Indian wars and pioneers of Texas Page: 871 of 894
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INDIAN WARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
on a scout in the mountains of East Tennessee,
Private Swearingen was prostrated with pneumonia,
and left in Sneedville, at the house of Mr. Lee
Jessee. This trifling episode would not be worthy
of record, but for the fact that Mr. Jessee had an
accomplished daughter, named Jennie, who was
very kind to him while sick, and who won his lifelong
gratitude and affection. During the subsequent
years of the war, neither distance nor danger deterred
him from seeing that genial, happy family,
whenever it was possible to do so. On the 12th
day of September, after a rough and perilous
journey over the mountains from Sneedville (then
within the enemy's lines) to Jonesville, Va., Miss
Jennie Jessee, in the presence of her brave, sweet
sister, Sallie, was married to Richard M. Swearingen.
Ten days after the marriage, upon a dark night,
Capt. Swearingen ventured into Sneedville, to tell
his wife and the family good-bye, but before the
words were spoken, the house was surrounded
by a company of mountain bushmen, and he
was forced to surrender. For two weeks he was
in the hands of these hard men, suffering all kinds
of cruelties and indignities. Once he was tied,
apparently for prompt execution, and would certainly
have been killed, but for the interference of
one Joab Buttry, who had once been the recipient
of some kindness from Mr. Jessee, his wife's
father. Buttry was the chief of the band, and his
hands were stained by the blood of many Confederates.
He bad seen his own brother shot down in
cold blood by a scouting party of Confederate
soldiers, and the bold mountaineer, then a quiet
citizen, hoisted a black flag and enlisted for the
During the days of imprisonment, the young wife
and her friends were not idle. A written proposition
from Gen. John C. Breckenridge, commanding
the department, "that he would give the bushmen
any three men that they might name, then in Confederate
prisons, in exchange for their prisoner,"
was accepted. That same day the chief of the
band, alone, took his captive to the north bank of
Clinch river, and released him, with expressions of
Joab Buttry seemed made of iron, but through
the dark metal would shine the gold of a noble
manhood, that desperate deeds and a desperate life
had not altogether obliterated.
After his fortunate escape, Capt. Swearingen
started on a long hunt in search of his lost company,
and found it not a great distance south of
Raleigh, N. C. The space allotted him in this volume
of biographies will not permit even a casual
notice of the incidents and experiences of those
eventful years. The company participated in many
engagements; was with Bragg in Tennessee, Kirby
Smith in Kentucky, Joseph E. Johnston in the
retreat through Georgia, with John H. Morgan
when he was killed, with Hood at Atlanta, and
again with Joseph E. Johnston in South and North
Carolina. To enable the reader to form some estimate
of the hardships of the Confederate service,
the statement is here made that this company, the
last year of the war, did not possess a tent or
wagon, or anything in the shape of a cooking
vessel. Their rations of meat were broiled upon
coals of fire, and the cornmeal cooked in the same
primitive fashion. Notwithstanding these deprivations,
the men, as a rule, were happy, buoyant,
capable of great physical endurance, and they
wept like children when, among the tall pines of
Carolina, their flag went down forever. In obediience
to the cartel of surrender, Capt. Swearingen
marched the company back to Tennessee, before
That last roll-call and parting scene on the banks
of the French Broad river is one of those clearly
defined memory-pictures that possibly live with our
souls in higher forms of existence.
For three years those men had shared each
other's dangers, and under the shadow of a common
sorrow, the humiliation of a hopeless defeat,
they were to look for the last time upon each other.
The commanding officer, whose route at that point
diverged from the one to be taken by the company,
fronted them into line and tried to call the roll, but
failed to do so. He then moved around by the
roadside and they filed by, one at a time, and shook
his hand. There was a profound silence; no one
attempted to speak a word, and every eye was filled
with tears, as the curtain rolled slowly down upon the
saddest act in that long and well-played drama of
Capt. Swearingen, a few weeks later, assisted by
his wife, was teaching a country school at the foot
of the Cumberland Mountains in Lee County.
In the autumn of 1865, information having
reached him of a requisition from Governor Brownlow,
of Tennessee, upon Governor Pierrepont, of
Virginia, for his arrest and return to Sneedville,
the newly-installed teacher abruptly closed his
Capt. Swearingen was confronted with an indictment
for some unknown offense, and the trial of
Confederates in East Tennessee, at that time, was
on the style of drumhead courtmartials, with verdicts
prepared in advance. To remain there, only
twenty miles from Sneedville, was not to be thought
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas, book, 1880~; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/871/: accessed April 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .