The writer of this book, R. W. Surby, was a Union soldier who served with Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry brigade as it undertook its great raid through Mississippi during the American Civil War. Surby was frequently engaged in scouting and ‘point’ duties for the Union cavalry column. It is almost certain that it was at this time that he came into contact with the subject of this book, L. H. Naron, otherwise known as Chickasaw the scout because of his county of origin, who also served under Grierson. Surby wrote a valuable history and personal account of the Grierson Raid (published by Leonaur as ‘The Horse Soldiers Raid’) and the text of this present volume, dealing with Naron’s wartime experiences, was originally included in that book. Naron’s account does not particularly concentrate on his experiences with Grierson and is published here in its own right for the first time to bring greater focus to his story. Naron’s life as a scout and spy for the Union was full of danger and incident long before he joined the Grierson command. He was a man of high principle and was deeply committed to the maintenance of the Union of states. He lived in Mississippi in a region avidly pro-Confederate where his life was threatened and even his own brother turned against him. Ultimately he had to flee to Union held territory and there he determined to do his part for the federal cause. His choice of occupation could not have been more dangerous. He spent almost his entire war behind enemy lines, either dressed in civilian clothes, openly posing as a loyal secessionist or in Confederate Army uniform, before undertaking the perilous business of crossing through both battle-lines to report his findings. Discovery and capture would have meant certain death and this intrepid man came horrifyingly close to ruin on several occasions, being saved only by an iron nerve and his almost superhuman ability to remain calm in the most trying of of circumstances. A concise but riveting read and highly recommended for all those interested in the Civil War in America.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
About the last of July, having learned that a party of guerrillas and bushwhackers were making their headquarters at a certain house on Brown’s Creek, some thirty miles south of Corinth, near Bay Springs, I resolved to capture them, although I could only take six of my men, the most of them being absent on duty. One morning, just as daylight began to appear, we started, riding all day, and arriving at the vicinity of our destination about four o’clock. After reconnoitring and satisfying ourselves as to their position, we charged their camp. It was a complete surprise, we, however, captured but two prisoners, and five horses—the rest being absent on a scout. We destroyed their camp and garrison equipage. It was now near sundown, and we learned, from reliable sources, that not more than two miles distant, there were camped some twenty-five Confederate Cavalry, who had only come into that section of country the day previous.<br>
After talking the matter over, we came to the conclusion that we would retrace our steps toward home, taking the two prisoners along, and also a few extra horses, our own being tired and hungry. We must also procure corn for them before dark. After reaching the Tuscumbia and Fulton road, we crossed a bridge and turned into the woods, proceeded about four hundred yards and, dismounting, unsaddled and fed our horses, intending to remain at that place until midnight. Our arms, on this occasion, consisted of three double-barrelled shot-guns and three fine shooting rifles, and two navy revolvers, each. Feeling confident that we would be pursued, I determined to fight them in their own style that night.<br>
After waiting about one hour we prepared for action. Leaving one man to guard the two prisoners and all the horses, with instructions if either of the prisoners tried to escape or made a noise to shoot him on the spot, we started for the main road. On reaching it, we selected a favourable position and laid down. We had not been waiting long when we heard the enemy approaching, as they crossed the bridge. Judging from the noise they made in crossing it, we supposed there were about fifteen of them. As they advanced to within about forty yards I halted them. They obeyed instantly. I then asked them to what command they belonged, and they answered to Major Ham’s, at the same time inquiring to what one we belonged. I answered Rhoddy’s, and, in the same breath, gave the word to my men to fire, which they did, pouring in a volley that somewhat disturbed the stillness of the night, and created a complete stampede of men and horses—some turning into the timber and others recrossing the bridge.<br>
All soon became quiet again, with the exception of a loose horse, stumbling over the fallen timber, and the groans of the wounded. Without changing our position, we reloaded our guns, and had been waiting about half an hour when several were seen to approach’ again, from the same direction. Halting at a more respectful distance they commenced to call loudly, and the following dialogue ensued:<br>
“What in h—l do you mean ?”<br>
“You don’t come that on me. You are the d—n Feds that went down the road this morning.”<br>
“No, by God, we are Rebels, and belong to Major Ham’s command. You must be d—n fools.”<br>
“If you are Confederates, three of you advance.”<br>
(Three of them advanced to where they had been fired into and halted.)<br>
“Dismount, and advance afoot.”<br>
“No, that is not right.”<br>
“I believe you are the d—n Yankees who went down the road this morning.”<br>
“No sir, we are pursuing them. They captured two of our men, this evening, five miles from here.”<br>
“No, one of you advance.”<br>
At this, I ordered the boys to let them have it, and we all blazed away—which caused another stampede. Very soon all became quiet again.