December 1, 1915
I have a mind to drop a few lines on the war between the Yankees and Rebels. I joined the Confederate army September 15, 1861, at Mayfield, Kentucky. I was paroled at Columbus, Miss., May 16, 1865. I was 81 years old March 17, 1915. I hardly know how to commence this scribble. Squads from different parts of the country met and went into camp and called it Camp Burnett, near Columbus, Ky. There we organized into companies and regiments, J.T. Cochran, of Farmington, Ky. was elected captain of Co. E. Seventh Kentucky Volunteers. Charles Wickliffe was elected Colonel.
I aim to write a few things about my war life. I have forgotten a heap, but still remember a whole lot. The Yanks and Rebs had a little fight at Belmont, Miss[ouri]. [This was the battle of Belmont, November 7, 1861.] Col. Wickliffe was ordered to Columbus. He ordered the Seventh Kentucky in line of march to meet the Yanks at Belmont on the opposite side of the river from Columbus. This was in the night. The Yanks fell back and we went into camp and wintered there.
My health got bad. I was carried to a hospital at Jackson, Tenn. I remained there 17 or 18 days with chronic diarrhea. Had many good nurses and nine doctors. My first father-in-law came to see me and got permission to carry me to his home 12 or 13 miles away. I was carried there on a feather bed in a covered wagon behind a six mule team. I remained there several weeks and was given every attention I needed. I had a good nurse and doctor. One day I heard the doctor tell the nurse to give me a little toddy often. This made me feel very sad. (I trust I was carried back to the 23rd day of June 1860, when I trust I received a hope in Christ Jesus. That 23rd day is the most noted day with me up to this good day December 3, 1995) My father-in-law, Jones Bradbury, was like a real father to me. I was just getting able to walk in the yard a little when the battle of Shiloh was fought [in Tennessee on April 6 and 7, 1862]. I walked in the yard and cried because I was not there. I had two half-brothers there--J.A. and M.H. McNeely. One of them had a bullet through his hat, and the other had his haversack shot off him, and neither of them hurt. Col. Wickliffe was mortally wounded and died there, and many others whose names I cannot remember now were left on that bloody field.
I left my father-in-law's home while still feeble and joined my company at Corinth, Miss. Colonel Ed. Crossland was now in command of the 7th Kentucky. We had a two days battle there beginning on October 3, 1862. The 15th Mississippi was put in front of the 7th Kentucky. In a little while the yanks made it too hot for the 15th Mississippi, and they came like a beef shot in the nose. Col. Crossland ordered us to fix bayonets and not let them pass. This we did in good style. That regiment always did good fighting after that. Col. Crossland then ordered his men to the front and the Yanks fell back. We had two fights there. At the last one we fell back.
These were my first two fights. Solemn was it? Yes solemn were my thoughts. I could only trust in the allwise merciful God. That was my little hope then, and was all I have now. As we fell back from Corinth after two days fighting, brother J.A., M.N., and I were together. J.A. got hit and fell again that night. They left brother Matthew with me. We had little to eat for four days.
I will have to give short sketches. We were in the siege at Vicksburg. During 17 or 18 days and nights we were guarding the gunboats, and on one occasion I remember seeing the light of the fuse of thirteen shells coming toward me in less than one minute. Some of them bursted while others fell in the river and failed to explode. [This may have occurred during the bombardments of June 26-27 or July 3-4 1862, before the Union's First Vicksburg Campaign. Alternatively, it may have occurred on the night of April 16, 1863, when a Union fleet ran the Vicksburg batteries.]
Our next fight was at Baker's Creek, Miss. [also known as the battle of Champion's Hill, on May 16, 1863.] We lost General Tihlman [Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman] there with many others. I saw one man there whose clothes were burned off him by the bursting of a cannon. He was crying.
The Yanks beseiged us at Jackson, Miss., 17 or 18 days and nights. We had to fight, cook, eat, and sleep under the Yanks shell and shot. One Yankee spy was hang there. [Around July 23, 1863, Union Major General William T. Sherman pushed Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's army away from Jackson.]
My health was getting bad and I was sent to Lauderdale Springs Hospital, Miss. I cannot give dates. I was there about six weeks. There were about 3,000 sick and wounded there, and they were dying at the rate of seventeen a day. The sick had one nurse for each eight or ten, in 16 x 20 foot rooms. The nurse retired at 9 PM, and returned early next morning. The doctors came in morning and nights, and when he told me I could go to the convalescent table I was glad to go. When I got able to walk a mile by resting two or three times, I would get a pass and go to the country and get a good dinner. As fast as the soldiers died they were dressed and carried to the dead house, from which they were buried in rotation as received, like going to the mill--nobody to cry. I told the doctor that I was going to leave. He said I would have to get a discharge. I reported to my command and the doctor examined me and I started to Goodman Station Hospital, Miss. On arriving there, we found that the hospital was discontinued, so I went into the country and found a home with a Mr. Alex Mabry, who treated me as if I was his own son. He had sixty negroes, and twenty milk cows. After a stay of five or six weeks, with this good man I returned to my command and reported ready for duty, but found brother John in bad shape. Dr. T.F. Clardy said, "You have come back too quick, but I can detail you to take John to the hospital and stay with him two weeks." I carried him back to my milk cows, where we both fared well. My health was quite unexpectedly soon restored to me. I trust it was our merciful God who did it. I left John and reported to my command ready for duty. I missed but few days after that. John's health was also soon restored.
We spent two winters in camp, one at Columbus, Ky. [1861-1862], and the other at Canton, Miss. [1862-1863]. I regained my command at Pulaski, Tenn., sometime in September, during Forrest's [Confederate Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest] Tennessee raid. [McNeely has here jumped from 1863 back to 1862. Forrest's First Tennessee Raid, which McNeely refers to, was launched in July 1862 and had tapered off to light skirmishing by August.] At that place Capt. J.T. Cochran, who was in command of our regiment, Seventh Kentucky, was killed [Capt. Cochran was killed at Tarpley's Shop, TN, Sept. 27, 1864]. We lost several others of our company, but we drove the Yankees back, but with a great loss.
I was at Baton Rogue, La. [in August 1861]. We captured a gunboat there. [McNeely is probably mistakenly recalling the capture of the U.S.S. Undine on the Tennessee River in October 1864.] I was in the battle of Murfreesboro, Tenn. [December 31, 1862 through January 3, 1863]. This was while we were in the infantry.
While camped at Demopolis, Ala., about the 1st of March, 1864, we were ordered to report to Gen. Forrest, at Columbus, Miss., to be mounted. Good horses being scarce we were mounted on old mules and shabby horses. The regiments mounted then, were the Third, Seventh, and Eighth Kentucky, and were called Ky. Mounted Infantry. My first service under General Forrest was in his raid at Paducah, Ky., March 24, 1864. This raid was made by General Abraham Buford. He captured the city, but failed to take the fort. The command left Mayfield, Ky., on this raid about 9 AM, and reached Paducah, about 1:30 PM. We were immediately dismounted and formed in line of battle in the open streets. When we had advanced to within about 75 yards of the fort we were halted and sheltered ourselves the best we could behind houses. About that time the color bearer was shot down by my side. Col. Thompson
[of the 3rd KY] was killed by the explosion of a shell while sitting on his horse. I sheltered behind a large brick house, borrowed a gun stick to load with and shot eight or nine shots at their heads. I was at that old house last May, 1915. It was about 75 yards from the fort. We remained behind the old house until night, when we fell back in good order and were disbanded for several days. Brother John and I mounted our mules, and came home.
Brother T.B. had just recently brought brother Matthew there, but he died soon after. The battlefield was sad! sad! sad! But when we got home it was joy! joy! joy! Unexpressable were my thoughts then, and are yet. I just speak of a few of them. We enjoyed the comforts and pleasures of home but a few days. When we hope we had a little hope of a better world than this, and I trust I hope I will meet him, when God's elect are gathered above in love. I cannot write half I think. I cannot tell you why I am writing this.
I skip to Harrisburg, Miss., I was in battle there [the battle of Harrisburg or Tupelo, on July 14 and 15, 1864]. This was oh! so sad. The last fight was very sad. I was on the skirmish line all night without sleep. The Yanks were in town and dug ditches in all night to fight in next morning. About the first peep of the day the doves sung mournfully, and about sun-up the battle commenced. Forrest fought them and charged them until evening, when the Yanks fell back with Forrest after them. Here General Forrest got his little toe shot off, and Col. Sherrell was killed and Major Hale wounded. Our loss in killed were many. A great many shells were shot pass me there. The Yanks fell back to a little creek and formed a line of battle. There is where Forrest and Sherrell got their shots. Our men dismounted on account of the creek. I was left with the horses, while the men were forming in line of battle, General Forrest galloped up, halted a moment or two and looking at me, said, "What's the matter boys?" I said, "Pretty much of a jungle, General, I think." He took position with the privates and charged the Yankees, moving them back with sad losses. I cannot give all names here. I think Forrest was a brave man. In this little fight we put fifteen thousand Yankee to flight with only seven thousand Rebs. The Yankees were protected by works. This was July 1864. Oh! How sad. Here Colonel Crossland commanding the Kentucky Brigade, and Major Hale of the Seventh Kentucky were wounded, and Lt. Col. L.J. Sherrell was killed.
The question may be asked, why did you expose yourself to the horrors and hardships of this war? My answer is, I did not want negro equality. I could not speak of many other things. The Yanks took the last horse, mule, and negro my father had. They were his property. Was this sad? Yes, but not so sad as negro equality.