All of my life I have been looking forward to someone who would search out and compile the writings of my Grandfather William Stephen Ray in suitable order for publication in book form, but in my latter years, as I myself began to become an old man, it appeared that no one was going to do this job, so I started to enquire if such a project were under way, and found that it was not.
"Captain" Ray's lone surviving child, at this writing, Demma Ray Oldham who lives at Idabel, Oklahoma, is a well-known writer, biographer and journalist and among a few of her many accomplishments are the following: "Ma" Crabtree serial in Pictorial Review, a Television play on NBC Matinee Theatre and Biographies for the New York Herald Examiner.
She has been a valued contributor to numberless publications across the country and in addition to being an active member of Writer's Organizations, she has contributed to a number of Writer's publications, among them: National Penwomen's Club, Writer's Digest, The Writer, Author & Journalist and others.
During the time that "Aunt Demma" has lived at Idabel over the past fifty five years or so she has been the Sunday School Teacher of a well-known Sunday School class there. Of course she was absenced from this work during the time that she lived in Oklahoma City and Oceanside, California, but at this writing she is actively engaged in this work.
It is only natural that I should enquire of this well qualified writer if she were going to put her father's writings into a book, and it is typical of her nature and character that she should refer to me, this honor, and turn in my direction every assistance possible.
Together, she and I read the McCurtain Gazette files through microfilm at the modern McCurtain Gazette Newspaper offices, and also at the up-to-date Library at Idabel which maintains a number of early day files of the Gazette's publication.
"Aunt Demma" also loaned me her father's old files and scrapbook without which I should never have been able to put his writings together.
The Editor of the McCurtain Gazette referred me to the memorial INDIAN MUSEUM at Broken Bow, Oklahoma for additional files that I had not been able to obtain and through the courtesy and cooperation of LaMarr and Elizabeth Smith, the owners and operators of the fine museum, I was able to complete the files.
I wish to recognize any and all others who have helped in the assembling of my grandfather's writings, especially my sister Myrl and brothers Paul and Riley, who all cooperated in allowing me to peruse the two old trunks.
David W. Ogden.
REMINISCENCES is the account of the experiences and observations of a Confederate veteran, written in his own words; from the day of a sixteen year old volunteer into the Confederate Army through the four years of war, in his REMINISCENCES OF THE LATE WAR, and on into the difficult days of Reconstruction in his EARLY DAYS IN SEVIER COUNTY, and then as a Delegate to the various Confederate Reunions when he was a reporter for the McCurtain Gazette at Idabel, Oklahoma, and submitted his copy under the title of WANDERING WILLIE.
William Stephen Ray was born in Orange county North Carolina May 5, 1844.
When he was sixteen years of age his father, with his family, moved to west Tennessee and settled in McNairy county on Owl creek, seven miles above the old Shiloh Church, afterward made famous by one of the hardest fought and bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Ray left McNairy county Tennessee with the first company to leave there for the Confederate service, leaving home before he was yet 17 years old, being the 30th. man or boy to offer for service from McNairy county. His command, the 154th. Sen. Regiment, Tennessee Infantry.
He served the first year of the war in Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky; was in the battle of Belmont, Missouri November 7th. 1861, and was in the battle of Shiloh April 6th. and 7th. 1862.
In the CONFEDERATE VETERAN of March 1908 inquiry was made for a boy belonging to Cheatham's Division, who, during a short halt of the command, ran forward about thirty yards and pulled a large Confederate flag from the front of a tent, waved it at the Federals just across an old field, and fell back to his place in line. This boy was William Stephen Ray.
After Shiloh, when the Confederate Army was falling back from Corinth, he was left behind, sick of pneumonia. It was late in the summer before he was able to resume service again, at which time he was selected to be placed under a Captain Smith, as a scout, and was with Captain Smith for more than a year; much of that time in west Tennessee, in the Federal rear.
In the fall of 1863, when Forrest was given command of all Confederate forces in west Tennessee, Smith was relieved by the Kizer Scouts, and made Captain of Company A, 16th. Tennessee Cavalry.
In the early part of 1864, Smith was killed in a skirmish in Tennessee, and Joab Russell was made Captain of the company. While William Stephen Ray was serving in this Company he was in the battles of Okolona, Mississippi, Paducah, Kentucky and Fort Pillow.
The first of May 1864 all soldiers who had served in the infantry and were then with Forrest, and who had never been discharged, were returned to their old commands. Ray, being one of that number, reached Johnson's Army near Dalton, Georgia and participated in all the battles of the Georgia Campaign from Dalton to Lovejoy Station.
On Hood's raid into Tennessee he was left sick on the way, and when he was able made his way to his home in west Tennessee. After Hood's return from Tennessee, Ray rejoined the army, identifying himself with the 16th. Tennessee Cavalry, where he served until he was paroled.
He was paroled at Corinth, Mississippi May 15th. 1865; having served four years and twelve days.
On December 24, 1868 Ray married Narcissa Carolina Hubbard of McNairy county Tennessee at Ramer, Tennessee. The Reverend Robert Young performed the ceremony. Incidentally Narcissa Carolina Hubbard's grandfather's name was Samuel Clemens Jones, who was a second cousin of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
Mr. Ray was a member of long standing and recipient of high honors in the following organizations: Presbyterian Church, Masonic Lodge, Oddfellows, Red Man and the United Confederate Veterans.
Mr. and Mrs. Ray's first child Laura Frances was born at Purdy, Tennessee November 6, 1869. Their second child Ida Leona was born at Gravel Hill, Tennessee October 6, 1871.
In 1872 the family moved to Sevier county, Arkansas and settled on a farm near DeQueen, Arkansas. On this farm were born the following children
|Frank Cheatham||Ray||Born September 3,||1873|
|John Loving||Ray||Born August 3,||1875|
|Walter Lee||Ray||Born March 25,||1877|
|Bedford Forrest||Ray||Born June 25,||1879|
|Edna V.||Ray||Born July 25,||1882|
|William Theodore||Ray||Born October 30,||1883|
|Mary Ann (Mamie)||Ray||Born March 31,||1886|
|Demma||Ray||Born September 3,||1888|
|Unnamed infant||Born September 2,||1890|
|Jessie Maude||Ray||Born October 30,||1891|
From DeQueen, Arkansas Ray and family moved to Idabel, Oklahoma in 1907 where they lived on a forty three acre tract of land adjoining the town.
Narcissa Carolina Ray, wife of the principal character of this account passed away January 13, 1913 and "Captain" Ray followed his affectionate and loyal mate on October 14, 1919, and both rest side by side in the cemetery at Idabel, Oklahoma.
As a commentary upon the name of Ray and an illustration of the confidence the people of McCurtain county Oklahoma have placed in the members of this family, the first County Clerk after Statehood was Walter Lee Ray (above), and ever since that time has been a member of the Ray family as a County official in the Court House at Idabel, James Ray, son of the original County Clerk being the present County Clerk as of this date of September 15, 1975 - David W. Ogden, Researcher-Compiler.
REMINISCENCES is not the story of a man's life, written by a historian or researcher who gathered facts, dates and occurrences and combined them with his own imagination, and called the total product a biography, but a man's own words to describe some of the highlights of his own life; the true autobiography of "Captain" William Stephen Ray.
Captain Ray was not truly a Captain in the Confederate Army, nor did he ever claim to have been an officer, but a wide army of the friends of his lifetime would have assized the military board derelict in its duties had they known he did not, indeed, wear the bars of a Captain.
This writer has applied through General Services Administration for the Army record of his grandfather William Stephen Ray, and has received a reply: "Not Available", but I have viewed with my own eyes the roster of the Confederate forces at Shiloh, and there read his name as Corporal William Stephen Ray, 154th. Tennessee Infantry, so I know that he was at least a Corporal.
Although Ray comments that his Reminiscences are not intended as competitive with numberless historians; but that his account of his experiences and observations are the result of his own on- the-spot determinations and calculations, so it is respectfully requested that the reader shall take this into account when reading this review of battle tactics etc.
However well his military conclusions may concur with absentee historians, it is a well-documented fact that he possessed a remarkable ability to mentally photograph a situation or an occurrence with exacting accuracy.
In compiling some of "Captain" Ray's writings into a manuscript form for use in the production of a volume, this writer has not attempted to add or subtract anything whatever from the original, except perhaps here and there correct an obvious transcribing or typographical error, for I sincerely believe that if this manuscript is deserving of publication, it is certainly deserving of all its timely originality of nostalgic drama and poetic flavor.
During his lifetime the Captain's writings were published in a number of Newspapers including the DeQueen Bee at DeQueen, Arkansas, and at the McCurtain Gazette at Idabel, Oklahoma. He has been authoritatively referred to by many editors and journalists, including Harold Mabry in his PROFILES OF THE PAST.
When I was six years of age I remember with thrilling clarity my rides with Grandpa Ray in his buggy between Cerro Gordo, Arkansas and DeQueen when he was Road Overseer on that road. Out of us nine living brothers, I have often wondered why I was the fortunate one to get to go "see Grandma" and spend a whole week until Grandpa should make the return trip over the road inspection.
David W. Ogden
Route 1, Box 505,
Cove, Arkansas. 71937.
Researcher - Compiler
Chapter I: Backward, Turn Backward
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