Monday, October 6, 2008

"The Peach Bloom are Putting Forth":

It was quite a surprize to find the following email in my inbox this weekend:

"Dear Mr. Dutton,

In shock I read the blog you posted just yesterday. My 2nd Great Grandfather was one of the Confederate Cavalry men captured at Dutton's Hill.

Please allow me to express my deepest regret at the horrid behavior and words used to address Pete Dutton. Further, it's unforgivable for those men to have ruined your family home.

If it's any consolation, my great grandfather, James Edward Evans, was imprisoned at the Military Prison in Louisville for his deed. However, I don't believe it did a bit of good.

Upon his exchange (under the Dix-Hill agreement) he was back at it again and rode with Morgan during the Great Raid into Indiana and Ohio. He was again captured and served a month at Camp Chase, followed by a very harsh year and a half at Camp Douglas in Illinois.

The Evans own home (north-east of Bardstown just above the little hamlet of Cox's Creek) was looted by Union soldiers who rode through the center hall scaring the children half to death. Luckily my 3rd great grandfather was a physican and had horses, food supply, and medications enough to placate the Union boys.

Thank you for posting Pete Dutton's story. Words can never express the joy which comes at reclaiming a piece of family history no one ever talked about.

While I don't condone his actions, I've grown to love James Edward Evans. He's been haunting me (pleasantly) since July 2006 when I stood at Point Lookout, Maryland - the site of last Federal prison camp where he was held before his exchange "for humanitarian reasons" as the war ground to an end. Sick and seriously wounded prisoners were exchanged at that time as the cost of the prison camps was a burden on the economy.

James, however, was just as determined in the Confederate cause as ever. He joined Duke's Brigade and fought on even after Lee surrendered. He was the among the men escorting Davis and the Confederate Treasury when he was ordered to surrender at Washington, GA.

George Bernard Shaw said, "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."

Thank you for the cathartic moment.

Thank you for keeping the stories!


Mary Beth Abordo
Kelseyville, California"

On my part, I hadn't dreamed that someone with an ancestor who walked on Dutton Hill that day in 1863 would find my blog and fill in details of what happened from another perspective! After I wrote back to Mary, she was kind enough to send more of her thoughts, and some interesting photos, including a poem, which, however roughly it may fall on our ears, is an insight into a soldier's mind, expressing sentiments probably familiar to the 19 who were buried head to head in the mass grave on top of Dutton Hill. Here's an exerpt from that email:

"As a civilian who has known only peace, I struggled to understand the mindset of a soldier. How could I ever come to know the motivations and feelings my 2nd great grandfather experienced during the Civil War? For months I floundered in doubt and misgivings. However, much became clear to me when I came upon the following poem. James Edward Evans wasn't just a Young Turk full of machismo; reckless and wanton - He was a being of convictions and does not deserve to be past over as just another "good ol' country boy." James Edward Evans was product of his times: committed to family, politically aware, willing to fight to preserve the agrarian lifestyle; the only way of life he knew.


Maurice Thompson the second was a rebel,
if you please, a reckless fighter to the last,
Nor do I fall upon my knees and ask forgiveness
for the past.
A traitor? I a traitor? No!
I was a patriot to the core;The South was mine,
I loved her so, I gave her all,--I could no more.
You scowl at me. And was it wrong To wear the gray
my father wore?
Could I slink back, though young and strong,
From foes before my mother's door?

My mother's kiss was hot with fight,
My father's frenzy filled his son,
Through reeking day and sodden night,
my sister's courage urged me on.
And I,
a missile steeped in hate,
hurled forward like a cannonball -
by the resistless hand of fate, rushed wildly, madly through it all.

I stemmed the level flames of hell - O'er bayonet bars of death I broke -
I was so near when Cleburne fell, I heard the muffled bullet stroke!
But all in vain. In dull despair
I saw the storm of conflict die; Low lay the Southern banner fair
and yonder flag was waving high.

God, what a triumph had the foe! Laurels, arches,
trumpet-blare; All around the earth their songs did go,
thundering through heaven their shouts did tear.

My mother, gray and bent with years,
Hoarding love's withered aftermath,
Her sweet eyes burnt too dry for tears,
Sat in the dust of Sherman's path.

My father, broken, helpless, poor,
A gloomy, nerveless giant stood,
Too strong to cower and endure,
Too weak to fight for masterhood.
My boyhood home, a blackened heap
Where lizards crawled and briers grew,
Had felt the fire of vengeance creep,
The crashing round-shot hurtle through.

I had no country, all was lost,
I closed my eyes and longed to die,
While past me stalked the awful ghost
Of mangled, murdered Liberty.

The scars upon my body burned,
I felt a heel upon my throat - A heel that ground
and grinding turned
With each triumphal trumpet note.

"Grind on!" I cried "nor doubt that I,
(If all your necks were one and low
As mine is now) delightedly
Would cut it by a single blow!"


Such is war. The line structure of this poem was altered by the email format. I've taken the liberty of arranging the lines as I hear them. If this project becomes an opera, or something involving music, this poem may be set to the terrible music I hear in my mind's ear as I read it.

Mary Beth also generously relayed the following description of events surrounding The Battle of Dutton Hill, compiled from a variety of sources...

March 22, 1863

Brig. General John Pegram entered Kentucky leading a nine day raid.

Pegram, who had served as Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Chief of Staff as General Bragg lead his invasion of Kentucky, had been entrusted by Kirby Smith as one of three cavalry brigade commanders. Kirby Smith’s other choices, John Hunt Morgan and Colonel John S. Scott, found Pegram difficult to work with. Tensions increased when Scott was assigned to Pegram, a move that cause him to feel demoted.

Brigadier General John Pegram, a Virginian educated at West Point, was highly unpopular with his subordinates.

In early 1863, Pegram was selected to lead a cavalry raid into Kentucky. It was during this raid that the displeasure of his subordinates became overt. Colonels Henry M. Ashby of the 1st Tennessee and John S. Scott of the 1st Louisiana openly questioned Pegram’s tactical decisiveness. John Hunt Morgan joined these men in their unrestrained criticism of their leader.

“…There was no fault to be found with the valor of the men who composed it [the Army of Tennessee]. But its history is one long tragic story of changing commanders, of bickering and wrangling among its leaders, of victories whose fruits were not gathered, of defeats which by a slight turn of fortune’s wheel might have been signal victories – a discouraging succession of disappointments and might-have-beens.”[i]

The Union seemed unperturbed by this latest raid.

“Wednesday, March 25
Rebels reported at Danville 2,000 strong. Sent out on picket with nine men in charge. See nothing of importance. Part of pickets on mud road which is almost impassable in wagon train start for Lexington.”

~ Charles W. Durling, Company G, 45th Ohio Infantry[ii]

The Hickman Covered Bridge was constructed in 1838. It was the only bridge across the Kentucky River in the area of central Kentucky during the Civil War.

Meanwhile, as Confederate leadership wasted their energies sniping away at each other, James Edward Evans was among the cavalrymen Pegram lead on the ill-fated Kentucky raid. They encountered and skirmished with Yankees on March 28th at Hickman’s Bridge. Then, narrowly evading the closely following 44th and 45th Regiments Ohio Infantry, Pegram’s Calvary captured about 750 cattle. They had taken 537 of the cattle across the Cumberland River when their luck ran out.

"…The 112th is taken from the 3rd Brig & is stationed here alone. We shall probably stay here a number of days. The Brig has been on the move night & day ever since we left Lexington. Many are sick. The Cavalry caught up with the Rebels near Somersett & have a grand fight - Whipped them good - took 300 prisoners. Killed & wounded about 100 - our loss was very small - The 112 was about 8 hours behind the fight. I have to come back to the Regt when we left the Brigade. All the detailed men have got to come back…I returned to the Regt on the 30th of March. I was sorry to come back…The 112 I suppose will stay here until they get their Horses & Equipments. They are going to be Mounted. It will be nearly the same as Cavalry. It will be much harder than Infantry for we shall be kept here in Ky in the Mountains & in the Edge of Tenn. The Regt is getting quite small - about 50 are Paroled Prisoners & a large number sick…It is the coldest weather I ever saw at this time of the year - freezes hard here every night…"
~ John C. Rockwell of the 112th Illinois Infantry, Company I. Datelined "Lincoln County / Milledgeville Ky / April 6th /63 Monday Morn"

March 30, 1863

The Battle of Dutton Hill took place about 1 1/2 miles from Somerset in Pulaski County, Kentucky. 1,550 Calvary men lead by CSA Brig Gen John Pegram were overtaken by a Union force of 1,250 under Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore. 200 CSA and 30 US soldiers were killed, missing, or wounded after the battle.[v]
James Edward Evans was captured by Union forces on March 30, 1863 in Somerset, Kentucky, during the Dutton's Hill Battle.[vi] The battle sparked the powder keg of personal animosity between Pegram and Scott. Each blamed the other for the Confederate defeat. Pegram lost several hundred men as prisoners as well as most of the cattle he had gathered to feed Bragg’s army. He also lost any last respect his men held for him. In the face of open criticism from his subordinate officers, Pegram requested reassignment back to the Eastern Theatre. The request was granted.

Only a small obelisk stands atop a knoll on Old Crab Orchard Road, about 1 mile north of the Junction of KY 39 and KY 80 in Somerset, Kentucky, to mark the site of the actual battle and the resting place of those who fell. According to State Marker number 712 located in Pulaski County, Kentucky, on KY 39 two miles north of Somerset, Union forces under General Q. A. Gillmore overtook the Confederate cavalry on March 30, 1863. A five-hour battle resulted during which the Confederates were driven from one position to another and finally tried to escape by crossing the Cumberland River as night fell.

James Edward Evans, now a prisoner of war, was taken to Louisville and held at the military prison. On April 13, 1863 he was processed to be sent to City Point, Virginia by way of Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland. This travel would have been done by railroad, usually in unheated cars. James Edward Evans was paroled at Fort Monroe, Virginia on April 21, 1863. He was exchanged under the terms of the Dix-Hill Cartel with in a group of 527 Confederate Prisoners of War and one surgeon on April 22, 1863 at City Point, Virginia. The surgeon’s name was J. H. Thompson.[vii]

“Mercury 27 degrees above zero. Clear and heavy frost. The Peach bloom are putting forth. The Louisville Journal of March 26th has some startling news in it concerning the invasion of the Rebels again into Ky. ‘It is stated upon good authority that John Breckinridge has command of the invading forces. -- Since his arrival in the State it is known that he has issued a proclamation to the people of Ky. copies of which had been received at Danville on Tuesday. The arch Traitor sets forth his proclamation that he has been authorized by Hawes the provisional Governor of the State, to possess and hold Kentucky as a member of the Confederate States, declaring among other things his intention of enforcing the conscription. We have learned from other sources, also that the provisions of that act are being rigidly enforced, in those regions thro' which the rebel army is passing; and that numbers of loyal men have thus been already pressed in to the rebel service.’The same paper states that the residents of the state Capital were in a state of high excitement this morning in anticipation of an immediate advance of the enemy. It also states that the Confederate force under Wheeler, Forest and Wharton crossed the Cumberland River at Harpeth Shoals, this morning six miles above Franklin, and it further states there is no doubt that the Eastern portion of Ky. has been occupied by rebel troops. Also we have a pretty well authenticated report that Danville has been occupied by the enemy.”

~ Eldress Nancy of the community of Shakers lived at South Union near Bowling Green


Soon after Mary Beth's email arrived, I received an email from my cousin Fred, with this bit of info:

"Congress around 1870 ordered that all records of the Civil War be published in a series of books. The title to be used was "Official Record of the War of Rebellion," usually referred to as the OR. I happened to find a set in the basement of a Salt Lake City bookstore. The university had microfilmed the set and sold or gave the books to the bookstore. There must be around 50 volumes. I finally found the volume with the battle of Dutton's Hill and bought it. I left it with John several years ago with the understanding that he would see that the Pulaski County Historical Society got it, which he did. Pegram's purpose was to collect beef cattle to feed the Confederate army. According to one of Pegram's company commanders, Pegram ordered him to take his company and try to outflank the Union troops. probably through the Dutton home-place. When the company commander got to the bottom of the hill he looked arouind and found he and his bugler were all alone, Pegram having diverted the rest of the company without notifying the company commander."

So there was a bugle.

There were semi-wild peach trees, by the way, still blooming in the fence rows where the battle took place, when I was in my 20s, like the ones that Cebah & I made peach jam out of this summer. I've seen the way that those hard late frosts we have here, in the micro-climate of Pulaski County, can blacken the blooms of fruit trees and kill the hopes of harvest.

As the obelisk says ~ in a line that my dad inflected with his wry humor: "... that constancy and valor, though displayed in a fruitless enterprize, may not be unremembered."


Apifera Farm said...

Wow- this is riveting. Mary's email was touching and also how cool she took time to find you and write. The poem, chilling, but we have to remember the time he was living and reacting too. Oddly, it is not that far off from the current times, I'm afraid. I also have a cemetary site you might want to visit, so you can document the graveyward there. This allows people from all over the world to find relatives or people who are buirined in cemetaries. I'll send later.

Anonymous said...

Please do me the kind favor of calling me Mary Beth.

Beth, was my family name. An adress of love. Mary was the name forced upon me as I entered Catholic School. While my parents tried to comfort me with the notion of public and private self, I semi-rebelled by adjusting my name to Mary Beth.

If you'd have told me you were going to pulish my scribbled background notes, I'd have polished them a bit. Rather than seeing them as fit for public consumption,they were meant as fodder for your artistic abily. How embrassed I am! Ah well, we can't all be born under the brighest stars.


SBD said...

Mary Beth,
I was riveted to every word, artistic achievement is meant to inform, amaze and succeed beautifully.
and isn't it equally amazing that Dan can use the wellspring of your words and make the story cohesive?
You star shines brightly in this old Kentucky home....
My husband, a civil war scholar, was thunderstruck by the number of prisons and the research.

Anonymous said...

A note of gatitude to the generous sbd.

Mother of Teressa of Calcutta once said," Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echos are truly endless."

Perhaps I'll dare to write again.

Mary Beth

Dan Dutton said...

Mary Beth, please do! I know that all the gentle readers of this network of blogs will be delighted.

SBD ~ please relay to WFS that I'd love to have a "what happened at the Battle of Dutton Hill" session, with the military descriptions and maps laid out before us. I'm working on the maps! (Tho at this point I'm still 360 million years before the battle!)