They Sold Him his Own Horse

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John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
In 1891, William A. Nason, late First Sergeant in the 11th New Hampshire Volunteers recalled his experiences during Burnside's 1863 campaign in East Tennessee in a paper read before the Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society. It was printed in that society’s Papers, 4th Series, No. 15. ["With the Ninth Army Corps in East Tennessee"]

At the time, the regiment encamped for a few days at Loudon, Tenn., en route to Knoxville.

During our stay here some of our men discovered a small distillery located on a branch or creek among the hills, where they could get all the whiskey they desired. The proprietor told some of the men that he wanted to obtain another horse, and if they could help him to one he would remunerate them in whiskey Some of our men would not stop to inquire about the ownership of a chicken or anything of that kind, but we had no first class horse thieves among our number. However, they were ready to put up a little job on the moonshiner, and teach him a lesson.
They at first hesitated on account of the dangers attending, and the punishment sure to follow if detected, but finally seemed to agree to the proposition, and at once made plans to carry it into execution. A few of them called upon him and found where his own horse was stabled, but also found that he kept a vicious looking dog about the place. They told him that to prevent any noise, if they succeeded in securing a horse from the corral, which would get all into trouble if discovered, the dog must be removed until the affair was over. To this he assented, and he was soon after waited upon and notified that the new horse would be delivered on that night.
Early in the evening a little detachment visited his house and kept him busy, while two or three men made their way to the shed where his own horse was kept. Leading it out into the woods a short distance they gave his mane and tail a regular army cut, and also clipped the hair on his left fore shoulder, making quite a respectable looking "U. S.," and covering the old nag with an old army blanket they led it up to the house very quietly, and delivered it according to agreement. After a slight examination in the dark it was taken away to be secreted, and the whiskey given in payment in canteens and camp pails, the boys at once returning to their quarters. No more visits were made by these men to the distillery, but in a day or two the distiller came around looking not for his own horse, but for pay for the whiskey he had given in payment therefor. This was not forthcoming, but no complaint was made concerning the trade, as he was afraid of trouble on his own part.

[BTW: before leaving Loudon, Parson Brownlow spoke to them regarding "rebel bushwhackers," he gave them typical advice: "should we by any chance come in contact with, and secure one of these miscreants, that we had better not attempt to take him into camp, but dispose of him on the way and save all further trouble."]
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