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A Confederate Scout by James W. Nicholson

A Confederate Scout
James W. Nicholson

Of the boys who attended the old Forest Grove school, already described, none could run faster and longer or jump further and higher than Wafe.'  He was not much of a bookworm, but in athletics, hilarity, and mischief he led the school—always played deer in the "game of deer," and always knew every boy's speech except his own. Good-natured, generous, and courageous, yet he was a genius in devising mischief and getting other boys into awkward, embarrassing, and scary situations. It is queer how he maintained his popularity with all classes—was liked even by the victims of his roughest jokes. As a rider and shot a Texas Ranger was not more daring or skillful.

Wafe was the brother of Syranus, of whom a story is told later on, and he (Wafe) is the father of Chappell, a recent graduate of Tulane University, who was widely known in college circles as one of the greatest all-round athletes the South has produced. How queerly heredity works! In many particulars the brothers were as dissimilar as the father and son are alike.

When the war broke out Wafe enlisted and served in the cavalry. Upon the fall of Vicksburg General Johnston, commanding the Confederate forces, fell back to Jackson, and was pursued by General Sherman, commanding a corps of the Federal Army. After a severe encounter at Jackson, Johnston retreated to Newton Station, and was again followed by Sherman.

Now the Confederate leader, desiring to know whether or not his antagonist intended to pursue himfarther across the country, determined to send a scout around Sherman's army to ascertain, among other things, the size of his wagon train. To this end he instructed the commander of the cavalry to send him an efficient trooper,—a cavalier of tried courage, sagacity, and reliability. Wafe was at once selected and ordered to report to General Johnston.

Some of Wafe's close friends learned of the project, and in discussing the perilous adventure Joe  said, "Well, if Wafe is provided with a good horse he'll come out all right."

Billie, who had chased Wafe in many a "game of deer," thus replied, "In any case of emergency, whether he has a horse or not, if he can only get a fair start I defy the whole Yankee army to catch

Without going into details, suffice it to say Wafe made the circuit, and discharged the service with consummate tact and daring. Venturing into critical positions in order to get full and accurate information, he had several hairbreadth escapes.

Returning, he made his report to General Johnston, who correctly divined from it that Sherman would push the invasion no further, and so notified the president of the Confederacy. Taking Wafe by the hand he said: "I congratulate you on the success of your mission, and thank you for your valuable services."

Wafe is still living, hale and healthy. While he is not so great a tease as in the olden times, yet Nick would not now "go in swimming" with him without some assurance that Wafe would not "duck" him.

James W. Nicholson, Stories of Dixie (New York: American Book Company, 1915), 160-163.

The Confederate Army Starts for Tennessee
James W. Nicholson

At the close of the "hundred-days fight" the Federal Army, under General Sherman, had possession of Atlanta, while the Confederate Army, now under General Hood, toil-worn and battle-scarred, was lying near Jonesborough, just south of Atlanta. On September 18, 1864, General Hood's army left that place, and started on the long march into Tennessee. Soon after that General Sherman's army started on what is called "The march to the sea." Thus the two armies moved off in nearly opposite directions. By that time the South had put in service all its available men; indeed, as General Grant said, it had "robbed the cradle and the grave" to strengthen its armies. So General Sherman in his march to the sea had little more to dispute his way than defenseless old men, women and children.

The route of the Confederate Army led across northern Georgia,
thence across northern Alabama, and thence into Tennessee, crossing the Tennessee River on a pontoon bridge near Florence. The army passed through the battle ground of New Hope Church and the sites of other battles of the "hundred-days fight." These scenes of conflict were now sad sights. When the battles were fought, mostly in June and July, the trees were covered with green leaves; but nearly all the trees, large and small, were killed by musket and cannon balls in the fierce combats; so that the once lovely forests now looked like old deadenings; they were still covered with foliage, but it was brown and crisp. Not a cow, hog, chicken, or even a bird could be seen. Scattering stalks of green corn, oats and barley were growing in the woods from seeds dropped by the armies in feeding the stock. These green plants, so attractive under normal conditions, were here silent mementos of the ravages of war.

One beautiful afternoon the army pitched camp near the Etowah River. The water was clear, and sang with a sweet murmur as it flowed between its clean and pebble-lined banks. Several of the men went to the river with their canteens to get a supply of water for the night. Nick was in the party, and as he neared the stream he saw something floating in the water which he thought might be valuable. It had lodged against a large rock in the middle of the river. Quietly but quickly his coat and shoes were "shucked off," and before the others knew what he was up to, he plunged into the chilly water and swam to the rock. Climbing up on it and walking to its upper end, he stooped and lifted from the water a first-class hickory shirt. What a glorious find! In an ecstasy of joy he waved it above his head, and there is no telling how much he was envied by the men who were watching him from the shore. Nick wore that shirt into Tennessee, and afterwards into North Carolina.

Nick, on returning to his comrades, said, "Boys, when I was on that rock I looked across the river and saw many pumpkins in the field on the other side."

That was another glorious find in which all the men were at once interested. It was soon known throughout camp, and nearly every man in the 12th made a rush for the river. They swam across, and each of them, I suppose, got one or more pumpkins. Their recrossing of the river with the pumpkins was the prettiest sight Nick saw during the war. As they swam they pushed the pumpkins ahead of them or held them by their stems with their teeth, and all were as gay and sportive as if they had been on a picnic. That evening the camp kettle was brought into use, and the Dixie boys had a great feast in which the only dishes were "cush" and boiled pumpkin, and these were seasoned only with salt and red pepper.

James W. Nicholson, Stories of Dixie (New York: American Book Company, 1915), 176-179.


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