Saturday, March 24, 2012

"I'm gonna get you for nothing."

“If you don’t surrender, I’ll charge you with the Texas Rangers under the black flag.”
[General Nathan Bedford Forrest to the 9th Michigan Infantry on July 13, 1862 at Murfreesboro, TN] 

The 9th Michigan quickly surrendered.

Few Confederate units could generate more fear among Union troops than the 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment, better known as Terry’s Texas Rangers.  Armed with shotguns, Colt revolvers and Bowie knives, the Rangers charged and shot their way into Texas legend.  One Union officer wrote, “The Rangers are as quick as lightning.  They ride like Arabs, shoot like archers at the mark, and fight like devils.  They rode upon bayonets as if they were charging a commissary department, are wholly without fear themselves, and no respecter of a wish to surrender.” 
                                                           General Alexander Shannon
In July 1864, a special detachment of thirty Rangers was formed as a reconnaissance and commando unit.   Their mission was to conduct raids and gather intelligence on Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee.  Led by Colonel Alexander May Shannon, they killed over fifty Federal troops and captured over one hundred. 

Their first objective was to reconnoiter a Union battery outside of Atlanta.  The scouts, disguised in Federal uniforms, completed their mission.  As a reward, each of them stole a horse from a Union stable.  Over the final months of the war, the Scouts gathered intelligence on Sherman’s army and fended off Union cavalry raids.  Of all their activities, their most noted was executing Union foragers or "bummers” in Georgia and the Carolinas.  Enraged over the ransacked homes of destitute Southerners, the Scouts often shot “bummers” and left their corpses by the road as a warning.  In one instance, twenty one were discovered with their throats slashed.  Others had the words “Death to all Foragers” carved into their bodies.  

As the dead “bummers” piled up, Union cavalry commander Judson Kilpatrick offered a $ 5,000 reward for the capture of Shannon.  When Shannon heard about the reward, he replied, “I want to thank you for the signal honor, but I’m going to go you one better. I’m gonna get you for nothing.” 
                                                              General H. Kilpatrick                         
Like a Turkish pasha, Kilpatrick had a passion for lavish meals, musical serenades, and prostitutes; he kept one named “Charley” in his headquarters tent and had her wear a Federal uniform as a disguise.   Because of his penchant for getting men killed in reckless charges, he was referred to as “Kill-Cavalry” instead of Kilpatrick.  His career took a serious dip when he authorized an ill-fated cavalry raid against Richmond, Virginia in March, 1864.  The raid’s commander, Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren, was killed.  As a result of the raid’s failure and ensuing controversy (papers found on Dahlgren’s body called for the execution of Jefferson Davis and his cabinet), he was transferred to the Western command of General William T. Sherman.  Kilpatrick’s cavalry gained everlasting notoriety for burning and looting property during "Sherman’s March." 
Kilpatrick’s nemesis, Alexander Shannon, had actually voted against secession before the war.  Nevertheless, he volunteered for Confederate service and raised a cavalry company.  Gaining a solid reputation for bravery, he quickly rose to the rank of captain in the 8th Texas Cavalry.   

At dawn on March 9, 1865, Shannon almost made good on his offer.  Near Fayetteville, North Carolina, Confederate troopers under General Wade Hampton approached Kilpatrick’s camp.  Shannon’s men took out the guards.  When the Union bugler blew “Reveille,” the Confederate cavalry blew in.  Complete pandemonium broke out as Union troopers, in various stages of dress, ran about like jackrabbits in a grass fire.  Clad in his long johns, Kilpatrick emerged from his tent and was confronted by a Confederate cavalryman.  In breathless excitement, the Confederate asked, “Which one is General Kilpatrick !”  Kilpatrick cleverly pointed to a distant Union trooper.  “There he goes. The one on the black horse,” he replied.  The cavalryman rode off and Kilpatrick ran off into the woods to avoid capture.  His current paramour, Marie Boozer, hid his battle flag under her dress.  Kilpatrick lost his sword and wardrobe, but the flag and mistress were saved.

The Rangers never surrendered before the end of the war, but made their way home in small undetected groups.  Shannon became a successful businessman in Galveston.  He proposed the building of the famous seawall to protect the city from hurricanes.  He died in 1906 and is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery in Galveston.