if he would go to this Co. instead of the War Co., all his father's objections to his going should be withdrawn and be furnished and equipped as he desired to be with a servant to go with him. Reluctantly consenting to give up to his father's judgement, he, Geo. and another cousin, W.H. Gibbs joined the 12th Raymond Miss. Vol. at Union City, Tenn.
C.W. Montgomery was one of the men who was entirely opposed to secession, being a Whig in politics, his son Wm. imbibed many of his father's ideas, and though too young to be much interested in such matters, he was outspoken in his position whilst at school at Murfreesboro, Tenn. the fall before the war commenced. He favored Bell and Everett for Pres. and Vice Pres. and always represented Mississippi in the parades made by the Whigs of Murfreesboro during the Canvass, much to the worry of his Grandfather, Gen. Wm. Moore, who was a strong Democrat. The old gentleman would come up from his home at Tullahoma to see his four grandsons at school and never fail to instill into their young minds their duty as citizens, always pointing with pride to the public record of the family.
Montgomery Joins Wirt Adams Cavalry
As the clouds of war began to gather over Miss. The Miss. Montgomery’s ordered their sons home from school, not thinking for a moment that it was but to send them out to do battle for their state but such was the case for Geo. and Wm. fired by the spirit of war that pervaded the whole country, were among the first to take up arms in defense of their state and Wm, like other Whigs, though only 16 years of age, forgot past party differences after the act of secession was accomplished and stood by his country in the camp and on the field for the four years of the war. The 1st year, or until midwinter, he served with the Raymond Fencibles in the 12th Reg. of Miss. Vol. in the Army of Northern Virginia. Returning home he took his father's place in the State Militia and whilst in this service he was attacked with acute rheumatism or white swelling in the le and knee joint which kept him in bed for months. When Gen. Grant made the attack on Gen. Bowen at Bruinsburg and drove, with his superior number, the Confederates back toward Vicksburg and Jackson, he had sufficiently recovered from his suffering to get about on crutches and to ride wherever he pleased but no one ever thought of his again entering the Army. The news of the Confederate defeat at Bruinsburg and the march of the Federal Army towards his home in Hinds County reached him one morning as he was making preparations for a hunt with some friends. His gun being ready loaded with buckshot, his horse saddled, but a few moments was spent in preparation. When he bade his father, mother, brothers, and friends farewell and started in company of his friend, R.S. Rossman of Adams' Cav. Reg. Co.L, to meet the invaders of his state, little did he think that he would not again sleep under the same roof that had sheltered his boyhood days, but so it was, to the same farm returned in 1868 to live as a bachelor, his father dead, his oldest brother Lawson R. dead, his mother at Clinton with the other children sending them to school and he making an effort or their support.
Rossman and himself rode forward till the advancing column of Federals were in sight at Rocky Springs. The Confederate Army had crossed Big Black at Hankinson's and were moving through Warren County on the opposite side of the river from them towards Vicksburg. Retracing their steps they came up to Baldwin's Ferry only about 6 miles from his home and spent night; the next morning crossed the river and moved out toward the line of march of the Confederate Army. They took dinner at Dr. Nailors' and spent night at Mrs. Ellen Batchelor's. Next morning they reported to Gen. Featherston who by this time had crossed the river into Hinds County at the R.R. bridge over Big Black. Knowing all the country through which the enemy were now traveling, Gen. Featherston sent them forward on scout to watch movement of enemy and report either to himself or the officer commanding at Edwards. Thus commenced the scout life of the subject of this short reminiscence.
Battle at Fourteenmile Creek, May 12th Near Dillon's Plantation
On the evening of the 12th day of May, Col. Gates, commanding at Edwards, sent him with a squad of men to burn the bridge on 14 Mile Creek above the junction of Baker's Creek, having destroyed bridges at Walton and Brook Plantations he proceeded to Col. Dillon's about 10 O'clock at night and after feeding the horses and himself and men he went down to the bridge over the creek between Auburn and Col. Dillon's and after burning that, took position awaiting approach of Grant's Army or either one corps which was then camped at Auburn about 1 1/2 miles distant. During the night 5 or 6 negroes taking them to be Federals came up from out of the woods and reported that they were form Mr. Hammond's place nearby, that their master was then in the woods nearby with his worldly effects and proposed to go and point out his hiding place. Not indicating to them the fact of their being Confederates instead of the Federals. A courier was dispatched to Col. Dillon's for 6 axes and they were set to work felling trees both as a breastwork for the few Confederates who were there and as an obstruction to the progress of the enemy. At daybreak as the enemy drums and bugles sounded for the army to prepare for the march R.S. Rossman rode forward across the creek, now without abridge, by way of a small cowtrail hanging over which was a large beech tree left so that two or three strokes of an ax could fell it across the path.
About sunrise Rossman came loping in, crossed the creek at the trail indicated and the tree was felled. A moment later the head of the advancing column appeared in sight and the cavalrymen who led the van continued to ride as if there was a bridge over the creek and seemed ignorant of any movement on the part of the Confederates at this point. Montgomery had given orders to his men, now secluded behind the breastwork of trees they had felled during the night, to hold their fire till his own gun was heard from. When the advance of the Federal column was within about 50 feet of the burnt bridge he drew down upon the front horseman, missing the rider but falling the noble steed to the ground. Ere the sound of his gun died away in the stillness of that May morning its loneliness was overtaken by the reverberating sound of all the Confederate guns there, 18 in no. answered back at first by the shout and then the charge of the hitherto victorious army. To the bridge they rode, not once, not twice, but three times ere they heard the sound from the Waves in front, "My God! The bridge is burnt." Twas the last voice that was heard from foe to foe and friends standing side by side could scarce be heard above the battle's roar. A hundred artillery guns or more were playing upon this little rebel band whilst the sharp crack of ten thousand rifles seemed to sing death! To every man ere they fled and not then till the cry from above and below. "The infantry are flanking us." They reached their horses, hid back in the woods and now wild from the cracking limbs of trees the Federal artillery was bringing down, without the loss of a single man and could they have retreated direct to the Dillon house no Confederate would have died there that day. But having left the direct road for safety. They knew nothing of assistance coming. Maj. Bova of the 20th Miss. having listened to the continuous roar for such a time, concluded he would go to the rescue of the little band whom he thought were making a desperate fight and perhaps could not retreat. With the two companies of his regiment who were with him, he rushed to their assistance. He lost 20 men in taking the position Montgomery had just left, and took it but to give it up in a moment, for he too saw that it was certain death to stay.
Federal in Possession of Raymond
Genl. Gregg's guns were by this time distinctly heard at Raymond, where he made the desperate stand against the corps that advanced by the Utica Road. But little if anything was ever thought of the fight at Dillon bridge, never the less it was the opinion of this writer that if Genl Grant had not been detained there as he was, for the whole of the day, he would have come on to Gen. Gregg from the rear, and have captured his entire army. One hour from the time the 1st gun was fired at Dillon bridge, Grant with the advance of the corps that marched by the way of Auburn would have been on top of Findrin Hill and from there could have reached Raymond before Gregg could have withdrawn his forces.
The Confederate forces under the command of Genl Wirt Adams who reached Col Dillon's soon after the fight was over at the bridge took position on the hill East of Dillon house and remained till near 3 o'clock, but no further advance was made by the Federal Army that day. The whole of it being spent in removing obstructions across the road and securing a crossing across the creek.
Genl Adams moved from the position by way of Paddleford place to within one mile of Raymond on the Edwards-Bolton-Raymond road. Here discovered the Federal army was in possession of Raymond, Gen Gregg having been defeated. It was very near nightfall, but having determined to report to Genl Gregg that night he rode around Raymond through the Hal Smith's and two Sivleys' places and about 10 o'clock at night came upon Genl. Gregg camped at Miss. Springs. Here much confusion occurred. Genl Gregg, not knowing of any Confederate forces coming to him from toward Raymond and expecting to be followed by the Federal enemy, ordered his picket to fire on any force approaching from that direction, so that his men would have time to form ere they reached his camp. The picket did as commanded and the head of Genl Adams' column was fired into and one may well imagine the confusion in the Confederate camp at the Springs. Montgomery and another of Adams' men rode forward alone and with much difficulty got a hearing and had matters set to right.
Montgomery Befriends Capt. Canty
Here Montgomery who had now placed himself at the command of Genl. Wirt Adams was ordered to report to Capt. Canty of the 20th Miss., who was ordered forthwith to Bolton to try and protect some government stores at that point. Another night or greater part of it was thus spent without sleep and without feed for man or beast. The next morning R.S. Rossman and Montgomery rode out under orders to watch movement of the enemy and took breakfast and fed their horse sat Mr. Myrick's. This was the 1st feed they had since the night at Col. Dillon's. The Federal army moved on toward Jackson and did not interrupt the quiet of Bolton till after they had captured that place. Here at Bolton a friendship sprang up between Capt Canty of the 20th Miss and young Montgomery. Canty loved Montgomery perhaps on account of his being a cripple and remaining in the service for the love of it and Montgomery loved Canty because he was a noble type of manhood, brave and commanding, yet courteous and considerate. As they slept together under the same blanket without other shelter than the crowded canopy of heaven, just two nights before the battle of Champion's hill, Canty said to his youthful friend, we are going to have a great battle somewhere near here and among the slain I am to be numbered, "I do not wish my men to know that I have such forebodings but would have you to remember what I am saying to you.” Among other things he desired him to take the fine gray horse he was riding as his (Montgomery's) own, during his further rides and service for the Confederacy.
Battle of Champion Hill
He ordered Montgomery the morning before the battle, to Edwards with private dispatches to the officer commanding that fort, and when they met again it was on the battlefield of Champion's Hill when Canty gallantly fell at the head of a dismounted company whilst leading them to battle. A few moments later and not 75 yards from where he fell Montgomery was thrown from his horse. With crutches tied on to and red blanket behind the saddle his horse dashed wildly toward the advancing and victorious line of the Federal Army. When the Confederate retreat was made, all who knew him were regretting his loss. Having seen the riderless horse they supposed him to be either wounded, killed or captured. His younger brother Lawson Rochester, a youth of only 15 years, being in front and seeing his brother Wm's horse dashing toward the enemy came to the same conclusion and when the Confederate line broke in retreat he followed up the bank of Baker's Creek in the hope that he might find his brother and perhaps render some assistance, but the continuous fire and advance of the Federals made it too hot for him to remain longer and he commenced alone the dangerous run across what is now E. Matthews' field to a piece of wood about 1/2 mile from the creek. The Federal Army had gained the hill on opposite bank of the creek and were making the woods ring with their "Wild Hurrahs". Whilst a brisk fire was kept up on the little rebel who almost exhausted reached the woods as his brother Wm, who had remounted and was out safe, dashed into the field in search of him,(Ches), who was among the missing from the Confederate side and of whom no one could give any account. It was a joyous meeting of the two brothers who had supposed each other dead. Wm, after having been thrown from his horse, being unable to walk or run from the field, faced toward the enemy and commenced firing. Whilst here Gen. Wirt Adams, having seen his horse loose upon the field and knowing his disabled condition rode up to him and insisted on his mounting his own horse and make good his retreat. Montgomery however, refused to take the Genl's horse especially as it seemed just then that the General would need him if he made his own escape. Whilst this dallying, Adjt. Dos Clark came upon the spot and the frightened horse having turned from the enemy was running direct for them, when Genl. Adams ordered his Adjt. to catch him. This he did in time for all three to mount and make it to the bridge enemy though their guns were playing on the bridge before they reached it.
Genl. Adams, who was in command of all the cavalry of the Confederates at this point covered the retreat of that part of the Confederate Army which moved retreating toward Bridgeport. The infantry having crossed the pontoon bridge across the Big Black loose behind them thus leaving Adams and all his cavalrymen behind on the same side with the Federals and they in hot pursuit. Night is all that saved the cavalry thus deserted. Adams moved under its cover to the right and up the river to the 1st woods when it became impossible to see your hand before you, far less for the file leaders to be seen by the men behind. This being the situation nothing could be done but wait for daybreak. The men slept underarms with bridle reins in hand. As soon as it was light enough to see, they moved out up the river intending to make their escape by way of Brownsville. They moved through fields and wood to Mr. Birdsong's place when it became evident that they must still cross Big Black or be captured by the Federal Cavalry who had been pursuing all day and had divided themselves so that the Confederates could not possibly reach the public road from Edwards to Brownsville. Here at Mr. Birdsong's, Genl Adams determined to attempt a crossing at what is known as Birdsong's Ferry; which was affected with much difficulty, by swimming the horses and carrying the men over in the flat boat.
Siege of Vicksburg
Genl Adams camped on the Warren side of the river for the night. He rec'd orders that evening from Genl Pemberton to report to him at V'burg but Adams knowing the scarcity of corn for his horses and seeing no service that cavalry could possibly be to the besieged, he declined to go to V'burg and made his report to Genl Johnston. V'burg was soon besieged and that record having already passed into history, I shall say nothing about it.
Montgomery's time was employed during the siege in scouting for Adams who seemed to have become attached to him and allowed him to go and come as he pleased. His leg improved rapidly every day and ere the fall of V'burg he could walk wherever he pleased without a crutch at all. But at the fight near Mechanicsburg he dismounted and attempted to make the charge with balance of the cavalry who had dismounted and soon found himself stretched upon the field with no power to use his leg at all, not however till the pel mel retreat of the Federals who had come out from toward V'burg and made the attack.
A few days after this fight he had taken post with Capt. Muldrow's Company, to which he had now attached himself, in the fight at Bear Creek. This charge was made on horse back under command of Col. R.W. Wood then Lt. Col of Adams' Cavalry Reg.
The Federals some 200 strong with one piece of artillery were camped at Col Robt. Harris' place and were attacked about seven O'clock by the Confederate force, which had ridden all night to reach them ere they heard of their approach and take them by surprise. It was a surprise but a gallant stand they made to their little gun, not giving it up till the Confederate horsemen commenced to sabering of the gunners. Quite a number fell in this little skirmish on both sides.
Prominent among those known to this writer were Capt Louis and Wm. Yerger. Yerger fell within a few feet of the enemy gun as all supposed mortally wounded but he recovered to do much service for the Confederacy. A few days before the fall of V'burg, Montgomery who knew the country between Big Black and V'burg was one among the many who undertook the hazardous task of communicating with Genl Pemberton from Genl Johnston who was then marching to the assistance of Pemberton of rather who expected to open heavy fire upon Grant from some point east of V'burg and attract attention so the army there could cut Their way south from V'burg to where a pontoon was to have been placed over Big Black by Gen. Johnston. He was with Bob Campbell in a sink hole on the Ferguson place on the 4th of July 1863 when the Army surrendered. They had with much difficulty made their way thus far through the enemy lines and being overtaken by daylight they found a hiding place expecting to move forward again as soon as night came on but the guns in and around V'burg having ceased to fire they knew full well that she had surrendered and therefore instead of moving forward with the night, they made good their retreat across the Big Black and joined the army again at Edwards again on the 5th in time to take part in the engagements occurring continuously from V'burg to Jackson.
As Genl Grant was encircling Jackson for the purpose of driving out or capturing Gen Johnston who was there, Montgomery was detailed by that officer with two men such as he should select to go to the rear and find out if possible what force he had and report. He made the trip to Edwards in co. with his friend R.S. Rossman and his cousin Geo. W. Montgomery, who had just returned from the Army of Virginia severely wounded in the leg above the knee joint. Geo. took the place of his bro. Ed whom Wm had selected to accompany him on this errand. With much difficulty they passed the Federal lines and made their way to Big Black.
Genl Johnston evacuated Jackson soon after their return and with the rest of the army they retreated toward Brandon and as far out as Pelahatchie. From this point Wm went over to an Uncle Chas. Kincaid's in Scott County and there heard of the severe illness of his mother who had fled from home on the near approach of the enemy and was at Mrs Mary Wells', an old Aunt in Madison County. Whilst she was here sick and his father with what mules and horses he had been able to get out of the way at Mr Kincaid's in Scott, the Federal Army occupied the country around Mrs Wells' where Mrs O.F. Montgomery was staying. As soon as she sufficiently recovered she obtained a permit from the Federal Genl at Jackson and returned to her Mother In Law's place near the home she had left and which had in her absence been rifled by the invaders and strange to say commanding the 1st Company of Federals that commenced the destruction of their home, was a cousin Milton Moore of Mitchell, Indiana. It seems he was not aware at the time that he was on his cousin's farm, perhaps if he had, something would have been done toward the protection of such property, as was not needed for support of the army.
Montgomery as Confederate Scout
Mr. Chas Montgomery returned to his mother's place with his wife O.F. They remained here and at Mr. Robb's place together during remainder of the war and C.W. Montgomery's time was mostly employed in providing food for men of his son. Wm A., who had been detailed as a scout for the vicinity in which he had been reared, and continued in and around, even after he was promoted to a captain for the greater part of the war, which necessitated some one especially to see the ration provided for his Co. both men and horses.
As a scout both for Gen Adams and Gen Cosby, he gained considerable reputation, and held the confidence of those to whom he reported. Always between the Confederate and Federal lines, he kept well up with their movements, and became a terror to the stragglers and foragers from the Federal lines, capturing many, and never allowing them to pass without a skirmish at least whenever the number of his men was not more than doubled by theirs, often dashing in and firing a round even on ten times his number. Big Black was the dividing line between Federals and Confederates but he put several small boats in the swamps adjoining the river so as to cross over himself and men and swim their horses until they become such experts in crossing that it appeared no more than a small creek whenever occasion required them to cross.
When first put upon to be a scout he had only three and at most eight men detailed with l1im, but his promptness in executing orders may be judged from the following incident. During the winter of 1863, but a few months after he was detailed as a regular scout one night whilst he and his eight men were having a glorious time with the young ladies of the neighborhood who had assembled at a friend's a few miles from the Big Black, on the East side, a courier came in from Gen Cosby's Headquarters then 8 miles N.W. of Clinton with notice from the General that his command was in need of eight wagon mules and that it was the desire of the Genl that he, Montgomery, should make more than the ordinary effort to capture them from the enemy, that a detail of such men as he might call for, for this purpose was at his disposal. It was a cold night, the ground was frozen and a stiff breeze from the N.E. It was too cold for the Yankees to be out, therefore they were dancing at ease confident no Federal would stir from his camp that night. The courier bringing the message was tired and desired to sleep. When Montgomery informed him that it was the custom of himself and men to go into the woods anywhere and wrap their blankets around them with saddles for pillows, for fear of being surprised by the Yankees if in a house so near the Federal lines, but said to him if he desired the friend would show him a room and nice bed should he desire to take the chances of occupying unmolested by Yanks till morning. The courier chose the house with all the possibilities of being captured rather than go out to sleep on such a night. He retired and the dance proceeded without interruption till after midnight, when at the close of a set, Montgomery, gave orders, "Saddle your horses men!" What does it mean came the query from all sides? A downright refusal to obey would have been the response if the boys had not known it would amount to are turn to their regiment, others to take their places, and they 1oved the position of scout too well to give it up, so obedience followed, but not without grumbling. Horses were saddled, men bade sweethearts goodnight and were soon moving they knew not where and for what purpose.
Crossing the Big Black at a ford, the water being at lowest stage, they proceed by the dawn of day to within a short distance of where the Federal army was stationed and had a lot of mules running on the corn. Dashing upon and capturing quite a number, they recrossed the river a short while after sunrise and returned to the house they had left after the dance. The courier who was just up, and in a quandary as to what he was to do in response to answer from Montgomery to Gen Cosby, was placed in charge of the mules for the Genl as his answer and Montgomery received from Hqtrs., full permission to dance whenever and wherever the ladies would allow. He was kept on Big Black as a scout by the officer in charge of Confederate forces between V'burg and Jackson most of the time, for the remainder of the war and at so distant a time from the scenes and encounters he had with the Yankees, it is almost a matter of impossibility to recall them to mind but we will in these pages tell of some of them with as little exaggeration as possible.
J.T. Cobb commanded a scout detail about the size of Montgomery's, from the Texas brigade, and often the two would go together, always capturing prisoners. Their men began to taunt each other with the assertion if they were not among t e other could have done nothing and caught nothing. This made the two scouts, Cobb and M., determine to divide their men, cross the Big Black, and meet at some point in Warren County, or failing to meet there, when they did meet, whoever had captured most Yankees should do the future bragging and the other remain silent. They drew straws for the crossings over the river. Which crossing would indicate the direction each squad was to travel. Cobb got the most desirable crossing nearest the Yankee Camp. Montgomery crossed a Ragan's and at Mrs. Stevens' place in Warren County met Col ______ of USA, commanding to large a squad to be captured, indeed after exchanging a few shots it became a serious question as to whether there was any escape from themselves being captured by the Yankees. Retreating to the swamp with the enemy in full pursuit they succeeded at last in recrossing the Big Black river without loss, bringing off only two prisoners. Late in evening he came upon Cobb and his party who had returned with twenty two Yankees and 18 horses and mules, 18 of the number Cobb and Sterling White now deputy sheriff at Raymond captured without any help outside of their own daring. Of course as was agreed Cobb and his party waved the palm and done the boasting. Montgomery as was his characteristic challenged Cobb for another trial with double the no. of men, Cobb accepted and both went out to their respective commands and brought four more men each, making in all eight men to each squad and they crossed as before, this time Cobb capturing quite a number of negro soldiers at what is known as the hickory tree in Noland's field and killing as many more, attempted a retreat with his prisoners, and at Big Black was overtaken by a Capt House of the USA who captured the entire squad but one who was killed in his effort to escape by swimming the river under fire. Montgomery and his squad came near sharing the same fate, but escaped the Yankee cavalry who followed him by swimming the river, but last all his clothes in assisting some of his men who were unused to swimming the river to cross, with ammunition and guns dry.
Capt House, USA, commanding a Co of mounted infantry emboldened by the success he had in capturing Cobb, crossed to this side of the river a few days after this and captured James M. Selser, one of Montgomery's men who happened to beat home and not expecting the Federals from direction they came and Lawson Rochester, a bro of Wm's, who was also at home resting for the night's watch. Wm was out at headquarters riding a mule belonging to Ed Montgomery, a cousin. His horses were all in the yard at his grandmother's now the home of his mother and her children, under the care of a faithful negro boy, Isaac Moore and were all captured by the Federals. Returning home and finding his bro a prisoner, his friend Selser a prisoner and his horses all gone, he determined on making a raid into Federal lines in hopes of capturing other horses, and concluded to make another effort to burn the Gunboat Indianola, which had been sunk before the siege of V'burg at Davis Bend by the Confederate Ram from Kansas. He had made an unsuccessful effort to do this before and barely escaped capture by beating a hasty retreat He had made an unsuccessful effort to do this under cover of darkness. Preparation was made and with the six men now left him he crossed Big Black late one evening at Hankinson's Ferry and going by way of Mrs. Dorsey, he obtained after much persuasion of the mother the aid of her little son, Dorsey as a guide through the swamp to the Henderson plantation on the Mississippi River. From thence¬ he proceeded to cut off at head of Davis bend where he learned that a large body of negroes were encamped and being organized for the defense of their gunboat and for future service in the US Army. It being certain death or capture to proceed further he returned to the Glass place near Warrenton and here met a company of US soldiers who had learned of his crossing the evening before into Warren County and who were out to capture him if possible. It was 2 O'clock A.M. and the foremost horseman of this company of 80 men called Halt! Halt! and drew down to fire but his gun failed to fire and the retreat of M and his followers was made ere the reserve or rear of the column could get to the front. All that saved them was the darkness of night and through the fields they traveled till thinking they were many miles from the enemy they lay down to rest and sleep at the head of a cane ravine in an old field so that their tired and hungry horses might feed on the cane as they slept.
Montgomery and Echols Thrown From Horses Near Fortner's Place
Waking up about sunrise imagine their surprise to discover they were within 50 ft. of the Warrenton and Hankinson's Ferry road upon which the Yankees were traveling they had met but a few hours before. Horses were rapidly mounted and they took the road to the Saddler plantation back towards the ferry, where Montgomery left all his men but one and took a right hand road to Allen Fortner's whom he had learned was in possession of a fine black horse, and it was necessary for him to have a fresh one before he could venture toward Red Bone whither he proposed going to attempt the capture of picket post 1 mile this side of the company stationed there. He and one of his comrades, Turner Echols, took this road and went to Fortner's after the Horse, with the injunction left to picket left at Saddler's to fire on any force advancing and retreat by the road to Fortner's. This picket composed of Charlie Allen, Mat Bedford, Little Will Montgomery and Ed Montgomery as the writer now remembers, allowed an old gentleman to pass them in route to Red Bone, he soon met this Co of 80 US Cavalry and reported the situation of picket and the road Montgomery had traveled. So taking the woods and field a route they reached the road to Fortner's between Montgomery and his picket and ran them off toward H's Ferry, then taking road Montgomery and Echols had traveled they came upon them in the road as they were leaving Fortner's house, Montgomery riding the black horse. He had left with the old man F. a very fine mare with assurance that he would bring his horse back and get the mare. He had given the old gentleman his name and assured him that he was a Confederate soldier; but the old gentle an nor his girls who by this time crowded around to save their horse, would believe but that they were Federals in disguise as he remarked that no Confederates had been there since the fall of V'burg. He showed M and E his oath of Allegiance and said he would follow them to the post at Red of the officer's saber as it flashed over his head.
Horses regaining themselves they made some distance between them and their pursuers by the time they reached a fence about 1/4 of mile distant around the enclosure into which they were now thrown. At the fence they went, but both horses fell, and were left riderless. Montgomery and Echols reached a thicket about 100 yards distant under fire from the Yankees now at fence. Montgomery remarked to Echols that they were safe but had lost their horses. Echols reply was, "Do not be too certain, let us get away from here" and started in a brisk run. Montgomery followed but a short distance when the leg in which he had had the White swelling gave way feeling as he described it as if 1000 pounds of lead were tied to it.
Forced to Surrender
Echols dragged him for some distance and the Yankees hurrying on by this time Montgomery begged him to save himself, but Echols declined to do so, preferring rather to share his fate. They concealed themselves in a bunch of cane and more than once the Yankee bugle sounded the rally and the officer called his men to go but one fellow more persistent than the rest declared that he had seen one of the men fall three times coming from the horses to the thicket and that he knew he was not far off. He found where Echols had been dragging Montgomery and was soon upon them with such a force they were compelled to surrender.
They were carried to Red Bone post and after noon sent to V'burg where they were lodged in jail and a sentinel posted at door of their cell now dark as Egypt. Tired and worn out they at last dropped off to sleep and awoke not till the light of the morning's sun crept through the iron bars. Sad and lonely, Montgomery began to sing "Tis Midnight on the Stormy Deep" but was interrupted by a voice out in the hall of jail which he recognized as J.M. Selser's whose capture I have related heretofore. One peep into the cell was all Selser asked of the guard, which was for a long time refused, though afterwards granted.
Here Selser told Wm of his brother Ches having made his escape from the Yankees at Big Black and his own efforts to get out under guise of a citizen. Selser afterwards got out leaving Montgomery and Echols in Jail, but carried the word to Wm's father that he might look for him home or hear of his death soon after he was started off from V'burg to Northern prison. Mrs. O.F. Montgomery, Wm's mother who had just returned from carrying her 2nd son, Lawson Rochester, to safer quarters to be cared for whilst recovering from injuries received in swimming Big Black and making his escape barefooted through the field of dewberry vines and bamboos, learning of her oldest son's being a prisoner in V'burg, made her way there and through contrary to orders obtained a glimpse, of him and a moments word. Within a few days after trial as a spy he was sent up the river under sealed orders for Rock Island and his friend Echols on same boat to Alton, Illinois. Twenty four other Confederate prisoners were on the boat. Among the no. was Thos. Wood, a member of Cobb Scout who was sick and didn't make his escape from V'burg and Mr. Craig from Alabama.
After a futile effort to capture the boat and crew Montgomery, Echols and Craig determined upon jumping overboard at night and risking a swim to shore. The second night on board after being overtaken in effort to throw over plank upon which to escape, they were on lower deck with guard in rear of boat who had positive instructions to watch them closely. Each guard, as he was relieved, communicated to the other the injunction to "Watch the three fellows under the blanket there closely," but the one on duty just before day hearing the snores of the prisoners and thinking them sleep turned his back upon them and walked to the engine in front to warm himself. As he did so, the three sprang their couch and made for the rear door, Montgomery in the lead with his clothing strapped closely together with a leather belt taken from his belt the day he was captured. So delighted that the guard had let them out without having to grapple with him, Montgomery mounted the gards and jumped over without hesitancy; he went feet foremost and to the bottom as he thinks before recovering and as his head arose above the water one of those larger waves common to steamboats struck him about the nose and burst over his head, strangling him for an instant; but recovering he rode the second wave and was all right. At this moment he thought he heard the voice of Turner Echols saying, "Go ahead, I am with you.” It was dark and a dense fog on the water, precluded him from view of his companion. So resting his bundle of clothes on one side of his face he brought the strap which hung over around the back of his head to his mouth on the other side and turning upon his back he committed himself to God and the current. As an assurance that he did not swim at all; he floated from before day to about sun rise when he discovered the bank but a few feet distant. His hat had been washed from his head jumped from the boat and as he turned over and struck out for the bank the first stroke with his left hand brought his hat to him, which he put on and made the trip ashore, although he says if he had but a few feet further to have gone he would have had to give up from exhaustion in the unnatural effort he was making to reach the bank. Nothing has since been heard of either Echols or Craig.
Montgomery drew on his wet clothes and struck out through the swamp toward the East and within a mile or two came upon a house of a Col Elliott, where he went in and asked for fire to warm as he was almost frozen notwithstanding he had ran the whole distance from the point he got out of the river; here lie found that he had landed in Boliver County near the mouth of the White River on the opposite side and upon what is known as Island NO. 66. After warming thoroughly at Col Elliot's he was able to walk to a Mr. Arnold's who lived just back on the Hudson place and there remained several days laid up with his leg that had given down the day of his capture.
After he was able to go Arnold sent him to a Mr. Heard's on the Sunflower River from whom he purchased by note a small white mule, upon which he made his way to Adams' Cavalry camp near Clinton, Hinds County. Here he made known to Genl Adams his desire to go back to Warren and capture the company of US troops that were picketed at Red Bone, and asked for a detail and as he was only a private soldier ordered that the 100men be all privates. Col R. W. Wood came up as this detail was being made up and having heard of Montgomery's plans asked that he, Wood, be allowed to go as a looker on and a private soldier. Montgomery turned to Col Wood and remarked that his object was to capture the Yankee force and not to gain glory and if he, Col Wood, would go in command of the expedition he would be entirely satisfied. So it was agreed that Montgomery should take ten men among them his old scout sand go that night to his father's home on the Big Black and the next day reconnoiter the situation at Red Bone so as to be fully posted when Col Wood met him at Oakwood church, which was to be at sun rise on the second morning from the evening they were speaking.
Montgomery arrived at his grandmother's place where his mother and father were residing about 7 O'clock the next morning when he got there his little brother Charlie standing upon the gallery steps holding his pony ready to start to the Federal Camp at Big Black Bridge in search of information of his brother William, his mother was standing by him giving instruction what to do and weeping. They had learned that Will had jumped off the boat and was shot and the Genl in command, Osterhaus, had promised Mrs M. to send her the particulars of his death that day. Will in his round about which he had exchanged on board the boat, his double breasted gray uniform coat, and on his little white mule was not recognized until he stepped up to his distressed mother and bade her and Charlie, "Good Morning.”
The joy of that household can better be imagined than described. The father was not at home for having heard that his son had been started up the river had gone out to get him a horse and equipage and looked for him to make good his determination to escape.
After breakfast he got a horse, took one of his men with him and crossed Big Black for a reconnaissance around the post at Red Bone. Just before night, from a thick cluster of bushes by the roadside between this post and V'burg, he discovered about 500 Federal Cavalry and six pieces of artillery passing enroute to the post. This dispelled all idea from his mind of capturing the company stationed there and he returned rapidly home and spent the night in the woods nearby. Arising the next morning before day he had breakfast and started with nine men to Smith's Station near where the Federals had another outpost, his brother, Lawson Rochester was dispatched toward Oakwood Church and forward to meet Col Wood to communicate the above obligence. Wm, thinking as a matter of course Col Wood would return to his regiment had concluded to try his hand upon the Yanks around Smith's and Big Black Bridge. He found upon arrival near Smith's that a Lt Col and 8 men had gone out towards Edwards so he concealed his horses in the wood nearby and moved up on foot to a piece of wood on the road side and there awaited the return of the Yankee Col and men. Here he related his idea of the Yankee shaving reinforced the post at Red Bone as follows: On the day of his capture he bluffingly said to one of his captors that if he ever made His escape he intended to capture that Co. and the morning he arrived at home several of the servants were on their way to the Federal Camp and reported that he was at home. Thus the haste with which 500 men were sent out. About 4 o'clock P.M. Ches, having met Col Wood between Oakwood and Auburn, had, notwithstanding the message he had delivered the Col, orders to go and find his bro. Wm, and say that Col. Wood had instructed him to meet him at Cayuga at 11 A.M. at latest, came up from the rear and delivered his message. He had spent most of his day tracking him up and but few men could Have done it at all.
11 A.M. o'clock be at Cayuga and here it is 4 P.M. Smith's is 15 miles distant. The Yankee Lt Col is forgotten, they mount their horses and Will, after giving orders for his men to stop at his mother's get supper and feed their horses thence to Cayuga, struck out in a lope and made it to Mr. Jeff Hubbard's where he got supper and exchanged his horse for a large black one belonging to Dr. Spence who was a member of the Co. he left in Va., Raymond Fencibles. At 7 P.M. he was in Cayuga and met a courier with orders from Col Wood to meet him at Hall's Ferry by day light next morning. Hall's being but short distance he got corn and awaited the arrival of his men, there camped for the night with watchman up to keep time so as not to oversleep themselves. With ample time to reach Hall's Ferry as directed, he took the road and at college on cross roads he was halted by two of Wood's Company who informed him that Wood's positive orders were for him to be on hand at Hankinson's Ferry at sun rise as at that time he would cross Big Black for Red Bone.
With orders for his men to follow, he left them about day light 12 miles from Hankinson's and at sun rise as the bugle sounded boots and saddles he rode into Wood's camp. Woods was pleasant during the day, as effort was being made to draw the Yankee force into an ambushcade. After crossing the river Montgomery went forward on the road to Red Bone till he met a squad of Yankee soldiers dressed in Confederate uniforms, he was in Yankee blue but recognized the men in front of him as Federals, so without passing salutation, he drew pistol waved back as if his men were behind and ordered a charge. The Yanks did not wait for more than two shots as I suppose the programme to draw the Confederates into a trap, but Montgomery being alone, he rode back to Col Wood and reported. Wood then ordered him to take a squad of 25 men and feel for the enemy, he found them in force just beyond the Saddler place returning to where those but a few hours before had fled.
Affair at Col. Ingraham's House
Without bringing on an engagement, he retreated before them to Wood's ambushcade but the Yankees stopped ere they reached it. Thus the day was spent and nothing done. At night Woods recrossed Big Black and camped at Col Ingra[ha]m's on the Claiborne side of the river. Pickets were stationed toward Hankinson's Ferry. Montgomery and his 10 men slept in the barn of Col Ingram and early the next morning saddled up and sought Col Wood to ask leave to go to go to Grand Gulf after some Federal Officers he heard were in the habit of leaving their gun boat and visiting the neighborhood. Col Wood was in bed at house of Ingram and being aroused so early he gave vent to his feeling against Montgomery for not meeting him earlier on the trip and remarked Sir! If you are with me ten years you shall not go on another scout, to which he bowed assent and left Col Wood for the camp of his men about two hundred yards distant from the house where he sent one man off to hunt for breakfast for his men and sat down with his old friends and comrades in arms and began to relate his experience with the Yankees as prisoner and his manner of escape. It was about sun rise and the men were lounging around, 1/2 of them unconscious of where his trappings were, no enemy being expected. A shot from the direction of the picket attracted their attention, a 2d, 3d and 4th brought them to their feet, a volley followed, which set them hurriedly to work to prepare to mount and great confusion followed. This one asked for his saddle, that one for his blanket, and another for his gun etc. Montgomery having his nine men with horses saddled soon mounted and started for the firing without awaiting Wood's orders as there was no time to be lost.
The nearing of the guns that were still being fired indicated that the Federals were driving in the picket rapidly. About 1/4 mile from camp he met Sargeant Likes, who was in command of the picket, and his men coming at full speed followed closely by charging Federal Cavalry. Giving ways for the retreating force to pass, Montgomery ordered a charge upon the charging column now somewhat scattered on account of the distance and the rapidity with which they had traveled, and drove them back down a steep hill they had just ascended. Taking possession of the top of hill, he with few men belonging to his squad held them in check for the space of 1/2 hour or more. As the Yankee dismounted skirmish line advanced up the hill upon right and left, he ordered all his men except cousin E.C. Montgomery to report to Col Wood at Ingram's house where he supposed Wood by this time formed his line of battle and was prepared to meet the advancing enemy. He and Ed fell back two of three hundred yards to a sudden right hand forks of the road, where they halted and emptied their guns into the head of the Yankee column, who were charginq by fours at a distance of 20 paces, so halt was made for the dead and wounded who led the advance and had the contents of both barrels of Ed's shotgun loaded with blue whistlers and the old Belgian rifle will carried buck and ball. One hundred and fifty yards brought them to where they expected to find Wood and his men in position to meet the charge. Imagine their surprise when they reached the spot to find only the seven men of their scout and away in the distance a mile and 1/2 to see Wood and his men climbing a hill in full retreat. No time was to be lost. The Yankees were within a few yards of them and in hot pursuit. A circuit around Col Ingram's house in following the road brought them back to a point nearer the Yankees, a number of whom had cut across the elbow and occupied the hill within 50yards of the road along which Montgomery and his men must pass or halt and surrender to their pursuers. The Yanks on the hill could get no closer on account of a fence and a deep ravine. So thorough his shower of Yankee bullets they ran. Chess Montgomery, Wm's brother, leading he way followed close up by Harvy Fields of Canton, then C.B. Allen and R.S. Rossman and Mat Bedford. The other three brave fellows I cannot at this late date recall. Ed and Wm having past, they were all safely through without a scratch. A nine mile race, wheeling and firing at every bend of the road now commenced in good earnest, to relate all the incidents of which could consume too much space. In one bend of the road as Rossman and Montgomery, who had first fired into the head of the charging column and were being pursued closely and running their horses at full speed, a squad of Yankees in the rear fired across the bend and a ball passing in front of Montgomery struck Rossman's horse in the burr of the ear and killed him instantly, but Rossman sailing through the air almost kept pace with Montgomery for many feet. The first squad of Yanks rode over him and called to those behind to take charge of him but Rossman rolled into the thicket close by and made good his escape. A few minutes after this Montgomery and one of his melt drew up their horses and shot into the charging column and as they retreated Montgomery I becoming somewhat careless and thinking his friend was behind him, was just into the act of drawing his rammer from his old Belgium which had been sawed off to a length of about 28 in.,when he was startled by the cry, halt! As he threw his eye back he found one of the Yankees had out ridden his comrades and held a pistol to his head. They were both in pretty speed and as M. raised his gun to strike down the Yankee pistol the fellow pulled the trigger of his pistol and it failed to fire and as he drew back to cock it again M. knocked it from his hand. The Yankee drew his sabre and for a considerable distance the two fought as they ran; M. only attempting to shield himself from the cuts and thrusts of the Yankee sabre. They were midway between their men and the result of the conflict seemed to all be in favor of the bluecoat, till dodging one of His thrusts M. checked up his horse and as he passed he raised himself up to tiptoe in the stirrups and taking his gun by the muzzle stuck spurs to his horse and as he passed the unsuspecting Yankee, who by this time had hold of his bridle reins with both hands drove the hammer of his gun into his head and brought off his horse, which was as fine a roan steed as you seldom find.
Journey to Port Gibson
Wood had said to the men when importuned to send help to M. who had been making all along a desperate fight for their protection, "Some one must be sacrificed to eave the rest of us and it will have to be Montgomery and the men he has with him.” Acting upon his determination he had continued to run till some of his men of their own accord fell out of his ranks and came back to help out the few men who by this time were left in the rear with M. The Federals by this time being scattered for miles along the road back to Ingram's, Montgomery left his men and hastened to the head of Col Wood's column, which he gained by cutting across an old field. When about 50 yards from Wood who was leading the retreat, he cried out to him to halt! and said "Col Wood, the Yankees are now so much scattered that you can turn and drive the whole force into the Big Black." "I know it exclaimed Wood, but --, and before he finished the sentence, there is another force on the road above and parallel to us that will cut us off." Montgomery cried out, "Why in the name at common sense don't you do it then!" Here Wood became enraged and said, "By God! I am in command of this force not you." “Well Sir! Send someone to the rear to cover your retreat, I will not follow you longer," was Montgomery's answer and he rode back to his men, collected all he could of them who had straggled to the rear from Wood's force and made a charge upon the Yankee's column and drove them back for 1/4 mile or more and could have driven them further, called off and slowly followed after Col Wood. At the McCalpin place near where the road came in where Col Wood expected to meet another column of Yankees he crossed the road and taken a by path and crossed the Bayou Pierre at a ford near its mouth. As he neared the road leading from Port Gibson to Oakland College, he received information that the Federal Cavalry were at Port Gibson and would pursue him on that road. He sent D. Clark back to the rear for Montgomery to ride to the front; which he at first refused to do, but being informed that it was a peremptory order, he obeyed and found Wood on his arrival as pleasant as could be and having in his compliments for his gallantry. He informed Montgomery of the situation and said he wanted him to take a scout of such force as he deemed proper, and go to Port Gibson till he met the Yankees, find out their number if possible and report to him that night at Oakland College. M. said, "Col Wood did you not inform me at daylight this morning that I should not go on another scout if I was with you ten years?" "Yes sir, but you know I did not mean it", was Col Wood's answer. "Well, I do not mean for you to break the rule so soon after being laid down and therefore decline to go," said Montgomery. "My orders are positive and you must obey," said Wood, "But you may choose your men and their number." M. obeyed and rode into Port Gibson where learned that the Yanks had recrossed the Big Black with their force. Here he met every man he had lost in the fight of the morning all right, except the loss of horses. Leaving his men all in Port Gibson to rest and sleep, he rode alone that night and reached Col Wood's camp at Oakland about 7 O'clock at night. The next morning Wood sent courier to Gen Adams with account of fight or rather retreat; and in it was forced to compliment Montgomery highly as he had fully expected him and, all of his men to be lost the morning he had left them to their fate at Col Ingram's, and after all, to have been protected in a retreat of nine miles by the same men was too much for him without some acknowledgment.
Return to Adam's Headquarters
Montgomery was left in Port Gibson the next day as Col Wood returned to Adams' H'Qtrs. to impress into service enough horses to remount the men whose horses had been killed the day before. After taking two horses he declined to any more saying he "would manage to get his men back home and from their capture horses from the Yankees to remount them," which he did in very few days. Major Cleveland, with two or three squadrons from Wirt Adams' old regiment was dispatched about a month after this in Dec., and the coldest spell of weather I ever felt, on the same errand upon which Montgomery had been captured, that is to burn the Indianola. She was on as and bar off Davis Bend; he went as far down as John Taylor Moore's as if going to Port Gibson in order to throw suspicion of his destination from the Federals who were kept posted as to his movements. From this point at night, he hurriedly crossed the country back to Big Black a few miles above its mouth and there attempted a crossing with the few small boats he had improvised for the occasion. A few of his men got over to the Boyd and Ballard place and from the coldness of the night notwithstanding the Yankees apprized of his coming. So he gave up the trip and rejoined Adams who had passed down Pine Bluff in Copiah and was at Red Lick in Jefferson Co. From here he moved to the Mississippi and stationed his men dismounted near to the banks below Rodney and a few pieces of Artillery, he had along, close by and awaited the transit of some boat other than a gun boat. A transport made her appearance and would have been compelled to round to had not the gun boat stationed at Rodney arrived upon the scene just as her pilot house wheel had been shot off by the rebel guns. Of course they retreated hurriedly and left the Yankees to patch up their boat and go on their way rejoicing. Genl Adams moved on towards Natchez and made a circuit around the town skirmishing occasionally with the Federal Cavalry. From here he went as far down as Woodville and returned to Hinds County. Montgomery was along taking an active part in all the engagements of this trip, including the Cleveland excursion after the Indianola. He left Genl Adams near Dry Grove and returned to the Neighborhood of Baldwin's Ferry and Big Black Bridge making headquarters at his father's.
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