Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World
Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.
Taps for an Old Warrior
As best I can determine, The Cause was lost in the West by the end of 1863. The March to the Sea was kicking a dying horse. An alert reader reminded me of why Uncle Patrick’s memories seem to trail off when he re-joined Company H- he outlasted it. He wrote:
“I’m not surprised that Patrick left no detailed accounts of his later service. It’s no fun to be beaten, and beaten badly.
Interestingly, a British Colonel passed through Mississippi just after the battles of Raymond and Champion Hill. He was taking trains from Galveston (his illicit port of entry) to be an observer with Lee’s army in Pennsylvania. This Brit commented on the crowds of dispirited and undisciplined rebel soldiers he saw at every train station in Mississippi. That was 1863. 1864 and 1865 were worse.”
Here is Patrick’s obituary, crafted while he lived, and published after his death in June of 1921. The day before my birthday, of all things.
Editor’s Note: I am traveling to Naval Station Pearl Harbor today to cover an important story- important to me, anyway. I will have more on the tomorrow, ins’hallah.
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
THINGS FALL APART
(THE BATTLE OF PEACHTREE CREEK AT BUCK HEAD, GA, NORTH OF ATLANTA. UNCLE PATRICK WAS ONE OF THREE SURVIVORS OF COMPANY “H.”)
SO, UNCLE PATRICK FOUND HIMSELF AS CAPTAIN OF COMPANY “H,” FOR THE LAST BIT OF THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH BY THE FEDERAL FORCES. LIKE ELECTIONS, WARS HAVE REAL CONSEQUENCES. I WILL GET TO SOME OF THOSE IN A MOMENT, THOUGH I HAVE TO SAY PATRICK’S REMARKABLE NARRATIVE, REVILED BY SOME HISTORIANS OF THE MODERN AGE, PETERS OUT AT THIS POINT.
IT IS SO RICH AND SO PERSONAL THAT THE REST OF THE WAR IS STRANGELY IMPERSONAL AS THINGS FELL APART.
THERE IS A POPULAR, THOUGH I THINK MEAN-SPIRITED, ATTEMPT TO PAINT OUR UNCLE AS A COMPULSIVE TALE-TELLER, REPLETE WITH SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT. I THINK IT WAS JUST A FUNCTION OF TIME AND DISTANCE FROM THE EVENTS. UP TO RAYMOND, AND THE FALL OF COLONEL RANDALL MCGAVOCK, THERE WAS A CERTAIN ROMANCE TO THE WHOLE ADVENTURE. AFTER THAT MOMENT, AND THE SAD FUNERAL AND THE GRIM REALITY OF CAPTIVITY, THERE WAS NEVER AGAIN THE INNOCENCE OF THE CAUSE. WHAT HAPPENED WAS TECUMSEH SHERMAN’S QUITE MODERN IDEA OF TOTAL WAR, DEMONSTRATED ON HIS DEVASTATING MARCH TO THE SEA FOLLOWING THE DESTRUCTION OF ATLANTA.
MY COON-ASS COLLEAGUE NOTED SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND HOW THE DEFEAT HAD AFFECTED HIS FAMILY. HE WROTE ME A NOTE ON AGED VELLUM PARCHMENT, DELIVERED BY PASSENGER PIGEON FROM METARIE, LOUISIANA, WHERE THE TOMB OF GENERAL JOHN BELL HOOD IS LOCATED. HE COMMENTED:
“THIS IS THE SECOND TIME THAT A YANKEE OFFICER NAMED “CAPTAIN NEFF” WAS MENTIONED. MY MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME WAS NEFF. I NOW OWN THE NEFF FAMILY TOMB IN METAIRIE CEMETERY, WHERE GENERAL HOOD RESTS. THE NEFF FREE-RANGE EXTENDED FROM SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI TO EAST TEXAS. ONE OF THEM BECAME THE 28TH GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, 1921 TO 1925.
THERE WERE NEFF SEA CAPTAINS AND RIVERBOAT PILOTS. I’VE NEVER HEARD OF A YANKEE NEFF BEFORE, BUT THAT IS TO BE EXPECTED. IF THERE HAD BEEN ONE, THE REST OF THE FAMILY WOULD HAVE DISOWNED HIM.
HAVING A YANKEE IN THE FAMILY AT THE TIME OF THE WAR OF YANKEE AGGRESSION WAS A BIT LIKE OUR CHEROKEE BLOOD AFTER PASSAGE OF THE “CORRUPTION OF THE BLOOD ACT,” SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD KEEP SECRET. IF I REMEMBER CORRECTLY THIS “CAPT. NEFF” WASN’T A YANKEE ARMY OFFICER BUT A MERCHANT OFFICER CONNECTED TO THE PRISONER TRANSPORT BOAT FROM WHICH YOUR UNCLE ESCAPED. IF THAT WAS THE CASE I CAN SEE HOW THIS “CAPT. NEFF” ENDED UP WORKING FOR THE YANKEES. IF YOU WERE A US-LICENSED MASTER OR PILOT WORKING RIVER TRANSPORT BETWEEN MEMPHIS AND POINTS NORTH WHEN THE WAR BROKE OUT AND YOUR VESSEL WAS IN UNION-CONTROLLED TERRITORY, YOU WERE IN A REAL PICKLE.
A MERCHANT MARINE OFFICER’S LICENSE COMES WITH THE OATH TO THE UNITED STATES. THAT MEANS THERE IS AN AUTOMATIC NAVAL AUXILIARY ROLE IN WARTIME. STUCK ON AN AMERICAN FLAG TRANSPORT, LICENSED BY THE STEAM BOAT INSPECTORS, THE BOAT WOULD QUICKLY BE PUT IN THE SERVICE OF THE ARMY. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BASICALLY A DECISION TO GO YANKEE OR HANG. IF I’VE GOT THIS RIGHT, THAT “CAPT. NEFF” IN YOUR STORY WAS A RIVER STEAMER OFFICER, I’D BET HE IS A BLACK SHEEP RELATIVE FROM THE COLLECTION OF PILOTS IN THE FAMILY.
IT IS A SMALL WORLD AND SHIT HAPPENS. I’M OK WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF A RELATIVE WORKING THE YANKEE SIDE BACK THEN. BUT I’M SURE GLAD THAT MY GRANDMA ISN’T AROUND TO HEAR ABOUT THIS. OR MAYBE SHE KNEW. SHE DIDN’T TELL ME ABOUT OUR CHEROKEE RELATIONS UNTIL AFTER THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 PASSED AND THE “CORRUPTION OF THE BLOOD STATUTE” IN LOUISIANA WAS BOUNCED BY THE COURTS.
MY GRANDMOTHER HAD A LOT OF STORIES TOLD TO HER FIRST HAND BY HER PARENTS OF THE UNION OCCUPATION, AND SUFFERED THROUGH THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS OF THE POST OCCUPATION. THERE WERE TWO THINGS SHE HAD NO USE FOR AND THIS SOUNDS LIKE AN ODD COMBINATION GIVEN PEOPLE’S IMAGES OF THE SOUTH. SHE HATED YANKEES AND SEGREGATIONISTS, ESPECIALLY RACE BAITING POLITICIANS. I OFTEN WONDER WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF YANKEES, IF THE OCCUPATION HADN’T OF BEEN SUCH A HORROR.
IF WE HAD A TURN-COAT PILOT IN THE FAMILY, SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN TAUGHT TO DISOWN AND HATE HIM, SINCE HE HELPED USHER IN THE OCCUPATION THAT COST BOTH SIDES OF MY FAMILY SO MUCH. THIS REALLY IS A SMALL WORLD, AND PAST ISN’T REALLY SO DISTANT, IT HARDLY SEEMS PAST.”
BOATS IS QUITE RIGHT ON SEVERAL LEVELS. AS FAR AS PATRICK GOES, THERE ARE SOME DATA POINTS IN FAMILY LORE, AND DOTS THAT CAN BE CONNECTED FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM AFTER HE WAS ELECTED CAPTAIN OF COMPANY “H,” 10TH TENNESSEE INFANTRY.
I KNOW WHAT PATRICK SAID ABOUT THE GEORGIA CAMPAIGN, BUT THE UNIT HISTORY GETS QUITE SCRAMBLED THROUGH THE END OF 1863.
YOU DO NOT GET A SENSE OF MUCH ABOVE THE SMALL UNIT LEVEL IN PATRICK’S ACCOUNT OF THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES. OFTEN, THE NARRATIVE IS ONLY ABOUT THE PERSON TO YOUR SIDE IN THE RANKS, AND COMBAT IS INTENSELY LOCAL AND DEMONSTRABLY PERSONAL.
THE ORIGINAL CADRE OF SOLDIERS HAD BECOME MINGLED AS THE NUMBER OF DEAD, WOUNDED AND MISSING CONTINUED TO GROW. BY DECEMBER OF 1863, THE BRIGADE WAS COMPOSED OF THE 37TH GEORGIA REGIMENT, THE 4TH GEORGIA BATTALION SHARPSHOOTERS, 10TH, 15TH, 37TH, 20TH, 30TH TENNESSEE INFANTRY REGIMENTS AND 1ST TENNESSEE INFANTRY BATTALION.
THE “BLOODY TINTH,” COMMANDED BY MAJOR JOHN O’NEILL, WAS EXACTLY THAT: THE DAILY MUSTER REPORTED ONLY 69 EFFECTIVES IN THE RANKS. BY FEBRUARY 20, 1864, THE 1ST TENNESSEE BATTALION WAS GONE. BY JULY, 1864, THE 2ND TENNESSEE INFANTRY WAS ADDED TO THE BRIGADE. NO FURTHER CHANGES IN THE COMPOSITION OF THE BRIGADE WERE SHOWN UNTIL AFTER THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN, NOVEMBER 30, 1864. DURING THIS TIME, THE BRIGADE HAD FOUGHT AT MISSIONARY RIDGE, THROUGHOUT THE RETREAT TO ATLANTA, AND THE MARCH BACK INTO TENNESSEE.
PATRICK LEFT THE FORMATION AFTER THE BATTLE OF PEACHTREE CREEK, AFTER WHICH HE REPORTED HE WAS ONE OF ONLY THREE SURVIVORS OF COMPANY H. AT THAT POINT, THE UNIT HAD EFFECTIVELY CEASED TO EXIST, AND PATRICK WAS AN ENTERPRISING YOUNG MAN. HE VOLUNTEERED TO JOIN NEWLY-INSTALLED COMMANDER JOHN BELL HOOD’S SCOUTS, AND SET OFF TO RAID THE LOGISTICS SUPPLY LINE OF THE UNION ARMY.
SON OF A RAILROAD MAN, HE BECAME REMARKABLY ADEPT AT DERAILING LOCOMOTIVES AND PLUNDERING THE BOXCARS BULGING WITH UNION SUPPLIES. ACCORDING TO HIS OBITUARY, THE GENERAL HIMSELF COMMENTED ON THE EFFICACY OF HIS EFFORTS AT RAIDING, AND PRESUMABLY PATRICK STAYED WITH THE GENERAL’S STAFF IN THE WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIA TO TENNESSEE, AND THE FIGHTING AT THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN, AND THEN IN ASSOCIATION WITH GENERAL NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST’S CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY BRIDGES AND LINES OF COMMUNICATIONS.
(GENERAL NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST. PHOTO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS).
BY THE END OF 1864, THE HEAD-ON ASSAULT TACTICS OF JOHN BELL HOOD HAD CUT A SCYTHE THROUGH HIS ARMY, AND PATRICK WAS FORTUNATE TO BE MOUNTED AND SEMI-INDEPENDENT. AT THE BATTLE OF NASHVILLE THE 2ND, 10TH, 15TH, 20TH, 30TH AND 37TH TENNESSEE REGIMENTS WERE ALL COMBINED INTO ONE RAG-TAG UNIT IN THE VICINITY OF SHY’S HILL IN THE GRANNY WHITE PIKE SECTION. AFTER THAT FIGHT, THE DIVISION WAS VIRTUALLY ANNIHILATED. OF THE COMBINED UNITS PRESENT, ONLY 65 ESCAPED, AND THESE NOT AS A COMMAND, BUT AS INDIVIDUALS.
WHEN THEY REFORMED INTO SOMETHING LIKE AN INFANTRY FORMATION, THE TROOPS WERE DISPATCHED TO JOIN GENERAL JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON IN NORTH CAROLINA IN TIME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FINAL BATTLE AT BENTONVILLE. THOSE SURVIVORS OF A DOZEN PROUD UNITS WERE PAROLED BY UNION FORCES AT GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA MAY 1, 1865.
PATRICK WOULD HAVE STAYED WITH JOHN BELL HOOD, WHO WAS BEING TAKEN APART LIKE THE ARMY HE HAD COMMANDED. HE LOST HIS LEFT ARM AT GETTYSBURG, AND HIS RIGHT LEG AT CHICKAMAUGA. RETREATING WITH THE SHATTERED REMNANTS OF THE ARMY OF TENNESSEE INTO NORTHERN MISSISSIPPI, HE WAS ORDERED BY JEFFERSON DAVIS TO TRAVEL TO TEXAS AND ATTEMPT TO RAISE AN ARMY TO CONTINUE THE FIGHT IN THE WEST, AND I AM SURE PATRICK WOULD HAVE ENJOYED THE ADVENTURE.
HOWEVER, AFTER LEARNING OF LEE’S SURRENDER AND THE CAPTURE OF DAVIS, HOOD SURRENDERED TO FEDERAL AUTHORITIES IN NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI ON MAY 31, 1865. IT WAS OVER.
PATRICK CLAIMED SERVICE IN 24 GENERAL ENGAGEMENTS IN HIS TIME IN UNIFORM, AN IMPRESSIVE FEAT OF SURVIVAL. BY 1905, THE DEVASTATION HAD HEALED TO THE RECOLLECTIONS OF AN OLD MAN IN A TAILORED GRAY SUIT. HERE IS THE WAY HE SUMMED IT UP IN HIS ADDRESS TO THE OTHER CONFEDERATE VETS AND THEIR CHILDREN THAT NIGHT IN NASHVILLE:
“OF COLONEL MCGGAVOCK’S REGIMENT, TO MY KNOWLEDGE, ONLY SEVEN OF THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS ARE NOW LIVING: LIEUTENANT COLONEL S. M. THOMPSON, CAPTAIN THOMAS GIBSON, CAPTAIN CHARLEY STOCKDALE, AND COMMISSARY SERGEANT BARNEY MCCABE, MIKE CARNEY, AND JOHN FLEMMING. THE LAST NAMED TWO ARE AT THE SOLDIERS’ HOME. COLONEL THOMPSON LIVES AT FLORENCE, ALABAMA, THE OTHERS RESIDE IN NASHVILLE, AND I AM THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR MEMBERS OF THE “SONS OF ERIN.”
I KNOW OF NO OTHER REGIMENT WITH A RECORD OF THREE FULL COLONELS BURIED IN ONE GRAVEYARD. THE REMAINS OF COLONELS HEIMAN, MCGAVOCK. AND GRACE, OF THE 10TH TENNESSEE INFANTRY, IRISH, LIE WITHIN THE SHADOW OF THE CONFEDERATE CIRCLE MONUMENT IN BEAUTIFUL MOUNT OLIVET CEMETERY, AT NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, WHERE IT ALL BEGAN SO MANY YEARS AGO.”
(WHAT IS LEFT OF A DEPOT NEAR ATLANTA. BOTH SIDES BECAME QUITE ADEPT AT THIS SORT OF DESTRUCTION. PHOTO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS).
COPYRIGHT VIC SOCOTRA
Captain of Company H
Two weeks later I was on my way to Nashville with another gang of government workmen. I felt much better than I looked, due to the ravages of the Pox. At Edgefield Junction, Mike Costalo came through the train, apparently looking for some one. When he got near me, I spoke to him. He said: “Your voice is familiar, but I do not know your face.” I told him who I was, and explained that I had just passed through an illness not conducive to beauty, but that I was still in the ring and ready to spar.
He motioned to me to follow him, and we went out on the platform, where he informed me that he had come out to the Junction to warn me that a government detective, James O’Donnell, was at that very moment waiting for me in the depot at Nashville. He had come to tell me because I had been kind to him while he was in a Confederate prison. He had a hansom rig in waiting for me on Market Street; so when we reached Nashville, we got off on Front Street and hurried over to Market Street and into the hack. He took me to his home in North Nashville. I remained there until the next night, and then I went to the Franklin shops on Spruce Street. These shops were operated by the United States government, and a friend of mine, Tobie Burke, was in charge.
He had a nice room fitted up in the second story, where I could sleep all day. My nights were devoted to tramping. My youngest brother was employed at these shops, and I made him take me around to all the Yankee headquarters to see what intelligence about the invaders I might glean. I got acquainted with a number of the officers, and was offered a position at a salary of a hundred dollars per month by the provost marshal. I accepted the offer, telling him I would be around to set in working within the next week.
I went to see my Colonel’s mother during my visit. Mrs. Louisa McGavock was a grand woman. I do not think she ever forgot a kindness or remembered an injury. Her interest in and her devotion to Col. McGavock’s old company, the “Sons of Erin,” never ceased. The friendship between us that had its beginning in the grave at Raymond lasted until she was placed in the vault with her son at Mount Olivet cemetery in Nashville.
The first baby girl born in the house I made with my own hands in Nashville is her name-sake, and her name will be spoken with love and respect as long as the house of Griffin exists.
I also visited Tom Parrel, who had a son in my regiment. He told me he had taken the oath of allegiance, but that his wife was still a genuine Rebel. Mrs. Parrel wanted to give me a roll of greenbacks, but I told her I had all the money I needed. After I left her house, I found the same roll of money in my pocket. She was as gererous as the day is long, and I bless her memory.
I called on Mr. K— and told him about his son, Captain James K— being wounded at Raymond. He was not disposed to be friendly, so I cut my visit short and went over to Captain Stockell’s. His son Charlie was a Captain in the “Tinth.” He was delighted to see me, and wanted me to come and stay at his house while I remained in Nashville. The last call I made was at the residence of Captain George Diggons’s father; but when I got there, Mr. Diggons was dying. I went again the next day, and was there when he died.
There was a government office across the street from the Diggon’s home, and while I sat there I saw a number of Yankees coming and going on horseback, and came to the conclusion that it would be a good place to capture a horse and get away. I waited there again, and took my place at one of the front windows the next day. I was a fairly good judge of horseflesh. Soon a fellow came riding up on a black horse. I knew that was the animal for me, so by the time be was sitting down at his desk I was on his horse and making my way toward St Cecilia Academy.
The girl with the auburn hair was there, and I decided right then: I would like to go and see her while I was in the neighborhood. The chances were not very bright when it came to ever seeing her again. As it turns out, I did indeed see her sunny smile and laughing Irish eyes again, but life in wartime is a chaotic thing and you have to take your chances when you have them.
While I sat there talking to her in a shady spot in the garden two Yankee officers came riding by. She is a brave woman, my comrades, but she was certainly scared that day. I told her not to mind them, for I could go around Yankees like a hoop around a barrel. They did not stop to ask any questions. I assure you we both felt easier when they were out of sight and in a little while I bade the lovely girl good-by, asking her to remember me in the fight to come. I tipped my hat, mounted my proud mount and crossed the river, striking out toward the Springfield Pike. I did not stop again until I reached Cedar Hill.
While there, I made my headquarters at Squire Jack Batt’s, two-and-a-half miles from town. I had spent my childhood there, up until Father died while laying track on the railroad and knew the country well. Two or three companies of the Third Tennessee had been raised in this neighborhood, and everybody wanted to give me a welcome.
I had lots of callers; every mother, wife, sister, and sweet-heart wanted to send something to loved ones in the army, and I could not have taken all the things they brought me if I had had a two-horse wagon. With the help of some of the boys and girls, the socks, underclothing, etc., were made into a long bundle, and with sundry letters and sacks of tobacco sewed into my saddle blanket. I had letters by the hundreds and sacks of tobacco by the dozen. When I left there to start on my long journey, several of the boys and girls accompanied me as far as the Cumberland River. They saw me safe on the other side, and watched me until I rounded a bend in the road and was sundered from view.
The first night I was out I slept on the porch of a farmer’s house, with my saddlebags for a pillow and my saddle blanket for a bed. I had two Colt’s six-shooters. My horse was hitched to a post near me, and a piece of rope that I had fastened to the bridle was under my head. My bundles were all fastened to my arm, so that if any one disturbed them I would wake up.
I will not relate the things that happened to me on the rest of the way to the Army of the Tennessee. I followed the line of the Western & Atlantic railway, since the grade suited my horse and I kept a sharp eye for highwaymen, riff-raff and deserters. The woods were alive with men who should have been elsewhere. I crossed the Tennessee River above Florence, went over the great Sand Mountain Plateau in northeastern Alabama, and saw the Black Warrior River. That placid stream was named after the Paramount Chief of the Tuskaloosa Indians, and preserved the memory of that tribe after their expulsion west.
(Map of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Courtesy Eddie Sand).
Eventually, I caught site of the evidence that a large company of soldiers had passed this way not long ahead of me- rails were missing from fences and houses had been knocked down for firewood. As I approached the main body of the Army of Tennessee, I was challenged by pickets. I told them truthfully I was a Son of Erin who had fought at Raymond and was returning to my unit. They let me pass, and when I found the boys, I was minus many articles of wearing apparel and several sacks of tobacco that had aided my passage. But I had the letters from home for the lads and they were all safe and sound. I think there must have been between three or four hundred missives, and can say that was the best mail call Company H had in the war.
I presented the Yankee horse to Maj. John O’Neal, of my regiment. At least, I only took his note for the two hundred and fifty dollars he agreed to pay me for the animal. It might have been the letters I brought, and the stories I had to tell them all about my inadvertent furlough. There was a great deal of uncertainty in the Army of the Tennessee. Company H of the Tenth had been in Bushrod Johnson’s Division at Chickamauga, and done well, capturing a Federal artillery battery of nine guns. But the number of us who had signed up at the start of the war were dwindling. In order to make up an effective brigade, we were combined briefly in Walker’s Division, and then wound up in Bate’s Brigade of John Breckenridge’s Division.
That is pretty much the way the formal organization remained until the Battle of Peacehtree Creek. Promotions, death and wounds had left a vacancy in the officer ranks of the company. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the boys elected me Captain of Company H, the Sons of Erin, and their last one.
When we marched off in Nashville beyond Captain McGavock in 1861, I never could have imagined that God’s Own Gentleman would be in his grave, and I would be in his position less than three years later.
(William Tecumseh Sherman. Image Library of Congress).
But there was much sadness to come as we confronted hard-eyed Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia. By December of 1863, our brigade seemed to have as many units as there were men left in them. Ours consisted of the 37th Georgia Regiment, the 4th Georgia Battalion and five of combined formations of our sturdy Irish Tennesseans. Still to come was the general engagement at Missionary Ridge and the retreat to Atlanta. The events of those days were ones that pain me to this very day, but I did have the opportunity to serve directly for one of the great generals of South, the indomitable John Bell Hood, of Texas.
(A mournful John Bell Hood of Texas).
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
(The fabulous Gayoso Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. The was built overlooking the Mississippi River in 1842 and became a Memphis landmark until it burned in 1899. The original Gayoso House was a first class hotel, designed by James H. Dakin, was appointed with the latest conveniences, including indoor plumbing with marble tubs, silver faucets and flush toilets. Uncle Patrick could not afford to stay there, but the hotel was the nexus of social life in the city in the 1860s).
Note: Uncle Patrick is determined to get the personal effects of his fallen Colonel to his family. In so doing he encounters kindness and deceit in the border country in Tennessee and Kentucky. Can he achieve his mission? There are Unionists, Copperheads and Rebels aplenty along the rivers that were the lifeblood of the Upper South, torn by the great Civil War.
“I had a letter of introduction to Col. Walker, of Memphis, in my pocket. The letter had been given to me by his son, who was a prisoner on board the Yankee boat. As I was not acquainted with the town, I decided to call on Colonel Walker at once. I went to the Gayoso House, the town’s luxurious hotel built by Robertson Topp and considerably enlarged before the war.
There, I asked a hack driver if he knew where Col. Walker lived. He said: “Yes, sir.” I jumped into his hack and told him to take me there, and in a few minutes I was ringing the bell at the Walker residence. Mrs. Walker came to the door. She told me that her husband was away, so I handed her the letter from her son. She read it over three times, but said she could do nothing for me, as her husband had taken the oath of allegiance to the North.
I did not blame her any, for my appearance was not calculated to make a favorable impression. I bade her good-night and walked out the gate. She stood and watched me out of sight
The hackman was waiting for me at the gate. I asked him the amount of his bill, and he said “One dollar.” I had just twenty-five cents, but he did not know but what I was a millionaire; so I told him to take me back to the Gayoso and make it two dollars. On the way back I slipped out of the hack, and the poor Jehu* found himself minus his fare.
For once I was out on the beat, and I headed for cheap quarters. Down on the levee I found a place where they kept boarders and lodgers, and there was a saloon attached. I went in and called for a drink and a cigar, for which I handed up my last quarter in greenbacks. I put on a bold front and told the barkeeper that I would like to have a bed for the night and would want my breakfast very early in the morning. He said: “All right young man; go back there and tell Maggie to show you a bed.” He was playing right into my hand, and I followed his instructions. I found Maggie in the rear of the house, and delivered the barkeeper’s message.
She said she “thought everybody knew where his bed was,” and while I waited for her to locate me I located the cupboard and all the exits. I paid my respects to their larder later in the evening, and was up and away by day-break, too early for any one to be down to collect my bill.
(Memphis Waterfront in the Civil War. Image from Harper’s Weekly.)
I went down by the levee, rolled up my sleeves, and mingled with the roustabouts. I decided that I would learn what I could from them, and I found that one Father Ryan, a Catholic priest, had been arrested on two occasions for his rebellious sentiments. I decided to call upon him, as I had considerable Confederate money sewed in the waist of my pantaloons, and I thought he would be able to tell me where I could sell some of it.
I found him at his residence, and walked into his room without being announced. I attempted to state my business, but before I could do it he interrupted me with the declaration that he was a loyal citizen and that he could do nothing for me. I was determined that he should hear my story, and was confident that he would not report me, and then, too, I wanted to satisfy him that I was worthy of trust.
I pulled out Col. McGavock’s watch and showed him the name engraved upon it, and showed mm the Colonel’s ring also. He became interested, and told me that he had seen an account of the Colonel’s death in the papers.
Just at this juncture the doorbell rang. Father Ryan went to the door himself, and who were there but two Yankee officers? I tell you he was scared, but he was brave and cool about it. He ushered the callers into the parlor, and then he slipped tack and told me that they were evidently after me. He was as white as a sheet and he trembled as he told me to get out the back way. He closed the door on me and went tack to his guests. I hesitated and wondered how any one could know that I was there, and came to the conclusion that I would wait and find out if they were really after me before I went on running, so I slipped back into the house and into the next room to the parlor, where I could be in earshot, and I soon found out that they were on an entirely different mission. I peeped through a crack in the door at them.
They visited for about half an hour; and after Father Ryan saw them out on the pavement, he heaved a sigh of relief that could be heard all over the house. He started back through the hall as if he were going to look out through the rear door, and was very much surprised when I came out and asked him if he was not mistaken about the Yanks being after me. He replied: “I was, thank God, I have had enough of trouble; and when you first spoke to me, I thought you were a spy. The town is full of them. But from your looks I am satisfied now that you are all right. Tell me what you want.”
I told him that I had a large sum of Confederate money and would like to exchange some of it for greenbacks. He thought for a few minutes, then put on his hat and told me that I could go out the back way and he would go out the front way, and I must follow him at a distance.
I carried out his instructions. We went three blocks in the direction of the river and entered a wholesale house. I followed him tack through the house and into the office in the rear. After we got in, he closed the door and introduced me to two gentlemen who were sitting there. He stated my business to them. They declared that they did not have a cent and did not know I where I could dispose of any of my Confederate money. Those gentlemen discredited my story. I shook hands with Father Ryan, thanked him for his kindness, and went on.
It was about nine o’clock when I started toward the river again; and as I stopped on the corner of the street to get my bearings, who should I see coming up the street right by me but Capt. Neff and the Colonel who commanded the fleet of transports.
They were deeply engaged in conversation, and I turned my back toward them and began making marks with a bit of rock on the brick wall. They passed without recognizing me, and you can depend upon it that I was not long making tracks away from them and that neighborhood. I stopped on a comer near the wharf trying to hear something that might be of interest to me. A number of men and women were there gazing at the transports up the river. Many of the prisoners on those boats had relatives in Memphis.
While I stood there I heard two men talking very earnestly. I knew that the time had come for me to lay manners aside, and so I listened deliberately to their conversation. They were Rebel sympathizers; so when they separated, I followed the man who seemed to have the greatest grievance. I caught up with him, asked him to pardon me for having listened to his conversation on the wharf, and told him that I had made my escape from one of the boats, and that before I asked him anything I wanted to prove to him that I was not an impostor.
I showed him Col. McGavock’s watch and ring: and after he had examined them carefully, he exclaimed: “Young man, you will be arrested!” He asked me if I knew Dr. Grundy McGavock, the Colonel’s brother. I told him that I did not. He hesitated awhile, then he looked me straight in the face and told me that he was Prof. Eldridge (I think it was Eldridge), of the Memphis Female Academy.
I knew that this man believed me, and I determined to do whatever he advised. He made me promise that I would not mention his name, and then he directed me to go out Adams Street until I came to the bridge, and then to go into the first house on the left-hand side of the street and ask for Mr. McCoombs. “Show him that watch and he will take care of you,” he said as he shook hands with me.
I went out Adams Street as he directed and rang the bell at the first house beyond the bridge. A young lady answered. I had never seen her before, and yet I knew her, and knew also that I was among friends. I asked her if she was not Miss Kirtland. She said that she was.
The resemblance between her and her brother, Lieutenant Tom Kirtland, of my regiment, was pronounced. I asked her if Mr. McCoombs was at home. She said he lived in the next house. The lady who came to the door at the next house told me that Mr. McCoombs was at the cotton gin, but for me to have a seat and wait for him, as he would soon be coming in to dinner. When he came, I showed him Col. McGavock’s valuables and told him about the Colonel’s death. He was very much affected, and we were still talking when the dinner bell rang.
He requested me to wait a minute, and he went into the house and got a coat and a vest that were just my fit and brought along a beaver hat to complete my costume. Then we walked into the dining room, and I was introduced to his wife and daughters as his nephew from Cincinnati. I suppose his wife and daughters thought their Northern kinsman rather a ravenous fellow, and in my heart I blessed the Professor.
After dinner, Mr. McCoombs and I discussed the matter as to what was best to be done. He called in his wife and his daughter. Miss Mollie, and told them the whole story, but cautioned them to say nothing about it to his other daughter, who had a Yankee captain on her string. Mr. McCoombs decided that ft would be best for him to send over into Arkansas for Dr. Grundy McGavock; and as he had to get back to his cotton gin, he turned me over to Miss Molly, who said that I must rest for a while and then we would go out and see the town. In. the meantime, I was to make myself at home.
On the second day after my installation in the McCoomb’s house Mrs. Col. Walker called on me. I do not know how she found out I was there, and I did not ask her. She made all kinds of excuses for what she termed her unkindness to me, but I insisted that she was right about it. She spent the whole afternoon with me, and made many inquiries about her boys. She wanted me to come and make her house my home while I remained in Memphis. I thanked her and told her that I thought I had better stay where I was.
On the third day after my arrival a gentleman came to the front door. From my post in the parlor I heard him say: “I want to see Pat Griffin.” I peeped out and ascertained that it was not a Yankee, and then I went into the hall, met him, and told him that I was Pat Griffin. He shook hands with me and explained that he was the Colonel’s brother, Dr. Grundy McGavock. I knew he was telling me the truth, for he resembled the Colonel in many ways. He told me to tell him everything about the sad happening at Raymond.
When I told him all, I handed over the Colonel’s watch and ring, his money and valuable papers. It was a sad hour for both of us. Dr. McGavock was very grateful, and he pulled out a roll of greenbacks and told me to help myself. I told him I would need very little money, as I intended to make my way through the lines and back to my command in a few days. I took forty dollars from his roll; but he insisted that if I tried to get through the lines I would be caught and I would need all the money I could get, and he pressed several additional bills into my hands. I never saw him again; and yet, if I had needed his assistance in after years, I knew that he would have responded.
On the next day Mrs. Col. Walker came to see me again and brought me a valise full of clothes. In this collection there was a handsome suit that she was sure would fit me. I assured her that I was very thankful for all these gifts, but that I expected to do considerable walking in the near future and must be as light as possible for die road. She seemed to feel hurt because I would not take the clothing, and we finally compromised by my taking the fine suit of clothes. I put them on the next morning, and was so fine I hardly knew myself.
I took the advice of other heads and did not attempt to go through the lines at Memphis, as the woods all around were said to be deeply infested with Yankees.
I thanked my friends, the McCoombses, for their kindness to me; and after bidding them good-by, I procured a ticket via boat to Louisville.
(The waterfront at Louisville in the 1860s. Image from Harper’s Weekly Illustrated, “The Journal of Civilization.”)
I arrived at Louisville in the latter part of June, 1863. The first man I saw that I knew in Louisville was “Shorty” L, who had deserted at Fort Henry. He pretended that he did not know me, but I reminded him that he knew me very well down at Fort Henry a year gone.
I went to the Gate House and met Dr. Cheatham, who was stopping there. Later, I met a member of my company who had taken the oath at Camp Douglas. He invited me to go home with him, and I did. I had known him when we were children and knew his mother and sister, so did not fed any uneasiness in going to their home.
On the next day I hired out to a government boss, who was going to Nashville with a train toad of men to be distributed on the different jobs of work the government was interested in. In a room on Main Street, near Fifth Street, I met the crowd of fifty men who were going down. I was going to Nashville, but all at once I felt sick.
We felt into tine and marched off two and two toward the Louisville and Nashville depot. I finally became so sick that I had to fall out of line, and I sat down on the curbstone. I hailed the first hack that came that way and told the driver to take me tack to my friend’s house. Arriving there, I went to bed immediately. The next morning I had a breaking out all over my hands and face, and the old doctor who was called in pronounced it smallpox. My friend’s mother said that she and all of her children had bad the disease and she had no fear of it.
She told the doctor that I was a stranger and far from home, and she would rather that he did not report my case. He was a good old Rebel, and he was glad to do anything he could to favor me. I got along nicely, and had no visitors with the exception of a Yankee lieutenant and two privates.
They came to the house one day and asked my friend’s mother if she was not harboring a Rebel. She said there was no one in the house save a friend who was very sick. They insisted on seeing me, and she pointed to the door of the dark room where I was. I pulled the cover up over my head and pretended to be asleep. The lieutenant called for a light. He pulled the quilts back and held the lighted candle close to my face.
One look was sufficient to terrify them. He and his escort left there at a double-quick march, and I was left to my recuperation, and the prospect of the long road back to the Bloody Tinth
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Note: * Jehu was the tenth king of Israel. Uncle Patrick may be using an ethnic slur.
After the funeral was done, they put me into a room with two other officers who were prisoners, one of whom was Capt Broughton, of Dallas, Texas. This room was about 12×14 feet square, and was quite bare as to furnishings. We had to sleep on our blankets and use our canteens for pillows. Just after sunup next morning the Yanks marched in Lieut. Bill Foote. I was sorry for Billy to be a prisoner, but so many things had happened past few hours that I could have cried for joy at sight of his friendly face.
Time did not hang heavy on my hands after his arrival. I made up my mind that I would not go to prison if there was any possible chance for escape. I looked around the little old room in which we were confined and discovered that there was a door leading into another room. This door was locked, but it did not take me long to effect an entrance, and there I found stored away boxes of plug tobacco that reached halfway up to the ceiling. Well, that find was equal to a gold mine, for tobacco was very scarce at that time.
I told my fellow-prisoners to keep a close mouth regarding my find; that it might mean a good many dinners, and breakfasts for us. Foote promised that he would not allow anyone to enter the room under any circumstances. They guarded the secret well. I still had my parole, so I called for a guard to accompany me down to breakfast, and on the way I asked the bluecoat if he chewed tobacco. He said that he did, and I immediately presented him with a plug. He asked me where I got it, and I told him I had a friend who would furnish it.
He said that I could sell a wagon-load. I told him we would divide the profits on the sales if he would help me to dispose of it. That Yankee must have been a retail clerk before he went into the army, for he sold tobacco right and left. On that first morning we sold eleven dollars worth of the weed before breakfast. I had three extra meals put up for my comrades, whenever the Yank was off duty after that, he came around to get a fresh supply.
The next morning I went to see Capt. McGuire and told him that I could not stand being confined in that little old room, and I handed him over a sample of plug tobacco. He cut off a chew and passed it back to me. I told him to keep it, that I knew where I could get plenty more. The tobacco helped to win him over, and he gave me a permit good within city limits during the time of our stay in Raymond. I got more than five hundred dollars clear sale of tobacco.
I had an opportunity to visit every outlet and found them all heavily guarded, and I realized that I could not escape by land. The news came one day that we were soon to start for Yankeedom, so I went in the early morning out to the spot where the remains of my colonel lay, and, longing to see him again and to know sure that he was there he was there, I uncovered the coffin and took off the lid and looked upon his dear face for the last time. His hair and beard seemed to have grown much longer. I covered the coffin over carefully and banked up the grave, and then I took a farewell look at the spot where he lay.
Two days later we were marched to the Mississippi River, where we were put aboard transports and started to a Northern prison. I had CoL McGavock’s watch, his valuable papers, and nine hundred dollars in Confederate money. On board the boat the officers had to pay for their food or starve. My comrades had no money, so I had to come to the rescue with my five hundred dollars tobacco money. Capt Broughton borrowed one hundred dollars from me, and whatever was mine was Foote’s, and of course we had to pay for rations for the rest of the fellows. Well, when we landed at Two Mile Island, above Memphis, I had just one twenty-five-cent shinplaster left.
Capt Neff, of the 51st Indiana Infantry Regiment, was in command of the boat we were on. He was a gentlemanly sort of a fellow, but of course he had to obey the strict orders issued to him. I told him long before we got to Two Mile Island that he would never take me to a Yankee prison. “I’ll bet five dollars I do” was his reply, and I at once bet him five dollars he would not. He smiled and insisted that we should shake hands on the bet. I shook hands with him, and told him to pay the money to Bill Foote when he found me gone.
When we reached the island, I looked around to see how the land lay, but there were too many Yankee guards to hinder my progress. The bluecoats were on each side of the river and Memphis was two miles distant. I knew I could swim down to die city, but was afraid Lieut. Foote could not hold out to get there. However, I went up on deck and talked die matter over with him. Without a moment’s hesitation he said: “I will go with you.” That evening we went down into the wheelhouse.
Foote looked down into the water and then across the river and down the river, and I knew by the expression on his face that it would be best for him to stay on board. I would rather have gone on to the Yankee prison with him than have him drowned.
I told him if he had the least fear he must not attempt it We went up into the cabin, and as I passed Capt Neff I reminded him of our bet and told him to be sure to give the money to Foote, He laughed and said: “All right” I had on a double-breasted military coat, with two lace bars on the sleeve and lace around the collar, denoting my rank. Of course this rendered me a conspicuous figure among the prisoners, and the captain could locate me quicker than anyone else on board.
Lieut. Foote (“Tinfoot” we called him) and I went into one of the staterooms and had a farewell chat. I gave him my uniform coat and cap and insisted that he put them on. I got a life preserver that I had hidden away to use on this occasion, clapped Foote’s old white hat on my head and walked out in my shirt-sleeves. Billy sat down with his back toward me as I walked off.
Thirty-six years elapsed before I saw him again. We met in the city of San Francisco, when I went there with the party of Tennesseans sent to meet the 1st Tennessee Regiment upon its return from the Philippine Islands. During those years he had become one of the most successful lawyers in the West There was nothing about him like the Billy Foote of the old days, save his bright, dark eyes and genial, happy manner. The snows of all those winters had left a whitening touch upon his dark locks, and his figure bad lost its whippersnapper slenderness. It seems only a few short months since we parted with a promise to meet again soon, but my dear old comrade has answered the summons.
(Editor’s note: Patrick’s son, Walker E. Griffin may have been a member of the 1st Tennessee Regiment. Walker was born in 1880 in Nashville, the last child born to Patrick’s first wife, the former Bridgett Welch).
It is my pride and pleasure to be able to say that “Tinfoot” made his mark, and that out there in the sunset land no man stood above him.
But to my story. I went into the wheelhouse, put the life preserver between my legs, fastened it, and let myself down into the water gently. If any one on board saw me, he did not think the matter of enough importance to report it. I floated down the river slowly and steered myself to the back end of a stern-wheel boat. I climbed up on the wheel, went around on the edge of the boat and mingled with the hands who were unloading the cargo. There were a number of soldiers and steamboat men about, and one of the boatmen laughed at my bedraggled appearance and told his companion that I was a country yap who had fallen into the river. A soldier asked me if I fell in, and I answered “yes,” and that I was going home then to get some dry clothes.
I was willing to masquerade as anything or anybody until my colonel’s belongings were turned over to his own people. Only a fellow who had been a prisoner can appreciate the feeling of friendly ground beneath his feet once more.
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
(“Battle of Raymond” by Theodore Davis – Harper’s Weekly, June 13th, 1863, from a sketch by Theodore Davis. Image courtesy Wikipedia).
These have been the words of Patrick Griffin, taken from an address he gave in 1905, some forty-two years after the events he describes. His unit- the Bloody Tinth- had been ordered from Port Hudson to the vicinity to Raymond, just west of Jackson, Mississippi in Hinds County. At his point in the great struggle the Confederates had acquitted themselves well. Back in Culpeper, the forces of Robert E. Lee were preparing tomove North to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. But in the West, the implacable U.S. Grant was determined to seize Vicksburg and truncate the lines of communication between the rebelling states.
The Battle of Raymond was fought on May 12, 1863, less than a month before the Army of Northern Virginia would come to grief at Gettysburg. The bitter fight pitted elements of Grant’s Army of the Tennessee against Lt. Gen John C. Pemberton’s Department of the Mississippi and East Louisiana. The Confederates failed to prevent the Federal troops from reaching the Southern Railroad, effectively isolating Vicksburg to the north and preventing Confederate reinforcements and logistic supplies from reaching the forces in the field.
During the morning of the 12th, the Confederates enjoyed a two-to-one advantage in numbers, as they faced off across Fourteen Mile Creek against a single Federal brigade. However, as morning turned to noon and the Confederates waited in ambush, the remainder of the Federal division secretly deployed into the fields beside the brigade, giving the Union troops a three to one advantage in numbers and a seven to one advantage in artillery. In comparison with the major engagements in Virginia, this battle produced relatively few casualties: Union casualties at Raymond were 68 killed, 341 wounded, and 37 missing. The Confederate casualties were nearly double: 100 killed, 305 wounded, and 415 captured. That is where things get personal, since one of the dead was the Cavalier Commander of the Bloody Tinth, and one of the captured was kin.
I will let him tell you about it in a moment, but this small battle had an inordinately large impact on the Vicksburg Campaign. Union interdiction of the railroad interrupted Pemberton’s attempt to further consolidate his forces and prevented him from linking up with his boss, General Joe Johnson, and forced the next encounter a few days later at Champion Hill. It also burnished the reputation of General Grant, who would soon be called by President Lincoln to carry the war to victory in the East.
Great-Great Uncle Patrick paused at the podium and took a sip of water to wet his whistle, and surveryed the crowd before him in the packed hall. He began again, saying:
“From Port Hudson we went to Jackson and then west to Raymond. We camped outside of Raymond on the night of May 11th 1863, and the next morning we marched through the town. The ladies who lived there came to meet us with baskets of pies, cakes, and good things. They were even kind enough to bring buckets of water and dippers, and many a soldier blessed them as they passed down die ranks.
A hushed stillness seemed to hover over the world that morning. A mile or so from town we sighted die enemy. We had marched up on a rise and were out in the open, and they were in the woods about one hundred yards in our front when they began to fire on us. I was standing about two paces in the rear of die line and Col. McGavock was standing about four paces in my rear. We had been under fire about twenty minutes, when I heard a ball strike something behind me. I have a dim remembrance of calling to God. It was my Colonel. He was about to fall. I caught him and eased him down with his head in die shadow of a little bush.
I knew he was going, and asked him if he had any message for his mother. His answer was: “Griffin, take care of me! Griffin, take care of me!” I put my canteen to his lips, but he was not conscious. He was shot through the left breast, and did not live more than five minutes.
When I saw that he was dead, I placed his head well in the shade and stepped back into position. The field officers being at the ends of the line, I had no opportunity to report to them that he had been killed.
The orders came in quick succession, “Left flank by file left!” “Double-quick, march!” and then “By the right flank!” and the next command was drowned out by the Rebel yell. We ‘charged the Yankees and chased them into the woods. At the edge of the woods the order was given to “Double-quick, march” and we were halted again under the protection of a little hill. On the top of this hill there was an old log cabin, and twenty of our fellows went into it to fire through the chinks in the wall at the enemy.
Not one of these men was ever seen alive again. We had to stand and see them shot down like rats in a hole. Every time one of them attempted to get away a bluecoat in the woods brought him down. I remember one member of my company, John Corbett, called to me to come and get his money for his wife. He said that he was wounded and dying. Any man who attempted to climb that hill must die also.
Lord, we learned what war meant that day.
While we were halted there, I met Lieut. Col. Grace and asked him if he knew that Col. McGavock had been killed when the battle first began. “My God!” he exclaimed, as though he hardly believed it I assured him that it was true. He then told me that the order was to get out of there the best way we could. I explained to him that I wanted to go back after the Colonel’s body, but he said that it was out of the question. I insisted that I had given my promise to the Colonel to take care of him, and that I was going to do it to the best of my ability, whatever happened. He replied that if I went it would be at my own risk.
I got two of the members of my company to volunteer to go with me. We found the body just where I had left it. We picked him up tenderly and started toward town. I hope and trust that God will never let me find a road so long and sorrowful again. Capt. George Diggons and Capt James Kirkman were the only members among the wounded of my regiment who were able to get away from the battlefield. The Confederates were retreating rapidly, and we were not far on the way when the Yanks came in sight. As soon as my two comrades saw them, they let loose of the Colonel’s body and started to run, but I drew my pistol and told them: they would have to die by him; but later, seeing there was no possible chance of escape, I told them they could go and I would stay with him.
The Yanks came rushing along, some of them stopping long enough to make some jeering, sarcastic remark, but they could not shove the iron any farther into my heart that day. It was fully two hours before the rear guard came up. The officer in charge was an Irishman, and I want to say right here that I am convinced that if ever there was a good Yankee he must have been Irish. I heard the fellows call him Capt McGuire, and I learned that he came from the same county in Ireland- Galway- my parents came from. He asked me who was this officer I was holding in my arms; and when I told him that it was my own colonel, McGavock— an Irish name—he took it for granted that the Colonel was a “townie” of mine, and he ordered his men to place the body in one of the army wagons.
The Colonel was free for evermore, and I was the lonesomest, saddest of prisoners.
When we got into town, night had fallen. We were taken to a hotel that had been vacated by its owner and was being used as a prison by the Yankees. McGuire promised to try to procure a parole for me for a few days. The Colonel’s body was placed upon the porch at the hotel and remained there till morning. Although I was literally worn out I did not sleep a wink that night The next morning, Capt. McGuire came with a two days’ parole for me. I got a carpenter and asked him to make a box coffin, for which I paid him twenty dollars.
My fellow-prisoners assisted me in any way they possibly could. Many friendly hands were to help me place the Colonel’s body in the rude coffin. I hired a wagon in town, and got Capt. McGuire’s permission to have all the Confederate prisoners follow the body to the grave. We had quite an imposing procession, with, of course, Yankee guards along. I had the grave marked and called the attention of several of the people of Raymond lo its location, so that his people would have no trouble finding him when they came to bear him back to Tennessee.
When the funeral was over, we marched to the hotel prison. Although I was only a boy then, the memory of the miserable loneliness of that night has never been quite blotted out in the years that have intervened. No man has ever come across life’s pathway to fill McGavock’s place in my heart.
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
Patrick Griffin Speaks
Gentle readers, the following paper was read by Patrick Griffin at a meeting of Frank Cheatham Camp, Confederate Veterans of America, at Nashville, Tennessee in the year 1905. The Wright Brothers had just flow the first successful airplane two years before. It is the overlap of generations that is striking here- Patrick had been brought to America from Ireland as an infant, fought in the Civil War as a young man, and now, as a gray-beard in a new century, told his tale to a dwindling number of comrades. In a fighter squadron it was always important to be first to the blackboard in order to establish who had “won” a mock engagement. In terms of memory, though. Patrick was the last man standing, and the only one left who knew the real details of his story. It is a characteristic reminiscence of the famous Irish regiment, and was published in the Nashville, (Tenn.) American as fact.
It is pretty amazing to hear the words of your ancestors, spoken 110 years ago, about events that had happened more than a century before. For his address, Patrick wore a Confederate Officer’s uniform of his own design, took a sip of water, cleared his throat and began to speak:
“I appreciate the opportunity to tell you something about my old regiment, the “Bloody Tinth” Tennessee Infantry, Irish, and to give you a few glimpses of a clean, strong, brave man, a noble soldier, a loyal friend, Col. Randall W. McGavock. What a multiplicity of things the sound of that name brings to mind! Across the years I hear the tread of marching armies and the notes of the fife and drum.
Once again Capt. McGavock ranges his company in Cheatham’s store on College Street. The command is given for the “Sons of Erin” to march, and I find myself walking with old Jimmy Morrissey and making an earnest effort to drown the sound of his fife in the glorious strains of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
Jimmy Morrissey had been a fifer in the English army, so this going to war was nothing new to him; but I was the proudest boy in the world without a doubt, for, notwithstanding the fact that my mother had repeatedly declared that I was under age and had on one occasion taken me out of the ranks and led me home by the ear, the conceit would not down that the war could not be carried on unless I were there to make the music, and so on that never-to-be-forgotten day when we marched down to the wharf and boarded the steamboat B. M. Runyon I would not have been willing to exchange places with Gen. Lee.
On the day we embarked, Capt. McGavock came up to the standard of my ideal, and I styled him “God’s own gentleman.” While it was only a boy’s thought, I never have found a more appropriate title for him. I might spend the night idling you of innumerable noble deeds that could be traceable back to him. My mother was there in the crowd on the wharf with several of my relatives, and a slip of a girl with blue-gray Irish eyes and auburn hair stood out from amongst them to wave her hand to me.
I can almost see the sunlight on the water and the two big fellows who jumped overboard Martin Gibbons and Tom Feeny. They could not stand the pressure; but they were picked up, and as the boat started up the river to make the turn Jimmy Morrissey and I started up the same old tune of “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and we kept it going till the hills around Nashville had vanished from sight.
At Clarksville, we started in on it again, and another member of the company jumped overboard. Then the captain advised us to give them something else, so after our comrade was rescued we gave them old “Garry Owen” all the way down to Dover.
At Dover we helped to build Fort Donelson. Later, after the “Sons of Erin” became Company H, 10th Tennessee Infantry, we went down on the Tennessee River and built Fort Henry. At Fort Henry there was no whisky on our side of the river, but across the stretch of water was Madame Peggy’s saloon. There was some mystery as to where the beverage she sold was obtained, but this only added to her popularity. Many an amusing incident had its root branch in Peggy’s shop.
One of these, treasured in the memoirs of Capt. Tom Gibson’s company, I will relate: One night Paddy Sullivan and Timothy Tansey went over to Lady Peggy’s to get some whisky; and when they returned to the river bank a small cloud appeared upon the horizon. They paid no attention to this, however, but rowed out into the middle of the wide Tennessee River. A squall suddenly overtook Paddy and Timothy. The waves got so high that the brave ladies thought their time had come. Timothy said to Paddy: “Bejabbers, Paddy, and the boat will lie overturned and we will lose our whisky.”
Says Paddy to Timothy: “Be sure and we won’t; we will just drink it and save it.” And drink it they did.
The refreshment added to their courage and strength, and they reached the shore, but the boys in camp were minus their jiggers. Peggy did a land office business until Col. Heiman ordered all the skiffs and small boats in the neighborhood smashed. I never visited her shop until after the destruction of the boats. All my life I had had a close acquaintance with water, so the old river held no terrors for me, and only a short interval elapsed before I was commissioned courier and general canteen bearer between Peggy’s and the fort. The hours were brimming over with fun.
Most every night we had a stag dance, and there was an exchange of visits right and left, and no time to think of the dark days ahead. We had not been at Fort Henry very long when we got our full quota of Irish companies to make a regiment, and Capt. McGavock became-lieutenant colonel of that regiment-the 10th Tennessee Infantry, Irish. In the new companies that came in, several better drummers than I was were found, so I had to hand over my instrument; and to console me for the toss they made me orderly sergeant of the “Sons of Erin,” now Company H.
At Fort Henry we got our first taste of bombshells, and we went back to Fort Donelson to make the acquaintance of Minie balls. It was at this period that the regiment won its sobriquet of “Bloody Tinth” It happened in this way: At the evacuation of Fort Henry it was rumored that the Yankees were trying to head us off, but for some reason the “Tinth” failed to get this news.
(General U.S. Grant pressing the Rebels at Fort Donelson).
The Yankees were pressing us closely, and the two regiments in the lead threw down their guns in order to get to Fort Donelson at a double-quick, and the “Tinth,” bringing up the rear, picked up the cast-off guns, so we had about seven shots apiece when the Yanks charged us. It is a sure-enough Irishman who will have first blood in a fight With all their fighting ability, the “Tinth” was surrendered at Fort Donelson without their knowledge or consent, and for the first time since we left Nashville, Lieut. Col. McGavock and I were parted. He was sent to Camp Chase, and I with Company H to Camp Douglas.
Most of you are conversant with the routine of prison life. I will not go into detail regarding it Suffice it to say that I served with distinction as orderly sergeant of Company H, having been sent to the “Black Hole” oftener than any other orderly sergeant for overdrawing rations and clothes. Doubt- less I would have gotten into very serious trouble during the first few months of our imprisonment were it not that Col. Mulligan, the commander of the post, was an Irishman, and, hearing that my name was Pat, he took me for an Irishman, too; and, although he was a Yankee, he had a heart. Some of our fellows were in bad shape there, and they certainly needed all that I could get for them.
All of the prisoners regretted the removal of Col. Mulligan; and well they might, for it was a “son of a gun” that came after him—Col. Tucker. It makes me mad now to think about him. We had to fortify our bunks, and did not dare to poke our heads outside of the barracks after night- fall unless we were willing to have bullets pitched our way. We were offered every inducement to take the oath or join the Yankee army. But after meeting Col. Tucker, I knew that it would be impossible for me to ever become a Yankee.
Very few of the boys went over to the other side. I think those of us who were there found the latter portion of that seven months about the worst part of our existence. It is needless to say that the news of exchange was a matter for general rejoicing; and when Col.Tucker and Chicago faded from sight we felt as if we had gotten out of the devil’s clutches. At Cairo, our officers were waiting for us. Most of them were looking the worse for wear, but O how good it was to know that those of us who were faithful were together again!
From Cairo we went by boat to the island above Vicksburg, where Grant was trying to change the course of the Mississippi and from this island we were ferried over to Vicksburg. After landing, we marched to a field outside of the city, where the ladies had prepared a grand barbecue for us. It is hardly necessary for me to tell you how we boys did justice to aII the good things.
Next we went into camp at Clinton, where we were sworn in for three years, or the duration of the the war. We elected our officers and made preparations to go on the warpath once more. Lieut Col. McGavock became our colonel- Sam Thompson, lieutenant colonel, William Grace, Major, Theodore Kelsey, adjutant. We spent the ensuing few months hunting Yanks in the country around Vicksburg, until we were ordered via Holly Springs, Miss, to reinforce Price and Vandorn, who were moving on Corinth.
We did not get there in time. but we joined the retreating army near that place and went on one of the severest marches of the War. It rained in torrents’ and the mud and water were awful. On this march many of our men, fresh from prison, were stricken with sickness. Just before we reached Grenada one evening, being sick and worn out from exposure, Capt Thomas Gibson concluded that he would leave camp and go into an abandoned Negro cabin near by for shelter.
After Gibson had got a good fire going, in came Lieut. Lynch Donnahue, of the regiment, wet and sick also. After drying their clothing and shoes a bit, they went to sleep. Gibson made a pillow of his shoes and advised Donnahue to do likewise; but the Lieutenant had more confidence in mankind and left his shoes near the fire to dry. While the two officers were sound asleep, some soldiers came into the cabin and took Lieut. Donnahue’s shoes.
Imagine the cuss words when Donnahue found his shoes gone, and he sick and the rain streaming down. Gibson was a good forager, however, and he soon hailed a servant of Gen. Price’s who was passing by the cabin, and he persuaded the Negro with some cash to procure a pair of shoes for his guest.
At Grenada we received orders to go to Jackson. We boarded the cars and were sent on to Vicksburg, as it was rumored that the Yankees were about to storm the city. We got into Vicksburg at night, and were ordered up on Snyder’s Bluff. I do not believe any man who was there will ever forget that night, even if he were to live a thousand years. Such thunder, rain and lightning I never saw and heard, before or since. We were ordered not to make a sound, not even so much as a whisper. We could only take a step when the lightning flashed, and then we moved from one tree to another, clinging to the branches to keep from slipping over the bluff. Up at the mouth of the Yazoo we could catch a glimpse of the Yankee gunboat lights.
(Vic’s comment: Patrick’s future brother-in-law was in the Union host below the town).
For the next several nights we were sent down on the levee. The march and long wait were made in absolute silence. The enemy must have suspected that the “Tinth” was waiting to give them a warm reception, for they failed to show up. At intervals “Long Tom” would throw a ball from the top of Snyder’s Bluff up the river to entertain the gunboats.
From Vicksburg we went on a transport to Port Hudson.
Queer things happened on that transport. When we reached Port Hudson, the boat was minus all of its mirrors, knives forks, spoons, blankets, and rations. The captain of the transport reported the matter to Col. McGavock, who ordered his men to fall into line, spread their knapsacks on the ground and open them out, and also to turn their pockets inside out. Colonel McGavock, the officers of the regiment, and the captain of the boat went from one end of the line to the other but not one thing could they find that belonged to the boat. After the search was completed, Col. McGavock made a speech to the captain of the transport, in which he eulogized his regiment, saying that it was made up of honest and brave men, and that as a matter of course, it must have been some other soldiers or thieves that had ransacked the boat. However, Col. McGavock went to the commissary and drew enough rations to supply the captain and his crew until they got back to Vicksburg.
We helped to fortify Port Hudson, and we were there at the bombardment. On the night of the bombardment, we had a pyramid of lumber built up about a mile below the port, right opposite where the gunboats were anchored. We had orders to set fire to the pine knots when the first boat advanced. Two forty-five-gun frigates started up the river at nightfall.
(Union gunboats attempt to run the gauntlet at Port Hudson, from the etching in Haper’s Magazine).
The pine knots were ablaze instantly, and every movement of the fleet was seen by the gunners at the port. The first frigate succeeded in getting past, but she was battered up considerably. The second frigate made an effort to compel the port to surrender, but we poured shot into her at such a rapid rate that she ran out die white flag. We ceased firing at once; and when her commander saw that we had stopped, they began firing on us again. Then the captain commanding the battery ordered the boys to “give ‘em red-hot shot.”
The order was obeyed, and the red-hot shot set fire to the frigate, her machinery stopped, and she began to swing round and round. The crew jumped overboard, and we could hear the cries and groans of die wounded and dying.
Admiral Dewey was on that frigate. He was not an admiral then, but be must have been a good swimmer.
Directly the fire reached their ammunition, when bombshells and cartridges began to explode in a grand fusillade. She floated down the river, and the boats of the fleet moved hurriedly in order to give her plenty of room to pass. Several miles below the magazine exploded, and we knew dial the end had come for that frigate. It was a wonderful sight!
The port lay in the shadows, and below it the Mississippi stretched away a veritable stream of fire. Farmers who lived ten miles away told me afterwards that the light was so bright at their places on that night that they could pick up pins in the road. After this disaster, the Yankees decided that it would be best to make an entrance by the back way.
At Port Hudson, Col. McGavock gave me a good round scolding for exposing myself in range of the enemy’s guns and being wantonly reckless. I think he must have had some premonition of his death, for he told me that he was afraid that he would never get back home.”
Tomorrrow: Port Hudson to Raymond
Copyright Vic Socotra 2015
(The Village of Clifden, in County Galway, where Honora Griffin’s odyssey began. The blue eyes in the family came from the Viking raider’s who harassed the coast of Ireland in olden days.)
I had the most extraordinary dream last night, vivid beyond belief. There was a fair amount of stuff going on in it that was mildly interesting, to me, anyway. But the most vivid moment was the encounter with my Mother’s ghost. I could see every line in her face and the pale blue of her eyes, which like mine are the cold of the sea. We talked briefly- she did not appear to know that she had passed- but was concerned with how everyone was doing.
It was good to see her, since this is the only means I have to interact with Mother on this side of the River Styx.
As I set up the mobile office, still marveling at how real it had seemed, I sipped coffee and thought of her, and her Irish family. They were railroad and river people. Since I am in the Great State of Mississippi at the moment, I thought I might account for how the extended family flowed down to the Gulf.
As I mentioned a couple times on this search for roots along the river, James Foley was my great-great-grandfather. He married Patrick Griffin’s sister, Barbara, in 1864.
It is another wartime story, but this one is not tall tales of cannon-fire and contraband and courtly Colonels, but of the sacrifice of women, who bear the special burden of coping with the madness of the men around them.
Author and historian Becky Black has touched on the story of Honora McDonough, Patrick’s mother, and her amazing trans-oceanic adventures. Becky was mostly interested in Patrick, since his account of the battle at Raymond is one of the most vivid extent, and possibly some of it is true.
Honora’s story is just as amazing, but we only have the outlines of it. She married Michael Griffin, Pat’s dad, in Clifden, County Galway, Ireland around 1843. They had four children: Patrick being the eldest in and Barbara the second of four. She was the “little mother” to the two younger ones, Mary and William.
The three oldest Griffins departed County Galway as the Famine rose to a peak in 1847, and things were at the worst. On one day alone in that awful year,160 corpses were picked from the Galway County roads. On another, in November of 1848, 240 died in the Clifden workhouse.
The Griffins were not alone in hunger and the desire to get away from the crushing poverty. All that could flee to the boats in the harbor did so. Honora’s brother Patrick McDonough went off to America as part of the diaspora. Fourteen years later, he wound up a sailor, in service to the Union, on an iron-clad on the Mississippi. It is said that when the war was finally done, he was married in New Orleans, the amazing Creole city at the end of the fabulous Mississippi River.
Our Irish were junction-people, living where the waters and the rails came together.
To escape the troubles, the Griffins left the younger children behind with Mary, Honora’s mother, who kept a small hostel. (She lived to be 111!). They fully intended to return when the bad times were over, and Michael and Honora sternly informed mother Mary that they did not want their daughters to wed while they were gone. Little Barbara listened, and younger Mary did not.
Knowing she would be disowned if she did, she ran away, hopefully with her suitor, and was never heard from again. Her woman’s story may lead here to America, too, but that branch of the family was sundered forever, and some say she is buried in Irish soil.
Honora and Michael wanted to recover their children, and perhaps take over the hostel. But sunstroke felled Mike in his tracks as he worked on the railroad in Tennessee. He died at Cedar Hill, and Honora abandoned the idea of returning to Ireland. She married Thomas Griffin; no relation, the records tell me. She had two children by him; Martin, who lived until 1910, and Myles, who was “lost at sea,” date unknown.
Barbara was fifteen in 1860, and determined to get her mother’s blessing, came to America to find a husband.
She must have been a tough cookie. She said “farewell” to her grandmother and brother and crossed the Atlantic on her own. She came to Nashville in time to spend the war years there. No one knows how or where, but in 1864, she hooked up with Yankee soldier James Foley, a strapping young blonde with a ruddy complexion who was flush with cash from his part-bonus, and on veteran’s leave. He had concluded his first three-year enlistment in the Union Army, and re-enlisted under great pressure.
Barbara must have had a way with words the same way Patrick did. She convinced James to desert, and not to return to the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The records say he went missing in Cincinnati.
Because he was technically a deserter, he never filed for a pension, and never was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the VFW of the day. But he did live to a great age, not passing away until 1922.
Honora lived with Patrick and Barbara, by turns, after her second husband died. In her declining years, she loved to walk, though she was bent with arthritis and was compelled to use crutches. She died at the ripe age of 88, in a home for the aged and was buried by her brother Patrick’s son, a Mr. McDonough, “who owned the funeral home from which she was buried.”
The family records say she was short and stout; light complexioned, with a square face. You can see some of that in the period picture of her son Patrick in his uniform of the 10th Tennessee Irish I published yesterday. Pat’s Dad, Mike, by contrast, was the very personification of the Black Irish: dark-completion, with dark eyes and black curly hair. He is said to be buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery (Catholic) six miles outside of Cedar Hill.
After the War ended, and Patrick’s great adventure came to a close, he married Bridget Welsh. They had five children together, including Louisa McGavock Griffin, born on April 10th, 1876, and last-born Walker E. Griffin, in 1880.
He continued the Irish tradition of arms, and served in the Spanish American War, and honored his father by naming one of his sons, born in 1902, Patrick M. Griffin.
After Bridget passed away, Patrick married the melodically-named Annie Deane Breene. They had two children together, and Patrick passed away , on June 5, 1921, in the house he built at 300 12th Ave, South, in Nashville. He was 77, and told a good tale to the day he died.
That is when Louisa McGavock Griffin took the place over, and stayed until 1951, when she retired to be with family in Mississippi.
The other Griffin daughters, allied with the Piggotts, Smiths and Martins of Tylertown, Mississippi, southwest of Hattiesburg, almost all the way to Louisiana. They made their homes down the river through the 20th century, and right into this one.
If I can find the time, I will visit the places that Patrick Griffin’s descendants call home. It’s a family affair, after all.
Copyright 2015 Vic Socotra
The War in the West
Patrick Griffin: The Adventure of a Lifetime
By Rebecca Blackwell Drake
(Author Becky Drake, speaking to a gathering of Civil War enthusiasts on the Hill of Death at Champion Hill. That struggle was part of the Union campaign that built the reputation of U. S, Grant, and was part of the strategic effort to secure Vicksburg, the Gibraltar of the South. The city dominates the bluff above the Mississippi River and was the lifeblood of the Western Theater. Grandfather James was there during the siege, and in the first year of his three-year enlistment participated in the massive engagement at Shiloh, also known as Pittsburg Landing in the south. The War still casts long shadows here in The West).
Author’s note: This narrative is based on an interview with Vic Socotra, great-great nephew of Patrick Griffin. Genealogical information was compiled by Barbara Foley Nakaska in 1963. She was Patrick’s great-niece, and heard the stories first hand from their source.
Patrick Martin Griffin, one of the most colorful figures to have fought in the Battle of Raymond, MS, was born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1844, in County Galway, Ireland. Not only was Patrick named for the patron saint of Ireland but he was also blessed with the gift of blarney, an Irish term meaning the gift of gab. During his long lifetime, Patrick used his uniquely Irish gift to his advantage, and his tales still stir the blood today.
Patrick immigrated to the United States around 1847 with his parents Michael and Honora Griffin. The Potato Famine was at its height, and in desperation, the little family left three children behind to travel to the New World. Patrick was only three years old when the sailing ship David completed an arduous thirteen-week passage of the Atlantic and docked at the bustling port of Baltimore. Michael found employment as a navvie, laying track for the B & O and L & N Railroads, and followed construction south from Maryland to the Potomac river port at Alexandria, Virginia. Two years later, the family followed the rails to the new transportation hub at Gordonsville, VA, and thence west to Nashville, where Michael continued to swing a hammer for the railroad.
The Griffin family had just begun to live the American Dream when hard manual labor took its toll. Michael died of sunstroke on the job, leaving Honora a widow with a young son to raise. Instead of returning to her family in Ireland, she decided to make Nashville her home and eventually remarried. As a young teenager, Patrick began to hang around local Irish pubs and became captivated with the Sons of Erin, a company of Irish lads who loved military drills, music, whiskey and the Democratic Party.
Too young to hoist a rifle, Patrick beat the drum as the lads marched in the park.
In 1861, with the rumblings of war on the horizon, Patrick begged his mother to let him enlist in the Sons of Erin commanded by Randal McGavock, a leading figure in Nashville society and former Mayor. He was a dashing graduate of the Harvard Law School, and had been elected to office in 1858. He had ambitions far beyond the city on the river, though his prospects were dimmed by the rise of the Republicans, and decided to cast his lot with the Secessionists. The Sons of Erin flocked to his side, and Patrick was no exception.
(Young Uncle Patrick as a combat veteran, having returned from prison in Chicago in 1862.)
Honora argued that Patrick was too young to enlist, but the teenager would not be deterred from his desire to go to war behind the charismatic Lt. Colonel McGavock. In April 1861, with the Sons of Erin flag flying high, Patrick and the other Irish volunteers left Nashville by boat to join the Confederate Cause.
(Grant couldn’t make a go of business after the Mexican War, but he was a hell of a combat commander. His rise to fame and the great rivalry with Robert E. Lee was based on his success in the War in the West).
His fascination with war soon lost its charm when the Confederate army, including the Sons of Erin, was captured at the Battle of Fort Donelson by the forces of a hard-drinking, cigar-puffing veteran of the Mexican War named Ulysses Simpson Grant. The regiment was sent to a prison in Chicago where they “wintered it” while waiting for prisoner exchange. In September 1862, after seven months of confinement, Patrick and the other prisoners were exchanged and left for Jackson, Mississippi, for the reorganization of 10th Tennessee.
A year later, May 12, 1863, Patrick was captured once again, this time during the Battle of Raymond. The days in Raymond were the most memorable in a life of adventure, and the saddest. Colonel McGavock, his father-figure and commander, was killed during the final stage of the battle.
In his memoirs, Patrick recalled the death: “We had marched up on a rise and were out in the open, and they were in the woods about one hundred yards in our front when they began to fire on us….We had been under fire about twenty minutes, when I heard a ball strike something behind me. I have a dim remembrance of calling to God. It was my Colonel. He was about to fall. I caught him and eased him down with his head in the shadow of a little bush. I knew he was going, and asked him if he had any message for his mother. His answer was ‘Griffin, take care of me! Griffin, take care of me!’ I put my canteen to his lips but he was not conscious. He was shot through the left breast, and did not live more than five minutes.”
Patrick also recalled how he took McGavock’s white linen handkerchief from his left hip pocket and dipped it in McGavock’s blood. He would give the handkerchief to Louisa McGavock, the colonel’s mother. Patrick also collected his colonel’s personal effects: a signet ring, gold watch, and a few papers; among them was McGavock’s journal, with its poignant last entry that morning.
The Confederates were overwhelmed and Patrick was again captured by the Yankees. The day after the Battle of Raymond, Patrick was issued a parole to bury his Colonel in the Raymond cemetery. A wooden coffin was hastily nailed together and laid tenderly on a bed of a hired wagon for transport to the local cemetery. Trailing along behind the casket was a ragged squad of Confederate prisoners and a small gathering of townspeople.
Vic Socotra, great-great nephew of Patrick Griffin, commented on Patrick’s memoirs of the Battle of Raymond: “I had a chance to review Patrick’s service record at the National Archives a few years ago, and his story appears based on fact, regardless of the filigree that grew around it as the years went by. The story of his interaction with Colonel McGavock’s body at Raymond is there, in the spidery handwriting and brown ink of the time. If the story got better with time, that is only to be expected.”
Following the Battle of Raymond and a miraculous escape from the Yankee captors, Patrick continued his service in the war. After the fall of Atlanta, he was detailed to be one of General Hood’s scouts. A biographical sketch of Patrick Griffin written in 1902 states, “He was wounded twice, and was one of three surviving members of the company after the battle of Peachtree Creek. After the fall of Atlanta, he was detailed to General Hood’s Headquarters Scouts. In sum, he was captured three times: after Ft. Donelson, after the slaughter in Raymond, and at the end of the war when Hood turned himself in. Exchanged, escaped, and paroled were the terms he used as he accounted his returns. Along the way, he participated in twenty-four general engagements.”
After the war, Patrick, age 21, returned to Nashville and began a civilian life. He married Bridget Welch and had six children with her, though only three survived infancy. They named one of the girls was named Louisa McGavock in memory of Colonel McGavock’s mother, Louisa McGavock. After Bridget’s death, he married Annie Dean Breene and had two more children, both sons. Patrick’s career was linked to the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad in Nashville, where he worked for 52 years.
He built a fine home and became Superintendent of the Planing Mill for the NC & SL.
In 1905, Patrick’s “gift of gab” led him to submit a lengthy and delightful article to the Confederate Veteran Magazine in which he reminisced his war experiences. The stories he recreated were colorful and essentially truthful – although most likely with a certain amount of filigree brought about through the passing of time.
Patrick’s gift for words and story telling has been passed down to his great-great- nephew, Vic, an itinerant intelligence officer and radio correspondent. Of his Irish ancestors, Vic wrote: “I was going to leave St. Patrick’s Day behind this year, but it appears that the Irish are not done with me just yet. I got an e-mail from Nashville, asking for some information about my ancestor who appears in a portrait commissioned for the history of the Irish regiment raised in that city to fight for the Confederacy.
I have seen a copy of the painting, and it is an impressive thing, with a big gray horse rearing and a proud green banner floating. What I would really like to see is a family portrait of the dashing young Confederate, his lovely Irish sister (Barbara) and her husband, a strapping young Yankee teamster. But that is the root of the story, young people in a wild new land who were swept away in allegiances to new states and new causes. As for great-great Uncle Patrick, he is much more of a rogue than I had even expected – or – maybe he was just a 17-year-old Irish kid off to the greatest adventure of a lifetime.”
Patrick Griffin lived through America’s hardest years as a nation in the War Between the States, and saw his son Walker march off to the War with Spain. He then saw World War One come and go, and on June 5th, 1921, the proud old Confederate soldier died at the age of seventy-seven, in the house he built with his own hands.
His daughter Louisa McGavock Griffin, named for the mother of his beloved Colonel, lived in the house for another thirty years.”
Postscript: The gift of the Blarney ran in the family. After the Griffins settled in Nashville, Patrick’s sister, Barbara Griffin, immigrated to America. In 1864, she caught the eye of Irishman James Foley, who was regimental teamster in the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He had survived Shiloh and Vicksburg, but Barbara was irresistible. They married while he was on furlough, and his new Irish bride used her “silver tongue” to persuade James to desert, rather than return to the fighting. They too lived long lives after the great war, and kept in touch with Patrick and his family down through the years.
And there-in, gentle readers, lies the story I will attempt to tell. It is much better than dealing with the present.
Copyright Vic Socotra and Rebecca Blackwell Drake 2015
(Screen shot of the cover of Newsweek with a useful article by Fareed Zakaria on how to live with Radical Islam. Image Newsweek).
I just got back from a haircut administered by my Tunisian barber Ben up at the corner. I never go to anyone else, because I can trust Ben implicitly, even when he has an edged blade on me. Later on, I intend to have a drink (or two) poured by my favorite bartender in the world, Sammy, who is a debonairly handsome soccer- futball- player from Morocco.
I have been wrestling with all this for a long time, right around thirteen years. I have traveled much of the world and try to respect people in their cultural context, whether they like me or not. My favorite place in the Mid-East is Isreal, for all the logical reasons. One of the most fascinating is Cairo, capital of an ancient kingdom that has three times more history under the Pharos as it does under the Last Prophet of Allah.
But on the whole, I prefer societies that have more individual liberty than those that don’t, and that used to be about the depth of my personal preference.
That has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. In fact, it is one of the reasons that the daily story has become difficult to generate. I don’t want to be talking about this crap, and yet I can think of little that is as significant, and this is not over.
In fact, as Winston once observed, it is not the beginning of the end. Maybe only the end of the beginning.
Yesterday, I was visiting a place where I could not have my cell phone in the early afternoon, and between the time I was last able to check email in the car, and being re-united with my smart phone, there was that fire-fight in Belgium. Two dead at the apartment, a third man taken into custody, automatic weapons recovered, police uniforms and explosives.
There are many more young people- mostly men, but that is no longer an exclusive property of the bombers- who appear willing to conduct acts of mass slaughter in an effort to…well, that is the question, isn’t it? Do they want the West to submit to dhimmitude?
If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is a neologism combining the Arabic noun “Dhimmi” with the productive suffex “tude.” In Arabic, Dhimmi refers to the non-believer subjects of an Islamic State. The term has several distinct, but related meanings depending on the author and their intrinsic cultural bias.
Contextually, the meaning may be historical only, like “Catholic subjects of the Islamic-ruled caliphat e al-Andulus were considered dhimmis, or second class citizens.” There are those who use the word to stir up emotion, or by supporters of Sharia Law, who say that non-believers are free to follow their faiths, since Islam is a religion of tolerance, regardless of the recent evidence of the partisans of Sharia Law.
Christian and Jewish dhimmis enjoyed protection because they are Ahl al-Kitab, “Peoples of the Book” whose faith was founded on Divine revelation. The “Book” was the Bible, a partial and incomplete revelation of God’s word, which was fully disclosed in the Qur’an.
Dhimmis had theoretical and practical rights, such as following their own traditions and laws in religion as well as marriage and divorce. But specifically, they were prohibited from building new churches or synagogues, or making repairs to those already in existence. Public displays like processions or bell ringing were prohibited, as was proselytizing, insulting Muhammad or openly refuting Islam. Any disagreements between dhimmis and Muslims were settled according to Islamic laws.
Nowadays, users of the term are branded Islamophobes. I think you know the etymology of that term.
I am not phobic about anything.
I offer the inability of the United States Government to publicly link “terror” and “Islam” as part of the paralysis inherent in not being willing to acknowledge with whom we are at war, and that has always been a strategic blunder in my experience.
My favorite current news story is something that wouldn’t surprise any Detroiter. Home to the largest Arabic population in North America, the call to prayer is often heard from local mosques. Not a particularly big deal, but I would not get too smug about those “no go” enclaves in France where Sharia is the law, and police are not welcome. Don’t think it has not already started here.
But the famous Duke University, home of the commitment to diversity, announced this week that they were going to allow the Muslim Students Association to chant the call, or adhan, from the Duke Chapel bell tower. The adhan signals the beginning of the weekly prayer service. Jummah prayers have taken place in the basement of Duke Chapel for many years, and is, in my opinion, a legitimate use of University property.
Coming so soon after the Paris shootings, this was apparently too much for a lot of folks in Durham, NC, and the University had to back off.
“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” went the platitudes and then, “…when you do these kind of things you like to think and you hope that it will be seen by others as you see them as enlightened ways to introduce diversity and the celebration of faith tradition, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen the way you would like it.”
The university’s Imam Abdullah Antepli said that his community was disappointed in the school’s reversal. But he had praise for Duke, calling its offerings to the Muslim community “far more comprehensive than many other universities in the entire U.S.”
Duke is determined not to be labeled Islamophobic. In the process, I think they may be trying on dhimmitude to see how it fits.
Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra