Monday, September 28, 2009

Confederate Images: Lt. Alfred Surber

By Don Shelton

Alfred Surber was born in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1834, the son of Adam and Mary Hubble Surber who had moved to Kentucky a few years before from Smyth County, Virginia. When the fledgling Confederacy called for men, Alfred and his brother Andrew answered by enlisting in T. H. Shank's company of cavalry. On early rolls sometimes referred to as Co. E, but ultimately Capt. Shanks was assigned Co. B of the 6th Kentucky Cavalry under Col. Grigsby.

When the company was organized at Stanford on September 10th, 1862, Alfred was made 2nd lieutenant. The 6th Kentucky participated in actions in and around Perryville a few weeks later, and in numerous skirmishes associated with Bragg's withdrawal from Kentucky. The 6th Kentucky then participated in the Battle of Murfreesboro, but at that point Alfred wasn't there.

Lt. Surber had been removed from his office sometime after the retreat to Tennessee by a general order from the War Department which consolidated Buford's Brigade. After losing his commission Alfred returned to Kentucky - presumably to recruit men to form a new company. However, he was captured on December 20th in Danville and imprisoned in Lexington. On December 27th he was transferred to the prison in Louisville, but only stayed there two days as he was exchanged and sent to Vicksburg.

Alfred rejoined the 6th Kentucky sometime after that, and regained his commission as 2nd Lieutenant. In March of 1863 the 6th Kentucky was assigned to Brig. General John Hunt Morgan. On March 20th the 6th fought under Morgan at Milton, Tennessee where Col. Grigsby was wounded and Lt. Col. Napier was wounded and permanently disabled from service.

The 6th also participated in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend near Monticello, KY on May 10th. For several weeks after that the brigade was on the line along the Cumberland River, but by the end of June it was obvious to the men that Morgan was planning something big; prior to the Great Indian/Ohio Raid Morgan's command had been split into two brigades, with th 6th Kentucky being placed in the 1st Brigade under Gen. Basil Duke. The long string of engagement on that amazing military action beginning on July 2nd is too great to mention, but included Green River Bridge at Tebb's Bend, Lebanon and Corydon. At Versailles, Indiana the 6th Kentucky was dispatched to burn bridges. The 6th also appropriated $5,000 from the public funds of the city for the Confederate Cause.

Near the end of the Raid the men were beyond exhaustion. On July 18th Morgan skirmished with the 23rd Ohio Infantry at Pomeroy, Ohio. It was a continual fight along a road in a ravine surrounded by hills which the enemy occupied. The 6th Kentucky took the lead, dismounted and dislodged the enemy. Morgan's command then reached Chester at 1 o'clock where they halted for a costly hour-and-a-half. The delay kept them from arriving at Buffington Ford - where they could escape into western Virginia - until after dark.

Heavy rains had the river higher than normal, and a night crossing could have proved disastrous. Morgan decided to wait until dawn to attack the ford, with the 5th and 6th Kentucky chosen to lead. In the morning the works were found abandoned, so the 5th and 6th were ordered to move down the Pomeroy Road and cover the crossing for the rest of Morgan's command. There they dispersed an enemy advance guard, capturing many. Shortly, though, the main body of the enemy arrived in superior force. It was now becoming apparent that the 5th and 6th Kentucky would have to sacrifice themselves in order to buy time for the others to cross the ford. The enemy charged and both regiments were pushed back, the Parrot guns were lost and ammunition began running low. With the Federal gunboats, Morgan's men were shelled from three directions. The left flank was turned and the 6th Kentucky was almost surrounded. They fought their way out under Major Bullitt - Col. Grigsby having been separated from the regiment. Under Bullitt the 6th formed the rear guard and kept their pursuers at bay "with empty guns". Then the enemy charged again and 700 Confederates were captured, including Gen. Duke, Maj. Bullitt and Lt. Alfred Surber. This began Lt. Surber's long tour of Northern accommodations. He was listed in the Cincinnati papers as among the officers captured at Buffington Island. He was held at a "depot near Sandusky Ohio", which must certainly have been Johnson's Island, until August 4th when he was sent to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by order of Gen. Burnside. On January 1, 1864 he is shown on a roll of prisoners held at the Penitentiary in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. On March 20th, he was transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland, and then on June 23rd he was transferred to Fort Delaware. Finally on March 7, 1865 - more than a year-and-a-half after his capture - Lt. Surber was paroled and left Fort Delaware for City Point, Virginia for exchange. Many of Morgan's men were exchanged at City Point during late February and March, 1865. Some of them got back to their command before the war ended. Most were placed in a parole camp called Ft. Lee near Richmond and some were still there when the war ended. It is difficult to know Lt. Surber's exact location when the end came.

After the war Alfred returned to Pulaski County, where he married Mary Stigall. They had at least tree children, Alice born in 1872, George born in 1874 and John born in 1876.

Picture caption: Picture of Lt. Surber taken while he was a prisoner of war. This picture was in the collection at the museum at the Hunt-Morgan House in Lexington, labeled "Lt. Turber? 6 KY" until a descendant noticed it and identified it as Alfred Surber.

Originally published in the Summer 2004 The Lost Cause

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not Forgotten

By Joey Oller

The Elizabethtown City Cemetery is a quiet resting place for over fifty Confederate soldiers, but in December 1862, it was far from peaceful, as cannon balls roared through the air, bombarding Union forces occupying the city. Those forces would eventually surrender the hill to Confederate General, John Hunt Morgan.

After many years of research,that battle and the Confederate soldiers who called Hardin County home were remembered on August 1st by the General Ben Hardin Helm Camp at the cemetery, where three interpretive markers were unveiled.

The first marker was unveiled commemorates the Battle of Elizabethtown, in which Gen. John Hunt Morgan used the cemetery as part of the battleground. The other two markers or located on cemetery hill at Confederate Place, that list the names and regiments of numerous Confederate soldiers of Hardin County. Each name had to be researched through every source available, but sadly enough it is known that well over 300 names have been left off the markers.

The camp plans additional markers in the Helm Cemetery later this year to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the 1884 burial of Gen. Benjamin Hardin Helm in Elizabethtown.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Memoirs of George Albert DeLong (Pt 2)

My second attempt to escape, the last year of the war, also proved futile. I heard some men had commenced digging a tunnel. They found out that two friends and I had money, about seventy-five dollars, and proposed if we divide the money with them, they would let us use the tunnel to escape. This we agreed to do. We waited for a dark night.

We arranged with some men who were to use the same tunnel the following night to answer to the roll call. Our group went through, but the last man did not replace the plank in the floor as planned, and before morning one hundred and sixty-seven prisoners escaped. The first group did not know that others besides their own number had passed through. Will English, Bate Washington and I went to Morrison Hotel, had a fine supper and went to bed. We had not slept on a good bed for a long time. About twelve o'clock the escape was discovered, the hotels were searched and all were arrested who could not prove they were residents. Officers came to our room and demanded entrance, saying every one in hotels and on the streets were being arrested that many had escaped from Camp Douglas.

As we were on the fourth floor escape was impossible, so we opened the door. We were corded together and taken to the police headquarters for the night, and placed in the safest cell, a real dungeon. Here we were searched. The following morning we were taken back to our prison. We were marched under guards of regular troops, subjected to taunts and gibes of people along the street. Fortunately the officers in command had fought against Morgan's men and knew they were brave soldiers. He shielded us as much as he could against the insults, such as " Morgan's horse thiever. "Hand them. Shoot them" The officer said to us, " Do not be uneasy; the first one who tries to do you violence, I will shoot. You soldiers are brave."

Arriving at the barracks we were again searched and they came near getting all our money. Mine was under an extra sole in my boot. Some was sewed inside my cravat. Once an officer had his hand on my neck. I said, "We have been searched twice," and he let go. We were taken to the flag staff, which had a parapet extending around it about twelve feet high. Around this we prisoners were placed, with our backs to the parapet. We were commanded to hold up our hands. A loop was put over each thumb and we were drawn up our full height, only our toes touching the ground. We were told if we would take the oath of allegiance and promise not again to attempt to escape we would be exchanged. This every man refused to do; We were left hanging in this condition until one man fainted. Jack Messisk's thumb was dislocated and all suffered great pain. I was fortunate in having very heavy soles on my boots and inner soles, where my money was hidden. I could press against the boards in such a way the whole weight of my body was not on my thumbs. Our place of abode for thirty days after our capture was in a dungeon, made in the cellar of the prison. A barracks was made about 40 by 60, without windows. We were confined during the coldest winter of the war. Our suffering from cold was so great we only escaped freezing to death by sleeping at different times. Those asleep had the overcoats and shawls over them, while those awake who had loaned them, walked and walked and walked, to keep warm until their time to sleep. We were less able to stand the cold because our food was scant and badly prepared.

Many amusing as well as painful experiences filled my nineteen months in prison. Many punishments were invented for those who disobeyed orders, some just, some unjust. Will English (my chum) and I had experienced many of these for we were full of life and fun, being just boys, and the time hung heavy on our hands. About the only thing we had not had wished upon us was a ride on Morgan's horse made of a fourteen by four scantling, placed fourteen or fifteen feet high. The chap on guard was a jovial and pleasant fellow so we deliberately disobeyed a command, knowing what our punishment would be, but thinking he would not keep us there long. Of course, Morgan's Men wanted to ride the rail named in his honor. Well, the kind guard was called away and a very mean one sent in his place. He kept us two hours and when the first guard returned, we were still riding. We never courted that punishment again.

Many funny incidents happened on some of our scouting expeditions in the early years of the war. Once on a scout near Falmouth, Kentucky, we were guarding an outpost. We were about eight in number. Some got off their horses and were playing a game of " seven up" in the road. I was holding the horses. One man had a winning and when he was about to throw down his card he began to say, High, Low, Jack and the Game", when he looked up and said, " Christ, here comes a thousand Yankees," It is needless to say this little band lost no time returning to their lines to report.

My most dangerous raid was to obtain a telegraph battery. Ellis, our famous operator, had lost his battery in one of our raids and much of the success of our plans was due to the fact that we could lead our enemy wrong by telegraphing incorrect news to the Yankees. Our command was about forty miles from Franklin, Kentucky where Saunders Bruce was
in command of federal forces, about forty thousand strong. Morgan called one out of each company to make this raid. We were in Tennessee. I was chosen from Company D, Duke's regiment. We were ten cavalry men in all who reported to Gen. Morgan, who personally explained the danger as well as the necessity of the raid. He ordered us to dress as Yankees in uniform and cautioned us if caught, we would be shot without trial. We started about dark, rode all night. In the morning we rode up to a house where we had been told we would find a Southern sympathizer. The women at first thought us Yankees, but when we gave her the note from Morgan, she gave us a good breakfast, wished us Godspeed and advised us to go by way of the hills. It was night when we arrived near Franklin. We reconnoitered and found where the sentinels were stationed. I had lived near Franklin and knew the operator, Samules, by name. Johnson, now of Fort Worth Texas and I went to Samuel's house and called him out. We told him we had dispatches from Gen. McCook to Saunders Bruce, who was then at Bowling Green. He took us to the station and when we entered the room, he was ordered to throw up his hands, which he did, as he was covered with pistols. Here he kept him until others disconnected the telegraph instrument. There were stacked in the room many five pound sacks of java coffee. Each on took as many as possible, for coffee was a great luxury to those in Confederate Camps.

We gagged Samuels, put him on behind, and rode out, unmolested. After riding about twelve miles, we left Samuels on the road side, each one hollering as we rode away. "Goodbye Samuels", He answered, "Goodbye Boys" We then rode on into the night. The following morning when we reached the home of the woman who had directed and helped us on our way, she told us how to cross above where we had crossed going, for she had heard our former ford was guarded by the Federals. We went as she directed, and crossed in a boat, making our horses swim. When the enemy discovered we were on the other side of the river, too far away for bullets to hurt us, though we could hear them whistling by.

My twelve-year old brother, Ami, secretly left home by night, on a farm horse, and presented himself for enlistment in the cavalry. General Morgan treated him very kindly, but told him he must return to his home. The general questioned him as to what he thought he could do as a soldier. He replied, "I am very sure I could beat the drum". The General had me take him home. This exemplifies the love young and old had for my daring, gallant Commander.