Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War

Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War

October 7th, 2018 by Frank "Mickey" Robbins in Opinion Columns

"The Wit & Wisdom of Sam Divine" gives a look at Chattanooga during the Civil War by a well-known resident. Below are some excerpts:

"Fortunes of war placed me in a position where I was an eyewitness of the battle of Lookout Mountain, Orchard Knob and Mission Ridge. I was close enough to hear the guns of Chickamauga, and as I lay in my bed, between midnight and daylight, I heard the rattle of musketry in the night attack on the Confederate pickets by [Union Gen. Joe] Hooker's men preparatory to the storming of Lookout Mountain.

"The famous Moccasin battery was just across the river from us and I could hear every shot and see the flash of every gun when awake, and mark the explosion of every shell. I saw the retreating Confederates as they evacuated the town, and the advance column of the Union army following close upon their heels.

This photo of young businessman Samuel Williams Divine was taken shortly after the Civil War.

This photo of young businessman Samuel Williams Divine...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"Then after a lapse of a few days, I saw that grand army in full retreat from Chickamauga, falling back before the victorious Confederates, who notwithstanding their victory, were too exhausted to take advantage of it.

"On Monday after the battle we found ourselves in the midst of a great army of [Union] invaders, fresh from defeat in the hands of the enemy — without protection or necessities of life, not a mouthful to eat in the house.

"While huddled together on the front porch, watching the marching and counter-marching of troops and batteries of artillery as they galloped to positions in the line of defense, expecting every moment an attack from Bragg's advancing army, a colonel rode up and saluting, said to my mother: 'Madam, we are expecting an engagement here at any moment, and your house will perhaps be in the midst of a bloody battle before the day is over. It would be absolute destruction to yourself and children to remain in the house. I will send an ambulance and have you removed to safe position.'

"My mother said: 'Colonel, we have no place to go and nothing to eat, and besides everything we have is in this house; won't you let us remain here till the last moment?'

"'Very well,' he said, 'I will wait till further developments and at the first sign of hostilities I will have you taken out of danger, and in the meantime I will send you a trustworthy man from my regiment as guard.'

"In almost 30 minutes a tall, well-built magnificent specimen of manhood in blue uniform, with gun, knapsack and haversack with two day rations appeared at the door and said he had been ordered by his colonel to report for guard duty. That was one Yankee we were glad to welcome to our house.

"'All right,' he said, 'I've got some bacon and hardtack here and I'll divide up with you.'

Read more Chattanooga History Columns

"Well, the Confederates didn't attack and so we did not have to leave, but our guard stayed with us until the morning of the battle of Mission Ridge. His regiment was encamped across the railroad from the house, just a few hundred yards away. He received orders to join his regiment a few minutes before they formed for the attack on Mission Ridge.

"I watched the battle from the roof of our house and went out over the battlefield the next morning, before the killed and wounded were removed, among whom was our soldier guard, who my mother found in the hospital with his right arm amputated which had been shattered by a rebel bullet.

"As a boy I made many warm friends among the Union soldiers, and it would be a pleasure to meet them again. There was a company camped in the orchard joining our house, and there was a particular mess to which I was warmly attached. I made it a point to be on hand at dinner time and frequently spent the night in camp.

"If this should come to the eyes of any who remember the two-story frame yellow house that faced the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad, with two rows of maples and a large wild cherry tree in the front on a line between Lookout Mountain and Fort Negley [at today's East 17th Street], just on the inside of the outer trenches and not far from the picket line, will also remember a small boy and his goat."

Frank "Mickey" Robbins, an investment adviser at Patten and Patten, is a vice president of National Park Partners, a 501C3 champion of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. For more visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.

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