The Mountaineers During the War.

from a series of sketches by J. W. De Forest: "Chivalrous and Semi-Chivalrous Southrons."

            It is a striking instance of the reliability of history that I never learned to my satisfaction the date or manner of the famous advance of the mountaineers upon Greenville during the war. One informant assured me that it took place before Bull Run; that the loyal men of the Dark Corner and vicinity mustered six hundred strong; that they marched toward the low-country with the intention of forcing South Carolina back into the Union; that Greenville, unable to meet such a host in the field, sent forth Governor Perry to dissipate it by the breath of his eloquence. This dramatic informant, rising from his chair and extending his arm, proceeded to deliver with flashing eye and thunderous tongue a fragment of the Governor’s oration:

            “Men of Greenville,” he represented him as saying, “the government under which you were born no longer exists; and that loyalty which you formerly owed it, and which you rendered so nobly, is now due to the Confederate States.” Whereupon the invaders separated into two bodies, one of which went back to its mountains in wrath and discouragement, while the other formed two companies for the rebel army and fought heroically at Bull Run.

            The other version of this affair is, that it took place late in the struggle; that there was no advance upon the low-country, but only a general marauding of deserters and other desperadoes; that the Confederate authorities offered them pardon in case they would surrender and agree to lead peaceful lives; that sixty or seventy of them were got together, and that Governor Perry was induced to make them a pacificatory speech; the result being that the majority of them laid down their bushwhacking rifles and resumed the ways of peace. As I had both these tales from good local authority the reader will be justified in believing them both. My own opinion inclines to accept the latter of the two as the most probable.

            It is certain that the majority of the able-bodied men of the mountains were eventually bullied or dragged by main force into the rebel army. They sought to remain loyal; there is no reasonable doubt of that; but the conscription details were too much for them. Long lines of videttes were run clear through the mountains, and the distances between the lines were traversed by relentless patrols. Men who fled on being summoned to surrender were shot at once; they were massacred in their own door-yards in the presence of their families. It must be understood that by the Conscription Act every male Southerner was placed on the rolls of the Confederate army, and thus was constituted a deserter in case he failed to repair to the dépôt of the regiment to which he had been assigned. It was nominally as deserters, and not as Unionists, that these victims were murdered.

            The rebel authorities even used blood-hounds to aid their troops in scouring the refractory mountains. “But that didn’t amount to much,” said a stalwart old mountaineer to me, with a chuckle. “The dawgs would run ahead yelping, and the boys would take a crack or two at ‘em with a rifle, and that would be the end of the dawgs.”

            It took at least two lowlanders to catch one highlander, and when caught he was very nearly worthless as a soldier. He seldom fired a gun at the Yankees; if there was a chance to desert he improved it; if he got back to his native rocks he was a bigger pest than ever. Nearly all the youth of the Dark Corner were at one time or another chased into the rebel army, without doing it a particle of benefit.

            Meantime, the elders of the mountains harbored such of our men as escaped to them from Columbia or Andersonville, and acted as guides in running them through the rebel lines to Eastern Tennessee. Several of them have shown me certificates to this effect from Union officers whom they had thus befriended.

            “I tell you this paper was a mighty big scare to me as long as the war lasted,” said a stooping, meagre farmer, in a threadbare suit of yellowish homespun. “If it had been found on me it would have cost me my life. I walked five miles and back for an auger to bore a hiding hole. I bored the hole in one of the inside beams of my house, put the certificate into it, and then drove a wooden hat-pin on top of it. The very next day thar was a reb detail, along to sarch me for signs of Yankees. They looked me all through, but they didn’t find nothin’. The captain hung his cloak up on that very hatpin. When I see that, stranger, I could hardly help a-smilin’.”

            Solomon Jones, the Union patriarch of the mountains, a tall, robust, florid, hale man of over sixty, as alert and healthy as humanity can be at thirty, a kindly, generous, fair-minded, honorable though uncultured spirit, was persecuted during the war as the upright are persecuted in evil times. He was hunted from his house; he lay out for weeks in the forests fed in secret by his family and friends; caught at last, he was thrown into Greenville jail with felons. His sole crime consisted in speaking against a rebel government, and for the government of his country. To the honor of Mr. Perry it must be mentioned that he procured the liberation of this martyr, and that he declared, with his accustomed courage, “If Jones deserves prison I deserve it, for he has said no more than I.” To the Bank credit of the Governor it must be added that he charged and collected a hundred dollars for the service. However, there were few men in the South who would have had the will or the fearlessness to do it at any price.

De Forest, J.W., “Chivalrous and Semi-Chivalrous Southrons” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 38, Issue 225, February 1869; New York: Harper & Bros.

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