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Notes of the Travels of the Echols Guards In the War of 1861 with the Old United States of America

by John Wesley Culpepper

Note from Site Publisher: The introductory sentence below from John Wesly Culpepper's diary is an understandable expression of contempt that must be felt by many soldiers towards their enemy. However, as a man happily married to a woman born north of the Mason-Dixon line, I must state that his opinion does not reflect that of the web site sponsor!

John W. Culpepper, enlisted in the service of our common Country in the Southern Confederacy, against our vilest enemy, the North, in May A. D. 1861.

On Wednesday, five o’clock p.m. May 22nd. {May 22nd was Tuesday -- editor} I bid adieu to preceptors, fellow students and friends with whom I have been so pleasantly associated during the present year, at Union Springs Acadamy {sic}, both as teacher and pupil. The events which have been transpired at that place, this year, are among the pleasantest {sic} recollections of the past. I delight to meditate upon such bright and pleasant recollections.

On Thursday, at eleven O’clock, May 24 I left the pleasant old home of my native County and State (Lone Oak){Meriwether County, Georgia}. At 1 O’clock, I arrived at Grantville a railroad town four miles from home, where our company was to take the train which was to bear us toward the northern borders of the Southern Confederacy. The train came up at the regular hour, 5 O’clock, but with out orders and preparations for our transportation. We were then compelled to await the next train, to arrive the next morning at 5.

Our Capt., C.W. Howard told us he thought all would be right for us to leave at the above mentioned hour on the following day. We were amply compensated, by being at Grantville that evening. The train which was to carry us to our destination, brought the Hon. A. H. Stevens {read: Stephens} 1 , Vice President of the Confederacy, who was loudly called for by the immense multitude who had assembled to witness the departure of the Echols Guards. He came forward and made a short, but one of his most eloquent speeches. The cars then moved off amid the enthusiastic cheers of the excited crowd. "Three Cheers for the Glorious Sons of Ga." went the serene air, as he passed away.

We were very hospitably treated by the citizens of Grantville. When it was as certained {sic} that we would remain in that place till the following morning, some of the prominent men of the village proposed to provide supper, lodging and breakfast for the whole company, which the citizens of the village and community went into heartily. Being more convenient it was decided that we all go to the hotel, kept by Mr. John O. Hill, who proposed to entertain us at half price. I with several others took supper and lodged at Dr. J.H. Strickland, and ate breakfast at the hotel.

Before the arrival of the train that evening, we had some very eloquent {speeches by} E. Cap Mobley our third Lieut, and Rev. Mr. Marshall. Both speeches were frought {sic} with the liveliest enthusiasm.

The next morning came {Friday, May 25 1861--ed.}, and we bid adieu to friends whom it was quite probable we would never see again. At every village and town which we passed, the people seemed to be wild with excitement. I called to see some of my old friends in Fairburn, while the train stopped to take in wood and water. But a few minutes had passed and we were moving towards the flourishing city of Atlanta.

We arrived at Atlanta at 8 o’clock a.m. Everything was in a perfect stir {colloq.}. The cars bringing in soldiers from almost every direction. And immediately they would get aboard another train making its way towards the seat of war. I had been told that we were going by the way of Augusta G., but our Capt. thought it best to go the upper rout {sic.}. Soon after we arrived in Atlanta, Squire Mobley was loudly called for by the congregation crew host and the car shed. He came forward and delivered a speech, not to be surpassed by the ablest {colloquialism. -- ed.} and most eloquent men of the Nation.

At about 9 1/2 o’clock, we were on the State train moving towards Tenn. Just as we were in the act of leaving the City, a United States Officer was arrested by the City authorieties {sic} . He said that he had been in Texas, and was trying to make his way back to Washington. He had been taken up some where in Alabama, and carried to Montgomery. It seems, that he was released by some means, and had set out again for Washington. He said that he got as far as South Carolina, where he was informed he could not pass that way. I have not learned what was done with him in Atlanta.

We arrived in Marietta at 11 o’clock. I could not see much of the town, as we remained but a very few minutes. Judging however, from what I could see, it must be a beautiful and flourishing little City. The train stopped at 12 o’clock, for dinner, at a place called Big Shanty. It is a quiet place, entirely away from the hubbub and hustle of a town. We took our provision boxes, which our Mothers had packed full with such as our keen appetites wished. After 20 or 30 minutes, we were moving onward, and at 1 o’clock we were at Ackworth a very pretty village. In 1/2 an hour, we were at Altoona. The next place was Cartersville, at which we arrived at 2 o’clock. At 2 1/2 o’clock the train was standing at Kingston. We then passed a little town which I failed to get the name of. Calhoun was the next place, we stopped at. We got there at 31/2 o’clock.

We landed at Dalton 4 1/2 o’clock, where we were to change cars. We were told that it would be 1 o’clock that night before we could get off. Our baggage was changed, and guards were detailed to keep watch till that hour. We all then concluded to walk around and look at the City. We scattered in every direction but found nothing worthy {of} special attention.

Every thing was in a dilapidated condition. It seems that they commenced to build fine houses, and as soon as they are fit to move into, the workmen quit, and the buildings decay before they are completed.

At about 6 1/2 o’clock I came in sight of the Depot, and saw a large concourse of people collected.

I went down, and saw a man, who had just arrived on the train, preparing to exhibit some huge and dangerous looking animals. He had the largest bear I have ever seen. It was a monster, made several grabs at the boys as they passed around, and near the cage. The proprietor made him perform all sorts of feats. He then went into the cage with the animal, and played with it like it was a house cat. He then exhibited a tiger, which he said would go hunting with him, and would bring any game to him, as soon as killed. They would do anything he told them. He made no charge, but a subscription was taken up among the spectators. He then proposed to give all he received to the soldiers. He was requested by the soldiers to keep the money to pay his expenses home. He said he lives in Kentucky, but had not been home in 21 years - had traveled in all the European countries - had traveled round the world 3 times - had several hundred animals in New Orleans - was carrying these, his favorites, home - expected to return to New Orleans soon. He is a savage looking fellow indeed - weighs about 180.

We then took supper. We got coffee from the hotel, but ate our own provisions. I don’t think the lanlard {sic} charged anything for supplying us with coffee. There were several volunteer companies in Dalton, and almost every place we passed, from Atlanta to Dalton. We passed several companies in camp near the road. After supper, I thought I would write home, I went around to a store, got paper, ink, and a light, and had just headed my letter, when I heard our Drum, and a call for the Echols Guards. I dropped everything and went down. An extra train had come down from Cleveland Tenn., supposing there would be soldiers as they were passing every day. As soon as our boys could be collected, (for they were scattered) the train was ready to leave. It was then about 9 o’clock. I was very sorry that we could not pass through that country in the day; for I desired to see the country.

Being very weary and sleepy, we had not gone far from Dalton before I was in the sweet embrace of morpins.2 I slept well till we got to Cleveland, about 10 1/2 o’clock. I was then aroused, and went out to see the town. Although the moon shone brightly, I could not see the town very plainly. It seemed to be a very level, pretty country. We were off in a few moments, and I stood on the platform of the cars for a while to view the beautiful scenery as we passed along. I soon retired to my seat in the car, where I was soon slumbering as before.

I don’t know how long I did sleep, but when I woke, the boys told me that we had just crossed the Tenn. River, which I was very anxious to see. I woke up again before day and remained so till day, looking at the beautiful, rich, green clover fields, in full bloom. These with the promising fields of waving grain attracted my whole attention. The wheat and oat crops are promising , though not near as forward as ours {colloq.}. The corn is very small, just plowing it the first time. We are at least , a month forwarder {colloq.} than they are. I have not seen a stalk of cotton, since I left Dalton. I did not get the names of any places between Cleveland and Knoxville.

We arrived at the latter place at 6 o’clock a.m. {Saturday} May 26., where we took breakfast. We tried to get coffee from a hotel, near the Depot, but failed, consequently we had rather a dry breakfast. Several of us went up into town, about 1/2 mile from the railroad. It is a beautiful little city, on a branch of the Tenn. River. We were very anxious to see Old Brownlow,3 but we did not know what time we would leave, and the Capt. told us to keep near the Depot, so as not to be left. If we could have seen him, he would have been in bad luck, if he had said anything in favor of the Lincoln, Union party. We were told there, that he was somewhat taking down {colloq.?}, I suppose through fear of being mobbed. He still holds to his Union doctorine {sic} however, and has a great many followers. He has taken down the United States flag recently, but is still in favor of the "Glorious Union"

They told us that there were then 1800 volunteers in camp near that place, made up in the City and surrounding community. They also stated that the election to ratify the secession ordinance would take place on the 8th of June, and that they were in anticipation of a fight there on that occasion, between the two parties. They have been requested to go to the polls armed. If the Union men persist, it is probable there will be a considerable row. We left there at 9 o’clock, and nexted {sic} reached Mossy Creek, a little railroad {town}. There was a large crowd at the platform, and we were very much surprised to see, in that large assemblage, the stars and stripes waving over the heads of many sympathisers {sic} . It was all that the conductor and Capt. could do to keep the boys from rolling out of the train, and pitching in for a regular battle; though we were not armed, only with pistols and knives. They were perfectly indignant to see such demonstrations in old Tenn. One man told me, that they did not live there, but that they had attempted to have a meeting near there, and the speaker had been run off. He told us to groan the cowardly rascals into shame. The conductor being aware of the feeling of the boys, pushed off in a moment not giving them time to get out of the car. As we moved swiftly off, I looked back at the long train and on the hindmost car I saw our glorious colors waving, amid the loud cheers of our boys and the brave Southern rights boys, who will vote old Tennessee out of the Union on the 8th of June. The Confederate flag was also unfurled to the boys.

Morristown was our next stopping place. There were no Union flags seen there. But we met a warm reception and went on rejoicing, while hats, bonnets and handkerchiefs were waved and shouts of {"} success will surely attend you.{"}

Greenville4 Tenn., Johnson’s residence,5 was reached at 1 1/2 o’clock. There seemed to be great excitment {sic} . The stars and stripes were seen over his house. I called for a Lincoln man. Told them I desired to see one of that sort, - but no one would claim that title. They told us there that he was not in the place. It was not known where he was. One man told us if we should meet up with him give him his respects, and tell him {"} damn him - all he wanted, was five fair cracks with a good rifle.{"}

We had a fine view of the lofty and beautiful "Blue Ridge Mountains" with occasional scopes destitute of any vegetation, having the appearance of large fields on its steep sides, and lofty summit, the clear places are immense roofs covering considerable spaces. Jonesborough6 is the next village Northward. We got there at 3 o’clock p.m. We next reached Bristol, a town on the line between Tenn. and Va. It was then 5 o’clock p.m. After leaving the last mentioned place, we were in the old dominion, where I have, ever since been delighted with the scenery, I would have been pleased to put down many things, which I necessarily omitted for want of time.

Abington Va7 is just a hours travel from Bristol; at which we arrived about 6 o’clock p.m. The ladies presented us with many bouquets. Lieut. Mobley was called on for a speech. He came out on the platform of the cars and delivered a patriot {sic} and fancy little speech. We got to Withville8 VA. at 81/2 o’clock, where we took supper. I went to the hotel, for I was thirsty for coffee. I sat down to a well furnished table, and being very hungry I made a pretty deep hole in everything I saw which was to eat and drink, after which I felt all right again.

I went to sleep at 10 o‘clock and slept till 4 in the morning, consequently I know nothing about anything between Withville and Linchburgh9 except the Linchburg tunnel 1 mile from that place. It is a show to one who has never seen anything of the kind. I was sorry I could not give it a close inspection. We arrived at Linchburg at 41/2 o’clock, a flourishing town on the James river. We marched about 1/2 mile and took another train.

We left at 6, - passed some of the loftiest hills and largest tobacco fields I have ever seen. Reached Farmville at 10. There were a great many people at the depot to see the soldiers. We crossed the tallest bridge between Farmville and Burkville, in the Federal or Confederate states. It is 1/2 mile long and 180 feet high. Arrived at Burkville about 111/2 o’clock. We remained there sometime.

While there I went to the telegraph office, and saw it operating. We took an extra train directly for Richmond, The railroad runs down, and near the James river all the way to Richmond. We passed no places worth attention. We got to Richmond at about 4 o’clock p.m. on Sunday evening 27th {May}.

We marched out to Howard Grove, about 1/2 mile from the City. This is quite a pleasant place. The water is very good, it is a little _____10 with lime, which gave our boys the diarrhoea {sic}. We have had no case very serious {in} nature.

Richmond is a beautiful city, well improved in every particular. I have not ascertained the number of inhabitants definitely. I think there are about 50000. I went over to the city on Wednesday evening, May the 29th {Wednesday would have been the 30th} . I remained 3 or 4 hours, and amused myself in looking around at the various portions of the city, and the improvements. I visited the Capitol, and the first thing which attracted my attention was a statue of George Washington. It is, I suppose, a perfect image of him, he is carved out of a beautiful piece of white marble. He is represented as standing in the position of a speaker, in the center of the room, and on the first floor with a frame around him. As time was limited, I passed out {of the room} expecting to return again. The next thing I saw was a monument of considerable size, erected a few paces from the Capitol, with George Washington on its summit, represented as being on the battle field, riding his huge war horse of gigantic proportions, his pistols and sword hanging at his side, and his right hand raised with his fore finger pointing as it were, at the enemy. On the same monument, but below Washington, were {Thomas} Jefferson, {James} Mason and {Patrick} Henry - all standing erect. The former 2 with pens in their hands, the latter with a sword in his right hand, and hands extended, as if making a war speech.

The Capitol is situated upon the most elevated place in the city. It seems to be a mound made for that building. It slopes off on all sides. There is an enclosure, containing, I suppose about 5 acres, with beautiful shrubbery, of various kinds. The whole enclosure is covered with green grass, and the walks are nicely paved.

I returned to the Camp expecting to visit the city again as soon as convenient, to renew my search for curiosities. I wrote a letter to father11 from Richmond on Monday the 28th of May; also, to brother James12, on Friday the 1st of June. I wrote to father again on Monday June 4th.

Monday June 4th. We have received orders to go to Harpers Ferry. We are to leave tomorrow. - Tuesday 5th. It has been as certained {sic} that we can not leave today, not being fully equipt.{sic} We have been expecting to get "Tent Cloths", but have failed, and the Capt has sent back to Georgia for them; consequently we will march without them and have them sent to Harpers Ferry. We will leave at 1 o’clock tomorrow.

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1 STEVENS (sic) STEPHENS, Alexander Hamilton (1812-1883) Although the had been a strong unionist until the last moment, Alexander Stephens, called "Little Ellick" in reference to his 90 pounds, became the Confederacy’s vice president and a thorn in the side of President Davis(see related footnote # 14 --editor). A Georgia lawyer, Stephens served in the state legislature and, from 1843 to 1859, in the U.S. House of Representatives where he quickly became a leader of the Whigs. Despite his strong belief in states’ rights he remained a firm believer in the Union and supported Stephen Douglas in 1860. With the defection of other Georgia unionists, he followed his state in secession, attending the secession convention as a unionist delegate but signing the resulting secession document. In February 1861 he took his seat in the Provisional Congress in Montgomery, Alabama, where he chaired the Rules Committee and the Committee on the Executive Departments. His hopes to become provisional president were dashed and he accepted the vice presidency. Under the provisional government this office held no specific responsibilities, so he retained his seat in Congress until the implementation of the permanent Confederate Constitution in February 1862. Almost immediately there was friction between the chief executive and his deputy. Stephens, finding his advice often ignored, became an obstructionist when faced with the president’s proposals. After refusing to go on a couple of early missions, he had to be ordered to proceed to Virginia as the Confederacy’s commissioner to the then-independent state. He soon joined forces with three other Georgians: his brother Linton, Robert Toombs (see related footnote # 18), and Governor Joe Brown(see related footnote # 16). Davis’ support for the draft and the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus provided the malcontents with ammunition in their defense of state sovereignty. Stephens was delighted with the governor’s efforts to scuttle conscription by exempting large number of Georgians as being vital to the operation of state government or by placing them in the state militia, which was dubbed "Joe Brown’s pets." The vice president was an outspoken proponent of a negotiated peace. It was this position which gave Davis an opportunity to defuse the vice president’s attacks. He summoned Stephens from his Liberty Hall estate, to which he retired, often for months at a time, to sulk about the political situation, and assigned him a mission to Washington to deal in public on an exchange of prisoners but also, if the opportunity arose, to discuss a peaceful settlement of the war. Although originally his own idea, Stephens became lukewarm when the mission was set to coincide with the Gettysburg Campaign. The Lincoln administration refused to receive Stephens on the grounds that there were military channels to discuss exchanges. Stephens returned to his sulking and a long and heated correspondence with the president. Again, in February 1865, Davis sent Stephens, along with Senator Robert Hunter and Judge John A. Campbell, to meet with Lincoln. This time on the 3rd, the meeting took place, on the River Queen in Hampton Roads, but was a complete failure. Stephens realized that Davis had outsmarted him knowing the conference was doomed, and was forced to make a formal report to Congress acknowledging the disaster and thus refuting his previous claims of a possible settlement. Returning to Georgia, he saw Davis when they were both captives of the Federal authorities. They never met again. After five month imprisonment in Boston’s For Warren, Stephens was released, but the next year he was denied the right to sit in the Senate seat to which he had been elected. In 1871 he purchased the Atlanta Southern Sun. His publication of A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States was financially highly successful. He returned to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1873 to 1882 before being elected governor of Georgia. He died a few months after taking office. (Sifakis, Stewart, Who Was Who in the Civil War pp. 620-621 [Von Abele, Rudolph Radama, Alexander H. Stephens, A Biography])

3 BROWNLOW, William Gannaway (1805-1877) East Tennessee was a continuous thorn in the side of the Confederacy — its mountain people had little sympathy for the slave-holding class. One of the chief sources of this trouble was Parson William Brownlow. Converted to the Methodist faith, he served s a minister for a decade before, in 1839, founding the Eizabethton Whig, which eventually moved via Jonesboro to Knoxville. He kept all these communities in a virtually permanent state of political and religious uproar with his pro-Union, but pro-slavery, rhetoric. His extremist arguments, in support of the now defunct Whig Party, made him a victim of physical violence on at least one occasion. His anti-Confederate tirades were tolerated during the first few months of the war, but reports linking him to railroad bridge-burning, and a final vicious attack in Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig, proved too much for the rebels. He was imprisoned on December 6, 1861, and on March 15, 1862, he was physically expelled from the Confederacy. He promptly published Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession; with a Narrative of Personal Adventures among the Rebels, which sold 100,000 copies in three months. Greeted with open arms by the North, he accompanied the Union army, upon its return to East Tennessee and reestablished the Knoxville Whig and Rebel Ventilator. Favoring harsh treatment of rebels, he succeeded Andrew Johnson as governor in 1865 and held that post until appointed to the Senate. Retiring in 1875 he resumed his vitriolic journalism until his death . Sifakis, Stewart Who Was Who in the Civil War p. 82 [ Coulter, Ellis Merton, William G. Brownlow, Fighting Parson of the Southern Highlands]).

4 Read "GREENEVILLE," Tennessee.

5 JOHNSON, Andrew (1808-1875) The only U.S. senator from a seceded state to retain his seat, Andrew Johnson was rewarded with the posts of brigadier general of volunteers and military governor of Tennessee before being tapped as Lincoln’s 1864 running mate on the Union — or Republican and War Democratic — ticket and succeeding to the presidency (with the threat of impeachment). Born in North Carolina, he had moved to Tennessee as a tailor and allegedly was taught to read and write by his wife. A Jacksonian Democrat, he started his political career as an alderman and mayor in Greeneville in the late 1820s and 1830s. In the latter half of the 1830s he served in the state house and in the next decade in the state senate. He sat in Congress for five terms, from 1843 to 1853., then ran for governor — the Whigs having redistricted him into an unfriendly district. Elected and reelected governor, he served from 1853-1857 and greatly advanced public education in the state through tax legislation. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1857 and remained in his seat throughout the secession crisis. No friend of the abolitionists, he was nonetheless an opponent of the slaveowner’s power. Recognized as a loyalist from East Tennessee, he was noticed by Lincoln and seen as a useful tool in the region. Accordingly, his Civil War-era posts included: brigadier general, USV (March 4, 1862); military governor of Tennessee (March 4, 1862-March 3, 1865); vice president (March 4-April 15, 1865); and president (April 15, 1865-March 4, 1869). As military governor he tried to institute civil government — in effect an early attempt at establishing Reconstruction policy. As a Southern Unionist, Johnson was felt to add regional balance to the Union ticket and, as a Democrat, to also add party balance. Elected in the November 1864 election, he appeared at the inauguration in an intoxicated condition. Some claim that this was the result of his having suffered from typhoid during the winter. Nonetheless his rambling inauguration oration was not an auspicious beginning to his term. With the assassination of Lincoln, Johnson was sworn in as president on April 15, 1865 At first he simply tried to follow what he thought had been Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction. In his early months he was active in granting pardons and reestablishing state governments in the South. This went along fine until the reconvening of Congress in December. The Radical Republicans couldn’t stomach a Democrat — even a War Democrat — in the White House, and the war over Reconstruction was on. The executive and legislative branches fought for control and Johnson continued to lose ground, defiantly refusing to enforce the laws passed by Congress. Finally he deliberately suspended Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton from office in violation of the Tenure of Office Act of 1867. Early in 1868 he was impeached by the House of Representative, and in a lengthy trial before the Senate the only president ever so tried was acquitted by a vote of 35 for conviction and 19 against. The Radicals were one vote short of the required two-thirds. He was powerless for the remaining year of his presidency. A subsequent Senate bid in 1871 and a congressional bid in 1873 failed. However, on his third try, in 1875, he returned to the Senate but died that July. (Sifakis, Stewart, Who Was Who in the Civil War p. 342 [Stryker, Lloyd Paul, Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage])

6 Read "JONESBORO," Tennessee

7 Read "ABINGDON," Virginia

8 Read "WYTHEVILLE," Virginia

9 Read "LYNCHBURG," Virginia

10 A word is missing from the transcript of the original text

11 George Washington Culpepper was the FATHER of the writer John Wesley Culpepper

12 An older brother JAMES Culpepper also served in the Confederate Army

Copyright 1997, Capos Conley Culpepper II. All Rights Reserved.


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