Mischief in the Corn Patch


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The Civil War memoirs of Private Samuel Watkins of Company H, 1st Tennessee Infantry are considered the best ever written by a common soldier of the field. His writing style is engaging, and often quite humorous. He masterfully captured the pride, misery, and glory experienced by the common foot soldier. Here’s another story.

It’s no surprise that some Rebels were prone to mischief. Even innocent looking Sam got himself in a spot of trouble on day in a cornfield near Tupelo, Mississippi.  

Sam’s  regiment was under the command of General Bragg, who “issued an order authorizing citizens to defend themselves against the depredations of soldiers—to shoot them down if caught depredating.”  

But sometimes a fella can’t help but do a little depredating, a fancy way of saying plundering, if he’s not getting enough to eat.

Sam and his buddy Bryon were mighty hungry  when they spied a cornfield. Corn was so good for roasting, so naturally, in spite of the orders, you can guess what they did.

Sam had an armful of corn when suddenly, “an old citizen raised up and said, ‘Stop there! Drop that corn.’”

The old fellow had a “double- barreled shotgun cocked and leveled” at Sam, and proceeded to march him toward General Bragg’s headquarters.

No amount of pleading helped change the old man’s mind. Sam said, “I could see the devil in the old fellow’s eye.”

But Sam was determined not to see General Bragg, who was a mite too quick to have his own men shot. So, he said to the old man:

“’Mister, Byron Richardson is in your field, and if you will go back we can catch him and you can take both of us to General Bragg.’ The old fellow’s spunk was up. He had captured me so easy, he no doubt thought he could whip a dozen.”

They got back and there was Bryon, with his arms full of corn. The old citizen leveled his gun, but Sam grabbed it “and with the assistance of Byron, we had the old fellow and his gun both.”

Sam’s future looked brighter now:

“We made the old fellow gather as much as he could carry, and made him carry it nearly to camp, when we dismissed him, a wiser if not a better and richer man.”

 

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