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War times in Natchez. [from the New Orleans (La.) Picayune, January 18, 1903.]

By Mrs. G. Griffing Wilcox.
Grand, exclusive, heroic Natchez, with her terraced hills and fragrant gardens, colonial mansions and prehistoric memories, was gorgeous in gala day attire.

The Stars and Stripes floated from the domes and windows of all public buildings, and were stretched over the street crossings.

General Tuttle, mounted on his milk-white steed, and escorted by his staff, paraded the principal thoroughfares.

Handsomely-uniformed soldiers, arrayed in the paraphernalia and insignia of office, were moving hither and thither, reminding one of a vast assemblage of strange bright birds driven hence by terrific storms on foreign shores, but alas! the storm was in our own beautiful and loved Southland, and we were compelled, perforce, to look upon and admire the brillant plumage of these strange, bright birds, who brought not the rich tidings of all glorious things, but sad disaster, on their starry wings.

The scenes enacted during the memorable struggle between the North and South are still fresh in the memories of the older inhabitants of this heroic old city, who still recount to patient listeners the thrilling experiences of many of the citizens of Natchez in those historic times, those dark days from 1861 to 1865, when the horrors of civil war were felt throughout the land, and the iron heel of the invader was often endured, and hunger and suffering ensued whereever his footprints were left.

Nearly every family in the South has its story of sorrow, suspense, anxiety and the hardships and makeshifts of sudden poverty incident to invasion, to relate.

Many of them were made to realize the stern truth of General Sherman's utterance, ‘War is hell.’

When Natchez was first garrisoned by the Union troops it was deemed necessary by General Tuttle to erect fortifications on the site occupied by the Susette homestead, one of the most magnificent residences of the city. The mansion was situated in a famous grove of forest trees, among which were grand old live oaks, elms and [136] magnolias, planted more than half a century ago. The grounds were surrounded by one of the handsomest iron fences in the State.

The interior of the Susette home was furnished with exquisitely hand-carved Italian marble mantels. There were cut-glass window panes and a rosewood stairway. Most of the expensive furniture had come from Paris. Included in the dining-room appointments was silver plate of four generations back.

Federal soldiers had stripped the house of many of its costly furnishings, but it is due to the memory of General Tuttle to say that he did not approve of such conduct on the part of his command. On the contrary, he showed a regard for personal property.

The rules of war are in most cases iron-clad, and the edict had gone forth that the ‘Susette mansion must be blown up with gunpowder and other combustibles, to clear the way for the fort.’ Excavations were immediately made under and around the grand old edifice. These, together with the cellar, were filled with such immense quantities of powder that when the match was applied to the fuse the explosion was so terrific that half of the window panes in the town were shattered and broken.

Such is war.

That a correct idea may be had of the high intellectual standard and courage of the citizenship of Natchez, it will be in order to recall the fact that it sent to the front in the Civil War an unusual number of Confederate soldiers who won distinction on the field of battle, and one of whom, without previous military experience or training, attained the rank of major-general. There were five others who gained the stars and wreath of brigadier-general in the Confederate Army.

In this aristocratic and time-honored little city resided Judge John H. Fulton, long and favorably known as one of the most esteemed landmarks of Natchez and Adams county.

Around his extensive cotton plantation, situated some fifteen miles distant, and his beautiful city home, there clusters much of interest that occurred during the war, which will bear relating even at this remote date.

Judge Fulton was exempt from military duty, and remained at home during the war, but was nobly represented in the Confederate ranks by three gallant sons, of whom he was justly proud.

William G. Fulton, the eldest, marched to the front with the pride and idol of Natchez, the intrepid William T. Martin.

The other two were fighting under that typical Confederate General, [137] Earl Van Dorn, whose chivalry was only equaled by his unswerving courage.

Edmund, the youngest of the family, five years of age, was, of course, still in the home nest, but proved to be the innocent cause of much suffering to his patriotic father.

It occurred in this wise: Judge Fulton's sons had obtained, for the first time during the struggle, furloughs to visit home and parents, and were staying at the plantation home of their father. Their presence at this place was kept a profound secret, on account of the proximity of the Union troops stationed at Natchez.

JudgeFulton and Mrs. Fulton were domiciled in there city home at this time, but made frequent visits to the plantation during the stay of sons, and at each trip managed to carry through the lines numerous contraband articles, such as firearms, ammunition, Confederate gray cloth, hats, boots and many other things so much needed by the Confederate soldier.

Mrs. Fulton would purchase these articles in Natchez and conceal them beneath her clothing, with what she designated her ‘smuggling string.’ Thus habilimented she would seat herself, with little Edmund on her lap, accompanied by the Judge, in her carriage, and pass the guards without arousing the slightest suspicion. The vehicle was always thoroughly searched, but, finding nothing objectionable, was allowed to pass the pickets.

By dint of these frequent trips, Judge Fulton's sons were well equipped and supplied with all things needful to the outer as well as the inner man.

At the expiration of their leaves of absence they each returned to their respective commands, much improved in appearance, after their pleasant and profitable visit to home and friends.

JudgeFulton and Mrs. Fulton were well satisfied with their exploits, as strategems of war, and thought all was well, but alas! the sequel proved otherwise.

A short time subsequent to these events General Tuttle and his staff had occasion to visit, on official business, the city home of Judge Fulton. During their stay these Union officers were politely and hospitably entertained, as was the wont of the Southern gentleman.

During the evening, while Judge Fulton was busily engaged in discussing important matters of business with General Tuttle, one of the staff officers had placed little Edmund Fulton on his knee, while an animated conversation was passing between them. [138]

Mrs. Fulton caught the words ‘smuggling string,’ ‘pistols,’ ‘cartridges’ from Edmund.

She knew intuitively that the nature of their recent trips to the plantation home were being divulged by the artless child.

She trembled perceptibly at the thought of the consequences of this revelation, but continued the pleasant discourse with the Union officer with whom she was at the time speaking.

General Tuttle took his departure, apparently much gratified at the hospitality he had received at the home of the Fultons.

A few hours later a squad of soldiers, commanded by a Union officer, arrived at the house with a warrant for the arrest of Judge Fulton. He was taken and placed in prison, where he languished for eleven weary months, as the result of Edmund's communications to the Federal officer.

Mrs. Fulton was allowed the privilege of furnishing her husband his meals during his confinement, and of making his quarters as comfortable, under the circumstances, as possible.

This humane treatment was a grand departure from the usual ironclad rules of war, and it was through the clemency of General Tuttle that a release was eventually secured for this grand old patriot.

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