War Story of 50 Years Ago
July 24, 1913
War Story of 50 Years Ago.
BY H. L. RILEY.
[Henry Lewis Riley (1843-1916) Co. H 20th KY Inf.]
As the little sketch of "Fifty Years Ago," appeared in your paper of July 10th, I will tell some of the happenings of the day before or Saturday, July 4th. Our little force at Lebanon was thrown into excitement when news reached us that the Raider, John Morgan's forces were fighting the 25th Michigan regiment at Green River bridge out on the Columbia pike not far from Lebanon. Our commander sent out a scouting party mounted on horses that were not drilled. They came into camp a little before night and were going back on the scout that night, and I being just a kid and very brave, like a great many others when not in danger, begged one of the boys to let me go in his place on the night scout, so he readily agreed, so we started after dark out the Columbia pike. We were all mounted, I was on a fine bay horse. I was unacquainted with his occupation.
It was a beautiful moon-light night, we got out three or four miles from camp, going up a long slant in a lane, our advance ran onto the enemy's pickets. They came down slant in a hurry to meet us. Our commander ordered us to dismount, which order was quickly obeyed and hitched our horses to an old time rail fence we then advanced until in sight of the enemy's pickets when we were ordered to fire on them which we did and then fell back a short distance and all of us got over inside of the field and all of us lay down in the fence corners expecting the enemy to come down the road on us, but to our surprise some one discovered a large body of them a good long distance from us across the field, hurrying to get in our rear so they would be enabled to gobble us up, but we were ordered to skedaddle. Every man ran to his horse and was mounted without any trouble, except myself. My horse got scared and pulled the fence down with three or four rails tangled up in his bridle reins, running backward with his head up in the air holding the rails off of the ground till I could not get the rails out of the reins, and every other man on his horse putting the spurs to him. I was getting scared, so taking my knife and cutting both bridle reins close up to the bits and thought I could get on him. If I had accomplished my aim, I would not have cared a snap for a bridle but the scamp as soon as he found he was loose he started off in a fast gait after the crowd, I got hold of the saddle horn trying to get my foot in the stirrup so that I would have been enabled to land safely in the saddle, then I would have not cared how fast he ran just so we were getting away from John. But the old scrapper was low down, mean. He would not let me get my foot in the stirrup so I had to abandon the horse and take to my scrappers. Being alone and a bid crowd of John's close on my heels. You bet I was a scared Yankee for a few moments, as no one seemed to take any interest in my welfare, just then, but good old Burr Young, who is now living in Madisonville, Ky., saw the condition I was in, hollowed for me to run and get ahead of him and climb on the fence corner and leap on his beast behind him as he rode by. I ran until I was almost given out and got a little ahead, climbed on the fence corner and as he rode by without making any halt I made a leap and landed safely astride behind my good and best friend. He told me to drop my gun but I clung to it and he said when I made the leap I gave him a hard slap on the side of his head and face with my gun, and came near knocking him off of his horse, but after coming some distance, we halted and my reinless horse was in the crowd and I got on him, and ran another race and in checking up, my horse got in the lead for I had no checkers and Mayor Wilcox drew his pistol and was going to shoot me thinking I was running through cowardice, but good Burr said to him don't shoot that boy for he has no bridal and no way to control his horse. We skirmished with them until nearly day. When we got inside of pickets and rode into town and turned our horses over to the owners, I eat breakfast before light at a restaurant in town then went to camp and laid down on my bunk and was fast asleep in a piece of a minute.
The Rebel pickets attacked our little force before sun up and I think every man was in line of battle but myself. They had failed to wake be but good Dad Conger come to wake me which was a little hard to do, so old Dad, as us boys called him, grabbed up a bucket of water and threw the whole contents on me. Of course it woke me instantly and I saw Dad running for the battle line, and I came off of my bunk and started after Dad, using the largest cuss words I had ever learned and I had learned nearly all real ugly cuss words. I really believe now that I then, at that time, thought it was real smart to make use of the ugliest language that could be thought of. But I think different now, and I am glad I do.
Source: Crittenden Record-Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1909-191?, July 24, 1913, Image 2 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
[My comments are in brackets.]