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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998
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BY ARTHUR P. FORD
The following account of my experiences as a private soldier in the Confederate Army during the great war of 1861-'65 records only the ordinary career of an ordinary Confederate soldier. It does not treat of campaigns, army maneuvers, or plans of battles, but only of the daily life of a common soldier, and of such things as fell under his limited observation.
Early in April, 1861, immediately after the battle of Fort Sumter, I joined the Palmetto Guards, Capt. George B. Cuthbert, of the Seventeenth Regiment South Carolina Militia. Very soon after, the company divided, and one half under Captain Cuthbert left Charleston, and joined the Second South Carolina Volunteers in Virginia. The other half, to which I belonged, under Capt. George L. Buist, remained in Charleston. Early in the fall Captain Buist's company was ordered to Coosawhatchie, and given charge of four howitzers; and thenceforth for three years, until December, 1864, it served as field artillery. I did not go with my company, as at that time I was a clerk in the Charleston post-office, and
really exempt from all service. On April 2, 1862, however, then being about eighteen years of age, I resigned my clerkship, and joining the company at Coosawhatchie, with the rest of the men enlisted in the Confederate service "for three years or the war."
About May 1st the company was ordered to Battery Island at the mouth of the Stono River, where with another company, the "Gist Guards," Capt. Chichester, we were put under the command of Major C. K. Huger, and placed in charge of four 24-pounder smooth-bore guns in the battery commanding the river, our own four howitzers being parked in the rear. Cole's Island, next below, and at the immediate entrance of the river, was garrisoned by Lucas' battalion of Regulars, and the Twenty-fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Col. C. H. Stevens. An examination of a map of this locality will show that Cole's Island was the key to Charleston; and this question has given rise to considerable acrimonious discussion. But whatever the merits of the case may have been, the facts are, that under the strange fear of the Federal gunboats that obtained on the South Carolina coast at that period, it was believed that our positions on Cole's and Battery Islands could not be held against an attack from the gunboats, which then were off the mouth of the river; and the islands were evacuated. On the 18th the Federals sent a couple of small boats into the mouth of the river to reconnoiter, but they were soon driven back by our pickets. On the next day, and
day after, all the guns were removed from both islands to Fort Pemberton, higher up the Stono River--a very strong earth fort that had been built in preparation for this move. A day or two after, while our men were still on Battery Island, but Cole's Island having been deserted, several Federal gunboats entered the river, shelling the woods and empty batteries as they advanced. On their approach we set fire to the barracks and then withdrew across the causeway to James Island. We had to make haste across this causeway, because it was within easy range of the enemy, who soon began to rake it with shells.
This was my first experience with shell fire, and I soon learned that at long range, to men in the field, if the shells did not explode it was more alarming than dangerous. But being quite fresh I thought it unbecoming to appear concerned, and although at first, after crossing the causeway, I had stood wisely behind a friendly oak tree for protection, after the first shell or two I stepped aside and stood in the open, foolishly thinking that this was more soldierly. I had not yet learned that a soldier's common sense should prompt him to make use of what protection there may be at hand and to avoid exposing himself unnecessarily. But only when duty calls, to throw precaution aside and face whatever there is. While we were standing on the James Island side of the causeway a time-fuse shell fell near us, and one of our men, a new recruit, ran up to it, and stood over
it with the exclamation, "How the thing does hiss!" Happily the fuse failed and the shell did not explode. When I saw the fortunate termination of the affair I could not resist calling out, "Surely the Lord protects drunken men and fools."
Our company fell back from here to a plantation about a mile inland, where we made our camp. I was a very enthusiastic, energetic youngster, and in pitching our large Sibley tent worked with such energy that I attracted the attention of one of our men, Mr. H. Gourdin Young, who jokingly said, "Ford, you are a splendid worker. If you were a negro, I would buy you." He was very much my senior.
After remaining here for about two months, our men doing some picket duty, we were transferred to Fort Pemberton, a very strong earthwork of 16 guns, on the Stono River, and garrisoned by Lucas' battalion of Regulars, in which my brother was a lieutenant. Here we remained for about three months.
Frequently the Federal gunboats would ascend the river, and there would be interchanges of shots between them and the fort. On one of these occasions an amusing incident occurred. Lieutenant Webb, of our company, had just got a new negro man servant, who was inexperienced in warfare. One afternoon, as a few shells were being thrown at the fort from the gunboats, he was very much scared, saying, "Dem people trow dem t'ings about yere so careless, dey won't mind until dey hu't somebody." Just then
a shell passed over the fort, and exploding in the rear, a piece cut off a leg of Lieutenant Webb's horse. "Dere now ; w'at I tell you!" exclaimed Sam. "Dey done kill Mass Ben's horse."
During the early period of the war a great many of the private soldiers in the Confederate Army had their own negro servants in the field with them, who waited on their masters, cleaned their horses, cooked their meals, etc. Attached to our company there were probably twenty-five such servants. This system continued during the first year or two of the war, on the Carolina coast, but later on, as the service got harder and rations became scarcer, these negro servants were gradually sent back home, and the men did their own work, cooking, etc. As a rule, these negroes liked the life exceedingly. The work exacted of them was necessarily very light. They were never under fire, unless they chose to go there of their own accord, which some of them did, keeping close to their masters. And they spent much of their time foraging around the neghboring country. Although often on the picket lines, night as well as day, with their masters, I never heard of an instance where one of these army servants deserted to the enemy.
At this period of the war the Confederate Government allowed each soldier a certain sum yearly for his uniform, and each company decided for itself what its own uniform should be. In consequence, "uniform" was really an inappropriate term to apply
to the dress of various organizations. At first our company was uniformed in gray woolen frock coats, and trousers of the same material, with blue caps; next we had gray cotton coats and trousers with gray cloth hats; then very dark brown coats with blue trousers furnished by the government, and gray felt hats; and finally the gray round jacket, also furnished by the government, which assumed to provide also the hats, shoes, and underclothing. The shoes, when we could get them, were heavy English brogans, very hard on our feet, but durable. It was in the summer of 1862 that we received our first allowance for uniforms, and our quartermaster applied to a tailor in Charleston to furnish them, but there was considerable delay in getting them, and the tailor wrote that goods were then scarce on account of the moonlight nights, but that in about a fortnight, when the moon waned, they would be in greater supply, and the uniforms could be furnished at $2 more per man than the government allowed. So in due time we each supplemented the government's allowance and got new uniforms of very inferior, half cotton gray stuff, which served us for the rest of the year. Afterwards the government tried to furnish the men gratuitously with the best it could, and we did the best we could with what we got.
In July our command was removed to Charleston, under orders to go to Virginia. These orders were countermanded in a few days owing to aggressive movements of the Federals on the South Carolina
coast. The remainder of the summer and the fall were spent in Charleston encamped for most of the time at the Washington race course, doing duty on the lines of breastworks thrown up across the neck just above Magnolia Cemetery. These breastworks were built to keep any enemy out of the city, but the nearest enemy on land at that period was on Folley Island; in Tennessee to the west; and Virginia to the North. And when Sherman did come within 50 miles of Charleston nearly three years later our troops were too much occupied in getting away to think of these breastworks. The battalion then consisted of three companies, each armed with four 8-inch howitzers, and all under the command of Maj. Charles Alston, Jr., Capt. Buist having been promoted to major, and assigned to duty near Savannah.
While encamped on the race course I witnessed the military execution of a deserter. The man belonged to one of the regiments doing duty about Charleston, and had been taken in the act of trying to desert to the enemy; tried by court martial and condemned to death. On the day fixed for the execution, some of the troops in Charleston were marched up to the race course, and so formed as to make three sides of a square. Immediately after followed a wagon, with the coffin, and seated on it, the man with his hands tied, and under guard; the whole preceded by a band playing the dead march; and followed by the detail of twelve men selected by lot to shoot him. Half the rifles were loaded with balls
and half with blank cartridges, but none of the detail knew how his own was loaded. As the procession halted the coffin was placed on the ground and the deserter had his hands untied, and knelt in front of it facing the twelve men who were to do the shooting, and were drawn up about thirty feet in front of him. At the word of command "aim," the man, seemingly in desperation, jerked open his shirt and bared his breast to the bullets. Instantly at the command "fire" the detail fired, and the man fell over dead on his coffin. It was the most terrible sight I ever saw, far more dreadful than anything I ever witnessed in battle, and it seemed a sad thing that a really brave man should be so sacrificed; but such is one of the necessities of war, and it is necessary to deter others from playing the role of traitor.
At this time the Federal gunboats were very annoying in Stono River, coming as high up as possible daily, and shelling our pickets, and it was determined to make a diversion. Therefore, in January, 1863, our battery with Capt. Smith's and other troops were sent over to John's Island, and ambushed at Legare's point place to cooperate with two companies of Lucas' battalion and some other troops on James Island. The design was to capture the Isaac P. Smith. This vessel was an iron screw steamer of 453 tons, and carried eight 8-inch navy guns, or sixty-four pounders, and a 7-inch thirty-pounder Parrott
gun. She was commanded at the time by Capt. F. S. Conover; and her crew consisted of 11 officers and 105 men.
The affair was completely successful. The gunboat in her daily ascent was taken by surprise, and after a short fight at only 75 or 100 yards distance, as she ran trying to escape, had her steam drum torn by a shell, and had to surrender. She had twenty-three men killed and wounded, while we lost one man killed. My howitzer was at a sharp bend in the river, and as the gunboat ran past, her stern was directly about 100 yards in front of the gun I served. It put one 8-inch schrapnel shell into her stern port, and I learned afterwards that the shell knocked a gun off its trunnions and killed or wounded eight men. A prize crew was put on board immediately and the vessel towed by a tug up the river, and later on to the city. While the prisoners were being landed, the U. S. S. Commodore McDonough steamed up the river and opened fire on us, but a few well-directed shots from our batteries soon made her desist and drop back down the river. At nightfall, our command returned to Charleston.
Our 8-inch howitzers were soon after exchanged for four twelve-pounder Napoleon guns, and the battery ordered back to James Island. Here in March we took part in a land affair near Grimball's place on the Stono.
Our battery was encamped about a mile from the river, and at daybreak one morning we were aroused
and hurried down the road toward Grimball's plantation. Just before we were about to emerge from the woods into a field, the musketry firing going on rapidly on our left front, and a few shells from the gunboats falling into the woods, we were halted, and told that just in front was a field reaching to the river, and as soon as we passed out of the woods the order "battery by right into line" would be given. Well, we started at a rapid trot. I was driver of the lead horses of gun No. 2, and as we passed out of the woods, in obedience to the command I swung to the right, gun No. 3 swung to my right, and No. 4 to right of No. 3, while No. 1 kept straight on down the road, and we all went forward now at a run into battery.
We galloped down to the edge of the marsh along the river, and swinging into battery our guns opened on the U. S. S. Pawnee out in the river, the other two gunboats being farther down, and around a bend of the river. We were engaged for about twenty minutes, when the Pawnee dropped down the river, and the musketry fire on our left gradually ceased.
It seems that the Federals had advanced on the island with a force of about 2,000 men, supported by three gunboats. They had been met, and after sharp fighting, had been driven back by Col. Gaillard's Twenty-fifth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, the Marion Artillery,--a light battery,--and a
Georgia regiment, while our battery engaged the Pawnee. The Confederate loss was 27 men killed and wounded, and the Federal, 45.
The artillery was under the command of Lieut. Col. Delaware Kemper, who sat on his horse by our battery during the scrimmage. After the affair was over he remarked to our captain, "Captain Webb, you have a splendid set of young fellows there, but they need practice. They could not hit John's Island if they had it for a target." As to our marksmanship, he was mistaken, however, for we did put several shells into the Pawnee, and she had to go to Port Royal for repairs.
In this affair, being a driver, my position while the guns were in action was standing by my horses about 100 feet in the rear of my gun; and it was trying to have to stand there quietly, inactive, and take the shells and few rifle balls that passed by. It would have been much more agreeable to be actively engaged about the gun.
Only a few moments after we had got into action, our little company dog, a half-breed fox-terrier, "Boykee," who always stuck to the guns, and seemed to enjoy the excitement, was struck in the neck by a piece of shell, directly in front of where I was standing, and ran screaming to the rear. This wound was not a serious one, and he soon recovered from it. He was afterwards ignominiously killed by a snake in Florida.
In July, 1863, were developed the disastrous results of the evacuation of Cole's Island in May the year before. As soon as we left that island and Battery Island the Federals occupied them, and used them as bases for operations against Charleston. From there they occupied Folley Island, a densely wooded island where their operations could easily be concealed. They advanced to the north end of this island, to Light House Inlet, and under the concealment of the shrubbery built formidable batteries, which at daybreak one morning were unmasked, and under a heavy fire from their guns, an infantry assault in boats was made upon our small force on the southern end of Morris' Island. After a severe fight the Federals got a firm foothold upon this island, which for the next two months or so was the scene of some of the most sanguinary fighting of the war.
Immediately after this surprise by the Federals a detachment of our company was placed in charge of Battery Haskell, on James Island, directly opposite Morris' Island. The celebrated siege of Battery Wagner then began, and we used to watch the fighting at about three-quarters of a mile distance. The terrible bombardment and assault of July 18 was one of the sights of the war. At daylight the bombardment of the fort began, and continued without a minute's cessation all day. Occasionally as many as four shells were observed in the air at the same time. The fort itself was enveloped in a dense black pall of
smoke from bursting shells, and at times was completely hidden. As the afternoon wore on the bombardment increased in intensity, and it seemed as if the very foundations of our part of the world were being torn to pieces. The garrison was kept in the bomb-proof, and not a shot was fired in reply. At dusk the bombardment suddenly ceased, and almost immediately the guns of the Confederates in Fort Sumter, trained on the beach in front of Wagner, opened. Almost simultaneously we saw a mass of blue spring up apparently from the earth, and advance on Wagner, and then the rattle of musketry. As the dusk deepened into darkness the rapid flashes of musketry looked at that distance like vast masses of fireflies, over a morass. We saw that it was an infantry assault, and a desperate hand-to-hand fight it was. But the result was very disastrous to the Federals, who were repulsed with a loss of upwards of 2,000 men.
In August was begun the bombardment of Charleston, which was continued steadily for a year and a half. On the night of the 21st, at 10.45 o'clock, General Beauregard received an unsigned note, brought to our pickets, purporting to be from General Gilmore, demanding the evacuation and surrender of Morris' Island and Fort Sumter under penalty of the bombardment of the city within four hours after the note had been sent by him. Two hours and three-quarters after this note had reached General Beauregard's hands, at 1.30 o'clock on the morning of the
22d, the Federal battery in the marsh on the edge of the creek separating Morris from James Island, opened fire, and threw a number of shells into the city. At about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 22d, seven and a quarter hours after the bombardment had begun, General Gilmore sent a properly signed note making the same demands. This note was immediately answered by General Beauregard with an emphatic refusal, and some severe remarks as to his firing upon a city full of women and children before he had given them reasonable time to escape. As may be imagined, the terror of the women and children in Charleston that night was extreme when it was realized that the city was being bombarded. The distance in a direct line from the Swamp Angel Battery, as it was called, to the city was about 5 miles, and it had not been thought that any gun could shoot that far. At first only percussion shells were used, but later on, in 1864, time-fuse shells were also used, and were much more dangerous, as they nearly always exploded. Battery Haskell, at which our company was stationed, was nearly in line between the Swamp Angel and the city, and constantly we watched the shells, city-bound, passing over our heads high in the air. At night, when fuse shells were used, they looked like slow meteors.
Frequently, when the tide was high, some of the Federal gunboats came into the inlet in front of Battery Haskell, and about half a mile off, and threw a number of shells into it. But no harm was done,
as we could easily see the shells coming, and dodged them. We were very seldom allowed to reply. After the shelling was over, and the gunboat had hauled off, it was my habit to go about and pick up the shells, generally about sixty- pounders, and store them under my cot in my tent until I could find time to unscrew the fuse plugs and pour out all of the powder. As soon as I had gathered a wagon load I would carry them to Charleston and sell them at the arsenal. This was such a period of violence and bloodshed that the fearful risk of explosion did not concern me, and what I am equally surprised at now, after the lapse of many years, is that my officers allowed such a thing to be done in the battery, or in fact at all.
Here I witnessed an occurrence that, according to the law of chances, would not happen once in a thousand times. In the battery was a dry well, about six or eight feet deep, and one afternoon, while our friend the gunboat was throwing the usual shells at us, and we were dodging them, I remarked to a comrade that "that old well would be a good place to get into." The remark had scarcely been made before a shell dropped into that well as accurately as possible. It was simply one of those remarkable occurrences that happen in real life, but which writers dare not put in fiction.
The picket line on James Island in this vicinity, together with Battery Haskell, was then under the command of Maj. Edward Manigault, an officer of
very exceptional ability. During this summer our shortness of rations began, and continued rather to intensify until the end. For one period of about two months it consisted of only one small loaf of baker's bread and a gill of sorghum syrup daily. For that time we had not a particle of either fresh or salt meat. If we had not been where we could obtain plenty of fish, we would have suffered seriously. The quartermaster's department was as badly crippled as the commissary's and most of us could get no new shoes, and several of our men were actually barefooted in consequence; but it being summer, and on a sandy coast, there was not as much suffering as might have been otherwise. Scurvy, fever, and other ailments were very general and several deaths resulted. The battery was on a strip of land separated from the main land of James Island by a marsh and small creek, over which was a causeway and bridge. This causeway was watched from the Federal gunboats, and every time even one man would go across it he would be saluted with a shell or two. On one occasion I was ordered to drive several sick men to the city in an ambulance, and as we struck the causeway a gunboat sent the customary shells at us. The sick men were nervous, and one of the men called out, "For God's sake, Ford, put down the curtains!"
Toward the fall of 1863, after the evacuation of Morris Island by the Confederate troops, our company was withdrawn, and returned to the old camping ground at Heyward's place near Wappoo Cut.
As it seemed that we would remain here all winter, as we really did, I obtained permission to build a log cabin for myself and my mess. One day, as I was building the chimney, I saw Maj. Edward Manigault and his brother, Gen. Arthur Manigault, who was spending the day with him, walking toward me to inspect the guns parked near by. As they approached I jumped down off the scaffolding and saluted them. They returned the salute, and then the Major said: "We have been admiring your chimney, Mr. Ford. It is as well built as if a mason had done the work." The old man, whenever on the few occasions he spoke to me, strange to say, always addressed me, a private soldier, as "Mr." Ford. I never could account for it, unless it was that he knew all about me and my people. He had been a West Pointer, but had resigned from the U. S. Army a good many years before. Thus he was a strict disciplinarian, and on that account at that time not popular with the men; but I always liked him, and approved of his discipline. Later on, as the service became more exacting, and really active, the men became devoted to him, as they realized his ability as an officer.
On December 23 our company, then having four 24-pounder Parrott guns, started off for John's Island, where an attempt was to be made to capture a small body of Federals that were near Legareville, and also to sink or capture a Federal gunboat that was off that place. Our company was to have been
supported by a Virginia regiment. On Christmas day at daylight we opened fire from our masked battery upon the two gunboats, for there were two on hand instead of one, but the infantry remained in the background, and failed to attack the Federals near Legareville as designed, and we had to bear the whole brunt of the fight. It was a sharp affair, and we soon had to get out of it as best we could, with the loss of several men and a half dozen horses.
In this affair I had a very narrow escape, and another man lost his life in my stead. I had been lead driver on gun No. 2, and when we started on this expedition I was transferred to cannoneer's duty, and young Heyward Ancrum given my horses. Well, in the fight a shell from the U. S. S. Marblehead passed entirely through the bodies of both of my horses, and took off Ancrum's leg at the knee. He fell among the struggling, dying horses, but was pulled out, and died soon after. He was certainly killed in my place.
It was about this time that I saw that celebrated torpedo submarine boat, the Hundley, the first submarine boat ever built. As I was standing on the bank of the Stono River, I saw the boat passing along the river, where her builder, H. L. Hundley, had brought her for practice. I watched her as she disappeared around a bend of the river, and little thought of the fearful tragedy that was immediately to ensue. She made an experimental dive, stuck
her nose in the mud, and drowned her entire crew. Her career was such an eventful one that I record what I recollect of it.
She was built in Mobile by Hundley, and brought on to Charleston in 1863. She was of iron, about 20 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 5 feet deep--in fact, not far from round, as I have seen it stated; and equipped with two fins, by which she could be raised or lowered in the water. The intention of her builder was that she should dive under an enemy's vessel, with a torpedo in tow, which would be dragged against the vessel, and exploded while the Hundley, or "Fish," as some called her, rose on the other side. She was worked by a hand propeller, and equipped with water tanks, which could be filled or emptied at pleasure, and thus regulate her sinking or rising. The first experiment with her was made in Mobile Bay, and she went down all right with her crew of seven men, but did not come up, and every man died, asphyxiated, as no provision had been made for storing a supply of air.
As soon as she was raised, she was brought to Charleston, and a few days after her acceptance by General Beauregard, Lieutenant Payne, of the Confederate Navy, volunteered with a crew of six men to man her and attack the Federal fleet off Charleston. While he had her at Fort Johnson, on James Island, and was making preparations for the attack, one night as she was lying at the wharf the swell of a passing steamer filled her, and she went to the
bottom, carrying with her and drowning the six men. Lieutenant Payne happened to be near an open manhole at the moment, and thus he alone escaped. Notwithstanding the evidently fatal characteristics of this boat, as soon as she was raised another crew of six men volunteered under Payne and took charge of her. But only a week afterwards an exactly similar accident happened while she was alongside the wharf at Fort Sumter, and only Payne and two of his men escaped.
H. L. Hundley, her builder in Mobile, now believed that the crews did not understand how to manage the "Fish," and came on to Charleston to see if he could not show how it should be done. A Lieutenant Dixon, of Alabama, had made several successful experiments with the boat in Mobile Bay, and he also came on, and was put in charge, with a volunteer crew, and made several successful dives in the harbor. But one day, the day on which I saw the boat, Hundley himself took it into Stono River to practice her crew. She went down all right, but did not come up, and when she was searched for, found and raised to the surface, all of her crew were dead, asphyxiated as others had been.
After the boat was brought up to Charleston, several successful experiments were made with her, until she attempted to dive under the Confederate receiving ship Indian Chief, when she got entangled with an anchor chain and went to the bottom, and
remained there until she was raised with every one of her crew dead, as were their predecessors.
No sooner had she been raised than a number of men begged to be allowed to give her another trial, and Lieutenant Dixon was given permission to use her in an attack on the U. S. S. Housatonic, a new gunboat that lay off Beach Inlet on the bar, on the condition that she should not be used as a submarine vessel, but only on the surface with a spar torpedo. On February 17, 1864, Lieutenant Dixon, with a crew of six men, made their way with the boat through the creeks behind Sullivan's Island to the inlet. The night was not very dark, and the Housatonic easily could be perceived lying at anchor, unmindful of danger. The "Fish" went direct for her victim, and her torpedo striking the side tore a tremendous hole in the Housatonic, which sank to the bottom in about four minutes. But as the water was not very deep her masts remained above water, and all of the crew, except four or five saved themselves by climbing and clinging to them. But the "Fish" was not seen again. From some unknown cause she again sank, and all her crew perished. Several years after the war, when the government was clearing the wrecks and obstructions out of Charleston harbor, the divers visited the scene of this attack, and on the sandy bottom of the sea found the hulk of the Housatonic, and alongside of her the shell of the "Fish." Within the latter were the skeletons of her devoted crew.
This submarine torpedo boat must not be confused with the surface ones, called "Davids," that were first built and used at Charleston in the fall of 1863. These "Davids" were cigar-shaped crafts about 30 feet long, and propelled by miniature steam engines; and they each carried a torpedo at the end of a spar in the bow. There were several of them at Charleston and points along the coast.
In March, 1864, I had the only violent illness I had during my service, until at the end, a year later, and being given a thirty-day furlough went up to Sumter, where I had some near relatives. Here I stayed a couple of weeks, and then went over to Aiken, where my parents and sisters resided. Although the distance from Sumter to Aiken was only about 135 miles, the railway trains took seventeen hours to make the distance. It is hard to realize now the delays and discomforts of travel in the South in 1864. With worn-out tracks and roadbeds, dilapidated engines and cars, it is remarkable that the railway trains were able to run at all. On this occasion, which was typical of travel then, I left Sumter at 10 o'clock p. m., and just before reaching Kingsville the engine ran off the track from a worn-out rail. Two hours or more were spent in prying it back. Then shortly after the train stopped in a piece of woodland, and the fireman and train hands took their axes and spent an hour cutting wood and putting it on the tender. So it was full daylight when we reached Kingsville.
From there all went well until after passing Branchville the engine broke one of its connecting rods, and we had to wait until another engine could be got from Branchville. Some miles farther up the road the train again stopped, and the hands went into the woods and cut wood for the engine. Finally, at about four o'clock in the afternoon I arrived at Aiken. Here I remained for a fortnight, and then joined my command, which had just been ordered to Florida.
Early in the spring the Federals made an advance into Florida from Jacksonville, and a number of troops were sent from South Carolina to oppose them. Among them was our battery of artillery. We reached the section of the State threatened the day after the battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond, and were then ordered back to Madison, where we encamped, and during our stay there of a couple of weeks were most hospitably treated by the ladies of the town.
This battle of Olustee was a very severe fight, and a bloody one, in which the Federals under General Seymour were routed by the Confederates under Gen. Pat. Finnigan and Gen. A. H. Colquitt. In this battle the Federal loss was about 1,900 men and the Confederate about 1,000. The obstinacy of the struggle may be appreciated when it is observed that, out of the total of 11,000 men engaged, the casualties amounted to 2,900, nearly 27 per cent. As I have said, our battery reached the scene after
the battle, so we made no stay near Olustee, but retired to Madison. The wounded were all cared for at the wayside hospitals, and the dead white men of both sides buried; but the dead negroes were left where they fell. There had been several regiments of negroes in the Federal force, who as usual had been put into the front lines, and thus received the full effect of the Confederate fire. The field was dotted everywhere with dead negroes, who with the dead horses here and there soon created an intolerable stench, perceptible for half a mile or more. The hogs which roamed at large over the country were soon attracted to the spot and tore many of the bodies to pieces, feeding upon them. This field of death, enlivened by numbers of hogs grunting and squealing over their hideous meal, was one of the most repulsive sights I ever saw.
About the beginning of March our battery was ordered to Baldwin, about 9 miles from Jacksonville. Here we remained for nearly a month, and strange to say had a very uncomfortable time as far as food was concerned. The surrounding country was barren, swampy, and very thinly settled, so there was very little private foraging to be done and we had to suffer from the very scant rations served out by the commissary.
This department was in a very disorganized condition, probably because of the sudden massing of troops at an unexpected point; but the fact was that our men seldom got enough of even the coarsest
food. Our battery horses were supplied with corn and forage, and on several occasions after going twenty-four hours without any food I made use of some opportunity to steal the horses' corn, and parched that for a meal.
The bacon served out occasionally was of the most emphatic character, and very animated, but when fried and eaten with eyes shut, and nostrils closed, did no harm. Once in a while some of the men would go into the swamp and still-hunt wild hogs, and we would get some fresh pork. This hunting was against orders, and the officers tried their best to stop it, and occasionally some man would be caught at it and punished, but the men were really too much in need of food to remain quiet when game could be had. These hogs had once had recognized owners, but since that section of country had been deserted, had run wild, and lived in the swamp. It was by no means easy to shoot them, as they were very wary, and however quiet the hunter might remain behind his brush blind would often detect his presence by their sense of smell, and could not be decoyed within range.
My company was soon ordered back to South Carolina, and our route lay over the Albany and Gulf Railroad, now the Atlantic Coast Line, from Quitman to Savannah. This road, like all others in the South, was in a terribly dilapidated condition--rails and trestles decayed, and rolling-stock worn out. The engine that drew our train, containing
only our battery, was unable to do the work, and several times when we reached the easy grades on that generally very level road, the men would be compelled to get off and assist the engine by pushing the train up the incline. When the train was got up to the top of the grade it would go down the other side by its own impetus, and on level stretches the engine got along fairly well. We made the distance of 170 miles in about sixteen hours, a little over ten miles an hour--fairly good speed in the South in 1864.
Our battery was stopped at Green Pond, on the Savannah and Charleston Railroad, and we spent the summer of 1864 doing picket duty at Combahee Point, and along the Ashepoo River.
At Combahee Point we were stationed on Mr. Andrew Burnett's plantation. The camp was located on the edge of the abandoned rice field, while the picket post was in front on some breastworks on the river's edge. The old rice fields were more or less overflowed, the banks having been broken for two years or more, and in them were numerous alligators, some of considerable size. At night the noises made by these amphibians, and the raccoons in the adjacent marsh, would have been interesting to a naturalist, but were annoying to us. But the most serious disturbers of our peace were the mosquitoes. These were of such size and venom and
in such numbers as to cause real suffering, and necessitate the use of unusual schemes to protect ourselves against their attacks.
Accounts of these mosquitoes must seem incredible to any one who has never spent a midsummer's night in the rice fields; and very few white people have done this since the war. During the day the comparatively few that were about could be driven off by tobacco smoke and other means, but when night fell, and the myriads came up from the fields and marsh, then the situation became serious. When we were on sentry duty, walking post, many of us wore thick woolen gloves to protect our hands; and over our heads and necks frames made of thin hoops covered with mosquito netting. And when we wanted to retire to our small "A" tents, we had to make smudge fires in them first, and then crawl in on our hands and knees, and keep our faces near the ground to breathe, until finally we got asleep. And, moreover, we dared not let our faces or hands touch the sides of the tent, for immediately the mighty insects would thrust their probosces through the canvas and get us. I feel dubious about the advisability of recording such a statement, but as I am stating only facts as I experienced them, this must go on record.
In this rice field section our men suffered greatly from fever, and there were several deaths. I was the only man in the company of 70 who persisted
in taking three grains of quinine daily, and one other of our men and I were the only two who did not have a touch of fever.
While on duty here, early one morning four negro men came to our picket bringing two Federal officers, and turned them over to us. Upon inquiry it seemed that these two officers, one of them a Captain Strong of the Regular Army, and the other a Volunteer lieutenant, had been captured in Virginia, and were on their way to prison in Georgia, but had escaped from the cars on the Savannah and Charleston Railroad, and had tried to make their way to the Federal fleet, but were simply starved out, until they had to appeal to the negroes for help, and they promptly brought them in to us. I was detailed as one of the men to guard and carry them to Green Pond, about 15 miles off, and deliver them to the authorities. On the way we stopped for a moment at Mr. Benjamin Rhett's plantation, who, as soon as he learned what was up came to the wagon and with the consent of the sergeant in command, invited the officers into his house. There, as soon as they had made some ablutions, he carried them in to breakfast, and entertained them for an hour; at the same time sending breakfast and genuine coffee out to us. Captain Strong spoke to me very pleasantly, and said that he was a graduate of West Point; and learning that I was from Charleston, inquired about several people there whom I knew, among others of Col. Sam. Ferguson, who he said had been a classmate
of his at the Academy, and who I told him was at that time with the army in the West. I recollect that he was interested at hearing of him. He seemed also quite struck with the youthfulness of our men, and remarked on it.
Late in the fall our battery was removed to a point on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, south of Green Pond, and put in charge of a battery there, as the Federals had advanced up from Port Royal, with the evident intention of attempting to seize the railroad. It seems that this really was the aim of the movement, conducted under the command of Gen. Guy V. Henry. And this movement was suggested by General Sherman, who, when he determined upon his march through Georgia, stated to the government at Washington that he expected to reach Savannah about the end of December, and suggested that the railway between Charleston and Savannah be destroyed before he got there. The Federals made several advances, but never could get nearer than about half a mile of the railroad, and in their efforts to do so were defeated and driven back in two or three affairs, notably in a serious fight at Tulafinny, in which the cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy, mere boys, were engaged.
In these infantry affairs we had no part, as they occurred at some distance from our position. Our company at the time was serving as heavy artillerists, and, as I have said, had charge of a battery commanding the railroad. The Federals had, however,
established a battery of field pieces about 700 yards in our front, and there were frequent artillery duels, but without serious injury, certainly to our side. There was a short section of the railway track in an open piece of country, of which the enemy got the range, and every time a train passed in the daytime they would open on it with their guns. When the engineers approached this section they put on all the speed attainable, which was not very much at best, with the dilapidated engines they then had, and there was considerable interesting excitement in being on a flat car and running the gauntlet in this way. I do not think, however, that a train was ever hit.
About December the field pieces were taken away from our company and Capt. Porcher Smith's, and both were turned into infantry, and armed with old-fashioned Belgian rifles, probably the most antiquated and worthless guns ever put into a modern soldier's hands. But they were all our government had. These rifles could not send a ball beyond 200 yards, and at much shorter range their aim was entirely unreliable. This our men felt hard to stand, as they knew that at this period the Federal soldiers were being generally armed with breech-loading Springfield rifles, weapons which thirty years later were reckoned very formidable. We soon after were ordered back to James Island, where with Captain Smith's company we were again under the command of Maj. Edward Manigault. We were at once
put on very arduous picket duty along the lines on the southwestern part of the island. The weather at this time I well recollect was unusually cold and wet, and with an insufficiency of food and clothing, our sufferings were severe. Men had got very scarce then, and the same relay had to be kept on picket week after week without relief, and the men would often have to stand guard on the outposts eight or ten hours on a stretch.
On one occasion while another man and I were on sentry duty on the lines in the rifle-pits, at the break of day we saw the two Federal sentries on the other side of the intervening marsh desert their posts, and unarmed walk quickly toward us. When they got within about ten paces we halted them, and called our officer. As soon as he came up we turned them over to him. I always had a loathing for a deserter, and said to the men, "If I had my way I would have you given thirty-nine lashes each and sent back under flag of truce to your command, so you could be shot as you deserve." One of them twiggled his fingers on his nose and replied, "Ah, but you hav'n't got no say in the matter."
While on duty on these outpost lines, the Federals frequently shelled us from their gunboats in Stono River. We did not mind the Parrott shells, but the shells from the Cohorn mortars on a mortar schooner were very trying. They would fall, apparently from the sky, and there was no dodging them. But fortunately none of them fell directly in the rifle-pits,
but all exploded harmlessly in the field. All old soldiers know that mortar shells take a very mean advantage of a man.
One of the outposts on these lines which was manned only at night was out in the marsh, and I had it one night, and it was about the most disagreeable night I ever had on picket. I was placed on the post at dark, with orders to keep in the marsh, at the edge of the tide as it went down, and to come in at the first daylight. I was all the time up to my insteps in mud, by myself, with the rain falling all night. I stood out in that marsh from dark until daylight, in the drenching rain, for about ten hours. Like most of the men, I had no oilskin, or any protection against the weather, and of course was thoroughly drenched early in the night, and the steady rain all night kept me saturated. The best I could do was to try to keep my ammunition and gun-lock dry. It was certainly the worst night I ever spent.
On February 10, 1865, we had our first serious infantry fight, as infantry. We were doing picket duty at this time on the lines near Grimball's causeway, with our right extending to Stono River. At about daylight that morning the Federals began to shell our lines from four gunboats and a mortar schooner, whose masts we could see over the trees; and soon after we could see a large force of their infantry assembling on Legare's plantation on the other side of the flat and marsh in front of our lines.
Our entire force along this part of the lines consisted of 52 men of our company and 40 men of the Second South Carolina Artillery and about 20 cavalry, together with 7 officers--all told, 119 men. Just before the Federal infantry advanced, a section of artillery took position at about 600 yards in front of us, and shelled our line, but did no damage. The Federal infantry engaged, as I learned a few months afterwards from one of their officers, were the Fifty-fourth and One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York, white; and the Thirty-second, Thirty-third, and Fifty-fifth U. S. negro troops, altogether about 1,500 men, and one section of artillery. We were assaulted directly in front, but held our ground until the enemy were within 30 feet of our line; in fact, some of their men were actually into our trenches, and having hand-to-hand fights with our men. So close had they got that I had ceased firing, and had just fixed my bayonet, and braced myself for a hand-to-hand fight, when Major Manigault, who was standing only a few paces to my right in rear of the line, gave the order to retreat. To this moment not a man had flinched, but at the order to retreat we broke for the rear, a few of the men reloading, turning, and firing back as they retreated. We halted at a ditch about 300 yards in the rear, where we found the battalion of cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy, and a company of the Second Regiment South Carolina Artillery, altogether about 185 men. We who had come out of
the affair, feeling strong with this support, were anxious to return and try to drive back the Federals, but we had no such orders. And probably it was well we did not do so; for about 700 of the enemy were white men, and, as I afterwards learned, more than half of them Irish; and for about 267 men to tackle in open fight nearly three times their number, of that class of men, was too serious an undertaking to be attempted. Of course as to the 800 negroes the odds would not have been counted.
In this affair, of the 119 Confederates engaged, we lost 2 officers, of whom one was the gallant Major Manigault, severely wounded, and 37 men. The Federals lost 88. Our loss, as is shown, was about 33 per cent. of our force engaged, and this large mortality shows the heavy fire to which we were subjected. General Schimmelpfennig was in general command of the affair, but the assault was led by Colonel Bennett, who, mounted upon a sorrel horse, was a mark for several shots from our wretched rifles, but escaped unhurt.
The point where I was, just about the center of our line, at the causeway, was assaulted by a regiment of negro troops; and as they got near to us I distinctly heard their officers cursing them. I heard one officer say, "Keep in line there, you damned scoundrels!" and another, "Go on, you damned rascals, or I'll chop you down!" I saw the line waver badly when it got to within fifty yards of us, and on this occasion at least it did not look
to me as if the negroes had the spirit to "fight nobly." I know it is a catch phrase elsewhere that the colored troops fought nobly, but I testify to what I saw and heard.
As to these negro troops, there was a sequel, nearly a year later. When I was peaceably in my office in Charleston one of my family's former slaves, "Taffy" by name, came in to see me. In former times he had been a waiter "in the house," and was about my own age; but in 1860, in the settlement of an estate, he with his parents, aunt, and brother were sold to Mr. John Ashe, and put on his plantation near Port Royal. Of course, when the Federals overran that section they took in all these "contrabands," as they were called, and Taffy became a soldier, and was in one of the regiments that assaulted us. In reply to a question from me, he foolishly said he "liked it." I only replied, "Well, I'm sorry I didn't kill you as you deserved, that's all I have to say." He only grinned.
On February 17, James Island was evacuated by the Confederates. Captain Matthews's company, formerly artillery but now infantry, was added to our two, and the battalion known as Manigault's, or the Eighteenth South Carolina Battalion. Major Manigault being wounded, and a prisoner, Capt. B. C. Webb, of Company A, was in command. Our line of march was through St. Andrew's Parish, across the bridge at Bee's Ferry, and along the old State road past Otranto across Goose Creek bridge,
which was burned as soon as the last troops had crossed. Our men had started on this march with as much baggage as they thought they could carry, but they soon threw aside their impedimenta, and each settled down to his one blanket and such clothes as he actually wore. This march across the Carolinas was a very hard one. Our feet soon became blistered and sore, and many of us had no shoes, but trudged along in the cold and mud barefooted as best we could. As I have already said, this was a cold winter, and it seemed to us that it rained and froze constantly. Not a particle of shelter did we have day or night. We would march all day, often in more or less rain, and at nightfall halt, and bivouac in the bushes, with every particle of food or clothing saturated. Within a few minutes after a halt, even under a steady rain, fires would be burning and quickly extend through the bivouac. If a civilian should attempt to kindle a fire with soaked wood under a steady rain, he would find his patience sorely tried, but the soldiers seemed to have no trouble.
After the fires were kindled we had to wait for the arrival of the commissary wagons; and it was not uncommon for a detail of men to be sent back in the night to help push the wagons through the mud; weary, footsore, hungry, in the dark, up to the knees in mud, heaving on the wheels of a stalled wagon! It was often late at night before the wagons were got up and rations could be obtained.
The men, of course, had to take turns in the use of the two or three frying-pans carried for each company, and when worn down by marching from early dawn until dark it was disheartening to have to wait one's turn, which often did not come until eleven o'clock at night. Frequently the men, rather than wait for the frying-pan, would fry their scraps of bacon on the coals, and make the cornmeal into dough, which they would wrap around the ends of their ramrods and toast in the fire. When the rations were drawn they consisted of only seven ounces of bacon and one pint of cornmeal to the man per day; and on several occasions even these could not be had, and the men went to sleep supper-less, and with nothing to eat during the next day. The commissary department of the corps seemed to be unequal to the occasion, but this fact is not surprising when the rapidity of the march and desolation of the country are considered. Nevertheless, on several occasions the writer's command passed forty hours without receiving any rations, and once fifty hours, so that we were glad of an opportunity to beg at any farm-house for an ear of corn with which to alleviate our hunger.
All along the line of march large numbers of men were constantly deserting. Nightly, under cover of darkness, many would sneak from their bivouacs and go off, not to the enemy, but to their homes. But those of our men who remained were in good spirits.
The most influential cause of desertions was the news that reached the men of the great suffering of their wives and children at home, caused by the devastations of Sherman's army. Wherever this army passed from Atlanta to Savannah, and from Savannah through Columbia, Camden, and Cheraw, into North Carolina, a tract of country 30 miles wide was devastated. Farm-houses, barns, mills, etc., were all burned. Farm animals, poultry, etc., were all ruthlessly killed, and the women and children left to starve. This was most especially the case in South Carolina, where Sherman burned every town in his path--Walterboro, Barnwell, Midway, Bamberg, Blackville, Williston, Orangeburg, Columbia, Camden, and Cheraw. His cavalry leader, General Kilpatrick, attempted to burn Aiken, but was quickly beaten off by General Wheeler. When the men learned of the suffering of their women at home, many of them not unnaturally deserted, and went to their aid.
This terrible strain on the integrity of the men was the cause of a pitiable execution that took place on the line of march one day. A sergeant in the First Regiment Regulars, upon being reproved by his lieutenant for justifying and advising the desertion of the men, in a fit of temper attempted to shoot this officer. The line was immediately halted, the man was carried before a drum-head court martial, tried, and condemned to be shot on the spot. He was led out, tied with his back against a tree,
and shot to death. It was an awful sight. I recollect that while awaiting death, the chaplain spoke to him, and offered to pray with him. His only reply was, "Preacher, I never listened to you in Fort Sumter, and I won't listen to you now."
All of the Confederate troops in South Carolina were under the command of Lieut.-Gen. T. J. Hardee, one of the ablest corps commanders in the Confederate service. He was nicknamed by the men, "Old Reliable." Our battalion, known also as the Eighteenth, with Major Bonneau's Georgia battalion, the battalion of Citadel Cadets, and the Second Regiment South Carolina Heavy Artillery constituted Brig.-Gen. Stephen Elliott's brigade, which, with Col. Alfred Rhett's brigade, constituted Maj.-Gen. Taliaferro's division. About March 1 we reached Cheraw, which we left two days after. As we left the town Sherman's army pressed us closely, and my recollection is that there was a sharp cavalry skirmish at the bridge, which we burned as soon as our troops had got across. I think Gen. M. C. Butler was the last man to cross, and galloped across it while it was actually in flames. At the State line the Citadel Cadets left us, and returned to South Carolina.
The route of the army lay through Fayetteville, N. C., where we crossed the Cape Fear River about a week later. After our men had crossed the bridge I was detailed from my company as one of a number to guard it, until all the wagons, etc., and the last
of the cavalry had got across and it was burned, and when the bridge had been burned, one of the cavalrymen let me ride a led horse until I caught up with my command some distance in front. I remember his telling me of a very remarkable scrimmage that had just occurred on the other side in Fayetteville. It seems that before all of our wagons had got across the bridge, and our own cavalry had come up, a troop of about 70 Federal cavalry rode into the town to cut our wagons, etc., off from the bridge. General Hampton, with two of his staff officers and four couriers, in all only seven men, instantly dashed themselves against the Federals, and in a hand-to-hand fight killed eleven of them, captured as many more, and ran the rest out of town, and all without the loss of a single man. A very remarkable affair. I also heard that Hampton had caught a spy, who would be hanged when the army halted. I never heard anything more about it, as I had other things much more personal to engage my attention, and presumed he was strung up according to military usage.
But it seems that the man was not hanged. Wells, in "Hampton and His Cavalry in '64," gives the particulars of this wonderful affair, and states that the spy's name was David Day, and that he was turned over to some junior reserves for safe keeping and escaped. And there was an interesting sequel.
Thirty-one years after this fight, Hampton then being United States Railway Commissioner, and in
Denver, Colorado, a stranger called upon him and explained that he was the David Day, the spy captured in the affair, dressed in Confederate uniform. Hampton congratulated him and said he was "glad the hanging did not come off." "So am I," replied the other, laughing.
At Fayetteville a few of the men of our company, I among them, procured Enfield rifles in place of the old Belgians we had, and also got ammunition to suit. The Enfield was a muzzle loader, but really one of the best guns of the day of its kind, and fairly accurate at 600 yards. About half of the company, however, had only the worthless Belgians to the end.
We were now so closely pursued by Sherman that on
March 16 General Hardee, having about 6,000 men,
determined to make a stand near Averysboro,
between the Cape Fear and Black Rivers, where at
daylight Taliaferro's division was attacked full in front by
the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps
of the Federal Army, and Kilpatrick's cavalry, altogether
about 20,000 men, General Sherman being personally on the
field. The fighting was stubborn, at very close quarters,
along the entire line. Twenty men, of whom I was one, were
detailed from Elliott's brigade and attached to the left of
Colonel Butler's First Regular Infantry, of Rhett's brigade,
and there I served through the fight. We held our position
in the open woods without protection for about three
hours, and repulsed repeated assaults, until
Page 4 the left of the line, resting on a swamp along the Black River, which had been thought to be impassable, was turned by a heavy force of Federals, which had made their way through the swamp. This force, I afterwards learned, was Colonel Jones's regiment of Indiana cavalry, fighting as infantry, and armed with Spencer magazine carbines. Our whole force then fell back about 400 yards to a line of breastworks manned by McLaws's skeleton division, and which the Federals later in the day unsuccessfully assaulted. The Confederate loss in this battle was 500, and the next day some of Kilpatrick's cavalrymen, who had just been captured, told me that the Federal loss had been about 2,500. The Confederate forces engaged in this fight were Rhett's and Elliott's brigades, two artillery companies, and McLaws's division; and it was not the intention of General Hardee that Taliaferro's division should make such a stubborn stand-up fight. It was the intention that they should engage only as skirmishers, bring on the fight, and then fall back gradually into the breastworks, where the real fighting was to have been done. But Elliott's and Rhett's men had previously done only garrison and artillery duty on the coast, and this was their first experience in infantry fighting in the open, and they knew no better than to stand up and fight it out. Sherman in his report to the U. S. War Department of this affair expressed his surprise at the tenacity with which our men held their ground.
It was on this occasion that Col. Alfred Rhett was captured. It seems that a Captain Theo. F. Northrop, of a regiment of New York cavalry, was scouting with a few men at early dawn on the morning of the battle, and just in front of our lines came unexpectedly upon Generals Hampton and Taliaferro, with a group of aids. He and his men promptly made themselves invisible, and withdrew, and a few moments after Colonel Rhett rode up on them. He put his pistol in Colonel Rhett's face and said, "You must come with me." Colonel Rhett replied, "Who the hell are you?" and drew his pistol to fight. Instantly the men with Captain Northrop put their carbines to Colonel Rhett's head, and he, seeing how the case stood, gave up, and was carried to General Slocum, who sent him to General Sherman's headquarters. Captain Northrop has stated to me that Colonel Rhett told him that when first accosted he thought he was dealing with one of General Wheeler's men, and he would have shot him for his insolence. And he was always satisfied that if Colonel Rhett had realized at the very first that they were the enemy he met, he would have fought and tried to get away, although he would have probably been killed in the attempt.
Captain Northrop took Colonel Rhett's sword and pistol. The sword was lost some years ago in a railway train, but he has the pistol still, with Colonel Rhett's name engraved on it.
The fight took place in a piece of pine forest, and there were many trees that afforded protection to the men on both sides. The lines were very close together, so close that I could at times clearly observe the faces of the Federal soldiers opposite. At one time I was protected by a good pine tree and felt quite comfortable as the bullets thwacked against the other side of it; but within a few feet, to my left, was an old stump-hole full of dry leaves, and the bullets striking in those leaves made a terrible racket. I stood the racket as long as I could, but finally could stand it no longer, and contrary to common sense abandoned my friendly tree and stepped a few paces to the right, away from that noisy stump-hole. There I stood unprotected in the open, but not many minutes before I was struck full in the middle of my body and knocked down to a sitting posture. My blanket was rolled in a tight roll, not over three inches thick, and being of course on my left shoulder, and across my body downwards to the right, had saved my life. The ball had passed through the roll, and striking a button on my jacket had stopped, and as I dropped it fell down, flattened out of all shape. I lay on the ground for a few moments, paralyzed by the blow, and I recollect hearing a comrade, who received a bullet through the brain only a few moments afterwards, call out, "Ford's killed." I gathered myself back into a sitting posture and replied, "No, I'm not. I think I'm all right." But the pain was intense,
as every boy knows who in a boxing bout gets a lick in "the short wind." In a few moments I was back again on my feet, and resumed my place in line, although suffering considerable pain and nausea. For some time after I carried on my body a black and blue spot the size of a dollar.
I recollect noticing the conspicuous coolness of Maj. Thos. Huguenin, of the First Infantry. During the hardest of the fighting he walked slowly immediately behind the line in which I was, smoking his pipe as calmly as if he had been at home.
Here an incident occurred that showed how, under the most serious condition, with death and imminent danger all around, a soldier's mind is often diverted by the most trivial thing. It is a strange phase of the mind which I have heard old soldiers, who have seen much hard fighting, comment upon. During the sharpest of the fighting, a hog started from the swamp on my left and ran squealing and terrified directly down the front of our line, presenting quite a ludicrous spectacle, and I heard a number of men, as he passed along the line, whoop at him and call out, "Go it, piggy!" "Save your bacon, piggy!" etc. But piggy had not got more than a hundred feet past me when he turned a somersault, kicked a moment or two, and lay still. He had evidently stopped a bullet.
An incident showing the same phase of mind was told me by a member of the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers, as occurring during the great
battle of Gettysburg. As Kershaw's brigade, on the second day, was advancing to the assault of Little Round Top, a company of the Fourteenth was among those thrown forward as skirmishers, and as they advanced across the field toward the Federals, they came to a large patch of ripe blackberries. The men with one accord immediately turned their attention to the ripe fruit which was in great abundance on every side, and, stooping down, kept picking, and eating berries, as they went slowly forward, actually into action. And so much was their attention distracted by the blackberries that they were actually within 50 yards of the enemy's advanced line before they realized their position, when they rushed forward with a yell, and got possession of a slightly elevated roadway, which they held until the main line came up.
During the assault on the breastworks, Capt. S. Porcher Smith, who was standing just behind me, was shot through the face and fell. The litter-bearers picked him up, and as they were carrying him to the rear, one of them was shot and fell, and Captain Smith rolled headlong out of the litter. I well remember this incident.
We held our position until about midnight, when we fell back to a place called Elevation. This night's march was a very trying one. The road was terribly cut up by the wagons and artillery, and as the rains had been frequent it seemed as if the clay mud was knee deep. We floundered
along for about six hours, and at daylight on the 17th halted and were given some rations. Most of us had not had a morsel of food since the night of the 15th. It happened in this way. On the night of the 15th we cooked our cornmeal and bacon and ate our supper, saving half for the next day. At the early break of day on the 16th, as I was warming my bacon and corn pone in a frying-pan before eating some of it, the Federals attacked us, and we had to fall into line instantly. So I had to leave the frying-pan with all my food as it was on the fire and go through that day's hardship, and until the next day at Elevation, without any food whatever. It had been General Hardee's intention to give us two or three days' rest at Elevation, but it having been ascertained that the Federal army was pushing toward Goldsboro, Gen. Jos. E. Johnston, then only recently put in command of the Confederate troops in North Carolina, ordered General Hardee to hurry forward and intercept Sherman near Bentonville. So about 3 o'clock on the morning of the 19th we were aroused and hurried on toward Bentonville, where we arrived a little before three in the afternoon, having made the 20 miles in rather less than 12 hours.
It was on the march this day that an amusing incident occurred. I had not owned a pair of socks since I left James Island a month before, and my shoes were in such tattered condition that I could keep uppers and soles together only by tying them
with several leather strings, but most of my toes stuck out very conspicuously. I had read of the importance that great generals attached to the good condition of infantry soldiers' feet, and hence the aphorism, "A marching man is no stronger than his feet," and I determined to keep mine in good condition if possible. I knew that frequent bathing prevented blistering; therefore, every night before going to sleep, and often on the march during the day I would bathe my feet, so that they were never blistered, and I kept well up with my company in marching. On this day as we crossed a little stream, according to my custom I stepped aside, and pulling off my shoes soaked my feet in the running water. General Hardee and his staff rode by at the moment. He checked his horse and called sternly to me, "You there, sir! What are you doing straggling from your command? I suppose you are one of those men who behaved so badly at Averysboro." (A few men had been guilty of misconduct there.) I sprang to my feet, and saluting him said, "Excuse me, General, but you are speaking to the wrong man, sir. I have never misbehaved, and never straggled. I am only bathing my feet to prevent them from blistering. There is my company right ahead there, sir, and I always keep up with it." My injured tone and evident sincerity struck the old man, and he saluted me with the words, "I beg your pardon, sir," and rode on. He was a courtly and knightly soldier, and a great favorite with the men.
We reached Bentonville at about 3 o'clock p. m., only a short time after the battle had begun, and as we marched hurriedly along the road in the direction of the firing we passed a number of wounded men coming to the rear; and then several operating tables on both sides of the road, some with wounded men stretched on them with the surgeons at work, and all of them with several bloody amputated legs and arms thrown alongside on the grass. The sight was temporarily depressing, as it foreshadowed what we had to expect. But we hurried on, and our division halted for a few moments on the ground from which the Federals had just been repulsed, and there were quite a number of their dead and wounded lying about. One of the Federal wounded, a lieutenant, begged us for some water, and I stepped from the line and gave him a drink from my canteen. Others begged me likewise, and in a few moments my canteen was empty. I knew that this might result seriously to me, in case I should need the water badly for myself, but I could not refuse a wounded man's appeal even if he was my enemy; and one of our men, a thrifty fellow, who always managed to have things, produced a little flask of whiskey, and gave a good drink to a Federal who had his leg badly crushed. The blue-coat raised his eyes to Heaven with, "Thank God, Johnnie; it may come around that I may be able to do you a kindness, and I'll never forget this drink of liquor." We were not allowed to remain
long relieving the suffering, but soon were called to "attention," and received orders to create it, by an attack upon the enemy from our extreme right. At this moment Maj. A. Burnett Rhett, of the artillery, rode along the line and called out that news had been received that France had recognized the Confederacy and would send warships to open our ports immediately. The men cheered, few of us realizing that the end was so near. We were blinded by our patriotism. There was Lee with his 30,000 men that moment surrounded by Grant with his 150,000. Here was Johnston with his 14,000 trying to keep at bay Sherman with his 70,000, with the knowledge that Schofield was only two days off with 40,000 more. And this was about all there was to the Confederacy; and they talked of recognition! Oh, the pity of it!
As we stood in line ready to advance my next comrade remarked, "Well, boys, one out of every three of us will drop to-day. I wonder who it will be?" This had been about our proportion in our two previous infantry engagements, and it was not far short of the same here, for out of the twenty-one men the company carried into the fight five were left on the field. At the word the line advanced through a very thick black jack-oak woods full of briars, and then double-quicked. We ran right over the Federal picket line and captured or shot every one of the pickets. One picket was in the act of eating his dinner, and as we ran upon him he
dropped his tin bucket, which, strange to say, had rice and peas boiled together. Our lieutenant grabbed it up, and carried it, with the spoon still in the porridge, in his left hand in the charge. We went through the bushes yelling and at a run until we struck a worm rail fence on the edge of an old field. I sprang up on the fence to get over, but when on top could see no enemy, and so called out to the men, a number of whom were likewise immediately on the fence. Just at this moment the officers called to us to come back , as a mistake had been made. Our division had not gone far enough to our right. The line was again formed in the thick bushes, and we went about two hundred yards or so farther to the right, and during this movement the lieutenant ate the captured porridge, and gave me the empty tin bucket and spoon. I attached the bucket to my waist belt, and kept it for about a month, when in an amusing encounter with Gen. Sam Cooper, of which I will tell farther on, it got crushed. The spoon I have kept to the present time.
Our line was soon again halted just on the inside edge of the dense woods, and concealed by the brush, and I could see on the other side of the field, about 300 yards distant, twelve pieces of artillery glistening in the sun, and behind them a dense mass of blue infantry evidently expecting our attack, and ready for us.
As we stood there for a few minutes and saw the work cut out for us, one of our men, one of the few
who had been of age in 1860, said in a plaintive tone, "If the Lord will only see me safe through this job, I'll register an oath never to vote for secession again as long as I live."
At the word "forward" our brigade left the cover of the woods at the double-quick, and the men reopened with their yells.
As all veterans of the great war know, in a charge the Confederates did not preserve their alignment, as the Federals did. They usually went at a run, every man more or less for himself. There was also an inexplicable difference between the battle cries of the Federal and Confederate soldiers. In the assaults of the Federals the cries were regular, like "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!" simply cheers, lacking stirring life. But the Confederate cries were yells of an intensely nervous description; every man for himself yelling "Yai, Yai, Yi, Yai, Yi!" They were simply fierce shrieks made from each man's throat individually, and which cannot be described, and cannot be reproduced except under the excitement of an assault in actual battle. I do not know any reason for this marked difference unless it was in the more pronounced individuality of the average Confederate soldier.
As soon as our line charged out into the open field the Federal artillery opened on us with grape shot, and the infantry with their rifles. My eyes were in a moment filled with sand dashed up by the grape which struck around. I wiped them with
my hand, and keeping them closed as much as I could, kept on at a run until I suddenly realized that I was practically alone. When I looked back I saw that the brigade, after getting about half way across the field, had stopped and was in confusion. In a moment it broke and went back in a clear panic. It is needless to say I followed. Our line was reformed in the woods, and I am glad to say of my own company, and I think Captain Matthews's, they both rallied at the word to a man. Every man was in place except those who had fallen. This was more than could be said for some of the other commands of the brigade, some of whose men never rallied, but went straight on home from the field, and were never heard of again.
Our line was again moved forward to the position from which we had first driven the Federal pickets, and our company was sent to the edge of the woods from which we had made the last charge, and deployed as pickets, two men at each post. It was now about dark, and, while the Federal infantry had ceased firing, the wretched pieces of artillery never let up on us and kept throwing grape shot, and occasional shells into the woods where they knew we were, making a terrible racket through the tree-tops, tearing off branches, etc. At about eight o'clock that night our lieutenant came running along the line calling for "Ford." As soon as he came to my post he told me that he had brought another man to take my place and that I was relieved,
and at 12 o'clock must go directly to the rear and get some rations that were expected, and cook them for the company. I begged to be let off, but it was no go. He said he knew I could cook, and must go. So I laid down where I was, with instructions to my comrade to awake me at 12 o'clock, and in an instant was sound asleep, oblivious to the shells, etc., that the enemy kept meanly crashing through the trees and brush, and worse still to the groans and cries of the wounded that still lay in the field in front where they had fallen. After dark the occasional screams of some wounded horses lying in our rear were particularly distressing. Early in the afternoon Halsey's battery of flying artillery, attached to Hampton's cavalry, had held a gap in the line, until the arrival of our division, and in advancing I saw probably a dozen horses lying dead or wounded where the battery had been. To this day I recall the piteous expressions of two or three of these wounded horses, as they raised their heads in their suffering and looked at us as we passed between them. They were perfectly quiet, but it was only after dark that in their loneliness they uttered any sounds.
About midnight our picket line was withdrawn and the whole division moved off in Egyptian darkness somewhere, I never did know exactly where, or really care either, for at that moment I was suffering from fever which afterwards developed into a serious illness. At daylight in a cold rain
we halted somewhere in the woods on the edge of another field, and threw up breastworks, as we were threatened with an attack, which, however, was not made. On the afternoon of the 21st we were hurriedly ordered to hasten across to the extreme left of Johnston's army to support the troops there who were severely pressed by the Federals. I was now so sick that I was ordered to the rear, but begged off, and a comrade offered to carry my gun for me, so I kept up. When we reached the place our line was formed with our company on the extreme left resting on the edge of Mill Creek. I was really so ill that I could not stand in line for any length of time, and requested permission of my lieutenant to lie down in ranks, so as to be in place when the assault came. He ordered me to the rear, but I succeeded in begging off again, and lay down in line. I was asleep instantly. The next thing I knew I was being dragged by the feet, and heard some one say, "What are you going to do with that dead man?" "Going to throw him in the creek," was the reply. I opened my eyes and said, "I am not dead, but only sick. What is the matter? Where are our men?" Looking around I saw that it was early dawn, and the place was deserted except by two of our cavalry videttes, one of whom said, "If you have life enough left you had better skedaddle, for the Yanks will be here in five minutes.
We are the last of the cavalry." I picked myself up, and got across Mill Creek bridge just as the Federal troops began to appear.
I believe I was the last infantryman to get across it, and it was the only bridge across the creek. As I went across I noticed a lot of Wheeler's cavalry on the north bank of the creek, evidently to hold the bridge, and I could see the Federals in the distance, just on the top of the hill on the south side. I suspected what was coming, and, as I had received no invitation to an early morning entertainment, kept on my way. The road on the north side of the bridge inclined sharply to the left, so I was soon out of the line of fire, but heard the scrimmage as the Federals assaulted Wheeler's men and endeavored to capture the bridge. They were repulsed, but not before three of their color-bearers had fallen within fifty feet of the Confederate line.
It seemed that Johnston's army had retreated during the night, and in the darkness my comrades had overlooked me asleep on the ground. At about noon I caught up with my command where it had halted about two miles from the creek. In this battle of Bentonville, Johnston with only 14,100 men, all told, fought Sherman with about 40,000 the first day, and 70,000 the second. The Confederate losses were 2,400 and the Federal 4,000.
I had become so ill now that I could hold out no longer, and reported to the surgeon, and at eight o'clock on the morning of the 23rd was driven in
an ambulance to a railway station and put with a lot of sick and wounded men on a train for Greensboro. I had had nothing to eat since about noon the day before, and when we got to Raleigh I got off and went to a near-by little cottage, where I saw a woman at the door, and told her that I was really very sick, and very hungry, and begged her for something to eat. I had not a cent of money. She told me pathetically that she had fed nearly all she had to the soldiers, but had a potato pie, and if I could eat that I would be welcome to it. I took it gratefully and it was the nicest potato pie I ever saw, before or since. We reached Greensboro at dark, making about 90 miles run in ten hours, very good for the speed of railway trains at that time. At Greensboro the court-house was used as the hospital, all the benches, desks, etc., being removed. We had no mattresses nor bedding of any kind, and about 200 of us were laid off in rows on the floor, with only our own blankets that we brought with us. After looking over the accommodations I selected the platform inside of the rail, where the judge's desk used to be, for my place, and went out into the street and begged an armful of hay from a wagon, and with two bricks for a pillow made my bed. Here I lay for about three weeks with fever, and at times really very ill. Three times a day the ladies of the town came and brought us food, and were devoted in their attentions. I got to be very weak, and on April 14th I told the surgeon
that I was certainly getting worse, and believed I would die if I stayed where I was. His cold reply was, "I believe you will." I then asked to be allowed to go home. He said, "You will die before you have been out of the hospital twenty-four hours," to which I replied, "It is all the same with me. I would as lieve die in the bushes as here. Only let me make the attempt." Thereupon he gave me my furlough, and at daylight the next morning I put my blanket around me and walked right out into a drizzly rain. The railroad was torn up between Greensboro and Salisbury, so I walked along the track, and the next day reached High Point, and at that place met one of my comrades, who was in the hospital there. He smuggled me in and gave me a night's lodging under his blanket, and shared his scanty supper with me. The next day I struck out again, and after three or four more days walking reached Salisbury, about thirty miles farther, where I again found another comrade in the hospital at that place. With the exception of the night I had spent at High Point, it was my habit, when night overtook me, to step aside into the bushes and sleep until morning. What food I got was only what I begged at the farmhouses on the way.
At the Yadkin River I found that the bridge had not been burned. It seems that the Federal General Stoneman had been raiding that section of country and had attempted to burn this bridge, but had been driven off by a Confederate force under General
Pettus, and some cavalry. Just as I approached it, President Jefferson Davis, with quite a party, came riding by. He was sitting gracefully erect on his horse, and courteously returned our salutes. This was the one occasion on which I saw the President.
We were quite a large number of men along the roadside, and one of the President's party, a captain, rode up to my group and asked if we were willing to go on across the Mississippi and continue the war there? Many of us, I among them, volunteered to go, but we heard nothing more of it. It seems that this really was Mr. Davis's plan, and he was so much set on it, that as late as April 25 he suggested to General Johnston that instead of surrendering to General Sherman, he should disband his infantry, with instructions to them to rendezvous at some appointed place across the Mississippi, and to bring off his cavalry and all his horses and light pieces of artillery. As is well known, General Johnston fully realized the absolute hopelessness of the struggle and deliberately disobeyed his instructions, and surrendered to General Sherman the next day. When one looks back upon the condition of things then as they must have been known to the highest Confederate authorities, it seems almost incredible that such an impracticable idea as continuing the war across the Mississippi could have been entertained for a moment.
At Salisbury a comrade, who had been also for three years my messmate and chum, joined me, and we traveled from there as far as Chester, S. C.,
where our ways parted. Strange to say, it seemed to me that I began to improve from the moment I left the hospital. I had a strong fever on me, but was bent on getting home. At Salisbury an amusing event occurred. This was about April 19. Lee's army had been surrendered ten days before, and the first lot of his men, probably 300 or so, now came along, and learning that there was a Confederate storehouse here with supplies of food and clothing, determined to help themselves. I joined the crowd to get my share. The warehouse was guarded by about a dozen boys of the home guard, who protested violently; but they were just swept one side, and the door was broken open, and every man helped himself to what he wanted or needed. I got a handful of Confederate money, a pair of shoes, some flour and bacon, a pair of socks, and a small roll of jeans. This roll of cloth I carried clear home across my shoulders, and when I reached Aiken, in May, exchanged it with the baker for one hundred bread tickets, which provided our family with bread for the rest of the summer.
The railway for a short distance from Salisbury was intact, and here we discovered an engine and two box-cars waiting for President Davis and the Confederate Cabinet. The crowd of soldiers determined to seize this train, and we told the engineer that he must either carry us as far as he could, and then come back for the President, or we would put him off and take the train ourselves. He yielded to force, and carried us about 20 miles. We then got
off, and he went back. This led to an amusing experience a couple of days later. There was another section of torn-up track, and then another place where another engine and one box-car were in waiting again for the President and Cabinet. The crowd had dwindled down very much now, so comparatively only a few of us were on hand. These, I among them, at once clambered up on top of the car, and sat there. Presently I saw Gen. Sam Cooper approaching with a squad of about a dozen boys, home guards as they were called. He halted them within a dozen paces of the car, and then gave the orders, "ready, aim," and we had a dozen old muskets pointed at us. Then shaking his finger at us he said, "You scoundrels, you are the men who stole that train day before yesterday. If you do not drop off that car I'll blow you to hell." We dropped. In jumping down, my tin bucket, captured at Bentonville, was crushed against the side of the car. The spoon was in my haversack, and I have it still--1904. I thought to myself, however, "Old cock, I'll get even with you. I have a scheme you don't know about." Going off a few steps I said to my chum, "Just let's wait here until the Cabinet arrives. I bet that we two at least will get back on that car." We lounged around for an hour or two, and presently the wagons appeared with the Cabinet. I knew that Mrs. Geo. A. Trenholm, the wife of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, was along, and being a Charlestonian, who knew my family, I felt sure that when I made myself known she would
help me. True enough, as soon as I made myself known to her she spoke to General Cooper, and four of us were given permission to ride on top of the car, one at each corner, with our legs dangling over, for the top of the car in the middle was smashed in. Mrs. Trenholm also kindly gave me a half loaf of bread and the half of a chicken.
We jolted along in this way over the good section of the road, until we came to the next break, when we got off, and after tendering our thanks plodded along on foot again.
Gen. Sam'l S. Cooper was Adjutant-General of the Confederate Army, and the senior in rank of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was a Pennsylvanian. He ranked Lee in the Confederate service; and in the Federal Army before the war he also ranked the great Confederate commander, he having been Adjutant-General of the United States Army.
At Chester I parted with my companions, as our routes diverged. I walked from that town to Newberry, where I met one of my comrades, whose family lived there. He took me to his house, and I stayed there two days. Upon my departure he saw that my haversack was well filled with provisions.
The railway was intact from Newberry to Abbeville, so I got a lift that far.
While making my way through the country I was always treated with much hospitality by all the people along my route. There was only one exception. This was in Chester County, when one day, with my haversack empty, and hunger calling impatiently,
I stopped at a farm-house and asked for some food, offering to pay for it. The respectable-looking man whom I addressed asked me what kind of money I had. I said, "Only Confederate money." He replied, "I won't take anything except gold or silver and have no food to give away," and shut the door in my face. I inquired of some negroes, as I walked off, and was told he was a very well-to-do man, and a preacher!
In striking contrast was the treatment by a poor farmer's wife the same day. I stopped at a small farm-house by the roadside, and in response to my call a woman opened the house door, and looking out cautiously asked who I was. I replied, "I am a Confederate soldier trying to get home. I am sick, and want something to eat." She called out, "You got smallpox?" "No," I said. Again she asked, "You got the measles?" "No, I've got only fever, and only want to rest; and if you have anything to spare, something to eat." She then told me to come into the house, and showing me into the back porch, spread a comfort on the floor with a pillow, and said, "My husband got back from the army just yesterday, and went to town this morning. I am sorry, but there's not a scrap of meat in the house, only some veal which he killed this morning. Now you just lie down and take a rest while I cook you some veal, and corn bread." I laid down, and was soon asleep. After a while the good woman aroused me, and led the way to the table, where she had prepared some veal chops and corn bread for me, which I ate
with relish. She refused to receive any pay, as she said she "could not receive pay from a soldier." So giving her my warm thanks I resumed my route toward Newberry.
At Abbeville I went into a drug store and invested $30 in a toothbrush.
I had chosen this route to avoid the section devastated by Sherman. From Abbeville my route lay through Washington and Augusta, Ga., to Aiken, where my family were, and which I reached early in May. When passing through Augusta I went to the quartermaster's department and drew my pay, amounting to $156. This was the first pay I had received for a year, and of course it was absolutely worthless, but upon my arrival at Aiken I found a man who accepted $50 of it for a bottle of very crude corn whiskey. The remainder of this pay is still in my desk.
On April 26, 1865, General Johnston's army was surrendered to General Sherman near Durham Station, N. C., thus putting an end to the war within the limits of their respective commands. At that time General Johnston had 26,000 men on his roll, as many of the remnants of the Army of the Tennessee and others from Wilmington had joined his command. Of these, 2,000 had no arms of any kind. General Sherman had 110,000 men effective. Johnston's army had consumed their last rations when it was surrendered, and General Sherman, when informed of its condition, ordered 250,000 rations immediately distributed, or about ten days' rations
to each Confederate soldier. General Johnston in his "Narrative" says that if this had not been done great suffering would have ensued.
The great war was at an end, and the following figures show the fearful odds we fought against.
During the four years the United States put about 3,000,000 men in the field, of whom 720,000 were foreigners. They lost in killed, in battle, and from disease, 366,000, or about 12 per cent.
The Confederate States had only about 625,000 men, all told, from first to last. Of these there were killed in battle, and died from disease, 349,000, or about 56 per cent.
At the close the United States had 1,050,000 men in active service, and the Confederate States 139,000. We were fighting odds of over 7 to 1.
The day after my arrival at home the first Federal troops arrived from Charleston to garrison the town of Aiken. They were a company of negroes, commanded by a German captain, who spoke very broken English. I soon learned that it was a part of the force that had assaulted us on James Island and from the officers I heard their side of the affair. This was the beginning of that era of reconstruction which, for eleven years, was a course of negro domination, corruption, robbery, and outrages; and which steadily increased in intensity until in 1876 it was overthrown by the general uprising of the white people. But this is another subject.
"An African Morgan--a citizen whose name we shall not mention, although many readers know and will recognize the case--was surprised some days ago by the entrance of a good servant, who was supposed to be, if living at all, in Yankee hands at Knoxville. This servant went cheerfully, of course, or he would not have been sent, to wait on 'Young Massa,' who is under Brigadier-General Jenkins, in Longstreet's corps.
"In the retreat from Knoxville, he was accidentally wounded, and necessarily left behind.
"When taken to Knoxville, he was questioned by General Foster, well known for his connection as engineer with Fort Sumter, which has done more than he desired or expected for the defense of Charleston.
"Being asked his master's name, the man replied, when General Foster condescendingly said: 'Oh, yes; I knew him when I was at Sumter. You know that you are now free and have no master.' We
need not report the further conversation, or the conduct of the servant. Suffice it to say he did not--like some of our gossiping friends in uniform--talk to everybody about his intention, but at the first promising opportunity he took French leave of Yankee friends and freedom in Knoxville, and not knowing then where to find or reach his 'Young Master,' he struck, according to his best information, for the 'Old Master' and the 'home place.'
"He was compelled to walk over one hundred and fifty miles, and in great part over the route travelled lately by General Morgan, and succeeded in reaching a railroad, which gave him a lift toward this city.
"We would have more such cases if opportunities could be found."--Charleston, S. C., Courier, January 19, 1863.
This Kent was not of blood royal, as his name might indicate; he came of a dusky African brood, but his loyalty and faithfulness would have done credit to any race. How he got his name I do not know, but it was a relief to the ear after those his mother had chosen for his brothers--"Cully" and "Hackless." Whether the latter was intended for Hercules, neither Martha, their mother, nor any one else knew.
Kent was the flower of his flock as regarded his appearance, being tall and slender, with shiny black skin and unusually high features for a negro. He seemed to justify his mother's boast that she was
"no low-blooded negro, but was of a good family in Africa." And she really had some foundation for this unusual pride among her race, for our grandmother, who died at a great age many years ago, was fond of telling among the incidents of her childhood, that once when a shipload of Africans was brought to her native city for sale, her husband went to purchase some for his plantation, and among several he brought back "Katura," Martha's ancestress. After the usual process of shutting them up until they could be induced to wear clothes, she, with the others, was sent up to the plantation. When they arrived there and began to mingle with the other negroes, one of those that had been bought some time before, at the sight of "Katura," rushed forward and prostrated herself at her feet with every mark of affection and respect. She could speak English and explained to the astonished onlookers that this was a princess in her country, who had been sold by her uncle to the slave-traders. It seemed a barbaric romance. Katura, however, took kindly to civilization, and soon settled herself in her new position with no undue repining. In time she was comforted by a partner, and brought into the world numerous progeny, who were noted for their integrity and fidelity unto the fifth generation, which brings us to that of Kent.
When the great war broke out, and all the men and youths were joining the army, our hearts were heavy, and we felt full of sad forebodings at Otranto, our
country home, where parting and sorrow had never come. We were a large band of girls, with one young brother, the idol of our hearts, and the apple of our parents' eyes. Like everybody in those days, we were very patriotic, but when it dawned upon us that Harry must shoulder his rifle and go to Virginia we felt that love of country cost us dear. Harry completed his sixteenth year the April after the secession of South Carolina, and as there was no doubt that his college days were over, as he would not study, we were not surprised when the day after his birthday, he galloped up the avenue, dashed into the room where we were sitting, upsetting a chair, and exclaimed:
"How soon can you get me ready, girls? I joined the Hampton Legion this morning, and we are off to Virginia, --Hurrah!"
"Hush, Harry!" exclaimed our eldest sister; "pick up that chair; don't you see mother is faint?"
"No, it is past," murmured our mother, trying to smile, as we all turned to her. "God bless and keep you, my boy. I expected you to enlist; you could not do otherwise, and now," stifling a sigh, "I must think of your outfit, and you must take a servant too. I wonder which will be best."
"A private with a servant seems an anomaly," laughingly said Harry. "But I believe several of the boys have men, and anything to ease your mind, mother dear."
"Our minds must learn to do without ease, as well as our bodies, I fear, in the days that lie before us," she answered, stroking his curly head as he knelt by her chair; "but we must act, and not think now."
The days that followed were busy ones. The difficulty was not what was needed, but what could be carried. It was an exciting novelty to pack a knapsack, and its small capacity was a constant check to our zeal. Harry's constant reminder, "I will have to march with that on my back, nobody knows how far," brought a pang to our hearts. It was decided that he should take a "body-servant"--the old-fashioned Southern rendering of the French term "valet." After much deliberation and, I fear, heart burning among the servants, for in this, as in other instances, the post of danger was also that of honor, Kent was selected, much to his own and his mother's gratification.
The day appointed for the company to which Harry belonged to join the Legion in Virginia came all too soon. He shouldered his knapsack, and tore himself from us, followed by his colored attendant, with whom we all shook hands and whom we urged to "take care of Mas' Harry."
"Yes, Missus," he responded, looking preternaturally solemn.
Of course Harry left a great gap behind him, but we tried to excel each other in efforts at cheerfulness, and bright prognostications as to his future career as a soldier. We succeeded only tolerably in these
laudable efforts, when Martha waddled in--she was our cook, and a decided character in her way. I believe, next to our mother, she thought herself of first importance among the feminine part of the household. She gave a keen glance at our mother, whom she idolized.
"Well, Missus," she said, dropping a little curtsy, "I come to see how you gettin' on. You all looks pretty blue, but I 'clare to gracious there's no 'casion to fret. Nuttin' gwine to hu't Mas' Harry w'en Kent gone to tak' care ov him. Missus, you dunno how smart dat boy is; an' I jus' tell him, 'Mas' Harry tinks he's a man and a soger, but you know he ain't nuttin' but a baby, an' a ma-baby at dat.' An' I jus' tell him he need not to come home if he let anyt'ing hu't Mas' Harry. So don't you fret, Missus."
"But how could Kent prevent Harry's being wounded or hurt, Martha?" I asked.
"Now, Miss Sallie, don't you go for to talk nonsense," responded the old woman. "An' your ma always says w'ere dere is a will dere is a way. Well, dat's what I tells Kent, an' I tells Affy, de gal he's courtin', it's no use for she to fret, fur 'less Kent brings Mas' Harry back safe, dere won't be no weddin' fur him."
"Oh," I said, "he is courting, is he? That is why he looked so serious when he left."
"It looks so, Missy. He tell me to look sharp at her, an' see if she notice anybody while he is gone.
An' I will--an' let her know, too, if she do," she muttered as she left the room.
Harry saw much active service, was in many battles, and fortunately escaped with only one wound. He told us in his letters of Kent's faithful following, and attendance on long marches, and after a battle he always found him looking anxiously for him, with something to eat as nice as he could get. Indeed, he was a wonderful provider, but Harry was by no means sure that Kent could have made good his claim to many of the eatables he set before him, for his conscience was an elastic one as to the rights of property in food. So long as he got what he wanted for Harry, he stopped neither to buy, beg nor borrow, but helped himself. His kindness of heart, ready wit, and readiness to lend a helping hand to any one in need made him a general favorite in the company, where he was noted for the care he took of his young master.
The years of the war sped on, and brought privations and sorrows which each year seemed to intensify. Our home was no longer the bright place it used to be, for we had lost many friends, and self-denial was the order of the day. We were very busy, too, and that helped to keep us cheerful.
There were new accomplishments to acquire. We learned, and taught our maids, to card and spin the home-grown wool, and when that did not suffice for the extraordinary demand we had supernumerary wool mattresses ripped up; the ticking was considered
to make handsome frocks for the servants, and the wool when dyed and woven made excellent homespun suits for ourselves, that were not to be despised for durability and warmth. There was quite a rivalry as to who could make the prettiest dyes for our dresses, but after a time black was most worn. Then we had our old light kid gloves to ink over carefully, so that we might not go barehanded to church. We thought those gloves a great success when we first dyed them, but when we came to wear them, the ink never seemed to dry, and would soak through, and dye our hands most uncomfortably. Our greatest achievement after all, I think, was the piles of socks we knitted by the lightwood blaze at night. Our old-fashioned butler always placed a candle--a tallow one, or still worse, a home-made myrtle wax one--upon the table, but we considered it an extravagance to light it unless there was something urgent to read. I am surprised now that we did not mind the heat of the blaze more in summer, but I do not remember our thinking of it. There was one great spasm of patriotism when every worsted curtain in the house was cut into soldiers' shirts. Some of these were of brilliant colors and patterns, and I cannot but think might have served as targets for bullets. We even undressed the piano and converted its cover into a blanket for a soldier. We were chagrined afterwards to hear from some of our friends who had done the same thing, that the latest advice from the field was that the soldiers
found the garments, so improvised, very unsatisfactory, and begged the ladies not to sacrifice their belongings so recklessly.
There were no plum puddings or mince pies in those days, according to the accepted recipes, but we made Confederate fruit cake with dried peaches and apples instead of raisins and currants, with sorghum for sugar; and potato pones and puddings were very frequent, and both dishes had the merit of a little going a long way, especially after the supply of ginger gave out.
We never had any use for the potato, peas, groundnut, or any sort of mock coffee, but we drank orange leaf, or sage tea in preference to any other homemade beverage. We managed to keep a little store of genuine tea for medicine, and when our mother pronounced any of us ill enough to need a little coddling, what a treat it was! The invalid never would consent to partake, unless it was a family tea party. What enjoyment those occasions gave!
In the latter part of '63 we were distressed to hear from Harry that he was ill in the hospital in Tennessee. He wrote: "I think we are falling back. Kent is ill with pneumonia, and the worst of it is that if we fall back I have no means of transportation for him; it will be hard to have to leave him."
Dire was the distress that letter brought us. We waited anxiously for further news. Harry brought
it himself. He had been ill, and was sent home on furlough. He looked worn, and very unlike the bright boy who had left us.
"What of Kent?" we asked.
"I had to leave him," he said. "I could not help it. We were falling back rapidly. Many were left in the hospitals, and are now prisoners. It was only through my captain being such a friend of father's, and stirring himself to get me a place in an ambulance, that I was not left. I dragged myself to see the good fellow, although I could scarcely walk. He was very sick, and distressed to part with me. I told him the enemy would be in town that night, and he would be free. He said, 'Mas' Harry, that is nothing to me; if you don't see me home, you will know I am dead. Tell Missus, and Ma, and Affy so.'"
Martha was given the message, but our conscientious mother added: "But, Martha, if you do not see him you need not be sure he is not living; but you must not count too much on seeing him, for if he gets well he will doubtless be tempted to stay, and try a new experience."
The old woman twirled the corners of her apron, as she said sadly: "Missus, it is five generations since my fam'ly come from Africa, and Mausser's from France; we's been togedder since dat time, an' been fait'ful togedder; for once w'en times was hard wid Mausser, he mout hab sold us, but he didn't. He kep' us all togedder, an' you tink Kent such a
fool as not to know dat, an' be happy 'mong strangers? He got to work w'erebber he is, an' nobody gwine to consider him like you all. No, ma'am, if he alive I'm lookin' for him, w'atever it seems like to you, ma'am." And she bobbed her curtsy and walked off, leaving her mistress feeling quite small.
Harry remained with us for some weeks. It was pleasant to see his enjoyment of home fare, even in its pruned condition. Everything seemed luxurious after the camp life; but he did not linger after he was well enough to return to the army. There still was no news of Kent. Harry refused to take another servant in his place, although urged to do so. "No," he said, "I could not find any one to fill Kent's place; and it is a demoralizing life. I do not know if even he could stand the restraints of civilization again."
Several months passed after Harry's departure, and we had given up any idea we might have had of hearing any more of Kent. Martha mourned him as dead, and induced her preacher to preach his funeral, she and Affy attending as chief mourners. Affy in a black cotton dress of Martha's which swallowed her up, and Martha with her very black face muffled in a square of black alpaca, from which, as she peered out, her teeth and eyeballs looked dazzlingly white.
One freezing night in December, as we were trying to summon resolution to leave the warm chimney
corner and go to bed, we were startled by a rap at the door. Everything was startling in those days. Our father opened it, and the light fell on a tall figure clad in a United States uniform, surmounted by Kent's smiling countenance.
"Why, where do you come from?" we exclaimed.
"Well, I tole Mas' Harry if de Lord spare my life I'd come home, an' here I is, sir, and Missus, an' mighty proud," he added, as my mother extended her hand to him, and said:
"You are a faithful fellow. Your mother knew you better than I did."
We soon dismissed our returned wanderer to his rest. Martha's and Affy's delight may be imagined, and the speed with which they doffed their mourning was marvelous. The next morning we were anxious to have Kent's adventures, which he was pleased to narrate. His comfortable attire looked very spick and span beside the faded garments of those around, and his excellent shoes were a source of undisguised envy to his fellow-servants.
"Well, Miss Sallie," he said, when I remarked on his appearance, "I thought I'd better get myself the best I could while I was w'ere dey was plenty, as I could give ole Maussa one nigger less to clothe. You see, ma'am, w'en Mas' Harry an' our people lef,' I felt pretty bad. That night, sure'nuf, as Mas' Harry tole me, the Yankees came booming into town, an' it wasn't long befo' all our mens, who was in the hospitable, was took prisoners; but they seemed very kind to
them. W'ile they was sick they give them everything. It was a cur'ous t'ing, w'en General Foster come through w'ere I was, he noticed me, and asked me w'at I was doin' there, an' I tole him how I had been wid my young Maussa, an' w'en I tole him w'ere I come from an' Mas' Harry's name, 'Oh,' say he, 'I know his father well. I was stationed at Fort Moultrie befo' de war, an' I have eaten many a good dinner at the old Colonel's.' I tole him, 'Yes, sir, Maussa had the bes' of everything, an' my ma was a splendid cook.' So then he say: 'If you come from them you knows your business, an' w'en you are well, I will take you into my service. You is free now, you know.' So they kep' me in the hospitable, an' give me nice things to make me well, an' w'en the hospitable discharged me, de General took me an' was rale kind. I had good greenback wages and plenty of everything, an' not much to do, an' rale coffee, as much as I wanted, too; but somehow I couldn't diskiver to be settled. I had been in de Soudern army so long, w'en they talked of beatin' it, it made me oneasy, an' w'en I studied on Mas' Harry back in de army wid nobody--for I know he wouldn't take nobody in my place--an' wid not 'nuf of even corn bread an' bacon, widout me to perwide," he added, with a grin, "I jest kep' studyin', but I never said nuttin', an' every day dey tole me how lucky I was to be free. I jes' made up my mind, an' I got the General to let me draw all de clo's I could, an' a overcoat an' shoes an' blankets on my
wages, an' den I ask him for a month's wages in advance, an' he seem a little surprised, but he was very kind, an' he give it to me; so w'en I got everything I could, one night I waited on the General fust rate, w'en he was goin' to bed, an' fixed everything very nice, an' he said I was a rale good servant an' a treasure of a boy; but I jest took my things an' watched my chance, an' jest slipped off in the dark, an' dodged about until I got out of their lines an' into our'n. I had to walk a hundred miles befo' I got to our regiment. An', Mis', they jest gave me three cheers w'en I tole them how I come back; an' I took de liberty to bring a bottle of whiskey, an' I treated Mas' Harry's ole mess. Dey tole me he had jine another regiment. I had to walk a good piece more to de cyars; but one of our officers give me a letter to the conductors on de cyars, so I jest come through without payin' a cent. An' mighty glad I is to git home," he added, drawing a long sigh of relief.
"But did you not feel bad at robbing the kind officer who employed you?" I asked.
"Well, Missy," he answered, "seems like Mas' Harry has the bes' right to me, an' he was robbin' Mas' Harry ob me." And, turning to our mother, he said: "Please, ma'am, I would like a week at home to marry Affy, an' den can't I find Mas' Harry?"
It is needless to add that Kent's wedding was as festive as it could be made. It was a holiday on the plantation, and dancing was kept up to the sound of
the rhythmic stick beating, from morning until night. The bride was proud, happy and dusky in white muslin; the groom a marvel in his attire, and with all the airs of a traveled man.
After the surrender Kent followed his young master home, and he and Affy settled on a pretty part of the plantation, declaring that they would live "faithful togedder" for the remainder of their lives.
In the busy rush of to-day it is sometimes a relaxation to pause for a moment and let memory carry us back, far back, to the peaceful, uneventful days before the Civil War. Life seemed to go slower then. We had no cables to tell us, and often harrow us, each morning with the events all over the world of the preceding day. And (inestimable boon) our only ideas of war were time-mellowed Revolutionary anecdotes. There was in these days no more beautiful place in all the luxuriant low country contiguous to Charleston than Hickory Hill. The plantation consisted of rice fields which bordered Goose Creek on both sides. The massive brick dwelling, built in Colonial days by the pioneer of the family which still dwelt there, stood beyond the rice fields in view of the creek; venerable moss-crowned live-oaks stood sentinels around. The approach was through an avenue of similar trees, whose branches formed a beautiful arch over the luxuriant sward beneath. These trees were the admiration and pride of the countryside.
Years had only added beauty to the rugged old house, for ivy and climbing rose vines had dressed its walls and framed many of its windows. In the springtime it was a veritable bower. At the time of which I write it was a "maidens' bower." From my earliest recollections three unmarried sisters, Miss Martha, Miss Joanna and Miss Mary, composed the family. My parents lived on an adjoining plantation, and although our dwelling houses were some distance apart, there was a short cut along the rice field banks, and a happy child was I when any pretext afforded an excuse for a visit to the ladies. Their individuality had a great charm even to my childish mind. When I first remember them they must have all been past their sixtieth birthdays, and were counted ladies of the old school. Miss Martha was the eldest. She took life very seriously, was very tall and thin, was the housekeeper and head, besides being considered "the clever woman of the family." She could be very tragic on the smallest provocation. Her drop of good Scotch blood made her hold her head very high, and also made her a rigid Presbyterian. When she was not hemming a pocket handkerchief she usually had one of Scott's novels in her hands. Miss Joanna, the second sister, who was as genial as her sister was severe, used to say she "did not know what Martha would have done if Scott had never written; he had really diversified her life by his novels."
Miss Joanna had the cheeriest old face imaginable, bright blue eyes, rosy cheeks, with high cheek bones, her gray hair waved becomingly, and she always wore a lavender ribbon in her cap. She was the social one of the sisters; that is, she performed the social duties. Miss Mary, the youngest, was at sixty the spoiled darling, having been considered the best looking, and delicate in her youth. All the airs of a beauty, and the privileges of an invalid still clung to her. Indeed, her very white skin and black eyes were very impressive. Her sisters always gave her the tenderest consideration and never failed to be affected by her gentle melancholy and pathetic sighs. They were all much given to charity, but Miss Mary was more lavish than wise. Whole families of beggars, not only preyed upon her, but tyrannized. There was a tradition that Miss Mary had been rescued in her youth from a runaway carriage by a lover who was anxious to marry her; she had inclined to him, but had been deterred by the fear of parting from Miss Joanna, who usually directed her affairs, and sometimes made up her mind for her.
The sisters were accounted quite wealthy. They owned a handsome residence in the neighboring city of Charleston, where they betook themselves when fear of country fever drove them from their beloved country home. The yearly exodus was a great trial to Miss Martha, who was supposed to manage the plantation. The neighbors said the negro foreman,
Boston, managed the place and the ladies also. They would never employ a white overseer, as they said "a hireling could not make allowance for the negroes as they did." Indeed, their negroes were a terrible care to them; they had large retinues of house servants, both in the city and country, both having a sinecure during their absence.
Miss Martha frequently complained that she was "hard worked in finding something for the servants to do." The young ones grew up so rapidly, and to put certain families to field work was not to be contemplated.
That the ladies did not suffer more from their reckless management was providential. They had the affection of all their servants, but the women were lazy and the men great inebriates. Their idol, and coachman, Billy, was a terrible case. Their lives were often in peril when he was on the box. After some hair-breadth escape Billy would be summoned before the trio and Miss Martha would say tragically, "Billy, you will be the death of us." "Fore de Laud, Missis, I wouldn't hurt a hair of yore heads," would be his rejoinder. That he did not was not his fault, but his good fortune, for on one occasion, having been sent to meet Miss Martha and Miss Mary at one of the wharves, he was so far gone that he drove carriage and pair over them, knocking them down as they approached to get into the carriage. Miraculously they escaped with only bruises. Their black silk dresses were kept as
curiosities, as the iron shod hoofs of the horses had left their impress in several places. On another occasion, having met them at the theater with the carriage, he drove them several miles up the road toward their country home at 11 o'clock at night before they could induce him to turn. These episodes, combined with the very apparent fact that their friends had ceased to borrow their carriage, which they enjoyed lending as much as using, sealed Billy's fate. To soften his downfall, they told him he could give Cuffie, his successor on the box, some "hints on driving," and they would be glad to fill his molasses jug when it was empty, and if he must drink, to take molasses and water. He could employ himself by sweeping the yard. Billy never said what he drank, but died shortly after of delirium tremens.
Joe and Romeo, the butler and his assistant, were quite as harassing. Romeo's besetting sin was indolence. He had been known to shed tears at the prospect of one of the little tea parties in which the old ladies delighted. On these occasions their guests were their contemporaries, "the girls," of whom there were a great many in maiden state in the quiet old city. The handsome rooms were always lit by candles in tall silver candlesticks. Miss Martha would never consent to the introduction of gas, which the more progressive Miss Joanna advocated.
"No," decided Miss Martha, "candles are much more lady-like." What would she have thought of electric lights?
On these occasions Joe handed a waiter with tea, Romeo followed with delicate cakes, and then bread and butter, while a boy followed in the rear with a tray "to catch the cups" as they were emptied. Ice cream followed at "last bell ring," ten in summer and nine in winter, when the party broke up. Any more substantial refreshment would have been deemed "very unrefined" by the whole assembly.
There was a rumor that on one of these occasions both Joe and Romeo had been very unsteady as they handed their waiters. Dire was their mistresses' mortification. Miss Martha always seemed to feel responsible when her servants misbehaved. She would exclaim, "A single woman has great need of strength of mind." Miss Mary's unfailing rejoinder would be, "Thank God, you have it, sister." One evening Joe brought especial obloquy upon himself. He must have shared Billy's molasses jug, for he had not drawn the tea as directed.
Miss Martha, in consideration for some of "the girls" who were growing feeble, always accompanied Joe on his rounds. As he paused before a guest she would hold a lump suspended in the sugar tongs as she would say, "Green tea and black; dear, which will you have?" On this occasion Joe took advantage of her deafness to mumble, "Both made in de
same pot." The guests were quite diverted, but did not enlighten Miss Martha as to Joe's confession, and their progress continued until they reached Miss Mary. When she overheard Joe's assertion, she looked at him with mild indignation, but only said, "Sister, you had better sit down. I will explain later my asking you to do so." Miss Mary's suggestion of any course of action to Miss Martha seemed to call for explanation.
The next morning, when she told of the duet she had interrupted, Joe was summoned. Miss Martha told him he had brought disgrace upon them and would further bring their gray hairs in sorrow to the grave. He of course expressed great penitence, and was vociferous in promises of amendment. His mistresses tried to feel faith. Miss Mary, however, had to take a great deal of orange-leaf tea before her nerves recovered the shock. Kindly Miss Joanna said privately, she had known nothing of what was occurring, but she was glad the girls had something to amuse them; she had thought them very merry, and though Joe had failed in his demeanor he had shown a wonderful regard for truth. Had the ladies and many of their generation lived to see emancipation they would have parted with many "an old man of the sea."
One April morning I set out to take a bunch of May roses over the rice field banks to Hickory Hill. These roses were especial favorites with the sisters, and I was pleased to have the earliest blossoms to
carry. Miss Joanna kept a rose jar. Miss Martha was famous for the rose water she distilled. I only expected to see Miss Martha, for I knew Miss Mary had been drooping, and Miss Joanna had taken her to visit a friend, who, although long past her youth, had recently married a Northern gentleman, with whom she lived on her beautiful plantation near the city.
Miss Joanna and her sister had left only the day before, so I was surprised to see the carriage at the door and Cilla, the maid, removing their shawls and trappings. "Why, Cilla!" I exclaimed, "are the ladies back already?" "Yes, missy," she replied, grinning and dropping a curtsy, "Miss Joanna an' Miss May, an' Miss Burton had a kine uv upsettin', an' so we come home." Wondering what was amiss, I hastened in. I paused as I entered the sitting-room, for I saw the ladies were much perturbed (small excitements were very usual with them, but their demeanor betokened something serious); Miss Martha sat very erect, with her most judicial aspect, the needle with which she was sewing suspended. "Come in, child," she said as she saw me; "if my sisters make fools of themselves you may as well know it as the rest of the world."
Miss Mary and Miss Joanna sat with their bonnets on. Miss Mary with the air of a culprit, Miss Joanna decidedly ruffled, and her cheeks redder than usual. She said: "Don't jump too quickly to conclusions, sister; it does seem queer for us to return
so hastily, but when I tell you about it quietly, you will, I am sure, see that we were not entirely to blame. You know Caroline's husband is rather abrupt in his manner."
"He has no Southern suavity," interrupted Miss Mary.
"The evening we got there I was feeling rather dull, and he really made me nervous by shouting in my ear several times, 'Cheer up, Miss Mary.' I jumped every time."
"He no doubt meant it kindly," said Miss Joanna, "but I dare say it prepared you for what followed."
"We had a pleasant evening on the whole, although I thought Mr. Burton did express his Northern views of slavery a little more than was called for, especially as he did not seem to object to Caroline's owning a great many. She was in high feather and seemed delighted to see us. At bed-time she accompanied us to our room, where there was a bright fire, and Cilla awaiting us. After Caroline left us Cilla begged leave to go to a dance at the negro quarter; she said it was in her honor, and she seemed in haste to be gone. So I promised to do what Mary would need and sent her off. After I was undressed I was standing by the fire brushing my hair. I saw Mary fumbling about the bed and asked her if she was ready for me to tuck her in. Instead of answering, she came, as I thought, mysteriously up to me and whispered, 'Negro.'
"Of course I thought there was a man under the bed. I remembered our watches, Mary's diamond pin, and how far we were from Caroline and Mr. Burton; for we were in the company wing. I screamed for help as loud as I could; the more noise I made the more distressed Mary seemed. Caroline and Mr. Burton came running, in most indescribable costumes," the old lady continued, with a look of amused restrospection. "There stood Mary in her bed-gown and curl-papers; I in my wrapper, and Mary staring at me as if she thought me crazy.
" 'What is the matter?' they both exclaimed.
" 'Oh,' I said, 'Mary says there is a negro under the bed.'
"We'll soon have the rascal out," said Mr. Burton, poking under the bed with a big stick.
" 'Oh,' said Mary, 'I never said anything of the kind, Joanna. I meant,' she said, turning as red as a beet, 'that there were not rose blankets on the bed, but blankets without the rose embroidered on them, and I call those negro blankets. Joanna made such a noise I could not explain what I meant,' and she burst into tears. Mr. Burton bounced out of the room, muttering something. Caroline was very angry. She said that if she had had any idea that we girls could behave in such a way she would never have invited us to visit her. She had wished to give her husband an agreeable impression of Southern ladies, but she did not like to think what his impression must be; and as to rose blankets, we never could
understand when things were out of date. Those were beautiful new blankets, bought in New York when refurnishing their guest-room. And in fact she was so angry," concluded Miss Joanna, "that I do not like to remember all she said."
"But I must tell you, sister," put in Miss Mary, "she said she knew I was always a fool, but she had thought Joanna had a little sense, and I agree with her, Joanna, that you ought not to have made such a noise. I never felt worse in my life than when you began to scream. And I never slept a wink all night, as you know. Now, Sister Martha, which do you think the most to blame?"
"I cannot say," said Miss Martha, "but I know I will never go to visit any friend with either of you. I don't wonder Caroline was angry, and what an impression you have made on her husband."
"Oh," said Miss Joanna, "we know he was furious. We had a most unpleasant time at breakfast the next morning. I tried to make a joke of the whole episode, but failed. They were too angry; so as Mary was feeling so shaken, and had taken all her orange-leaf water with no benefit to her nerves, I thought we had better come home; and I am delighted to be here; and too thankful neither of you are married," she continued, with a return of her genial smile. "For I nearly exhausted myself trying to mollify Mr. Burton."
"Yes," said Miss Mary, "with no success. I do not envy Caroline her new acquisition, and I am sure rose blankets are the best."
Such were the agitations and events of these tranquil lives. Their days glided by in peace and kindly ministrations. They were fortunate in following each other in quick succession to the old Scotch churchyard where their fathers slept in the "City by the Sea."
OTRANTO, November 20, 1864.
I have not written to you for some time, as we have been moving about a good deal, and have had some interesting and funny experiences. Last summer we were tired of refugeeing, and decided to go back to Charleston, and lived in a house on Mary street, as we thought well out of shell range; our own residence on South Bay being in the grass, and glass-strewed district. Our family consists only of my mother, sister and myself, our mankind being in service, as you know, except father, who is in the home guard. My mother spent most of her time visiting the hospitals and devising comforts for the soldiers; my sister and I knit socks, and rejoiced when some of our soldier relatives could snatch a breathing-space from arduous duties at Sumter or on the islands to visit us and partake of the best we could bestow on them.
The sound of the shells with their sharp, rasping, hissing sound before they exploded was familiar, the interest being to venture into range sometimes and discover the last place hit. There was a method in Gilmore's management of his "Swamp Angel." We always noticed the shells came quicker at church time on Sunday, and at ten to eleven at night. To add to our troubles, yellow fever broke out this year, the only time during the war. It was not a violent epidemic, but there were some deaths. We thought we were immune, but in September my sister took it.
One evening early in September my sister was better and a friend of mine (whose house we faced in their rear) begged me to come to tea. I went over at dusk, and with her and another guest were enjoying a cup of real tea and a bit of toast--quite a feast, when there was a tremendous explosion apparently just at hand. We all sat quiet, tea cups in hand. The negro boy rushed in, rolling his eyes, with the announcement that the opposite house in Aiken's row was struck, and they were moving out. The lady and her daughter were both ill with fever, and both died shortly in consequence of the fright and removal.
In quick succession several houses in Aiken's row were struck. As I look back now it seems strange to me that we all sat quietly in the drawing-room waiting our turn to be hit. The man servant returning at intervals to report that another of the houses was hit. I welcomed my father, when at
nine, he came for me. Nothing ever overcame his sense of humor. He brought a large cotton umbrella, which, he said, he had brought to please my mother, as a shell might spare its hideousness. When I got home I found my mother and sister anxiously awaiting me. I had a little cot in a corner of my sister's room, and my mother, being anxious, lay on the bed by her. I went to bed and was soon asleep, the shelling apparently having ceased, but they had only paused to try a new gun. The first shells always going farthest, I was awakened by the horrible familiar hiss and plaster and glass falling over me. The shell cut the corner of the house and passed so near me that the glasses of the window near by my bed were broken, and the plastering above fell on me. The monster buried itself in our yard, making a horrible deep pit, but not exploding. A few more inches and I would have been buried with it. It shows how accustomed we were to shocks that I do not remember feeling any terror, but remarked quietly in the dark to my mother, "I think we are hit." To my astonishment she broke forth in ejaculations of thanksgiving. The noise and crash had been so great she thought the side of the room with me in it had been taken away. That was the longest range shell that fell in Charleston. In a few days we went to the up-country to be with friends, and then last week came down to Otranto, where we are now.
OTRANTO, January 15, 1865.
I have not written for some time, but we all are really so troubled and depressed that, as mother says, we have to be physically active to keep from thinking, so little writing have I done this winter. I suppose you know father has gone with his company of reserves to Summerville. They are all men of over sixty, but we hear that Summerville is pleased to have them. Aunts Anna and May became so tired of refugee life in Camden that they decided to join mother, Annie, and me on the plantation. With father and our brother away we are very lonely, but Aunt Anna's eighty odd years make us anxious to make her comfortable. She is better off with us, for the terrible scarcity of provisions has not touched us here. We have enough of home provisions, but mother gives every morsel she can spare to the hospitals and soldiers' wayside homes in Charleston. The aunts say that despite the enormous board they had to pay in Camden they had only fresh pork and biscuits, not even milk, as so many of the cattle have been impressed for the army.
Christmas was certainly a very gloomy day. The news that Sherman was in Savannah struck us cold. Our three cousins got leave of absence and came up for a few hours. Mother had a turkey and we did our best, but I think they feel very grave over the state of things. We are in terror lest Charleston will have to be abandoned. Hal begged mother to return to the up-country, but she says she went away
three times and will not leave again. She manages the plantation, you know. The negroes are very good, but there is a spirit of restlessness perceptible. Hal was shocked when he heard that we never locked up the house at night.
All the white men are in the army and some women are nervous, but we do not feel so. This intensely cold winter makes us wretched about our poor bare-footed soldiers. Mother can knit a pair of socks a day. Maum Martha spins the wool. I can do only one sock a day. We are fortunate to have so much lightwood. It is the only source of light we have, but we can manage our knitting and Annie even reads sometimes, but the paper is so bad that it is hard to read the printing on it.
OTRANTO, February 1, 1865.
I fear you are really having a dreadful time. The high price of provisions is certainly dreadful on people with fixed incomes.
We had quite an adventure last Wednesday. Father luckily came over from Summerville to dinner. It was a bitterly cold day. We were just sitting down to the luxury of calf's head soup, for father wished some veal to carry back to camp, when Quash came in with a rattled and rather bothered air, and said there was a Yankee soldier outside who wanted to give himself up. We all were thunderstruck, and followed father, who gave vent to great displeasure.
At the door stood a miserable looking creature, shivering in a tattered blue uniform. He was tall, thin, and white as a ghost, and his feet looked particularly white. I never saw a more abject object. Father tried to be very severe, but you know how kind-hearted he is, and while he was scolding the man I overheard Quash say aside to him, "Nebber min' what he say, Maussa doan' mean it. He is one ob de kindest mens in de wurl."
It seems that the man was a prisoner who had escaped from the cars on his way to prison some three months ago and was trying to make his way to the coast, hoping to get through our lines. He had been living among the negroes, sleeping in their houses by day and traveling by night; but the wretched existence had worn him out and he came to give himself up. He was an Englishman who was impressed on his arrival in New York and he begged father to ask the authorities to let him take the oath of allegiance and fight for us; but father said there had been enough of that and such galvanized Yankees had done more harm than good.
This poor wretch is the first enemy we have seen, and we could not help feeling sorry for him, although, as father says, no doubt he has been demoralizing the negroes. He gave him a good dinner and turned him over to Daddy Paul to take care of until the next day, when father took him to Charleston and delivered him to the authorities. Mother found him an old jacket and pair of shoes
and socks, which she gave him. Surely she had never expected to give a pair of her socks to one of the enemy.
Maum Martha thinks our kindness misplaced and told us he talked very different to them from the way he talked to us, but she told us this only after he had left, although it would have made no difference. We may have "heaped coals of fire," etc.
OTRANTO, February 15, 1865.
I have not heard from you for some time, but I know in these dark days you think of us. There is no doubt we live in dreadful times. We may soon be in the enemy's country, or rather our troops may have to retire from the coast.
Yesterday Annie and I determined to drive over to Summerville and dine with aunt, as she and Cousin Sue have begged us to do so. Mother did not want us to go. She feels the perilous times and all the sorrows she has had make her very anxious. But at last she consented to our going, much to Aunt May's disappointment, who thinks we should sit down and say, "Good Lord, deliver us," all the time.
We had a pleasant drive over, as you know it is only nine miles. Daddy Moses drove us and mother insisted that Cully should go as an outrider. He rode Lamb, and went ahead. It showed that mother was nervous, but Annie and I were amused, as we did not know what he was expected to do. We found aunt and Cousin Sue delighted to see us and
we enjoyed our day. We left at 5 o'clock, as we could not get off earlier. Father dined with us and tried to start us earlier. Aunt is delighted to have him in Summerville as she says she "never felt so safe, because she knows he will fight."
Our drive home was gloomy and we did not reach there until 7 o'clock. As we drew near we met several of the negroes on farm horses looking for us, and at the avenue gate our maid Fanny peering for us in the dark. Mother and the aunts were wretched about us, particularly as Uncle Pete had come up from the city full of bad news. Charleston is to be evacuated, as Sherman's movements have made that necessary. He was horrified when he heard that we had taken so long a drive, as he says the woods are full of stragglers and escaped galvanized Yankees. I do not know what is before us, or when you will hear from us again.
OTRANTO, February 20, 1865.
Charleston is being evacuated and our army is passing all the time, and we reconcile ourselves to being left in the enemy's lines by the hope that our army, strengthened by the coast troops, may defeat Sherman. This letter will go by the last of our troops. The army has been passing for five days and many of the men come up to the house, where we give them everything we can for them to eat. They are full of courage and their appearance gives us renewed hope. They hate to leave us behind.
Henry spent last night here. He got leave of absence with difficulty, but will rejoin his regiment at Strawberry Ferry. He begged mother to retire into the interior; but we mean to stay. He left us this morning. The captain in command of the rearguard at Goose Creek Bridge has just come to bid us good-by, and he took two letters, which he promised to carry into our lines--one to papa and the other to aunt, which we knew would be the last tidings they would get from us.
This may, or may not reach you, but it is a comfort to write. The worst has come, or I hope it has. After my last letter we awaited the approach of the enemy with indescribable feelings. We tried not to think, and I must say I was afraid of being frightened out of my wits and was too thankful when the Yankees came. I was too angry to be scarced. We tried to keep up each other's spirits and were very busy hiding things. We took only Paul, Jack and Martha into our confidence and they helped us faithfully.
Tuesday passed in quiet. Mother, Annie and I took our usual walk in the afternoon and met one of the negroes, who told us that our men had not burned the bridge, and we determined that if this was the fact, we would do it ourselves; but as we approached we were glad to see it blazing in the distance. We felt then that we were really cut off from our own
people, but at the same time had satisfaction in knowing that if our army was pursued the enemy would here meet an obstacle.
At 5 o'clock Wednesday afternoon as we were again getting ready for a walk, a man was seen riding rapidly up the avenue. I called out, "The Yankees are here. I know them by their blue legs!" and you may be sure the family assembled quickly. In the mean while the man dashed past the house and rode quickly around it, evidently expecting some one to run out; finding no one, he returned to the front of the house, where we five ladies stood together on the piazza. By this time we saw many others coming up the avenue.
"Where is the man of the house?" demanded the man in an insolent tone.
Mamma replied, "He is not at home," and Aunt May added, "He is a gray-haired man."
He gave a leer and said, "But not too old to be in the Rebel army." This could not be denied, so we were silent. Then, with an expression of triumph he said, "You have never seen black troops, but you will soon have that pleasure; they are advancing now."
Mamma said, "I suppose they are not different from other negroes; we are accustomed to them and never have feared them."
This calm reply was evidently a disappointment, as he had hoped we would have been overcome with fear.
He turned off and said, "I must get some poultry for the General's supper," and went to the fowl-house, where about a dozen of his men joined him. In a few moments the cart, which just at the moment was coming up with a load of wood, was seized and filled with our fowls, turkeys, geese, etc., and driven off.
I happened to turn my eyes toward the western entrance from the main road and saw the negro soldiers rushing in.
To my latest day I will not forget their brutal appearance. They came up brandishing their guns with an air of wildness hard to describe, and in a short time were scattered over the plantation, committing every conceivable havoc. Their commander, Lieutenant J--, of New York, rode up to the house, accompanied by several white officers, and while we stood still and calmly upon the piazza he called out, "Where is the man of the house?"
Mother replied as before, when he said, "He is a Rebel," and turning to her said, "I am come to liberate your people," to which she quietly replied, "I hope you will be as kind to them as we have been." This visibly angered him and he exclaimed, "That is a strange reply to make to a Northern man, and an officer of a colored regiment." To which she replied, "We will not discuss the question."
He turned and said something to Quash, our waiting-man, and in a short time we heard him and the other officers upstairs in our bed-rooms. Mamma
and Aunt Anna followed quietly and found that he had summoned our two maids, Rachel and Fanny, and was exhorting them to disclose where everything of value was concealed, saying, "Don't lie; that woman (meaning mother) is very bad," and a great deal more in the same strain, trying to incite them against us. They spoke to these servants as "Madam," and of mother as "that woman."
The two girls were very frightened, but behaved remarkably well and assured them that no valuables were hidden, and only the ladies' clothes were in the rooms. However, they ransacked our wardrobes and bureau drawers, throwing our things out all over the floor, and when they came downstairs took all the cold meats out of the larder.
While mother and Aunt Anna were upstairs helplessly following Lieutenant J-- around and witnessing his shameless conduct in our bed-rooms, Aunt May, Annie and I remained downstairs. A quiet-looking officer was standing in the piazza.
Aunt May, who never can control her curiosity, said to him, "We heard some heavy firing in Charleston this morning. Has anything occurred there?" "Good Heavens, Madam," he replied, "have you been so long out of the Union that you have forgotten Washington's birthday?"
At this moment about twenty rough-looking men came charging up to the house, evidently intending to enter. I confess that, for the first time I was alarmed, and calling to the officer said, "For
Heaven's sake, protect us; don't let those men enter." He said, "I will do what I can," and placed himself in the doorway.
The men seeing him come forward as our protector, stopped in the piazza. By this time Lieutenant J-- and his party had returned from searching our bed-rooms, and calling to his men said, "Boys, take what you want." These acted like long-pent-up animals suddenly let loose. All our stock, horses and mules were driven off, our cattle, sheep and hogs were killed; the barns and smoke-house were broken open, and all their contents scattered, and all our vehicles of every kind, tools and implements were broken in pieces and thrown into the creek or burned.
It was awful to hear the screams of the cattle and hogs as they were chased and bayoneted, and the scatter and terror of the sheep was terrible to see. Even my pet calf, which you know papa gave me, and I took so much pleasure in raising by hand, was killed; and dear old Aaron, our house cat, was cruelly run through with a bayonet, right before my eyes, as he tried to escape under the house. Such brutal scenes I never had supposed I would ever have to witness.
While all this was going on mother said to Lieutenant J--, "If you take from us all means of subsistence we will starve." He turned, and with much satisfaction said, "You are being punished for what you have done;" and going out, mounted his
horse and rode off among the negroes, proclaiming to them their freedom and incessantly asking for "the man of the house." They could only say that he was absent, when he said, "He may not be here, but he has left a -- rebel of a woman, who is as bad as a man, and the house ought to be burnt." The negroes were very much alarmed, and entreated us not to talk to the soldiers as they hated us so and said such awful things.
It was now quite dark and the excitement and confusion were truly awful. We all withdrew to the parlor, and closing the door sat in the dark, not knowing what the next moment might bring forth; but the faithful Quash brought in a candle and placed it on the table with his accustomed air.
He had scarcely brought it in when the front door was opened and in walked General Potter, followed by his aids. Not one of them had the decency to make the least salutation, or take any notice of the five ladies seated in the room. But the General immediately seated himself, while Lieutenant J-- seized our candle, and opening mother's bed-room door called out, "General, this will be a comfortable room for you," to which remark the General assented. Lieutenant J--, then looking around said, "I take possession of this room for General Potter." After this the General made repeated attempts at conversation with us, but as we had that afternoon seen such wanton destruction of our property, and were constrained to see our enemies
occupying the rooms in which it had been so often our pleasure to entertain our friends, you may imagine we were in no mood for conversation.
We all soon went upstairs, where Quash brought us some tea. As it was then near midnight we decided to go to bed, and mother said she would go down in the morning and request that a written protection be furnished us, as this had been suggested by the quiet-looking officer, our protector of the afternoon before. Therefore, as early as possible she did so, but General Potter received her very shortly, and only replied, "Your husband is in the Rebel army." She replied, "It was our desire that he should leave us, and I am glad he is not here, for if he had been I suppose he would have been shot."
He replied, "You talk like a fool when you say that," and turned off; when mother said, "If that is your opinion, I have the more need of protection."
As the General was about to go out to mount his horse at the door, Lieutenant B-- came to the rescue, saying, "General, with your permission, I can write a paper addressed to the officers and men of the United States army, saying that it is your desire that this house and its lady occupants be unmolested."
The General only answered, "You may if you wish," when a paper to that effect was written, and its influence was certainly beneficial. We felt that we owed our safety largely to Lieutenant B--, who conducted himself in every way as a gentleman,
and on leaving thanked mother courteously for his night's accommodation and politely bowed to all of us.
It was near midday before all of the officers had left the house, and we, much jaded, were able to have breakfast. The house was now kept strictly shut up, as the lawn was still studded with the tent flies of the regiment encamped there. If a door was opened for a moment, a soldier would walk in, and it was as much as mother could do to get him out again.
We kept almost entirely upstairs, taking all of our meals there, and in constant dread of making any noise. One man said to mother, "The General thinks that your husband is hidden; he does not believe that he is not here."
In this extremity a kind-looking Irish soldier came to our aid and promised that we should be protected if it "cost him his life," and that he would bring a friend with him, who would spend the night in the shed room, "to be handy, if needed." This kind friend, McManus, proved his Irish blood by bringing the most villainous specimen of a man we had yet seen, and whispering to mother that "sure he had no confidence in him at all."
We were much taken aback at McManus's friend's appearance, but relieved when the chaplain of the regiment came up and asked to be allowed to sleep in the house.
Our servants behaved admirably and themselves provided and served our meals with unfailing regularity, and managed to give us many little treats, which we suspected came from the United States commissariat. Mother hopes that she may be able to get us to the city in safety, for our position here is very unprotected and we wish to get possession of our house in the city before it falls into the hands of the Freedmen's Bureau.
I place this letter in the hands of --, who promises to get it through the lines, and I trust it will reach you.
CHARLESTON, March 14, 1865.
I hope my last safely reached you, and I know you feel anxious about us, so I will get -- to smuggle this through the lines. You will be relieved to know that we are once more in our house in Charleston.
By dint of mother's representations of our unprotected condition on the plantation to the officer in command, and her frequent reminders that by their confiscation of all our animals and destruction of our vehicles we had been deprived of all means of transporting ourselves to the city, she obtained transportation.
As soon as the Northeastern Railroad was put in running order, which was within a few days after Charleston was evacuated, the major informed us
that we might ride down in a box-car. He also gave us permission to carry in the car whatever household goods we could.
It was hard to choose from the accumulation of years what furniture to take with us, as we knew that all that was left would be stolen, our presence only having kept out the vagrant negroes and camp followers, who, we heard from the servants, complained very much that our house had not been gutted as had others in the neighborhood. We had a very short time for choosing, as we had notice only in the afternoon, that we must be off in the morning. Mother had a time among us, as each had something very untransportable, which, to quote dear Aunt Anna, "it would be sacrilege to leave."
I fought hard for all the books and the old sofa, which had been in the house since the Revolution, and was said to have been Washington's favorite seat when he visited the plantation in 1791; but I had to content myself with only the books that I could get into a trunk, and when our friendly Irish soldier, McManus, who volunteered to help us move the things, seized our valued sofa to hoist it into the car, it proved its antiquity by breaking in pieces. I could have cried over the loss, but mother said, "This is no time for sentiment; it has served from one Revolution to be wrecked in another."
The last night we spent at the plantation was truly forlorn. The servants warned us to expect an attack from some vagrant negroes, who had come from the
up-country, and were roving about, as Maum Martha expressed it, "free till dey fool," robbing and destroying, unchecked by the authorities.
We asked the officer in command to give us a guard for the night, but he refused; so mother decided that we must spend the night together in the parlor. The men servants promised to watch outside, and both Fanny and Rachel begged to be allowed to stay with us in the house. You may imagine that it was a weary vigil, as none of us slept, and we put out the light, fearing lest it might guide some evil-doer.
Paul, Quash and Jack walked around the house by turns all night; and I am sure that it was owing to their faithful watchfulness that the dawn found us unmolested.
At an early hour Maum Martha brought in a nice breakfast, and with some pride told us that one of the officers had seen her preparing it and had expressed surprise; but she had told him that she was from an old Congo family herself, an' no upstart free nigger; for since Maussa's family came from France, and hers from Africa, they had been together for five generations. "An' so long as I's in de kitchen I knew what's proper to be sent in de house, even if I hab to scurry to get it."
Quash, Fanny, and Rachel came with us to the city, but Maum Martha and Paul were left behind in their home.
With difficulty we got in to the dirty box-car, and Aunt May had quilted into her skirts many papers for safe-keeping and around her shoulders had her valuable cashmere shawl sewed under a black one, all of which weighted her down so that she fell, and frightened us much by her inability to rise.
We picked her up and were thankful that she was not hurt, and had been kept from getting up only by her entourage.
At the station in Charleston we first heard of the burning of Columbia and while we were waiting for a carriage the officer in command of the guard kept dinning into our ears that General Hampton had burned that city, which assertion mother firmly contradicted, persistently saying that General Sherman had done it.
We were much afraid that we would find our house taken by the Freedmen's Bureau, or by some officers for a residence, but happily neither was the case. But we found that nearly all the furniture had been stolen, and were thankful to have the few pieces that we had brought from the plantation.
As it was on Saturday that we came down all of our things had to be left in the station until Monday, and then when Quash went for them he found that the military gentry (?) had taken from among them whatever they wanted.
All the furniture that we found in the house was an old table and a very large book-case, and my only bed thus far has been a mosquito net spread on the floor.
On Sunday afternoon mother and Aunt May went to see Cousin M., who is very ill, and while Annie and I remained with Aunt Anna, who was resting on her mattress on the floor, Rachel came rushing up stairs, saying, "Oh, mam, some officers say they want this house and have come to take it; they are coming up into the dining-room now."
I at once said, "We must go down and meet them," and calling to Annie to put the few spoons that were out at once in her pocket, we each gave Aunt Anna an arm and went down, followed by Rachel.
I must say I felt much agitated at the thought of what we might encounter, and dreaded for our old aunt, who seemed much unnerved.
As we entered the dining-room by one door a naval officer came in by the other, advancing with a calm air of possession.
I was just going to speak when Aunt Anna astounded us by saying, in the kindest tones, "Why, Edmund! how is your mother?"
We thought her bereft of reason, but the effect upon the officer was instantaneously overwhelming. He staggered and exclaimed, "Good God! Miss J--, is it you? You shall not be molested," and turning quickly, left the house without giving her a chance to say another word.
It seems that Aunt Anna had instantly recognized him as the son of an old and dear friend in New
York, and upon the return of mother and Aunt May the unlooked-for occurrence was fully discussed.
Aunt was much commended for recognizing him and we hope that her recognition will stand us in good stead, as we know that Lieutenant Henry is a gentleman, and on account of the warm friendship that has existed for so many years between our old aunts and the elder members of his family he will probably use any influence he may have with the authorities in our favor.
The next day another naval officer called at the house and asked to see mother, whom he told that he had had the pleasure, previous to the war, of serving with those of our family who were then in the navy, and although he had been blockading Charleston for many months he had promised our cousin, Lieutenant --, who remained in the United States Navy, that if he ever got into Charleston he would look us up, and gladly do what he could to help us.
Mother felt that in our present defenseless condition she should not refuse any offers of aid, and thanked him. He then produced a copy of a morning paper, which contained a general order that any citizen who desired protection must put a United States flag on his house, and that no outrages would be punished that were committed on premises that did not contain such flags.
After reading this order he drew from his pocket a small flag, which, he said, with our permission, he would tack to the piazza.
Mother politely declined his offer, but our aunts made such a point of the advisability of accepting it that she was induced to yield. He then asked me to hold the little staff while he tacked it to the post; but I could not touch it, and called to his assistance a little negro girl, as more appropriate, who stood staring in at the gate, and she held it for him.
Annie looked on quietly and said nothing, but at night, after we were gone to bed, said, "I cannot stand it. I cannot breathe with that flag there." She only expressed my own feelings, so we quietly went down in the dark, and pulling it down, secreted it.
We determined to keep our own counsel, as we had heard only the day before of the arrest and imprisonment of a lady for pulling down a similar flag, and had no desire to be martyrs, only we did not want it there. The next morning, while we held our peace, we were much amused at the excitement of our aunts over the disappearance of the flag, and their insisting that they knew it had been stolen, for they had seen "a man going down the street with one just like it."
The house now remains as heretofore, undecorated.
Captain Mayo, our naval friend, has just come to inform mother that orders have been issued by the commanding general that we all must go up King street tomorrow morning, and take the oath of allegiance to the United States. She positively refused, but Captain Mayo says that in case of non-compliance
we will all have to leave the city at once. I am at a loss to imagine what grounds the authorities have for fear of us, as helpless a party of five ladies as can be found, the eldest being 81, and the youngest 16; but we must decide today, and unless you see us, if we are actually turned out, I will write you of the result in another letter.
CHARLESTON, March 17, 1865.
Day before yesterday Captain Mayo returned and informed us that the orders had been modified, so that if we desired, only the oath of neutrality would be required.
We had never before heard of such an oath being required of helpless women, but we were willing to compromise under the circumstances. So as there was not the smallest chance of our ever being of any service again to the Confederate cause, we announced our willingness to declare ourselves neutral if the United States Government thought it important.
Aunt Anna said her 81 years rendered her utterly unable to walk as far as the provost marshal's office and asked if the commandant thought her neutrality of importance would he send an officer to the house to administer the oath? This was done.
Aunt May, having in view the new regulation, which prohibited the delivery of letters through the post-office to any one who had not taken the oath of
allegiance, and having her daughter in New York, from whom she was anxious to hear, said tremblingly that she would take the oath of allegiance.
Captain Mayo's manner to her immediately changed, and became very cordial, as he said he would go and notify the provost marshal and come back for us, whom he had already offered to accompany.
We retired to our room to make ourselves presentable for the streets, as we had not been out of the house since we came down from the plantation; and Annie and I changed our homespun dresses for our black and put on, with lurking feelings of satisfaction, our bonnets, for which we had paid the milliner, only a few months before, $150 each. We felt that our enemies would be impressed with the fact that we were quite within the circle of the fashionable world, and really when we appeared Captain Mayo seemed quite struck; but we did not then imagine the reason.
He courteously offered his arm to Aunt May, who took it with a deep sigh, and we, leaving Aunt Anna to Rachel's care, followed them to the provost marshal's office, where we had reason to be glad of Captain Mayo's escort, as the sidewalk in front of the office and the doorway were thronged with idle negroes, who would have made themselves very offensive if they had not seen us escorted by a United States officer.
As we entered, Captain Mayo said to us in a low tone, "The oath will be administered to you ladies by a member of one of the best families of Boston," to which Annie replied, "Don't you think that he might be better employed?"
Of this the captain took no notice as he led the party to the middle of a room, where we stood the attraction of many curious eyes. The officer at the table came forward and asked which of the ladies desired to take the oath of allegiance, whereupon Aunt May, looking very conscious, moved forward and tremblingly held up her hand, but she was so agitated that she could scarcely murmur her assent and sign her name to the iron-clad oath.
When she had finished Captain Mayo congratulated her upon her renewed loyalty, but much to his chagrin she replied, "I only did it so that I could get my letters from the post-office; but I had not idea that the oath contained such dreadful sentiments; please let me scratch out my name and take the oath of neutrality instead."
At this the provost marshal remarked, "Madam, do you not realize the sanctity of an oath, or do you desire to take all the oaths?"
Mother and Annie calmly took oaths of neutrality, and when my turn came and I stepped forward to swear neutrality to the United States, it appeared to be the crowning farce of the day. The officers
present seemed to be impressed with the absurdity of the thing and could not control their countenances, and smiled as I stood before them.
As we sadly walked away we passed several Northern women and observed that they all wore bonnets not much larger than our hands, while our bonnets that we had thought so much of, with their lofty fronts, could be compared to nothing more truly than the tower of Pisa. We could not resist the idea that the oddity of our appearance must have led them to imagine that we had just come out of the ark.
Upon our arrival at home Annie and I at once set about cutting down our bonnets and drawing in and changing the shape of our skirts, but mother was very unsympathetic and said she could not imagine why we wished to look like Yankee women.
Annie and I witnessed a sickening sight yesterday when we were out on the street for a few moments. A handsome large dog was being chased by some negro soldiers, one of whom dashed out its brains with the butt of a rifle almost on to our skirts. We were dreadfully agitated, and upon mentioning the matter to Captain Mayo, he informed us that all dogs must have licenses or be killed. I was much distressed at the danger of losing my pet Cora, but Captain Mayo offered to obtain a license free for her if I would accept it, and as we did not have $1.50 to pay for it, we accepted his kind offer, so Cora is now protected.
Yesterday mother received notice that a war tax had been levied upon all real estate, and that it must be paid within thirty days. Our tax amounts to $180, and for our lives we cannot conceive where the money is coming from to pay it, as we have only one gold dollar among us, but little provisions, and only two of our cows that were smart enough to escape into the woods when the others of the herd were slaughtered at the plantation by General Potter's troops.
Mother was greatly troubled about the necessity of raising the money, and seeing an advertisement in the paper that old china and handsome pieces of glass would be bought by a Bostonian for relics, sent an answer to the address and this morning took from the trunk some of our best pieces we had saved and set them upon our only table in readiness for the purchaser.
While we were at dinner two very unattractive citizens of Boston presented themselves, who after looking at the articles, declined to purchase and instead offered themselves as boarders, saying that they had come to Charleston to open a grocery house and would be willing to pay their board in provisions. Of course this arrangement was promptly declined, but we were very much disheartened that our first effort to raise the money for the tax had proved such a failure.
I give you a copy of the oath of neutrality I had to take; it is such a farce.
"Headquarters Northern District Department South.
"Provost Marshal's Office, No. 35 King Street,
"Charleston, S. C., March 15, 1865.
"I do hereby certify on honor that on the 15th day of March, 1865, at Charleston, S. C., the oath of neutrality to the United States of America was duly taken, subscribed and made matter of record of by Miss Marion Porcher.
"THOMAS L. APPLETON,
Captain Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers,
Provost Marshal, N. D. D. S."
One day some time ago, while turning over the contents of an old trunk, which had been mine since childhood, had followed me in innumerable moves, and contained the odds and ends full of associations as life goes on, I came to a pair of half-moon earrings; they were very large, and of old gold. "Oh!" I exclaimed, as I looked at them, "these bring Tay back to the life."
My little girls, who had been looking on, eager-eyed, for mamma's old trunk had always possessed a mysterious charm for Floy, and Grace, enhanced since some years previous, when, after I had given up the idea of having new cloaks for them for the winter, I chanced to see an advertisement for Confederate bonds, and succeeded in finding enough of these in my old trunk to supply the needed cloaks, and also other things.
"Who was Tay?" they both exclaimed. I felt a sense of self-reproach at the question; and I am sure to Tay herself the idea that one of her "chillun's chillun" could have reached the mature age of ten years and never had heard of her existence would have
seemed incredible. It was not from any lack of kindly recollection of the old woman that I had not told the children of her; but my life had been a busy one, with many invalid times, when the reverses of life pressed heavily, and I shrank from speaking voluntarily of my childhood days, which had been so different from theirs; and besides the children of the South today, whose mothers were half-grown girls at the time of emancipation, belong to a new order of things, and are out of sympathy with their parents on many subjects. They do not understand their elders' feelings toward the negroes. They regard them with very impartial eyes, and see them as they are today. And as the succession of careless, ignorant cooks and housemaids come and go they cannot understand the kind allowances made for their faults by those who remember the tender nursing of the dear old maumas. But to return to Tay.
"Who was Tay?" I repeated. "Why, one of the best of women; and it is high time you should hear about her, and love her memory. So if you will get your knitting and sit very quite I will tell you her story.
"Her name was Kitty, but we children always called her Tay. When your grandmother was married Tay was given to her as her maid; and a most accomplished one she was, besides being a skilled seamstress, and clear starcher. A younger woman had taken her place as maid when I first remember her, and she was the upper servant, always carrying
the keys, and taking charge of the household, when your grandmother was ill or absent. She was at least six feet tall; her waist claimed nearly half her length, or looked as if it did. She was quite light-colored, with large black eyes that looked as if a millstone would be no obstacle to her vision. I assure you her appearance was calculated to inspire awe in our breasts. Her great height was of itself impressive, and made more so by her costume. She usually wore a black frock with a very tight body, and full skirt; and an enormous bustle, such as was not worn in those days; a white hankerchief over her shoulders, pinned across her bosom; a white apron; and to cap the climax a very stiffly starched white turban (all the worn muslin dresses of the family went to keep up the supply). She always tied her turbans on a block to shape them, and stuffed a newspaper in the top to keep the shape; and when she finally put one on her head the effect was tremendous. Her pride in gold earrings was great. She always wore them, and kept them as shiny as could be. With the basket of keys on her arm, she would look like a person not to be trifled with, nor did we ever so venture. Her devotion to us all was very great--'Miss, Maussa, an' de chillun' bounded her horizon. Her idea was to economize; 'for Maussa,' she would say, 'is so freehanded, an' six chillun is a houseful' "
"To us children she showed her regard by great sternness of demeanor, but compensated by the beautiful
tucking she did on our dresses--the only sewing she ever did. And your grandmother had no respite until she supplied the material Tay thought necessary. Your grandmother was so sure of her trustworthiness that she never interfered with her management. We never thought of remonstrating, although she mortified us sometimes by her treatment of our friends. She had no patience with too many visitors, (and always presided at our tea, serving us with our cups of milk, and bread and treacle. We had some little friends who were very apt to run in just at the tea hour. Once, when they came steadily for a week, we saw clouds gathering on Tay's brow, and were not surprised when, one evening after she had helped us all, she turned to our friends and said: 'To-morrow, take yo' supper befo' you come. Maussa cyan't affo'd to support two families.' This broke up our tea parties.
"Tay had a husband as remarkable in his way as she was in hers. He was taller than she, slim, and very black; and was a very prosperous negro. He belonged to two maiden ladies, and lived a very independent life, free from care. He was a cooper by trade, and in his own shop plied his calling on his own account, only every quarter bringing his owners his set wages. And whenever illness or trouble of any kind overtook him, to his owners he came for care or protection. He finally concluded to buy his freedom, and asked your grandfather to become his guardian, as required by the law, if he could accomplish
his purpose. He also asked him to be so kind as to ask his owners what they would take for him. Your grandfather saw the ladies, who fixed as moderate a price as they could; and when he told Daddy Sam the result of his negotiations, instead of being gratified, he was angry, and said: 'My mistresses has no idea how valuable I is. I t'ought dey would ask 'bout $300 mo'. Dey can't affo'd to part wid me fer less, an' I means to pay it.' The ladies were not obdurate, and no doubt had an increased idea of Daddy Sam's value.
"This worthy pair had no children; and Daddy Sam died not long before the war, leaving Tay quite a little sum of money. He had offered to buy her freedom for her, but she did not desire it. I remember that when he died she took off her turban when she went to church, and donned a gigantic crape veil. One day she came home very angry. She had met some sportsmen going hunting, who had begged her to go along with them as a ramrod, as they had lost theirs!
"When the war began she was very unhappy. There is no doubt that at that period there was a feeling of expectation and disaffection among the negroes; but Tay was of a thoroughly loyal nature, and had no sympathy with the negro character, and understood it entirely; and their meaner traits were revolting to her.
"One day in the early part of 1861, she came as usual after breakfast to consult your grandmother
about the marketing that had been sent home. She had such a funny way of describing the pieces; she always involuntarily touched the part of her frame she was supposed to be designating, of mutton, or lamb. I was a light-hearted child then, and many a hearty laugh have I had at Tay's expense, as she would touch her leg, or shoulder, or even her head if a calf's head were in question. But to return to this day. She must have heard some talk among the negroes, for after she had got through her business, she lingered and said to her mistress, 'O Miss, I've had an awful dream.' Your grandmother spoke kindly to her, and asked her what it was. The faithful creature sat on the floor, and looking up into our faces she said:
"I dreamed we was all in confusion an' dere was a big crowd, an' Maussa was sick, an' you all looked very sad, an' you all was dressed common; but dere was heaps of niggers 'round, but dey was all a-runnin' 'round, an' a-kickin' up a noise; an' deir arms in deir kimbos, an' not one a-workin'; and you all called for some water, an' not one went to git it, but I ran for it, an' I said, 'O Miss, you has been a good frien' to me, an' sometimes a bottom rail is more use dan a same quality one; an' so long as Kitty is here dere will always be somethin' between you an' the groun.' And she burst into tears and left the room.
"Your grandmother said, 'She has had no dream. She wished to show us what is in her heart.'
"Ah, children, those were dreadful days, and when in December Port Royal fell, flight, confusion, and distress were the order of the day on the coast. By all this there was many a young life cut short, as truly as though a bullet had stilled it; and it was not only the men who laid down their lives, many a gentle girl was also a victim. Your grandmother sent my two sisters and me to relatives in the interior of the State. She remained in Charleston to look after our affairs, intending to go to a hospital as a nurse, if needed. We had been in the up-country but a few days when your Aunt Lucy, as lovely a young girl as the sun ever shone on, was seized with fever. Her illness was fatal, and she died before her mother could reach her.
"When we left your grandmother she had been obliged to go to our country place on Goose Creek, where she had remained alone--the colored driver and other negroes being the only people on the plantation. Tay had always lived in the city of Charleston, even when we were all on the plantation; and she always had the care of the city house. When the direful news of your Aunt Lucy's illness reached Charleston, Tay hastened up to the plantation to your grandmother, saying:
" 'I wants you to let me come an' live here, for anybody c'n do what I does in town; but der is a lot of talk 'bout de whole low country will be took by de Yankees. An' de negroes will have to go inside, up country, an' make bread while deir masters is
fightin'. Now, Miss, let me stay up here, an' keep an eye, an' if dere is anythin' I c'n do to keep things straight, I'm here; an' if we has to leave, I will go wid dem, an' keep dem all steady.'
"Your grandmother consented with, 'God bless you, Tay,' and at once left to go to your ill aunt. Tay remained on the plantation the whole winter and spring. Your grandmother could not return; but never had there been as much poultry and eggs produced, lambs saved, or butter made as was done under Tay's management. And the quantity of vegetables raised proved invaluable in those war times. And all was owing to the faithfulness of this devoted creature who remained to encourage the other negroes.
"When the summer of 1862 came your grandmother wrote her that she must leave the plantation, as she was unacclimated to that malarial country; but she begged to stay a little longer, as she knew she was of service, and was quite well. Then came the news that she was sick. She had sent to tell her young master, who was a naval officer on duty in Charleston harbor. He at once went to see her, and rebuked her for having remained so long in that unhealthy climate. He got her to promise to leave the next day. Finding that she had not arrived in the city, he obtained leave of absence and again went after her, but found her evidently near her end.
" 'Ah! Massa Paul,' she said, 'I got up three times to go, as I promised you I would, an' de buggy was at de door, an' Martha here to go wid me, but I
fainted; an' as it was de three times I know it is de Lord's will, I'll never leave dis bed. I hope He will say. 'Kitty, you done what you could, an' been a faithful servant.' I never did want to be nothin' but a servant. Dere's plenty of dem in de Bible your Ma gave me; and if I c'n just jine dem I'm happy. An' now here's what I want you' Ma to have. It's Sam's little savin's. I always kep' dem by me; an' when I seen these war times, an' such curious-lookin' money buy so little, I'm glad I got it. I kep' it for a pinch; an' fixed it so nobody would suspicion it. But I thank de Lord you come to take it befor' I go.' And with great effort she brought from under her pillow a curious-looking, homespun undergarment, into which was literally quilted coins of gold and silver; a little fortune in Confederate money, besides various old trinkets and watches which Sam had invested in.
" 'My earrin's is dere,' she said. 'I never wore dem since Miss Lucy died; dey looks too bright. Now give this to you' Ma with Kitty's duty. I wish she could ha' closed my eyes. I know she would ha' done it. But she an' de young ladies will be sorry, I know, when I'm gone.'
"And then with the flash of her usual animation she turned her eyes on her attendant, Martha, and said: Martha have my three trunks of clo'es; she must give them to Miss'. Dey will keep her house servants decent for a time; an' yo' Ma does hate a sloven, Martha knows. I will walk at her if she takes anythin' out befo' Miss comes. Lord help me!'
"A faithful soul gone home."