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Capt. Joe Desha was born in Harrison County. Ky.. May 22, 1833, and died May 8, 1902. He raised the first company in Kentucky for the Confederacy that was raised in thai "neutral" State. They went by the L. and N. railroad to Nashville, from there to Virginia and became a part of the First Kentucky Regiment. In an engagement at Dranesville, Va., he was severely wounded in the shoulder, his left arm crushed below the elbow, rendering it almost useless the rest of his life; but the most remarkable of his many wounds was one in the head at Murfreesboro by a cannon ball, which left him apparently dead. While being carried from the field as dead he sat upright on the litter, and said: "What does this mean, boys? What's the matter?" Some of his men about him cried with joy. and said: "Captain, we thought you were dead." He stood up and felt of himself, and said, "I am all right, I believe," and went back to the line.
Afterwards, while in Richmond and passing the residence of President Davis, the President and his private secretary, Col. William Preston Johnston, saw the officer, and the latter mentioned that it was Captain Desha, of Kentucky, when the President said : "Call him back ; T want to see him." He was introduced to President Davis, who said: "Captain, I wanted to see the only man ever struck in the head with a cannon ball and not killed." The President asked him about the effects of it, and he replied: "I believe about the only bad effects I sustained by it was the loss of a fine pistol dropped from my belt when the boys were carrying me off the field." Mr. Davis excused himself for a few minutes, and returned with a new pistol in his hand, and said: "Captain, allow me to make you a present of this pistol in the place of the one you lost."
Another account of his wound by a cannon ball and the pistol, furnished by his widow, is that he became semiconscious, and asked the men what they were doing. They replied : "One of the men is wounded. Captain." "O yes, that was Curd." After a pause of a few moments, they moved on again. He became conscious of their motion, and asked them what they were doing. Then they said : "Captain, you are wounded." He turned off the stretcher, and asked, "Where?" feeling his arms and legs. One of them said sadly: "It is your head." He then put his hand up and felt it. and said: "Yes, there's blood." He tied a handkerchief around it and went back into action.
Here is another story about Captain Desha, from the official records.
Statement of Colonel Boone, Twenty-eighth Kentucky Volunteers.
I occupied the time, after sending out the two companies above mentioned, in visiting the infantry pickets, to see that all were on the alert until 2 o'clock at night, and found them all at their posts doing their duty, and I cautioned them to extra vigilance. I then went to my hotel, where my wife was dangerously ill, and spent about an hour and a half there. I then adjusted my pistol, and just as I was starting out to make my final tour of the pickets I heard a knock at my door and supposed it was some of my pickets, as I had told those nearest where to find me if anything occurred. On opening the door some 20 men were seen, about a dozen of them presenting their revolvers at me and demanded my immediate surrender. Their pistols were cocked and the men much excited, apparently being afraid of shots from my pickets. I endeavored to gain time in parley, hoping my pickets would take the alarm and come up. On my asking by what authority their demand was made one of them stated that he was Captain Desha, of Brigadier General John Morgan's cavalry; that I was completely in their power, as my camp was surrounded by 1,200 cavalry, and demanded the surrender of myself and camp. I told them that I didn't believe it, and that I would never surrender my camp. They then demanded the immediate surrender of my person. I told them I would surrender my person if they would state the terms and I liked them. They replied, "As a prisoner of war, with the privilege of an immediate parole." I replied, "On these terms I will surrender." They then took my pistol and hurried me away in the direction of the court-house, where they said 2 of my pickets were found asleep. Morgan's whole force then filled the town and were eager to go to the camp. Morgan's adjutant-general came to me as soon as the greater portion had passed toward the camp (the men were going as fast as they could) and called on me to surrender my camp. I replied I had no command, as I had surrendered personally to Captain Desha. They threatened to shoot me if I did not surrender the command. I told them I could not and would not; that no one could do it but Captain Hughes, the senior officer at the camp. Captain Desha commanded them to desist; that I had surrendered as a prisoner of war to him, and that I should not be shot.