Jefferson Davis's Coachman


This Site:

Civil War

Civil War Overview

Civil War 1861

Civil War 1862

Civil War 1863

Civil War 1864

Civil War 1865

Civil War Battles

Confederate Generals

Union Generals

Confederate History

Robert E. Lee

Civil War Medicine

Lincoln Assassination


Site Search

Civil War Links


Civil War Art

Mexican War

Republic of Texas


Winslow Homer

Thomas Nast

Mathew Brady

Western Art

Civil War Gifts

Robert E. Lee Portrait

Civil War Harper's Weekly, June 7, 1862

You are viewing part of our online archive of Harper's Weekly newspapers which were published during the Civil War. This archive serves as an invaluable tool for the serious student of the Civil War, or professional researcher. These newspapers are an incredible source of first edition reports on the war.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to a specific page of interest)


General Stoneman

General Stoneman

Louisiana Tigers

Louisiana Tigers

Run Away Slave

Runaway Slave


Corinth, Mississippi

Stoneman Biography

General Stoneman Biography

Jefferson Davis Coachman

Jefferson Davis's Coachman

William Jackson

William Jackson

Woman's Beauty

A Woman's Beauty

Army in the Southwest

Army in the Southwest


Civil War Hospital

Marching Army

Marching Army

Cumberland, Virginia


Secesh Cartoon










JUNE 7, 1862.]



These words were a revelation. The General pressed my elbow. "They're horse-thieves, mister."

This announcement of the quality of our unconscious hosts was by no means calculated to dissipate my apprehensions. I listened nervously enough to an animated debate which now ensued among the members of the gang as to the propriety of hurrying over the stolen horses to the Missouri shore, or of lying concealed for some days, until the first fury of the pursuers should be baffled and spent. Opinions varied. The only person of the male sex who took no part in the argument was the old farmer-looking man whom I had heard addressed as Mr. Stone. He sat quiet, having finished his meal and resumed his pipe, and we could see nothing but his respectable-looking gray head and the silvery wreaths from his soap-stone meerschaum, inasmuch as his face was toward the outer door. Mrs. Stone, his better half, took an active part in council, urging a stay on the island, since there had been "nothing but scurrying here and stampeding there for weeks, and her darters were worrited and worn out with it." It was curious, but this notable woman's character appeared little if at all changed by lawless companionship and outlaw life. In the midst of robbers she was still the shrewish, hard-working housewife, and I could see no remorse written on her parchment cheeks. With her daughters it was different. The eldest was evidently melancholy and ill at ease. She sat a little apart, never replied save with a monosyllable to any remark or rough compliment, and her downcast eyes and colorless face told of regrets and scruples that her mother did not share. The younger girl showed the same mental condition, but in a minor degree. Her answers were short, but pert, and she occasionally exploded into a giggle at some jocular sally of the Massachusetts man or the German, who were the wits of the assembly. But one glance from her sister's sad, dark eyes checked her rising spirits, and she subsided into gloom again. We listened with considerable interest to a discussion which materially affected our safety; but over which we could exercise no influence whatever. We gathered from the discourse that another hut existed not far off, which was assigned to the Stone family, but that the rest of the association had no residence on the island save the log-house in which we were concealed, and no couches but those heaps of brush and flowering grasses on which we were growing fearfully uneasy. The horses, we also learned, were hidden hard by, in a cache dug where the scrub grew thickest, and which was effectually masked from careless eyes by a sort of broad trap-door of osier work and sassafras boughs. Here it was customary to conceal them—they were all stolen from owners in Tennessee-until an opportunity occurred for transporting them to Bollvar or Greenville, in Missouri, where certain accomplices of the band resided, and whence they were sent to St. Louis to be sold to emigrants bound for California.

Very unwillingly did we thus acquire possession of the secrets of those desperate men, every fresh admission or unguarded word serving to increase our danger, until at last we heard with dismay the final award of Black Dave, the captain.

"We'll jest stop. This location's good, and nobody knows of it [we trembled], and, as Marm Stone says, the gals are tired some, and we'd all be the better of rest. So we'll jest keep close for a few days, and then absquatilate with the bosses, and scurry for Bolivar."

There was a growl of assent, overtopped by the shrill voice of Mrs. Stone, who clamorously expressed her approval. I glanced at the General's face. It was white but firm; and the compressed lips and brightening eye told of a new resolve.

"It's a bitter pill, Sir, 'tis, but we must gulp it," he whispered; "we must give ourselves up, and the sooner the better. It will go harder with us if we were found cached than if we come out bold."

This was logical, but startling. I demurred for an instant, suggesting the possibility of our making our way out at the back of the cabin by cutting a hole with our knives in the comparatively thin roof. But our deliberations were unexpectedly cut short. Up to this time the party had contented themselves with eating and reposing, but now a huge can of water and some lemons and sugar, and some fresh sprigs of mint were produced, and a cry was set up for whisky.

"Where did you stow away the stone jars with the Monongahela, Marm Stone?"

Mrs. Stone replied that the jars were "under the brush of the beds," and bade the Massachusetts man fetch them. He rose at once, took up a pine torch, lighted it, and advanced. "Now," cried Jeremiah, rising to his feet, and we both stepped out into the lighted circle, causing the startled bearer of the torch to drop the blazing brand in his surprise.

"Dog-gon it all," yelled one of the gang, "the Philistines are on us!"

With wild shouts and curses the ruffians scrambled up and clutched their weapons.

"Hurroo, boys, it's only two spy varmints!" thundered Black Dave, who was really a bold villain; "kim back, you down-East coward, you! And you Dutch cur (for the Massachusetts man and the German were already in full retreat); they air but two, and without weapons."

When they were certain of this last reassuring fact, the more timorous of the robbers became almost beyond restraint in their blood-thirsty fury. Pistols and bowie-knives menaced us on every side, and it was with some trouble that the Captain prevented our summary extermination. Black Dave, however, was firm. By his orders our wrists were tightly bound together with handkerchiefs, and we were placed in the centre of a circle of hostile faces and threatening revolvers, and bidden to confess.

"Speak up, ye skunks, who air ye?"

In answer to this query, the General gave a succinct and graphic account of the steamboat accident,

of our escape and immersion, of our landing on the island, and of how we happened to fall asleep in the log-house and become the involuntary auditors of the robbers' council, though this point was rather lightly touched upon. A fellow of fierce incredulity answered this statement.

"Cut out the lyin' snake's tongue!" bawled one.   .

"Murder 'em both, the oily spoken, slippy-skinned Yankee eels!" cried another, flourishing his glittering knife within an inch of my nose, while two pistol barrels were pressed to the forehead of the unflinching Jeremiah.

"Hold a bit, gentlemen," said Black Dave. "Out with the truth, ye skulking crawlers! Who sent you? Air ye State police, or mere informers? You, specially, with the Connecticut phiz and satin waistcoat. Hevn't I seen your ugly features before? What's your name?"

"I dare say you have seen me before. I am General Jeremiah Flint, of New England, and I ain't ashamed of parentage nor raising," replied the General.

There was a murmur. Three or four of those present knew the General by repute or by sight. The Massachusetts man observed that "Flint was a hypocrite, that passed for doing things on the square." The German abused him for a "schelm," who had ill-treated an acquaintance of his at Memphis; which accusation afterward resolved itself into the fact that Flint had broken the arm of a bully who tried to gouge him. Two other men had heard that Flint was "a cute chap," and had been soft-hearted enough to help more than one person they had known, and who had been ruined and half-starved in the South.

All this time Black Dave, with an ominous frown on his dark brows, had stood toying with the lock of his revolver, making the hammer play up and down between his strong fingers, and tapping the bullets that lay in each charged chamber. Presently he fixed his keen eyes on the steady eyes of the principal captive. I say principal, because I attracted little or no attention, being quite unknown.

"Last time we met," said Dave, deliberately, "you and me, Jeremiah Flint, you sat on the bench along with the sheriff and the squires, and I stood in the dock. Now times all altered. I am judge now, and by all that's airthly I'll hev justice. You say you're no spy. That meb be true; but how if we let you go to the next town—"

"You'll never be such a 'tarnal fool, Captain," said a by-stander.

I took the opportunity of eagerly and solemnly assuring the outlaw that he had nothing to fear from our indiscretion. We would be silent, until silence could no longer be necessary.

"Shut your mouth," said Dave, roughly, and instantly resumed. "General, you must die. It goes agin me to kill in cold blood, but it's our law, and unless we'd all be strung up to trees by the Reg'lators of Tennessee, we must silence you for sartin." Dave lifted his pistol, and pointed it at the forehead of poor Flint, who gave a slight shudder, and then stood firm.

"I'll settle the other sneak," said a brawny boatman, cocking his revolver, and grasping my collar. "I'll count twenty, slow," said Dave. "If you've got religion, you can mumble a prayer; and you, too, young chap, for when I get to twenty I crook my claw."

The boatman's pistol was pressed to my ear. The muzzle felt icy cold, like the touch of Death's hand. My arms were bound, and all resistance impossible.

"One," began Dave.

The face of old Stone was contorted for a moment, as by a twinge of pain, and he let his pipe go out, unheeded, but said nothing. The girls were sobbing in a corner, and Mrs. Stone was apparently urging them, in a whisper, to withdraw.

The robber Captain continued to count, "two, three, four, five."

Such a scream! Mary Stone broke from her mother who sought to detain her, threw herself on her knees at Black Dave's feet, and began to beg our lives with an incoherent energy and a passionate sobbing and outpouring of words that it was painful to hear. This girl, usually so quiet and depressed, was now fully roused by the horror of the cruel deed about to be done. She wept and clung to Dave's brawny arm, and supplicated for mercy; mixing her entreaties with broken Scriptural phrases and incautious censures on the lawless life and pursuits of the band. But the chief, though startled, was not softened. He shook off the weak hands that grasped his.

"Marm Stone, take off your darter, and leave me to settle accounts with the spy. Men ain't to be twisted round, like milksops, by a useless screechin' gal. You've made me lose my count, young one, but I'll pick it up by guess. Twelve!"

But scarcely had he leveled the weapon when Mrs. Stone advanced and boldly beat it down.

" I've been a puzzlin' my brains," said the virago, "to recklect the man, and if he's him I think, he sha'n't die. None of your ugly frowns at me, Cap.; Bessy Stone's not the woman to be frit by black looks. Warn't you, Jeremiah Flint, once the actuary chap of the Boston Argus Life and Fire Company?"

"Yes I was," said Flint.

"Of course!" sneered the German, maliciously. "We'll prove that," returned Mrs. Stone. "'Tis long years agone, but can you remember going to a village, nigh Lexington, to see a farm-house and barns belonging to a farmer that had been burned out, and the comp'ny suspected 'twar done a purpose, and were shy to pay the policy thing?"

"Stay a moment," said Flint, pondering; "the farmer's name was Burke, and the village was Brentsville, Massachusetts."

"All right!" screamed the audacious virago, positively wrenching the revolver from between Dave's murderous fingers; "one good turn deserves as good, and as sure as my name's Bessy Stone, and was Bessy Burke, the man that saved my old dad from being ruined, root and branch,

sha'n't be shot dog fashion—and you, Stone, if you're a man, you'll say so too."

The old farmer, who had evidently the highest reverence for his wife's judgment, rose from his seat, picked up the rifle that had lain beside him, and composedly sounded the barrel with the tough ramrod.

"The bit of lead's in its place!" he said, in his phlegmatic way, and stood still, but ready for action. A violent quarrel ensued; oaths, threats, and hard words were freely bandied to and fro; but four of the least villainous-looking of the gang took the side of mercy, and Mrs. Stone's dictum obviously carried great weight with it. Her bitter tongue and the masculine energy of her character had made her a potentate in the association; while her husband, though slow of wit, was known to be a brave man and a first-rate judge of a horse. The end of the matter was, that our lives were spared, but that it was decided that we should be kept prisoners until the evacuation of the island. We were accordingly placed in a sort of underground magazine, where forage was stored, and within a few inches of the pit in which the horses were concealed, and to which access was obtained by a drawbridge of stout planking.

Our bonds were slackened, but not removed, and we were made to give our parole not to attempt to escape until the horse-thieves should quit the island. Mrs. Stone, to whose capricious gratitude we owed our lives, was not unkind to us in her rugged way, and she and her daughters supplied us with food and blankets, and sometimes deigned to descend and converse with us, besides lending us one or two well-thumbed books, which constituted the family library. In the course of these conversations the apparent enigma of the connection between the Stones, who seemed decent folks, and the utter villains who composed the gang, was solved. Old Stone had been a hard-working farmer in Illinois, illiterate, but respectable and honest in deed and thought. Unluckily he had invested his hard-earned savings and the price of his own farm in the purchase of a tempting bargain of landed property, with a fatal flaw in the title. The knavish vendor had fled, and the honest dupe, assailed by a lawsuit, had been stripped of all, and had found himself a beggar. Unhappily Mrs. Stone was a woman of strong will and a warped and one-sided judgment. She passionately declared that as the law had robbed them of their earnings, the law was their enemy, and a. mere device for oppression. Anger blinded her; she was ashamed to live poor where she had been well to do, and in the cities of the South the exiled family soon picked up associates whose whole life was one war with society.

It was impossible to make Mrs. Stone comprehend that she was really a transgressor in sharing the perils and profits of wholesale plunder. She had got to regard all judges, governors, lawyers, and men of reputed honesty, as rogues, in league to pillage the simple; and she considered the work in which the horse-thieves were engaged as reprisals and warfare. Her husband, long used to obey the shrewd and violent woman who had attained such dominion over him, only saw through his wife's eyes. I believe the couple had some vague idea of buying land in Oregon or California, and setting up "on the square," when they should be rich enough—a hope which has lured on many a half reluctant criminal. The daughters, on the other hand, less prejudiced and better taught, since they had picked up some instruction in a tolerable school in Chicago, saw nothing but misery and degradation in the companionship to which they were condemned. They passed their lives in sighing over the old days and the innocence of their life in Illinois, and never willingly exchanged a word with the outlaws.

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Barham," said the General to me one day, "I'd like to give a lift out of the mire to them Stones. They've saved the lives of us both, for gospel truth, and my head aches to think of their bein' caught one day, the old man hung, the woman locked up for life, and the daughters driven out to come to want, or worse. I'm not rich, no more, I suspect, air you; but land's not dear up in Oregon, nor yet in Californey, and between us we might buy 'em a farm, and let 'em live honest, and repent when grace was borne in upon 'em. A farm would be jest heaven to 'em, and three thousand dollars would buy and stock it in a small way."

I willingly agreed, and we quietly settled with Mary Stone, who was wild with joy at the idea, that a certain sum should be lodged, two months hence, in a certain bank, in her name. She agreed that it was best to communicate this to her mother after the migration of the band. This was soon to occur. We had been prisoners for a fortnight, when one morning we were informed that a general flitting was at hand, and our release imminent.

With much snorting and trampling the horses were led up from the cadre, and embarked on board two flat-boats, which were to be towed across by two broadhorns, while a third followed with the rest of the party. Dawn was just breaking, no steamer was in sight, no wreath of filmy wood-smoke was on the horizon. Once on the Missouri bank, safety would be easily secured, since the depredations had been confined to Tennessee. We were allowed to come out of our prison, and found ourselves, blinking like owls in the daylight, on the margin of the turbid water. The first flat-boat, full of horses, was towed off by a broadhorn pulling six oars. The two girls and their father were in the stern-sheets, but Mrs. Stone lingered, lest the German or Black Dave might do us, as she said, "a mischief at parting." But the Captain was in good-humor. He patted us on the back, laughing heartily, and advised us to "stick to Broadway pavement and Philadelphy park, onst we got there."

The last horses were embarked, and the rowers of the broadhorn settled themselves on the benches and grasped their oars. "All aboard, quick, boys!"

"Stay," said Black Dave, looking round, "where's that Massachusetts bird?"

Nobody knew. One said he was in the first boat. Another denied this. No one had seen him since the previous evening. Black Dave ground his teeth, and muttered a deep curse.

"He's deserted, the cur! To git the reward them Reg'lators offered!"

"He's stole the third broadhorn. It's gone!" cried a panting scout, running up. There was a moment of suspense, then a rush, and the remaining boat was so crowded that it was sunk gunwale deep in the water. The Captain, rifle in hand, stood up in the stern-sheets.

"Pull all! I hear the dip of oars!"

Flash! went the six oars into the water, and off went the heavily-laden boat, towing the flat with the horses. The progress was necessarily slow. But a few yards had been gained before a loud out-cry proved that the island was invaded. We were still standing on the shore, waving our hands to Mrs. Stone, whose hard face had relaxed into a smile, and who seemed heedless of the danger.

"Hurrah! Bang at 'em, boys—there the villains air!" bawled fifty voices, and a crowd of armed men in gayly-fringed hunting-shirts or homespun suits, well armed, came at a run through the bushes. "Down!" cried Flint, throwing me to my knees and stooping himself, just in time to escape death, as the rifle-balls whizzed over us. I looked up. I saw Black Dave drop on his knees, fire his gun, rise again, stagger, and finally roll over into the river mortally wounded by the discharge. No one else was hit. Cutting the towrope and crouching down as much as possible, the outlaws managed to escape further harm, and, abandoning their plunder, reached the Missouri shore.

We were at first roughly handled, and were even in some danger of being promptly hanged or shot by order of Judge Lynch, when two witnesses to character came forward. One, on whom we looked with disgust, was the treacherous scoundrel who had betrayed the rest of the gang for gold; the other, wonder of wonders, was—Ned Granger, who caught me in his arms and hugged me like a bear!

"Dear Ned, I thought you were dead."

"That's exactly what I thought of you, Barham, dear old boy, and of the General there. No, I was very little hurt, and was able to help the other uninjured passengers in caring for those poor creatures who were scalded or torn by the explosion. Every house is like a hospital. Ah! it was a shocking business. But though unhurt, you see, I had lost my luggage and money in the crash, and this honest farmer here has taken care of me these last weeks. So I came to help him to get back his stolen nags, little thinking whom I should find on Island Number Ten."

Flint and I kept our word with Mary Stone.


WE publish on page 365 a portrait of WILLIAM A. JACKSON, EX-COACHMAN OF JEFF DAVIS, who recently entered our lines at Fredericksburg. Jackson is an extremely intelligent man, reads and writes (as his signature shows), and converses in a manner which shows that he has been used to good society. He seems well posted in regard to the events of the past year, and to the condition of affairs at the South. He says that the negroes at Richmond and throughout the South have long foreseen the present state of things, and look anxiously for the coming of the Union armies. He says that the rebels dare not trust the negroes with arms; and as to relying upon their fidelity, they are well aware that every negro at the South prays earnestly for the success of the Union armies. He adds that notwithstanding the care taken by the slave-owners to conceal the news from the negroes, and to deceive them as to the purposes of the Northern men, they are generally well acquainted with the course of events. Jackson represents Davis, in whose service he remained several months, as much disheartened and querulous: fond of complaining of the want of popular support, and very downhearted about the future. When Jackson first came into our lines he made a statement to General McDowell, which was published in all the papers. We subjoin the following summary:

The coachman overheard a conversation between Davis and Dr. Gwin, formerly United States Senator from California. Davis said he had sent General J. R. Anderson from North Carolina to resist the march of the Nationals from Fredericksburg, and to delay them long enough for him to see the probable result of the contest before Yorktown, so that if that was likely to be unsuccessful he would have time to extricate his army from the peninsula and get them into Richmond and out of Virginia; that otherwise they would all be caught. The coachman represents that Mrs. Davis said "the Confederacy was about played out," and "that if New Orleans was really taken she had no longer any interest in the matter, as all she had was there; that it was a great pity they had ever attempted to hold Virginia and the other non-growing cotton States;" and that she said to Mrs. D. R. Jones, daughter of Colonel James Taylor, United States Commissary-General of Subsistence, who was very anxious to get to Washington, where she has one of her children, "not to give herself any trouble, but to stay where she was, and when the Yankees came to Richmond she could go."

The coachman says that Mr. and Mrs. Davis have all their books, clothing, and pictures packed up ready to move off; that there is much outspoken Union feeling in Richmond; that, having been a waiter in a hotel there, he knows all the Union men of the place, and that the Yankees are looked for with much pleasure, more by the whites than even the colored people. Confederate money is not taken when it can be avoided.

Miss Davis herself was refused, when she offered a $10 Confederate note, which she did in payment for something purchased for Mrs. Brown.

Many of the Richmond people wish the Union troops to come, as they are half starved out.

The bank and Government property are all packed up for removal to Danville, near the North Carolina line.

Jackson is a man of thirty years of age. He is or was owned in Richmond, but was hired out by the year by his owner. For some years he was a messenger in one of the courts; he drove a hack for a couple of years, and latterly, as we said, he drove the rebel President. He has a wife and three children, all slaves, in Richmond. It is a misdemeanor at law in Virginia to teach William Jackson's children to read.




Site Copyright 2003-2018 Son of the South.  For Questions or comments about this collection, contact

Privacy Policy

Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.