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September 20, 2006


The Armorer, as he has mentioned, is the namesake for a family member who was a veteran of the Orphan Brigade, the Kentucky Confederates.

And the blood runs strong. Pappy and I share a taste for tweaking. Especially members of the 4th Estate.

Pappy was an original joiner of the Brigade, and was with them to the bitter end. The Brigade was present at most of the big battles in the West (almost all losses for the South) and was, over time, effectively destroyed. The only real win in their column was Chickamauga, where the remnants of the Brigade were shattered while facing Thomas doing his "Rock of Chickamauga" thing.

This being the anniversary of the second day of Chickamauga, this seems a good time to tell the tale.... somewhere in the badly-organized Archives of Argghhh! (in meatspace, not cyber, where Google is your friend) is a tattered, yellowed piece of newsprint, from a Chattanooga paper, holding an article on the first Chickamauga reunion.

The story tells of Pappy Hays, currently of Paragould, Arkansas, who was a veteran of the Orphan Brigade. A grand storyteller (hey, he was Mayor and Justice of the Peace) he held forth of the trials and travails of the Orphans on that bloody day in north Georgia. Telling of how the supply situation for the Orphans had been so bad that many went into battle with the weapons that they had brought with them from home, when enlisting.

He recounted how, during that terrible second day, he'd found himself moving among Union dead near a tree in a field. He'd taken the opportunity to secure a fine new M1858 Springfield Rifled Musket from a bluebelly who no longer needed it, along with cartridge case and belt. And a nice new tin canteen, too. Not to mention some boots, although those came from a different fellow. The battle not yet won, however, he didn't want his family fowling piece to fall into Federal hands, and he couldn't carry them both, so he stashed it in a hollow in the tree.

Lo and behold - the tale being told while walking the battlefield - could that not be the very tree? That one, the farmer's shade tree in the center of the field? Excited, breathless, the crowd surges to the tree, where Pappy reaches in and... pulls out a shotgun! Gleefully, gripping the shotgun tightly, he exultantly pumps it in the air - he's found the family gun!

What a tale! Breathlessly reported!

And all hokum.

Pappy arrived a day early, and went by himself to visit the battlefield and make peace with his ghosts. Walking along the path the Orphans had marched, he crossed a field and came across a farmer plowing. The farmer showed him a shotgun he'd plowed up - one in much too good a shape to actually have been a relic of the battle, but, hey, people lose shotguns all the time... right? [The shotgun is the greater mystery. -the Armorer]

He took the gun and looked for a place to hide it - found the tree... and the rest is Historical Fact as Reported by the Press. Heh. Pappy Hays, spiritual fore-runner of Reuter's stringers...

Pappy lived a long, colorful life, and is buried in his Orphan Brigade uniform in the Meriwether family plot in Linwood Cemetery, Paragould, Arkansas. If you're in the area and want to go give him a salute, we plant our dead just to the east of the mausoleum (except my grandparents, who are *in* the mausoleum). And there's another story in there... that one with a Kansas City tie-in.