Letter from Captain Edward Dale, Chattanooga, TN. December 30th, 1864 – Tells of Confederate Atrocities – “One of the rebs placed his pistol at the old man’s face & shot him.” – “The poor fellow lay there until his body was burnt almost to a crisp.” – “In searching amongst the ashes where the old man lay, we scratched up the remains of his pocket book… he had also 2 $50 in confederate money….i send you one of the $50 confederate bills as a curiosity which you must take care of.” [AND THAT $50 CONFEDERATE BILL IS PRESENT WITH THE LETTER!]
Edward Dale enlisted as Captain in the U.S. Volunteers Commissary Dept. on April 20th, 1864. Edward Dale (1822-1869) was born in Cornwall, England, and married Elizabeth Johanna (Rowe) Dale (1822-1891) in Toronto, Canada, in 1842. The couple settled in Blue Mounds, Dane county, Wisconsin, in 1845. During the Civil War, Dale was appointed a captain in the Commissary Subsistence of Volunteers on April 20, 1864. He assumed his post on 11 May 1864 and reported to duty at Nashville, Tennessee, where he served the Department of the Cumberland from May to September 1864. Dale purchased forage at Chattanooga until January 1865, serving as Commissary, 1st Cavalry Division, Military Division, Mississippi, to June 1865. He was on post at Gallatin, Tennessee, until December 1865 when he was relieved and he mustered out of the service on January 27, 1866. Dale died in Andrew County, Missouri. He was a man of high moral character… you can tell that from the letter. THE LETTER HAS GREAT CONTENT AND RELATES A SAD STORY THAT NO DOUBT OCCURRED QUITE OFTEN WITH SOUTHERN GUERILLAS. THE $50 CONFEDERATE NOTE IS IN QUITE FINE CONDITION WITH ONLY ONE SLIGHT BURN MARK ON THE REVERSE… QUITE A RELIC!, AND IT IS NOT ONE OF THE CONFEDERACIES MOST “COMMON” NOTES.
Here are the highlights as Dale writes his wife:
• Chattanooga, Tennessee December 30, 1864. My Dear Wife, I arrived here last evening after an absence of nearly seven weeks, excepting a few hours some 4 weeks since. I have traveled up the Tennessee River from place to place about 40 miles, camping near the bank of the river most of the time, collecting & shipping forage to Chattanooga, some part of the time. I have enjoyed myself pretty well and other times quite lonesome, but still withal I have had a better chance of getting to know something of the people & country than I would otherwise have had, which if I ever live to return, I can relate to you more fully than I can in a letter.
• I came down to see if I could (find) any letters from home & whether there was any news for we have been cut off from any communication with the outside world for about 4 weeks, the cause of which & the cause of not my writing to you before.
• Perhaps you may have learnt the cause from the papers long ere this more fully than we have here. You will remember that when Sherman cut loose from Hood, that Sherman went south & Hood north; Hood marched his whole force against Nashville & took possession of the railroad between there & Murfreesboro, and I supposed destroyed the most of it, thereby entirely cutting off all communication between Nashville & this part of Tennessee. There was no use of writing because the letter would remain in the office until railroad communication was opened again.
• The mail was brought in on the 28th by a wagon train from Murfreesboro. I understand there was a wagon load. I got 2 letters, one from you dated Nov. 7th & one from Ed dated Dec. 2nd. I have no doubt you have felt uneasy on account of not hearing from me for some time, but we have no control over the fate of war, but from the best information we can get here, Hood & his Army has got soundly thrashed & sent off in a hurry across the Tenn. River. • You’ll receive more full accounts of the battle through the newspapers than we shall hear for sometime until we get the trains running regular again. It is reported a train leaves for Nashville today. I hope it will for I am very anxious that you should hear from me.
• WE COULD HEAR THE FIRING OF THE ARTILLERY TOLERABLE PLAIN WHICH TOOK PLACE OVER 100 MILES FROM US. IT CONTINUED 3 DAYS IN SUCCESSION.
• I must not forget to tell you of my first experience (that is personally) in a small affair which took place about 3 miles from where I was encamped with my men on the night of the 8th inst.
• A party of guerrillas supposed to be about 50 or 60 mounted men, made a raid on some citizens. They first cornered an old man & whipped severely after robbing him of all they could get hold of. They then proceeded on robbing & inflicting gross outrages on the citizens who happened to live on their route until they reached A PLANTATION FORMERLY OWNED BY A MAN WHOSE NAME IS SHIRLEY. HE IS A REBEL & IS SUPPOSED TO BE CONNECTED WITH THE GUERRILLA BAND.
• A refugee family & a young man and his mother occupied the house. THE REBS FIRST SURROUNDED THE HOUSE & THEN COMMENCED BATTERING DOWN THE DOORS & WINDOWS. A man stepped into one of the doors & called the young man by name, telling him to come out. THE YOUNG MAN RAISED IN HIS BED, SNATCHED HIS PISTOL & SHOT THE REB DOWN. They then ordered the old man & his two boys to come out, which they obeyed.
• ONE OF THE REBS PLACED HIS PISTOL AT THE OLD MAN’S FACE & SHOT HIM, BUT DID NOT KILL HIM. THE BOYS TOLD ME THEY SNAPPED SEVERAL CAPS AT THEM, BUT THEIR PISTOLS MISSED FIRE. THE OLD MAN FELL OUT 20 FEET FROM THE HOUSE & LAY THERE.
• The Rebs then commenced plundering the house, while the young man climbed into the loft. One of the Rebs opened a trunk & was pillaging it. The mother of the young man was expostulating with him about taking some little trinkets that was into it, saying they were hers and she would like to keep them. The Reb was swearing at her & while he was so doing, THE YOUNG MAN IN THE LOFT SLIPPED SOME OF THE BOARDS APART, PLACED HIS (PISTOL) BETWEEN THEM & SHOT THE REB DEAD ON THE SPOT, THE BULLET ENTERING THE BACK PART OF HIS HEAD & COMING OUT NEAR THE FOREHEAD.
• The Rebs then set fire to the house all around. The young man remained on the loft as long as he could for the fire. He then, with nothing on but his shirt and drawers jumped from the loft & out of the door where the Rebs were collected. As he did so, he fired his pistol at the crowd and ran for dear life amidst a shower of bullets unscathed.
• The Rebs, before setting fire to the building, ordered the boys to pull the dead Reb to a safe (place) from the building, but would not allow them to remove their wounded father who lay weltering in his blood. THE WIFE APPEALED TO THEM TO ALLOW HIM TO BE REMOVED, BUT THE FIENDS REFUSED & THE POOR FELLOW LAY THERE UNTIL HIS BODY WAS BURNT ALMOST TO A CRISP.
• The Rebs then left, captured 1 or 2 men on their route, it’s supposed taking them off. The next morning the wildest excitement existed. The citizens were afraid to ever go after the body of the poor refugee. I sent a Lieutenant after a detachment of soldiers & I mounted about 20 men, the citizens stating that the Rebs were scattered through the woods in the vicinity where the affair took place.
• The Lieut. started on one road & I on another with my men, so that we could scour the country before reaching the place, but not a Reb could we find. • We sent the body of the refugee off to be buried & set the men to dig a grave for the dead Reb. (What them were shot, they took off with them.) THE MEN DUG A PIT ABOUT A FOOT DEEP, DECLARING THAT WAS SUFFICIENT FOR THE JOHNNY. I MADE THEM DIG IT DEEPER THOUGH.
• They then dragged his body in the pit. An Irishman took hold of him & turned his face downward applying all kind of epithets to him. I made him get out of the way & went down & turned him over again, placing his arms & legs in a proper manner. I could not bear to see such treatment of a dead man, even if he was a Rebel, but a great many of the soldiers appear to be void of all feeling.
• IN SEARCHING AMONGST THE ASHES WHERE THE OLD MAN LAY, WE SCRATCHED UP THE REMAINS OF HIS POCKET BOOK. THERE WAS $18 IN GREENBACKS & 50 cents in silver. THE MONEY WAS NOT INJURED BY THE FIRE BUT A LITTLE. In the Reb’s pocket we found a diary which was taken from one of our men in July last. The Reb had kept a memorandum in it since 19th Nov. up to within 2 days of his death. HE HAD ALSO 2 $50 IN CONFEDERATE MONEY, six dollars in greenbacks, & a few trifling articles. HE WAS DRESSED IN OUR UNIFORM THROUGHOUT, WHICH THOSE SCAMPS DO FOR THE PURPOSE OF BETTER ENABLING THEM THE TO PASS THROUGH THE COUNTRY UNDETECTED, PASSING THEMSELVES OFF AS FEDERAL SOLDIER.
• Oh, but it was terrible to witness the distress of the family of the poor refugee, being a widow & seven children & had only arrived there but a short time previous from Georgia. I SEND YOU ONE OF THE $50 CONFEDERATE BILLS AS A CURIOSITY WHICH YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF.
• I must hasten on though as I have soon to leave again for up the river, on horseback at that, but I will write again soon if communication opens. You stated in your letter that the Norwegian was not going to work the prairie farm again. Do the best you can with it. Tell Mr. Smith to do about the horses what he thinks best. I presume there are too many of them, but for him to do as he would for himself. I am sorry that you are obliged to keep Ed home this winter, for I think he has improved very much, but tell he must continue to study & be a little more careful in spelling & not blot his letters quite so much nor interline. He had better copy them & make them clean & neat, but above all things to study hard & improve as much as possible. I wish he could write a little better. I would send for him to act as Clerk for me at a salary of $75 or $100 a month. I sometimes think I will do it. He must write me a letter again soon & let me see how well he can write.
• I spent Christmas alone, that is there was no one with me but the people where I was stopping & my Negro servant. The people as a general thing are not first rate company. They are generally very ignorant. I was very lonely on that day. No cheering smiles & innocent laughter of the children over the numerous gifts of Santa Claus. Oh! I missed the pleasures of home on that morning more than any other time since I left. I should liked to have caught a glimpse at them on Christmas morning. I expect to spend New Year’s on the road back, but then I have made up my mind to take it as it comes, good, bad, or indifferent. Who wouldn’t be a soldier?
• We have had but very little snow here this winter. Just enough to let us know that it snows somewhere, but we have had rain instead. There has been a few what is considered here cold nights. The ground being slightly frozen, it looks a little singular to see people sowing wheat at Christmas, but they sow here from October to the last of December. I am in excellent health & hope sincerely that you & the children are also well. This climate appears to agree with me exceedingly well. I was glad that Emma discovered that Ed had not mentioned in his letter whether you were well, and next time he must remember for that is the most important of all. I wished that Sarah & Ed could still continue going to school for I am anxious that the children should be well educated above everything else. Write me again soon & let the children do so also & often. I have not got the box with the boots yet & it’s doubtful if I ever will. I have written this in a great hurry. A Happy New Year to all of you & God bless you is the prayer. Of Your Affectionate Husband and Father Edward Dale
Not only does this letter have great content, but it includes a great “souvenir”… one that is worth perhaps $200 by itself!
#CG520 – Price $550