The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The first night after the arrival of our regiment on Polk Bayou three miles above Batesville, Arkansas, which was on the 28 of July, 1862, I with 93 other Privates was used for a chain guard around our camp with instructions to halt everyone that approached in 15 paces of us and allow no one to pass into camp or out of it without the countersign. We were ordered to pace our beats constantly. Our camp was on the east bank of the Bayou just below Brickey’s Mill and near the mouth of Miller’s Creek. The place of this encampment was known as Camp Bragg. The camp was just below a waste field where there was big timber and dense thickets in places. The night was very dark and where they posted me was in a thick patch of brush where I could not walk to and fro without gouging my eyes out against the limbs and after the relief was gone I quietly sat down and waited for time to pass. When I grew drowsy I would get up and stamp around, then sit down again and would get up again when I become sleepy. Finally I heard the relief guard go thrashing along in the thicket 50 yards or more outside of the guard line. They had missed their way and I was amused to hear them floundering about, did not halt them nor reveal my place on the line for I was told to not halt anybody unless they got in 15 paces of me and I wanted to obey my orders. Finally, when they found the right direction again and approached in 15 paces of me, I halted them and ordered the corporal of the guard to advance and give the countersign, which he did. The corporal was very angry because I did not halloo at them while they were hunting around in the brush to discover me, and said he was going to report me to Colonel Shaler. I told him that I had no instructions to halt men 40 and 50 yards distant off. He flew into a rage and said that I was asleep or I would have challenged them before they got In 15 paces. I told him I had no orders to do that. The new-fledged corporal was so hot with anger and wanted to be promoted for doing an act of some kind charged me with going to sleep on post, neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. I was not guilty, but I had to bear it all the same, and on the following morning, Colonel Shaler had me placed under guard. I was kept in close confinement for six days in an old log cabin that stood in the edge of the waste field. On the morning of the 7th day which was Monday, Colonel Shaler ordered the officer of the guard to send me to his quarters under the escort of two guards. On arriving at his tent, he told me to come in and after a short rough talk to me, he said, "I intend to have you shot." and ordered the guards to take me back to the guardhouse. I asked permission of the Colonel to explain my case to him, but with a haughty air he ordered me away. While the guard was taking me through our company grounds, some of the boys asked me what Shaler said to me and I told them how it was. In two hours after I was put back into the guardhouse, Shaler come into the cabin and took me by the right hand and told me in a very kind way that I was released and to report to my company for duty. I was so disgusted at the way he abused me in his tent that I never thanked him and wondered why he set me at liberty so soon after treating me so harsh. But I soon learned the course of it as soon as I reached the men and officers of our company. The officers had taken steps immediately to prevent Shaler from having me court martialed for they knew he had no authority to place me under arrest even. They informed me that as soon as I had gone back into the guardhouse, Lieutenant Curtis Rea called on Shaler to intercede in my behalf when the renowned Colonel ordered him-back to his quarters. Then Captain Fred Woods visited Shaler in his den and he treated him like-wise. But they both promptly paid him another visit. Major John Methvin, hearing of it, also paid the Colonel a visit. He was cut short as the others had been. He then consulted with Captain Wood, Lieutenant Rea, Lieutenant "Bud" Woods and other officers and went back to Shaler and convinced him that if he undertook to have me shot it would cause more shooting. Each one of these officers informed me of the part he taken in my behalf and a good number of the private soldiers said they had put their guns in good shape for use and intended to use them if Shaler made an attempt to have me put on trial for my life. If I had been guilty of the charge, the men and officers would not have taken it into their hands, but as it was, they were convinced that I was innocent and they were deter-mined to defend me and thus by making a bold stroke, Shaler released me at once. A man cannot realize the use of a true and faithful friend until he stands in need of one, and I felt very grateful to the men and officers who took part in my defense, and have never forgot the memory of any of them.


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