John Johnston of the 14th Tennessee, Neely’s Brigade noted the command was stationed at Tupelo on the evening of July 16, 1864.  

After resting there for maybe two days, the brigade “then took a train of cars and were carried down to Egypt Station, where we found our horses waiting for us.  After resting a few days at Gannis (Gunn’s?) Church near Egypt, a detail of one lieutenant and one private from each company, was ordered by Gen. N. B. Forrest to be made out and to proceed to West Tennessee to collect and bring back to camp all the stragglers from the different regiments.”

A comrade of Tipton’s men in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, John Milton Hubbard of Bolivar, recalled the closing  days of July:

“As soon as the Federals abandoned their position and it had been occupied  by the Confederates, I…hastened to the spot occupied by Company E, the previous day.  The ground was literally strewn with the bodies of our precious slain, which had been where they fell for 24 hours. It was impossible to identify them except by their clothing and other articles.  Captain J. P. Statler, William Wood, Jehu Field, and David McKinney, another schoolboy of mine, must have been killed about the same time, as their bodies lay close together….In this group was Colonel Isham Harrison of the  6th Mississippi with many of his own dead men about him…

“I passed over to where the Kentuckians had fought under Crossland.  Oh, the ghastly dead, and so many of them!  Lt. Colonel Sherrill of the 7th Kentucky, killed near the works, was among them…This was near the old Harrisburg church…

“The rest of the month of July…was spent…in the rich prairie country below Okolona.  About Gunn’s Church we found fields full of green corn, some in the roasting ear…Watermelons were cheap and abundant.  There was no talk of scant rations.  The farmers had been raising corn and hogs for war times.  These conditions wonderfully revived the spirits of the men.  Cornbread now and no biscuit.  Plenty of greasy bacon and some with a streak of lean and a streak of fat.  This held on a sharp stick and over the fire, with gravy dripping on the bread, was something good to look at.  Some managed to always have a little sugar and coffee which had been secured with other captured spoils.  As a rule, Confederate soldiers did not tolerate rye or other substitutes for coffee.  They wanted the ‘pure suff’ or nothing.  The weather was warm and sleeping in the open air was refreshing. (It had been a year since they had tents.) Occasionally quartered in unoccupied houses, the men were generally protected against the elements by rude structures…but mostly by captured rubber cloths, stretched over a pole resting in two forks stuck in the ground.  If only one was to be accommodated, a  convenient sapling was bent down till it assumed the shape of a bow and its top secured to the ground.  Then the rubber cloth was stretched over this so that a soldier could crawl under.  In  both cases, the shelter was called a ‘shebang.’

“A good rest and full stomachs went far towards getting those of us who had been spared for the next  campaign.  We left the goodly land where ‘if you tickle the soil with a  hoe, it will laugh with a harvest.’”

President Abraham Lincoln pardoned Covington’s Alexander W. Smith Jr. and ordered his release from Camp Douglas Prison, Chicago on July 15, 1864.  Smith, of Co. I, 7th Tennessee, gained the attention of Lincoln through the influence of former Covingtonian Abram Mitchell.

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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