Civil War Letters of James Henry Lauriston Hull
March 27, 1864
My Dear Parents,
I once more, and I suppose for the last time while remaining at this post, address you, and that too without having heard a word from home except two letters received from Mollie dated some time past. Do you write?
Well, I write this principally to tell you that "my doom is sealed. " Maj. Ford said nothing for some time, but order after order came until there was no choice, so he made application in very strong terms. (The) "Application for Detail Permanently, " was approved by Maj. King, Chief Quarter Master of the District; also approved and forwarded by Gen. McCulloch, commanding Sub-District, to Gen. Magruder. He disapproved it on the grounds that the late act of Congress prohibits any able bodied men from being detailed or kept in these Departments. Therefore I consider myself in the field. I have not seen Major Ford since the application returned, but I suppose he can say nothing but "go." My application came back numbered “2320.” I don't wonder at the refusal though I object to it.
Well, there is but little news of any kind that will interest you, though I will give you what I know just as I think of it. We have no military news. All is quiet in this District. General Price is reported moving his forces down near Shreveport.
... Quantrell's men are doing a great deal of injury to the Southern cause. They shoot old gray-headed men, rob widows, threaten to burn their houses, and take anybody's horses they want. They had a difficulty between themselves recently, and their band is rather broken, though neither fears the other. I think they are the coolest, bravest, most reckless desperadoes I ever saw. They were at town yesterday and said they intended to ride off a certain fine horse in the Government Staff stables last night—said it right in the face of General McCulloch. He only had a guard of twelve men placed there. They did not take the horse! We had a "band" of music to come over from camps a few nights since, and called on Gen. McCulloch, Col. Roberts, Col. Throckmorton, Maj. John H. Brown (the correspondent of the Houston Telegraph) and the great orator, Bob Taylor (said to be the greatest man and the smartest orator in Texas), also Capt. Record and Col. Towns. Well, all these men made speeches ... I went the whole rounds, and I heard each one's opinion separately. You see, everyone having gone to bed, did not hear the other's views, therefore his opinions were original. All seem to corroborate in the idea of speedy peace. Each one having had opportunities of observation, and knowing many circumstances, all seemed to go to prove that incidents were culminating in the north which would bring a speedy peace. They seem to agree also that our most bitter enemy is at home, especially in northern Texas. Gen. McCulloch told them they had paid him an undeserved compliment, therefore he would open his mind to them on a subject much to their interest, but he said he could only tell them dark news of northern Texas. This country is in a most horrible condition. The people are afraid to make oath against anyone they may know has stolen a horse or anything of this kind. None of us know when we are safe. Quantrell's men expect to start to Missouri soon, and they are confiscating enemy horses and anything they want. Their field of operations principally at present is near Sherman.
We had the Indians in to visit a few days since, the Osages headed by Chief Black Dog named "Wawawaee, " also the Comanches, two of the wildest tribes. They were noble looking fellows—tall, athletic, commanding looking savages. They had some squaws along—they were small and ugly. They came to trade Buffalo rugs for blankets, etc. They had their bows and arrows for killing game for food, and were draped in their savage costume, which is very …They left well pleased, saying they were "friends to…”.
Well, that's all about Quantrell. He will probably turn up at Ft. Arbuckle or some other place where he can procure provisions, but I don't think him apt to try this district again. You should have seen old McCulloch. He was white as a piece of chalk. He ran a "pretty good hickory" across the square. Some say Quantrell has not crossed the river, but that he will have to fight yet, and I credit this report least. I will hear soon, perhaps before I send this off.
But we hear more news. I don't suppose it will be news to you, though I will speak just to let you know what we hear. We hear Lee has fought Meade and has defeated him most signally; we hear that our forces have gained another decisive victory in Florida; that Gen. Price has moved his whole army to Louisiana, forming a junction with Taylor at Walnut Hill, 18 miles this side of Alexandria; that we are making heavy preparations to meet the enemy; that E.. K. Smith in person heads the column; that the Feds actually possess Alexandria, capturing two cargos or cotton, four thousand negroes and any amount of sugar and other stores. I wonder just here, what has become of Cousin Judith and the rest of the family!!! I hope sincerely that they are safe, as they were "determined to stay just where they are till the war ends. "
We also see here the "Currency Act." What do you think of that? Right "heavy brick" isn't it? Not much attention turned to it yet, though it will rage after a while!
March 29th at night. Well Father, now a little more news. Our usually dull little villa was thrown into a very sudden commotion yesterday morning. Excitement ran high for a while. The renowned Quantrell came into town followed by some twenty-five of his men. He was ordered to report to Gen. McCulloch. He came in and reported. Gen. told him to consider himself under arrest! He gave up his pistols which Gen. laid on the table. Gen. then stepped out to have some officer take him in charge. Quantrell went to the window, saw Gen. get out of sight, seized his pistols, rushed down stairs, mounted and yelled to his men to "mount up, " "mount up "! They mounted in a trice, each drawing a pistol, Quantrell at the same time saying "close up, G_D_ you, close up, or every d __ one of you will be arrested." By the time this was said, they were every one of them at full speed with pistols drawn, muttering deep threats. You know I told you his bond dissolved. Well, Lt. Anderson by prompt order from McCulloch mounted and followed, accompanied by a few desperate men who had sworn death to Quantrell for former offenses, and his own squad numbering in all 21. At last account, Quantrell had arrived at camps, warned his men, and all had decamped to the Indian Nation, baffling all present. But after crossing the river, Quantrell sent word to Col. Weaver that he did not wish to fight the Confederates, but if he cornered him he must bide the consequences.
Now a word or two more about that which lay and hung most on my mind.
I am astonished that I could write along so much as I have and say nothing of it! I mean my prospect for crossing "Old Mississippi." It strikes me very forcibly that there being no transportation but skiffs or canoes, and by my calculations by the time I reach the banks of "Mississip" the old lady will have expanded till she will measure from twenty to twenty five miles across her "bosom, " and I dare say I fear to venture on a "bosom" so broad. So I have come to the conclusion that I will be assigned to duty on this side, and with a few recommendations from Major Ford (and he says he will give me any I may ask or can want), I will appear before E. K. Smith in person and see what he can do for me. Maj. Ezelle, his Staff Quarter Master, told Maj. Ford you know, when I was about being "knocked under, " that if I wished to go with him he would see that I did not go to the field but stay with him till I said go. I think I will try to find his opinion again. At any rate, I have a "peg" or two set ahead that I will pull at as I pass them. Maj. Ford told me today he wanted me to remain with him tell he got those old …up anyway, which will be more than two weeks" then he said he will give me the best horse, saddle and bridle this “layout" can muster to be turned over at Shreveport, also furlough to pass by home. "Bully for Major!"
…’Tis now said Lee and Meade had no fight … Quantrell did get across the river out of Gen. McCulloch’s District where he stopped and sent word that he was out of the Dist. And that he did not with to fight Confederate troops, but if they crowded him he would fight them & die before he would go farther or surrender. He will be allowed to remain there one month. He is then going back to Missouri. The people seem to apprehend a forward move on this portion of Texas by the Feds this spring.
Penwell, who you know, with his crowd attempted to go north and was caught, is yet in chains at…. Some of his followers got through, some were killed, some have returned … to this place, one called “Cap Harris.”
We had one blustery rain the other night, then it blew up another norther’ which is now as cold as winter. The ground has scarcely thawed here yet. …
I am blessed with very good health and find plenty to do.
Tender my regards to any inquiring friends and give my love to all the family.
J. H. L. Hull