The Story of a Gourd Head

     What caused me to construct a “gourd head” is more than I care to explain, unless it was suggested by his Satanic majesty. As to how I utilized it read and see. One day in the winter of 1863 I found, near camps, a long-handle gourd about the size of a man’s head, and out of such material as I could command I covered it, dressed it with hair from beef tails, etc., until, at a short distance, it resembled somewhat a man’s head. Before it was perfected I was detailed to go on out-post duty, and took my masked gourd with me, intending to give it the finishing touches. At this date the pickets of the two contending armies would at times discover and hail each other, exchange newspapers, swap coffee for tobacco, or visa verse – pass a few not unfriendly words, then each go his way without attempting to take the life of the other.

     On the day above alluded to I was stationed beside a fallen tree, near the edge of a river swamp. About an hour after I had taken my position I saw a “blue coat” stealthily gliding along through the undergrowth of the swamp, and when within 100 yards of me, I hailed him with “Hello, yank, who are you looking for?” He sprang behind a tree and answered, “Looking for you, Johnny Reb. Have you got any tobacco to trade for coffee?” I replied that I had, but we had not conversed long until I discovered that the yank was somewhat nervous, and I watched him closely, though neither of us had made any hostile demonstrations. Suddenly he raised his gun to his face, and just as suddenly I ducked behind the log. And now I felt that both of us could not get away alive, and determined to get my work in first. After a few moments suspense I thought of my masked gourd, and placing my hat upon it raised it above the log high enough to seem to peep over. Bang, went yank’s gun, and a minnie bullet pierced the gourd, and it fell by my side. I remained perfectly quiet, feeling assured that he would soon come to relieve my dead body of my tobacco. In a short time I heard him coming. The “old scratch” whispered to me “Now is your time,” but something else whispered, “Don’t kill him, it would be murder; take him prisoner.” I knew that his gun was empty, and that I had every advantage of him, so I raised up and presented to his breast my cocked rifle. I never beheld such a look of surprise. He stood within 10 feet of me, motionless, it seemed breathless. I ordered him to drop his gun, come round to my side of the log and take a seat on the ground. He obeyed without any hesitation, and when he was seated I pointed at the gourd. He stared at the gourd then at me, and seeing me smile he dryly remarked, “Well I’ll be d—-d!” After a few moments reflection he again spoke, “You have outyanked me Johnny, but I hope you will not let me be sent to Andersonville.” I inquired of him his name and residence, when he informed me, John Hall, of Columbus, Ohio. I asked him if he had relatives living in Texas, and he replied that his uncle moved from Ohio to Texas about twenty years before, and when last heard from was living near Leesburg. I felt interested and inquired what he knew about his uncle’s family. He mentioned the names of the children, and among them George Hall, about his own age, who was his favorite cousin and playmate when they were boys in Ohio. I then told him that he had just attempted to murder his cousin George. “I am George Hall!” Pale and trembling, he exclaimed, “O my God, can this be true?” and wept like a child. I then told him that he was free, exchanged “baccar for coffee” with him, but kept his gun and ammunition. He insisted that I should what greenbacks he had to buy me another hat in place of the one he had spoiled with a bullet from his Enfield. He explained that his reason for firing was that he thought it his only chance to save his own life, thinking I would shoot him the first opportunity. He disappeared in the river swamp, and I saw him no more until after the war, but Cousin John is now my Texas neighbor, votes Democrat ticket, and is the best friend I have on earth.

From: Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume I., No. 8., August, 1893, Page 239