Southern Claims Petition of
Absalom Selcer

Transcribed and Submitted by David W. Cox
davidwcox@bellsouth.net

 

 

Deposition of

Absalom Selcer

before the Commissioners of Claims

July 1, 1870

Chattanooga, Tennessee
 

The following are answers to questions regarding a claim filed by Absalom Selcer of Falling Water, Tennessee, for

payment for items taken from his farm by units of the US Army during the Civil War. Although these are only his

answers (I not having a copy of the questions) they are quite revealing of what life was like in Hamilton County

during the war. I have omitted all answers that were simply one line such as, “I was not”, being of no use to us since

we do not know of the question. Any word not recognizable is represented with several question marks. The

following represents 14 legal size pages of handwritten text. Each paragraph break represents an answer to a

question.

Respectfully submitted in honor of my

great great great grandfather Absalom Selcer

by David W. Cox, Chattanooga

May 15, 2008

 

In 1861 and to the 1st of August 1862 I resided eleven miles North of Chattanooga on the

Washington Road in Hamilton County Tennessee. I resided on my own land. The farm that I

resided on up to August 1862 and that I now live on I have owned the land ever since 1854.

There are one hundred and fifteen acres of it about forty five acres was creek bottom land and

was cultivated, - the rest of this horse farm was orchard and woodland.

 

In August 1862 I went to the Federal Army at Battle Creek in Marion County Tennessee across

Waldens Ridge from where I lived. I went with the Federal army to Nashville. I did not return to

my house till about the 14th day of September 1863. My house where my family had remained

all this time was on the North Side of the Tennessee River and was this time and from this time

to the end of the war in the possession of the United States. While with the Federal Army I was

employed while at Murfreesboro as Brigade Forage Master for General James G. Spears Brigade

known as the 3rd Brigade 3rd Division 14th Army Corps. After about six weeks when the Brigade

was removed to Carthage Tenn and I was left at Murfreesboro when able I went to Nashville -

then I went to Bowling Green Kentucky and then to Louisville and remained at Louisville from

Sept. 1863 till I heard that the Federal army had possession of the North side of the River in

Hamilton County Tennessee. I then returned home. I remained at home till about the 20th of

August 1864 when I went to work to help to raise Co. A. of the 6th Tenn Mounted Infantry. I

was mustered in as 1st Lieutenant of Co. A. about the 26th Oct 1864. I served as Lieutenant of

said company till March 1865 when I was promoted the Captainy of the same Co. I served as

Captain till the 10th of June 1865.

 

After I passed out of the rebels lines I did not enter there any more except as a soldier of the

United States.

 

At one time when arrested and brought by the Rebels to Chattanooga after being detained for

some time under duress and compulsion I took some sort of an oath and gave a bond of some

sort for my good behavior and was then permitted to go home.

 

I took the amnesty oath at Chattanooga after proving my loyalty to the United States in order to

get the money for some vouchers I had for corn taken by the Federal army. I had never done

anything to require a pardon from the President.

 

I was justice of the Peace when the State was declared Separated from the United States but

when the Confederate States required me to take an oath to support the Constitution of the

Confederate States I refused to take it, and have not been justice since.

 

I never was in any way employed in the Confederate Service nor in the Service of any state

under their authority Nor in home guards or anything of that sort. Nor did I ever give any

information to any officers or soldiers of the Confederate States in any way.

I was arrested some three other times besides the time named in my answer to the second

interrogatory but I never took any oath or gave any bond except that one time. These other times

after being detained a day or two at Chattanooga I was dismissed without giving any pledge or

obligation. I was never arrested by the United States government or any person professing to act

for them.

 

In 1862 about July I had three head of horses taken by the rebels under the command of Capt

Carter- at the same time they took two saddles- John Morgans Rebel Command took from me

upwards of three hundred bushels of corn and a large quantity of fodder. I never received any

pay for any of this property.

 

I was often threatened for my union sentiments. Morgans men threatened to hang me from an

oak tree in my horse lot. I was threatened at other times and was molested by being arrested

again and again and having my property taken whenever the Rebels chose to take it.

When Col. Clift was attempting to hold this country with union militia or troops I contributed

provisions- a gun and all the ammunition I could get- I did not contribute much else except my

services for when I got back to my farm I had but little personal property left, even to support my

family

 

I have tried to state above what I did for the Union cause in the army of the United States.

I had one son in the federal army and one in the Confederate. The son that was in the

Confederate army was living at Chattanooga & was about nineteen or twenty years of age. After

I left home and went through the Federal lines he made an effort to get through them too but the

squad failed to meet and he did not get off. He would have gone through the lines with me but

was sick & could not go. Before he got another opportunity to go through the lines, he was

either conscripted or forced to enter the Confederate service to avoid conscription. He never got

an opportunity to escape & was left in their service till the close of the war. His name was

William Selcer and he died in 1866. I did not contribute anything to his support in any way. I

was within the federal lines when he was taken away and never saw him till the close of the war.

I never owned any Confederate bonds nor interest in loans, nor did I ever contribute to the aid of

the credit of the Confederate States. I never gave any aid or comfort to the Rebellion.

 

I was a first Lieutenant & then Captain of Co. A. 6th Tennessee Mounted Infantry in the Union

army and was for a short time Forage master of General Spears Brigade.

I received a pass from John L. Divin of Chattanooga acting as Provost Marshall the time I was

arrested and brought to Chattanooga and detained for several days. This pass was to allow me to

go home. I have stated what I remember about that pass.

At the beginning of the Rebellion I sympathized with the Union . My feelings and my language

was on that side. My influence was on that side. I voted each time against Separation from the

United States. There was no ratification or rejection allowed us. I adhered to the Union and let

the State go.

 

In conclusion I solemnly declare that from the beginning of hostilities against the United States

to the end thereof I sympathized with the United States and that I never of my own free will and

accord did anything or sought or attempted to do anything by word or deed to injure said cause

or retard its sweep and that I was at all times ready and willing when called upon or if called

upon to aid and assist the cause of the Union or its supporters so far as my means or power and

the circumstances of the cause permitted.

 

On the subject of property the articles are as follows-

I was present when part of the articles wear taken. I saw most of the hay taken. I saw the horse

taken and got a receipt for him from Captain Herring 39th Indiana Mounted Infantry. I saw the

most of the hogs taken. I saw the cow after she was slaughtered and a portion of the beef taken

away. I saw the most of the sheep killed. I saw all, or the most of the goats taken. I saw the sweet

potatoes taken. I saw most of the cabbage taken. I saw the four bushels of wheat taken and fed

to the soldiers’ horses on the premises. I saw the fence rails burnt. The hay was hauled away in

their forage wagons just after the Chickamauga battle in Sept. 1863. I estimate the five tons of

hay both from the land it grew upon, also from the bulk of it where it was put up. There were

three acres in grass and about six acres in clover and the army got all the hay that was mown

from these nine acres. It was cheap at twenty dollars a ton. It was good hay well cured and the

troops in hauling it off said they needed it for hospital purposes.

 

Receipts were given me for a part of this hay but I have lost them. They have never been paid

for. The hay was in a twenty feet square barn. Two rooms in the barn about twenty feet square

and the hay in one of the parts was about six feet deep and the other would have averaged from

six to seven feet deep. They also filled to two feet square bails stacks about eight feet high and

two stable lofts twelve by sixteen feet and about five to six feet to where the slant of the roof

began and were each full to the ???? but one of the stable lofts had oats in the sheaf to the depth

of two or three feet which oats were also taken and are estimated in this claim as hay.

The horse was taken from a place called my upper place. I followed after him and found him in

the company commanded by Capt. Herring. The Capt. gave me a receipt for the horse stating

that they must have the horse for the use of the army and could not let me have him back. Capt.

Herring commanded Co. D. 39 Regt Indiana Mounted Infantry which receipt has been filed in

the office of the Quartermaster General U.S.A. with a claim here to for filed for this horse and

other property which is undisposed of and to which reference is here made as a part of the

evidence in this case.

 

The hogs were taken from my farm alive and hauled off towards Chattanooga. The wagons

came from towards Chattanooga got the hogs and started back towards Chattanooga. There was

an officer along who claimed to be a forage Master and said the hogs was needed at the hospital

camp that they were short of provisions & were obliged to have them. He told me where to

come and get a voucher for them at the Hospital camp. I went a few days after but could not find

him but was then and there informed that the Quartermaster had removed his Head Quarters to

Chattanooga. There were four wagons and it was shortly after the battle of Chickamauga. Three of these 24 hogs were taken by a Regiment of Regulars commanded by a Col. McIntosh or McIntyre called, I think, the 4th Regular Cavalry.

 

These three hogs were taken away in a wagon. I spoke to the officer in command of the

Regiment about taking the hogs and he said they were obliged to have them whether I was loyal

or disloyal. These three were taken in December 1864.

I am satisfied these hogs would have averaged one hundred and twenty pounds each. The first

Twenty one head of hogs taken were worth from six to eight cents per pound. The last three

named were worth at that time from eight to ten cents per pound and were not to be had at any

price.

 

The cow was in a field near my farm. A neighbor named F. A. Jackson seeing them killing her

sent me word. I went and they had taken the hind quarters and gone to their camp which was

about six miles from my house. Myself and neighbors used the balance of the beef. The two

hind quarters would have weighed about one hundred and eighty pounds and beef was worth six

cents per pound. This was about Dec, 1863

 

The sheep was taken from my house. There were seven of them. They were taken by forage

trains. One of the forage trains was known as Ed Bakers Train. Part of them were killed and

eaten by the soldiers with the trains. Four of them were brought to Chattanooga. This was in the

fall of 1863 after the battle of Chickamauga. They were fat and were worth three dollars each.

There were eleven head of these goats. They would have weighed twenty five or thirty pounds

each. They were taken just after the Chickamauga battle from my house. They were killed,

gutted and carried as the men said to the hospital camp about two miles from Chattanooga on the

north side of the river. They were cheap at a dollar each.

 

The sweet potatoes were ripe and ready for digging. There were about seventeen hundred and

sixty hills. The ground was rich and the potatoes good and Claimant is satisfied that they yielded

upwards of a hundred bushels and were worth one dollar per bushel. These potatoes were taken

by a Brigade commanded by Col. Minty camped about half a mile from my house.

I went to Col. Minty’s camp to see about taking these potatoes. He told me that his men were out

of rations and were compelled to have something to eat. This was a few days before the Rebel

General Wheeler burnt the Federal Wagon Train at the foot of Cumberland Mountain in 1863.

Col. Minty was moving to try to intercept him. They dug these seventeen humdred and sixty hills

clean.

 

The two hundred head of cabbage were cut and carried away by the forage train about the time

of the battle of Chickamauga. The wheat was fed to their trains for want of other feed when the

forage train was going further up the valley for forage. The wheat was worth two dollars per

bushel. Soon after this I had to give three dollars a bushel for corn and haul it about forty miles.

 

There were upwards of three thousand fence rails burnt. Two thousand of them were burnt by

Lieut Col commanding the 23rd Kentucky Regt. Infantry. This Regiment camped on my farm one

cold night in the winter of 1863-4. The remainder of the rails were burnt by wagon and forage

trains during that same winter. The rails were good sound rails and worth three dollars per

hundred.

 

What I have testified to above is what I saw and know of my own knowledge and is my best

estimate and judgement upon what was taken. The remainder of the articles in the claim I know I

had and they were gone after certain bodies of soldiers came but I must depend on other

witnesses to prove them.

All of the property that I have testified about was taken in the daytime and no part of this claim

has been paid except three dollars and fifty cents towards the rails for which a credit is given.