Letter Written by Robert Leander “Coon” Dunman






I had just celebrated my nineteenth birthday in February, 1862, when I enlisted at Houston, Tex., to serve the Southland and was assigned to Company K, 8th Texas Cavalry, better known as “Terry’s Texas Rangers.’ The following month I left with my brother, A. M. (Dick) Dunman, to join our regiment, which was already east of the Mississippi River. We reached our destination just after the battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862. I served throughout the duration of the war, being twice wounded, each time being shot “clear through.” The first wound was received on August 20, 1864, at East Point, Ga., when I was shot through he thigh. The incidents leading up to this event were as follows:


I was on a scouting party with three comrades. The four of us were riding along together when we were suddenly started by the appearance of a thousand foemen within twenty feet of us, who had risen up from behind rocks, trees and logs. They called to us “four horsemen” to halt! For reply we stuck spurs to our mounts and began shooting with our six—shooters, putting as much distance between the enemy and ourselves as it was possible to do, without thought of dignity or decorum. We headed for a line which we hoped would carry us to safety. Somehow I got cut off from the lane, while the rest of the party escaped. I found myself by the side of a rail fence with the enemy in hot pursuit. I jumped off my horse, turned him loose, and struck him with my whip as he started in the direction my companions had gone. I ran down a gully or dry wash, where I remained until my pursuers were well out of sight. It was not until that time that I discovered I had been wounded——shot clear through the thigh. I pulled off my boot and found it full of blood. A little while later I saw my companions coming back to look for me. I could see that they approached cautiously, fearing another surprise. In fun, I called to them to “halt.” They quickly recognized me, however, and came up to me leading my horse, which I found had also been wounded by the same bullet that struck me. The bullet, after through thigh, penetrated the saddle and had gone back into the back of the animal. Wounded as I was, I succeeded in getting over the rail fence and climbed up behind Al Walker of Gonzales, Tex., a nephew of Al Walker Sr., who was in the commission business in St. Louis for many years after the war.


My wound proved to be a very serious affair, and I was laid up for about six months. The assistant surgeon who treated me was Dr. Hill, from Austin, Tex. When I was able to be around a bit on crutches, the doctor sent me to his sister, a Mrs. Williamson, who lived at Griffin, Ga., and sent his negro man, Crockett, along with me. Mrs. William­son was a widow with two daughters, one about grown named Susan, the younger one about fifteen years old. I had not been long in the Williamson house­hold when we learned that the enemy was in battle at Jonesboro, not far from Griffin. Mrs. William­son became alarmed and decided to get to her par­ents, who live in Oglethorpe, so I was taken along with the family furniture.


Her father, who was a veteran of the battle of New Orleans, was named Oglethorpe, and the town of Oglethorpe, Ga. was named for him. I was treated with great kindness in this Southern home, and I recall many pleasurable as well as funny incidents which occurred during my stay there. One Sunday, in company with the two young ladies, I attended a Methodist camp meeting. The preacher had stirred his congregation to a fervid heat, and some of the more emotional ones commenced to shout and fall about over the seats. I was on crutches and was unable to get out to a place of safety. I backed into a corner and used of my crutches as a means of defense to protect my wounded leg from the on­slaughts of the frenzied shouters.


After six months I was about recovered from my wound and began making preparations to return to my company. Before I left the Oglethorpe home, how­ever, my host had his Negroes spin thread out of which they wove the cloth to make me a uniform. Miss Susan Williamson took the cloth to a tailor in Oglethorpe and had a brand new, perfect fitting uniform made for me. I then joined my company at Rome, Ga.


The second wound I received was on February 4, 1865, while in a skirmish at Barkers Crossroads, S.C., at which time I was shot in the shoulder, the bullet coming out just above the shoulder blade. This also caused me to be laid up for some time for “repairs.”


I was destined to become one of the original members of Shannon’s Scouts, and it may be of inte­rested to relate here an incident which led up to the origin of this organization.


That memorable day in 1864 when Sherman s army on its famous march to the sea, had shelled Atlan­ta, Gen. (John B.] Hood requested the colonel of our regiment (Col. Tom Harrison, 8th Texas] to select an officer and pick men for a special de­tail. This detail consisted of penetrating Sher­man’s lines for the purpose of examining the bat­tery which had been used to shell Atlanta that day. Colonel Harrison selected Capt. A. M. Shannon, of Galveston, with the request that he pick his own men for this detail. He accordingly chose Lew Compton, of Company C; Bill Kyle, of Company I, and myself, of Company K. We each donned Yankee breeches as our only disguise, and under the friendly cover of darkness we went through Sher­man’s lines. After completing to our satisfaction the examination of the battery, we went up and down the lines, taking a horse apiece from among those we found tethered there -- and you may be sure we each made good selections! We made our way out through a cornfield. The corn was in the roasting ear stage, sufficiently tall for us to keep pretty well hidden by it from the sight of the enemy. As we walked through the corn, each man kept well concealed behind his horse, letting him browse past the sentries until we were safely out of sight. Then we mounted our newly acquired steeds and rode them back to headquarters. This detail of Captain Shannon and his three picked men was the origin of “Shannon’ s Scouts.


On another occasion Shannon’s Scouts (there were eighteen of us in this party) ran into a brigade of Yanks. We were quite as much surprised as they were, but rather than let them discover our weakness in number, we began yelling and shooting as we came, making enough noise and bedlam for several times our number. We had approached from the rear, and they evidently thought the entire Confederate army was after them, for they started to run and kept on going through three miles of thick underbrush before they stopped! That was one time when “bluff” probably saved our hides!


It was a cavalryman’s business to keep mounted, and we had to be a pretty resourceful bunch of young fellows to do this. If our horses were shot  from under us, we usually “managed” to get another one! As a cavalryman I was never compelled to walk but one day during the entire war! While fighting around Knoxville, my horse was killed, and I had to walk from Knoxville to Kingston, Tenn., a distance of about twenty five or thirty miles. I reached Kingston with feet badly blistered. Blistered feet, however, were a negligible quantity compared to the many greater hardships the Southern army suffered. I recall that in February 1863, a brigade, composed of the 8th and 11th Texas, 3rd Arkansas, and 4th Tennessee were sent to capture Fort Donelson. We were in the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee and the snow was three feet deep. Six of our men froze to death on this trip. We were just about to take Fort Donelson when enemy gunboats came up the Tennessee River and opened fire, cutting from the trees along the banks limbs as large as man’s body. We were forced to retire, but before we did so, we captured six pieces of artillery. These were rifled pieces known as “Parrott” guns. With these captured guns as a nucleus, there was then organized from our regiment an artillery company Lieutenant Pugh as captain of battery. These “Parrott” guns, however, were too heavy to carry along with a company of cavalry, so we traded them to the Confederate government for four little howitzers. Each of these howitzers was drawn by four horses attached to it.


After we retired from this engagement at Fort Donelson, we went into winter camp on the Duck River at Shelbyville, Tenn. Here I was stricken with pneumonia and lay in a tent (in February weather) for four or five weeks without any medical attention whatever. My diet consisted mostly of whisky and eggs. The commissary furnished the whisky, and my brother, Dick Dunman, who was my nurse, “rustled” the eggs. And I’ll say, too, that I never lacked for eggs! All of which goes to prove that the Southern soldier was “resourceful” in more ways than one from supplying himself with a mount, to securing fresh eggs for breakfast! We remained in camp at Shelbyville until Sherman’s army came down in the spring of 1864. That same night Shannon’s Scouts started from Nashville. We had supplied ourselves with horses and rode to the enemy’s line. There we saw about five hundred head of cattle in a pen, sufficient to furnish enemy ra­tions for many days to come. As we could not take the cattle along with us, we did the next best thing we could think of, and that was to open the gate and let them all out!


There were six brothers of us and one cousin (Joe Dunman), who was reared in one family, who entered the Southern army about the same time. My brother Henry went with Terry’s Rangers when they first left Texas. he got sick and was sent home. Later he joined Green’s Brigade and was killed at the battle of Mansfield, La., in April, 1864. A younger brother, Sol, and my cousin Joe, were killed the next day at Pleasant Hill, La., fighting General Banks’s army. Another brother, Daniel, died in 1865 after returning home from the war. Out of the seven of us who went away, only three were left.


In 1866 I was married to Miss Lu E. Winfree, of Liberty County, Tex., and last October we celebrat­ed our fifty sixth anniversary. We have four chil­dren living, two girls and two boys, three of whom reside near us, and one daughter lives in California­.   Our eldest daughter passed away in South Amer­ica nearly two years ago.


(In sending this article to the VETERAN, Com­rade Dunman’s daughter writes that just a few days ago he celebrated his eightieth birthday. She adds: “He is unusually young looking, active, and his head is covered with a heavy thatch of hair, as brown to—day as it was in the sixties. He takes a daily ride on his pony, cantering as briskly as he did forty years ago. My father has been a thirty second degree mason for more than forty years. He is a pioneer resident of Coleman, Tex., moving there in 1879 from South Texas. He amassed a for­tune in cattle and lands, but business reverses swept it away, and with the courage of a true Southern soldier he demonstrated his ability to come back, and to—day lives in peace and comfort, enjoying the fruits of a full life and family.”)

From Confederate Veteran, XXXI, 1923, pp. 102—103




Captain Alexander May Shannon of the 8th Terry’s Texas Rangers led his guerrilla fighters behind enemy lines many times to report on fortifications, strengths, and to cause havoc among Federal positions.


These talented horsemen came from different companies within the 8th Terry’s Texas Rangers. Numbers of these men ran anywhere from 3 to 30 men on one detail. Mostly keeping to 25 men on duty at one time. The Scouts were never much publicized, but their exploits kept secret more or less. They were also known as Shannon’s Scouts, John Bell Hood’s Special Scouts, and Wheeler’s Scouts. They spent days at a time out behind Federal lines destroying or capturing horses, wagons with food stores, and fighting small groups of infantry, light cavalry units, and killing numbers of Federal scouts, foragers, and men out on pickets. These seasoned fighting men were ordered to harass and punish the enemy during these missions many times during the Civil War. These exploits are what made them famous during the war and very much so many years after the war.


These "Tough Texas Horsemen" not only came from the Texas 8th but other units as well, the Texas 4th, the Texas 11th, and Company I of the 51st Alabama Regiment, which at the time reported to General Wheeler, and for a time they fought under General John Bell Hood during the war. The exploits of Terry’s Texas Rangers did not really catch the eye of the public until issues of the "Confederate Veteran" shed some light on this secret services reconnaissance unit until late 1897, and up to around 1920’s from family members and reunion survivors of the Terry’s Texas Rangers.