Article 85

MRS. Hutchinson's story.

"We lived near the railroad and there was a Yankee killed not far from my house, so then General Vandever, who was in command with headquarters at Rome, issued an order that 'all who lived in three miles o' the road, was to leave.' This was a cruel, hard order for we hadn't no way o' moving our things onless we carried them in our hands, an' the Yankees wouldn't move 'em fur us.
"One o' my neighbor's had a ox wagin, an' he moved two trunks full o' things fur me, but he hadn't time to do no more. I couldn't bar to leave the things I'd worked so hard to earn, for I knowed ef they was hard to come by afore, when times was good, it would be a heap harder, once I lost 'em, an' the country so full o' Yankees ; so I spread a sheet on the floor, an' put a feather bed on it, an' six double wove coverleds, an' uverthing else I could cram in, an' tied it up an' put it on my head. If I hadn't a been excited I never could a lifted sich a load, much less a put it on my head, but I done it then an' walked to the top o' the hill.
"When I got thar my breath was clean gone, an' I thought I'd never fetch another.
Well, I rested a spell an' felt better, but I couldn't carry that bundle by myself no more; so as there was two girls with me, I run a rail through the tie o' the bundle, an' they tuck one end an' me the t'other. We went three miles that a way, an' when we stopped my hip was black an' blue, an' there come a risin' on it that crippled me for a long time.
"It was while I was a cripple an' driv from home that my son come acrost the lines. He was one o' the ten scouts that Miss Sophy saw at the burnt house, an' them ten men was in the house sixteen days before uver they could git a chance to cross agin. This was when Sherman was a lookin' for Hood, and the scouts was sent to find out Sherman's movements.
"Well, they all got safe acrost, an' Martin, he found he had to come back, an' my son come with him. It was a mighty hard thing to do, because the Etowah river was the line, an' all the fords was guarded close, but they done it, for my boy knowed uver' foot o' river bank an' nuther him nor Martin was afyurd o' anything. They knowed the risk, an' knowed they'd have to hide out in the bushes as they'd done afore, with only the chance o' the women's bein' able to dodge the Yankees an' bring 'em their vittals at night.
"It was night when them two, an' another scout named Nichols, come to my house, an' when I saw my boy a cold chill come over me.
'Oh, my son !' I says, 'what made you come back > You' 11 never cross that river alive agin.'
"Yes, I will, mother,' says he, jist as cheer ful as could be. 'Never you fear; I seed the Yankees a robbin' an' a plunderin' our house an' turnin' you out o' doors, an' me not able to help you, an' I couldn't go away till I seen you once more an' knowed how you was agoin' to live.'
"Well, I didn't say no more, because I didn't want to put him out o' heart, but I felt I was seein' the last o' my child. We give 'em to eat o' the best we had, which was poor enough, but they was nigh famished an' eat hearty. When they was done my boy took out his pocketbook, an' says he then:
" 'Mother, there's a heap o' papers in there an' some Confederate money. I wish you'd take all the papers out except my pass from the Captain, leave that an' the money an' put the papers away. If uver I come back they'll be o' use to me, an' ef I don't you'll want 'em to remember me by.'
"The pass 'lowed him to go to Alabama, whar my daughter lived, whar he was to get another horse. I went an' got my own pocketbook an' I put his pass an' money in it, an' give it to him an' kep his own instead.
There was eighty dollars in Confederate bills in the book, but it didn't all belong to him, for he was takin' it out to the men in his com pany. Their wives sent it 'cause it wasn't o' no use to them here among the Yankees, an' it would be to the men.
"My boy's halter was worn out an' I give him a nice, new one. He didn't put it on his bridle but wrapt it roun' an' roun' his waist an' tied it, an' then they said goodby an' left.
They hadn't been gone more'n a hour an' a half, when Martin an' Nichols come back.
They said my boy was captured, or killed, or had crossed the river.
"For all the woods was so thick with Yan kees, they'd gone on without seein' one. They was ridin' one behind the other, an' my boy was in front, an' when they got opposite the ginhouse, which was close to vyhar they was to cross, somebody in it halted 'em an' my son fired at the house an' dashed past t'wards the ford. The other two knowin' they couldn't cross after what had happened, separated an' run different ways, as they thought the Yan kees had seen their tracks an' hid in the gin house to ketch 'em as they went back.
"My house, because o' the Yankees, wasn't no place for Nichols an' Martin, so we sent 'em to Mr. Oldman's, knowin' he'd be good to 'em, an' besides, it was the safest place any where abouts.
"The pain in my hip was terrible, but I for got it, thinkin' about my boy, for I knowed he were either a prisoner or dead. Seven long, dreadful days an' nights went by an' we hadn't heard nothin', but on the eighth day, between sunset an' dark, a Yankee come an' knocked at the door. We was surprised to see one of 'em at that hour, for you know they was always afraid to go to our houses except in the broad daylight, an' then they didn't often knock but jist walk in.
"My boy had told lis to be civil to 'em, so we asked him in, an' he come an' took a chair, then asked all sorts o' questions. 'Did I have a son, an' what was his name ; did I have a daughter, an' did she live in Alabama, an' what was her name.' We answered him polite, but he looked restless an' oneasy, an' didn't stay but a few minutes, but went to another house where a neighbor was livin'.
He didn't stay thar long nuther, but come out an' leant on the fence. Then the neighbor come to my house an' tole me that he had said 'there was a man found drowned in the river, an' from the answers we'd give his questions he believed the drowned man was my son, an' he give her five dollars an' twenty cents in Confederate money an' said it was his share o' what had been found in the pocketbook.' He said he 'hadn't the heart to come an' tell me himself.' "
The poor woman paused a moment, then covering her face with her apron sobbed out, "Oh, my boy, my boy! You was so good, an' so brave, an' so gentle! An', though I say it, no better man than you ever lived."
After a time she removed her apron, choked down her sobs and continued:
" I was too crippled to walk alone, but I asked my neighbor to give me my crutch an' to help me ask for my child. They helped me. When I got to the gate whar the Yankee stood, I fell down at his feet, an' put my hand on his knee, an' begged him — for God's sake! to give me back my boy. It wasn't much for a mother to ask for her dead child, an' he said I 'should have my boy, for he would get a permit from the Captain to let me go an' git him.'
"He kep' his word, an' come next mornin' with the permit an' twelve men for a guard.
We got a oxcart, an' some o' the neighbors went with me to where they'd buried him in a shallow grave in the sand, close down to the water's edge, an' they took him up, an' we carried him to the church, an' I bathed him an' dressed him myself. They didn't want me to do it, but I would, for I felt that his mother's hands should be the last that touched him.
"His head was crushed an' bloody, an' his chest was bruised an' broken, an' his hands was tied with the halter I'd give him. They said they'd 'found him lying across a log,' but you know it wasn't so, for if he had been in the water it would a washed his hat away, an' he was buried with it drawed down over his face. They wanted me to believe that he'd struck agin a limb that hung over the road, that night he charged past the ginhouse, an' was stunned an' fell off in the water. But that couldn't be, for when I bathed him his limbs was supple, an' the blood flowed from the bruises on his arm, an' that couldn't have happened ef he'd been dead for seven days. I think they captured him, an' tried to make him tell on his companions, an' when he wouldn't, as I know he wouldn't, I believe they beat him to death.
"We hadn't any coffin, nor anything to make one of, but just only a box, an' such nails as we could draw out o' the walls.
When all was ready, they laid him in the cart, six o' the Yankees rode on one side and six on the other, an' I rode behind, and the neigh bors walked beside me.
" A company o' Yankees met us, an' they cursed us, an' cursed my dead boy, an' wanted to stop us, but the guard showed the permit an' they was forced to let us alone. An' so with them curses yet ringin' in the air, my child was put into his grave. Oh, it was hard! Not even to bury my dead in peace."

Source: Howard, Frances Thomas. "In and Out of the Lines."

Page last modified on November 12, 2014