Civil War Account of

Robert Joseph Walker Matthews

Co. E 12th Mississippi Infantry


Reminiscences of the Civil War (1861-1865)
by Robert Joseph Walker Matthews

 Complying with the request of the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the U. D. C.'s, I will say that in April, 1861 while on a business trip 15 miles from home, I met Capt. John R. Dickens who was raising a company for the war.  He said he wanted one hundred picked men ready to go at a minute's warning.  I gave him my name and there became a member of the "SARDIS BLUES." 

 This was the first company of volunteers from Panola County, Mississippi. The company soon recruited was drilled in the manuals of arms and furnished uniforms, guns, etc.  We were much feted by the citizens who gave us barbecues and basket dinners. A beautiful company flag was presented by Miss Bettie Morris. 

 The summons to the front came on the 11th of May and we were off for Corinth.  There we were organized into a regiment with nine other companies and given our name and number. 

 Our stay at Corinth was not very pleasant---close confinements to camp and almost constant drilling.  We were mustered into the Confederate service at Corinth and ordered to Union City to help check the threatened invasion of West Tennessee by General Grant, who was then mobilizing troops at Cairo. 

 One of our regiment, a member of the "Natchez Fencibles", was fatally hurt by accident on train between Jackson and Humboldt and was treated by Dr. J. W. Penn, died, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. 

 Arriving at Union City, we camped just beyond the then small town and were soon put in a brigade with three other regiments, and commended by Brigadier General Charles Clark of Mississippi.  Union City did not suit me then chiefly because of the bad water.  Our company lost eight men from sickness in about six weeks. 

 The Glorious Fourth of July was celebrated in Ante-Bellum style with a big barn dance, attended by the devotees of Terpsichorefrom, the surrounding country, as well as from Fulton, Kentucky and other nearby towns.  One wedding resulted from this barn dance foolishness. 

 Capt. Harris of the 12th Mississippi was wedded to a Miss Budlock of Fulton, Kentucky.  About the 20th of July, the 12th Mississippi was ordered to Manassas, Virginia where we arrived on the morning of the 23rd of July.  The first Battle of Manassas had already been fought two days before.  As soon as we disembarked from our palatial boxcars I saw, for the first time, many real live Yankees.  They were prisoners captured on the 21st.  They were the famous "Chicago Zouaves", dressed out and out in red flannel. 

 Being an inexperienced warrior or military tenderfoot, I was anxious to see the battlefield which was two or three miles from the station.  Selecting as my companion, my chum Leland Williamson, I visited the battlefield on the afternoon of the 23rd.  I saw where General Sherman's battery was captured.  Many of his dead men and horses were still lying on the position occupied by his guns during the battle. No wonder he afterwards defined war as "hell".  Not far away stood the McLean house where Mrs. McLean, the housewife was killed.  The whole field was thickly strewn with corpses in blue clothes, and the bodies having been exposed to the hot July sun for two days, presented a gruesome picture.  Our curiosity being satisfied, we returned to camp. 

 In a few days were established a new camp, just across Bull Run from Manassas and christened it "Camp Van Dorn" for our general. 

 We soon moved again to Kinchelow's farm and again in August to Camp masked Battery where we remained until autumn.  Then we moved to the Occognon River where we remained through the winter. We built pole huts with stick and mud chimneys, and pits in the ground covered with the huts to guard against cold.  For feather beds we used pine needles. 

 The active campaign over, we entered on our fun months of comparative rest.  We had to rise in the morning at the tap of the drum, and retire at night at the same signal. "Police the quarters" meant to sweep and clean our quarters in and out of doors.  We drilled about one hour every day, but spent most of our time visiting and having a good time.  We had a splendid string band, and some of the best music I ever heard was in camp, at night.   Some of the pieces played were:  "Dixie", "Bonnie Blue Flag", "Home Sweet Home", "Who Will Care For Mother Now?", "Annie Laurie", and "The Girl I Left Behind Me". 

 We had not been in winter quarters long until one of our regiment was found guilty of stealing, by Military court, and sentenced to be drummed out of the service. 

 The regiment of nearly a thousand men was drawn up in line as if for dress parade. The thief, one side of his head having been shaved perfectly clean, preceded by a fifer and a drummer and followed by two men with guns, was marched up and down in front of the regiment and then dishonorably discharged from the Confederate service. 

 A scouting party from my company visited Pohick church about 15 miles from camp. Upon his return, one of the boys claimed to have slept in a pew once frequented by George Washington.  This church was built in colonial times, and all the brick brought from England.  Winter being over, we left our pleasant quarters and were transferred to old historic, Yorktown by the way of Richmond and down the James river.  Yorktown was then an old dilapidated town, and the country around was a wilderness.  We camped in Fort Magrunder, were in no battle there, but had one of our men wounded by a bullet from a Yankee Picket.  The land of Powhatan and Pocohontus did not suit me.  On Sunday, while there, I washed my clothes on General Washington's breastworks. 

 Early in May we evacuated Yorktown, and moved toward Richmond.  The Yankees followed and at Williamsburg attacked our rear guard, commanded by General Early. We had just halted and were cooking our first meal since leaving Yorktown.  The long roll was beaten by our drummer which meant get ready for battle.  We did not eat our dinner, but instead "double-quicked" or trotted about three miles in a hard rain to help General Early. Night coming on just as we reached the battlefield, we did not have a chance to fight, but we formed a line of battle across an old wheat field and proved our willingness.  The mud was shoe mouth deep in this field.  We were made thoroughly wet by the rain.  The night was dark and chilly and we had no wraps of any kind.  We were tired and hungry, and had to keep up this line till about 10 o'clock at night, when we again moved toward Williamsburg.  Before reaching town, I lost one of my shoes in the road where the mud was so deep that my arm was just long enough to reach it. 

 We moved on and breakfast time having arrived, with a comrade, I sat down for my first square meal since leaving Yorktown.  Each emptied his haversack.  He had a small handful of cracker crumbs and I, only a meat skin about as long and broad as my thumb.   We did not have enough to set a table, so he ate his crumbs and I ate my bacon rind, and moved on, hoping to have a good supper, and we had it.   For at the end of a hard days march each soldier received one ear of corn and nothing else. 

 We soon reached Richmond and camped on the Chickahominy River.  Rations became more plentiful.  Nothing unusual occurred until the 31st of May when the battle of Seven Pines was fought.  This was our first battle and one of our bloodiest.  The "Sardis Blues" went into battle with 48 enlisted men and lost in killed and wounded 24, nine being killed on the field.  It was my duty to call the roll after the battle, and it was the saddest roll call of my experience.   The Confederates were victorious and held the field.  Our brigade (Rhodes) captured a fine battery of six guns which was named "Dixie Battery." 

 After Seven Pines, there was a lull in military movements for nearly a month, then on the 25th of June began the "Seven Days Battles" beginning at Mechanicsville and ending at Malvern Hill---a series of victories for Lee's army.  I was not in the Seven Days Battles on account of illness.  The "Sardis Blues" lost several men, killed. Can't recall the number now, but one was Lieut... Crump. After these battles, I was elected Lieutenant to fill the vacancy.  Richmond being relieved, General Lee moved his army toward the enemy's country. 

 We next met the enemy, commanded by General Pope, on old Manassas battlefield. Stonewall Jackson did the most of the fighting for the first two days, the balance of Lee's army arriving early on Sunday, the 31st of August, and joining with Jackson about the middle of the afternoon had the Yankees stampeded from every part of the field.  A few cannon shots from their rear guard about sundown bade us goodbye and they hastened to Washington. 

 All being quiet, I walked over the battlefield the next morning and saw where Jackson's one line posted in a railroad cut had beaten back a solid block of eleven lines of the enemy.  I witnessed this charge and repulse, and it was grand from a Confederate viewpoint.  The "Dixie Battery", from our position helped in this terrible slaughter of the Blue Coats. In front of this railroad cut, I estimated there were 500 dead Yankees on one acre of ground.  A little further on where the carnage had not been so great, I came upon a lone wounded man who belonged to the 6th, Michigan.  He accosted me thus, "Johnny, can you give me something to eat, I am mighty hungry".  Having only a few crumbs, I gave him all and tried to make him comfortable by placing his blanket under him.  His thanks were very sincere and we parted good friends. 

 Hungry, weary and footsore, we left Manassas for other fields.  At Leesburg we crossed the Potomac into Maryland, passed through Fredericksburg and on to Harper's Ferry where Stonewall Jackson had about 11,000 Yankees corralled on the Virginia side.  We guarded the exits on the Maryland side while Stonewall forced them to surrender.  After the surrender, we crossed the Potomac to the Virginia side. These prisoners looked fresh, fat, and slick, and it seemed strange that they should have surrendered to a small army of half-starved and half-clad Confederates. 

 We pressed on up the river and again crossed to the Maryland side at a Ford known as Shepherdtown, and marched to Sharpsburg on Antietam creek.  The main battle of Sharpsburg or Antictam was fought on the 17th of September.  Lee's army, having fought and marched so much, was in bad condition.  His men were hungry, footsore and literally worn out.  It seemed that of late, fully one-third of his men had dropped by the wayside completely exhausted. The Confederates, though outnumbered, made a game fight, and on the night of the 17th it was a drawn fight. 

 The battle not being renewed on the 18th, General Lee quietly withdrew his army across the Potomac at night. Antietam was a close and bloody battle.  The "Sardis Blues" lost three men killed out of fifteen engaged. 

 The campaign now became less active and there was no other general engagement until the 13th of December at Fredericksburg.  The weather was cold and the ground covered with snow.  General Burnside commanded the Federals on the east bank while General Lee occupied the west bank of the Rappahannock River.  Fredericksburg being in the valley on the west bank, my regiment, the 12th Mississippi  was almost on the extreme left of the Confederate line just back of the tomb of General Washington's mother.  I stood at her tomb one night and part of a day.  Her tomb was marked by bullets.  I witnessed a heartrending scene at the beginning of this battle. Early on the 13th, a road by our position was filled with women and children fleeing from their homes which were being destroyed by the Yankee canon.  We could plainly see the shells ploughing amongst the tombstones.  Such is war! By nightfall of the 13th, the confederates were victors along the whole line.  The federals withdrew across the river. 

 All quiet on the 14th, I viewed the battlefield in front of Marie's Hill where the slaughter of the enemy was the greatest.  The Confederate infantry was posted behind a rock fence, our artillery just behind on top of hill.  For a hundred yards or more in front of the rock fence, the carnage was terrible.  On one spot of about an acre, there were at least five hundred dead bodies, frozen stiff in the snow.  One beardless boy lying within 15 yards of our line. This visit was made in the morning.  With a comrade, I made another trip across this part of the field after night. This time we had dodged our pickets and were going to town to get an old negro man to cook us a good meal.  The stars were shining brightly. We came upon a long ditch dug that afternoon by a Yankee burying force sent over under a flag of truce.  They had carried up their dead and piled them on each side of the ditch just like dead cordwood. The burying force had recrossed  the river to their own lines for the night.  We passed on and got a good war supper for one dollar each. The campaign of '62 being over, we retired a short distance from town and spent the winter in our tents among the pines.  I  must relate one incident:  Just after the battle of Fredericksburg the most of our guns were still loaded.  Inspection was held the first Sunday after, and the men must have clean, unloaded guns to pass inspection.  They did not have enough wipers to draw all the loads by inspection hour, so they begun shooting the loads out which was against the rules.  Lieut.. Spain of the "Sardis Blues" was officer of the day in my stead, by agreement between him and me, I having taken his place on a former occasion, but my name had been reported to bridge headquarters as officer of the day. 

 A courier came hurriedly on horseback and ordered me to report immediately to General Featherstone.  I reported instantly.  The General was eating breakfast, with his back turned to me.  I saluted, and he asked, "Is this Lieut... Matthews?"  I answered, "Yes, sir."  He said, "You are officer of the day?"  I said, "No, Sir, Lieut... Spain is officer of the day, in my place."  He asked, "By what authority is Lieut... Spain officer of the day?"  I told him of the agreement between Spain and myself.  he replied, "When a man is detailed for duty in this army, he is expected to do that duty himself, and not substitute.  No, Spain is not officer of the day but you are, and if you don't stop that firing of guns I will have your court-martialed and those stripes taken from your collar.  Report back to your quarters.  I will send you four hundred more men to stop this firing and if that is not enough men I will order out the whole brigade.  Men are wasting their ammunition when a cartridge is worth almost as much as a man."  The firing was soon stopped and I missed the threatened court-martial." 

 The Rappahannock River separated the two armies during the winter.  About the last of April 1863, General Burnside, having been superseded by "Fighting Joe" Hooker, the army of the Potomac crossed the river at "United States" Ford and attacked Lee in the Wilderness around Chancellorsville.  The final battle of Chacellorsville, was fought on Sunday May 3rd.  Several days had been spent maneuvering, skirmishing, etc.  The only time I ever saw Stonewall Jackson was on Thursday before the final battle.  He was mounted and running from one battery to another giving orders.  I am reminded annually of Thursday night before the battle of Chancellorsville by the sad notes of the Whippoorwill which nests in a thicket near my home.  I also heard, it seemed, thousands of axes along the Yankee lines cutting timber to make breastworks for us poor rebels to charge.  The music of the axes was really more sad than that of the bird, for we were already veterans and knew what it meant.  On Sunday morning we charged these pole breastworks with timber cut down and tangled in front, and carried them without any great loss. The Yankees heard the "Rebel Yell" instead of the Whippoorwill.  After we had carried the breastworks and the battle was almost won, I was taken prisoner by a retreating Yankee regiment and hurried across the Rappahannock, sent by Agnia Creek up the Potomac to Washington City and confined in the old "Capitol" prison. Being taken prisoner, I considered a great misfortune, but it proved to be a disguised blessing.  They treated me nicely, fed me better than the Confederacy, and when I was exchanged at City Point only fifteen days after my capture, I had gained ten pounds in weight, and was afterward in better health. One of the guards furnished me, at his own expense, a daily paper while I was a representative of Mississippi in the old Capitol.  But I was Glad to get back to "Dixie," if it did mean a scant allowance of corn bread and bacon. 

 Being victorious at Chancellorsville, we were soon on the march for the enemy's country.  We waded the Potomac again and were soon in the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania on our way to Gettysburg.  Arriving at Gettysburg, Hill's Corp., to which my regiment belonged, occupied the center of Lee's line.  The position of Harris' brigade, to which the 12th Mississippi belonged, was in front of that part of the Yankee line known as "Cemetery Hill."  I was in a sharp skirmish between the lines of the morning of July 3rd and soon after noon witnessed "Seminary Ridge," the famous charge of Pickett's division. The roar of the artillery was terrific, the air full of minnie balls and bursting shells.  The earth quaked.  It Seemed that the world was going to pieces, but the Confederate line never wavered, but pressed on till it was almost destroyed.  We saw but few return to "Seminary Ridge."  Pickett's division should not have had all the glory for this charge. Heth's division was also in it and suffered as much, perhaps, as Pickett's.  Joe Davis' Mississippi Brigade was in Heth's division, and suffered greatly.   Captain Meek's company of the 42nd, Mississippi had seventeen men killed in Pickett's Charge. The 42nd, Mississippi went into this charge, four hundred strong, and only thirteen answered roll call at night. My brigade was held in reserve in this great battle and we suffered but little.  I saw General Lee after the repulse, rallying his men. 

 There was a lull on the 4th, neither army daring to take the offensive.  Early on the night of the 4th, we began our retreat back to Virginia. There was a drizzle of rain, and the night was so dark that I could not see my hand before my face.   We took our own time to reach and cross the Potomac again.  This time we crossed on a pontoon bridge.  My faithful slave and cook, Pete, followed me back to Virginia. 

 While camped near Winchester, I saw some men coming into camp eating some very fine cherries.  I followed the line of returning men and soon arrived at the tree.  It was a very large, red tree perhaps 1 1/2 or 2 feet in diameter, near the ground.  The hungry Confederates, like caterpillars, had occupied nearly all space on both body and limbs.  I began climbing and finally got a good share by going higher than any other man had gone.  Having enough, I returned to the ground, and stepping off a short distance, made an estimate of the number of men still in the tree.  It was impossible to count the exact number, but my estimate was one hundred and fifty hungry Confederate soldiers up one tree.  This must have been one of the trees that escaped George Washington's hatchet. 

 After Gettysburg, General Lee's army was comparatively quiet during the remaining months of 1863.  Cold weather coming on, we went into winter quarters at "Orange Court House" on the Rapidan River. We had a good rest for about three months, and enjoyed keeping house in our cozy little bunks. 

 Early in May 1864 our tents were folded, and we were again on the war path, for the enemy had begun to cross the Rapidan.  On the 5th, my command was engaged in a fierce battle, along the old dirt road which ran through the Wilderness from Orange Court House to Fredericksburg. At night, the Confederates held the field.  I saw General Wadsworth of New York carried from the field on a confederate stretcher or cot. He was mortally wounded.  He was a fine looking man.  After this initial battle, both armies moved at night, by parallel lines, toward Spottsylvania Court House where they met in  a general and bloody battle on the 12th of May.  When you read on the "Bloody Bend" or "Dead Angle," remember that the 12th, Mississippi of Harris' brigade was there twenty hours without sleep or anything to eat.  The Yanks shot all the bark off the trees on the side next to us and would have annihilated us if we had not been behind breastworks taken from them early in this action.  My company had two killed and one disabled for life. 

 The two armies again moved on parallel lines toward Richmond.  Our next battle was "Hanover Junction," where the Confederates again had the best of the fight.  By chance, the 12th Mississippi encountered the 7th, Massachusetts at Hanover.  At night, Lieut... Colonel Chandler of the 7th, Massachusetts was brought into our camp, mortally wounded. He said, "Boys, you fought us bravely; blessings on your heads if you will only treat me well."  He died that night and in his pocket was found some beautifully written letters from Miss Eva Andrew, daughter of the Governor of Massachusetts.  She said she knew he made a gallant soldier, for in boy-hood he had always excelled in boyish sports. 

 Moving on, the two armies next met at "Cold Harbor" where we were again victorious.  The loss in the 12th, Mississippi was light, though parts of both armies suffered heavy losses.  The scene now changes to Petersburg, where we arrived as I remember, about the 18th of June.  The long siege of Richmond and Petersburg begins. 

 The 12th, Mississippi was posted to the right of redoubt No. 27, which was about a mile to the right of "Elliott's Salient" where the famous Grant Mine was exploded a little later on. 

 Early in the morning there was a loud but muffled roar.  The earth quaked.  The nearby pines seemed to sway to and fro.  The Yankee cannon opened all along to our front and left.  The Confederate cannon responded.  The question "what's the matter?" was passed from one bewildered Confederate to another.   Soon General Lee was standing on our breastworks with field glass in hand, and seeing his fort dismantled and the jubilant blue-coats pouring through the gap made in his line, ordered Wright's Brigade, of Georgians and Wilcox's Brigade of Alabamians from our (Mahone's) division to the rescue. 

 We soon heard the roar of musketing mingled with that of cannon.  Then the old familiar "Rebel Yell."  Then the word came that our line was re-established and the crater made by the explosion pretty well filled with dead Yankees. Comparative quiet was soon restored along the line, and we had breakfast. 

 The siege through the summer was tiresome, with little variation.  Our breastworks were about 500 yards apart with picket lines between.  More or less picket fighting nearly every day; but sometimes by agreement there was none for several days.  It seemed strange sometimes to see the opposing pickets walking back and forth within ten paces of each other and showing no disposition to fight, but if there was an advance to be made by to their covers or pits.  K had quite a thrilling experience one afternoon on the picket line. The yanks were extending their lines in our front; the pickets of skirmishers were formed about twelve-hundred yards of our line; they advanced through a field, I began shooting at some fellows behind a clump of pine trees which was to my left; an unfriendly bullet clipped a twig by my head; I shot again and another bullet shot my face full of dirt.  After his second shot, I located him by the smoke from his gun.  He was lying in the underbrush and grass behind an old rail fence with a chunk placed in the lower crack for his protection. I changed my position a little and watched that chunk. He soon showed his face, and taking deliberate aim, I shot at it. I don't know whether I harmed him or not but he did not bother us any more.

On the 21st of August, we were in a hot battle on the Weldon railroad.  The Yankees got the best of us this time, killing, wounding and capturing about half of the 12th, Mississippi. After the battle I found a bullet hole through one leg of my pants. After this battle, though a First Lieut., I commanded my regiment for about two weeks.  The 12th, Mississippi had only about one hundred and fifty men left out of a thousand or more who composed the regiment at the start. As regimental commander, I had charge of the work along our regimental front. I had the nicest breastworks I had ever seen and they were complimented by everyone who came along. Our division commander, General Mahone, came along on an inspection tour.  After passing the customary salute, he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was making some mighty nice breastworks.  "Nice?" he said, "You don't know anything about breastworks. You ought to see what my old brigade is doing."  I told him I could not leave my post to visit other brigades.  He said if I did not do better he would find a man to take my place. I afterwards learned that he had been as harsh with old comrades and colonels of other regiments as with me. General Mahone was a little tallow-faced, dyspeptic weighing from ninety to a hundred pounds, and was considered the meanest man in General Lee's army but was also reputed to be one of his best generals. Little in stature but a giant in battle.

One more little battle on the Weldon railroad in October ended our long series for 1864. We lived in little tents along the breastworks during the winter.

On the 9th of January 1865, I left the army on a furlough for home. I went to Richmond and, with the assistance of Senator Watson of Mississippi, had my thirty day furlough extended fifteen days by our Secretary of War, Mr. Seddon.  This extension gave me fifteen days at home. On the way home, I had the toothache and stepped into a dental office to have one tooth extracted and another filled. I asked the terms and the dentist told me that he did soldiers work at half price. He charged me only fifty dollars for extracting the tooth and one hundred dollars for filling one. After settling my bill, I was off for my home in Mississippi which I reached in about fifteen days, having had to walk a part of the way.  After staying at home just fifteen days, I started on my return to Virginia. To get back to Lee's army seemed an almost hopeless task, for there had been great floods and many washouts on the railroads. I reached Jackson, Mississippi all right and from there had to walk a good part of the way to Meridian. I walked nearly all the way from Meridian to Mobile and from Mobile rode most of the way to Augusta, Georgia. There all furloughed men were organized into temporary commands and sent forward under officers.  This temporary organization delayed me a week or more at Augusta and prevented my reaching Lee's army in time for the final struggle before Appomattox.  After some other long tramps, Danville, Virginia was reached.  All furloughed men were halted at Danville for the Yankees were between us and Lee's army.  Being at leisure and having plenty of money, as I thought (my father having given me one thousand dollars in Confederate money when I left home), I stepped into a tailor's shop and asked the proprietor what he would charge me for a suit of clothes from some very nice gray goods shown me.  His reply was, "Twenty-four hundred dollars."  That looked like the confederacy was about gone and it was, for soon Jefferson Davis and his cabinet came through Danville on their retreat to Greensboro, North Carolina.  The furloughed men were ordered back to Greensboro where I became one of fifty men who who composed the President's bodyguard from Greensboro to Charlotte.  About half of his bodyguard were commissioned officers.  On reaching Charlotte, we were told that all commissioned officers belonging to the guard would either have to resign their commissions or report to the Secretary of War at Augusta, Georgia.  I reported but the secretary did not.  While at Augusta, General Johnson surrendered his army and all Confederates in his department which included me.

Not caring to wait for several days to be paroled, my conclusion was to move on toward home with a companion, Lt. Holmes of Mississippi. We went by rail to West Point, Georgia and by foot from there to Selma, Alabama. We were guided only by my pocket map. 

This walk by the scale on the map was one hundred and fifty miles and we walked it in six days, carrying all of our worldly belongings.  With a high fever, I rode in a box car from Selma, Alabama to Meridian, Mississippi. I was refused meals and lodging at a hotel because I had none but Confederate money.  Confederate transportation being refused, we forced our way over two railroad lines.  Arriving at Panola, my county town, I was given a good dinner by an old friend, and at about two o'clock in the afternoon started on my walk to my home, a distance of twenty-two miles.  I reached home soon after dark by almost flying. I arrived home on the 13th of May, having been in the Confederate service four years and two days, and having seen more battles than years.  Was wounded only once, and then slightly, at Petersburg.

R. J. W. Matthews

This account originally came from Mrs. Katherine Matthews Pennington of Memphis, Tennessee, the writer's granddaughter. She stated that it was written some years after the actual event when Robert Joseph Walker Matthews was elderly and blind. It was dictated to two of his daughters. Nelda Hamer of Memphis obtained a copy and sent one to Terry Cowan. I received a text file of most of the account from Terry and the rest from Nelda, which she typed just so it could be put online a little sooner. Nelda later sent me a copy of the entire package which includes the three stories below. My thanks to all three for making these items, so precious to them as descendants, available to us all.

Terry Cowan is writing a book on the Matthew's family. He is looking for all the information he can find on the family to include in it. If you can help please do so.

Below are three stories told by Robert. Don't jump to any conclusions from the titles.

Some Little Incidents Along the Way, and in Camp--

The beginning of the first Maryland Campaign found this old veteran almost barefooted, weakened by indigestion caused by poor food, constant marching etc. In an active campaign, we had no change of clothing for weeks. I felt unable to continue the march on foot, so I stopped over night at a farm house close to the Potomac and asked for some needed medicine. It was freely given by the good Confederate of the house. She also offered me a bed for the night, but knowing my unsanitary condition, I declined her offer with thanks, saying I would sleep among the haystacks which I did. Being refreshed by a good nights rest and a bountiful breakfast given me by my good hostess, I resumed the march.

On the roadside, I found an old broken down artillery horse abandoned there the night before by some other sore footed confederate. The Old horse could barely stand alone, and had a sore on his back as large as my whole hand, but I thought he looked stronger than I felt so I became a mounted infantryman. Joining my regiment, I rode in to ford the Potomac. The river there (Leesburg) was quite wide but shallow about waist deep to a man. The bottom was covered with round rocks of various diameters, and to cross such a stream on such a steed, seemed forlorn hope.

The wading soldiers greeted me with frequent and prolonged cheers, mingled with mirth-provoking expressions such as: "Guard against cavalry"--"There comes General Lee"--"No, that's Stonewall Jackson", but old "Bonaparts" landed me safe and dry on the Maryland shore which I consider the greatest miracle of the nineteenth century. There had been no campaigning in Naryland, and, everything to eat was more plentiful on the Maryland side. Orchards were full of nice red apples which looked good and tasted good to hungry Confederates. My old horse bore up bravely under, his load, and carried me about fifteen miles during the day. Putting him in an inclosure, without feed (for I had none) I again stopped over night at a farm house owned by a German family who treated me so nicely that I am sorry I cannot recall their name. The lady gave me a good supper and breadfast, and like the good Virginia lady the night before, offered me a bed. I again refused the bed and slept at the barn for reasons given before. Having had a good nights rest and plenty to eat, I felt much better the next morning. I looked for horse, but some rescally Confederate had taken him during the night, and I becamer a dismounted infantryman again. But one days ride and four good square meals enabled me to resume the march with my regiment, on foot, and to participate in the capture of "Harpers Ferry" and the battle of Antietam.

Battle Between Confederate Veterans--a Paradox

The first Maryland Campaign, after_the second battle of Manassas was full of amusing incidents - a Confederate at this time of the war was never, too tired to have a little fun. He would laugh one minute if he knew he had to die the next. On the march from the Potomac, at Leesburg to the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, we rested fifteen minutes in every hour. When the hourly command to halt was given, the men would drop out on each side of the road to rest. Rest time on this march was a busy time to the average Confederate. We have scientists now-- the Confederacy had scientists then; modern scientists attribute nearly all diseases to germs conveyed by, mosquitoes, flies, etc. The Confederates, in an active campaign, had itchy sensations, and as soon as a halt was made began to look for the cause of this sensation. They had no magnifying glasses and needed none, for with the naked eye they could see myriads of microbes, commonly called "gray-backs" which were slaughtered without mercy.

Seeing a ring of men on the roadside and hearing much laughter, I went forward to investigate. On the ground inclosed by this ring was spread a Richmond newspaper. Upon the paper were two five dollar Confederate bills. In the center of the paper were the prize ring combatants, two seemingly well trained gray-backs". The battle was terrific. They fought like bull dogs. Finally one ran like a Yankee from Bull Run, whey they awarded the prize to the owner of the victor. This was the lowest down gambling I ever witnessed.

How Two Gay Lieutenants in Quest of a Farm Dinner Met Their "Waterloo"

The winter of 1863-64 found us in winter quarters at Orange Court House near the Rapidan River. My hut, of about 8 by 10 feet, covered with canvass and having a stick and mud chimney at one end was cozy and warm. I was one of four Confederates who occupied this "Home Sweet Home". Ours was a happy family of congenial spirits. We had enough to eat by supplementing our rations with purchases through the country. There was nothing so much relished as a good farm dinner, so one fine morning this Johnnie started out foraging for a good dinner. I had to walk about six miles before I found a family who had a meal to spare. Calling at an old but well preserved mansion, I was met at the door by a handsome young lady who introduced herself as Miss Morton. I was invited in and promised some dinner. I soon learned that she was an ardent Confederate. She was quite an accomplished lady and entertained me superbly. I enjoyed her company and also the good dinner for which she would accept no pay. Returning to camp in the afternoon, I gave my comrade a glowing account of my trip. The good dinner and the charming young lady. I was invited to call again and bring a friend if I chose. My mess-mate, Lieut.--- asked to go with me next time and the deal was made. In a few days a second visit was made to the hospitable Morton home. My friend was well dressed in his new officers uniform and wore a flashy red artillery-man's cap. We were given a cordial welcome followed by an extra good dinner. After dinner we were pleasantly entertained in the parlor. I soon saw that my friend had a serious case of "love at first sight", and both sympathized with him and feared for the result. The lady was very tactful and besides had a wonderful amount of humor in her manner. She seemed to admire the Lieutenant's red cap and wished that she had one like it. He offered to give it to her if she would give him any kind of a cap to wear back to camp. She brought out a very common gray cap and the exchange was made. After the trade she stood up with the red cap on the fore-finger of her right hand and twirling it around made the following remark: "Now, this will be so becoming to my little colored boy who goes with me when riding horseback". After this speech, my friend suggested that we return to camp, and we bade this kind daughter of the Confederacy a last farewell. I bit my underlip severely to restrain laughter until we were out of hearing distance of this home and my chum offered to do anything for me if I would promise not to tell on him when we got back to camp.

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This page was last updatedJanuary 23, 2018