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Thomas M. Coombs Diary

Jan - Apr 1863

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Jan. 16 Left Louisville for Camp Chase. Escaped from guard in Cincinnati, cold, snowy night. Went to Covington, Drover's Inn, slept with Will O'Hara. Staid in Covington with H.M. Brand, etc.
25 To Cin. with T. Schrader, night at Western Hotel.
26 New Albany, Indiana To N. Albany by rail.
27 To Hawesville, Ky., on steamer, Gray Eagle.
28 Hawesville with C.T. Hawes, Duncan & Bro. Frank Landers, Judge Williams, Sam Browne, etc. until Feby. 1.
Feb. 1 Steamer Storm. Capt. Tom Drinkwater, Clerk Lonny James.
Charlie H. Bess escaped prisoner.
1 Bess and I in Owensboro.
7 Memphis in 1870 Arrived in Memphis, went to Tom James. He and wife from home. Bess and I at request of Tom James Jr. took lodging & made that our home, although there was nobody there but an Irishman and wife and a lot of negroes.
8 Fell down the hatchway of a coal boat and fractured my knee. In bed a week. Staid in Memphis at James', Mrs. Boyds, Yeronto Stewart's [sic], Jack Halsted, Geo. Malirah, Smithers. etc., etc. until.
Mar. 2 Left with Mrs. Genl. Cosby, Mrs. Merrill, Miss Yocum, Miss Clara Hawes, Annie Gardiner, C.R. Stuart, C.H. Bess, H. Powell & Lige for Jackson, Miss. (1 carriage, 1 buggy, 2 wagons.)
2 Night at Squire Edmonson's.
3 To Hernando, Miss.
4 To Coldwater Village.
5 To Mr. Wallace's, left Miss Hawes at her cousin Coleman's.
6 To Mr. Vernon's, on Tallahatche River, high bridge and boats gone.
7 Staid at Vernon's. Stewart and I went to Belmont to get a boat, failed and returned.
8 Left all the men, buggies and wagons at Vernon's and took the ladies over in a small skiff, hired Uncle Ned (a negro) to go to Pugh's Station, Memphis & Grenada R. R.
9 Taking the Cars Hired a hand car to go 5 m. to the Yockaney. Crossed in a skiff and took the train to Grenada, Miss. Went to Ebbott's Boarding House.
10 Parted with Mrs. Merrill, Yocum and Miss Gardiner, who went by rail to Canton and Varden.
13 Lige arrived from Tallahatchi.
14 I left Grenada with Mrs. Cosby. Gen'l Tighlman [sic] & Staff accompanied us to Vaughns Station, when they left the train and went to Yazoo City.
15 In Jackson with Miss C. Mrs. Flussers' Boarding House. I lost my valise and all my clothes at Canton. Board $8 per day.
16 Left for Mobile.
17 At Battle House, Mobile.
20 Miss Hawes arrived with Bess & Powell and an English Lady, Mrs. Soulemins. Staid in Mobile at the Battle H. & Gen'l Buckner's until 23rd. Maj. Wintersmith and lady at Battle House.
21 Arrived in Montgomery with Miss Hawes, Mrs. Soulemin, Mrs. Cosby, Col. McClain & lady.
24 Arrived at Atlanta, Ga., Trout House.

Trout House, Atlanta, 1864
25 Left all the ladies' luggage at Montg. Went back for it.
26 Train wrecks made news Started for Kingston, train ran off the track, turned over down an embankment, doors fastened so we could not get out & car on fire inside — terrible time generally. Several ladies and two men badly burned. None of my party hurt. Took another train & returned to Atlanta.
27 Kingston train left at 5 A.M. & the waiter failed to wake me.
Ladies went on with Mrs. Cosby's brother-in-law, who met us at Atlanta. Took the next train for Chattanooga.
28 Arrived at Chattanooga, thence to Tullahoma, reported to Gen'l. Bragg & was ordered to report to Gen'l. Wheeler.
29 With Dr. J.M. Johnson, Mrs. Cosby's father & Medical Drct. of Clabourn's Div., was presented to Genl. Polk.
30 Reported to Genl. Wheeler at McMinnville, Tenn., ordered to report to Genl. Morgan, my Regt. (5th Ky.) having been transf'd. to his Comnd. Reported to Genl. Morgan Head Quarters at McMinnville. Staid here boarding at Mrs. Harrison's with Col. Griggsby and Sam McKee until -

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Birdseye View of Camp Chase A note in the Compiled Service Records dates his transfer to 21 January. Camp Chase, outside of Columbus, Ohio, began as a recruit center, but by this time was one of the Union's major Prisoner of War Camps. Thousands of Rebel soldiers captured in Kentucky and Tennessee (as well as more than a few Southern sympathizers) were confined here. See Official Records, Series 2, 6: 661-662.


I wish Tom had told us just how he managed to get away from his guard. Return.

The Drover's Inn, W. M. Hawkins, Proprietor, was at the corner of Bank Lick Street and the Lexington Pike, a convenient stopping place for those bringing cattle or hogs to the meat packers in Cincinnati. Williams 1866 Directory. Return.

Will O'Hara not identified. Return.

H. M. Brand lived on 5th Street between Johnson and Main. Williams 1861 Directory. Return.

T. Schrader not identified. Return.

The Western Hotel was at 502 W. Front, operated by J.F. Nolker. Williams 1861 Directory. Return.

Reached from Cincinnati by the broad-gauge Ohio & Mississippi and a branch line, New Albany, Indiana, is across the Ohio River from Louisville. Return.

Hawesville, seat of Hancock County, was a coal town and river port, 123 miles downriver from Louisville, with a population above 1100. Return.

The Grey Eagle, a sidewheeler of 444 tons, had been built in 1860 in Jeffersonville, IN, and was homeported across the river in Louisville. It was out of service by 1869. William M. Lytle and Forest R. Holdcamper (Revised C. Bradford Mitchell). Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790-1868 (Staten Island, NY: Steamship Historical Society of America, 1975), 89. Return.

Tom's contacts in Hawesville seem to have been mostly merchants. Charles Theodore Hawes (1833-1883) was the nephew of the erstwhile Confederate Governor, Richard Hawes. The town was named for C. T.'s grandfather. See Helen Hawes Hudgins, Richard Hawes of Kentucky (Franklin, TN: author, 1986), 124. Charles Hawes was also a brother-in-law of Samuel Burks Taylor and Joseph Walker Taylor, officers in the 10th Kentucky Cavalry. Tom meets Sam later. Hodges, 29. Return.

There were a number of Duncans in town, including Hawes' neighbor John G. (1802- —), whose son, Robert enlisted in the CSA in 1864. Data from 1860 census and William Henry Perrin, History of Kentucky, Edition 2, 746-747. Return.

The census found Frank Lander (1830?- —). Return.

George W. Williams, a lawyer, was banished in 1864 for southern sympathies and sat out the war in Canada. Glenn Hodges, Fearful Times: A History of the Civil War Years in Hancock County, Kentucky (Hawesville, KY: Hancock County Historical Society, 1986), 15, 39. Return.

Sam Brown (1831- —) was noted in 1860. Return.

Probably the second of three small steamers to bear the name, Storm No. 2 was a wooden-hulled sidewheeler of 107 tons, built in 1862 at West Brownsville, PA, and home-ported at Pittsburgh. It was out of service by 1869. Lytle, 204. Return.

Tom Drinkwater not identified. Return.

Lonny James not identified. Return.

Pvt Charles Bess of Co E, 2nd Kentucky Infantry is listed by the AG as missing, having been captured 2 Jan 1863. He may have joined Co B, 14th Kentucky Cavalry, where his name is listed in the Confederate Roster. Return.

Owensboro, seat of Daviess County, Kentucky, is about 30 miles below Hawesville. Return.

Although Tom and Charlie may have made their way overland, they probably traveled by water, down the Ohio and Mississippi. Memphis had been occupied by Union forces since 6 June 1862, following the defeat of outclassed Confederate river boats, witnessed by citizens from the bluffs above the river. Return.

A Thomas James family, including a Thomas, Jr., was listed in the 1860 census in Memphis. Long's Memphis Directory for 1867, 98 (the earliest available) lists Thomas James residence at the southwest corner of Vance and Pigeonroost Road. Return.

In 1867, Mrs Susan Boyd lived at 534 Front. Return.

Mr Stewart[?] not identified. Return.

J. Halstead of J. Halstead & Co., operated a planing mill at 358-360 Second Street, and lived at 167 Union. Long's, 37, 79. Return.

George Malirah not identified. Return.

Mr Smithers not identified. Return.

Most of the party of about a dozen who eluded Union patrols south of Memphis remain unidentified. Mrs. Cosby was the former Antonia Johnson, daughter of Dr. John Milton Johnson of Hopkins County, also in the CSA. (See below.) Her husband, George Blake Cosby (1830-1909, USMA '52, Brig Gen, CSA), from Paducah, had been captured and exchanged. His obituary appeared in The Confederate Veteran 17: 425 (1909). The Cosbys had an infant daughter, born the prior October. See Miss Mary Newman, Cosby Genealogy (Photocopy at KHS of Ms at NSDAR Library, Washington, 1928), 76. Return.

Merrill not identified. Return.

Yocum not identified. Return.

Miss Clara Hawes might have been an unmarried sister of the erstwhile Governor who would have been about 50. However, he also had a daughter named Clara, who was engaged to Aylett B. Coleman, who died in the war. Hudgins, 105-105. Return.

Annie Gardiner not identified. Return.

Mr Stewart not identified. Return.

H. Powell not identified. Return.

Lige was perhaps Tom's cousin Elijah Lucas, not otherwise identified, though he may have been a servant. Return.

In 1860 an E. A. Edmunson lived at Horn Lake, just south of the Mississippi line, with personal property valued at $17,000, which may have called for the courtesy title of "Squire." Tom's route can be traced with the Official Atlas, Plate 154. Return.

Hernando is the seat of De Soto County, both named for the Spanish explorer who reached the Mississippi somewhere near here in 1540. After decades as an agricultural backwater following the war, the area is beginning at the turn of another century to experience some prosperity due to the growth of metropolitan Memphis. Return.

The Coldwater River gave its name to a village on the south bank, which was relocated in the 1940s above the waters of newly-created Lake Arkabutla. The stream became the dividing line when Tate County was created from De Soto in 1876. Return.

Mr Wallace not identified. Return.

The Colemans may have been kin to Miss Hawes' fiancé, Aylett Coleman. (See above.) Return.

Mr Vernon not identified. Return.

The bridge could have been destroyed by either side, northern Mississippi being a no-man's-land between the armies. In his first move against Vicksburg, Grant had reached nearby Oxford, before attacks by Van Dorn and Forrest on his rear forced his retreat. Return.

Belmont, a crossroads on the north bank of the Tallahatchie four miles above Sardis, has disappeared. Return.

Uncle Ned not identified. Return.

For Pugh's Station read Popes Depot, about seven miles south of Panola. The Memphis & Grenada Rail Road, also known as the Mississippi and Tennessee, joined the Mississippi Central at Grenada. Return.

The Yocona River flows west along the southern edge of Panola County to join the Tallahatchie. Return.

Not counting detours, the party had traveled about 100 miles from Memphis to Grenada. Return.

Ebbott's Boarding House not identified. Return.

Vaiden is 30 miles south of Grenada, and Canton, the seat of Madison County, another 40 miles down the line. Return.

General Tilghman Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman (1816-1863, USMA '36), a former civil engineer, had been captured at Fort Donelson in February 1862; after exchange he assumed command of Loring's 1st Brigade. He died not long after this meeting, falling at the battle of Champion's Hill in the Vicksburg campaign.


Vaughn a town on the rail line.Return.

Yazoo City is about 25 miles west of Vaughn. Return.

Although the Capital of Mississippi had yet to feel the devastation of war, the $8 charged at Mrs Flussers shows the effects of wartime inflation on Confederate money. Exactly two months after Tom's party passed through Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman brought home to the residents the costs of rebellion, when his troops occupied the city and destroyed supplies left by Joseph Johnston. Return.

The boarding house not identified. Return.

South of the Tennessee River and the Memphis & Charleston Rail Road (by this time destroyed or held by the Yankees), there was no continuous rail link connecting the western portion of the Confederacy with the eastern, but rather a patchwork of short lines, often with incompatible gauges. The main gap was between Jackson and Montgomery. It was easier for travelers to detour via the Southern Mississippi RR to Meridian and the Mobile & Ohio to Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico. Then they had to cross the head of Mobile Bay to Tensas Station, picking up a new branch line, the grandly-titled Mobile & Great Northern, connecting with the main line of the Alabama and Florida RR from Pensacola to Montgomery. While Union commanders could shift huge numbers of troops from one theater to another fairly quickly over an extensive and well-maintained rail net, their Southern counterparts struggled with disintegrating tracks and a paucity of rolling stock. Return.

In 1861 the Battle House was listed at the southeast corner of Royal and St Francis, with an Oyster Saloon at 8 N. Royal. Directory of the City of Mobile for 1861 by Farrow and Dennet, 5. The business survived the war, appearing in the 1866 edition, 4. Return.

Mrs Soulemins not identified. Return.

General Buckner Simon Boliver Buckner (1823-1914, USMA '44) had been assigned to fortify the Alabama port, following service under Bragg at Perryville and before being assigned to East Tennessee. He was later Governor of Kentucky, 1887-1891.


Buckner's cousin, Richard Curd Wintersmith (1822-1902), was an attorney from Hardin County, who served as a staff officer for Breckinridge and under Pemberton at the siege of Vicksburg. A sketch by the Hardin County Historical Society is at the Kentucky Historical Society. Return.

Montgomery had served as the first capital of the Confederacy, before the government moved to Richmond. Return.

Montgomery, Alabama

Col McLean [?] and his lady not identified. Return.

From Montgomery to Atlanta was a straight run on the rails of the Montgomery & West Point and Atlanta & West Point lines. The raw, wartime boomtown of Atlanta is familiar to most people from the scenes in Selznick's Gone With the Wind. Return.

The Trout House was near the W&A depot. Return.

Kingston, Georgia, a rail junction between the Western & Atlantic and the Rome RR, a little less than halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Return.

Even before the demands of war strained the Southern rail system, the hazards of travel "on the cars" could be considerable. Newspapers of the preceding decade were filled with sensational stories of disasters, often accompanied by graphic illustrations of exploding locomotives and flying bodies. See Seymour Dunbar, A History of Travel in America, New ed. (New York: Tudor, 1937). Return.

The brother-in-law not identified. Return.

Chattanooga lay at an important crossroads, where the routes from Nashville and central Tennesse interesected those from Virginia to the northeast and from Georgia to the south. Return.

Suffering through a rainy spell at Tullahoma, one wag remarked that the town's name was from the Greek "Tulla" meaning mud, and "Homa" meaning more mud. Return.

General Bragg Braxton Bragg (1817-1876, USMA '37) had shared command in Kentucky the previous year, and continued to lead of the CSA Army of Tennessee until his crushing defeat by Grant at Chattanooga in November 1863 forced Jefferson Davis to remove him from the field.


General Wheeler Joseph Wheeler (1836-1906, USMA '59, Maj Gen, CSA), a former Indian fighter, known as "Fightin' Joe" for his aggressiveness, had been named to command all cavalry in the theater.


Mrs. Cosby's father was Dr John Milton Johnson. Return.

General Cleburne Patrick Cleburne (1828-1864, Maj Gen, CSA), a veteran of the British Royal Army from Ireland, had settled in Arkansas. His steadiness earned him the name of "the Stonewall of the West" before his death in Hood's disastrous assault at Franklin, Tennessee, 30 Nov 1864.


General Polk in ecclesiastical garb Leonidas Polk (1806-1864, USMA '27, Lt Gen, CSA) had left the army for the church, becoming the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana in 1841. In his clerical role he had officiated at the marriage of John Hunt Morgan to Martha Ready in Murfreesboro. Bishop Polk was killed at Pine Mountain, Georgia, 14 Jun 1864. His contemporaries and later historians agree that his gifts were more ecclesiastic than martial.


McMinnville, the seat of Warren County, was a road junction just north of the Appaliachian foothills. Return.

Gen John Hunt Morgan In February, Morgan's Cavalry Division was officially organized into two brigades. The First Brigade, led by William C. Breckinridge, consisted of the 2nd, 5th, and 6th Kentucky Cavalry Regiments, together with the 9th Tennessee. The Second Brigade, led by Richard M. Gano, consisted of the 3rd, 8th, 10th and 11th Kentucky Cavalry. An artillery unit, commanded by Capt Edward P. Byrne, was also assigned to the division. However, the fluid nature of cavalry operations, especially as practiced by Morgan, meant that regiments and companies often were detached for temporary duty. Duke, History, 359.

The Kentucky Cavalry was almost a Morgan family affair. John Hunt Morgan's brother, Col. Richard Curd Morgan (1836-1918), commanded the 14th Cavalry, and three more brothers, Calvin Cogswell Morgan (1827-1882), Charlton Hunt Morgan (1839-1912), and Thomas Hunt Morgan (1844-1863), served as company officers or aides. The youngest brother, Francis Key Morgan (1845-1878), although supposedly safe in the commissary department, also saw combat. Col Basil Wilson Duke (1838-1916, later Brig Gen, CSA), was a brother-in-law, as was Lee's reliable General Ambrose Powell Hill (1825-1865). A cousin, Samuel Dold Morgan (1841-1862), had commanded a company in Duke's 2nd Cavalry until his death.

A first-rate genealogy of the remarkable family is now available: Charles P. Stanton, Bluegrass Pioneers: A Chronicle of the Hunt and Morgan Families of Lexington, Kentucky (Brooklyn, NY: [author], 1989, rev. 1996).


The 1860 census found two families in town. Mrs. Harrison was likely either Pamela, wife of W. J. Harrison, a druggist, or Elizabeth, wife of M. H., a cabinet maker. Return.

John Warren Griggsby (1818-1872) had raised the 6th Kentucky Cavalry in 1862. Confederate Military History, 369. Return.

Samuel Finley McKee was an Adjutant with the 2nd (Duke's) Cavalry. Return.

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Transcription and editorial matter copyright © 2000, Neil Allen Bristow. All rights reserved.

This page updated 14 June 2001.