TERMS OF SURRENDER AMID BOTTLES OF LIQUOR
Dr. William L. McDonald
Company C of the 9th Tennessee Cavalry surrendered at Waterloo in April 1865. They had been ordered to lay down their arms at a Yankee garrison in East Port, Mississippi. Federal authorities reasoned, however, that it would be expedient to send over a few officers to Waterloo so as to administer the oaths of allegiance rather than to ferry an entire company of Rebels across the river to East Port. These officers brought along bottles of whiskey which they passed around to the defeated Confederates. One of the soldiers who surrendered that day was Dr. John Wesley Young. More than fifty years later he wrote about this historic occasion: “… we became so intoxicated that we ran home without taking the oath.”
Private Young didn’t have far to run. His boyhood home was near Gravelly Springs, some ten or twelve miles east of Waterloo. Here he worked on the family farm for two years before earning his medical degree from the University of Georgia in 1870. Afterwards, Dr. Young served as a physician in Clinton, South Carolina, until his retirement some forty-seven years later.
In 1922, at the age of 79 years, Dr. Young responded to a questionnaire that had been mailed to surviving veterans of the Civil War. He mentioned his father’s 700-acre farm in Gravelly Springs and the eight slaves who lived with them: “My father and I … worked in the fields along with the slaves. We did all sorts of work that is to be done on a farm. My mother had no regular servants in the house. Sometimes she would get the Negro women on the place to help her. She and my sisters wove, cooked, spun, etc.”
He described the school he attended at Gravelly Springs as an “old field or country school.” There were several of these in this area of Lauderdale County, he said, where “anyone was allowed to attend … if the parents paid tuition.”
Dr. Young enlisted in the Confederate cavalry in April, 1861. His unit was first sent to Horse Creek in Hardin County, Tennessee, where “we pulled down telephone wires and tore up railroads.” His first battle occurred about a month later at Parkers Cross Roads where he barely escaped being captured. On August 24, 1862, his company became a part of a new regiment that was being organized by the colorful cavalry leader, Colonel Jacob Biffle of Wayne County, Tennessee. Although this unit was officially designated as the 19th Tennessee, its members served throughout the war believing they were the 9th Tennessee Cavalry.
Biffle, a veteran of the Mexican War, was one of Forrest’s most able lieutenants. Although accused by the enemy of sometimes engaging in “unconventional warfare,” he generally lived off the land and, consequently, was able to provide for the men in his regiment. Dr. Young gave an interesting account of these war-time conditions in the 9th Tennessee: “During all of my war experience I was fairly well clothed. Sometimes we had tents, but often we lived in the open, slept on the ground, frequently in sleet, rain, and snow. Generally we were right fortunate in having plenty to eat.” When we ran out of food we made raids on the nearby neighbors, capturing whatever we could.”
Perhaps the terms of surrender afforded Company C at Waterloo was unique in the annals of military history. It could be observed, as well, that the federals were dealing with an unusual company of soldiers.
Dr. William L. McDonald
The Civil War Tales of the Tennessee Valley
Copyright 2003 by
Bluewater Publications – Heart of Dixie Publishing
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