Pouring Peas on a Rawhide: A Texan Remembers Chickamauga

    As orderly sergeant of Co. K of the 25th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted), North Carolina native Benjamin Franklin Grady participated in some tall fighting at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. As he relates in this letter to his uncle, the pounding his regiment took from Union artillery was frightening. "Balls of all sizes, grape, canister, and 6 lb, 12 lb, and 18 lb balls whizzed among us in copious profusion and fearful proximity," he noted. "One man in our company was struck down by a grape and another had his shoulder torn off. A 12 lb ball went through Company B next to us and took off one's man's head and tore two others into ragged pieces! Many in the regiment were killed or wounded."

    The 25th Texas was part of a consolidated regiment consisting of itself along with the 17th, 18th, and 24th Texas cavalry regiments, and was assigned to General James Deshler's brigade, Cleburne's Division, of General Daniel H. Hill's corps. Grady's account of Chickamauga was published in the October 29, 1863 edition of the Wilmington Journal back in North Carolina. The editors noted that Grady was a "highly intelligent gentleman, a native of Duplin County."

The image from Skinner Auction House depicts just a small sampling of the various types of ordnance used during the Civil War. 

Camp near Chattanooga, Tennessee

October 11, 1863

Dear Uncle:

Scarcity of writing materials added to the necessary interruptions of camp life has prevented me from informing you before now that Yankee bullets and shells did not put a period to my life in the late battles on Chickamauga creek. I cannot go into particulars. But our regiment, Wilkes’ (consolidated 17th, 18th, 24th, and 25th Texas) was in the battle Saturday evening (September 19) for about one and a half hours, while shot and shell rained around us in a hail storm. We there captured 197 Yankees, including one Colonel, one Lieutenant Colonel and two Majors. This was done by Company K and Company B. Darkness then closed the struggle. The Yankees were driven back nearly a mile (part of Crittenden’s Corps). A little four inch black jack exactly in front of me caused a very severe wound from a grape shot. The firing was awfully grand, ahead of anything I had read about. The boys say in rapidity, “pouring peas on a rawhide,” is no tough to it.

          On Sunday morning the 20th we built a log breastwork expecting to be attacked, but no such good fortune. The enemy did the same, and about 9 o’clock we moved to attack him. We had to march and countermarch across a field in easy range and view of two Yankee batteries. Of course they gave us a small share of their attention. Shells burst over us, under us, and in our midst. Balls of all sizes, grape, canister, and 6 lb, 12 lb, and 18 lb balls whizzed among us in copious profusion and fearful proximity. One man in our company was struck down by a grape and another had his shoulder torn off. A 12 lb ball went through Company B (next to us), took off one man’s head and tore two others into ragged pieces! Many in the regiment were killed or wounded.

General Patrick R. Cleburne
The Stonewall of the West

          During this state of things, General Wood’s brigade was seen double quicking from the forest directly to our right, and we learned that General Polk’s brigade had been driven from this same place. General Cleburne (“Old Pat”) had ordered General Deshler to move up there and hold that ground. This was done. We were to keep the enemy at bay there, while other troops turned his flanks. We did it. This was 10 o’clock a.m.. The noise from that time until 3 p.m. exceeded in rapidity and loudness anything I had ever imagined. About 3 o’clock, we heard cheering on our right a half mile distant and soon  learned that Crittenden’s right had given way. The firing then abated. 

A half hour after our right fell back, their ammunition being exhausted. Our brigade then expected to be flanked and one company was thrown out on to the exposed flank to watch the enemy. A half hour’s skirmish occurred at the end of which General Cleburne led another brigade to the abandoned ground and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ the ball opened  again hot and heavy. The Yankee battery there, which with one on our left, had kept up a raking crossfire on our brigade, opened up on the newcomer with shell, grape, and canister. In five minutes, General Cleburne ordered two batteries of his division up to the ridge on which we were posted 50 yards to the right. They went to work in earnest and three or four solid shots knocked Old Abe’s battery into next week. I then heard the gunners cry ‘hurrah’ and great it was. I was amazed by the rapidity with which they fired. 'Twas deafening.

Unidentified image of a well armed young Confederate soldier

In 10 minutes, a shout, a perfect tiger, was raised on the right and soon extended along all of our lines. The old woods joined us in the exultation. The Yankees were running like frightened wolves. They never stopped until they reached Chattanooga 12 or 14 miles off. The joy and the manifestations of it on the part of our artillerymen at every fire amused me very much. One little fellow went into ecstasies, jerked off his hat, threw it on the ground, jumped and shouted. You would have thought him crazy.

Well, we spent a day burying the dead who were lying all over the woods. Then we moved forward and formed a line of battle around Chattanooga, built breastworks, etc. Bragg’s plans are of course unknown, but he has posted siege guns on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Peak as well as at other convenient points completely commanding the town. One day has been spent shelling the Yankee forts with results I know not. A few shells have been exchanged almost every day and there has been considerable cannonading at and beyond Lookout Peak, two or three miles from our position. We are east of town. Bragg’s headquarters are on Missionary Ridge, just behind us. Of the future I know nothing.

General Braxton Bragg

President Davis rode down our lines on Saturday in company with Bragg. Our works were covered with Rebs, cheering him. Our soldiers are in excellent health and spirits. Some of the prisoners we took said to us: “Boys, you ought to have let us whip you here. It would have ended the war and we would all have gone home this winter.” Wasn’t that cool? Miserable, low bred, inhuman, rascally, thieving scums of Christendom. Our subjugation the only termination of the war! I would a thousand times prefer a French protectorate. God forbid that I or you or anybody should be forced  to submit to even a decent government, much less a barbarous, fickle, and brainless despotism! But I have no apprehension. We shall gain our independence, if we deserve it. If we are cowards and poltroons and speculators, we ought not be free. God will do right about it.

A.C. Avery is on Hill’s staff and Thad Coleman is his chief of engineers. There are no other acquaintances here. Write me all the news and send me the Daily Journal. I never see a North Carolina paper. I read the Chattanooga Rebel and Memphis Appeal. The latter is an excellent paper. Address me at Chattanooga. The mail is open to Chickamauga depot five miles from here.

Yours truly,



Letter from First Sergeant Benjamin Franklin Grady, Co. K, 25th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted), Wilmington Journal (North Carolina), October 29, 1863, pg. 2


  1. Thank you for posting Sgt. Grady's correspondence home to North Carolina. That's a great descriptive letter. I am somewhat of a student of Texas regiments in the Army of Tennessee and pleased to read that one which was previously unknown to me.


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