Taken about 1899. Seated are Allen Polk Doggett
and Hannah Caroline London Doggett. Standing are their children (l to r, youngest to oldest), Quincy Doggett, Carrie Doggett Bell, Cleon Doggett, Lavonia (Vonie) Doggett Alford, and Alice Doggett Jones.
.....TTaken about 1900. Left to right are Allen Polk Doggett, Hannah Caroline London, Carrie Doggett Bell and William Bell. This house, built by Polk Doggett about 1880, still stands on Carl Fox Road near the Giles county line.
In 1862 the Confederate Army was in desperate straits but not so desperate as to accept a beardless boy who appeared much younger than his admitted seventeen without question. His father's consent obtained, the farm boy was accepted and became a member of Forrest's famed cavalry. And thenceforth was inculcated in the youth's respect and admiration for the leader who has been called "the greatest natural military tactician to ever set foot on this continent." This respect still lives but the youth is no longer the beardless boy. In the hills of his birth, "Uncle" Polk Doggett, as he is known to his friends and neighbors, spends the long peaceful days with the reflective thoughts of an adventurous past and with an eager tongue is ever ready to discourse on either the past or the present.
That beardlessness was no handicap to the young soldier, and in frequent scouting details it was to his advantage. Without a uniform he was never suspected of being anything other than what his appearance implied - a typical country boy. On one occasion he traveled from Shelbyville to Farmington, a distance of some fifteen miles, in the midst of three thousand Federal soldiers without being suspect as a Rebel trooper. On another expedition, however, he was not so successful. In 1863 he was captured in Cornersville and carried to Pulaski to appear before General Dodge of the Federal forces on charges of being a "bushwhacker." Not only did he deny the charges, but the young scout steadfastly refused to divulge the whereabouts of any of the Southern troops other than "the one standing in front of me." He was more fortunate that his fellow scout, Sam Davis, who was captured near Pulaski two weeks later and before being hanged as a spy uttered the famous statement, "If I had ten thousand lives I would give them all up before I would betray the confidence of a friend." "Davis," says Mr. Doggett, "was a brave man but somewhat reckless, taking unnecessary chances."
What was perhaps Mr. Doggett's narrowest escape of the entire war occurred at Town Creek, Alabama. While holding the bridle of his horse, a cannon ball severed the animal's head off. Thinking to save his saddle and other equipment, he cut the saddle girth and, getting his saddlebags and blankets, started toward his own lines. The enemy fire became so hot, however, that he was forced to abandon all his equipment except his blankets in his dash for safety. On foot the young cavalryman was unable to keep up with Forrest's fast moving horsemen and accordingly set out walking to return home and secure another horse. Starting from Huntsville on Saturday morning and by scarcely stopping to eat and sleeping only a few hours before daylight on Monday morning, walked into his home a few miles south of Cornersville Monday night, a distance of more than sixty miles. After obtaining another horse he rejoined Forrest's command in North Alabama. The return journey with the familiar feel of a horse under him was somewhat easier, says Mr. Doggett.
Mr. Doggett was with Forrest when the great cavalry leader captured Col. Abel Streight, which was one of Forrest's greatest achievements of the entire war. With a force greatly inferior than that of his opponent, marched his men around the brow of a hill and out of sight, then marched them back, making it appear as if he had a much greater force. Streight, thinking he was outnumbered, surrendered to the Southern leader, who had scarcely enough men to pick up the weapons of his prisoners. After the battle one of the captured yankees remarked to Mr. Doggett, "We'd have licked you boys if Forrest hadn't lied to us." Mr. Doggett was also present when Forrest utilized the same stratagem in capturing a much larger Federal detachment near Franklin after marching behind the Federal lines.
War was not all harsh enmity between the young southern soldier and his northern enemies. While captive of the Union forces and enroute to Pulaski for trial before General Dodge, one of his captors became unbearably offensive. As they were riding along this individual would ride to the head of the column, pausing meanwhile to curse and otherwise abuse the captive and while riding back to the rear would repeat the same procedure. Goaded beyond endurance, Mr. Doggett retaliated by telling his tormentor that if he would dismount, that he would, despite the circumstances, soundly thrash him. At this point one of the more friendly guards took up the quarrel and pointing his rifle at this fellow soldier told him that if he as much as spoke to the prisoner again he would shoot him on the spot. After the annoyer had hastily departed the friendly guard informed Mr. Doggett that his late insulter was the biggest coward in the Union Army and that he could have easily whipped a thousand like him. The kindness was not forgotten by the young Confederate. While guarding a group of Northern prisoners being marched from Spring Hill to Columbia, one of the prisoners became deathly sick, and Mr. Doggett, perhaps remembering the kindness shown him while a prisoner, let the sick Yankee ride his horse despite the warnings of his fellow soldiers that the prisoner would escape. Upon arriving in Columbia, the prisoner warmly thanked him for the kindness which had, he said, saved his life.
The unequal struggle soon came to an end. The finale of the "lost cause" found Mr. Doggett at Gainesville, Alabama, with Gen. E.R.S. Canby commanding the opposing Union forces. Even in defeat the bearded Forrest did not completely lose, for one of the conditions of his surrender was that his men be allowed to keep their horses, the majority of which were owned by the soldiers individually. On the back of Mr. Doggett's parole, which by the way is one of his most prized possessions is the following statement: "I certify that the within named soldier is the lawful owner of one horse." Signed, R. H. Dudley, Capt. Cmdg. Co. K, Nixon's Reg. Tenn. Cav." The face of the old document reads as follows, "Gainesville, Alabama, May, 11, 1865. Private A. P. Doggett of K Company, Nixon's Regiment CSA residing in Giles County, Tennessee, having been, with the approval of the proper authorities, paroled, is hereby permitted to return to his home not to be disturbed by the United States authorities, so long as he observes his parole and the laws in force where he may reside. By order, Major General E.R.S. Canby, U.S.A." (The parole is signed by one of Canby's aides according to Mr. Doggett, but the signature is not legible and the officer's name is not known).
Mr. Doggett says that when he stacked his arms at Gainesville, the war as far as he was concerned was over. No bitterness is in his conversation and the years have removed much of the harshness of the conflict. In explaining his attitude toward his former enemies, Mr. Doggett said, "They did as they were ordered; so did I." While on a visit to Ohio several years ago he became acquainted with several veterans of the Union Army and spent long hours swapping stories with his ex-enemies who soon became fast friends.
The struggles of the defeated soldier were not ended with the war. Returning home he found a distressing condition. A late frost and a drought had so injured the crops that for awhile the young soldier thought that he and the rest of his family would starve to death. So distressing were conditions that Mr. Doggett says he would have stayed in Alabama had he known what awaited at home.
The next few years were almost as hard as wartime to the young soldier who had now become a farmer. Five years after the close of the war, he married, and starting from the proverbial "scratch," by dint of hard work and privation, sometimes even plowing the field in his bare feet, he became the owner of a farm consisting of some five hundred acres. A hundred and sixty acres of the land now in his possession has been in the Doggett name for over a hundred years. Two hundred acres were sold off to provide for the education of his children when they arrived at that age.
The veteran still retains that unusual trait of his youth - that is he looks a great deal younger than his actual age. Strangers invariably underestimate his age by as much as twenty years and sometimes more and certainly his appearance belies his ninety years. A small man, his carriage is still erect and soldierly, while his eyesight and hearing are still good, despite the ravages of time. His habits further refute his age. Until last year he rode his horse daily, frequently riding as much as 20 miles a day. An attack of blood poisoning which necessitated hospital treatment followed by successive attacks of pneumonia and bronchitis kept him from the saddle for over a year, but only a few weeks ago he rode to Brick Church, a distance of seven miles.
Endurance is another trait carried over by the old soldier from his war days. Although he never received a scratch during the war other than those received "running through the bushes," in the past few years it has twice been necessary for him to receive hospital treatment. While confined in the hospital of the late Dr. L. E. Wheat of Lewisburg, suffering from a broken leg, a course of treatment involving a rather painful operation of bone scraping was deemed necessary. The patient despite his more than eighty years at the time, refused to take an anesthetic, saying "he wanted to see the job done for he might want to be a surgeon some day," and watched the entire operation.
Inadvertently while interviewing Mr. Doggett, we found an item that even "Believe It or Not" Ripley would be glad to take note of. Mr. Doggett's oldest brother, William B. Doggett, was killed at the Battle of Atlanta, in 1864, but if he was living, he would be ninety-three years old on the twenty-second of November. Mr. Doggett himself will be ninety-one on that date, while Martha Paralee Doggett, a sister, and R. S. Doggett, a younger brother will be respectively eighty-nine and eighty-seven on the common birth date. This unusual fact, that of four brothers and sisters having birthdays coming on the same date and exactly two years apart is corroborated by the family Bible with the names and birthdates of each of the four. Mr. Doggett says that all doubters are welcome to inspect the Bible if they desire.
Since the death of his wife, twelve years ago, Mr. Doggett has lived with his daughter, Mrs. Alice Jones, who lives near Brick Church in Giles County. However, he frequently visits his brother and sister, who live at the old home place and his son in the Blue Creek Community, a few miles south of Cornersville, in Marshall County, where until his illness a year ago, the old man and his horse were a familiar sight.
From "The Doggett Family", Pauline Jones Lynch
Brice Jones, a grandson of Allen Polk Doggett, submitted this information: "As a small boy I would listen wide eyed to the Civil War stories my Grandpa would tell. The story that stands out vivid in my mind even now is that of the "cannon ball" that cut off the horse's head.
"He was sitting upon his horse at the top of a hill, watching the enemy action across the valley on the opposite hill. General Forrest and his aides were also there watching the action. The general and escorts rode back over the crest of the hill while Grandpa remained on top. Suddenly a cannon ball was fired from the opposite hill and cut his horse's head off. The cannon ball continued to rumble on, bumping the ground ever-so-often.
"The Confederate cavalry owned their own horses, so the rideless soldier stayed around until he received payment of two hundred seventy-five dollars for the mare and until payday. He then walked home, from Georgia I believe, to his home near Lewisburg, Tennessee. After getting another horse he returned to his outfit.
"The word "deserted" as appears on his war record does not have the same meaning as we think of it today. Out of expediency he simply went home to get a horse. Emergency leave, I think, would be more appropriate, but I'm sure during the Civil War emergency leaves or furloughs were unheard of. For more proof of his actions, I have his Discharge, a "Parole." The Confederate soldiers were not discharged because they lost the war and were paroled by the Northern forces. This parole states that he is the rightful owner of his horse. I also have the record for the payment of the horse that was killed in action. These records that I obtained from the General Services Administration, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., coincide with the stories Grandpa told me many years ago. The use of words, a procedure of the way things were done then seem strange to us today, but I'm sure things that we say and do will seem strange to people a hundred or more years from now.
"Grandpa was a great lover of horses and rode until he was in this eighties."
Allen Polk Doggett enlisted as a private in Lewisburg, Tennessee, November, 1862, in Company E, 11th (Holman's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA. He later served as a private in Company K, 22nd (Nixon's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA. In his pension application he says he participated in the battles of Fort Donalson, Murfreesboro, Franklin and several others. His regiment surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama, May 4, 1865, and was paroled at Gainesville, Alabama May 11, 1865. He was awarded Tennessee Confederate pension S16122 in 1927 for his service. The incident regarding the decapitated horse occurred at Town Creek, Alabama, 25 April, 1864. He was reimbursed $275 for the deceased horse.
(Submitted by: Aubrey C. Doggett, Houston, TX (July 2004) [email protected] )
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