Chapter XIV -- The Last Mile

After recovering my health sufficiently I procured a horse and joined a part of the 15th. Tennessee Cavalry that was on detail to gather up supplies in west Tennessee for the army and to transport them to Corinth. I stayed with this command until time to return to Tupelo with my own company.

Another member of my company joined me and when we reached Tupelo there was no one for us to report to, for some few went on to find their command in North Carolina, while others despondent, returned to their homes to await the closing scenes of this great drama of war. My partner and myself returned home. I rejoined my old cavalry command and at Corinth May 15th. we were paroled as prisoners of war, and as such we still remain, never having been restored to citizenship.

One of America's greatest generals once said while watching a battle rage in all its fury: "Tis well that war is so terrible or men would grow too fond of it."

Johnson was now in North Carolina. Lee had surrendered and the news of his surrender was fast spreading and smaller commands were surrendering and on April 20th. near Durham, North Carolina Johnson surrendered to General William T. Sherman all that was left of that once defiant army.

The army of Tennessee numbering now only 14,000 men including the old men and boys, the junior reserves of North Carolina was all that was left.

If the reader will go with me we will visit an old relic of the war: The old Bennett house, or as it is locally known, the old surrender house. This house stands three miles west of Durham, North Carolina on the road from Raleigh to Greensboro. The house was an old house when the war closed, built of hewn logs and weatherboarded on the outside, with a plank side room on the north side, which has long since been removed. It has a stone chimney at the east end and once had a stairway leading to an upper room. The stairway and weatherboarding has, piece by piece been carried away by relic hunters, at least up high as they could reach. Many of the shingles which are of heart pine, and hand shaved, have been carried away for the same purpose. One of these shingles can be seen in the McCurtain County Clerk's office at Idabel, Oklahoma today.

Some years ago one of the Dukes of Durham to fame had this old house enclosed within another house to protect it from the ravages of time and human vandals. In what was once the front yard stands an old sycamore tree which is pointed out today as being the tree to which General Sherman's horse was tied while he and General Johnson were arranging the terms of General Johnson's surrender. It was at this house where Johnson surrendered the remnant of the army which he commanded with so much skill and Generalship while opposing Sherman on the Georgia campaign. This remnant of one of the bravest armies that ever faced death on a battlefield, tired and footsore, worn out from hard marching and exposure, opposed by Sherman's 100,000 well armed and equipped soldiers, were forced to surrender and return to their homes to take up the peaceful pursuits of life and the rebuilding of destroyed homes, some of them in the far west.

After a sojourn of fifty years in different states of the west, it was my pleasure to visit this old state, and my old home near this old surrender house. I visited another house of much importance to me near this old surrender house. It was the old house where seventy one years ago I first saw the light of day, and where on this visit I spent several days and nights. While in this area I also visited the old home of my grandfather and great grandfather, whose house was built before the war for American Independence. It is still standing but unoccupied for want of a roof. This old house would be a curiosity to most people in the west as much so as a sod shanty or dugout to the eastern man. This old house of two rooms, one 28 by 32 feet and the other 24 by 28 feet and both are two stories high, built of logs, facing two feet. But this old house, like its former owners, will soon pass away.

I am now leaving the scenes of war, which for four years, perhaps, some old soldier has followed me, noting my mistakes, touching elbows with me in some hard fought battle, sharing each other's joys and sorrows for four long years of storm and hardship. To all such, you are my friend and brother, and though our old flag went down in defeat, it fell without dishonor.

To the wives, sisters and mothers of the Confederate soldier, we bow our heads, for they bore their part well, suffered the most and complained the least.

To those of fewer years who have followed me through these four years of strife and hardship, I raise my hat and bid you an affectionate farewell.

And now with my compliments I will give each old soldier a poem for his scrapbook, hoping to have the opportunity some day before the last roll call, to see you again.

                         A FAREWELL POEM
               You served your country faithfully,
               And fought its battles well,
               Nor feared the thrust of bayonet,
               Nor flinched from noise of shell.

               You stood where shot fell thickest,
               Where smoke obscured the field,
               Where men fell sorely wounded,
               And died, but would not yield.
               You marched behind a tettered flag,
               While hope was drooping low;
               Clad in a Southern homespun rag,
               You faced the Northern foe.

               And some in shallow trenches lie,
               And some have empty sleeves,
               And some have since gone to the skies,
               While the loyal Southland grieves.
               Then here's a long farewell,
               To those who fought for Southern rights,
               We bid adieu to warriors true,
               In all their country's fights.
               It matters not if tears be shed,
               By those who still remain,
               Though the soldier's cause is set aside,
               His record is not in vain.
                                    W.S. Ray

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