Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
An Adventure Spoiled
By Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel (1810?1862)
[Ormsby Macknight Mitchel. A Biographical Narrative. 1887.]
I CAN now give you the second chapter in our Romance of the Civil War. On night before last Pike returned, and was brought to my tent a prisoner by the guard about midnight. He had penetrated Morgans lines, passed all his pickets, and had actually passed seven miles beyond Morgans headquarters at Murfreesboro. He had been hail-fellow with all his troopers, learned precisely where all his videttes were posted, and the roads to the three fords. In short, he came back fully prepared to guide an expedition to capture the freebooter and his band. At two P.M. yesterday I issued my orders for Kennetts cavalry, a section of artillery, and twelve hundred riflemen, to march for our outposts, about seven miles from our camp on the road to Morgans headquarters. The men did not know on what duty they were ordered, but imagined that an attack was anticipated on our pickets. I ordered sixty teams with wagons to follow, to haul in a large amount of rebel bacon we had discovered in the road.
Just at nightfall the infantry were halted on the turnpike, the wagons drove up in front of the line, and the men were ordered to fill them. Twenty in each just took twelve hundred men. The cavalry now advanced to the front, then came the artillery, then the wagon-train of riflemen, and last, a rear-guard of mounted artillerymen. I had sent forward my mounted escort with orders to permit no one to pass going South, and to arrest every one who appeared on the turnpike.
All our plans were complete, and the expedition was actually on the move, when an orderly came galloping up to me at full speed, announcing that my escort had been encountered by a flag of truce from the enemy. This was most extraordinary intelligence. I went forward, accompanied by the commander of the expedition, the chief of cavalry and artillery, when, in the misty moonlight, we discovered a white flag borne by a mounted officer, escorted by about twenty mounted men. It proved to be Captain John Morgan himself and a lot of his rangers, with a letter to me from General Hardee returning a citizen teamster who had been carried off by Morgan, and some letters from a few of our pickets they had captured at different times.
Here was a most singular state of affairs. We were near a house. I dismounted, went in, read the letter, sent for my chief officers, and I finally determined to send to General Buell. It was twelve miles to ride, but Colonel Kennett undertook to go and return in two hours. I then called in Morgan and Colonel Wood, who was also in his party, and announced to them my determination, and informed them that with my escort and two companies of cavalry we would ride forward to the Lunatic Asylum, some six or seven miles towards Nashville. The rebels had thus an opportunity to see the whole force which had been prepared to take them. The colonel and Captain Morgan rode, one on each side of me, and on seeing my formidable preparations expressed themselves as very fortunate in their escape. The large force mounted in wagons attracted their attention especially. That was to them a new feature in warfare.
We passed on our march some three thousand magnificent soldiers, and Wood and Morgan both expressed their surprise at our admirable appearance. In two hours Colonel Kennett returned from General Buell. The officers in the mean while had supper prepared at the asylum. Colonel Kennett was directed to detain them till about daylight, and then escort them outside our lines. The expedition was abandoned and thus a most capital adventure spoiled.