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“When the Yankees Come”

The excerpts below were taken from “When the Yankees Come,” an edited narrative of slave experiences during Sherman’s invasion of South Carolina in early 1865 by Paul C. Graham. The sources employed were The Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States – collected by the Federal Writers’ Project of the WPA in the 1930s.

When the Yankees Come

“Yankees! Oh, I hear folks speak about the Yankees plundering through the country plenty times. Hear about the Yankees going all about stealing white people silver. Say, everywhere they went and found white folks silver, they would just clean the place up.” Josephine Bacchus, Marion County, SC. Age 75-80.

“When the Yankees come they seem to have special vengeance for my white folks. They took everything they could carry off and burnt everything they couldn’t carry.” Charley Barber, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 81.

“The Yankees come and burn the gin-house and barns. Open the smokehouse, take the meat, give the slaves some, shoot the chickens, and as the mistress and girls beg so hard, left without burning the dwelling house.” Millie Barber, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 82.

“I was fifteen when the Yankees come thru. They took everything, horses, mules, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, and chickens. Hogs? Yes sir, they kill hogs and take what parts they want and leave other parts bleeding on the yard. When they left, old master have to go up into Union County for rations.” Anderson Bates, Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 87.

“The Yankees kill all the hog. Kill all the cow. Kill all the fowl. Left you nothing to eat. If the colored folk had any chicken, they just had to take that and try to raise them something to eat.” Solbert Butler, Scotia, Hampton County, SC. Age 82.

“The Yankees come. First thing they look for was money. They put a pistol right in my forehead and say: “I got to have your money, where is it?” There was a gal, Caroline, who had some money; they took it away from her. They took the geese, the chickens and all that was worth taking off the place, stripped it. Took all the meat out of the smoke-house, corn out of the crib, cattle out the pasture, burnt the gin-house and cotton. When the left, they shot some cows and hogs and left them lying right there.” Lewis Evans, Near Winnsboro, Fairfield County, SC. Age 96.

“The Yankees marched through our place, stole cattle, and meat. We went behind them and picked up lots that they dropped when they left.” Rev. Thomas Harpe, Newberry, Newberry County, SC. Age 84.

“Sherman set fire everywhere he went – didn’t do much fighting, just wanted to destroy as he went.” Amos Gadsen, Charleston, Charleston County, SC. Age 88.

(When the Yankees Come, Former South Carolina Slaves Remember Sherman’s Invasion: Voices from the Dust, Volume I, Paul C. Graham, editor, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 2-3; 8; 18; 27)

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

The Ladies Association of Wake County, North Carolina was formed as the Northern commander in occupied Raleigh ordered Southern dead removed from their graves or he would have them dug up and the remains thrown into a nearby roadway. Gen. Lawrence ‘O’B. Branch’s wife, during the early occupation of Raleigh, overheard that all Southern officers above the rank of captain were to be hung, which included her husband.

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

“The following extracts were made from a paper by Mrs. M.L. Shipp, in the woman’s edition of the [Raleigh] News and Observer, May 20, 1895, in regard to the most prominent association of the State: “The Ladies Memorial Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of the Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there.

It was but a short while after the federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested he Confederate dead, and ordered that they be moved at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made President . . . A resting place [at Oakwood] was selected for the reinterment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there was scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures . . .

Many Confederate dead from the country were moved this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory . . . it was reported that contraband articles such as Confederate flags, a strand of Gen. Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general . . . [the constant fear was] the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran, May 1898, excerpts pg. 227)

An Army of Plunderers

Lincoln was well-aware of the atrocities committed against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina by his military, and this would neither diminish or end in North Carolina. The war against civilians in no way contributed to “saving the Union” or healing the political divisions of 1861. Americans, North and South, now saw vividly the destructive results of seeking political independence from the new imperial regime in Washington.

An Army of Plunderers

“Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.”

In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window.

Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.”

Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing.

As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate.

In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in.

As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended.

Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.”

This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

An Army of Plunderers “Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.” In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window. Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.” Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing. As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate. In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in. As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended. Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.” This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.” (Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

Good ‘Ol Boys & Southern Beer Joints

Good ‘Ol Boys and Southern Beer Joints

“Automatically assuming anybody from the South, in general, and any straight Southern white male has a sheet hanging in his closet, is just as prejudiced as thinking all black people will steal whatever isn’t nailed down. And as long as we’re on the subject, I’ve got some problems with the term “good ‘ol boy” as well.

I’ll tell you where G.O.B. originally came from. That term was used in the South to indicate that a male might have a few weaknesses, but he was basically a nice person who would come over to help you plant corn if you really needed him.

“Ol’ boy” refers to a white male, who has ascended to some position of power, like president or senator, or secretary of defense. “Good ‘ol boy,” however, again connotes ignorance, pick-up trucks, beer-drinking, football-watching, gay and race-baiting ad nauseum.

Frankly, I don’t know how that happened.

“Good ‘ol boy” originally connoted an individual with bad points and good points both. Sort of like all of us. I’ve even heard, “good ‘ol girl,” as in “Nadine is uglier than a speckled-heart butter bean, but she is a good ‘ol girl.”

What I hope I am is a person of diverse interests who certainly has his faults, but just because he writes about his native South, it doesn’t necessarily mean he wants for the white race to take the country back and throw out every vestige of multiculturalism.

Hell, if anybody ought to take the country back, it’s the Indians. But if they want to be called something besides “Indians,” I don’t think “Native Americans” is the ticket. “America” was named after an Italian. I sort of like “the people who were here first” . . .

Most black people and white people get along. And most black people don’t want to go to the Grand Ole Opry with whites; and most whites don’t want to go to a Black History Week Music Festival with blacks. Nothing wrong with that. If we truly are multicultural, then vive la difference. I don’t particularly like fajitas, but that doesn’t mean I hate Hispanics.

Southern beer joints are a favorite of mine. To qualify as a true “beer-joint,” a place must meet the following requirements: It must have an all-country jukebox. Even a jukebox with Elvis on it is suspect. If it has “In the Garden” by the Statler Brothers, “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley, “Hello Darling” by Conway Twitty, “Waltz Across Texas” by Ernest Tubb, you’re in a top-of-the-line Southern beer joint.”

(I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962; And Other Nekkid Truths, Lewis Grizzard, Villard Books, 1992, excerpts pp. 157-159; 162; 171-172)

American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

Jul 3, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Lost Cultures, Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Southern Women    Comments Off on “There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

“There Are Some Things Worse than Death”

The world of the Old South was deeply rooted in Greek civilization, and saw the glory of warriors as did Xenophon: “And when their fated end comes, they do not lie forgotten and without honor, but they are remembered and flourish eternally in men’s praises.” It was said then of family attachment that “one’s kin were indistinguishable from oneself” – the defense of the kin-related community was the brave man’s obligation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“There are Worse Things than Death”

“Among the attitudes brought from the Old World was the ancient system for determining who belonged among the worthy and who did not. The first signs of an archaic honor appeared in the forests – not where Hawthorne’s story opens, but in regions beyond the Alps, before Christ, before Rome. The ethic of honor had Indo-European origins.

From the wilderness of central Europe and Asia a succession of conquering tribes had come into prehistoric Greece, then, a millennia later, into Roman Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain, and finally, in the last upheaval, by sea from Scandinavia into parts of the once Roman world.

These peoples shared a number of ideas about how men and women should behave. They had thoughts in common about the nature of the human body, the mind, the soul, the meaning of life, time, natural order, and death. Myths, rituals, oaths, grave sites, artifacts, and most especially word roots all indicate a common fund of human perceptions that lasted in popular thought from antique to recent ages.

The overriding principle for these generations of human beings was an ethic almost entirely external in nature. It was easily comprehended and was considered physically demonstrable without resort to abstraction, without ambivalence or ambiguity. Differentiation of what belonged in the public or private realm were very imprecise [and evaluations] depended upon appearances, not upon cold logic. Southern whites retained something of that emphasis.

As Walker Percy, the contemporary novelist, once remarked about the South of not long ago, there was an “absence of a truly public zone” completely separate from the interior life of the family, so that the latter “came to coincide with the actual public space which it inhabited.” Family values differed not at all from public ones.

Intimately related to brave conduct . . . was family protectiveness. [When] the Civil War began, Samuel David Sanders of Georgia mused about Confederate enlistment, “I would be disgraced if I staid at home, and unworthy of my revolutionary ancestors.” Moreover, these strictures kept the armies in the field.

Said a kinswoman of Mary Chestnut in 1865: “Are you like Aunt Mary? Would you be happier if all the men in the family were killed? To our amazement, quiet Miss C took up the cudgels – nobly. “Yes, if their life disgraced them. There are worse things than death.”

(Southern Honor, Ethics & Behavior in the Old South, Bertram Wyatt Brown, Oxford University Press, 1982, excerpts pp. 33-35)

This Sad Life in Vicksburg

The author below was Mary Ann Loughborough, the New York City-born wife of Colonel James Loughborough, assistant adjutant general to Major General Sterling Price. In mid-April 1863, Mary was visiting Vicksburg just as the enemy fleet had run past the defensive batteries on the Mississippi River and began subjecting the city to intense and indiscriminate bombardment.  For protection from this shelling, civilians dug caves in the clay hills which Vicksburg was built upon.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

How Sad This Life in Vicksburg

“Even the very animals seemed to share the general fear of a sudden and frightful death. The dogs would be seen in the midst of the noise to gallop up the street, and then to return, as if fear had maddened them. On hearing the descent of a shell, they would dart aside – then, as it exploded, sit down and howl in the most pitiful manner.

In the midst of other miserable thoughts, it came to my mind one day that these dogs’ hunger might become as much dreaded as wolves. The horses . . . would frequently strain the halter to its full length, rearing high in the air, with a loud snort of terror as a shell would explode near. I could hear them in the night cry out in the midst of the uproar, ending in a low, plaintive whinny of fear.

Sitting in [my] cave one evening, I heard the most heartrending screams and moans. I was told that a mother had taken a child into a cave about a hundred yards from us; and having laid it on its little bed, as the poor woman believed, in safety, she took her seat near the entrance of the cave.

A mortar shell came rushing through the air and fell with much force, entering the earth above the sleeping child – cutting through into the cave – oh! Most horrible sight to the mother – crushing in the upper part of the little sleeping head, and taking away the young innocent life without a look or word of passing love to be treasured in the mother’s heart.

I sat near the square of moonlight, silent and sorrowful, hearing the sobs and cries – hearing the moans of a mother for her dead child – the child that a few moments since lived to caress and love – speaking the tender words that endear so much the tie of mother and child.

How very sad this life in Vicksburg! – how little security we can feel, with so many around us seeing the morning light that will never more see the night! How blightingly the hand of warfare lay upon the town!

The moans of pain came slowly and more indistinct, until all was silent; and the bereaved mother slept, I hope – slept to find, on waking, a dull pressure of pain at her heart, and in the first collection of faculties will wonder what it is. Then her care for her child will return, and the new sorrow will again come to her – gone, forever gone!”

(My Cave Life in Vicksburg, By a Lady, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1989 (original D. Appleton & Company, 1864), excerpts, pp. 71-75)

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheap Water Freight

The bombardment of Vicksburg, Mississippi by Grant in mid-1863 took an enormous toll on the civilians in the city. From the book “My Cave Life in Vicksburg” (D. Appleton & Company, 1864), the author writes: “I was told a Negro woman, in walking through the yard, had been struck by a fragment of a shell, and instantly killed. The screams of the women of Vicksburg were the saddest I have ever heard. I cannot attempt to describe the thrill of pity, mingled with fear that pierced my soul, as suddenly vibrating through the air would come these shrieks – these pitiful moans! – sometimes almost simultaneously with the explosion of a shell.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant Opens the Northwest to Cheaper Water Freight

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request [to the enemy] that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on late comrades, while in the midst Sherman and a Confederate officer sat on a log. To all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death.

The spectacle of Vicksburg’s bombardment delighted Sherman’s artistic eye. On clear nights he saw pickets sitting on their rifle-pit embankments, staring at the grandest pyrotechnics they had ever beheld – thin red trails of light, sparkling like comets’ tails, soaring into the sky to halt, then curve downward to vanish among the housetops of the dark city. After a pause, a jarring concussion would come on the wind.

From land and river Union siege guns and navy mortars were throwing shells with burning fuses. Privates of the Twelfth Wisconsin said that their Negro cooks lay so flat during a bombardment that soldiers mistook them for rubber blankets and carried them to camp over their shoulders at the day’s end.

Surrender came on July 4 [1863], Grant paroling 31,600 wasted Confederates in the knowledge that the great majority, sick of the war, would go home never to shoulder arms again. Up North, men were declaring that they had always had faith in Grant, the Northwest was happy because the Wall Street railroaders were now due to get their com-uppance – the cheap water freights could soon be resumed.”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-287; 291)

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

By mid-1864, the State of Virginia had been overrun for several years by armies and crops confiscated, devastated or burned by the enemy, and civilians especially suffered greatly.  Daniel Sutherland writes in Seasons of War (1995) of enemy troops reverting “to their old habits of living off the civilian population, still justified, by [Northern General John] Pope’s orders.  If the new wave of brigandage has been less extensive than the first orgy, that is only because less remains to be stolen or vandalized.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Self-Sacrifice at the Front

“One noteworthy example of the self-sacrifice of our soldiers is remembered with especial pride.

On June 15 and 17, 1864, the women and children of Richmond had been suffering for food, and the Thirtieth Virginia [Regiment] sent them one day’s rations of flour, pork, bacon and veal, not from their abundance, but by going without the day’s ration themselves.

“Yet,” said a journal of that time, “despatches from General Lee show that nearly every regiment in his army has re-enlisted for the war.”

On April 30th, when we were threatened on every side, and encompassed so perfectly that we could only hope for a miracle to overcome our foes, Mr. Davis’s health declined from loss of sleep so that he forgot to eat, and I resumed the practice of carrying him something at one-o’clock.”

(Jefferson Davis, Varina Howell Davis, Belford Company, 1890, Vol. II, excerpt, page 496)

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

After Sherman’s 65,000-man army entered North Carolina in early March, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith wrote friend Janie Robeson of nearby Bladen County and described the invasion of her home in Lebanon, North Carolina. This was near the battle of Averasboro, where Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s 10,000 man army former garrison troops stopped the battle-hardened veterans of Sherman’s left wing. All of Janie’s brothers were in Confederate service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865:

Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.

My experience since we parted has indeed been sad . . . Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy . . . [and] such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage.

[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something . . . The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.

I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep . . . Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.

Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk, but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”

(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History)

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