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A Refugee's story.

How a Rebel gave the Yankees the slip.

The following story was related by the chief actor long after the war was over, in almost these words:

It was on a cold, gray morning that we started on that trip. I was exempt from service on account of age, but the Yankees were pouring into Tennessee and making raids into Virginia, sweeping the whole country as they went, carrying off horses, destroying grain and cattle, and killing the planters on the slightest provocation. I had eleven fine horses, and knowing my life as well as property was in jeopardy, I determined to attempt to get them to a place of safety if possible. We went through byways and woodlands as much as we could, thereby meeting few persons, and these, like ourselves, fleeing from the Yankees and carrying with them their most valuable effects.

The same eager question was the first asked by all: ‘Where are the Yankees?’ It was the one absorbing thought of all.

I rode my saddle mare, Fannie, and Black Jim rode Gray Charlie and led the children's pet pony, Dixie. The other negroes took care of the remaining eight horses, carrying with them our supplies for camping.

My equipments were in all respects first class. I was especially proud of a fine pair of holsters and army pistols. A snowstorm blew up about noon, and it was cold and tiresome riding, but about sundown we were at the foot of White Top mountain, and near the home of two widow-ladies, from whom I got provisions for the negroes and bedroom for myself. Leaving my saddle-bags, blanket, etc., in the house, I went out to superintend the boys as they fed and got supper. It did not take long to get a big fire started, and the bacon and corn bread were soon cooking, for our long, cold ride had given us good appetites. I had carried with me some roasted rye, that was used to make coffee. I was lying back on a high pile of wood that broke the wind off of us, when the boy Jim ran up before me, [211] his teeth chattering, and pale with fright, as he cried: ‘Marsa, de Yankees done got us.’

I sprang to my feet, and at the same instant a heavy hand was laid on my shoulder and a pistol thrust into my face, while the terrible words, ‘You are my prisoner,’ fell on my ear like a death sentence.

We were literally surrounded by the Yankees. Guards were immediately put over us and the premises.

I was allowed to go into the house at night, but I tell you I did not sleep much. If one of those guards had left the back door of that house I would have taken French leave in a hurry. Before they went into camp for the night one burly officer came up and took my gold watch from my pocket, turned it over and over, opened the lids, and examined the works, and then, very unexpectedly, put it back. He turned up the cape of my heavy army overcoat, commented on the quality very emphatically, looked at my new cavalry boots, asked the number of them, and chuckling to himself, finished his inspection. I knew very well that in the morning I would be stripped of my outfit and given some filthy old rags, so I determined to get away from them, for besides my watch and clothes I had several hundred dollars in a belt around my waist.

At daybreak we were called up. My boys cooked the breakfast, but were watched too closely to exchange a word with me. Having finished the meal the order was given to bring around the horses, and the guard was called from the house. Now was my chance. Requesting permission to get my blanket and saddle-bags from the house, I entered just as the guard was disappearing from the rear. Snatching my baggage, I made a bee line through the back door, across the yard, and escaping notice in the confusion of the moment, I managed to get the stable between me and the troop, and succeeded in getting to a thicket of scrub pine, where, dropping behind a dead log, I lay in the snow until nearly 3 o'clock in the evening. Feeling sure the coast was clear, I crawled out and worked my way up the mountain and found a sheltered place where the snow was so thin I could kick it off with my boots. Here I tramped all night to keep from freezing. I was almost famished, and when day dawned tried to make my way to a cabin near the [212] foot of the mountain, hoping to be able to get something to eat. I kept close to the bushes, however, until I was abreast of the cabin, and after watching for some time I was convinced that there would be no danger in making my request. There was no one in the house but an old woman and two young girls, and they soon had a substantial meal before me and informed me that the Yankees had gone north. I paid for my breakfast, and feeling vastly more comfortable, began my walk home—a distance, I was sure, of at least twenty-five miles. But luck favored me. I had not gone more than two miles when, following a footpath through the fields, I saw one of my boys going down the main road on old Charley. I called, and Dave was the gladdest boy you ever saw. He was asleep on the horse's back and had neither saddle nor bridle. He had slipped away in the night and the horse had instinctively taken the road home, with the sleeping negro on his back.

I got a scrap of rope for a halter and begged an old piece of carpet, after which I mounted, taking Dave up behind me, I was not afraid to stay in the roadway now, and when we were within twenty miles of home everybody knew us and I was obliged to tell time and again the story of my capture and escape. The old women would cry and wonder where their boys were, and ask eagerly if I had seen any traces of them.

Four miles from home we came to the farm-house of 'Squire Ray, and there I found my Dolly hitched at the gate, which was a great surprise, for the negro riding her was the meanest boy I had, and I knew he would be glad to run away if the opportunity presented itself. He had gotten separated from us, and falling in with the 'Squire's horses, had gone on with them and escaped capture.

I quickly transferred his saddle to my horse and comfortably finished by journey, reaching home to find myself the possessor of only two horses but grateful that my family had escaped indignities at the hands of the enemy.

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