Patrick Griffin: In His Own Words


Final in the Three Part Series



J. R. Reddig, great-great nephew

J. R. Reddig, great-great nephew of Patrick Griffin. Tenth Tennessee (Irish) Brigade who fought in the Battle of Raymond. Genealogical information was compiled by Barbara Foley Nakaska in 1963. She was Patrick Griffin's great-niece, and heard the stories first hand.


I don't know quite what to make of parts of the story. Once the encounter was over, Colonel McGavock killed and the rebels routed, Uncle Pat was pretty much on his own to account for his whereabouts. By the time he rose to address the Cheatham Camp of the Confederate Veterans, almost forty years had passed, and there were only seven survivors of the 10th Tennessee Infantry left alive. None of them were present. Still, this account had been printed in the Nashville American, and Patrick had been telling the stories, one way or another, for years. If the bulk of them were not true, someone would have noticed along the way.

Another captive of the 10th, headed toward a Yankee jail, was with him when he escaped, and that part seems to be real enough. So I am inclined to give Uncle Pat the chance to tell his story in his own words, just as he did 102 years ago. The last man standing ought to be permitted to have a little latitude with the past, wouldn't you agree?

Back then, the man in the gray frock-coat at the podium took a sip of the tepid water in the glass on the podium. He cleared his throat, and continued his story:


Patrick Griffin, in His Own Words, in the Spring of 1905

Patrick Griffin, 1905, speech to a meeting of Frank Cheatham Camp
of the Confederate Veterans of America, at Nashville, Tennessee.

The Return to Nashville


I had a letter of introduction to Col. Walker, of Memphis, in my pocket. The letter had been given to me by his son, who was a prisoner on board the Yankee boat. As I was not acquainted with the town, I decided to call on Col. Walker at once. I went to the Gayoso House, and there I asked a hack driver if he knew where Col. Walker lived. He said: "Yes, sir." I jumped into his hack and told him to take me there, and in a few minutes I was ringing the bell at the Walker residence. Mrs. Walker came to the door. She told me that her husband was away, so I handed her the letter from her son. She read it over three times, but said she could do nothing for me, as her husband had taken the oath. I did not blame her any, for my appearance was not calculated to make a favorable impression. I bade her good-night and walked out the gate. She stood and watched me out of sight.

The hackman was waiting for me at the gate. I asked him the amount of his bill, and he said "One dollar." I had just twenty-five cents, but he did not know but what I was a millionaire; so I told him to take me back to the Gayoso and make it two dollars. On the way back I slipped out of the hack, and the poor Jehu found himself minus his fare.

For once I was out on the beat, and I headed for cheap quarters. Down on the levee I found a place where they kept boarders and lodgers, and there was a saloon attached. I went in and called for a drink and a cigar, for which I handed up my last quarter in greenbacks. I put on a bold front and told the barkeeper that I would like to have a bed for the night and would want my breakfast very early in the morning. He said: "All right young man; go back there and tell Maggie to show you a bed." He was playing right into my hand, and I followed his instructions. I found Maggie in the rear of the house, and delivered the barkeeper's message.

She said she "thought everybody knew where his bed was," and while I waited for her to locate me I located the cupboard and all the exits. I paid my respects to their larder later in the evening, and was up and away by day-break, too early for any one to be down to collect my bill.

I went down by the levee, rolled up my sleeves, and mingled with the roustabouts. I decided that I would learn what I could from them, and I found that one Father Ryan, a Catholic priest, had been arrested on two occasions for his rebellious sentiments. I decided to call upon him, as I had considerable Confederate money sewed in the waist of my pantaloons, and I thought he would be able to tell me where I could sell some of it. I found him at his residence, and walked into his room without being announced. I attempted to state my business, but before I could do it he interrupted me with the declaration that he was a loyal citizen and that he could do nothing for me. I was determined that he should hear my story, and was confident that he would not report me, and then, too, I wanted to satisfy him that I was worthy of trust. I pulled out Col. McGavock's watch and showed him the name engraved upon ft, and showed mm the Colonel's ring also. He became interested, and told me that he had seen an account of the Colonel's death in the papers.

Just at this juncture the doorbell rang. Father Ryan went to the door himself, and who were there but two Yankee officers? I tell you he was scared, but he was brave and cool about it. He ushered the callers into the parlor, and then he slipped tack and told me that they were evidently after me. He was as white as a sheet and he trembled as he told me to get out the back way. He closed the door on me and went tack to his guests. I hesitated and wondered how any one could know that I was there, and came to the conclusion that I would wait and find out that they were really after me before I went on running, so I slipped back into the house and into the next room to the parlor, where I could be in earshot, and I soon found out that they were on an entirely different mission. I peeped through a crack in the door at them.

They visited for about half an hour; and after Father Ryan saw them out on the pavement, he heaved a sigh of relief that could be heard all over the house. He started back through the hall as if he were going to look out through the rear door, and was very much surprised when I came out and asked him if he was not mistaken about the Yanks being after me. He replied: "I was, thank God, I have had enough of trouble; and when you first spoke to me, I thought you were a spy. The town is full of them. But from your looks I am satisfied now that you are all right. Tell me what you want."

Mrs. Jacob (Louisa) McGavock, the mother of Col. Randal McGavock, was the daughter of Felix Grundy, one of the most eminent lowers and orators of the time.

I told him that I had a large sum of Confederate money and would like to exchange some of it for greenbacks. He thought for a few minutes, then put on his hat and told me that I could go out the back way and he would go out the front way, and I must follow him at a distance. I carried out his instructions. We went three blocks in die direction of the river and entered a wholesale house. I followed him tack through the house and into the office in the rear. After we got in, he closed the door and introduced me to two gentlemen who were sitting there. He stated my business to them. They declared that they did not have a cent and did not know I where I could dispose of any of my Confederate money. Those gentlemen discredited my story. I shook hands with Father Ryan, thanked him for his kindness, and went on.

It was about nine o'clock when I started toward the river again; and as I stopped on the corner of the street to get my bearings, who should I see coming up the street right by me but Capt. Neff and the Colonel who commanded the fleet of transports!

They were deeply engaged in conversation, and I turned my back toward them and began making marks with a bit of rock on the brick wall. They passed without recognizing me, and you can depend upon it that I was not long making tracks away from them at neighborhood. I stopped on a comer near the wharf trying to hear something that might be of interest to me. A number of men and women were there gazing at the transports up the river. Many of the prisoners on those boats had relatives in Memphis.

While I stood there I heard two men talking very earnestly. I knew that the time had come for me to lay manners aside, and so I listened deliberately to their conversation. They were Rebel sympathizers; so when they separated, I followed the man who seemed to have the greatest grievance. I caught up with him, asked him to pardon me for having listened to his conversation on the wharf, and told him that I had made my escape from one of the boats, and that before I asked him anything I wanted to prove to him that I was not an impostor. I showed him Col. McGavock's watch and ring: and after he had examined diem carefully, he exclaimed: "Young man, you will be arrested!" He asked me if I knew Dr. Grundy McGavock, the Colonel's brother. I told him that I did not. He hesitated awhile, then he looked me straight in the face and told me that he was Prof. Eldridge (I think it was Eldridge), of the Memphis Female Academy.

I knew that this man believed me, and I determined to do whatever he advised. He made me promise that I would not mention his name, and then he directed me to go out Adams Street until I came to the bridge, and then to go into the first house on the left-hand side of the street and ask for Mr. McCoombs. "Show him that watch and he will take care of you," he said as he shook hands with me. I went out Adams Street as he directed and rang the bell at the first house beyond the bridge. A young lady answered. I had never seen her before, and yet I knew her, and knew also that I was among friends. I asked her if she was not Miss Kirtland. She said that she was.

The resemblance between her and her brother, Lieut. Tom Kirtland, of my regiment was pronounced. I asked her if Mr. McCoombs was at home. She said he lived in the next house. The lady who came to the door at the next house told me that Mr. McCoombs was at the cotton gin, but for me to have a seat and wait for him, as he would soon be coming in to dinner. When he came, I showed him Col. McGavock's valuables and told him about the Colonel's death. He was very much affected, and we were still talking when the dinner bell rang.

He requested me to wait a minute, and he went into the house and got a coat and a vest that were just my fit and brought along a beaver hat to complete my costume. Then we walked into the dining room, and I was introduced to his wife and daughters as his nephew from Cincinnati. I suppose his wife and daughters thought their Northern kinsman rather a ravenous fellow, and in my heart I blessed the Professor.

After dinner, Mr. McCoombs and I discussed the matter as to what was best to be done. He called in his wife and his daughter. Miss Mollie, and told them the whole story, but cautioned them to say nothing about it to his other daughter, who had a Yankee captain on her string. Mr. McCoombs decided that ft would be best for him to send over into Arkansas for Dr. Grundy McGavock; and as he had to get back to his cotton gin, he turned me over to Miss Molly, who said that I must rest for a while and then we would go out and see the town. In. the meantime, I was to make myself at home.

On the second day after my installation in the McCoomb's house Mrs. Col. Walker called on me. I do not know how she found out I was there, and I did not ask her. She made all kinds of excuses for what she termed her unkindness to me, but I insisted that she was right about it. She spent the whole afternoon with me, and made many inquiries about her boys. She wanted me to come and make her house my home while I remained in Memphis. I thanked her and told her that I thought I had better stay where I was.

On the third day after my arrival a gentleman came to the front door, and from my post in the parlor I heard him say: "I want to see Pat Griffin." I peeped out and ascertained that it was not a Yankee, and then I went into the hall, met him, and told him that I was Pat Griffin. He shook hands with me and explained that he was the Colonel's brother, Dr. Grundy McGavock. I knew he was telling me the truth, for he resembled the Colonel in many ways. He told me to tell him everything about the sad happening at Raymond.

When I told him all, I handed over the Colonel's watch and ring, his money and valuable papers. It was a sad hour for both of us. Dr. McGavock was very grateful, and he pulled out a roll of greenbacks and told me to help myself. I told him I would need very little money, as I intended to make my way through the lines and back to my command in a few days. I took forty dollars from his roll; but he insisted that if I tried to get through the lines I would be caught and I would need all the money I could get, and he pressed several additional bills into my hands. I never saw him again; and
yet, if I had needed his assistance in after years, I knew that he would have responded.

On the next day Mrs. Col. Walker came to see me again and brought me a valise full of clothes. In this collection there was a handsome suit that she was sure would fit me. I assured her that I was very thankful for all these gifts, but that I expected to do considerable walking in the near future and must be as light as possible for die road. She seemed to feel hurt because I would not take the clothing, and we finally compromised by my taking the fine suit of clothes. I put them on the next morning, and was so fine I hardly knew myself.

I took the advice of other heads and did not attempt to go through the lines at Memphis, as the woods all around were said to be deeply infested with Yankees. I thanked my friends, the McCoombses, for their kindness to me; and after bidding them good-by, I procured a ticket via boat to Louisville. I arrived there the latter part of June, 1863. The first man I saw that I knew in Louisville was "Shorty” L-, who had deserted at Fort Henry. He pretended that he did not know me, but I reminded him that he knew me very well down at Fort Henry a year gone. I went to the Gate House
and met Dr. Cheatham, who was stopping there. Later, I met a member of my company who had taken the oath at Camp Douglas. He invited me to go home with him, and I did. I had known him when we were children and knew his mother and sister, so did not fed any uneasiness in going to their home.

On the next day I hired out to a government boss, who was going to Nashville with a train toad of men to be distributed on the different jobs of work the government was interested in. In a room on Main Street, near Fifth Street, I met the crowd of fifty men who were going down. I was going to
Nashville, but all at once I felt sick. We felt into line and marched off two and two toward the Louisville and Nashville depot. I finally became so sick that I had to fall out of line, and I sat down on the curbstone. I hailed the first hack that came that way and told the driver to take me back to my friend's house. Arriving there, I went to bed immediately. The next morning I had a breaking out all over my hands and face, and the old doctor who was called in pronounced it smallpox. My friend's mother said that she and all of her children had bad the disease and she had no fear of it

She told the doctor that I was a stranger and far from home, and she would rather that he did not report my case. He was a good old Rebel, and he was glad to do anything he could to favor me. I got along nicely, and had no visitors with the exception of a Yankee lieutenant and two privates.
They came to the house one day and asked my friend's mother if she was not harboring a Rebel. She said there was no one in the house save a friend who was very sick. They insisted on seeing me, and she pointed to the door of the dark room where I was. I pulled the covers up over my head and pretended to be asleep. The lieutenant called for a light. He pulled the quilts back and held the lighted candle close to my face. One look was sufficient. He and his escort left there at a double-quick.

Two weeks later I was on my way to Nashville with another gang of government workmen. I felt much better than I looked. At Edgefield Junction, Mike Costalo came through the train, apparently looking for someone. When he got near me, I spoke to him. He said: "Your voice is familiar, but I do not know your face." I told him who I was, and explained that I had just passed through an illness not conducive to beauty, but that I was still in the ring.

He motioned to me to follow him, and we went out on the platform, where he informed me that he had come out to the Junction to warn me that a government detective, James O'Donnell, was at that moment waiting for me in the depot at Nashville. He had come to tell me because I had been kind to him while he was in a Confederate prison. He had a hack in waiting for me on Market Street; so when we readied Nashville, we got off on Front Street and hurried over to Market Street and into the hack. He took me to his home in North Nashville. I remained there until the next night, and then I went to the Franklin shops on Spruce Street. These shops were operated by the United States government, and a friend of mine, Tobe Burke, was in charge.

He had a nice room fitted up in the second story, where I could sleep all day. My nights were devoted to tramping. My youngest brother was employed at these shops, and I made him take me around to all the Yankee headquarters. I got acquainted with a number of the officers, and was offered a position at a salary of a hundred dollars per month by the provost marshal. I accepted the offer, telling him I would be around to set in working within the next week.

I went to see my Colonel's mother during my visit. Mrs. Louisa McGavock was a grand woman. I do not think she ever forgot a kindness or remembered an injury. Her interest in and devotion to Col. McGavock's old company, the "Sons of Erin," never ceased. The friendship between us that had its beginning in the grave at Raymond lasted until she was placed in the vault with her son. Col. McGavock, at Mount Olivet Nashville.


Carnton, the antebellum home of the McGavock family, was built by Randal McGavock, the great-uncle of Col. Randal McGavock. On November 30, 1864, during the Battle of Franklin, the home was used as a Confederate hospital.  Following the Battle of Franklin, a large Confederate cemetery was established on the property and cared for by Jacob & Louisa McGavock. After the war, Col. Randal McGavock, killed during the Battle of Raymond ,was laid to rest in Mt. Olivet, the Confederate Cemetery.


The first baby girl that came to my house is her name-sake, and her name will be spoken with love and respect as long as the house of Griffin exists.  (Editors note: Louisa McGavock Griffin, his daughter, never married and lived in Patrick's house after he died, all the way to 1950.)

I visited Tom Parrel, who had a son in my regiment. He told me he had taken the oath, but that his wife was still a genuine Rebel. Mrs. Parrel wanted to give me a roll of greenbacks, but I told her I had all the money I needed. After I left her house, I found the same roll of money in my pocket. I called on Mr. K- and told him about his son, Capt James K- being wounded at Raymond. He was not disposed to be friendly, so I cut my visit short and went over to Capt Stockell's. His son Charlie was a captain in the Tinth. He was delighted to see me, and wanted me to come and stay at his house while I remained in Nashville. The last call I made was at the residence of Capt. George Diggons's father; but when I got there, Mr. Diggons was dying. I went again the next day, and was there when he died.

There was a government office across the street from the Diggons home, and while I sat there I saw a number of Yankees coming and going on horseback, and came to the conclusion that it would be a good place to capture a horse and get away. I waited there again, and took my place at one of the front windows the next day. I was a fairly good judge of horseflesh. Soon a fellow came riding up on a black horse. I knew that was the animal for me, so by the time be was sitting down at his desk I was on his horse and making my way toward St Cecilia Academy. The girl with the auburn hair was there, and I decided then I would like to go and see her while I was in the neighborhood. The
chances were not very bright when it came to ever seeing her again.

While I sat there talking to her in a shady spot in the garden two Yankee officers came riding by. She is a brave woman, my comrades, but she was certainly scared that day. I told her not to mind them, for I could go around Yankees like a hoop around a barrel. They did not stop to ask any questions. I assure you we both felt easier when they were out of sight and in a little while I bade the little girl good-by, crossed the river, and struck out toward the Springfield Pike, and did not stop again until I reached Cedar Hill.

While there, I made my headquarters at Squire Jack Batt's, two and a half miles from town. I had spent my childhood there and knew the country well. Two or three companies of the Third Tennessee had been raised in this neighborhood, and everybody wanted to give me a welcome.

I had lots of callers; every mother, wife, sister, and sweet-heart wanted to send something to loved ones in the army, and I could not have taken all the things they brought me if I had had a two-horse wagon. With the help of some of the boys and girls, the socks, underclothing, etc., were made into a long bundle, and with sundry letters and sacks of tobacco sewed into my saddle blanket There were letters and sacks of tobacco by the dozen. When I left there to start on my long journey, several of (he boys and girls accompanied me as far as the Cumberland River. They saw me safe on the other side, and watched me until I tamed a bend in the road.

The first night I was out I slept on the porch of a farmer's house, with my saddlebags for a pillow and my saddle blanket for a bed. I had two Colt's six-shooters. My horse was hitched to a post near me, and a piece of rope that I had fastened to the bridle was under my head. My bundles were all fastened to my arm, so that if any one disturbed them I would wake up.

I will not relate the things that happened to me on the rest of the way to the Army of the Tennessee, on the line of the Western and Atlantic railway. I crossed the Tennessee River above Florence, went over Sand Mountain, and saw the Black Warrior; and when I found the boys, I was minus many articles of wearing apparel and several sacks of tobacco, but the letters were all safe and sound, and I think there must have been between three or four hundred missives.

I presented the Yankee horse to Maj. John O'Neal, of my regiment. At least, I only took his note for the two hundred and fifty dollars he agreed to pay me for the animal.

Of Col. McGavock's regiment to my knowledge, only seven of the original members are now living: Lieut. Col. S. M. Thompson, Capt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Charley Stockdale, and Commissary Sergeant Barney McCabe, Mike Carney, and John Flemming. The last named two are at the Soldiers' Home. Col. Thompson lives at Florence, Ala, the others reside in Nashville, and I am the sole survivor of the one hundred and twenty-four members of the Sons of Erin.

I know of no other regiment with a record of three full colonels buried in one graveyard. The remains of Cols. Heiman, McGavock. and Grace, of the 10th Tennessee Infantry Irish, lie within the shadow of the Confederate monument in beautiful Mount Olivet. Nashville. Tenn.


<click here for Part One, "The Battle of Raymond">

<click here for Part Two, "Burying Col. McGavok & The Great Escape">



There was a round of enthusiastic applause when the old soldier finished his tale. He waved politely in response to the tribute. The continuation of his adventures in the great conflict have no such detail. There is a dry paragraph in the family is that Patrick rejoined his unit and fought with what was left of the 10th through the battle of Peachtree Creek in the defense of Atlanta, Georgia.

Subsequently, a few dry sentences describe his assignment as a Headquarters Scout for John Bell Hood. I never expected to meet Uncle Patrick at all, so discovering this part of his story was nothing short of a revelation. There may be more out there, in some dusty archive.

I will be on the lookout for it, since in the internet age, you never can tell what might fall out of history's attic.




J.R. Reddig is the great great grandson of Barbara Griffin, whose brother Patrick Griffin fought for the 10th Tennessee (Irish) Infantry at the battle of Raymond. She married a Union soldier of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Reddig was a career naval intelligence officer, retiring with 27 years of service in ships and jet squadrons, and the usual assortment of three-letter Agencies ashore. He was one of the first to arrive off the coast of Iran in 1979, responding with USS MIdway at the beginning of the Hostage Crisis. Professionally, he has been dealing with consequences ever since.

In retirement he is a government contractor and occasional correspondent for the BBC, residing in Arlington, Virginia, precisely half-way between the famous Arlington Line of Civil War defenses erected shortly after the Union Army occupied the County, and from Arlington House, the former Custis-Lee home of General Robert E. Lee. He expects to be buried at the cemetery that surrounds the mansion, eventually, though he is in no hurry to do so.

Reddig writes, Daily Socotra, a continuing series which appear periodically on the World Update with Dan Damon on the BBC World Service and is posted on the internet at


J. R. Reddig inherited his Uncle Patrick's gift for words and story telling. Of his colorful Irish family he writes "I was going to leave St. Patrick's Day behind this year, but it appears that the Irish are not done with me just yet. I got an e-mail from Nashville, asking for some information bout my ancestor who appears in a portrait commissioned for the history of the Irish regiment that was raised in that city to fight for the Confederacy. I have seen a copy of the painting, and it is an impressive thing, with a big gray horse rearing and a proud green banner floating. What I would really like to see is a family portrait of the dashing young Confederate, his lovely Irish sister (Barbara) and her husband, a strapping young Yankee teamster. But that is the root of the story, young people in a wild new land who were swept away in allegiances to new states and new causes. As for great-great Uncle Patrick, he is much more of a rogue than I had even expected - or - maybe he was just a 17-year-old Irish kid off to the greatest adventure of a lifetime."

The gift of blarney ran in the family. After the Griffins settled in Nashville, Patrick's sister, Barbara Griffin, immigrated to America. In 1864, she caught the eye of Irishman James Foley, who was regimental teamster in the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He had survived Shiloh and Vicksburg, but Barbara was irresistible. They married while he was on furlough, and his new Irish bride used her "silver tongue" to persuade James to desert, rather than return to the fighting. They too lived long lives after the great war, and kept in touch with Patrick and his family down through the years. Barbara and James Foley were J. R. Reddig's great-great grandparents.

Rebecca Blackwell Drake



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