April 11 — Two guns went on picket. This forenoon an oily-tongued regular talking machine in the shape of a sandy-haired Yankee appeared in our camp, handing himself around in a bold, loquacious, and exhibitory manner as a deserter from the Yankee army. He represents himself to be a sugar merchant from New Orleans, and was in Chicago selling sugar when the war broke out. The reason he gave for joining the Yankee army was that they are very strict in the North about Southern men coming through the lines, and he adopted the method of joining the army and then deserting when the first opportunity presented itself, as the surest way with the least inconvenience and danger to get back to Dixie. He wound up his fluent little speech by saying that he had seen all he wanted to see in the Yankee army, and was tired of war, anyhow, and now he wants to see what the Southern army is made of. A nicely put up little job, Mr. Talking Machine, but a wee bit too thin. He came to our camp riding a splendidly equipped cavalry horse, and while he was talking at greased lightning speed he fortuitously, with regular Yankee shrewdness, called attention to his horse and its equipments of splendid bridle and saddle, and said he knew where there were one hundred Yankee horses similarly equipped that could be captured without much risk or danger, and that if he could get a hundred Rebels to go with him to-night he would pilot them through the lines and insure them a hundred Yankee horses safe in the Rebel lines to-morrow morning.
It seems that he came to our company on a special errand, and after delivering a few nice little speeches, he said, “Is Mose Faris a member of this company?” The question was answered in the affirmative, as Moses Faris is a member of our battery, and was present. Then the talking machine said, “Come here, Mose,” then taking off his hat he turned the lining down and showed Mr. Faris a card, and asked, “Do you know this handwriting?” Mr. Faris recognized the handwriting at once as that of his sister, who lives in Illinois. Then the sugar merchant said, “That is right, Mose,” and took Mr. Faris aside and had a conversation with him, the topic of which will perhaps remain a secret.
This afternoon I saw the deserter riding around through the cavalry camp with Colonel Ashby, and I heard him say that he wanted to see Stonewall Jackson, of whom he has heard so much of late, and wanted to see his army and his headquarters.
I heard Captain Chew say that if he had his way he would not allow the Yankee deserter to ride freely all over our camps and openly acquire all the information that the most zealous spy could desire. Chew believed that he was a spy, for I heard him say so.