In a few days after getting on Texas soil, I sent up my application for a permit, or leave of absence for five days, to visit some relatives living in Cherokee Co. My pass came back approved, and I started from New Salem, Rusk Co. by daylight on one morning in March, 1865 together with a soldier of our Reg't., named Joe Idom. We expected to arrive at our destination at noon, or soon after, but found the distance much greater than we anticipated, and my friend did not arrive at home until an hour before sunset, then I had eight miles farther, which took me till after nightfall, when I came very near being turned off, but finally agreed to take me in for the night.
I then made myself known, and was very cordially received. After my uncle found out my starting point, he informed me that the distance was thirty-nine miles, the nearest way I could have traveled, and I had been bothered some on the way. I had, no doubt, walked over forty miles, that day. About a mile before I reached my relatives, I called at a house for directions, where I met the most ignorant old lady whom I have ever met in my travels. When I hailed, she wanted to know if I was white or black (it being dark). When I told her I was white and a soldier, she seemed well pleased and confident I could tell her something of her son. I asked his name, then told her I knew nothing of him, which was very strange to her. She thought I knew everyone in my Company. I told her I did, but did not know all the men in the army. I then urged her to direct me and let me go, whereupon she said: "If the road forked, go that way, (waving her right hand) and if you go this way (waving her left hand) you will go to the Salt Saline". I then bid her good night, and went that way, and soon arrived at my destination, as stated above.
I spent a few days so pleasantly -- it was like the desert traveler reaching an oasis, and finding the cool shade and refreshing spring of water. They prepared many nice eatables for me, and I took many pleasant horseback rides with a young lady cousin. But the time soon arrived for me to return. They sent me to the town of Rusk a distance of twenty-five miles. Here I dismounted, and my cousin, Walter Beaty, returned with the horses, and I went on my way afoot. I soon learned that my command had gone by Alto, a town in the extreme southern portion of the county (Cherokee).
Before arriving at the town, however, I learned at what point they would cross the Neuches [Neches] River; (and my recollection now is) I took the nearest route for that crossing, hoping to overtake them that night. I pushed along and came to the ferry, about dusk. I called, and was answered from the opposite side. I waited a reasonable time, and no one came. I called and was answered, and so on, for several times, and yet no one came, and by this time, it was very dark. I began casting about, what I had better do. I saw, or imagined I saw, within a few feet of me, a wild bear, or some beast of the kind. It seemed I could hear him snuffing or sniffing the air. I had no weapon, and knowing it was folly to run, I picked up a piece of rain, or pole that the ferryman had used for pushing the boat off, and turned to give him fight, but could see it no more.
The reader of this, will perhaps say it was fear, or imagination, but you must remember that I was accustomed to danger -- often on picket service, and was not half so apt to imagine something of the sort, as I would be today, and besides, it was not at all improbable. It was a large river bottom, several miles in width, and no settlements near. When I could not find my enemy