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
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
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
"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
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."
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
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">