Fresh Pickings from the Confederate Grapevine – Nov. 15

fall of 1861In the September 26, 1909 edition of the San Antonio, (TX) Daily Express Newspaper, Quarter Master Sergeant J. B. Polley, a soldier in the Fourth Texas Infantry Regiment and after the war the historian of Hood’s Texas Brigade, tells an amusing story of some solders of the First Texas Infantry, who were so bored at camp in Virginia, they decided to “invade the North” on a moonlit night during the fall of 1861. Here is a part of Sergeant Polley’s story of the First Texas Infantry’s invasion:

“In the fall of 1861, prior to the arrival in Virginia of the Fourth and Fifth Texas Regiments, the First Texas was stationed near Cockpit Point on the Potomac. Its duties, monotonous in the extreme, two of its companies decided to secure diversion, and, without notice to their officers, went in a body to the Potomac one cold moonlit night, and there seeing upon and embarking in such row-boats as could be found, crossed over into Maryland. There, under leaders chosen for the occasion, and the darkness concealing the smallness of their force, they surprised and drove in the Federal picket lines and made demonstrations so warlike and alarming to General Sickles, the Union commander, that, thinking the North was being invaded, he wired for reinforcements and thereby created the greatest consternation in Washington City.

All along the north shore of the Potomac the long roll was sounded and bugles blew; cavalry commands galloped hither and thither, infantry regiments lined up in battle array at threatened strategic points, batteries of artillery moved at a gallop for commanding positions, and heavy siege guns boomed a warning to Federals and a defiance to Confederates. Hearing the racket across the river, and believing the Federals were beginning the passage of the river on to Southern soil, Wigfall and other doughty commanders of Confederate regiments and brigades call their men to arms and into lines of battle and impatiently and apprehensively awaited the coming of daylight to tell them which way to march. In short for ten hours or more pandemonium reigned on both sides of the Potomac. Then, having killed and frightened a dozen or more Federals and frightened twice as many out of their wits, the First Texas contingent returned to the Virginia side of the river, and stealing quietly into their quarters, played innocents so perfectly that for a long time they remained unsuspected of having, “out of pure cussedness,” the boys said, created an alarm that kept both armies awake all night. “