previous next

Chapter 12:

  • Pillage and plunder.
  • -- “Papa's fine stock.” -- the South overrun by soldiers.

When the morning came after that miserable night, another courier passed through our settlement, ending our state of uncertainty with the information that the Northern army was in Eufaula. We had been entirely passed by, after all our tumult and apprehension. How thankful we were, Heaven only knows!

Mr. G — came in towards night with all his stock, saying he hoped he should never have to spend another night in that uncanny dark swamp, with its tall trees all festooned with gray moss, almost reaching to the ground, and swaying to and fro, as a shiver of moaning wind would stir the air. The hooting of owls, and croaking of frogs would sound at intervals, the unrest and stamping of the tied — up stock, together with the terrible suspense of how it would fare with his family and his belongings, if the opposing army should pass his plantation, made it anything but pleasant, it may well be imagined. [155]

Yet in our great rejoicing that we had been passed by, our hearts went out in sympathy to our less fortunate neighbors, many of whom were despoiled of everything valuable. I knew families that were bereft of everything; who had not so much left as would furnish one meal of victuals; whose dwelling-houses, gin-houses, and bales of cotton were all left in smoking ruin. In many instances women and children would have to stand by helpless, and see their trunks, bureaus, and wardrobes kicked open. Whatever struck the soldier's fancy was appropriated; to the rest of the contents, as apt as not, a match would be applied, and the labor of years would swirl up in smoke.

Amid this pillage and plunder, some absurd incidents now and then occurred, one or two of which I will mention.

Many of the planters, large and small, had turned their attention to stock-raising, among other industries needful and enforced by the blockade. One man said, as bacon was so scarce and high priced, he was going to raise a herd of goats to help along. He got a few to begin with, and as he had a good range of piney woods for [156] them to graze in, he soon had a fine herd. These the invading army passed by as utterly unworthy of their attention.

When the war closed there were some fine young colts, two and three years old, coming on in the South. A planter who lived near us had several, which I remember were named after Lee, “StonewallJackson, and other popular leaders. This planter was very fond of his young daughter, who usually accompanied him when he walked out to his pasture-lot. He used to say to the little girl, when admiring his young colts, “These are papa's fine stock.” When the Federal army came, it so happened that this planter got the news only in time to be just disappearing down a hill near his house, with all his horses and mules, as the Yankees approached; his young colts being left in their pasture. Finding no stock in the lot or outbuildings, the soldiers threatened to shoot a little negro boy who was in the yard, if he did not tell them where the stock were hidden. Hearing the threat, the planter's daughter said, in the innocence of her heart, “Papa's fine stock is over there,” pointing to the field where the young colts were grazing. [157] Away dashed the soldiers, sure of a rich prize. Meantime the planter had had time to flee with his stock to a secure hidingplace, chosen for the occasion which had now arrived.

Great was the surprise of the soldiers, after making a sweep of the field, to find only a few small colts quietly feeding, unmindful that they were “papa's fine stock.” The soldiers returned furious with disappointment, and played sad havoc with all the buildings, burned the gin-house and barns, ransacked the dwelling from cellar to attic, broke up furniture, and appropriated whatever was valuable that could be easily carried with them. It really seemed as if the wreck was a greater blow than the loss of the stock would have been, and for a few days there was sore grief in that household. But they soon roused themselves, on reflection that they yet had their stock left to plow the already planted crop, and a roof over their heads, while many were left without stock to tend their crop, or house to rest in.

A disabled soldier of our Confederacy, who lived in the southern part of Alabama, near the Choctawhatchee River, [158] with his wife and five small children was visiting relatives in our neighborhood. They had driven through in their own carriage, to which two fine horses were hitched. They had packed in their carriage what was most useful and valuable to them as wearing apparel, all their valuables in jewelry and plate, bed — quilts, counterpanes, a feather-bed and pillows, bandboxes, hatboxes, trunks, and many other articles of value. I saw the carriage unpacked, and stood amazed that such a quantity of stuff could be stowed in such a small space. They had been careful to take all the best belongings of their house, because it was expected that the Federal army would come directly through their settlement, as they were not far from Mobile, and on the route to Eufaula. In our neighborhood, it was not believed at first that the enemy would find us, hence they left their own home to visit the relatives who lived near us. But rumors began to fly thick and fast when it was known positively that General Grierson was on the march from Mobile, and then it was believed that he would surely come by on our road. [159]

So the disabled Confederate soldier and his family packed their carriage again, and left our settlement. They made for the public road which, according to their theory, would be the one General Grierson would be least likely to choose to march into Eufaula by. They proceeded seven or eight miles undisturbed by anything, and were congratulating themselves on being so fortunate as to flank the enemy, when just as they turned a bend of the road that led into another, alack-a-day! there was one moving mass of “blue,” up the road and down the road, as far as the eye could see.

They had driven altogether unexpectedly right into the midst of the Yankee soldiers. I am sorry to say they were called to a halt immediately; their horses were cut (not unhitched) from the carriage. The wife begged to be spared the horses, but finding pleading of no avail, she let loose her tongue in such a way that one of the soldiers raised his gun and threatened to shoot her if she did not keep quiet. She stood fair and fearless, and told him to shoot. He was not so heartless, however, as to put his threat into execution. Nothing [160] was taken, except the horses. The wife and children had to remain in the open pine barrens, while the husband walked several miles before he could get assistance to drag the carriage to the nearest house. And after all, when this man reached his own home again, he found that it had not been molested, inasmuch as the Federal army had passed him by, by several miles. But one could never tell, in the midst of innumerable conflicting assertions, what it was best to do.

About six months before General Robert E. Lee's surrender, business called Mr. G — to Columbus, Georgia, and while there he found a gentleman so embarrassed by debt that he was forced to sell some of his slaves. Mr. G — bought two young negro men, Jerry and Miner by name, paying six thousand five hundred dollars apiece for them. Mr. G — would always look on the bright side, and would never give in to the idea that the South would, or could, be conquered,high-toned, generous old Virginia gentleman that he was! What a laugh we all had when he came home and said, “Well, I've got two negroes now, who must be good [161] for something if the price has anything to do with them ; I've paid thirteen thousand for two young negro boys.” His amiable and gentle wife rebuked him for his indiscretion in buying negroes at that time, as we believed that they would soon have an opportunity of leaving, if they chose to do so. But he pooh-poohed her, saying, “Wait till you get to the bridge before you cross the river.”

In a very short time the surrender came; the South was overrun by Federal soldiers; and I smile even now, when I recall one morning at breakfast, when Aunt Phillis came in from the kitchen to the diningroom, with a waiter of hot biscuits just from the oven,--for no one thought of finishing breakfast without a relay of hot biscuits toward the middle or end of the meal,--and said, as she handed the biscuits round, “Jerry and Miner done gone back to Columbus!” I marveled much at Mr. G--‘s philosophical remark, as he paused with cup suspended, “Humph; that's the dearest nigger hire I ever paid! Six thousand five hundred dollars apiece for six months,” sipping his coffee and placing the cup back in the saucer. [162]

I looked at him closely. There was not even the tinge of bitterness in his remark, and I thought, “Here is philosophy that would shame the Stoics.” It had not been a twelvemonth back that, when it became necessary for him to leave the plantation for a day only, he had given orders that Jim be well cared for; for if Jim died, he would lose more than a thousand dollars in gold. Now he had lost in all about eighty or one hundred thousand dollars, all gold value, gone like the lightning's flash, --who can doubt but that a kind Providence tempered the resignation with which we met the inevitable?

I remained some years after the war in that settlement, and never a bitter or harsh word, no, not one, did I ever hear my employer utter against the opposing army, or section of States, that had caused all the turn-round of affairs in the South; that, metaphorically speaking, had caused riches to take to themselves wings and fly away.

The same cannot be said of all the people of the South, but it is pleasing to think that all can now recall the history of those days, when the opposing army was marching [163] through the South, leaving a desert waste behind them, without feeling the bitterness we then felt, standing in the midst of our desolation; and God knows that we give heart and hand in cordial welcome to the soldiers of that Northern host which so despoiled us, as well as to the people of the Northern States when they make choice, as many are now doing, of our sunny clime for their own home.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Miner (2)
Robert E. Lee (2)
Grierson (2)
Stonewall (1)
Jackson (1)
Humph (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: