Douglas 1st Texas Battery

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DOUGLAS' FIRST TEXAS BATTERY - Smith County, TX


About June 1, 1861, Col. Elkanah Greer, of Marshall, Texas, was commissioned by the Confederate Government at Richmond, to raise a regiment of cavalry, and a company to man a battery of artillery. The work of raising the artillery company was committed to J. J. Goode, of Dallas, and J. P. Douglas of Tyler. Douglas enlisted fifty young men in and around Tyler, and on June 10, 1861, formed them in line in the Court House yard, where they received a beautiful flag made by the ladies of the city, from the hands of Miss Mollie E. Moore, the poetess. The fifty men then started immediately to Dallas, where the company organized. They arrived there the 14th.

In the meantime, J. J. Goode had been enlisting me, but did not have the requisite number. The writer of this was then 20 years old and lived in the country ten miles west of Dallas. On the night of the 14th I got a message from a friend in town that this company was to be organized immediately, and recommending it to me if I wanted to join the Confederate army. I went into Dallas soon in the morning on the 14th, and reported to Captain Goode and signed the roll, being the thirteenth on the list of the fifty raised by him before the organization. Douglas and his fifty Tyler boys soon came in and went into camp in a beautiful grove in front of Captain Goode's residence, a place then one mile out of town. In a short time the Dallas fifty were enlisted and the company of one hundred men was complete, and proceded to organize. I forget given names and initials, but my best recollection is that the organization for the first year was as follows: J. J. Goode, captain; J. P. Douglas, first lieutenant; Alf Davis, second lieutenant; James M. Boren, third lieutenant; William Harris, fourth lieutenant. The Sergeants were: Ben Hardin, orderly; John Durrough, quartermaster; Tom Floyd, first; Julius Sanders, second; Mitch Gray, third; James Long, fourth; Tom Hoard, fifth; Jim Howard, sixth. The Company organized and was recorded as the First Texas Battery. It was mostly composed of young men from in and around the two towns, Dallas and Tyler. As an organization it was a company of well grown, active, healthy boys. Seventy per cent of them were under 22 years old, ninety per cent under 25, and but four men over 30. Nearly all occupations then followed in Texas, were represented in that company. Judge Burford, of the Superior Court of the Dallas District, was a private until he received a Colonel's commission in 1862, and was put in command of a cavalry regiment. There were three editors, several printers, several lawyers and law students, some farmer's boys, merchant's sons and clerks, and some had been Texas Rangers.

We had to remain several days in Dallas waiting for cannons and outfit to arrive from the recently captured Federal garrison at San Antonio. About July 10, 1861, we received a splendidly equipped battery of six guns, horses, mules, baggage wagons, etc. In the meantime the ten companies of cavalry from different parts of the State had gathered at Dallas, and Col. Greer started on the march to Missouri to join Gen. McCulloch. We marched north and crossed Red River at Colbert's Ferry, near where the city of Denison now stands. Our camp life, receiving our horses, marching and drilling at every opportunity, even at night, was a novelty and very interesting to us, but our first real excitement was at Red River.

The river was very low. The current ran near the north bank and a sand bar extended from the Texas bank a considerable distance toward the water near the other shore. The cavalry had that day marched in front and had forded the river above the ferry. We moved down on the sandbar and one gun and caison had been ferried over when Col. Greer ordered the crossing of the artillery suspended till the baggage wagons of the cavalry regiment could cross over. The guns were parked, ropes stretched, horses unhitched and tied, driftwood gathered and cooking commenced.

While some of the boys were in bathing, they heard a strange roaring. It sounded like it came from the still water around them. They got to the company as soon as they could. By that time the water was moving up on the sand bar and the men were busy harnessing horses and packing wagons. The artillery tactics on drill says that horses can be harnessed and hitched to the guns and ready to move, in seven minutes, if no errors are made. Our company harnessed the horses and carried five cannon, five caissons, forge, battery wagon, and four battery wagons, off that sand bar back to the Texas shore in ten minutes. The water was near the top of the wheels as some of the last went out. Red River rose 20 feet in 30 minutes. The phenomenon was said to have been caused by a cloud-burst, the waters uniting with the annual flow from the melted snow from the head of Red River.

We ferried over next day and took up the line of march towards Missouri. We crossed the Indian Nation and arrived at Ft. Smith, Arkansas, about the first of August. Col. Greer was ordered forward to Springfield, Mo., with the cavalry. He left us at Ft. Smith to recruit our horses and repair our gun carriages and went on a "forced march" to join McCulloch. We remained a few days and moved forward, but did not reach the army in time to be at the battle of Oak Hill, Mo. We stopped in Mt. Vernon. The enemy having retreated towards St. Louis, McCulloch remained in North Arkansas and Southern Missouri till the spring campaign opened in 1862.

The "Yankees" did not advance till late in the fall. Pending that time we marched South through Neosho and into Arkansas, and camped at the edge of a large prarie near Bentonville, Camp Jackson. We spent the time drilling. At one time, while executing the manoeuvers of the battery drill of flying artillery over the rough prarie, the powder in an ammunition chest became ignited and all three chests of a caisson were blown up. Fortunately there was no other damage done. Some of the horses were badly scared, and it was a new experience to the boys, we were more or less excited.

When the enemy moved south under Gen. Fremont, we again advanced into Missouri. The battle never came off, as we expected. We remained in Missouri till near Christmas, and went into winter quarters near Fayettville, Ark. We built substantial quarters for the men and stables for the horses. There were two other batteries quartered with us: Hart's Battery from Little Rock, and Province's Battery from Ft. Smith, all three under Maj. Bradfute of McCulloch's staff.

It was here that we were placed under discipline, according to a strict construction of the army regulations. We had guard lines around the quarters and sentries walked their beats in silence except the "Who goes there?" if any one approached: and in the night to call out the "All is well!" every hour. We submitted to all this cheerfully and thought we were soldiers: but when a severe North Arkansas winter came upon us we demanded fires at the guard posts. Maj. Bradfute, who had spent 20 years in the regular army, remonstrated with us, appealed to our patriotism and the oath we had taken. He was replied to by Dick Small, W. S. Waites and others, to the effect that he, himself, had taken an oath, and that if his oath as an officer meant anything, he should protect the health of the men under him and not sacrifice their lives in such weather, in the interest of discipline, when there was not an enemy within 200 miles. The fires were extinguished by a detail sent out by Maj. Bradfute from another company, but the Texans, rallying to the sentinels from camp, immediately rebuilt them. Maj. Bradfute reluctantly submitted, and remained afterwards our friend. We were not under his command after that winter.

In February, 1862, the Federal Army under Gen. Curtis advanced south through Missouri. Our company marched out of winter quarters and marched and countermarched for some days waiting for Price and McCulloch to organize, and for Van Dorn to come with reinforcements and take comand.

On the 6th and 7th of March, 1862, we went into the battle of Elk Horn. On the first day we were on the right till late in the evening. After Gen. McCulloch, commanding that right wing of army, and Gen. McIntosh, the next in rank, had been killed, we were ordered to the left to reinforce Gen. Price, who had engaged the enemy during the day at that point. Next morning our battery was placed in position south of the Elk Horn Tavern, in an exposed place, in some heavy timber. The enemy was across a field from us in force with several batteries. Our situation was different at Elk Horn from anything I saw during that four years of war. It seems that we were sent in there to engage the enemy while the rest of the army were in full retreat. We held that position for three long hours without any support. It was our first battle and I have always been astonished that we did as well as we did. We were under the cannonade of five or six batteries. The air was thick with flying shots and bursting shells; some of them went high and cut the timber, which fell among us. Strange to say, we had but one man killed, a beardless boy, Charlie Erwin, of Tyler. We had seven wounded and several horses killed. We exhausted our ammunition and were ordered out, and found that the army was retreating. We followed with scarcely horses enough to move the guns, but with the help of the cannoniers, after several days of hardship, we arrived at Van Buren, Ark. The army had retreated during the night and morning, going west, turning south at south at Bentonville, while the battery, unsupported by either cavalry or infantry, were directed due East across a wild, rugged country, making a curve South and southwesterly, until we made the junction with the main army. It was during this artillery duel and retreat that Lieutenant Douglas proved his capacity for command and insured his election to the captaincy.

We soon started on that long march across the state of Arkansas to Desarc, where we embarked on a steamboat for Memphis, Tennessee. We arrived there on the 16th of April, 1862, and soon left for Corinth, Mississippi. The guns were carried on the railroad, the horses were carried over the dirt road. Our battery was present and in line at the battle of Farmington, in front of Corinth, but was not engaged.

We were at Corinth, Miss., when the organization of the army was effected. Capt. Goode was assigned to duty on a military court and left the company. J. P. Douglas was elected Captain; James N. Boren, First Lieutenant; J. H. Bingham, Second Lieutenant; Ben Hardin, Third Lieutenant; Mark L. Fleishel, Orderly Sergeant; Pink Wilfong, Quartermaster Sergeant.

I forgot some who were appointed gun Sergeants at that time, as there were several changes made afterwards; but I well remember J. M. Seagle, Ans. Keel and Sam McDermot. The company was ever afterwards known as Douglas' First Texas Battery.

After the army retreated from Corinth, we remained at Tupelo, Miss., for several weeks. We were then ordered to East Tennessee to join Kirby Smith for the Kentucky campaign. We went by rail via Mobile, Montgomery and Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tenn., remained there for a few weeks and started on the march north to Knoxville, on the 10th of August 1862. There were many incidents which transpired before we returned to Louden, Tenn., in the following November, which interested us at the time, but I fear it would not interest many in this fast age. We were in the battle of Richmond, Ky., and lost three men killed and several wounded. Among the killed was the gallant Lieutenent Boren, who was shot through the body with a cannon ball, while he was standing between his guns giving orders to gunners. Lieut. Hardin was badly wounded. The battery was engaged again on the 1st of September at Kentucky River, on our way to Lexington.

At the camp near Lexington two Lieutenants were elected. Bingham became First, Ben Hardin Second, and Mark Fleishal Third, Julius Sanders Fourth. We marched North to Covington, back to Mt. Sterling, West to Frankfort, South to Harrodsburg, East through Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee, and remained at Louden till December 1862.

We left Louden and crossed Cumberland Mountains again into Middle Tennessee, and on the morning of the 31st of December, went with McGowan's Division into the charge made on the enemy's right at Murfreesborough. We were hotly engaged at the opening of the battle and advanced with the infantry as the Yankees fell back to their stronghold in the "Cedar Brakes." We spent the remainder of that winter at Shelbyville, 25 miles south of Murfreesborough.

As the army retired from Middle Tennessee, our battery was engaged at Elk River and other places that summer, and were active in all the maneuvering of Bragg's army till the battle of Chickamauga. We were at Chattanooga, Harrison's Landing, Pigeon Mountain, Lafayette, Georgia, and other places, and were hotly engaged at Chickamauga. In the last charge at sundown, on the 20th of September 1863, our battery advanced with the infantry to within a few paces of Thomas' strong position and followed his retreat till late in the night. We were in the hottest of the fight at Missionary Ridge, got our guns off and covered the retreat to Dalton, Georgia. In fact, the part of the line held by General Cleburne, with whose command our battery was then in co-operation, repulsed all assaults, and we knew nothing of the repulse of our center and left wing, until late that afternoon, when orders came for us to retire.

Many interesting events transpired while in winter quarters at Dalton. The most important was the re-enlistment of our company in January 1864 for the war. My recollection is that it was before the army bill of that year was passed. The boys, after discussing the probable action of the Congress, decided to reenlist for the war. We did so by adopting a set of resolutions drawn up by Ed W. Smith, of Tyler, one of our original company.

We had a twofold object in re-enlisting: one was that we expected to remain in the army and did not want to be affected by any action Congress might take; and the other was to set an example to those in the army who might be dissatisfied with the propable conscript law. The latter object seemed to have the desired effect. General Johnston ordorsed (spelling?) our action and recommmended the example to the army, and I think very nearly all of his command re-enlisted. Our company by name received the thanks of the Confederate Congress for its action in the matter.

The history of Douglas' Battery during the year 1864, if written, would make a large volume, and its history from the time it left Dalton, the first of May, till the fall of Atlanta, "The Hundred Days Battle," would fill many pages. I think it was more active than any other battery in the army. We were under fire all the time except at times when we would be changing position or moving to a new line, we would be out of range. We were hotly engaged at Resaca, New Hope church, Marietta, Atlanta, on the 22nd and 23rd of July, and, in fact, we were in position on every line of battle that was formed during the hundred days. It was at Atlanta on the 22nd of July that we got our battery of 12-pound Napoleon guns. It was captured from the Federals by our infantry support and turned over to us. After the fall of Atlanta we moved South and were in the battle of Jonesboro, Ga. We remained at Lovejoy Station till October, and then started on the campaign with Gen. Hood to Nashville. We moved Northwest through Georgia and Alabama to Florence, on the Tennessee river.

Gen. Stephen D. Lee was commanding the advance when we approached the South side of the river. The Yankees occupied the town. The artillery was masked on the bluffs and the firing of our guns commenced simultaneously with the launching of the pontoon boats. Gibson's Louisiana Brigade crossed over in the boats under fire. The bridge was soon laid and the army crossed.

After some days we started towards Nashville. At Columbia, Tenn., we were confronted by a large force, and our battery was engaged all day on the 29th of November, firing across Duck river. Col. Beckham, Chief of Artillery, was killed at that place near our guns.

On Nov. 30, 1864, at Franklin, Tenn., Capt. Douglas advanced the battery with our attacking line of infantry to the Yankees' front line of works, which they abandoned, and took a position in and on the side of the pike and fired over the heads of our men as they advanced, and afterwards at the old gin house. When the enemy finally gave way, in the middle of the night, our battery, under the immediate command of General Cheatham, moved forward and took position near the old gin house and fired at them as they retreated across Harpeth river.

We moved forward next day to Nashville. On the 15th and 16th of December we were in Hood's lines and under heavy fire. The cannonade on the 16th was terrific. When our army gave way late in the evening, Capt. Douglas, under the direction of Gen. Stephen D. Lee, placed some guns in position one mile South of our abandoned works and rallied some of our infantry for sharpshooters, and protected the retreat of that part of the army.

The next day, the 17th, Gen. Stephen D. Lee placed our battery in the rear to help cover the retreat. We gave them battle on almost every eminence along the pike till late in the evening, when we took a position South of Franklin and held it for some time while a large force of Yankee cavalry was forming around us. The fog and the cold misty rain that was falling made it difficult to see. When we limbered up the guns and started, the Yankee cavalry made a charge on us, stopped the carriages, captured most of the men, cut the harness and otherwise loosed the horses, and started back with us before our cavalry came to our relief; and then in a confused and desultory way, they fired into our captors and created a confusion in which nearly all of us got away. We brought out most of the horses, but lost our guns. Ed Smith, after escaping, with one or two others, made a last effort to bring off a gun, was finally captured and taken to prison.

The company, without guns, retreated with the army and staid for a while at Columbus, Miss. In January, 1865, we were assigned to duty at Mobile, to take charge of the siege guns at Fort Sidney Johnston. Capt. Douglas went home on a furlough and left the company in command of Lieut. Ben Hardin, Bingham having left us the previous summer. In March there was some desultory firing between the Fort and gun boats in the bay. Some of their shot flew about us. This was the last battle we were in. It was said that we disabled one of their boats, but I never knew whether we did or not.

When Mobile was evacuated on the 11th of April, 1865, we received a light battery with a splendid outfit of horses. We marched to North Mississippi and were camping at Artesia, on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, when we received news of the surrender. We were ordered to Gainesville, Ala., to be paroled. Some of the boys started for their homes immediately, but the body of the company took paroles May 14th, 1865, and went to Mobile and from there to Texas.

As we did not know what would be the condition of the people after the war, many returned to their original States. Many who were not identified with towns where they enlisted, scattered off into different parts of Texas, and other States. I came to North Carolina from Mobile. I have seen but one member of the company since the war, that is Sergeant N. M. Seagle, of Hickory, N. C. At this writing, June, 1907, I don't know how many are alive. Five years ago it was thought that about forty were alive, of all the enlistments and recruits. As an artillery company has to be kept full, we recruited from time to time, mostly by transfers of active young men from the cavalry and infantry. In all, I think, we enrolled about 200 men. About fifty of the original one hundred were present at the surrender. I know the whereabouts of but few: N. M. Seagle, of Hickory, N. C.; P. E. Hockersmith, of Woodburn, Ky.; Tom Hoard and G. A. Knight, of Dallas, Texas; Sam A. Thompson, of Jacksonville, Texas; Ed W. Smith, Joe Barron, Frank Erwin, George Wimberly, J. M. Seagle and Julius Saunders live in Tyler, Texas. Dr. Walker lives in Gainsville, Texas.

I would like to say something of the personnel of Douglas' Battery; but this occaison does not admit it. I will only refer to two or three who did not survive the war. There were many thousand brave men in the Confederate Army, and it is absurd to say that any one man was the bravest of all; but if I were required to name the man was my ideal of a good, intelligent and brave soldier, I would name James N. Boren, of the Tyler fifty. He had just returned from Tennessee where he had been graduated from Franklin College and then the law school in Lebanan University. His courage was not of a savage nature, neither was he a stoic; but he seemed to be actuated by patriotic motives and a strong sense of duty, and his actions in the hour of danger were controlled by good judgement, with sufficient excitement to cause him to give his best intelligence to his duties. At Elk Horn he stood between the guns of his section and directed their firing for three hours through that ordeal of shot and shell and falling timber. At Richmond, Ky., I belonged to the other section and was stationed at a distance from him, and did not see him killed; but learned that his actions were of the same heroic nature that they were at Elk Horn.

There were many in the company of similar temperament and character of mind. Ans Keel, a young teacher who joined at Dallas, and was killed at Marietta, Ga. was of that kind.

Cal Crozier, who was murdered by order of the colonel of the negro soldiers stationed at Newberry, S. C., in September 1865, was a member of our company from June 1861 till August 1862. He was transferred to the Cavalry when he started on the Kentucky campaign. He left us, I think, at Knoxville. His name is well worthy of the monument which the people of Newberry have erected to his memory.

The members of Douglas' Battery have been so widely scattered since the war that there has been practically no co-operation or concert of action towards publishing the history of our war operations, that it may be perpetuated and handed down to our children. The few who survive should look after this. I appeal to Ed Smith, Sam Thompson, Press Hockersmith, G. A. Knight and the other boys who are alive, to bring forward something fuller and better in every way than this disjointed record of reminisences. We are not ashamed for our children to read our record after we are gone.

JAMES B. LUNSFORD
Rutherford College, N. C. June 26, 1907.


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