Notice: The civil war related website where this excellent article was originally posted has closed. Fortunately, I saved a copy and have unsuccessfully attempted to contact L. McCormick to obtain permission to repost.  I hope that no one is offended that I have elected to place a copy here.  – K.W.

Thomas R. McCormick

Submitted by L. McCormick
Thomas McCormick was born on March 3, 1841 in Vossburg, Mississippi. In August of 1861
he enlisted in Co. H, 27th Regt., Miss. Inf., know as the "Jasper Blues". The following is his
account of his capture, escape and return to Mississippi after being taken prisoner at Lookout
Mountain.  Thomas McCormick died in Meridian, Mississippi on August 22, 1919.
 
My Escape from Prison:
I enlisted in August, 1861 from Jasper County, Mississippi and rendezvoused at Marion
Station, Miss., the 12th day of September, 1861, taking the train at DeSoto., Miss. remaining
in camp at Marion Station about three months; then went to Pensacola, Fla., and from
Pensacola to Warrington, Fla., and there remained until the following summer, when we left
there and went to Mobile; remained in Mobile until September, and then went to Chattanooga,
and were formed in brigade under General Walthall. In a few days we took up our march with
General Bragg through Tennessee and Kentucky, where we fought in the battle of Perryville;
from there we fell back to Knoxville, Tenn., and from there to Shelbyville, Tenn., then
advanced to Murfreesboro, where we met Rosecrans in battle about the 26th day of December,
1862, lasting eight days. After the battle we fell back to Shelbyville, Tenn., where we went
into winter quarters, and remained until next Summer.
From Tennessee we fell back to North Alabama, after which we advanced to the
Battlefield at Chickamauga, where we fought Rosecrans on the 18th, 19th, and 20th, of
September, 1863. After that battle we advanced to Chattanooga, Tenn., taking up line of
battle on Missionary Ridge; from there we moved to Lookout Mountain, and later fought the
battle of Lookout Mountain, which took place on the 24th of  November, 1863; there I was
captured by the enemy and carried to Rock Island, Ill., prison at which prison I was kept until
Oct. 1, 1864.
When we reached the prison it was very cold day, and we had to wait around the gates
for hours before we were carried inside; the object of waiting being to search every one  for
contraband of war. I was placed in Barrack 8, and fared very well for a few months. Then our
rations were cut down to about one-third of a soldier's rations; it was so scant that we could
hardly live on it, and we were told that they were retaliating for the way the Andersonville,
Ga., prisoners were treated. Men were so starved that they would even go into the gutters and
gather the fragments of meat that were thrown out from the  barrels, and even climb the trees
and gather the dead twigs and sticks from the trees. They would also gather the bones from the
cook rooms, and boil them in the cans and get the oil from them, which they would sell for 5
cents per pint. This grease I would buy, put into my flour and make jonny-cakes to sell to the
soldiers who happened to have the money.
One of my company had some money which he loaned me, and with this I bought flour and
tobacco, which I sold from a little stand. When I made enough money to spare I would buy
something to eat, always dividing with my mates, Jim Lott, Tom Morris and Frank Lightsey.
Plan to Escape.
This prison was surrounded by a plank wall or fence twenty feet high, with a parapet on
top, where sentinels were posted about every thirty of forty paces. Three other prisoners Fred
Morgan, Joe Morgan and Wesley Mayfield, and I, planned to make our escape; our plan being to
dig under the wall or fence; the place we selected was in one corner of the prison. We selected
this place because there had been a new fence built, cutting off twelve barracks, and this
fence had no parapet, and of course no sentinel, so we in going under at this place we had only
one sentinel to watch. On the night of Oct. 1, 1864, we went to a point near this place, and
Joe Morgan volunteered to go forward and dig under the fence, which he did with a carving knife
procured from the kitchen. He made the excavation and went out. We remained back, and while we
were waiting, the lamplighter made his rounds, and we hid under a barrack until he passed
safely out of sight, when we again got together and attempted to go forward. In the mean time
Fred Morgan, who was a little in advance of us, said that Joe Morgan had been caught on the
outside, and that he heard the sentinel say, "The next one who comes we will bore him through",
and we believed this to be true, retired to our barracks and went to bed. This, however, was a
false alarm, and Joe, after waiting for us for a while, returned to the barracks, woke us up and
told us everything was quiet and ready for our escape. This was probably after 12 o'clock at
night, so we said goodby to the other boys we were leaving behind us, and started out again on
our dangerous undertaking, for dangerous it was, as the sentinel was walking back and forth
continually, and we were in full view until he turned his back to walk from us; when he did
this we crept across the deadline, which was forty feet from the prison wall, and crawling flat
on the ground until he turned again walking back toward us, when we lay perfectly still until
he went forward again. We continued this until we reached the fence, where the excavation was
made under the fence, where we fortunately went out. Our plan was that we should all get
together at the corner of the prison on the outside, as, necessarily, we had to separate in
making our escape, but I failed to get with the other boys, through some misunderstanding.
 
After searching for them some time and failing to find them, I made for the bayou which
surrounds the prison. Reaching the bayou, I took off my clothes, tied them to my back, and
right into the water I went, determined to wade as far as I could, and if needs be to swim. I
found that the water was not deep enough in any place for me to swim so I waded right through
all right and reached the opposite bank, where I found I was in the suburbs of the city of Rock
Island, Ill. After dressing I did not pause here, but struck out directly south, down the river,
avoiding all roads during the day. Late in the evening, while passing through a apple orchard,
I gathered some apples, and went to a ravine where I sat down to eat them, and while there a
man, whom I suppose was the owner of the place, passed so near I could have almost touched him,
but he did not see me.
After he had passed on I continued my journey. Then I came to Rock River, which I swam. After
getting through the small village, I took to the woods again, going down to the bank of the
Mississippi River. I concealed myself in a cluster of bushes, my object being to wait until it
was dark, so that I could get a boat in which to go down the river. While waiting there I saw a
skiff coming up the river, with two men in it; I saw them land and fasten the boat just above
me. There was also a boat tied at the landing where I was ambushed. I waited there until dark,
when I went forward to secure the boat. Just as I was getting near the boar I heard some one
coming from the house. I lay flat on the ground perfectly still, and he did not discover me. He
went down and fixed something about the skiff, and then returned to the house. When all was
quiet again I examined the skiff and found it locked with a chain to a rock. There were,
however, two oars lying loose in the bottom of the boat, so I went further up the stream, where
the two men had left the boat, and I found it merely tied with a rope. This boat was without
oars, so I went back to the other boat, procured the oars from it, and got into the boat and
went down the river. After going some distance, and when I was far enough away to avoid pursuit,
I pulled my skiff up to the bank for the rest of the night.
The rain was falling and I could not lie down, so I set under a little bush until
daybreak next morning, when I resumed my journey down the river in the rain.
I continued down the river all day, stopping that night at a farmhouse on the bank of
the river, went to the barn and found it filled with new-mown hay. Into this hay I went,
thinking I would have a good night's sleep, but no sleep came to my eyes through all that night,
as I was cold, wet and hungry, having had nothing to eat since I left the prison, except the
apples about which I have spoken. At the first intimation of day I got out and went back to my
skiff, and continued my course down the river. I stayed in the skiff until about 11 o'clock,
and being thoroughly worn out, and thinking I was near Alexandria, Mo., I landed and took it on
foot, and there was a plain road running along the bank of the river. After traveling this road
for about two hours, I came to a village which was Fort Madison, Ia. Here I inquired the
distance to Alexandria, Mo., and was told that it was about 150 miles. The second day about
noon, cold and hungry, I resolved to go to a farm house on the bank of the river and get
something to eat. On my way up I saw four cavalrymen ride off, and saw that they wore the blue
uniform. However, after seeing them leave, I went up to the gate and hailed, an old man came to
the door and invited me in. In a short time dinner was announced, and I was invited to partake,
which I did thankfully. During my conversation the old gentleman asked me where I was from, and
I told him from a little town up the river, the name of which I do not remember. He asked me if
they were husking corn. I told him they were. Then he asked me many questions about John Jones,
and other people he called by name, whom he knew, and of course thought I also must know. I ate
heartily, and as fast as possible under the circumstances and even then, when I had finished, I
felt as though I had not half enough.
But to go back to Fort Madison, which town I reached with $3.10 in silver. The first
thing I bought was ten cents worth of tobacco. I then went to the ticket office and bought a
ticket to Alexandria, Mo., which cost me $3. The boat arrived at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I
went aboard, and took a deck passage. After getting on the boat supper was announced, but I had
no money with which to buy supper, so I sold a gold ring which a young lady put on my finger the
night I left Desoto in 1861. This ring I sold for 30 cents, and with 25 cents of this money I
bought something to eat. I found on the boat several sacks of onions, of which I ate to my
hearts content. About 12 o'clock the boat landed me at a point from which I could take a train
to Keokuk, Ia. While waiting here for a train a Yankee approached me for a trade to substitute
for him, offering me $500.00. At first I concluded to take him up on this trade, my purpose
being in making the trade to go to the front and make my escape across the line; but upon
investigation I found that he wanted me to return to Davenport, where I would be mustered into
service. But Davenport being right across the river from Rock Island Prison, and not caring to
take my chances near that prison again, I did not consummate the trade. I took the train for
Keokuk, Ia., and landed in that town about sunrise the next morning with 5 cents in my pocket,
left from the sale of the ring. With this 5 cents I bought a pie, on which I made my breakfast.
Here I waited to catch a boat, which landed me in a short time at Alexandria, Mo.
I then took up my march west of the river to a place called Winchester, Mo., where I
had a cousin  living two miles west of the town. I reached my cousin's home about eight o'clock
at night, told him who I was, and that I had escaped from prison. He took me to his house, where
they prepared supper for me, and gave me a feather bed to sleep on. The next morning I felt as
though I had been beaten all over, and could hardly stand on my feet, which were blistered from
my marching the day before. I remained with my cousin from Thursday until the next Wednesday
when my cousin's wife took me in a buggy eighteen miles and dropped me about four miles from
Canton, Mo. My cousin gave me $20 in greenbacks and had my clothes laundered. Just before
reaching Canton I met some pickets, whom I asked what was the trouble, and they remarked that
they were expecting Gen. Canby and his forces, and I said to them, "Give him a hearty
reception", and I passed on. Arriving at Canton, Mo., I found the little village filled with
Yankee militia.
When night came on I went to a vacant store house, and slept soundly until about 5
o'clock next morning, when I heard a boat whistle. As soon as the boat landed I went aboard and
paid my passage to St. Louis. After getting to St. Louis I found a boat bound for New Orleans,
about to leave, on which I took passage. I went to the cooks room and made arrangements to
assist the cook. On the next day this boat arrived at Cairo, Ill., and turned it's cargo over
to another boat, and stopped there. I transferred to a Memphis boat and arrived in Memphis on
Saturday morning following. After getting to Memphis I found the City filled with Yankee
soldiers, and the streets blocked with bales of cotton. After being there for some hours I made
a trade with an Arkansas farmer to go out with him that evening, but he failed to meet me. That
night I went to the hotel and put up.
The next morning was Sunday; I took in the City with a Yankee detective. In the evening
I went out to the pickets that surrounded the City, to make my escape but finding it difficult
returned to the city, stopping at another hotel that night. The next morning I went to the wharf
and found a boat getting ready to leave, South, and as they pulled the gang-plank in I got
aboard and evaded the guards. After getting aboard I found that this was a government boat
carrying supplies to the army at the north of White River. On the way down the boat was fired
into by our men from the banks of the river. This boat anchored in the middle of the river at
night, and during the day I saw no opportunity to make my escape from the boat to the
Mississippi shore, so when the boat arrived at the mouth of the White River, where there was a
large army, I knew I must have a pass to get on the boat again, so I went to the commander of
the post and told him I was on a wildgoose chase, and had been down there hunting work, but
finding no work I want a pass to go back home. He asked me where I lived, and I told him I
lived in Winchester, Mo. He asked me many more question and gave me a pass to return, and I
went aboard the boat. The boat landed me Saturday morning in Memphis again. I went ashore and
stayed around the city until evening. I saw there was a boat loaded to go North, and just before
night I went aboard, when it took its leave, and landed at Island 37. I got off and was taken
in by one of the residents of the island and allowed to stay all night. He suspected me as
being an escaped prisoner and questioned me very closely. The next morning I made arrangements
to work with him, and had by this time made up my mind that he did not intend to harm me, so
after breakfast he saddled his horse and was about ready to leave, when I went to him and told
him that I was an escaped prisoner and wanted him to assist me in getting away from the island.
He would not help me get off but gave me directions how to get off of the island. I told him
that was all I wanted, so he asked me to mount the horse behind him, which I did, and rode with
him to the head of the island, where I got in the company with two of Capt. Forrest's scouts. I
mounted behind one of them and rode across the chute to the swamp on the other side, where they
told me they could go no further with me, but gave me directions how to proceed toward Corinth,
Miss. Then I set out on foot, and traveled toward Shelby station.
The scouts had given me names of the parties with whom I could stop that night. After
leaving them and when I had traveled until the middle of the evening, or later, I met a man
who was riding a mule and talking on the roadside to probably fifteen or twenty negroes. I
fancied he was a Yankee and intended to pass him by but when I approached him he halted me and
asked who I was. I demanded of him who he was, and that this juncture he leveled his pistol at
me, and said at the same time that he was a confederate. I told him I was also a confederate.
He questioned me very closely, and finally decided that I was what I claimed to be, invited me
home with him. As we went towards his home we met a neighbor of his, in company with a
confederate scout, to whom Dr. Peyton introduced me. The soldier proposed going down to Memphis
the following Wednesday evening to capture a horse for me to ride from there on to Corinth,
Miss., but not being mounted nor having any arms, of course, he said it would be no use for me
to go; so Dr. Peyton and I went on to his home where I remained three weeks. While there I was
employed as overseer, and went out to his farm and helped pick a little cotton. During my stay
his wife carried a bale of cotton to Memphis in a wagon. The cotton weighed 500 pounds, and
sold for $550. Among the things which happened while there, a party of Jayhawkers killed a
farmer, and the citizens and the scouts ran them down and killed them, and Dr. Peyton secured
one of the horses for me, gave me both greenback and confederate money, and started me on the
road to Corinth. I went by way of Jackson, Tenn. While on my way from Jackson to Corinth I met
a brigade of our cavalrymen making a raid into Tennessee but I went on my way to Corinth, Miss.
where I sold my horse for $400, and rejoined the army again. This was the later part of
November. The Company I was put into was Captain Gallagher's company, Col. Weir's regiment. I
applied for a furlough after getting in camp, but failed to get it, and in about twelve days
Col. Weir was ordered with his regiment to Buckatunna, Miss. to meet Griensau's raid, and when
we arrived at Shubuta, Col. Weir gave me a pass to go home. I dropped off at Shubuta and found
neighbor Leroy Morrison there with a lead horse, which he gave me permission to ride home. I
mounted, in company with him, and rode out to my father's home, reaching there Dec. 10, 1864.
Mr. Morrison asked me not to make myself known, wanting to see if my parents would recognize me.
When reaching my father's we went in and sat down by the fire, and my father and Mr. Morrison
talked for some time when my father inquired, "Who is this you have with you?" when I remarked,
"Father you do not seem to know me." "I do not", says he, "unless it is Thomas." I had changed
so much that he did not recognize me.
 
T. R. McCormick
Co H 27 Miss Reg Walthall's Brig
 

These pages are a work in progress. While every attempt has been made to include accurate historical information, some error may be included. I invite corrections, additional information, additional photographs, and accounts of personal experience. Please contact me at the supplied address. Very little has been documented in regards to the dying towns and landmarks of east-central Mississippi. With your help, I hope to put together a few pages that we all can pass along to our grandchildren. Thanks!

Keith Wilkerson

Return to Jasper Co. Pages