In 1865, Youth’s Companion printed a series of articles by abolitionist James Redpath, who contributed several pieces from 1865 to 1867. In “Eye and Ear Notes,” he offered readers of the Companion descriptions of Southern incidents before and just after the War: everything from a slave auction to a patriotic May-day celebration. The pieces are surprisingly gritty and often have a raw power.
[Scraps for Youth] “Eye and Ear Notes: Old ’Squire Magill,” by “Uncle James” [James Redpath] (from The Youth’s Companion, September 21, 1865; p. 150)

The sufferings and martyrdoms of the East Tennesseans will form one of the most thrilling and saddening chapters of the history of our great civil war. Hardly a loyal family in that region but has had one of its number maltreated, or imprisoned, or murdered. As for robberies, they have all been plundered again and again.

When I was near Atlanta, last autumn, I frequently met officers and men of the Fifth Tennessee Infantry, and heard them tell of the great wrongs that they had suffered from the hands of the rebels. I made notes of some of their stories at the time. Here is one of them:

“I had an uncle,” said Lieut. Magill, “who was wilfully murdered by the rebels. He was an old man, sixty-two years old, hunch-backed and grey-haired. He never was a slaveholder, but owned a good farm, and had plenty of property. He was known to be a Union man, but took no public part in the politics of the time; he kept at home, ’tended to his own business and let others alone. The rebels plundered him—they taken his stock, and robbed him of other things, but never done any violence to himself or his family. He had a son and son-in-law in the Federal army—in the First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry.

“The old man had been a justice of the peace for some time in the Union times, (the rebles would not allow such a man as him to hold office,) but he was always called ’Squire Magill.

“In the early part of the summer of 1863, a Federal detachment of three regiments of mounted infantry started from Somerset, Kentucky, and went through East Tennessee. They returned through Roane county. The First Tennessee regiment formed part of the raid.

“ ’Squire Magill’s son and son-in-law got permission from their commander to go and call on the old man, whose house was then within two miles of where the raiders were passing. They done so, took supper at home, and stayed two hours there.

“Next day or soon after, three mounted men called at the ’Squire’s house, after he had gone to bed. They told him they were Federal soldiers who had lost their way, and asked him if he would pilot them to Robert Taylor’s place, two miles distant. He said he would, and got up to dress himself. Then, they told him that he need not mind, and they rode off. These men pretended that they belonged to the First Tennessee regiment—the same regiment that the ’Squire’s son and son-in-law were in.

“When they left without waiting to be shown the right road, the old man suspected that they were rebels; but he took no precautions to save himself if they should come back again. Next day three men called at the house and asked for the ’squire. The women-folk thought that they were the same fellows who had been there the night before. The old man was at work down a field about three hundred yards from the house. They went down to him and told him to get to the road, as he must go to Kingston, about twelve miles off, along with them. Two little boys,—the ’Squire’s sons,—were working with him, and they told about it afterwards.

“The ’Squire was at their mercy. He went with them. As soon as they were out of sight of the house the ’Squire’s wife and daughter heard the old man scream, and they ran out to see what had caused it. They found him weltering in his blood, in the woods, about fifty yards from the road. Two bullets had passed through his body below the heart. He was not quite dead; he uttered a few words, but he was too far gone to tell who his murderers were, if he knew them. The rebels had galloped out of sight.

“There were very few Union citizens left in that county then, and those who were there did not dare to give any aid lest they should be treated in the same way. So the women had to carry the corpse to the house and then to the grave themselves. The old man left two sons who were in the army, two daughters, two little boys, and a widow.”

“ ’Squire Magill,” said his nephew, a second time, “was a man that did no one any harm. He stayed at home, minded his own business, and let others alone. Who can hear things like this that have friends and connections murdered? Not an East Tennessean! They will kill the rebs as long as there is one living.”

“He was a mighty clever old man, was the ’Squire,” said another officer. “I knew him. O, there’s lot[s] of men in our regiment who’ve had their relatives murdered.”

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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