- Historic Sites
A Confederate Odyssey
All this Florida boy wanted to do was rejoin his regiment. Instead they drafted him into the Confederate secret service.
December 1984 | Volume 36, Issue 1
I threw back two seats, getting them all in, and with a child on my lap I sat next to the window. An officer came through the car accompanied by the same sentinel I had seen on the platform. He had evidently sent for the officer in command and made a report of the circumstance; but when he looked at me, so comfortably seated and so much at home with the two ladies and the children, he passed without asking any questions. In a moment more the train was again on British soil, and I was safe. I was greatly amused by the number of questions asked me by the ladies, but I parried them very pleasantly, and before I left they were convinced that I knew them and was only teasing them by not telling my name. At the first stop over the river, which was Clifton, I excused myself and said I would be back in a moment; but I never returned.
With Beall was captured a young man of whose name I am not sure, but I recall it as Yately. In his fright he turned state’s evidence at once and confirmed the captors of Beall in their certainly of the man. Poor fellow! Beall was tried under a drumhead court-martial and convicted of many charges of which he was not guilty. He was hanged at Governors Island in New York Harbor.
When I got back to Toronto, the Confederates had already hatched up one more desperate scheme by which they hoped to involve Great Britain and the United States in war. They wanted all of our company to be dressed as British soldiers and to march to the bridge at Niagara Falls and cross it, shooting into the guards and Federal soldiers on the farther side. When this was outlined to me by Mr. McDonald, I told him that would put us between two fires, the Union soldiers on the other side of the bridge and the British soldiers stationed at that side, who would naturally be aroused by the firing and, when we were discovered, would be shooting at us from the other end of the bridge; as far as I was concerned, I wanted to go back to the army, rejoin my regiment, and have a soldier’s chance for my life while I was doing my duty. He said Colonel Thompson had told him that no man could have a dollar to go away with if he refused to go into those plans. I told him that that made no difference to me, and made my preparations to get away, drawing what little pay was due me, which did not amount to much.
I left Toronto for Quebec, where I took another train for Riviere-duLoup, and then went across the province of New Brunswick. At that time it was a desolate waste, and the snow was seven feet deep on a level. I was bitterly cold but well wrapped up and did not suffer any evil consequences. We went through Dover, Campbellton, Restigouche, Miramichi, Shediac, Moncton, and Truro. At Truro I met a train for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was in that city the next day.
When I arrived I was suffering with neuralgia from a defective tooth and went into the first dental office I found. I was in a city where I did not know a soul, but while the gentleman, whose name was Dr. Almond, was waiting on me, he told me that he had lived in Savannah, Georgia, and that his sympathy was strongly pro-Southern. He asked me how I got there, and when I told him that I had escaped from prison, he said, “Were you alone?” I said, “No, there was another who escaped with me, and he is now somewhere in Canada.”
I told him that the name was Clarke, which was the name used by Mclnnis, and he said, “There was a party which I attended the other night at some house, and it seems to me that I saw a young man of the description you give of your friend at that party; if you will go to see Mr. Simmonds, whose cigar store is on such and such a street, he can tell you, for the Southern crowd is around his store a great deal and some of them board where he does.”
When he had finished the work, I went to see Mr. Simmonds, and to my astonishment he gave me the address of the house where he boarded and where I would find my friend, Mclnnis. Very soon we were in each other’s arms, and from that day to this, the bond of friendship has grown stronger and stronger with the passing years, until now I feel almost that he is of my own family and I of his.
Lying in the harbor of Halifax while I was there was the Petersburg , a blockade-runner belonging to the Old Dominion Line, which was to sail quickly. The Confederate representative at Halifax was a Mr. Weir, a very courtly English gentleman. He hunted me up about the second day after my arrival, and I went to his office, where he showed me a dispatch from Colonel Thompson in Toronto, telling him to put the dispatches he had from Mason and Slidell, our representatives at the court of Napoleon, into my hands, with instructions to deliver them as quickly as possible and, in case of capture, to destroy them. He was also told to give me a certificate showing the importance of the documents and asking all Confederate officers or agents, wherever I should go, to furnish me with quick transportation for Richmond.
We sailed on the Petersburg for Bermuda. From there we went to the island of Nassau, New Providence, on the ship Echo , and there we got immediate transportation to Havana. I reported at once to the Confederate agency which was in the charge of a Major Helm. I found him full of liquor, insolent and overbearing.