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The Memphis Daily Appeal
The Memphis Daily Appeal
Contributed by klstacy_home

Description: True Grit - Capt. Laird at Fort Pillow

Date: September 5 1875

Newspaper published in: Memphis, TN


Page/Column: Page 2, Column 2

We find the following in the Eufaula (Ala.) Times, the truth of which will be vouched for by Colonel W. T. Avery and Captain Joseph Barbiere, of this city: "We notice the election to the convention from Geneva County, of a true and gallant man, Captain Henry W. Laird. Men are sometimes called 'Colonel,' by courtesy, but no man was ever called 'Captain' unless he had been one. Laird was a gallant officer of his grade in the late war, commanding a fine company from Coffee County, in Colonel Alpheus Baker's regiment of infantry, a command organized in December, 1861, at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. For a short time after its organization, the regiment, although numbering about one thousand men, could obtain no arms, and being untrained, in order to teach the manual the colonel ordered that each man come upon parade with an ash pike, upon which the places for the lock, bands, bayonets, etc., were properly marked, and after some practice the men came to be thoroughly expert in the manual, and quite ready, in this respect, for their muskets before they had ever handled one on drill. This was early in January, 1862. Colonel Marsh Walker, commanding his own regiment was in command of Fort Pillow, an important and immense fortification, with miles of entrenchment and numerous cannon, and only these regiments to garrison it. Some cavalry of the enemy had appeared, it was reported, in Tennessee, about forty miles in rear of the fort, and there was apprehension of an attack. With a view of ascertaining how the troops would behave in such a case, Colonel Walker, who was a most rigid and effective commander, determined to have a false alarm, and he communicated his purpose to Colonel Baker alone, charging him to reveal it to no one. It was cold weather. Not a cloud floated in the sky, and a heavy snow, lately fallen, reflected the midnight moon at full from the mantled world that slept there under it. The murmur of the black flood of the Mississippi sweeping by alone disturbed the reign of sleep and silence, when suddenly the rattle of the long roll from Colonel Walker's headquarters startled the garrison. Instantly was heard a variety of noises and, among the rest, as Job has it, 'the thunder and the shouting of the captain. Attention, battalion! "Fall in, company! came up from every ravine, and the white landscape was quickly darkened with figures rushing here and there in obedience to such commands. In those parts of the fort adjacent to Colonel Baker's command, each of these figures was adorned with his dazzling pike-staff. Captain Laird's company was camped near regimental headquarters and numbered over ninety men. Their long black line was soon straightened out upon the snow, and their terrible weapons, held at a shoulder, glistened in the moonlight. Captain Laird, whose ample cerebral development was accommodated by an enormous hat, provided with a black ostrich plume of proportionate size, ran to the head of the line, and drawing and waving a vast claymore, about as long as an ordinary fence-rail, which he carried in those days, he cried out: "Company, right face! Forward!" Just then First-Sergeant M'Duffie, a capital soldier and fighter, but a man of providence, and probably aware that the Federal cavalry carried Colt's army pistols and perhaps Spencer rifles, elevated his voice and cried out: Captain Laird, what are we going to do with these here poles? The never-daunted Laird hesitated for a moment, and violently cleared his throat; but, instantly recovering, jerked up his head so that the big plume danced again over that extensive hat, and shouted: "Throw your poles to hell; draw your pocket-knifes and cut 'em to the hollow, d--n 'em! Forward, march!" and forward they rushed, with the spirit of the man that led them, to engage the enemy with their pocket-knives! Such a spirit at times supplies everything, and though we have no fear that our convention will have to engage in any difficulty sufficiently desperate to call it out, yet if it should, there is one man in it, who can be counted on at least till the pocket-knives give out.

Submitted: 07/23/13

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