Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9, 1863: Arthur J. Fremantle leaves the Confederacy

British Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Fremantle's three months in the Southern Confederacy came to an end 150 years ago today when Fremantle left General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia as they retreated south towards Virginia. Fremantle's plan was to make his way to New York City and sail for home.
9th July (Thursday).—I left Hagerstown at 8 a.m., in my conductor's good buggy, after saying farewell to Lawley, the Austrian, and the numerous Confederate officers who came to see me off, and wish me good-luck. We passed the Confederate advanced post at about two miles from Hagerstown, and were allowed to pass on the production of General Lee's authority. I was now fairly launched beyond the Confederate lines for the first time since I had been in America. Immediately afterwards we began to be asked all sorts of inquisitive questions about the rebels, which I left to my driver to answer. It became perfectly evident that this narrow strip of Maryland is entirely Unionist.

At about 12 o'clock we reached the top of a high hill, and halted to bait our horse at an inn called Fairview. No sooner had we descended from the buggy than about twenty rampageous Unionists appeared, who told us they had come up to get a good view of the big fight in which the G——d d——d rebels were to be all captured, or drowned in the Potomac.

My appearance evidently did not please them from the very first. With alarm I observed them talking to one another, and pointing at me. At length a particularly truculent-looking individual, with an enormous mustache, approached me, and, fixing his eyes long and steadfastly upon my trousers, he remarked, in the surliest possible tones, "Them breeches is a d——d bad colour." This he said in allusion, not to their dirty state, but to the fact of their being grey, the rebel colour. I replied to this very disagreeable assertion in as conciliating a way as I possibly could; and in answer to his question as to who I was, I said that I was an English traveller. He then said that his wife was an English lady from Preston. I next expressed my pride in being a countryman of his wife's. He then told me in tones that admitted of no contradiction, that Preston was just forty-five miles east of London; and he afterwards launched into torrents of invectives against the rebels, who had run him out of Virginia; and he stated his intention of killing them in great numbers to gratify his taste. With some difficulty I prevailed upon him and his rabid brethren to drink, which pacified them slightly for a time; but when the horse was brought out to be harnessed, it became evident I was not to be allowed to proceed without a row. I therefore addressed the crowd, and asked them quietly who among them wished to detain me; and I told them, at the same time, that I would not answer any questions put by those who were not persons in authority, but that I should be most happy to explain myself to any officer of the United States army. At length they allowed me to proceed, on the understanding that my buggy-driver should hand me over to General Kelly, at Hancock. The driver was provided with a letter for the General, in which I afterwards discovered that I was denounced as a spy, and "handed over to the General to be dealt with as justice to our cause demands." We were then allowed to start, the driver being threatened with condign vengeance if he let me escape.

After we had proceeded about six miles we fell in with some Yankee cavalry, by whom we were immediately captured, and the responsibility of my custody was thus removed from my conductor's shoulders. A cavalry soldier was put in charge of us, and we passed through the numerous Yankee outposts under the title of "Prisoners."

The hills near Hancock were white with Yankee tents, and there were, I believe, from 8000 to 10,000 Federals there. I did not think much of the appearance of the Northern troops; they are certainly dressed in proper uniform, but their clothes are badly fitted, and they are often round-shouldered, dirty, and slovenly in appearance; in fact, bad imitations of soldiers. Now, the Confederate has no ambition to imitate the regular soldier at all; he looks the genuine rebel; but in spite of his bare feet, his ragged clothes, his old rug, and tooth-brush stuck like a rose in his button-hole, he has a sort of devil-may-care, reckless, self-confident look, which is decidedly taking.

At 5 p.m. we drove up in front of the door of General Kelly's quarters, and to my immense relief I soon discovered that he was a gentleman. I then explained to him the whole truth, concealing nothing. I said I was a British officer on leave of absence, travelling for my own instruction; that I had been all the way to Mexico, and entered the Southern States by the Rio Grande, for the express purpose of not breaking any legally established blockade. I told him I had visited all the Southern armies in Mississippi, Tennessee, Charleston, and Virginia, and seen the late campaign as General Longstreet's guest, but had in no way entered the Confederate service. I also gave him my word that I had not got in my possession any letters, either public or private, from any person in the South to any person anywhere else. I showed him my British passport and General Lee's pass as a British officer; and I explained that my only object in coming North was to return to England in time for the expiration of my leave; and I ended by expressing a hope that he would make my detention as short as possible.

After considering a short time, he said that he would certainly allow me to go on, but that he could not allow my driver to go back. I felt immensely relieved at the decision, but the countenance of my companion lengthened considerably. It was, however, settled that he should take me on to Cumberland, and General Kelly good-naturedly promised to do what he could for him on his return.

General Kelly then asked me in an off-hand manner whether all General Lee's army was at Hagerstown; but I replied, laughing, "You of course understand, General, that, having got that pass from General Lee, I am bound by every principle of honour not to give you any information which can be of advantage to you." He laughed and promised not to ask me any more questions of that sort. He then sent his aide-de-camp with me to the provost-marshal, who immediately gave me a pass for Cumberland. On my return to the General's, I discovered the perfidious driver (that zealous Southerner a few hours previous) hard at work communicating to General Kelly all he knew, and a great deal more besides; but, from what I heard, I don't think his information was very valuable.

I was treated by General Kelly and all his officers with the greatest good-nature and courtesy, although I had certainly come among them under circumstances suspicious, to say the least. I felt quite sorry that they should be opposed to my Southern friends, and I regretted still more that they should be obliged to serve with or under a Butler, a Milroy, or even a Hooker. I took leave of them at six o'clock; and I can truly say that the only Federal officers I have ever come in contact with were gentlemen.

We had got four miles beyond Hancock, when the tire of one of our wheels came off, and we had to stop for a night at a farmhouse. I had supper with the farmer and his labourers, who had just come in from the fields, and the supper was much superior to that which can be procured at the first hotel at Richmond. All were violent Unionists, and perfectly under the impression that the rebels were totally demoralised, and about to lay down their arms. Of course I held my tongue, and gave no one reason to suppose that I had ever been in rebeldom.

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