A Brief Sketch of The Life
of a
Confederate Soldier
During Pioneer and Indian Warfare
in Texas

Copyright © 1928 by B. C. Nickelson

Major B. C. Nickelson
Age 108 years, March 29, 1934




I am writing this little book with the view of assisting my family and myself in a financial way, by the sale of same, as I am too old to do manual labor.

Hope it will prove interesting and that you will enjoy it.

At the request of many friends, I am outlining herein briefly the history of my life, hoping this will convey messages to many persons, memories to many of the beloved comrades and that in reading you can vividly picture the scenes with me.




I am American born, aboriginal American by birth. On my fathers side am of Black Hawk and Tecumcie, on my mothers side Grey Horse and Wyandott, of the Tribes and Decendants of Minnini.

My birth place was in Mississippi, four miles south-east of Corinth, in Alcorn County, on the 29th day of March, 1826, in a double log house consisting of four rooms in front, three in rear, built in L shape with a porch running the entire length of front, surrounded by an old fashioned fence, and setting snugly on the banks of the Corinth River.

There is where I spent eight years of my childhood life on this dear old plantation and during that time I was receiving my education studying by the old fire place in the old log cabin. I can picture my mother, my sisters, the slaves. During this time I saw the stars fall. Well do I remember. I was chopping wood by the old wood pile. William and Jim Russell, our old servants were milking the cows. Aunt Martha was taking care of the milk down by the spring.

When the stars began falling, she came running up the path, falling two or three times hollering "Lawdy Massy Missus, Lawdy Massy Missus, the Heavens and the earth are coming together, there is going to be war, there is going to be war."

When I was about twelve years old, father and my six brothers organized an overland train going to Salt Lake City, in the year of 1838. The incidents that happened during that time and along that trail were numerous, sometimes being very severe. We were hauling commissary supplies from Georgetown, Mo., to Salt Lake. Going West, meeting all the Posts along the old Jefferson Trail, feeding and sheltering the immigrants, going back east, bringing salt, hides and tallow for the. eastern market. In the heat of the summer we would take what is called the Northern or old Fort Scott Trail, loading and unloading our goods at West Port, Jackson County, Mo.

I was chosen captain of my fathers wagon train when about sixteen years old. The train consisted of 228 bungalows, two cavalrymen to every bungalow, totaling 456 men.

A sad recollection is that of the burial of a friend and comrade, James Shinabarger, from North Georgia, by the roadside on the Grand Saline road. We were on our way home from Salt Lake when he died which was brought about by exhaustion.

All the surrounding country was full of Mexicans, Indians and cut throats running up and down the Trinity River with tug boats, fighting, hunting and foraging. The tribes were numerous.

There was one time we were without water four days and nights, and on the evening of the fifth night, being on the advance and lookout, I found a seep in the ground. We called this the Chinese well. Afterwards they drove down four pipes making four wells, and naming them the Chinese Wells, which name the wells carry to this day, and these wells supply the water to the town of Holenpeak, N. M.




On joining Winfield Scott at Marshall, father, my brothers and myself, I was promoted to Major and hold that rank to this day. I put in six years, nine months and two days under Winfield Scott, Bowie, General Sam Houston, Sickle and Deaf Smith, in the Mexican or Frontier War (what I term the "cut throat war").

Starting from Marshall after joining Winfield Scott we skirmished battle to Crow, there to Concho, Wills Point and Mineola. We reinforced and back fired from there to McKnight.

Dan Tucker our old powder maker, is still living at his writing. He furnished us with ammunition during the whole period.

Another battle was had at Round Rock, Texas, Chief Tomahawk leading the Mexicans and Manawa Tribe. In fact we had almost a running fight from Round Rock to Kaufman.

We engaged in skirmish fighting until we made a final stand at Camp Bowie, or Lake Cromo, where Fort Worth now stands on the Clearfork.

Father, my brothers and myself carried the Government survey for the State of Texas during 1842 working something like two years sleeping on the ground in he rain, snow and sleet, and seeing many starless nights while under General Sickles, listening to the howl of the coyettes, the bawl of the buffaloes and the blate of the antelope, living chiefly on cactus apples, having a drink of water when we could get it on the desert plain. The present sight of the beautiful city of Dallas, Texas, was about midway of the Trinity Desert.




Army operations while in Missouri. I took my Independent Cavalry and joined Sterling B. Price and McCulloch, our commanders. Our first engagement was at West Port, Jackson County, Mo. There is where we joined Sterling B. Price and McCulloch. My father, my brothers and myself were attached to the Twenty-eighth Missouri Cavalry under Captain Walker, who was killed at Wilson Creek, and was superceded by Captain McDonel. The following poem is in memory of the brave General McColloch.

When I come to the spot where the brave General fell,
And I pensively stood by his side, and in a low whisper
A voice seemed to say, How sweetly I sleep, from the roar of the

No more will he hear the roar of the cannon, no more the cry of
         the enemy.

No more will loud thunders roar, no more will the struggle be
         heard in the silent grave
Where this Noble Hero lies.

We engaged in a battle at the Antiock Church where we lost many of our men and where they now sleep.

The next seige that we engaged in was the skirmish of Aurora on our way to reinforce the Battle of Lexington, thence to Casville, from there to Balls Bluff and Edwards Ferry.

There we took up the fight of Fayetteville, our next fight being at Devils Back Bone, following was Pearidge, Square Rock, Van Buren and Fort Smith. There to reinforce Fort Donelson and Brigadere General R. R. Johnson.

Lieutenant Cummons and his company joined and reinforced my company at Dalton, Ga., where we went into winter quarters, which was in the fall of 1862.

We went into fight at Peach Tree Creek, from there to Caddo Mills, then to Appiche. On the 6th day of April ensued the well known battle of Shiloh.

We were reinforced at Dalton, Ga., going into Battle at Iuka, and Corinth on to Atlanta and Chickamugee on down the river to Franklin, Tenn., where we surrendered.



The Battle of Shiloh

Come, all you gallant heroes,
     A story I will tell;
      So early the next morning
     We were called to arms again,
It's of a noted battle
     You all remember well;
      Unmindful of the wounded,
     Unmindful of the slain.
It was an awful strife
     And will cause your blood to
      The struggle was renewed,
     And ten thousand more were
It was the famous battle
     That was fought on Shiloh Hill.
      This was the second conflict
     That was fought on Shiloh Hill.
It was on the 6th of April,
     Just at the break of day;
      There were men from every nation
     Lay on this bloody plain;
The drums and fifes were playing
     For us to march away.
      Fathers, sons and brothers
     Numbered with the slain,
My feelings at that hour
     I do remember still,
      Which caused so many homes
     With deep sorrow to be filled,
When first my feet were treading
     The top of Shiloh Hill.
      All from the bloody battle
     That was fought on Shiloh Hill.
It was about the hour of sunrise,
     This battle it began;
      So, now my song is ended
     About this bloody plain;
Before the day was ended
     We fought them hand in hand;
      I hope such sight by mortal man
     May never be seen again;
Ten thousand of brave soldiers
     On this first day were killed,
      I pray to God, our Savior,
     If consistent to His will,
All from the bloody battle
     That was fought on Shiloh Hill.
      To save the souls of all them bodies
     That fell on Shiloh Hill.
        --Bill Smart



Robert E. Lee's Farewell to His Soldiers

Headquarters Army, Northern Virginia, Appomatox,
C. H. April 10th, 1865.

"After four years of ardous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

"I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that would compensate for the loss that must have attended a continuance of the contest. I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of agreement, officers and men return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of a duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection, with an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.

"R. E. LEE"


The Men Who Followed Lee.

"The muses crowded round me as I sat with idle pen,
And bade me write an epic that would thrill the hearts of men;
I thought of deeds heroic once told on blazoned shields;
But deeds like those lose prestige—they're common as can be,
When measured with the gallant deeds of the men who followed Lee.

Twas then my memory wandered back through the misty ages,
When super-acts of super-men graced history's shining pages;
When Rome, in all her glory, sailed out across the seas
To measure strength and power with her ancient enemies;
But I trained my truant memory on the days of sixty-three,
And saw again the gallant deeds of the men who followed Lee.

But still the muses lingered, my memory to beguile,
And I thought of Cleopatra, the Serpent of the Nile;
And then the muses led me to the plains around old Troy;
Where lived the fair-haired Helen, so fickle and so coy;
But here my memory shifted upon another key,
And I saw the wives and sweethearts of the men who followed Lee.

But still the muses nagged me and led me on and on,
'Till I saw the wasted Southland in the night before the dawn;
Where punic greed and punic hate had laid a heavy hand,

But the South rose from her ashes to fulfill her destiny,
And to glorify the courage of the men who followed Lee.
But still the muses dogged me—they would not stay nor stop,
And I saw a gallant army as it went right o'er the top,
While snow-white lilies crumpled down there in the Argonne wood,

And poppies shone with scarlet tint like that of Saxon blood;
And again my memory faced about so active and so free
To recognize the gallant sons of the men who followed Lee.

Well, you did your part and share, brave muses, true and kind,
When you inspired my idle pen and guaged my fertile mind,
And told again the story of that brave Southern blood,
That defended home and country and kept its tryst with God,
But ere I close, this epic that you have given me,
Again I'll say, "None can compare with the men who followed Lee."




They have met at last—as storm clouds
Meet in Heaven!
And their thunders have been stilled,
And their leaders crushed or killed,
And their ranks, with terror thrilled,
Rent and riven!

Like the leaves of Vallombrosa
They are lying,
In the moonlight, in the midnight,
Dead and dying;
Like those leaves before the gale,
Swept their legions, wild and pale;
While the host that made them quail
Stood defying.

When aloft in morning sunlight
Flags were flaunted,
And "swift vengeance on the rebel"
Proudly vaunted,
Little did they think that night
Should close upon their shameful flight,
And rebels, victors in the fight,
Stand undaunted.

But to peace to those who perished
In our passes!
Light be the earth above them,
Green the grasses!
Long shall Northmen rue the day
"When they met our stern array,
And shrunk from battle's wild affray,
At Manassas!



"Buck and Turk"

During our stay at Alton, Ga., my mess mate, Lieutenant Cummons secured a leave of absence, and being out of meat and anything to eat, he went up the river about three miles to hunt. Not finding a yearling, hog nor a chicken, he crossed the creek and turned back. Soon he came upon a three-spiked buck. Said he thought he would make good meat, so up with his old Enfield rifle plugged him, dressed him and haversacked him and brought him back to camp. When he came up with his haversack all bulging out, I said, "Lieutenant, what have you got there." He said, "Ma- jor I have killed a wild deer." Says I, "Look out now, don't lie Lieutenant, you have killed somebody's pet deer." "Well he looked wild to me," said Lieutenant. Of course he ate good. So the next day I went out foraging and found it was a pet deer he had killed. So next morning a long gawky bareheaded, barefooted boy appeared in camp. First one he met was myself. He asked, have you seen anything of Ma's pet deer going down the road? I said no. He asked all the boys, of course all said no, they had not seen one going down the road, but we did not tell him where we did see him. After that, Lieutenant was known as "Buck."

The third day I was out foraging. That evening I came in with my haversack full. Says I, "Boys see I killed a wild turkey." Buck said, "I bet that is some woman's tame turkey." No he is a wild turkey. When Major took this turkey out of his haversack it was about a three year old bronz tame turkey gobbler. So I got the name of "Turk," and that was our experience of killing a pet deer and a tame turkey.

Lieutenant Cummons and I not only fought together in the War between the States but in the Spanish and American War sixteen months, having come in close contact with each other during the Pioneer or Indian War.




After emptying two box cars of soldiers, the Yankees march 15,000 Confederate Soldiers in without fumigating, carried us to Rock Island, Ill., imprisoned us there and put negro guards over us, having poor rations.


The Yankees were wanting men to fight Indians. They would come around every day, trying to get us to sign up, offering us $100.00 in real green back if we would desert the Confederacy and go with them and fight the Indians and $25.00 a month for two years, and if the war was not ended and we wanted a discharge at the end of two years we could get it.

My mess mate and myself caught a hole open after we had signed up for our bounty. Of course we became trusties. We were doomed at the time to be Yankee soldiers, being detailed as Quartermaster and Assistant. I played asleep, my pal being on guard. Finally the Captain of the bunch lay down and being sound asleep my pal came to me saying "now is our time to get away." So that ends our career in the Rock Island prison camp, by an old Confederate soldier.

We made that fourteen miles nearby midnight, changing our suits of Yankee clothes for citizens clothes with a friend of ours. Starting again on our march for our command. We traveled all night sleeping between two mountains next day. A friend came to us and told us there was no alarm of our departure so we traveled all night the next night. During the second night we came to a forest fire where they were fighting fire, about 400 Yankees strong, having their horses tied to a grove. Says Buck, "Turk let's ride." How are we to ride says I. Says he, "don't you see all those Yankee horses tied out there"? Says I, Buck, yes. Why, says he, "Turk they are fighting fire, paying no attention to those horses." Says I, "I'm in."

We mounted two good steeds, a good brace of six shooters, a good rifle and a cartridge bag full of ammunition. Some grub tied to a saddle, had a blue overcoat tied to the steed (of course we did not need that.) I straddled a nice black, my pal a nice little bay. As good luck would have it we selected two good saddlers. Riding that day and night, then we stopped and let our steeds rest, took a little nap and started on our way. Next morning at dawn we spied a little log house a short distance away. After going up, says Buck, "Turk, I will see if that is a Yankee or a Confederate house. I walked up to the gate and halloed, a little lean faced slender woman came to the door, started to come out. Our excuse was, do not come out, we have been exposed to the small pox. Says she, "my boy has had the small pox" and she sent him out to the gate. Says Buck, "boy where is your father?" says he, "he is in the war." Who is he with. "Lee" came the answer. Buck says alright we are Confederate soldiers having nothing to eat for two days and nights, ask your mother if she could fix us a bite. He bounced into the house, soon the little woman came to the door. I says, come ahead little woman you are safe. She came out, wanted to know if we were actually Rebel soldiers. Showing her our badges convinced her. She would have us take our horses around to the barn and feed them, fix us some breakfast and told us to go out to the barn and get up in the loft, she would hold guard, and if any Yankees appeared, she would send us a message. We slept until about 4 o'clock. She waked us up, fixed us a stack of grub, gave us some corn for our horses. We inquired of her, where to cross the Mississippi River. She says, "I will not tell you, my boy knows every foot of ground, I will send him with you." He piloted us to a little ferry. We asked the boy to put us across the river. He refused saying, "If the Yankees saw him, they would kill him." Buck said, "dam you and the Yankees too," if you do not put us across, we will kill you." He ferried us across. We gave him $2.00 in green back He said "that was the first green back he had seen since the war began." Said I, boy, dam your soul, if you tell the Yankees that you ferried us across we will come back and kill you. He said, "do not be afraid for if I would tell the Yankees they would kill me." So we journeyed on until next evening, and joined our brigade.



Dedicated to Major Nickelson, by a Comrade

Let me live in the house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,

Where the men press on with the ardor of hope,
And the men who are faint with strife;

But I turn not away from their smiles or their tears,
Both part of an infinite plan;

Let me live in the house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brooks and glad meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome heights,

And the road passes on through the long afternoon,
And stretches away through the night,

But I rejoice with the traveler who rejoices,
And grieve with the stranger who mourns;

Let me live in the house by the side of the road
Like the man who dwelleth alone.

Let me live in the house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by;

They are weak, they are strong, they are good.
They are bad, wise and foolish, and so am I,
And hurl a cynical hand;

Let me live in the house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.



My Mother

She's not what the world calls famous,
     Her name is not known far away;
Her picture is not painted by artists,
     And her hair has a touch of gray.

Her voice does not still the nation
     With magic of classical song;
Her eyes are blue and faded,
     Her journey has been long.

But to me the gray is silver,
     And the sound of her voice as dear
As the music the angels are singing
     When heaven and earth meet here.

And the look in her eyes so tender
     Has guided my faltering step
Away from the sham of earth's follies
     Into pathways she's always kept.

And I stop 'mid maze of life's rushing
     With thanks in my heart night and day
For this wonderful pal, my mother,
     Who knows me, yet loves me always.