War of the Rebellion: Serial 021 Page 0020 W. FLA., S. ALA., S. MISS., LA., TEX., N. MEX. Chapter XXVII.

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manding, that, pursuant to his instructions, I proceeded at 6 p.m. on the evening of the 7th, with eight companies of the Thirtieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers and one section of Nims' battery (joined afterward near Laycock's plantation by two companies of the Fourth Wisconsin Regiment, under Captain Bailey) to George Keller's plantation, located on the Benton Ferry road. On arriving at the forks of the road (one leading to Castle's house) I detached three companies, under Major H. O. Whittemore, with instructions to surround the house and secure the person of Castle, or any other party that might be found of a suspicious character, but with positive instructions not to burn or destroy the premises, as it would create an alarm in the front, which I had previously guarded against by throwing out a small scout, under Lieutenant Norcross, Thirtieth Massachusetts Volunteers, who performed this duty in a most creditable manner. I reached Penny's plantation about 11 p.m. This place is located about 7 1/2 miles from the city, on the north side. Captain Kelty, Thirtieth Massachusetts Volunteers, deployed his company as skirmishers and closed a line of men entirely around the house before the inmates were aware of his approach. The overseer of Penny's plantation, who was found on the premises, was made a prisoner, and is now in charge of the guard. I am informed that he has been out once or twice with Hunter's company. I left Captain Bailey and two companies of the Fourth Wisconsin Regiment as a guard to what stock and property were found here,, with orders to detach one company and proceed himself in command to Johnston's estate, about 1 mile to the rear of Penny's, where both Penny and Castle were seen some eight hours previous, while I proceeded with the balance of the command to Keller's plantation, about 4 miles farther. So quietly did the troops move out that the arrival of the advance guard was entirely unexpected by the inmates of the house. Not finding the party I was ordered to arrest, after making a thorough search of all the out-buildings and grounds, I placed a close line of sentinels around the house and negro huts, and ordered the command to bivouac outside of the house grounds in a cotton field until daylight.

I found the wife of Keller her father and mother, daughter, and two young ladies at the residence. I commenced collecting all the live stock I could find on the premises. I found about 10 head of horses, a few mules, about 60 head of beeves, carriage, &c., all of which I brought to town. Out of consideration for the presence of ladies I did not destroy the dwelling, kitchen or pantry building; all others I either burnt or tore down, except the cotton-gin, which contained 30 bales of cotton. The fences I burnt; the ornamental trees I either cut down or destroyed. This, the most painful duty of my military life, I executed in the most delicate manner I possibly could, first tendering the ladies an escort and transportation to the next plantation before I commenced the destruction of anything belonging to the estate, which was declined in anything but a kindly style. I did not allow any of the enlisted men to enter the dwelling. I permitted Mrs. Keller and each of the family to select as many servants as they desired left them, three horses, and seven cows, which they expressed a desire for. I am positive that not the first article of the personal property of either of the ladies was touched or brought away. The father-in-law of Keller admitted that all I took away or destroyed was the sole property of Keller, and added that he had predicted such a result by the recent conduct of Keller.

At 6.30 a.m. I took up line of march; was joined by Major Whittemore's detachment about 2 miles from Penny's estate; proceeded to the letter's plantation, when Captain Bailey reported his failure to arrest