COLUMBUS SCRAPBOOK: DIRT CLODS, CORN LIQUOR, AND NAKED MEN
by John Kelly Ross, Jr.
[12-18-1997 "Hickman County Gazette"] I find the 128 volumes of the ARMY OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE CIVIL WAR delightful.
These not only contain the original reports by men who took part in famous battles, but also include reports about hundreds
of now forgotten patrols and skirmishes. A few minutes spent skimming those historically unimportant reports can reveal
Early in the war many Confederates were forced to improvise
their weapons and other equipment. Shotguns and cut down hunting rifles had to serve until better weapons could be made,
captured, or imported. I found very interesting the following two examples of early Confederate ingenuity in Missouri.
In Volume 8, on page 35, is a report by a Major George C. Marshall of the Second Missouri
Cavalry (Union), dated December 14, 1861, about a scouting trip through Saline County, Mo.:
9 .... Joseph Shelby brought his company down that night to try to annoy us by firing at our pickets and to try to scare
us by bombarding us with a 10 inch mortar loaded with MUD. Lieutenants Kelly's and Gordon's companies were called
out, and soon scattered them and silenced their formidable battery. December 10, marched into Waverly without any
resistance. Learning there was powder concealed there, we proceeded to search some of the stores, and found 9 kegs of
powder concealed under a platform in Shelby's store. The celebrated mortar was found and taken."
It was a very common saying at the beginning of the Civil War that one Confederate could whip
ten Yankees with cornstalks. In that case, throwing dirt clods at the Yankees should have worked too.
Alas, the Yankees refused to fight with cornstalks and dirt clods. They insisted on using guns instead.
In Volume 8, on pages 71-72, is a report by Captain John M. Richardson of the Missouri Cavalry
Militia (Union), dated February 26, 1862:
"On the morning of the 24th
I divided the command, sending half of it ... with directions to destroy Pennington's still house and the one at Mallard's ....
There were two reasons for destroying those still houses: First, they were places of rendezvous for the forming [of]
secession bands for plunder; secondly, bad men would get drunk there, and go to Union men's houses and expose their naked
persons to Union women. I hope you will, and I know every good woman in the State will, indorse the destruction -- the
burning of those still-houses."
cornstalks don't work, try corn liquor!
Southern Unionists, such as Colonel
J.P. Brownlow of the 1st East Tennessee Cavalry Regiment USA, would also occasionally try unusual methods of warfare.
General Sherman's cavalry general Edward McCook in a letter dated July 9, 1864, reported in Volume 38, part 2, on pages
"Brownlow performed one of his characteristic feats today.
I had ordered a detachment to cross at Cochran's Ford. It was deep, and he took them over naked, nothing but guns,
cartridge boxes, and hats. They drove the enemy out of their rifle pits, captured a non commissioned officer and 3 men,
and the 2 boats on the other side. They would have got more, but the rebels had the advantage in running through the
bushes with clothes on. It was certainly one of the funniest sights of the war, and a very successful raid for naked
men to make. Everything is quiet along the line, and citizens on the other side say the enemy were totally unprepared
for a crossing on this flank."
I suspect those poor astonished Confederates had never seen so many "flanks" in their lives!