But only in our imagination can we take old Father Time by the hand and go backward fifty years, and more, to the days and memories of our youth, when as a boy I could hear the sound of drums in two nearby country towns and know that they were calling for men to go forth to battle for what all true Southern men and women thought then, and still believe, was right: State Rights.
The war spirit had stirred the heart of every man and woman in the country into a virtual state of frenzy. It was then that I begged the consent of my father and mother to let me join a company that was then being raised at our county seat, to oppose a call of President Lincoln for two thousand men from our state, to help put down, as he called it, this Southern insurrection. Our Governor had replied: "Not a man can you get, but ten thousand if necessary to oppose Northern invasion."
I repaired to the county seat of our county to become one of the first ten thousand men to oppose President Lincoln in coercing the then seceeded states back into the Union. I remember I was about the thirteenth man or boy to enroll their name in this company. I was not yet seventeen years old. In two days our company was full and we were ordered to Ft. Wright, forty miles above Memphis, Tennessee on the Mississippi river, and there our company became Company I of the 154th Regiment, Tennessee State Militia.
Preston Smith of Memphis, Tennessee was elected Colonel of this regiment. Afterward he became Brigadier General and was killed at Chickamauga. Marcus J. Wright was elected Lieutenant Colonel and afterward became a Brigadier General. Our first Major, Martin, became a Brigadier General and was killed at Corinth, Mississippi.
N.B. Forrest enlisted as a private in this regiment and was soon elected a Lieutenant in a Company of Cavalry, and in a very short time was elected Captain of the Company, the original Captain having been disabled for duty by sickness. At the battle of Shiloh Forrest was Colonel, commanding a regiment of cavalry. From that time forward the world is acquainted with his military history, he being one of the four Generals furnished to the South by this regiment.
Bill Cross, afterward Secretary of State of the State of Oklahoma was a boy soldier in this regiment, his father being Captain of Company I. Bill was only a small boy at that time, and too young to be enlisted as a soldier, but was a drummer boy and a marker.
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