Patrick Griffin, in His Own Words, in the Spring of 1905
Patrick Griffin, 1905,
speech to a meeting of Frank Cheatham Camp
of the Confederate Veterans of America, at Nashville, Tennessee.
President, Ladies and Comrades. It is hardly fair to ask a fellow to
relate a reminiscence in which he takes such a prominent part. When I
told the story about Raymond to my friend, S. A. Cunningham, editor of
the Confederate Veteran, and a member of the 41st Tennessee Regiment,
who was at Raymond, Mississippi, on May 12. 1863. He said the matter was
worthy of record.
appreciate the opportunity to tell you something about my old regiment,
the Bloody Tinth, Tennessee Infantry, Irish, and to give you a few
glimpses of a clean, strong, brave man, a noble soldier, a loyal friend,
Col. Randall W. McGavock. What a multiplicity of things the sound of
that name brings to mind! Across the years I hear the tread of marching
armies and the notes of the fife and drum.
again Capt. McGavock ranges his company in Cheatham's store on College
Street. The command is given for the Sons of Erin to march, and I find
myself walking with old Jimmy Morrissey and making an earnest effort to
drown the sound of his fife in the glorious strains of The Girl I Left
Behind Me. Jimmy Morrissey had been a fifer in the English army, so
this going to war was nothing new to him; but I was the proudest boy in
the world without a doubt, for, notwithstanding the fact that my mother
had repeatedly declared that I was under age and had on one occasion
taken me out of the ranks and led me home by the ear, the conceit would
not down that the war could not be carried on unless I were there to
make the music, and so on that never-to-be-forgotten day when we marched
down to the wharf and boarded the steamboat B. M. Runyon I would not
have been willing to exchange places with Gen. Lee.
M. Griffin from Nashville was only seventeen-years-old when he
joined Rebel Sons of Erin and left for war. Of that day he
recalled, "On that never-to-be-forgotten day when we marched down
to the wharf and boarded the steamboat B. M. Runyon I would not
have been willing to exchange places with Gen.[Robert E.] Lee."
day we embarked, Capt. McGavock came up to the standard of my ideal, and
I styled him God's own gentleman.' While it was only a boy's thought, I
never have found a more appropriate title for him. I might spend the
night idling you of innumerable noble deeds that could be traceable back
to him. My mother was there in the crowd on the wharf with several of my
relatives, and a slip of a girl with blue-gray Irish eyes and auburn
hair stood out from amongst them to wave her hand to me. I can almost
see the sunlight on the water and the two big fellows who jumped
overboard Martin Gibbons and Tom Feeny. They could not stand the
pressure; but they were picked up, and as the boat started up the river
to make the turn Jimmy Morrissey and I started up the same old tune of
The Girl I Left Behind Me, and we kept it going till the hills around
Nashville had vanished from sight.
Clarksville, we started in on it again, and another member of the
company jumped overboard. Then the captain advised us to give them
something else, so after our comrade was rescued we gave them old "Garry
Owen" all the way down to Dover.
we helped to build Fort Donelson. Later, after the Sons of Erin became
Company H, 10th Tennessee Infantry, we went down on the Tennessee River
and built Fort Henry. At Fort Henry there was no whisky on our side of
the river, but across the stretch of water was Madame Peggy's saloon.
There was some mystery as to where the beverage she sold was obtained,
but this only added to her popularity. Many an amusing incident had its
root branch in Peggy's shop.
these, treasured in the memoirs of Capt. Tom Gibson's company, I will
relate: One night Paddy Sullivan and Timothy Tansey went over to Lady
Peggy's to get some whisky; and when they returned to the river bank a
small cloud appeared upon the horizon. They paid no attention to this,
however, but rowed out into the middle of the wide Tennessee River. A
squall suddenly overtook Paddy and Timothy. The waves got so high that
the brave ladies thought their time had come. Timothy said to Paddy:
"Bejabbers, Paddy, and the boat will lie overturned and we will lose our
Paddy to Timothy: "Be sure and we won't; we will just drink it and save
it." And drink it they did.
refreshment added to their courage and strength, and they reached the
shore, but the boys in camp were minus their jiggers. Peggy did a land
office business until Col. Heiman ordered all the skiffs and small boats
in the neighborhood smashed. I never visited her shop until after the
destruction of the boats. All my life I had had a close acquaintance
with water, so the old river held no terrors for me, and only a short
interval elapsed before I was commissioned courier and general canteen
bearer between Peggy's and the fort. The hours were brimming over with
every night we had a stag dance, and there was an exchange of visits
right and left, and no time to think of the dark days ahead. We had not
been at Fort Henry very long when we got our full quota of Irish
companies to make a regiment, and Capt. McGavock became-lieutenant
colonel of that regiment-the 10th Tennessee Infantry, Irish. In the new
companies that came in, several better drummers than I was were found,
so I had to hand over my instrument; and to console me for the toss they
made me orderly sergeant of me Sons of Erin, now Company H.
Henry we got our first taste of bombshells, and we went back to Fort
Donelson to make the acquaintance of Minie balls. It was at this period
that the regiment won its sobriquet of Bloody Tinth. It happened
in this way: At the evacuation of Fort Henry it was rumored that the
Yankees were trying to head us off, but for some reason the Tinth
failed to get this news. The Yankees were pressing us closely, and the
two regiments in the lead threw down their guns in order to get to Fort
Donelson at a double-quick, and the Tinth, bringing up the rear,
picked up the cast-off guns, so we had about seven shots apiece when the
Yanks charged us. It is a sure-enough Irishman who will have first blood
in a fight With all their fighting ability, the Tinth was surrendered
at Fort Donelson without their knowledge or consent, and for the first
time since we left Nashville, Lieut. Col. McGavock and I were parted. He
was sent to Camp Chase, and I with Company H to Camp Douglas.
you are conversant with the routine of prison life. I will not go into
detail regarding it Suffice it to say that I served with distinction as
orderly sergeant of Company H, having been sent to the "Black Hole"
oftener than any other orderly sergeant for overdrawing rations and
clothes. Doubt- less I would have gotten into very serious trouble
during the first few months of our imprisonment were it not that Col.
Mulligan, the commander of the post, was an Irishman, and, hearing that
my name was Pat, he took me for an Irishman, too; and, although he was a
Yankee, he had a heart. Some of oar fellows were in bad shape there, and
they certainly needed all that I could get for them.
the prisoners regretted the removal of Col. Mulligan; and well they
might, for it was a "son of a gun" that came after him Col. Tucker. It
makes me mad now to dunk about him. We had to fortify our bunks, and did
not dare to poke our heads outside of the barracks after night- fall
unless we were willing to have bullets pitched our way. We were offered
every inducement to take the oath or join the Yankee army. But after
meeting Col. Tucker, I knew that it would be impossible for me to ever
become a Yankee.
In 1910, to mark the seventeenth
anniversary of the Confederate Veteran, Sumner A. Cunningham,
veteran of the 41st Tennessee Infantry, posed for a picture. Cunningham founded the Confederate Veteran,
a publication intended as an organ of communication between
Confederate veterans. The first magazine was published in January of
1893 and remained an active publication until 1932.
of the boys went over to die other side. I think those of us who were
there found the latter portion of that seven months about the worst part
of our existence. It is needless to say that the news of exchange was a
matter for general rejoicing; and when Col. Tucker and Chicago faded
from sight we felt as if we had gotten out of the devil's clutches. At
Cairo, our officers were waiting for us. Most of them were looking the
worse for wear, but Oh, how good it was to know that those of us who were
faithful were together again!
Cairo we went by boat to the island above Vicksburg, where Grant was
trying to change the course of the Mississippi and from this island we
were ferried over to Vicksburg. After landing, we marched to a field
outside of die city, where the ladies had prepared a grand barbecue for
us. It is hardly necessary for me to tell you how we boys did justice to
aII the good things.
went into camp at Clinton, where we were sworn in for three years, or
the duration of the war. We elected our officers and made preparations
to go on the warpath once more. Lieut Col. McGavock became our colonel, Sam Thompson, lieutenant colonel, William Grace, Major, Theodore Kelsey,
adjutant. We spent the ensuing few months hunting Yanks in the country
around Vicksburg, until we were ordered via Holly Springs, Miss, to
reinforce Price and Vandorn, who were moving on Corinth.
not get there in time, but we joined the retreating army near that place
and went on one of the severest marches of the War. It rained in
torrents' and the mud and water were awful. On this march many of our
men, fresh from prison, were stricken with sickness. Just before we
reached Grenada one evening, being sick and worn out from exposure, Capt.
Thomas Gibson concluded that he would leave camp and go into an
abandoned Negro cabin near by for shelter. After Gibson had got a good
fire going, in came Lieut. Lynch Donnahue, of the regiment, wet and sick
also. After drying their clothing and shoes a bit, they went to sleep.
Gibson made a pillow of his shoes and advised Donnahue to do likewise;
but the Lieutenant had more confidence in mankind and left his shoes
near the fire to dry. While the two officers were sound asleep, some
soldiers came into the cabin and took Lieut. Donnahue's shoes. Imagine
the cuss words when Donnahue found his shoes gone, and he sick and the
rain teeming down! Gibson was a good forager, however, and he soon
hailed a servant of Gen. Price's who was passing by the cabin, and he
persuaded the Negro with some cash to procure a pair of shoes for his
Grenada we received orders to go to Jackson. We boarded the cars and
were sent on to Vicksburg, as it was rumored that the Yankees were about
to storm the city. We got into Vicksburg at night, and were ordered up
on Snyder's Bluff. I do not believe any man who was there will ever
forget that night, even if he were to live a thousand years. Such
thunder, rain and lightning I never saw and heard, before or since. We
were ordered not to make a sound, not even so much as a whisper. We
could only take a step when the lightning flashed, and then we moved
from one tree to another, clinging to the branches to keep from slipping
over the bluff. Up at the mouth of the Yazoo we could catch a glimpse of
the Yankee gunboat lights.
next several nights we were sent down on the levee. The march and long
wait were made in absolute silence. The enemy must have suspected that
the Tinth was waiting to give them a warm reception, for they failed
to show up. At intervals Long Tom would throw a ball from the top of
Snyder's Bluff up the river to entertain the gunboats.
Vicksburg we went on a transport to Port Hudson.
things happened on that transport. When we reached Port Hudson, the boat
was minus all of its mirrors, knives forks, spoons, blankets, and
rations. The captain of the transport reported the matter to Col.
McGavock, who ordered his men to fall into line, spread their knapsacks
on the ground and open them out, and also to turn their pockets inside
out. Col. McGavock, the officers of the regiment, and the captain of the
boat went from one end of the line to the other but not one thing could
they find that belonged to the boat. After the search was completed,
Col. McGavock made a speech to the captain of the transport, in which he
eulogized his regiment, saying that it was made up of honest and brave
men, and that as a matter of course, it must have been some other
soldiers or thieves that had ransacked the boat. However, Col. McGavock
went to the commissary and drew enough rations to supply the captain and
his crew until they got back to Vicksburg.
helped to fortify Port Hudson, and we were there at the bombardment. On
the night of the bombardment we had a pyramid of pine-knots built up
about a mile below the port,
right opposite where the gunboats were anchored. We had orders to set
fire to the pine knots when the first boat advanced. Two forty-five-gun
frigates started up the river at nightfall. The pine knots were ablaze
instantly, and every movement of the fleet was seen by the gunners at
first frigate succeeded in getting past, but she was battered up
considerably. The second frigate made an effort to compel the port to
surrender, but we poured shot into her at such a rapid rate that she ran
out the white flag. We ceased firing at once; and when her commander saw
that we had stopped, they began firing on us again. Then the captain
commanding the battery ordered the boys to "give 'em red-hot shot."
order was obeyed, and the red-hot shot set fire to the frigate, her
machinery stopped, and she began to swing round and round. The crew
jumped overboard, and we could hear the cries and groans of the wounded
Dewey was on that frigate. He was not an admiral then, but be must have
been a good swimmer.
the fire reached their ammunition, when bombshells and cartridges began
to explode in a grand fusillade. She floated down the river, and the
boats of the fleet moved hurriedly in order to give her plenty of room
to pass. Several miles below the magazine exploded, and we knew that the
end had come for that frigate. It was a wonderful sight. The port lay in
the shadow, and below it the Mississippi stretched away a veritable
stream of fire. Farmers who lived ten miles away told me afterwards that
the light was so bright at their places on that night that they could
pick up pins in the road. After this disaster, the Yankees decided that
it would be best to make an entrance by the back way.
Hudson Col. McGavock gave me a good round scolding for exposing myself
in range of the enemy's guns and being wantonly reckless. I think he
must have had some premonition of his death, for he told me that he was
afraid that he would never get hack home.
Port Hudson we went to Jackson and then to Raymond. We camped outside of
Raymond on the night of May 11, 1863, and the next morning we marched
through the town. The ladies who lived there came to meet us with
baskets of pies, cakes, and good things. They were even kind enough to
bring buckets of water and dippers, and many a soldier blessed them as
they passed down die ranks. A hushed stillness seemed to hover over die
world that morning. A mile or so from town we sighted die enemy. We had
marched up on a rise and were out in the open, and they were in the
woods about one hundred yards in our front when they began to fire on
us. I was standing about two paces in the rear of the line and Col.
McGavock was standing about four paces in my rear. We had been under
fire about twenty minutes, when I heard a ball strike something behind
me. I have a dim remembrance of calling to God. It was my colonel. He
was about to fall. I caught him and eased him down with his head in the
shadow of a little bush. I knew he was going, and asked him if he had
any message for his mother. His answer was: "Griffin, take care of me!
Griffin, take care of me!" I put my canteen to his lips, but he was not
conscious. He was shot through the left breast, and did not live more
than five minutes.
the painting, God's Own Gentleman, Patrick Griffin is shown
with his commander, Colonel Randal McGavock, holding the
"Sons of Erin" flag during the Battle of Raymond.
saw that he was dead, I placed his head well in the shade and stepped
back into position. The field officers being at the ends of the line, I
had no opportunity to report to them that he had been killed. The orders
came in quick succession, "Left flank by file left!" "Double-quick,
march!" and then "By the right flank!," and the next command was drowned
out by the Rebel Yell. We 'charged the Yankees and chased them into the
woods. At the edge of the woods the order was given to "Double-quick"
and we were halted again under die protection of a little hill. On the
top of this hill there was an old log cabin, and twenty of our fellows
went into it to fire through the chinks in the wall at the enemy. Not
one of these men was ever seen alive again. We had to stand and see them
shot down like rats in a hole. Every time one of them attempted to get
away a bluecoat in the woods brought him down. I remember one member of
my company, John Corbett, called to me to come and get his money for his
wife. He said that he was wounded and dying. Any man who attempted to
climb that hill must die also. Lord, we learned what war meant that day.
were halted there I met Lieut. Col. Grace and asked him if he knew that
Col. McGavock had been killed when the battle first began. "My God!" he
exclaimed, as though he hardly believed it. I assured him that it was
true. He then told me that the order was to get out of there the best
way we could. I explained to him that I wanted to go back after the
Colonel's body, but he said that it was out of the question. I insisted
that I had given my promise to the Colonel to take care of him, and that
I was going to do it to the best of my ability, whatever happened. He
replied that if I went it would be at my own risk.
two of the members of my company to volunteer to go with me. We found
the body just where I had left it. We picked him up tenderly and started
toward town. I hope and trust that God will never let me find a road so
long and sorrowful again. Capt. George Diggons and Capt. James Kirkman
were the only members among the wounded of my regiment who were able to
get away from the battlefield. The Confederates were retreating rapidly,
and we were not far on the way when the Yanks came in sight. As soon as
my two comrades saw them, they let loose of the Colonel's body and
started to run, but I drew my pistol and told them they would have to
die by him; but later, seeing there was no possible chance of escape, I
told them they could go and I would stay with him.
Yanks came rushing along, some of them stopping long enough to make some
jeering, sarcastic remark, but they could not shove the iron any farther
into my heart that day. It was fully two hours before the rear guard
came up. The officer in charge was an Irishman, and I want to say right
here that I am convinced that if ever there was a good Yankee he must
have been Irish. Capt McGuire I heard the fellows call him, and I
learned that he- came from die same county in Ireland, my parents came
from. He asked me who was this officer I was holding in my arms; and
when I told him that it was my own colonel, McGavock- an Irish name-he
took it for granted that the Colonel was a "townie" of mine, and he
ordered his men to place the body in one of the army wagons. The Colonel
was free for evermore, and I was the lonesomest, saddest of prisoners.
<click here for
Part Two, "Burying Col. McGavock, Finding A Tobacco Stash & The Great Escape">