Sherman Terrorizes the Women at Kingston
Kingston, Georgia from Harper's Magazine
The following article is excerpted from "In and Out of the Lines" by Frances Thomas Howard
"'Headquarters Post, " 'Kingston, Ga.,
" Sept. 19, 1864.
" 'Permission is hereby granted to Miss Sophy Henry and attendant to go to Mr. McDonald's and return (goodfor five days).
" 'B. D. Dean, " 'Colonel 26th Mo. V. I.
" 'Commanding Post.'
"Sometime in October General Davis' Corps passed us on its way after Hood. It reached Mr. Burton's in the morning, remained there the rest of the day and that night, leaving next morning. As soon as we knew that the Yankees were around, we locked all the doors, then ran to the dairy at the spring to save the milk-pans, and on the way back we met Metz, the man from whom Jenny was bought, who warned us to look after the cows if we wished to save them. They were at once driven to the front of the house and protection applied for, then we went after the turkeys, caught and put them in a coop.
"The coop was long and narrow, and we soon found that as fast as we put them in at one end, a Yankee took them out at the other, but this was discovered in time to save two or three which had to be hidden in the bottom of the china closet. An officer helped us catch the ducks which we hid with the turkeys, then with much tugging and straining, Mr. Burton's old carriage and our buggy were dragged up the hill where they would be under the guard's eye. Mike had been tied to the carriage but a Yankee carried him off.
The same officer who had helped us with the ducks, brought him back, then we put him in the tool house which was above the terrace.
This officer seemed to think the whole affair a capital joke and laughed heartily during the duck chase.
"We did not sleep much that night, not knowing what the men might do, but every- thing passed smoothly and the next morning as soon as the troops had left, the cows were sent to Mr. Oldman's. That night about ten o'clock the cook woke us with the information that the Yankees had come back ; so as soon as possible we went to the dining-room, and on opening the door were startled to find it full of soldiers. We shut it hastily and retreated to the kitchen.
"The cook was busy preparing General Mansfield's supper, which was sent to the dining-room as soon as ready. As the servant with the tray, opened the door we heard a loud peal of laughter, and set our wits to work to think what could be affording such amusement. When the girl returned we learned that the Yankees had put the 'preacher bone' in the middle of the table and were laughing over it, wanting to know what it was as they had never seen such a thing before. You remember what it was, — a section of a horse's back bone dressed up with spectacles, gown and bands.
"General Mansfield and his men left about daylight the next morning and we never saw the Yankees in any force afterwards. Not long after this the guard Vivian was ordered to rejoin his command.
"In November we were told that Sherman and his whole army, which had been for some time at Kingston, was soon to abandon this part of the country to look up Hood, and we thought it time to make what preparations we could for the event."
"Yes," interrupted my mother, "I went with Dick to the mills we now had a four- wheeled wagon, and this I had loaded with grain, for every one thought the mill would be burned. Indeed, the guard said that he •had orders to burn it when he left,' and I wished to save as much food as possible. Mr.
McDonald advised me to go to Kingston and ask Sherman not to burn the mill, for it was the only one in many miles and if burned the suffering among the women and children would be great. I went to Kingston, but it was a long time before the guard would allow me to enter the gate of Sherman's quarters, but at length he let me in and as I went into the hall an officer met me and curtly de- manded my business. When I had stated what I wanted, he said:
" 'General Sherman can't be bothered with that.'
"I still insisted on seeing General Sherman myself, and the officer told me he would see if the General was at leisure, so popping his head in at a door and as quickly popping it out, he said:
'"The General is busy, but sent a message to the effect that he would certainly bum the mill and would use the torch everjrwhcre that suited him.' "
"The next day," continued Sophy, "four officers and a squad of men came to Mr. Bur- ton's, staid all day and went away in the even- ing. These were the last Yankees we saw until after the surrender."
Sophy's story concluded.
" In the fall Mr. Burton had sent Biddy to Nashville on business, but she did not return until the latter part of November, and brought with her a Mrs. Blackwell, the wife of a major in our army. Biddy had found this poor lady alone and friendless in Dalton, which was then on the Yankee line. She was sitting on the depot platform with her baby in her arms, crying bitterly, and awaiting the execution of her sentence which was, that she and her two children be carried a certain dis- tance into the country and put down. She did not know a soul in Georgia, and was one of the most timid, shrinking people I ever saw. She needed no persuasion to accept Biddy's offer of a temporary home, nor did she ever know why she had been sent from her own home.
"Mr. Smith reached Mr. Burton's about the last of November and I determined to re- turn with him to Athens early in December, and it was a little before ye" left Savannah that I was on my way, not dreaming that our meeting was so near. We left Mr. Burton's one afternoon quite late, for we intended go- ing only as far as the house of Mr. Smith that night, expecting to make an early start the next morning. As we passed a house some one called out to us that Mr. McDonald was just a little way ahead, and to hail him, as he wished to see Mr. Smith before he left.
"When we had reached a lonely bit of road by the churchyard, Mr. Smith endeavored to locate our friend by repeatedly calling out his name, but there was no answer, until we came opposite a large oak, and by the uncertain light we saw a dark figure emerge from the shadow of the tree.
« 'Is that you, Mr. McDonald?' I asked startled, when, onriding close to him, I saw a set look on his face, but which changed in- stantly as he recognized me.
" 'Yes, it is I,' he said, throwing down a huge stone.
" 'What did you intend to do with that stone?' I asked.
" 'Well,' he replied, 'when I heard Smith call, I thought it was one of the scoundrels that are prowling about the country since the Yankees left, and I supposed he would be up to some devilment, so I picked up the rock to smash him with.'
"In his youth Mr. McDonald had been the strongest man in the country. And his big arm yet retained strength enough to have de- stroyed any one against whom he had come in contact.
"We began our journey the next morning.
Mr. Smith knew the man at the bridge where you had so much trouble in crossing after- wards, and we met him late in the afternoon a quarter of a mile from his house, which was but a few steps from the bridge. He told us we could find lodging for the following night at his house, but we must not attempt to cross the bridge until the next day, as sun- light would be needed to make the danger- ous trip in safety. I thanked him and rode up to the gate and was about to dismount, when a woman appeared and screamed: 'You needn't 'light. You kaint stay here!'
" 'But your husband said we might,' I re- plied.
" 'Well, T say you kaint, and that's 'nuff ! ' said she.
" 'We can't cross the bridge in the dark, and there is no house near but this, so where can we go.'' I asked.
" 'I don't know, an' I don't kyur! But you shaint an' you kaint come in hyur!' she ex- claimed spitefully.
" 'Well,' I replied, quietly, 'if you won't let me in the house, I will sit on the piazza until your husband comes, and see what he will have to say.' I dismounted, Mr. Smith, who had taken no part in the conversation, laughing softly as he unsaddled Gipsy and put the saddle on the piazza. I sat down, and turning to the woman asked 'if forage for the pony's supper was in the stable.' The woman almost cried with rage as she answered:
" 'Sence I tole you not to come in, an' you've done come an' sot yourse'f down an' will stay, an' I kaint make you git out, I reckon you may as well have victuals for the horse, for I 'low you'll take hit anyhow. I nuver seed the like o' your impidence, I nuver did!'
"Just then the husband arrived and gave his wife a sound rating; I was very tired and asked to be shown to my room, so the wo- man motioned me to a door, and growled out that I would have to stay with a friend of hers, who was already in the room. I open- ed the door, and the queerest apparition arose from the bed, greeting me with the in- terrogation, 'Stranger, who pe's you.?'
"I replied that I was 'sorry to disturb her, but that I was told I was to spend the night in that room.''
" 'I no like dis at all,' said my interrogator, who was a little Dutch woman.
"I assured her that I did not myself find the situation an especially agreeable one, and doubted not that we would both be more comfortable if another apartment could be found.
" 'Dat no possible, as you ferry well know,' said she. 'Dere is no more rooms.'
"I signified my regret, and suggested that
we make the best of affairs since no change was to be effected. She did not reply but threw herself back with a discontented grunt.
At first I thought I would spread my blanket on the floor and sleep there, but the night was bitter cold and the wind, through the many cracks, whistled a savage warning against such an imprudence. The little woman eyed me curiously as I unbuckled my pistol and placed it under the pillow.
" 'Gott in Himmel! Vhat for you do dat?' cried she, darting bolt upright. 'Te tear Gott know nopotty ever do de like o* dat!'
" 'Never mind,' I answered. 'It won't hurt you unless you meddle with it. I al- ways sleep with my hand on it, so as to be ready in case of robbers or meddlesome people.
" 'Den I no sleep in dis pet dis night,' said she indignantly. 'I vill pe kilt teadt pefore morning!'
" 'I don't think you'll be hurt,' I said ; 'still if you would like to go elsewhere, I will be the last one to object.'
" 'I vill not pe turnt out de room in vich I am gone to pedt, — no, not for nopotty l' said she, with increasing anger.
"I spread my blanket so as to cover up as much as possible of the uninviting couch and wrapping up in my large double shawl, lay down in anything but a grateful frame of mind.
"My little friend continued to scold, and finally said, 'Vich vay you turn de hole in dat ting?'
" 'It's turned towards the door,' I said, 'and you must positively be quiet and let me go to sleep, or you will make me nervous and then I might accidentally turn it towards you.' At this she set up an odd little shriek and implored me to hold it tight, and after many assurances that I was doing so, she raised the pillow and looked at my hand to satisfy herself that I had told the truth.
"She awoke me once or twice in the night with the inquiry: 'Haf you de handt on it yet, alreaty?' In the morning she forgave me for frightening her and became quite soci- able, even escorting me to the bridge, which was in the same condition in which you after- wards found it, the flooring gone and only a narrow pathway of loose boards.
"Gipsy planted her forefeet, put her ears back and refused to cross. A huge country- man who was waiting until we were over, to bring across his wagons and stock, strode up to her saying: 'I'll make her go!' and struck her a terrible blow with his heavy whip. The poor creature's eyes dilated as if they would burst from their sockets, and she squatted and trembled. I was on the ground, and sprang forward to catch the whip, but was too late.
"As it the second time curled round her flank, with a snort of terror she reared straight up and dashed on to the bridge. The planks rattled and seemed to slip from under her flying feet and I held my breath, expecting every instant to see her plunge into the river below, but she crossed in safety. I can never forget that man's brutality nor could I trust myself to speak to him then, and, well pleased with the success of his cruelty, he proceeded to take his sheep across, taking one by the horns and dragging it along, the others following as unconcernedly as if they were on a road twenty feet broad.
"There was some trouble with the cows, however, but here again the whip was suc- cessfully used, then he and his assistant went to work on the wagon. They had only four planks wherewith to floor that long bridge, but they managed it by laying them parallel, the same distance apart as were the wagon wheels, pushed the wagon forward until the fore wheels were on the ends of the two last planks, then they picked up the two that the wagon had just left, placed them in front, pushed the wagon on them and continued this process until the opposite bank was reached.
"There was a band of terrible desperadoes who frequented the vicinity of 'Wolf Pen,' and when we came in sight of the place, we beheld assembled a company of these men.
My heart sank within me, but Mr. Smith held tight to Gipsy's bridle.
" 'Miss Sophy,' said he, 'all depends on you. Them men wouldn't listen to me, but bein' as you're a lady, perhaps you can keep them from troubUng us an' save the mar.'
"Knowing that flight was impossible, I rode boldly up to the company and asked for the captain, and as soon as he appeared I told him Mrs. Blackwell's story, and that I was sure he would do all in his power to aid a lady in her distressed situation. I asked that he would tell his men that she requested all soldiers to be kind enough to look out for her husband, and if they met him, tell him where she was to be found.
"The captain assured us that he was very sorry to hear of Mrs. Blackwell's suffering, and that he and his men would use every exertion to find Mr. Blackwell.
"I thanked him, and seeing that neither he nor the other men seemed disposed to annoy us, wished him good-morning and rode off.
We rejoiced greatly over our escape. Mr.
Smith thought it wonderful, 'for,' he said, 'no one for months had passed that place unmo- lested, and the danger was, of course, greater when the desperadoes had the additional temptation of a fine young horse in as good order as Gipsy was.'
"During the day we were joined by a paroled soldier, a relative of Mr. Smith's, and about dusk we stopped in front of a cabin where I asked a girl, who stood in the door, if we could spend the night there.
" 'No, you kaint,' she replied, 'kase thar's to be a fly roun' here to-night, an' a heap o' boys an' gals is a comin' tew hit, an' thar won't be room for youns.'
"'What does she mean, Mr. Smith.'' I asked in an undertone. 'What is a fly roun'.?'
" 'It's a daince,' he replied, 'an' ef they're agoin' to have one in that little shebang, thar suttenly won't be no room for us an' we'd better git.'
"When we had gone some little distance, the girl was heard whooping after us, but her words could not be distinguished.
" 'Let's hold on a minute. Miss Sophy, an' see what she's arter,' said Mr. Smith.
" Seeing that we had stopped, she ran half way towards us and screamed out, 'Ef them two gentlemen wants to come to the fly roun', they kin come.'
" Mr. Smith and his friend seemed to think this the greatest joke they had ever heard, for they sat down on the ground and roared with laughter, while the girl continued to shriek out her invitation. I asked Mr. Smith if he intended to spend the night on the ground.
" 'O Lord, Miss Sophy, o' course not. But to think o' that gal! Don't you know beaus is scace?'
"In a short time a house was found where there was no fly roun', and a resting place for the night was obtained.
"Just after I reached Athens the telegram that Lou had sent was received and in a few days we three were once more together."
Such was the story as told to me by Sophy, of her haps and mishaps, from the time of my leaving home to my return.