- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
Thomas C Hindman
So many men from Arkansas followed Hindman to war, his oversized force was called Hindman's Legion. Many were soon moved to smaller units.
The Shamrocks, with some five or six other companies of Hindman's regiment, were encamped in a large apple orchard near the town, and one morning word was brought to the colonel’s headquarters that the company was on a big drunk. It was reported that they were not only fighting among themselves, but had declared war against all who might approach them, and had gotten completely beyond control.
This news was the more disquieting because the captain and first lieutenant were both absent on leave. Colonel Hindman instructed me to go instantly to the scene of disturbance and promptly restore order. I did not feel an implicit confidence in my ability to execute the mission, but was consoled by the reflection that I was well known to the Shamrocks and on exceedingly good terms with them. While big muscular men, and capable of the hardest labour, they were poor pedestrians, and on the march from Pocahontas to Greenville had suffered more from fatigue and sore feet than any of the other troops.
During that march I had more than once assisted every man in the company, perhaps, by permitting him, when lagging weary and crippled in the rear, to ride my horse until he caught up with his comrades; and I knew that I had gained their gratitude and good-will. Yet when I reached the ground where I was to tackle the Shamrocks, I saw a sight which sorely tried my nerves and somewhat shook my resolution. All the company except the two lieutenants and the non-commissioned officers were in liquor. Thirty-five or forty were roaring drunk and fighting like tigers. They had not taken the trouble to pair off, but were engaged in a free fight, each man for his own hand and hitting at any head he saw. Fortunately they were not using weapons, but were, nevertheless, inflicting on each other considerable damage.
The others were looking on with approbation, and occasionally furnishing a fresh combatant. The lieutenants and non-commissioned officers were striving conscientiously but ineffectually to stop the fray, and when I got there were almost in a state of collapse. Their efforts for peace met with fierce resentment, and they had been beaten until they were as limp as wet rags, and their faces looked like raw steaks dripping with blood. I was at first inclined to call on some of the other companies of the regiment to quell the riot, but, as outside interference might have induced subsequent jealousy and bad feeling, I thought it better to recognize the principle of home-rule and require the Shamrocks to police themselves.
Moreover, the Arkansas boys, if roughly handled, might have used weapons. I therefore ordered the partially sober men, who were the more numerous, to arrest the disorderly ones. They showed such reluctance to obey, not wishing to stop a beautiful fight, that I found it necessary to set the example.
I did so very unwillingly, for I knew that such a pounding as had been given the officers would quickly extinguish me. I immediately discovered, however, to my great satisfaction, that even the drunkest and most furious would not strike me. Either my rank protected me, or, as I rather believe, they remembered my previous good offices. At any rate, they simply shoved me aside when I would catch hold of them and continued to batter each other. Becoming as bold as a lion when I found that I was in no danger, I rushed into the midst of the melee and imperatively commanded the bystanders to follow and assist me. When these saw I was in earnest they obeyed. But the fighters showed them no such consideration as they had extended me. On the contrary, they turned in a body on the interlopers, and that once quiet and smiling orchard was converted into a seeming pandemonium, and the tumult of battle and bloody murther rose to the startled skies.
But after a few minutes of hard struggle, during which I prudently withdrew to the outside of the ring, numbers prevailed and the rioters were overpowered. Then arose the question what should be done with the offenders. Very little respect was paid to my opinions or wishes in the matter. The constabulary force had lost all their former sympathy with the fighters, and were so angry because of the trouble given them and the punches they had received that they thought only of revenge and future security. It was unanimously resolved that the culprits should be bucked and gagged. I had a soft spot in my heart for the Shamrocks, and notwithstanding the fact that I was compelled to approve the sentence, I pleaded that they should be gagged with corn-cobs instead of bayonets.
The suggestion elicited a storm of dissent. “Just listen to that,” said one fellow. “Did ye ever hear the like? Gag them big flannel-mouths with corn-cobs. Begorra, he’ll be tellin’ us next to wash their throats wid buttermilk.”
“Yu’re a good mon, adjutant,” said another, “but yu’re too tindher-hearted. Thim divils wud mind a corn-cob no more’n a pig wud a sthraw. The boy’nit’s the thing for thim to chaw on.”
So a bayonet was crammed into each guilty mouth, and having been also “bucked,” that is, tied up knees to chin, they were left as the sergeant expressed it, “To go to shlape paycably in the sun.” In a few hours they were all sober and nearly as good as new. No unpleasant feeling remained, and except for the black eyes and bruises no one could have guessed that anything had happened to the Shamrocks.
Reminiscences of Basil W Duke (Duke would spend the war fighting with his brother in law - John Hunt Morgan and became a prolific writer about the Confederacy after the war)