CHAPTER IVWAR-TIME RAILROAD FARES AND OTHER KINDS
I REMAINED in the employ of the South and North road until
October, then went to work for the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers
Railroad, running a local freight train. The end of the line was
at Blue Mountain, two miles north of where Anniston now stands.
At this point, connection was made with a stage, running to Rome,
It was while on this run that I had a very peculiar and somewhat
trying experience. In those days a cattle-gap was formed by stringers
tied together at each end, to keep the track from spreading, which
left an open space of ten or twelve feet, about like a pit, to
prevent cattle from crossing. On one of my trips I heard a slight
rumbling under the tank, and looking back, saw the front end had
let down just as low as the draw-bar between the engine and tender
would let it. Whistling for brakes, I stopped the train, and at
once saw that the front truck-axle of the tank was broken, and
the wheels were missing.
After some search the lost wheels were found in a cattle-gap
we had passed. There were twenty-five cars in the train, so in
breaking just where they did, and dropping out of the way, a terrible
wreck was prevented.
Now arose the question of reaching our destination with the
disabled tank. I disconnected it from the engine by jack and tank-up,
then rolled the remaining truck from underneath, turned it around,
and put it back. I next cut some small saplings, and supported
the rear end of the front truck on the back truck. Recoupling
the engine to the tank, I was ready to move ahead, and arrived
in Selma only thirty minutes late, being very highly complimented
by the Master Mechanic on my ingenuity. He said he had never seen
or heard of anything like that being done by an engineer.
There was no interruption to my work until the time of Wilson's
Raid, the following spring, when all freight trains were stopped.
I was then given charge of the ordnance train of General Forrest;
and where Stanton is now, General Forrest took a stand, and the
two forces had quite a skirmish. I got on top of the engine cab
to get a good view of proceedings, but only stayed there a few
minutes, as the Minie balls were whistling too lively for me.
Receiving orders about that time to fall back to Dixie, I gladly
obeyed. We were there only a short while when word came to fall
back two miles farther. Shortly, order number three came, to "fall
back to Plantersville." About twenty or thirty minutes after
arriving at that place, we fell back, without orders, as the enemy
was only three or four hundred yards from the rear of the train,
and balls were flying so fast and thick that my conductor motioned
me ahead, and had to lie flat on the top of a car to keep from
We continued our retrograde movement as far as Peoples Station,
now Vine Hill, where we remained until I could hear the fighting
across the creek. Again I fell back, without orders, to Clays
The conductor came over and said that the man in charge of
the ordnance was going to have me court-martialed for leaving
Peoples Station without orders from him.
I took a hammer, and went back to the gentleman's car, and
asked him if he had made that threat. He replied in the affirmative.
I told him that he had to "swallow it, and forever let it
stay down," or I would kill him before I left that car. He
begged me not to kill him, and said if I wouldn't, he would let
the matter drop, and never mention it. A few minutes later, he
said to me, "We will now go to Selma."
In half an hour we arrived there, and found the people excited,
and everything in confusion.
The Superintendent immediately informed me that he wanted me
to take all the rolling-stock that the engine could handle, and
get it away to Demopolis.
I went to the boarding-house where I had my wife and baby,
and put them in a caboose, together with our few household goods,
and prepared for flight.
That night was one long to be remembered. Switching cars, with
whistles blowing and bells ringing, went on all through the night,
and not until the chickens were crowing for day did we get started.
Another engineer also had his family in a caboose coupled on to
his engine and it was a comfort to know that some of our own kind
were not far away. They were with us at all our stopping points,
and shared our adventures. This engineer was Joe Mickey, a whole-souled
fellow, who has long ago made his last run.
So hurried was our departure we had no time to secure anything
to eat, so we had no breakfast that morning.
The middle of the forenoon, as we were halted at a station,
a few soldiers came up, and among them was my wife's father, who
was serving under General Roddy. He gave us some hardtack and
raw bacon from his haversack. The hardtack was a cracker, and
bore the right name, as it was almost impossible to bite it, but
being hungry we ate it and the raw meat with relish.
We got to Demopolis all right, and remained there a week, when
orders came to go to Uniontown. We had managed to get a few articles
of food, and these my wife could cook, one at a time, on an old
heating stove that we found in the caboose. For two weeks we had
only flour hoecakes, eggs, and ham. Then, one day, a kind lady
at Uniontown gave us turnip greens from her garden. Fortune, my
negro fireman, had found a small cooking stove and a teakettle
in one of the cars. The latter, especially, was a fortunate find,
else there would have been nothing in which to boil the greens.
I happened to get a little meal, and when that dinner of corn
bread and turnip salad was done, we had our second feast.
While out on this retreat, I spent all the Confederate money
I had, amounting to about $1500, for flour, meal, meat, and sugar.
We hadn't seen any sugar for a long time, and when the groceries
were taken to the car, my wife immediately proceeded to prepare
feast number three. A quilt was spread on the floor, and she sat
J. J., junior, then nearly six months old, down on the quilt,
and they fared sumptuously on buttered biscuit thickly spread
with sugar. The boy would smack his lips as if that sugar was
the best thing he had ever come across.
Shortly after this, the surrender of General Lee to General
Grant occasioned quite a change in our plans. Almost anything
could be expected from people at this time, as everything was
in such a demoralized condition.
The agent at Uniontown told me that there was a lot of Confederate
States' cotton there in the depot, and if I would fire up my engine
and put some cars near where he could load this cotton, he would
do so, and give me half of the proceeds when he sold it. I replied
to his proposition by telling him that that would be stealing,
and I wouldn't do it He reasoned that the Confederate States Government
had ceased to be, and that it was not stealing, but I couldn't
see it in that light.
The Federal forces came into Uniontown before we left there,
and we decided to go to Bellevue as we knew we couldn't get anything
to eat outside of the cabooses. We were there two days; then went
to Walker's Switch, near Bogue Chitto Creek, where we remained
until the road was opened up to Selma.
The week at Walker's Switch was passed pleasantly in hunting
and roaming through the woods. Upon reaching Selma, I rented a
house in which to put my wife and baby, together with the supplies
collected on our route. It was well that we secured something
to eat before coming on to Selma, as groceries were very scarce
here and greenbacks still more so. A few days later I started
out with a mixed train between Selma and Talladega. I had this
run until the bridges were rebuilt between Talladega and Blue
Mountain, when a regular passenger train was put on, and I was
given a local freight. In August, I was put to running a construction
train, and after working two months, received my first greenback
money. The amount was $10.00, two five-dollar bills. I wouldn't
risk the money in my pocket, but carried it home in my hand, and
as Frances was scarce of clothes, gave it to her to buy something
to wear. She bought a blue calico dress the first thing. Of course,
those two five-dollar bills did not represent my two months' wages.
I was getting at the time $4.00 per day, but there was no money
in the South for many months after the close of the war, so I
had to wait some time for full payment. People travelling paid
their fares with meat, corn, meal, or anything they happened to
possess. The railroad company kept a commissary where these commodities
were stored, and issued out to employees in part payment of their
I ran on construction until the spring of 1866, and then took
a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, as I had received several urgent
calls to go there to work. I found smallpox raging, and after
a few days was myself stricken with the dread disease, being confined
to my room for forty-five days. I was fortunately boarding with
a kindhearted landlady who refused to have me sent away, and took
care of me all that time. Her name was Ladd, and her kindness
will never be forgotten as long as life lasts. She left me in
the care of a negro woman when she couldn't be with me herself.
I was delirious a good deal of the time, and one night got out
of bed. The negro woman was in charge, and told me if I didn't
get back in bed she would tie me hard and fast. They told me afterwards
that I gave her a piercing look and said, "You will tie me,
will you?" When she replied that she would, I gave her a
lick that landed her across the room, then got back in bed, as
quiet as a lamb. She didn't try to control me after that. During
this sickness my wife was in Montevallo with her parents, who
persuaded her not to go to me on account of our baby. She knew
that I had good attention and reports were regularly sent to her
of my condition. When I was able to be about, Frances and the
boy joined me, and I was placed on a pile-driving train until
I regained my strength, and was then given a passenger run. While
on this run I had a collision, for which I was not to blame. My
conductor, who was named Slayton, was caught on the platform of
a coach and killed instantly. The men on the opposing train were
discharged, while I was put in the shop at Huntsville. The Superintendent
was satisfied that I was not to blame, but said that on account
of public sentiment it would be best for me to be off the road
for awhile. I worked in the shop for several months, until November,
1867, but getting my right hand badly mashed, and being unable
to use it for some time, laid off for a week or two and came to
Just a while before I mashed my hand I was called out on the
road to a wreck, and got my feet frost-bitten so that they swelled
considerably, and gave me a great deal of pain. I went to a drug
store to see if I could get anything to give me relief, and a
German told me to get some sal ammoniac, and put as much of it
half-gallon or more of warm water, as the water would dissolve,
hold my feet in there for some time, then dip cloths in the water,
and bandage my feet, wrapping dry cloths over them. I did as directed,
and the next morning my feet were considerably smaller, and did
not hurt me any more. I mention this for the benefit of some who
may have frost-bitten feet at some time, and be ignorant of a
remedy for it.
As soon as I arrived in Selma I secured a job. When I had been
at work about two months the Master Mechanic got in an angry mood
and cursed me out. He had been in the habit of cursing the men
on all occasions, but I wouldn't stand it, so pulled off my coat
and gave him a thrashing. For this he discharged me, which was
the first and last time in my life. After I had spoiled his "beauty"
and he began to collect his wits a little, he remarked, "That's
the thanks I get for giving you egg-nogg this morning." That
whipping cured him of cursing the men, though. I think it made
a Christian of him.
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