February 13, 2009
There is no doubt that, even in the middle of the Civil War, many a good ol’ country boy prank was played amongst friends. One such prank from some 140 years ago was well documented in the October 1894 issue of “Confederate Veteran Magazine.” Well, uh, it was a prank, but it wasn’t necessarily the “boys” that were the major players… but to the heart of the story…
An 18 year-old farm boy and native of St. Joseph, Tensas Parish, Louisiana at the opening of the Civil War, Benjamin Drake Guice originally enlisted with Company D, 6th Louisiana Infantry on June 4, 1861 at Camp Moore, Louisiana. By September 1862, Guice was on the sick call list and sometime after that, had parted company his Louisiana comrades. On January 13, 1863, Guice enlisted in Co. D, 7th Virginia Cavalry (“Massanutten Rangers”) in Luray.
In a letter dated August 10, 1894, Guice recalled a humorous tale of being in Page County with some Page County comrades
I went one night in company with a comrade to call on some young ladies, and as the country at that time was infested with the boys in blue, we agreed to stand guard alternately while the other fellow went in and chatted the young ladies, and I noticed, too, that my comrade was very willing for me to take the first turn in the house, although he acknowledged he was as hungry as a wolf. I was very much in love with one of the young ladies of the house, and I thought that she reciprocated. When I walked into the house my best girl met me at the door and took me into the parlor. I asked the question, ‘Where are your sisters?’ She said they had gone to a neighbor’s to stay all night. I was pleased with that, for, as my comrade’s best girl was gone, he would not object to standing guard all the time.
‘Now, Ben,’ said my lady love, ‘I have been looking for you to drop in to night, and I have ready the nicest supper I could prepare; so just give me those cumbersome pistols that you may eat with some pleasure.’
I had left my saber in the saddle. ‘No, I thank you Miss Nannie. I cannot part with my pistols: there are too many yanks around here.’ But her bright eyes and lovely smiles disarmed me. She just wanted ‘to have the honor of holding them’ while I ate my supper, but she slipped my pistols in a sideboard drawer and turned the key on them.
As I finished a good supper two blue coats opened a door on one side of me, and two entered by another door behind me, and all four of them leveled their pistols at me and commanded me to surrender. To make the matter more real, my girl threw herself on her knees at my feet, put up her hands to the Yankees, and begged piteously for them not to shoot me, and one of the bluecoats said, ‘Well, Miss, for your sake we will not shoot him, but you must be responsible for his good behavior while we eat our supper.’ Then one of them said: ‘Your arms, sir, quick!’
One of them leveled a pistol at me and said: ‘No fooling now, Johnny; give up your arms.’ And then Miss Nannie said: ‘O Mr. Yankee, please do not shoot him! I will get his arms for you.’ And off to the sideboard she flew to get my arms. During this stage performance my comrade stood on the outside on the gallery looking through the window. I saw that he was shaking his sides with laughter, and in a second it occurred to me that I was not being taken prisoner by real Yankees; so I made a break for him, running over the Yankees; but he knew what was coming, and jumped off the gallery, and hid. By the time I got back to the dining room the Yankees had disappeared, and my best girl met me with a smile and said: ‘Forgive me, Ben; the girls forced me into this.’ I told her she had better take to the stage, for it was the best ‘forced’ performance I had ever witnessed. The Yankees were her sisters and a young lady neighbor, who had dressed themselves up in Yankee uniforms and laid a trap to capture me. I very coolly told my best girl that she could have made the capture without any assistance whatsoever.
There is but one of those girls living to-day, and my comrade too has crossed over the river, but many persons yet living in Page Valley remember it well, for it was many a long day before I heard the last of it. The boys used to try to tease me about the matter. I would turn them away with the remark that I would not give a cent for a soldier who would not surrender to four pretty girls.
On a more somber note, a year before writing this recollection, Guice had submitted a query to the same magazine requesting to hear from another former comrade from the Page County company. Isaac A. “Ike” Gaines, was however, like Guice, from a Louisiana Infantry regiment, perhaps even Guice’s old company, and had enlisted with Guice in Luray.
In September 1865, on my way to my home in Tensas Parish, La., from the Army of Northern Virginia, I parted on the wharf at Memphis, Tenn., from my old comrade, Ike Gaines . . . and since then have never heard a word from him. I have written letters of inquiry to several newspapers, but to no effect, and now write this to you with the hopes that some one will see it that knows or knew him, and tell me of his whereabouts or of his fate. It would afford me much pleasure to hear from him, as we went through many hard struggles and trials together.
A detailed postwar roster by Page County Confederate veterans stated that Gaines may have had the surname “Gainous” and had, in fact, served with a Louisiana Infantry regiment prior to his time with the Page County unit. Sadly, the same source of information on Gainous also revealed the possible reason why Guice had not been able to reach his old comrade. Apparently, after his release from the wharf at Memphis, Gainous “on [his] way home was killed by Yankees.”
A postwar resident of Natchez and Woodville, Mississippi, there is no indication that Guice ever learned the fate of his old comrade. A member of Camp No. 20, United Confederate Veterans in Woodville, Mississippi, Guice died on October 6, 1922 in Natchez, Mississippi.
This article, written by Robert H. Moore, II for his “Heritage and Heraldry” column, originally appeared in a November 2002 issue of the Page News & Courier (Luray, Va.).