Ola Barber's Account
Thos. H.B. (son of H.B.) was too old to fight in the War Between the States; but eventually went in anyway in the Georgia Regulars. He was at Ocean Pond (Fla.) and around Savannah, for 6 or 8 months. At Ocean Pond the Yankees used the slaves for breastworks (the slaves who they had enticed away from the white plantations on a pretense of freedom.) The slaughter was fearful and droves of negroes were actually driven into the pond. Just a short time before the War closed, the Confederacy offered to let some of the old men go home, for so much money and all sorts of provisions. Grandpa was sick and no good to the army, so Grandma went to Savannah and gave $5000 in money and more in provisions. She paid the money in real money, and the other things were in wheat, corn and cotton, things that people were in most need of. Grandpa ate such a big meal at the hotel in Savannah that the train left them and Grandma said she feared for his life, but he said he'd die knowing that he'd eaten once more.
At the end of the war, that skunk, Sherman made his infamous march through Ga. He rode his horse right up on my grandfather's front porch and had them to feed his horse, just to show what a wonderful man could do. (any bully could have done the same.) For some reason he did not burn the house that the family lived in; but he did burn the machine-shop, gin-house, all the other buildings, and the corn, wheat, and everything that he did not steal and carry away. (The Barbers were always kind to their slaves and grandpa along with a few other prominent men through the South, had planned to free their slaves just as soon as they could train them properly so that they were capable of being free.) The main house cook was a mean, sullen thing and poked around as if she were half dead; but she jumped like a 16-year-old and showed Sherman's trash where all the valuables were hidden and acted as if she were a lady of quality and showed her contempt of the master's entire household, or those who were at home; because she was protected by the thieving trash. The vermin were in sight of the plantation before there was time to hide any thing. Everything on the place hated that cook and nobody wanted her even though she was a fine cook.
One of the negroes reported that the advance was coming, so they managed to get 4 horses, 1 barrel of sorghum, just A few hams and shoulders, a very little corn and wheat in the house. For weeks all of them existed on this and the hog-heads that had been thrown around. The soldiers were perfect brutes. They would take the goats, tie one leg of each together and sling them across their horses, and go off with them in pain and bleating. They mercilessly killed any thing. I've heard a few times that some people thought that Sherman had some gentlemanly qualities, but if he did, he concealed them well around the Barber plantation. He was cheering on his swine in their vandalism and destruction. Grandpa who had just gotten home and old and sick was frantic but helpless. Grandpa and Grandma were the only ones at home except about six or seven grown negroes and around 35 young negroes. All the others had run away, a few body servants were with the soldiers. Grandpa said to Grandma, "Honey if only I had a gun I'd shoot that wretch if it were the last thing I ever did." He meant the cook who was dancing around and showing Sherman and the other swine where everything of value was. It was awful to just watch the gang of thieves and do nothing. When they had quite finished, a locust wouldn't even have even interested in looking around.
The advance guard had made such alluring offers to the negroes that all but 40 had gone on with them. This old cook didn't go with them but pretended to be faithful located everything and waited for Sherman, then she went along with him.
For 48 hours, the marching mob was so dense that a cat couldn't have gone between the lines. These streamed through the driveway. From a week to two weeks the negroes were coming back, begging to be taken back just as they were before. Three months later, the old cook came back and got within a few miles of the plantation. Somebody sent word that she was on her way back home. Grandpa sent a negro on horseback to say that he'd shoot her on sight. After the war, all the negroes begged to be taken back, but this was impossible. The planters got together and decided that they'd give the faithful ones 1/4 of the corn and one third of the wheat that they would be able to raise.
Old Clayborn, the overseer, said," Well, Marse Tom, why don't you give us a fourth of the wheat too?" Grandpa told him that he was giving him more than that, he was giving them a third. Clayborn wouldnï¿½t be convinced until Grandpa took four rocks and three rocks and showed him. Then Clayborn said, "Well, Marse Tom, if you say it's all right, I know it is."
Sherman's hordes marched down the avenue of trees between the house and fields. A huge body of them spread the tents in the fields. Grandma (Mrs. Thomas Holden Barber--nee Jane Frances Roberts) set by the fireplace looking out into the fields of skunks. There was no fuel nor food. All was taken or burned. She had a little hatchet. The weather was bitter cold but bright moonlight. She sat all night with the hatchet in hand, chopping chairs or other pieces of furniture in pieces and feeding small bits at a time, feeding the tiny flame. She had seen the plantation buildings all except the one house burned by the fiends. All livestock except 4 horses quickly hidden in the swamp were stolen. One old hen and a few biddies managed to hide, and came up later. Not another living creature was left. The food was even stolen out of the cooking pots and oven. Grandma had tried to bury some jewelry beside a chimney. Old Tempie showed the varmints where it was and all the silver and things of value.
Every they wanted was stolen and the rest destroyed by Sherman's own personal supervision and he spared no person of quality because he was of such low origin.
He was so low down that he was run out of Mississippi before the War and vowed vengeance on the South, especially anyone of quality. He hanged the uncle of my aunt by marriage because he refused to tell where he had buried his money and jewelry.
Another 16 year old girl an aunt of an elderly deceased friend of mine was tied to a bed by an officer and then his vermin were turned loose. When she was mangled and dead, they passed on.
Another case about which I know--a woman was in bed with a newborn baby and the ground was deep in snow and ice. The baby was taken by the heels, its brains were dashed out and the mother dragged in her night gown out into the yard by her hair and left to perish.