Burns, Robert – May 18, 1865

Michigan Civil War Collection

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 4th Michigan Calvary

Battles Mentioned: Selma, Alabama

Historical Figures: Benjamin D. Pritchard, Emory Upton, Jefferson Davis, Joseph E. Johnston, Robert H. Minty, William T. Sherman

[twocolumns]Head-Quarters Second Brigade, Second Division Cavalry,

Macon Ga, May 18 1865

My dear Davidson
I broke off abruptly in my last
on the 9th inst to start after the redoubtable Jeff
Davis. I was not one of the fortunate 150 who caught
the above named gentleman, but I have the plesant
knowledge that if he hadn’t fallen into Pritchards
hands, we should have taken him in out of
the cold.          We had gone down on the road in
front of him to cut him off. However the 4th
Michigan caught him, and, at that we shouted
most lustily, and threw up our apologies for hats.
I will now post you as to our doings after the
taking of Selma.          In the report by Col Minty of the engagement
there, is the following extract “Maj Burns 4th Mich
Cav’y formed and brought forward the 7th Pena Cav’y
to the assualt, was among the first to enter the ene-
my’s works and afterwards took part in the
charge made by the 4th U.S. Cav’y under the di-
rection of the Maj Genl Commanding.”  “both of
there officers (Maj Greene of 7th Pa & myself) have been

under my immediate command for nearly three years and
have invariably performed their duty with energy & zeal, and have
distinguished themselves in battle on many occasions” +     +
+          +          + “There officers have well earned a Brevet
and I sincerely trust the Major General Commanding will use his
influences to secure for them this mark of distinction.          Where
all did their duty so well, the man who distinguished himself
alone his comrades in arms, was brave amongst the brave”
Rather laudatory and pleasant. We poor [  ?  ] you know are pleased
with any straw that will tickle our vanity
We remained at Selma until the 8th April when crossed the Alabama
River on a pontoon bridge.     At midnight of the 5th a party of
900 of us started into the country some 20 miles for the purpose
of “gobbling” a regiment of rebs. [   ?   ] had gone. We captured
a few horses & mules, and returned at midnight of next night on
our way out we had to wade through a swamp two miles long,
water above our horses knees we found it so deep that we could go no
farther & were obliged to turn back & take another road. Several times while in it. I
fell asleep and when the horse would plunge through the mud, over his
head I nearly went.     On our way back the next evening
it rained in torrents, and the streams we had forded the night
before were now twelve feet deep.     Lieut Culhertrow & I in attempt-
ing to cross one of them. were blazed away into by our pickets on the
opposite bank. They did not know that there were any Yankees
on the opposite I outside of them. We were forced to evacuate
the premises in the speediest possible manner, and from behind
trees to shout ourselves known.          If we had not been shot (at)
we should probably have been drowned as the water was fifteen
feet deep and it was pitch dark.
On the 10th we fairly started from our camp on the south side
of the Alabama. Marched through mud & swamp until mid-
night. We were now in the rear guarding the train, and
the roads you may imagine were horrible, after the passage of thou-
sands of horses and memberless wagons
One the 11th off again early moved very slowly all day, through some
of the most beautiful and horrible country I ever saw. For miles
the road would be lived on both sides with hedges of roses,
and then we would plunge into impassable swamps. We
were in the saddle all night, and reveillie had been
sounded on the 12th before we dismounted. At
8 A.M. again on the move. Marched to within six miles of
Montgomery. Our advance entered it the day before and took
possession without opposition.           The country here was beau-
tiful. Roses & flowers in the greatest profusion.

Wheat was heading out. Smoke could be seen on all sides
from the burning cotton. We were doing a destructive business.
One of the greatest sights was to see the manner in which the
darkies greeted us. They would rush to the road sides with
shining ivories and open countenances. Men women & bare legged
children. They would dance and perform all sorts of antics. No-
body could question their joy at seeing us. or could doubt as
to their being our friends.       Yankees had never been in
this country before.
On the 13th we passed through Montgomery without stopping.
It is not as beautiful a city as I expected to see but we
had not much of an opportunity of viewing its beauties.
We destroyed nothing there.
One the 15th we marched through Tuskegee the prettiest
village I have seen in the South or any where else. It is a perfect
boquet of a place.        Wealthy planters reside there. No business
is carried on. All people do there is live. The yards in front of
the houses were swarming with beautiful girls and flowers.
We had struck into the centre of refugeedom.           It was the
first place we had passed through where the people turned
out to see us, which made us sit a little more erect in
our saddles, and possibly admire the village more.
April 16th Genl Upton’s Division captured columbus and
on the 17th we passed through being still in the rear. Co-
lumbus was nearly destroyed, factories and mills [  ?  ]
Upton had had a sharp fight the night before, the effects of
which were visible in the streets. Unburied rebels were lying
where they fell.           Now our Division takes the advance
and at 6 P.M. on the 17th we started and marched all night.
Did not stop until we had reached the Double Bridges over the
Flint River, 42 miles, there driving the rebels from, and
securing possession of them.              After giving our horses a rest we
pushed on, and on the afternoon of the 20th our advance
Miller (1st) Brigade, entered Macon. Just before entering the city
a flag of truce made its appearance, and its bearer stated that
an armistice had taken place between Genl. Sherman and
Johnson and requesting that we should halt the column.
Col Minty suspecting some ruse “couldn’t see it” and ordered
the truce men out of the way and entered the city.
Our men had been skirmishing and driving the rebs all
day, up to the moment of the appearance of the flag and
it did look suspicious.             On the 21st we went into camp
a couple of miles east of the city and have remained here
since, except during the few days we were out after Mr
J. D.         There ended one of the most sucessfuly and plea-
santest raid of this war. We undoubtedly destroyed more

property and munitions of war then any other party. The work’s
arsenals and foundries at Selma and Columbus were immense
we captured some 8000 prisoners and several hundred
pieces of artillery. I presume the figures will ap-
pear in reports.            I wish you could have been
along. It would have been just long enough to
rub a little of the civilization out of you without
totally ruining you.     You will never have such
another opportunity nor I either, I presume.
We are now luxuriating in green peas & plums.
Have had strawberries for three weeks.          I am
rapidly growing gray in the region behind the ears.
Can account for it in no other way except that my
bump of combativeness has been overworked.          I
do not know when we shall get home.            Contradic-
tory rumors float about every day. One moment we
are to be ordered west of the Mississippi and the
next are to be mustered out immediately.       You
may look for me very shortly after you hear of our
arrival in Detroit.
You wish undoubtedly to hear what I had
to do with the capture of Jeff Davis. Very little in-
deed.   On the evening of the 7th the 4th Mich under Pritchard
left here to go to Abbyville and threre picket the Ocumlgee River,
and capture or kill Jeff Davis if possible. He was reported
to be moving that way.           On the morning of the 9th we started
off on same errand.     The 3rd Ohio & 7th Pa were with us.
At Hawkinsville that the evening of the 10th we received word from Pritchard
that Davis had crossed the Ocumlgee at Abbeville on the eve-
ning of the 8th that he had got on his trail at 4 P.M. of the
9th and was rapidly pursuing him with 150 men. At 2 A.M.
of the 11th 250 men of the 3rd Ohio, I being with the latter party,
started for Albany, Dougherty Co. for the purpose of cutting
off Mr. Davis if he should be too fart for Pritchard

[On Envelope:]

June 3, 1865

J. Davidson Burns Esq