Shortly after dark I left my lodging place, struck the railroad and walked fifty miles by the mile posts set up along the track. Then I crawled into a fodder stack and rested until I was nearly frozen. At daylight I found I was too near a house; also near a burnt railroad bridge on the Oconee river.
I moved two or three miles down river and built up a small fire in a secluded hollow, where I alternately dozed, froze, thawed and dozed again until mid-afternoon. Then I hunted up some darkies at work in a clearing near by and negotiated with them for something to eat. Before the food arrived, however, a colored boy notified me that his boss was gathering a gang of men and dogs to capture me, having seen my tracks where I crossed a field and also the smoke of my fire.
I immediately replenished my fire and went down the hollow to the river, found a boat, loaded it with dry grass and weeds for a shelter from the cold and a few persimmons for provisions. Then when the "mellow cry of the hounds and the cheerful sound of the horn" proclaimed that the hunt was on, I paddled down the river. I soon found that my boat leaked, but within a mile or two I found several boats tied up at a plantation and swapped for a better one.
The Oconee was a rapid stream, not as wide as Spring river, but flowing more water, and with a great many rapids and small falls from three to five feet in height. These I did not always discover until the strong current prevented me from landing to avoid them; otherwise I might not have been so bold and successful. But it was rough riding, and I lost my cargo more than once. Towards morning I ran into a mill dam formed by a wing dam from the lower point of an island to a sawmill on the right hand banks. I had to back out and go to the other side of the island.
Then the country became so open that I began to look for a hiding place. I saw some mill buildings on the right bank and took the left, ran into a head race leading to a factory. A man with a gun invited me ashore. I landed and explained to him that I was a Confederate soldier, had been in the hospital at Blue Mountain, wanted to get my home in the next county southeast, had taken to the river because my feet had been frosted and were too sore to walk any further, and besides I was afraid of the Yankees, who were in the country, as I had heard.
The man who had stopped me was the manager of the cotton factory, and told me it was mighty lucky for me that he had stopped me, for the whole country was full of Yankees, and if I had gone four miles farther they would have got me, sure.
Then he invited me to breakfast. My appetite was the only thing I had saved on this disastrous voyage, so I made no objection. He asked me how far I had come from up river. I told him from the railroad bridge. He said that was fifty miles away and no one had ever come down in a boat over them falls before. His wife said it was "onpossible" and a "temptin" of Providence to do such fool tricks." He advised me to Col. Graham, a provost marshal of the county, and get a pass before I tried to go any farther. I said I must rest first, and was shown a place in the back part of the company store, where I slept until awakened for dinner. Then I wanted to rest some more. A country doctor interviewed me; wanted to know my name and family history. Then an old lady came into trade. I retired to my couch in the back part of the store, and the doctor told the old lady all he knew about me and a great deal more. Then the old lady told the doctor all about a man of my name who had married a neighbor "gal" of hers, and afterwards had enlisted in the Confederate army. She gave the names of all parties interested; and the doctor had called her Mrs. Pennel. So when she put on her specs and came back to have a look at me I rose with my back to the window, called her by name and inquired anxiously after Mary Jane and the twins. She knew me at once, told me Mary Jane was "mighty porely" but the children was well; though Judge Jones and Col. Parson hadn't furnished provisions to the soldiers' families as they agreed to at the beginning of the war. Then I said a few "cuss words" and she said she did not blame me for it.
Mrs. Pennel also told me that it "want moren eight miles" to where Mary Jane lived. I said I could walk that distance before night if the men would let me go. Then Mrs. Pennel opened her batteries on my captors util they were glad to let me go. They gave me a gray vest and a pair of socks and I started in the direction Mary Ann was said to be. Within two miles I ran into a squad of Confederate soldiers, with a number of Yankee prisoners in charge. They insisted on my accompanying them to the parovost marshal's. I objected to associating with Yankees. They allowed me to walk on the outside of the rear guard. Within a half hour he fell in a ditch, and I left them, carrying away a buchshot wound in the shoulder of my coat as a souvenir. That night about 9 o'clock I was within a mile and a half of the camp of a division of Sherman's army, could smell bacon frying, and coffee—oh, my— —
A gang of rebels were lying in wait to pick up stragglers from Sherman's army, and they took me from the sight of the camp fires back to purgatory.
#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)