ARCHIBALD YELL SMITH MEMORIES

 

MEMORIES OF ARCHIBALD YELL SMITH OF TULLAHOMA, TENNESSEE
BORN JANUARY 28,1856.
DIED MAY 14, 1942.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A COPY OF A TRANSCRIPT OF THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT WAS PROVIDED BY PAUL PYLE. THE TRANSCRfPT WAS MADE BY DR. BOB WOMACK OF MURFREESBORO WHO HAS WRITTEN SEVERAL CIVIL WAR BOOKS. THE TRANSCRIPT WAS MADE FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT IN THE 1960s WHEN A STUDENT WHO WAS A DESCENDANT OF ARCHIBALD YELL SMITH BROUGHT IT TO SCHOOL.)

"Having passed the age commonly allotted to the average man, and having much leisure on my hands, I have thought that perhaps.some reminiscences of personal history might be of interest to those who come after me, and afford them some pleasure not so much as to my own history but of the stirring times in which it was my lot to have lived.

My father, Joel.B.Smith, was born and reared in the City ,of Nashville, Tennessee, the Son of Joel M. Smith, one of the early settlers of that vicinity. He was the owner and editor of one of Nashville's newspapers. The Nashville Gazette was an earnest supporter of General Jackson and his policies. He held the office of Pension Commissioner under President Buchanan and paid the pensions of the soldiers of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War of 1847. My father was educated by the noted teacher of his day, Mr. Hume. When quite a young man, he was appointed local agent of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad at Tullahoma, Mr. V. K. Stevenson who made the appointment being the President of the road, about the year 1854. While holding this office, there arrived at the station a very beautiful young girl, fresh from her college at Danville, Kentucky, Miss Elizabeth Yell, on a visit to her uncle General William Moore, who with his family lived at Mulberry, a small village in what was then Lincoln County, Tullahoma being the nearest railroad point.

It seems to have been a case of love at first sight. The young agent lost no time in getting acquainted and pressing his suit she being the daughter of ex-governor Yell of Arkansas, who was killed at the head, of his regiment at the famous battle of Buena Vista, Mexico in 1847. General Moore, a brother-in-law of Governor Yell, was appointed Administrator of his estate, which for those times consisted of lands and slaves in the state of Arkansas. Both General Moore and Governor Yell had married two sisters, Misses Moore, near Danville, Kentucky. It seems from family tradition that the young school girl was not slow in reciprocating the ardor of the young man, and they were in the course of time duly married by a noted Cumberland Presbyterian preacher, Reverend James Cowan. They moved to Tullahoma where after remaining with the railroad but a short time, he resigned and began buying up wheat, which on account of the Crimean War raging in Europe, had caused wheat to advance very rapidly. He travelled all over the adjoining counties of Bedford, Franklin, White, Warren, Coffee and Lincoln. There being no railroads in these sections.:,.they were compelled to haul the wheat in wagons to Tullahoma the nearest shipping point,. This point at the time was quite a thriving point of commerce, all stock from the surrouhding points being driven on foot. Wheat, corn, cotton and flax was hauled in wagons, but on account of the bad roads and, the slow process of getting his wheat to market, the war closed and caught him with a big lot oŁ wheat on his hands and a rapidly declining market.

General Moore's son-in-law, Mr. Pearson, in the meantime having built what was a long time known in Tulllahoma as the "Lincoln House," a large frame building at the corner af Lincoln and Atlantic Streets, close to the brick Depot, my father took charge and ran as a hotel. It seems the railroad at that time only ran its trains during daylight. The trains out of Nashville would stop here, lay up at night and on to Chattanooga the next morning. I have been told that, in the record at the meeting of the Directors of the railroad, the resident Engineer, Mr. Grant, had made this report that the road could only be operated with safety during daylight, and it was so ran until oId Sherman's army or Buell came to Nashville, took charge of the road, connecting the Louisville and Nashville road by a high wooden trestle from the L & N to the N & C, where it has ever remained since, he moving his troops and material night and day.

In a rear room of this famous hostelry I first saw the light af day in 1856. My older brother William Henry Smith, (named for my father's brother) was born in 1854. We grew up together amidst the stirring times preceeding the Civil War which broke forth in all its fury in 1861. Being some 6 or 7 years af age when the battle of Stones' River, at Murfreesboro, was fought in 1862-3. I still have a faint recollectian of listening to the faint sounds of the loud mouth cannon as they belched forth death and destruction on this noted battlefield on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January 1863.

General Moore's only son, Col. William Lawson Moore was killed in one of these desperate charges. His widow, together with the agent af the railroad at Tullahoma, Mr. George H.. Norton, went down to the battlefield in a stock car, hunted over the field till they found the body, loaded it in this car, together with many others brought it back to Tullahoma from whence it was conveyed to Mulberry,where it now sleeps. The county of Moore (cut off Lincoln County) was named for him. [County was named for his father, Gen. Moore -- Correction by Paul Pyle.)

My father, in. the meantime having joined the cause of the South, was appointed by Governor Isham G. Harris in his staff as Aid-de-Camp, the family removed to a cottage at the corner af Jackson and Warren Streets (where Dr. J. A. Mitchell now lives). Here we lived till the Union Army under Rosecrans began its advance on Tullahoma July 1st 1863. General Bragg having built a strong fortification known as Fort Rains,..(named for General Rains, killed at Murfreesbora) had decided to give battle at this place. Both armies were drawn up in battle array, near Concord and Bobo's Crossroads, about 4 miles east af Tullahoma. Governor Harris at the head of the Tennessee troops, becoming alarmed at the prospect of cannon balls falling on the town, advised and urged us to remove at once, he having furnished a covered army wagon. I can remember well the anxiety of my Mother standing guard over her brood of little towheads while they were enjoying the novelty of the ride, sticking their heads out the sides and head of the wagon.

We moved out to old Hurricane Springs, a large frame hotel kept by Mr. Gooden Miller about six miles out of Tullahoma, where they remained until after the battle of Chicamauga in September 1893, my father being all the time in the saddle with. the Army. I remember when General Starnes was killed near Bobo's Crossroads, his body brought to our house, whence it was conveyed to Lincon County where it now sleeps along with many other husbands, sons and brothers of the families living in the section at that time.

After the battle of Chicamauga, my father was taken down sick with disentary and was left by the army in the hospital at Calhoun, Georgia together with many other Confederates, Sherman's army following swiftly on the heels of Joe Johnson's retreating forces. My father was captured, remaining a prisoner of war till, through the influence of Judge Catron, Chief Justice of the United States at Washington, a warm personal friend and ardent supporter of President Lincoln who knew my father's family and who had a summer residence at Tullahoma. He succeeded in getting a pass from General Grant for him to come home. Being like, hundreds of others, dead broke with nothing but Confederate money which at that time was worth as much as fhe German Mark is today, he managed to get hold of a little Texas pony, and began his journey back to his now desolate and deserted home, his sickness compelling him to stop many times on the route to recouperate his wasted strength. He at last arrived at his home more dead than alive, where he lay for many months unable to leave his bed. My mother in the mean time having moved back to our cottage in Tullahoma, found it occupied by officers of the Union Army, then under the immediate commands of General Milroy and General Payne, two as cruel and relentless men as ever afflicted, a distressed and wasted country. Down to this present day, their names, are spoken only with anemia [sic]. Sick and disabled Confederate soldiers returning to their homes would be taken out and shot without mercy by order of their drumhead Court Marshalls.

One day a company of soldiers came to our house, took my father out of bed, took him to a large stockade built for the purpose of confining prisoners, and would have been shot, but by good fortune there happened to be among the officers then stopping at our house one Captain Dudley who had seen service in Mexico, and knew my Grandfather. My mother in her distress made an appeal to him, and he succeeded in getting the sentence of death set aside, but he was compelled to remain close at home and not mix up in Army affairs in any way.

Always, and in all countries, there are certain ctass of citizens, while matters are gotng brighf for one side, will be loud in their "With what loud acclaim didst thou beat heaven with blessing Bolingbroke," but as soon as the tide turns the other way, they jump on the band-wagon and with equal loud acclaim join on the other side and out Herod Herod. So it was all over Tennessee. After the first battle of Manassas, when everytliing seemed bright for the Southern Confederacy and it looked as if one Johnny Reb could whip ten blue-bellied Yankees, they could not join the Southern Armies fast enough. Yet, when the tables began to turn the other way, these same men were among the first to turn the other way. These same men were among the first to turn against the South; and by their zeal in reporting Southern sympathizers and having his property confiscated and destroyed, caused more lasting hatreds and feuds than did the union sympathizer, who shouldered his musket. and fought fairly and squarely for a cause he thought was right. It will be remembered that when the question of secession was first voted on by the citizens of Tennessee, it was voted down by a large majority, my father casting his vote to stay in the Union. But later on, under the leadership of the then popular Governor Isham G. Harris, a second vote was taken, she withdrew from the Union and took her place in the Southern Conferaacy.

Now, just before the fall of Fort Donaldson, there were many citizens who had not joined the mad rush to join the Southern Army. Among them was my father, he then running his hotel. Everything being demoralized, and no law and order, these citizens joined in an organization known as the Home Guards to protect their common interests. My father joining this organization was elected Secretary and Treasurer. He opened and kept a record of their meetings. An ardent secessionist proposed in a meeting that they form a company among themselves, buy arms, and shoot every citizen that was not in full sympathy with the South. My father opposed this motion, saying "If I am to do the like of this I will shoulder my musket join the Army and fight in the ranks". After much discussion, the motion was lost. Father afterwards did join Bushrod Johnson's command and remained with it till he was captured at Calhoun, Georgia. Now, when he had returned to his sick bed at home and was tried by a Court Marshall, who but this same citizen who had offered this resolution in their Home Guard meeting, was the priricipal witness against him, swearing that Father himself had offered such a motion. As luck would have it, these old records were found in the old hotel and brought up in the trial. When the truth was known, my father was cleared and this same man, notwithstanding his strong Union proclivities, was arrested, marched out and shot. Now this is only one of the many dccurences that happened under my well remembered observations.

As I am writing these reminiscences solely for the interest of the members of my immediate family, it is not to be expected tbat a boy under 10 years of age should be accurate as to historicaf facts and dates, but after the battle of Murfreesboro December 3lst, January 1, 2, and 3, 1863, it is a well known fact that when the Confederate Army under General Bragg fell back on Tullahoma, where they encamped for six months until 1 July 1863; and that my older brother William and myself were thrown, among the soldiers who with their tents and camps surrounded us on all sides for miles and miles.


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