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Written by T.S. Dalton   

The Primitive Monitor

Many of our readers have read some of the works of Elder T. S. Dalton. The Baptist Bible Hour recently republished his “Treatise on Salvation”, a seventy-two page booklet that is excellent reading. Elder Dalton was born in 1846 and died in 1931. In this issue of the Monitor, we are printing a story that will acquaint our readers with another view of Elder Dalton. This account was given us by Sister O. F Carpenter of Brightwood, Virginia, who is Elder Dalton’s daughter.

Elder Dalton was born in Robertson County, Tennes­see, near Nashville. When the Civil War started, he en­listed in the 49th Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers at the age of seventeen and fought in many battles through­out the war. It was during these days with men dying all around him that he was impressed to preach, and he started his ministry preaching to the soldiers by their camp fires.

On one occasion when he was with General Nathan B. Forrest’s troops stationed in Memphis, they received word that the Northern troops were in a position to at­tack at sunrise the next morning. General Forrest was outnumbered ten to one, and it was here that he put his famous strategy to work. Young Dalton and the rest of the boys worked all night improvising cannon by using both halves of farm wagons. Each wagon provided mounts for two cannon, and they had rounded up many wagons. They used logs hollowed at the muzzle end to make them look like the real thing, and positioned these make-believe guns at proper intervals along the bank of the Mississippi River. Before sunrise General Forrest sent word to the Union general to surrender or he would open fire with this overwhelming array of ar­tillery. It evidently looked like certain destruction to the Union general, because the white flag went up! General Forrest with his 300 men took over 3,000 prisoners and all their equipment.

Late in the war, Elder Dalton was chosen to do spy duty and was very successful in his efforts. It became his duty to deliver a message to General Forrest. To do so, he had to pass through the enemy lines. He dressed as a poor farmer boy and carried a basket of fruits and vegetables on his arm while riding an old sway-backed horse. Fearful he would be searched anyway, he placed the message in his mouth and pretended to be deaf and dumb when he arrived at the picket line. The sentinel stopped him and started asking questions, but young Dalton pretended not to understand nor to be able to speak, making signs with his hands. The sentinel told him to go on, and he almost did, but realized in time that he was not supposed to hear, so he made more signs that he did not know what he was saying. The sentinel then made motions for him to move on, which he did very leisurely until he was out of sight. It was then that the old sway-backed horse became the Pony Express! The message was very important, and the outcome of the battle that ensued was another victory for the South.

About this time young Dalton was wounded and out of action for several months. After recovering sufficiently to re-enlist, he joined the Seventh Kentucky Vol­unteers. It was while fighting with this regiment that he became a hero. The flag was shot down, and he re­planted it on the breastworks. When it was shot down again, he decided to hold it there, and that he did. He said that it seemed to him that the whole Northern Army was shooting at him, and before the South had won that battle, his coat sleeves had been cut to pieces, but not a bullet found its mark. He said that the good Lord was certainly with him that day. For this display of courage and bravery he was elevated to the rank of Major, though still in his teens. He retained this rank until the end of the war.

After the war, Elder Dalton attended a medical college in Tennessee and graduated as a medical doctor. But so strong was the call to preach that it soon after became his life’s work. He served churches in northern Virginia for fifty years. He moved to Stanley, Virginia, in 1891 and was editor of the Zion’s Advocate for many years.

Elder Dalton died in 1931 at the age of 86.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.