Civil War Index

Party of Raiders Captured Near Kingston in March, 1865


Story Told of the Civil War Wherein Several Confederates Were Captured by Farmers. The following story told in the Journal and Tribune of Sunday is a story out of the past, but nevertheless interesting. It is probably old to some but will be new to a great many. The story is taken from the "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies of the War of the Rebellion," recently published by Secretary of War Josephus DANIELS. The Captain CHAPMAN spoken of in the story was the father of Capt. G.R. CHAPMAN, who for a number of years has been a pilot on the Tennessee river and is now with the river improvement fleet at work at Knoxville. His home is still in the old home place at Chapman's Landing better known as Hood's Landing at the present time: Things have moved forward a long step during the past half century. Today, when millions of men are fighting on the European battlefields and thousands sail the high seas in warships, destroyers and submarines, the capture of a party of nine enemy raiders on an island river of one of the countries at war would attract very little attention. But 53 years ago, in March 1865, such a capture at a point near Chapman's Landing, four miles below Kingston, on the Tennessee river, was regarded by the United States navy department as an important event of the Civil War. An account of the expedition of the raiders, who traveled by rail from Richmond to Bristol, and thence down the Holston and Tennessee rivers, was published at length in the Chattanooga Gazette early in March, 1865, became the subject of a number of official orders of the navy department and commanders, and is reproduced in full in "Official Records in the War of the Rebellion," (volume 27) which has just been published under the direction of Josephus DANIELS, secretary of the navy. From the story that appeared in the Chattanooga Gazette it seems that the Confederate raiders were to burn steamers, warehouses, shipyards and other military posts at Chattanooga and elsewhere below Kingston, possibly paving the way for a retreat of General Lee's army. It is said that an attempt was actually made to burn the bridges at Knoxville, but the raiders were frightened away by Union sentinels. In the yawl in which the men were traveling was found a quantity of fireballs and torpedoes. Kingston and other East Tennessee towns are mentioned in the Gazette story, which is as follows. Women Arouse Suspicion. "On Sunday morning, (5th) Captain CHAPMAN, a pilot on the steamboat Chicamauga, being at his home at Chapman's Landing on the Tennessee river, four miles below Kingston, noticed that the rebel women of his neighborhood were moving around the country rather more than usual. These proceedings attracted his attention, because they are an infallible indication of some rebel movement being on foot. Thinking that perhaps some rebels from the army had returned to their homes, he took his gun and started out to see what was up. He went down toward the river, and had not gone off his own place before he made a startling discovery. "Hauled close in to the shore, and concealed by brush from the view of anyone up or down the river, was a large yawl, without any occupants, but heavily loaded with several boxes and various packages. Captain CHAPMAN was within 20 feet of the boat before he discovered it. Immediately suspecting the state of affairs, he looked around to see if the owners of the boat were near, but could see no one. In a moment or two more his attention was attracted by hearing a gun cap snap. Without making any display of his having discovered the boat, he returned to his own house and then started off to find some citizens to aid him. Gathering six of them together, he returned to the neighborhood where the boat was fastened. Here he discovered nine men on a hill about a mile from where the boat had been landed." Surrender Is Demanded. "Disposing his little forces so as to get between them and their boat, he made a bold show of what men he had, and ensuing orders to imaginary troops, called upon the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender. Their guns and ammunition having been wet by the recent rains, and believing that a superior force was around them, they immediately complied; one of them, however, after laying down his gun, jumped down the hill and disappeared. After laying down their arms they were ordered to march off a few yards when their guns were secured. They whole party then proceeded to the boat. On the road the rebels asked where the rest of their captors were, and upon being informed that the seven present--one an old man and one a mere boy--were the only force, they expressed great chagrin that, after having run thousands of miles through the Federal pickets, they should at last be captured by 'tories.' Contents of Boat Inspected. "On arriving at the boat it was thoroughly inspected, but its load was treated with the greatest care, no one even desiring to touch the various articles of which it was composed. The boat itself was a regular-bult yawl, 30 feet long, three feet deep and six feet wide at the bottom, flaring out considerably. It is calculated to carry 40 men and hold between three and four tons. It had 'No. 3' painted on the sides. There were six oars in the boat, and were said by those who handled them to be of the very best make. Each oar is 16 feet long and was muffled. Each man in the party had a fine Enfield musket and a regular navy cutlass. One of the cutlasses was shown to us; including the handle, it is two feet six inches in length, and the blade is nearly two inches wide. On the handle are the letters, 'C.S.N.' The boxes found in the boat are one and one-half feet wide and two feet long, each containing a torpedo. A large number of fire balls, made by soaking balls of cotton in turpentine, were also found, but the most dangerous article of all was a sort of hand grenade and fireball combined. It was six inches in diameter and ten inches long, and appears to have been made of winding cotton around some sort of an infernal machine. At one end is a cap, so that the affair would burst on striking any hard substance, and, as if to make assurance doubly sure, a fuze was inserted at the lower end, so that it might be lighted and would burn for some time before exploding. A network of copper wire kept the cotton in shape, and wooden handles two feet long were fixed to it, for the purpose of throwing the machine for some distance. As if the cotton itself was not inflammable enough, it had been dipped in some gummy preparation to make it burn fiercer. Prisoners to Kingston. "After examining everything, the prisoners were sent, with a strong guard, to Kingston. After they started, Captain CHAPMAN went over the fields to find the fellow that escaped, and fortunately caught him within a short distance of where his companions had surrendered. The steamer Lookout came along about this time, and she took the yawl in tow and the prisoner being placed on board, she went on to Kingston, where the Holston received the precious boat and started with it for Knoxville. "One of the men captured had been keeping a diary, and from that and their conversation we learn somewhat of their plans and proceedings, although the former appear almost too rash and reckless for belief. It seems that the boat was composed of picked men from what the rebels term the Confederate states navy. Leaving Richmond on the 3rd of January last, they came to Bristol by rail, and went from there to the salt works, where the boat was placed on the waters of the Holston river. Their progress down the Holston was delayed by the low water, so that they were compelled to lay by for several days. They first passed the Federal pickets at Kingsport. We have heard that in passing under the bridge at Knoxville, they attempted to set fire to it, but were frightened off by the sentinels. They themselves say that their instructions were to commit no depredations until they got below Kingston. In passing under the bridge at Loudon they were hailed by the sentinels but on replying that they were a trading boat, they were allowed to go on. After passing Loudon they stopped, and two of the chief officers went ashore and were captured by some of our forces, who came across them in some way. After waiting for these officers till they felt certain they were captured, the boat under the command of Lieut. WHARTON, went on until they were finally discovered below Kingston. Planned to Burn Steamers. "As to their plans, they may or may not be what they stated them to be, but they were certainly dangerous. After passing Kingston they were to burn every steamer that they could, and they had evidently intended to begin at the place where they were discovered, as it has but a short distance from Chapman's Landing, at which place the steamers are in the habit of stopping to wood. Proceeding down the river, on arriving at Chattanooga, they were to fire all the boats at the landing and depots along Water street. Next, sawmills and the shipyard were to be set on fire. It was supposed that by this time the burning boats and warehouses on the river front would attract the greater portion of the citizens and military to that locality, while they, landing at the foot of Seventh street and coming up into the western end of town, would fire the warehouses and depots. Among the items of news which they communicated was one to the effect that Lee's army was to leave Richmond about the first of March and retreat in the direction of East Tennessee. The operations of these men were expected to clear away some of the obstructions to such an advance and render the march of the rebel army into Georgia comparatively easy. Fortunately for the residents of Chattanooga and the preservation of the vast among of government depots, and quartermaster and subsistence stores stored about the city, the affair was discovered, and all the parties actively concerned in it arrested. It is to be hoped that in these raiders are found guilty of all the infernal plots with which they have been charged, that they will meet with speedy justice. The fate of the ANDREWS, the Union solider, who, in 1862, attempted to burn the bridges on the Western & Atlantic railroad, should be taken as a precedent." Here the story ends and there seems to be no record of the fate of the Confederate raiders, if they were raiders, who were captured after such a daring journey from Richmond to a point below Kingston.

Source: The Harriman Record, Thursday, 26 Sep 1918, Vol. 53, No. 11.