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Confederate Prisoner of War Letter From Fort Warren, Boston

 
Confederate Prisoner of War Letter From Fort Warren, Boston (Image1)
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Item Number: CL485
 

 



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For a soldier that rode with General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who donned woman's clothing to spy on the Yankees in Nashville, Tenn., and who was held in a Northern prison in irons as a hostage for a Union officer who was condemned to death for being a spy!

2 pages, 5 1/4 x 7 1/4, in ink, written by Frank Battle.

Fort Warren, [Boston Harbor], Aug. 29th [1864]

My dear Friend,

I have sat down to write you a letter. I am in good spirits about exchange. I don’t think that I will be here long. One of my roommates who had been placed here has just left for exchange, and I don’t think that it will be long after this friend gets to Richmond before I will follow him. I look hard that I should be kept here locked up in irons for the acts of another man, but I will I believe stand the punishment as well as any Southerner could. I will not forget my friend when I get to Dixie. I will oftentimes reflect of the kindness shown to me and tell of them to my friends. Have you heard of Jim lately? I reckon he has become acquainted with Greely’s friends by this time. Give him my kindest regards and tell him I am O.K. My health is still good and I am getting along very well. I hear from home once in a while. All were well the last time I heard from them. I hope my dear friend that when this letter reaches you, you will be in good health and that you will not be sick any more for there is so many pleasant hours lost to us forever, and the future looks dark & gloomy to one who is sick, but I always like in Hope, and if I am not remembered one day, I look forward with pleasure to realization of my hope in the next day. So you see I am quite hopeful, and never allow myself to become gloomy or sad if I can help myself, so believe me to be of good cheer this morning, and thinking very kindly of you my friend. With the kindest love, I am ever,

Your devoted friend,
Frank Battle

Addressed on the back of the letter sheet to Mrs. Susan L. Taylor, in Newport, Ky.

Susan L. Taylor, the recipient of this letter, was a Southern lady who operated a benevolent society out of Newport, Kentucky, that supplied aid and comfort to Confederate prisoners of war who were confined in Yankee prisons. She was the daughter of William T. Barry, who served as U.S. Postmaster General under President Andrew Jackson, and who also was a U.S. Senator and Governor of Kentucky.


Very nice content and an extremely interesting history behind the letter writer, Frank Battle. Please read below to learn more information about him.


Frank Battle, served in the Confederate States Army, from 1861-1865. He began his Confederate service as a private in Co. B, of the 20th Tennessee Infantry, and ended it when he surrendered with General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Alabama, in 1865. In between, he personally rode in a cavalry charge with General Forrest, he served in General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry command, he donned woman's clothing and went into Nashville, Tenn., to spy on the Yankees, he was captured and confined in three different Yankee prisons, he was held in irons as a hostage for a Yankee officer, and he rode again with General Forrest in the closing months of the war.

Frank Battle, was home on sick leave after having participated in the 1862 battle of Fishing Creek, Kentucky. After his health improved, he banded together with about 15 other soldiers who met up with General Forrest in McMinnville, Tenn. Forrest was heading towards Murfreesboro with about 1,200 men. Battle persuaded the boys to join in with the battalion of Colonel Baxter Smith. He wrote, "We soon realized that we had a leader who knew his business. About five miles from Murfreesboro, we were halted and ordered to dismount, fix saddles, and tighten girts. This we did, remounted, and galloped into Murfreesboro just about daylight. Quite a number of Federals collected at the courthouse, and Colonel Morrison, of the 2nd Georgia, undertook to dislodge them. General Forrest in the meantime hastily collected six companies, Colonel Baxter Smith’s four companies being of the command. General Forrest, placing himself at the head of these six companies, moved out about two miles from town to attack the 3rd Minnesota, about 1,200 strong. Think of it, 350 cavalry charging 1,200 infantry! The charge was disastrous to us. Our men fell back, and General Forrest raged. My horse was shot in the head, and the blood spurted so freely that I got off, expecting my horse to drop; but realizing my danger, remounted and rode out safely. General Forrest reformed his men, rode out in front, and, in a clear, distinct voice, said, "Col. Smith, lead the charge!" I shall never forget the impression made on my mind at that moment. Colonel Smith had taken me on his staff for the fight. He tied his bridle reins, and, with sword in one hand and pistol in the other, started out in a gallop, and led his command right on into the midst of the enemy; and it was a hand to hand fight for about one hour, until the enemy retreated, leaving all of their tents and baggage. General Forrest captured the entire Federal force, consisting of about 2,500 or 3,000 men, a large quantity of army stores, mules and wagons. We carried them to McMinnville; paroled the men, and sent the officers south. General Forrest gave the men their band, and they serenaded us with the good old songs of Dixie, Bonnie Blue Flag, The Girl I Left Behind Me, and other southern airs. How our hearts filled with joy and pride when we thought of the victory we had won!" [The action he is describing took place on July 13, 1862].

In another one of Battle’s exciting exploits, while serving as a member of General Joe Wheeler’s cavalry command, he donned woman’s clothing, passed through the Yankee picket lines, and went into Nashville to ascertain what the Yankees were up to. He returned safely to his command, passing once again through the Yankee picket lines, and reported to General William B. Preston, and together they rode to General William J. Hardee’s headquarters where Frank Battle made his report.

"Early in the spring of 1865, I passed through Richmond on exchange, having lain in a Northern prison for a year, where I was held as a hostage in irons for eight months. Imagine my delight in walking those streets a free man after this long confinement. I reported to Secretary of War, General John C. Breckenridge, who had been a lifelong friend of my father’s, and who had been importuned in my behalf by our Tennessee Congressmen, notably A.S. Colyar, J.D.C. Atkins, and John Maury. These good men saved my life. Capt. S.T. Harris, a Federal prisoner, had been tried as a spy and found guilty and the day set for his execution. Just at that time I was captured and immediately placed in irons, and was held as a hostage for Captain Harris. President Davis held out a long time, but finally yielded to the Secretary of War, and I was exchanged.

I had an audience with Secretary Breckenridge, and he gave me a commission, transferring me from General Wheeler to General Forrest. I had been in service with General Forrest before, and was anxious to get back to him. I surrendered with him at Gainesville, Ala., and still have my parole of honor which I prize very highly. I was allowed my horse and side arms, and took up my route home in company with Col. D.C. Kelley, and D.C. Scales. All were glad to see me when I got home. Even the negroes who had been raised up with me, who had hunted rabbits and fought yellow jackets with me in childhood days, seemed to be as glad over my return as my own dear family. God bless the old family negroes! I shall always love them."

Source: Confederate Veteran Magazine



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