THE WAR-TIME JOURNAL OF A
ELIZA FRANCES ANDREWS
COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY
Submitted by Christina Palmer
ACROSS SHERMAN'S TRACK
December 19-24, 1864
EXPLANATORY NOTE. - At the time of this narrative, the writer's eldest sister, Mrs. Troup Butler, was living alone with her two little children on a plantation in Southwest Georgia, between Albany and Thomasville. Besides our father, who was sixty-two when the war began, and a little brother who was only twelve when it closed, we had no male relations out of the army, and she lived there with no other protector, for a good part of the time, than the negroes themselves. There were not over a hundred of them on the place, and though they were faithful, and nobody ever thought of being afraid on their account, it was lonely for her to be there among them with no other white person than the overseer, and so the writer and a younger sister, Metta, were usually sent to be her companions during the winter. The summers she spent with us at the old home.
But in the fall of 1864, while Sherman's army was lying around Atlanta like a pent-up torrent ready to burst forth at any moment, my father was afraid to let us get out of his sight, and we all stood waiting in our defenseless homes till we could see what course the destroying flood would take. Happily for us it passed by without engulfing the little town of Washington, where our home was situated, and after it had swept over the capital of the State, reaching Milledgeville November 23d, rolled
on toward Savannah, where the sound of merry Christmas bells was hushed by the roar of its angry waters.
Meanwhile the people in our part of Georgia had had time to get their breath once more, and began to look about for some way of bridging the gap of ruin and desolation that stretched through the entire length of our State. The Georgia Railroad, running from Atlanta to Augusta, had been destroyed to the north of us, and the Central of Georgia, from Macon to Savannah, was intact for only sixteen miles; that part of the track connecting the former city with the little station of Gordon having lain beyond the path of the invaders. By taking advantage of this fragment, and of some twelve miles of track that had been laid from Camack, a station on the uninjured part of the Georgia railroad, to Mayfield, on what is now known as the Macon branch of the Georgia, the distance across country could be shortened by twenty-five miles, and the wagon road between these two points at once became a great national thoroughfare.
By the middle of December, communication, though subject to many difficulties and discomforts, was so well established that my father concluded it would be practicable for us to make the journey to our sister. We were eager to go, and would be safer, he thought, when once across the line, than at home. Sherman had industriously spread the impression that his next move would be on either Charleston or Augusta, and in the latter event, our home would be in the line of danger. Southwest Georgia was at that time a "Land of Goshen" and a "city of refuge" to harassed Confederates. Thus far it had never been seriously threatened by the enemy, and was supposed to be the last spot in the Confederacy on which he would ever set foot - and this, in the end, proved to be not far from the truth.
So then, after careful consultation with my oldest brother, Fred, at that time commandant of the Georgia camp of instruction for conscripts, in Macon, we set out under the protection of a reliable man whom my brother detailed to take care of us. It may seem strange to modern readers that two young women should have been sent off on such a journey with no companion of their own sex, but the exigencies of the times did away with many conventions. Then, too, the exquisite courtesy and deference of the Southern men of that day toward women made the chaperon a person of secondary importance among us. It was the "male protector" who was indispensable. I have known matrons of forty wait for weeks on the movements of some male acquaintance rather than take the railroad journey of fifty miles from our village to Augusta, alone; and when I was sent off to boarding school, I remember, the great desideratum was to find some man who would pilot me safely through the awful difficulties of a railroad journey of 200 miles. Women, young or old, were intrusted to the care of any man known to their family as a gentleman, with a confidence as beautiful as the loyalty that inspired it. Under no other social régime, probably, have young girls been allowed such liberty of intercourse with the other sex as were those of the Old South - a liberty which the notable absence of scandals and divorces in that society goes far to justify.
Dec. 24, 1864, Saturday. - Here we are in Macon at last, and this is the first chance I have had at my journal since we left home last Monday. Father went with us to Barnett, and then turned us over to Fred, who had come up from Augusta to meet us and
travel with us as far as Mayfield. At Camack, where we changed cars, we found the train literally crammed with people going on the same journey with ourselves. Since the destruction of the Georgia, the Macon & Western, and the Central railroads by Sherman's army, the whole tide of travel between the eastern and western portions of our poor little Confederacy flows across the country from Mayfield to Gordon. Mett and I, with two other ladies, whom we found on the train at Camack, were the first to venture across the gap - 65 miles of bad roads and worse conveyances, through a country devastated by the most cruel and wicked invasion of modern times.
As we entered the crowded car, two young officers gave up their seats to us and saw that we were made comfortable while Fred was out looking after the baggage. Near us sat a handsome middle-aged gentleman in the uniform of a colonel, with a pretty young girl beside him, whom we at once spotted as his bride. They were surrounded by a number of officers, and the bride greatly amused us, in the snatches of their conversation we overheard, by her extreme bookishness. She was clearly just out of school. The only other lady on the car was closely occupied with the care of her husband, a wounded Confederate officer, whom we afterwards learned was Maj. Bonham, of South Carolina.
It is only eleven miles from Camack to Mayfield, but the road was so bad and the train so heavy that
we were nearly two hours in making the distance. Some of the seats were without backs and some without bottoms, and the roadbed so uneven that in places the car tilted from side to side as if it was going to upset and spill us all out. We ate dinner on the cars - that is, Fred ate, while Metta and I were watching the people. The weather was very hot, and I sweltered like a steam engine under the overload of clothing I had put on to save room in my trunk. At three o'clock in the afternoon we reached Mayfield, a solitary shanty at the present terminus of the R. R. Fred had sent Mr. Belisle, one of his men, ahead to engage a conveyance, and he met us with a little spring wagon, which he said would take us on to Sparta that night for forty dollars. It had no top, but was the choice of all the vehicles there, for it had springs, of which none of the others could boast. There was the mail hack, which had the advantage of a cover, but could not carry our trunks, and really looked as if it were too decrepit to bear the weight of the mail bags. We mounted our little wagon, and the others were soon all filled so full that they looked like delegations from the old woman that lived in a shoe, and crowds of pedestrians, unable to find a sticking place on tongue or axle, plodded along on foot. The colonel and his wife were about to get into a rough old plantation wagon, already overloaded, but Fred said she was too pretty to ride in such a rattle-trap, and offered her a seat in ours, which was gladly accepted. We also
made room for Dr. Shine, one of the officers of their party, who, we afterwards found out, was a friend of Belle Randolph.
About a mile from Mayfield we stopped at a forlorn country tavern, where Fred turned us over to Mr. Belisle, and went in to spend the night there, so as to return to Augusta by the next train. I felt rather desolate after his departure, but we soon got into conversation with the colonel and his bride, the gentlemen who were following on foot joined in, and we sang rebel songs and became very sociable together. We had not gone far when big drops of rain began to fall from an angry black cloud that had been gradually creeping upon us from the northwest. The bride raised a little fancy silk parasol that made the rest of us laugh, while Metta and I took off our hats and began to draw on shawls and hoods, and a young captain, who was plodding on foot behind us, hastened to offer his overcoat. When we found that he had a wounded arm, disabled by a Yankee bullet, we tried to make room for him in the wagon, but it was impossible to squeeze another person into it. Ralph, the driver, had been turned afoot to make room for Dr. Shine, and was walking ahead to act as guide in the darkness.
Just after nightfall we came to a public house five miles from Sparta, where the old man lives from whom our wagons were hired, and we stopped to pay our fare and get supper, if anybody wanted it. He
is said to be fabulously rich, and owns all the land for miles around, but he don't live like it. He is palsied and bed-ridden, but so eager after money that guests are led to his bedside to pay their reckoning into his own hands. Mett and I staid in the wagon and sent Mr. Belisle to settle for us, but the gentlemen of our party who went in, said it was dreadful to see how his trembling old fingers would clutch at the bills they paid him, and the suspicious looks he would cast around to make sure he was not being cheated. They could talk of nothing else for some time after they came out. We stopped at this place nearly an hour, while the horses were being changed and the drivers getting their supper. There was a fine grove around the house, but the wind made a dismal howling among the branches, and ominous mutterings of distant thunder added to our uneasiness. Large fires were burning in front of the stables and threw a weird glare upon the groups of tired soldiers gathered round them, smoking their pipes and cooking their scanty rations, and the flashing uniforms of Confederate officers, hurrying in and out, added to the liveliness of the scene. Many of them came to our wagon to see if they could do anything for us, and their presence, brave fellows, gave me a comfortable feeling of safety and protection. Dr. Shine brought us a toddy, and the colonel and the captain would have smothered us under overcoats and army blankets if we had let them.
When the horses were ready, we jogged on again
towards Sparta, which seemed to recede as we advanced. Dr. Shine, who was driving, didn't know the road, and had to guide the horses by Ralph's direction as he walked ahead and sung out: "Now, pull to de right!" "Now, go straight ahead!" "Take keer, marster, dar's a bad hole ter yo' lef'," and so on, till all at once the long-threatened rain began to pour down, and everything was in confusion. Somebody cried out in the darkness; "Confound Sparta! will we never get there?" and Ralph made us all laugh again with his answer:
"Yessir, yessir, we's right in de subjues er de town now." And sure enough, the next turn in the road revealed the lights of the village glimmering before us. We drove directly to Mr. William Simpson's, and when Metta and I had gotten out, the wagon went on with its other passengers to the hotel. We met with such a hearty reception from Belle and her mother that for the moment all our troubles were forgotten. A big, cheerful fire was blazing in the sitting-room, and as I sank into a soft easy chair, I felt my first sensation of fatigue.
Next morning the sky was overcast, everything outside was wet and dripping and a cold wind had sprung up that rattled the naked boughs of a great elm, heavy with raindrops, against our window. As soon as the houseboy had kindled a fire, Mrs. Simpson's maid came to help us dress, and brought a toddy of fine old peach brandy, sweetened with white sugar. I made
Mett take a big swig of it to strengthen her for the journey, as she seemed very weak; but not being accustomed to the use of spirits, it upset her so that she couldn't walk across the floor. I was frightened nearly out of my wits, but she soon recovered and felt much benefited by her unintentional spree, at which we had a good laugh.
We had a royal breakfast, and while we were eating it, Mr. Belisle, who had spent the night at the hotel, drove up with a four-mule wagon, in which he had engaged places for us and our trunks to Milledgeville, at seventy-five dollars apiece. It was a common plantation wagon, without cover or springs, and I saw Mr. Simpson shake his head ominously as we jingled off to take up more passengers at the hotel. There were several other conveyances of the same sort, already overloaded, waiting in front of the door, and a number of travelers standing on the sidewalk rushed forward to secure places in ours as soon as we halted. The first to climb in was a poor sick soldier, of whom no pay was demanded. Next came a captain of Texas Rangers, then a young lieutenant in a shabby uniform that had evidently seen very hard service, and after him our handsome young captain of the night before. He grumbled a little at the looks of the conveyance, but on finding we were going to ride in it, dashed off to secure a seat for himself. While we sat waiting there, I overheard a conversation between a countryman and a nervous traveler that was not calculated to
relieve my mind. In answer to some inquiry about the chances for hiring a conveyance at Milledgeville, I heard the countryman say:
"Milledgeville's like hell; you kin get thar easy enough, but gittin' out agin would beat the Devil himself."
I didn't hear the traveler's next remark, but it must have been something about Metta and me, for I heard the countryman answer:
"Ef them ladies ever gits to Gordon, they'll be good walkers. Sherman's done licked that country clean; d - n me ef you kin hire so much as a nigger an' a wheelbarrer."
I was so uneasy that I asked Mr. Belisle to go and question the man further, because I knew that after her long attack of typhoid fever, last summer, Metta couldn't stand hardships as well as I could. When the captain heard me he spoke up immediately and said:
"Don't give yourselves the slightest uneasiness, young ladies; I'll see that you get safe to Gordon, if you will trust to me."
He spoke with an air of authority that was reassuring, and when he sprang down from the wagon and joined a group of officers on the sidewalk, I knew that something was in the wind. After a whispered consultation among them, and a good deal of running back and forth, he came to us and said that they had decided to "press" the wagon in case of necessity, to take the party to Gordon, and all being now ready,
we moved out of Sparta. We soon became very sociable with our new companions, though not one of us knew the other even by name. Mett and I saw that they were all dying with curiosity about us and enjoyed keeping them mystified. The captain said he was from Baltimore, and it was a sufficient introduction when we found that he knew the Elzeys and the Irwins, and that handsome Ed Carey I met in Montgomery last winter, who used to be always telling me how much I reminded him of his cousin "Connie." Just beyond Sparta we were halted by one of the natives, who, instead of paying forty dollars for his passage to the agent at the hotel, like the rest of us, had walked ahead and made a private bargain with Uncle Grief, the driver, for ten dollars. This "Yankee trick" raised a laugh among our impecunious Rebs, and the lieutenant, who was just out of a Northern prison, and very short of funds, thanked him for the lesson and declared he meant to profit by it the next chance he got. The newcomer proved to be a very amusing character, and we nicknamed him "Sam Weller," on account of his shrewdness and rough-and-ready wit. He was dressed in a coarse home-made suit, but was evidently something of a dandy, as his shirt-front sported a broad cotton rude edged with home-made cotton lace. He was a rebel soldier, he said: "Went in at the fust pop and been a-fightin' ever since, till the Yankees caught me here, home on furlough, and wouldn't turn me loose till I
had took their infernal oath - beg your pardon, ladies - the jig's pretty nigh up anyway, so I don't reckon it'll make much diff'rence."
He told awful tales about the things Sherman's robbers had done; it made my blood boil to hear them, and when the captain asked him if some of the rascals didn't get caught themselves sometimes - stragglers and the like - he answered with a wink that said more than words:
"Yes; our folks took lots of prisoners; more'n'll ever be heard of agin."
"What became of them?" asked the lieutenant.
"Sent 'em to Macon, double quick," was the laconic reply. "Got 'em thar in less'n half an hour."
"How did they manage it?" continued the lieutenant, in a tone that showed he understood Sam's metaphor.
"Just took 'em out in the woods and lost 'em," he replied, in his jerky, laconic way. "Ever heerd o' losin' men, lady?" he added, turning to me, with an air of grim waggery that made my flesh creep - for after all, even Yankees are human beings, though they don't always behave like it.
"Yes," I said, "I had heard of it, but thought it a horrible thing."
"I don't b'lieve in losin' 'em, neither, as a gener'l thing," he went on. "I don't think it's right principul, and I wouldn't lose one myself, but when I see what they have done to these people round here, I
can't blame 'em for losin' every devil of 'em they kin git their hands on."
"What was the process of losing?" asked the captain. "Did they manage the business with fire-arms?"
"Sometimes, when they was in a hurry," Mr. Weller explained, with that horrible, grim irony of his, "the guns would go off an' shoot 'em, in spite of all that our folks could do. But most giner'ly they took the grapevine road in the fust patch of woods they come to, an' soon as ever they got sight of a tree with a grape vine on it, it's cur'ous how skeered their hosses would git. You couldn't keep 'em from runnin' away, no matter what you done, an' they never run fur before their heads was caught in a grape vine and they would stand thar, dancin' on nothin' till they died. Did you ever hear of anybody dancin' on nothin' before, lady?" - turning to me.
I said he ought to be ashamed to tell it; even a Yankee was entitled to protection when a prisoner of war.
"But these fellows wasn't regular prisoners of war, lady," said the sick soldier; "they were thieves and houseburners," - and I couldn't but feel there was something in that view of it. *
* In justice to both sides, it must be understood that the class of prisoners here referred to were stragglers and freebooters who had wandered off in search of plunder, and probably got no worse than they deserved when they fell into the hands of the enraged country people, who were naturally not inclined to regard the expropriation of their family plate and household goods and the burning of their homes as a part of legitimate warfare. There were doubtless many brave and honorable men in Sherman's army who would not stoop to plunder, and who did the best they could to keep from making war the "hell" their leader defined it to be, but these were not the kind who would be likely to get "lost." Those readers who care to inform themselves fully on the subject, are referred to the official correspondence between Gen. Sherman and Gen. Wade Hampton in regard to the treatment of "foragers."
About three miles from Sparta we struck the "Burnt Country," as it is well named by the natives, and then I could better understand the wrath and desperation of these poor people. I almost felt as if I should like to hang a Yankee myself. There was hardly a fence left standing all the way from Sparta to Gordon. The fields were trampled down and the road was lined with carcasses of horses, hogs, and cattle that the invaders, unable either to consume or to carry away with them, had wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making their crops. The stench in some places was unbearable; every few hundred yards we had to hold our noses or stop them with the cologne Mrs. Elzey had given us, and it proved a great boon. The dwellings that were standing all showed signs of pillage, and on every plantation we saw the charred remains of the gin-house and packing-screw, while here and there, lone chimney-stacks, "Sherman's Sentinels," told of homes laid in ashes. The infamous wretches! I couldn't wonder now that these poor people should
want to put a rope round the neck of every red-handed "devil of them" they could lay their hands on. Hay ricks and fodder stacks were demolished, corn cribs were empty, and every bale of cotton that could be found was burnt by the savages. I saw no grain of any sort, except little patches they had spilled when feeding their horses and which there was not even a chicken left in the country to eat. A bag of oats might have lain anywhere along the road without danger from the beasts of the field, though I cannot say it would have been safe from the assaults of hungry man. Crowds of soldiers were tramping over the road in both directions; it was like traveling through the streets of a populous town all day. They were mostly on foot, and I saw numbers seated on the roadside greedily eating raw turnips, meat skins, parched corn - anything they could find, even picking up the loose grains that Sherman's horses had left. I felt tempted to stop and empty the contents of our provision baskets into their laps, but the dreadful accounts that were given of the state of the country before us, made prudence get the better of our generosity.
The roads themselves were in a better condition than might have been expected, and we traveled at a pretty fair rate, our four mules being strong and in good working order. When we had made about half the distance to Milledgeville it began to rain, so the gentlemen cut down saplings which they fitted in the
form of bows across the body of the wagon, and stretching the lieutenant's army blanket over it, made a very effectual shelter. Our next halt was near a dilapidated old house where there was a fine well of water. The Yankees had left it, I suppose, because they couldn't carry it away. Here we came up with a wagon on which were mounted some of the people we had seen on the cars the day before. They stopped to exchange experiences, offered us a toddy, and brought us water in a beautiful calabash gourd with a handle full three feet long. We admired it so much that one of them laughingly proposed to "capture" it for us, but we told them we didn't care to imitate Sherman's manners. A mile or two further on we were hailed by a queer-looking object sitting on a log in the corner of a half-burnt fence. It was wrapped up in a big white blanket that left nothing else visible except a round, red face and a huge pair of feet. Before anybody could decide whether the apparition was a ghost from the lower regions or an escaped lunatic from the state asylum in his nightgown, Sam Weller jumped up, exclaiming:
"Galvanized, galvanized! Stop, driver, a galvanized Yankee!" *
As soon as Uncle Grief had brought his mules to a halt, the strange figure shuffled up to the side of the wagon and began to plead piteously, in broken Dutch,
* Prisoners or deserters from the other side who enlisted in our army, were called "galvanized Yankees."
to be taken in. He was shaking with a common ague fit, and though we couldn't help feeling sorry for him, he looked so comical as he stood there with his blanket drawn round him like a winding sheet and his little red Dutch face peering out at us with such an expression of exaggerated and needless terror, that it was hard to repress a smile. The captain was about to order Uncle Grief to drive on without taking any further notice of him, but Sam Weller assured us that the country people would certainly hang him if they should catch him away from his command. They were too exasperated to make any distinction between a "galvanized" and any other sort of a Yankee - and to tell the truth, I think, myself, if there is any difference at all, it is in favor of those who remain true to their own cause. The kind-hearted lieutenant took his part, Mett and I seconded him, and the poor creature was allowed to climb into our wagon, where he curled himself up on a pile of fodder beside our sick soldier, who didn't seem to relish the companionship very much, though he said nothing. But Sam Weller couldn't let him rest, and immediately began to berate him for his imprudence in straggling off from his command at the risk of getting himself hanged, and to entertain him with enlivening descriptions of the art of "dancin' on nothin'" and the various methods of getting "lost." All at once he came to a sudden stop in his tirade, and asked,
"Iss you cot any money, Wappy?"
"Nein, ich cot no more ash den thaler," quaked Hans.
Then, pulling a fat roll of change bills out of his pocket, he ("Sam") handed them to the Dutchman, saying:
"Well, here's shin-plasters enough to cover you better than that there blanket, if you want them."
Hans grabbed the money, which was increased by small contributions from the rest of us - not that we thought his enlistment in the Confederate army counted for anything, but we felt sorry for him, because he was "sick and a stranger." After all, what can these ignorant foreigners be expected to know or care about our quarrel?
Soon after this we came to a pretty, clear stream, where Uncle Grief stopped to water his horses and we decided to eat our dinner. Those of our companions who had anything to eat at all, were provided only with army rations, so Mett and I shared with them the good things we had brought from home. We offered some to Hans, and this started Sam off again:
"Now, Wappy, see that!" he cried. "The rebel ladies feed you; remember that the next time you go to burn a house down, or steal a rebel lady's watch! I say," he shouted, putting his lips to Hans's ear, as the Dutchman seemed not to understand, "remember how the rebel ladies fed you, when you turn Yank agin and go to drivin' women out-o'-doors and stealin' their clothes."
Fortunately for "Wappy's" peace of mind he didn't know enough English to take in the long list of Yankee misdeeds that Sam continued to recount for his benefit, although he assured us that he could "unterstant vat man say to him besser als he could dalk himselbst." The captain suspected him of putting on, and laughed at Metta and me for wasting sympathy on him, but the lieutenant shared our feelings, and I liked him for it.
Just before reaching Milledgeville, Sam Weller got down to walk to his home, which he said was about two miles back from the highway. "Come, Wappy," he said, as he was climbing down, "if you will go home with me, I will take care of you and put you in a horspittle where you won't be in no danger of gittin' lost. Can you valk doo milsh?"
Hans replied in the affirmative, and scrambled down with a deal of groaning and quaking. Sam and the lieutenant assisted him with much real gentleness, and when he was on the ground, he tried to make a speech thanking the "laties unt shentlemansh," but it was in such bad English that we couldn't understand.
"Now, don't lose the poor wretch," I said to Mr. Weller, as they moved off together.
"No, no, miss, I won't do that," he answered in a tone of such evident sincerity that I felt Hans was safe in the care of this strange, contradictory being, who could talk so like a savage, and yet be capable of such real kindness.
Before crossing the Oconee at Milledgeville we ascended an immense hill, from which there was a fine view of the town, with Gov. Brown's fortifications in the foreground and the river rolling at our feet. The Yankees had burnt the bridge, so we had to cross on a ferry. There was a long train of vehicles ahead of us, and it was nearly an hour before our turn came, so we had ample time to look about us. On our left was a field where 30,000 Yankees had camped hardly three weeks before. It was strewn with the débris they had left behind, and the poor people of the neighborhood were wandering over it, seeking for anything they could find to eat, even picking up grains of corn that were scattered around where the Yankees had fed their horses. We were told that a great many valuables were found there at first, - plunder that the invaders had left behind, but the place had been picked over so often by this time that little now remained except tufts of loose cotton, piles of half-rotted grain, and the carcasses of slaughtered animals, which raised a horrible stench. Some men were plowing in one part of the field, making ready for next year's crop.
At the Milledgeville Hotel, we came to a dead halt. Crowds of uniformed men were pacing restlessly up and down the galleries like caged animals in a menagerie. As soon as our wagon drew up there was a general rush for it, but our gentlemen kept possession and told Mett and me to sit still and hold it while they went in to see what were the chances for accommodation.
After a hurried consultation with the other gentlemen of our party, they all collected round our wagon and informed us that they had "pressed" it into service to take us to Gordon, and we were to go on to Scotsborough that night. When all the baggage was in, the vehicle was so heavily loaded that not only the servants had to walk, but the gentlemen of the party could only ride by turns, one or two at a time. Our sick soldier was left at the hospital, and the bride's big trunks, that I wouldn't have believed all the women in the Confederacy had clothes enough to fill, were piled up in front to protect us against the wind. Uncle Grief looked the embodiment of his name while these preparations were going on, but a tip of ten dollars from each of us, and the promise of a letter to his master relieving him from all blame, quickly overcame his scruples.
Night closed in soon after we left Milledgeville, and it began to rain in earnest. Then we lost the road, and as if that were not enough, the bride dropped her parasol and we had to stop there in the rain to look for it. A new silk parasol that cost four or five hundred dollars was too precious to lose. The colonel and the captain went back half a mile to get a torch, and after all, found the parasol lying right under her feet in the body of the wagon. About nine o'clock we reached Scotsborough, the little American "Cranford," where the Butlers used to have their summer home. Like Mrs. Gaskell's delightful little borough, it is inhabited
chiefly by aristocratic widows and old maids, who rarely had their quiet lives disturbed by any event more exciting than a church fair, till Sherman's army Marched through and gave them such a shaking up that it will give them something to talk about the rest of their days. Dr. Shine and the Texas captain had gone ahead of the wagon and made arrangements for our accommodation. The night was very dismal, and when we drew up in front of the little inn, and saw a big lightwood fire blazing in the parlor chimney, I thought I had never seen anything so bright and comfortable before. When Mrs. Palmer, the landlady, learned who Metta and I were, she fairly hugged us off our feet, and declared that Mrs. Troup Butler's sisters were welcome to her house and everything in it, and then she bustled off with her daughter Jenny to make ready their own chamber for our use. She could not give us any supper because the Yankees had taken all her provisions, but she brought out a jar of pickles that had been hidden up the chimney, and gave us the use of her dining table and dishes - such of them as the Yankees had left - to spread our lunch on. While Charles and Crockett, the servants of Dr. Shine and the colonel, were unpacking our baskets in the dining-room, all our party assembled in the little parlor, the colonel was made master of ceremonies, and a general introduction took place. The Texas captain gave his name as Jarman; the shabby lieutenant in the war-worn uniform - all honor to it - was
Mr. Foster, of Florence, Ala.; the Baltimorean was Capt. Mackall, cousin of the commandant at Macon, and the colonel himself had been a member of the Confederate Congress, but resigned to go into the army, the only place for a brave man in these times. So we all knew each other at last and had a good laugh together over the secret curiosity that had been devouring each of us about our traveling companions, for the last twenty-four hours. Presently Crockett announced supper, and we went into the dining-room. We had some real coffee, a luxury we owed the bride, but there was only one spoon to all the company, so she arranged that she should pour out the coffee, I should stir each cup, and Mett pass them to the guests, with the assurance that the cup was made sweeter "by the magic of three pair of fair hands." Then Mrs. Palmer's jar of pickles was brought out and presented with a little tableau scene she had made up beforehand, even coaching me as to the pretty speeches I was to make. I felt very silly, but I hoped the others were too hungry to notice.
Supper over, we returned to the parlor, and I never spent a more delightful evening. Riding along in the wagon, we had amused ourselves by making up impromptu couplets to "The Confederate Toast," and now that we were comfortably housed, I thanked Capt. Jarman and Dr. Shine for their efforts, in a pair of impromptu verses to the same air. This started up a rivalry in verse-making, each one trying
to outdo the other in the absurdity of their composition, and some of them were very funny. When we broke up for the night, there were more theatricals planned by the bride, who disposed a white scarf round her head, placed Metta and me, one on each side of her, so as to make a sort of tableau vivant on the order of a "Three Graces," or a "Faith, Hope, and Charity" group, and backed slowly out of the room, bowing and singing, "Good Night." She really was so pretty and girlish that she could carry off anything with grace, but I hadn't that excuse, and never felt so foolish in my life.
Mrs. Palmer's chamber, in which Metta and I were to sleep, was a shed room of not very inviting aspect, but the poor woman had done her best for us, and we were too tired to be critical. When I had put my clothes off and started to get into bed, I found there was but one sheet, and that looked as if half of Sherman's army might have slept in it. Mett was too dead sleepy to care; "Shut your eyes and go it blind," she said, and suiting the action to the word, tumbled into bed without looking, and was asleep almost by the time she had touched the pillow. I tried to follow her example, but it was no use. The weather had begun to turn very cold, and the scanty supply of bedclothes the Yankees had left Mrs. Palmer was not enough to keep me warm. Then it began to rain in torrents, and presently I felt a cold shower bath descending on me through the leaky roof. Metta's side
of the bed was comparatively dry, and she waked up just enough to pull the cotton bedquilt that was our only covering, over her head, and then went stolidly to sleep again. Meanwhile the storm increased till it was terrible. The rain seemed to come down in a solid sheet, and I thought the old house would be torn from its foundations by the fierce wind that swept over it. The solitary pine knot that had been our only light went out and left us in total darkness, but I was getting so drenched where I lay that I was obliged to move, so I groped my way to an old lounge that stood in a somewhat sheltered corner by the fireplace, and covered myself with the clothing I had taken off. The lounge was so narrow that I couldn't turn over without causing my cover to fall over on the floor, so I lay stiff as a corpse all night, catching little uneasy snatches of sleep between the wildest bursts of the storm. Early in the morning Mrs. Palmer and Jenny came in with bowls and pans to put under the leaks. There were so many that we were quite shingled over, as we lay in bed, with a tin roof of pots and pans, and they made such a rattling as the water pattered into them, that neither of us could sleep any more for laughing. The colonel had given us instructions over night to be ready for an early start, so when another pine knot had been lighted on the hearth, we made haste to dress, before it burned out.
Mrs. Palmer had contrived to spread us a scanty breakfast of hot waffles, fresh sausages, and parched
wheat coffee. But the bride, as is the way of brides, was so long in getting ready that it was nearly ten o'clock before we started on our journey. It had stopped raining by this time, but the weather was so cold and cloudy that I found my two suits of clothing very comfortable. A bitter wind was blowing, and on all sides were to be seen shattered boughs and uprooted trees, effects of the past night's storm. The gentlemen had had all the baggage placed in front, and the floor of the wagon covered with fodder, where we could sit and find some protection from the wind. I should have felt tolerably comfortable if I had not seen that Metta was feeling ill, though she kept up her spirits and did not complain. She said she had a headache, and I noticed that her face was covered with ugly red splotches, which I supposed were caused by the wind chapping her skin. We put our shawls over our heads, but the wind played such antics with them that they were not much protection. The bride, instead of crouching down with us, mounted on top of a big trunk, the coldest place she could find, and cheered us with the comforting announcement that she was going to have pneumonia. It was beautiful to see how the big, handsome colonel devoted himself to her, and I half suspect that was at the bottom of her pneumonia scare - at least we heard no more of it. I offered her some of our brandy, and the doctor made her a toddy, but she couldn't drink it because it was grape and not peach. Everybody seemed disposed
to be silent and out of sorts at first, except Metta and me, who had not yet had adventures enough to surfeit us, and we kept on talking till we got the rest of them into a good humor. We made the gentlemen tell us what their various professions were before the war, and were delighted to learn that our dear colonel was a lawyer. We told him that our father was a judge, and that we loved lawyers better than anybody else except soldiers, whereupon he laughed and advised the other gentlemen, who were all unmarried, to take to the law. I said that about lawyers for the doctor's benefit, because he looked all the time as if he were afraid one of us was going to fall in love with him. I laughed and told Mett that it was she that scared him, with her hair all cropped off from fever, and that dreadful splotched complexion. He heaped coals of fire on my head soon after, when I was cowering down in the body of the wagon, nearly dead with cold, by inviting me to get out and warm myself by taking a walk. My feet were so cold that they felt like lifeless clods and I could hardly stand on them when I first stepped to the ground, but a brisk walk of two miles warmed me up so pleasantly that I was sorry when a succession of mud holes forced me to get back into the wagon.
About noon we struck the Milledgeville & Gordon R.R., near a station which the Yankees had burnt, and a mill near by they had destroyed also, out of pure malice, to keep the poor people of the country
from getting their corn ground. There were several crossroads at the burnt mill and we took the wrong one, and got into somebody's cornfield, where we found a little crib whose remoteness seemed to have protected it from the greed of the invaders. We were about to "press" a few ears for our hungry mules, when we spied the owner coming across the fields and waited for him. The captain asked if he would sell us a little provender for our mules, but he gave such a pitiful account of the plight in which Sherman had left him that we felt as mean as a lot of thieving Yankees ourselves, for having thought of disturbing his property. He was very polite, and walked nearly a mile in the biting wind to put us back in the right road. Three miles from Gordon we came to Commissioners' Creek, of which we had heard awful accounts all along the road. It was particularly bad just at this time on account of the heavy rain, and had overflowed the swamp for nearly two miles. Porters with heavy packs on their backs were wading through the sloughs, and soldiers were paddling along with their legs bare and their breeches tied up in a bundle on their shoulders. They were literal sans culottes. Some one who had just come from the other side advised us to unload the wagon and make two trips of it, as it was doubtful whether the mules could pull through with such a heavy load. The Yankees had thrown dead cattle in the ford, so that we had to drive about at random in the mud and water, to avoid these uncanny
obstructions. Our gentlemen, however, concluded that we had not time to make two trips, so they all piled into the wagon at once and trusted to Providence for the result. We came near upsetting twice, and the water was so deep in places that we had to stand on top of the trunks to keep our feet dry.
Safely over the swamp, we dined on the scraps left in our baskets, which afforded but a scanty meal. The cold and wind had increased so that we could hardly keep our seats, but the roads improved somewhat as we advanced, and the aspect of the country was beautiful in spite of all that the vandalism of war had done to disfigure its fair face. Every few hundred yards we crossed beautiful, clear streams with luxuriant swamps along their borders, gay with shining evergreens and bright winter berries. But when we struck the Central R.R. at Gordon, the desolation was more complete than anything we had yet seen. There was nothing left of the poor little village but ruins, charred and black as Yankee hearts. The pretty little dépot presented only a shapeless pile of bricks capped by a crumpled mass of tin that had once covered the roof. The R.R. track was torn up and the iron twisted into every conceivable shape. Some of it was wrapped round the trunks of trees, as if the cruel invaders, not satisfied with doing all the injury they could to their fellowmen, must spend their malice on the innocent trees of the forest, whose only fault was that they grew on Southern soil. Many fine young saplings
were killed in this way, but the quickest and most effective method of destruction was to lay the iron across piles of burning cross-ties, and while heated in the flames it was bent and warped so as to be entirely spoiled. A large force is now at work repairing the road; as the repairs advance a little every day, the place for meeting the train is constantly changing and not always easy to find. We floundered around in the swamps a long time and at last found our train in the midst of a big swamp, with crowds of people waiting around on little knolls and islands till the cars should be opened. Each group had its own fire, and tents were improvised out of shawls and blankets so that the scene looked like a gypsy camp. Here we met again all the people we had seen on the train at Camack, besides a great many others. Judge Baker and the Bonhams arrived a few minutes behind us, after having met with all sorts of disasters at Commissioners' Creek, which they crossed at a worse ford than the one we had taken. We found a dry place near the remains of a half-burned fence where Charles and Crockett soon had a rousing fire and we sat round it, talking over our adventures till the car was ready for us. There was a great scramble to get aboard, and we were all crowded into a little car not much bigger than an ordinary omnibus. Mett and I were again indebted to the kindness of soldier boys for a seat. We had about the best one in the car, which is not saying much, with the people jostling
and pressing against us from the crowded aisle, but as we had only 16 miles to go, we thought we could stand it with a good grace. Metta's indisposition had been increasing all day and she was now so ill that I was seriously uneasy, but all I could do was to place her next to the window, where she would not be so much disturbed by the crowd. We steamed along smoothly enough for an hour or two, until just at nightfall, when within two miles of Macon, the train suddenly stopped and we were told that we should have to spend the night there or walk to town. The bridge over Walnut Creek, which had been damaged by Stoneman's raiders last summer, was so weakened by the storm of the night before that it threatened to give way, and it was impossible to run the train across. We were all in despair. Metta was really ill and the rest of us worn out with fatigue and loss of sleep, besides being half famished. Our provisions were completely exhausted; the fine grape brandy mother had put in the basket was all gone - looted, I suppose, by the servants - and we had no other medicine. A good many of the men decided to walk, among them our lieutenant, who was on his way home, just out of a Yankee prison, and eager to spend Christmas with his family. The dear, good-hearted fellow seemed loath to leave us in that plight, and offered to stay and see us through, if I wanted him, but I couldn't impose on his kindness to that extent. Besides, we still had the captain and the colonel, and all the rest
of them, and I knew we would never lack for attention or protection as long as there was a Confederate uniform in sight. Capt. Jarman and Dr. Shine joined the walkers, too, in the vain hope of sending an engine, or even a hand-car for us, but all their representations to Gen. Cobb and the R.R. authorities were fruitless; nothing could be done till morning, and a rumor got out among us from somewhere that even then there would be nothing for it but to walk and get our baggage moved as best we might. For the first time my spirits gave way, and as Metta was too ill to notice what I was doing, I hid my face in my hands and took a good cry. Then the captain came over and did his best to cheer me up by talking about other things. He showed me photographs of his sisters, nice, stylish-looking girls, as one would expect the sisters of such a man to be, and I quite fell in love with one of them, who had followed him to a Yankee prison and died there of typhoid fever, contracted while nursing him. As soon as it became known that Metta was sick, we were overwhelmed with kindness from all the other passengers, but there was not much that anybody could do, and rest, the chief thing she needed, was out of the question. At supper time the conductor brought in some hardtack that he had on board to feed the workmen, and distributed it among us. I was so hungry that I tried to eat it, but soon gave up, and my jawbones are sore yet from the effort. But the provisions that we had shared with our companions
on the journey proved to be bread cast on the waters that did not wait many days to be returned. I had hardly taken my first bite of hardtack when Judge Baker invited Metta and me to share a nice cold supper with him; the bride offered us the only thing she had left - some real coffee, which the colonel had boiled at a fire kindled on the ground outside - and two ladies, strangers to us, who had got aboard at Gordon, sent us each a paper package containing a dainty little lunch of cold chicken and buttered biscuit. But Metta was too ill to eat. She had a high fever, and we both spent a miserable, sleepless night.
At last day began to break, cold, clear, and frosty, and with it came travelers who had walked out from Macon bringing confirmation of the report that no arrangements would be made for carrying passengers and their baggage to the city. This news made us desperate. The men on board swore that the train should not move till some provision was made for getting us to our destination. This made the Gordon passengers furious. They said there were several women among them who had walked out from the city (two of them with babies in their arms), and the train should go on time, come what would. Our men said there were ladies in the car, too; we had paid our fare to Macon, and they intended to see that we got there. Each party had a show of right on its side, but possession is nine points of the law, and this advantage we determined not to forego. The Gordon
passengers began to crowd in on us till we could hardly breathe, and Capt. Mackall, in no gentle terms, ordered them out. High words passed, swords and pistols were drawn on both sides, and a general fight seemed about to take place. Mett and I were frightened out of our wits at the first alarm and threw our arms about each other. I kept quiet till I saw the shooting about to begin, and then, my nerves all unstrung by what I had suffered during the night, I tuned up and began to cry like a baby. It was well I did, for my tears brought the men to their senses. Judge Baker and Col. Scott interfered, reminding them that ladies were present, and then arms were laid aside and profuse apologies made for having frightened us. Both parties then turned their indignation against the railroad officials, and somebody was making a bluster about pitching the conductor into the creek, when he appeared on the scene and appeased all parties by announcing that a locomotive and car would be sent out to meet the passengers for Macon on the other side of the creek and take us to the city. In the meantime, we were tantalized by hearing the whistles of the different trains with which we wished to connect, as they rolled out of the dépot in Macon.
It was eight o'clock before our transfer, consisting of an engine and a single box-car, arrived at the other end of the trestle, and as they had to be unloaded of their freight before we could get aboard, it was nearly
ten when we reached Macon. But as soon as they were heard approaching, we were so glad to get out of the prison where we had spent such an uncomfortable night that we immediately put on our wraps and began to cross the tottering trestle on foot. It was 80 feet high and half a mile long, over a swamp through which flowed Walnut Creek, now swollen to a torrent. Part of the flooring of the bridge was washed down stream and our only foothold was a narrow plank, hardly wider than my two hands. Capt. Mackall charged himself with my parcels, and Mr. Belisle was left to look after the trunks. Strong-headed men walked along the sleepers on either side, to steady any one that might become dizzy. Just behind Metta, who followed the captain and me, hobbled a wounded soldier on crutches, and behind him came Maj. Bonham, borne on the back of a stout negro porter. Last of all came porters with the trunks, and it is a miracle to me how they contrived to carry such heavy loads over that dizzy, tottering height.
Once across the bridge we disposed ourselves wherever we could find a firm spot - a dry one was out of the question. When Metta drew off her veil and gloves, I was terrified at the looks of her hands and face. We were both afraid she had contracted some awful disease in that dirty car, but the captain laughed and said he knew all about army diseases, and thought it was nothing but measles. When we got to Macon, Dr. Shine further relieved my mind by assuring me
it was a mild case, and said she needed only a few days' rest.
We reached the dépot just ten minutes after the South-Western train had gone out, so we went to the Lanier House, and I at once sent Mr. Belisle for Brother Troup, only to learn that he had gone on the very train we had missed, to spend Christmas at his plantation.
It was delightful to get into clean, comfortable quarters at the Lanier House. Metta got into bed and went right off to sleep, and I lay down for awhile, but was so often disturbed by friendly messages and inquiries that I got up and dressed for dinner. I put on my pretty flowered merino that had been freshened up with black silk ruchings that completely hid the worn places, and the waist made over with Elizabethan sleeves, so that it looked almost like a new dress, besides being very becoming, as the big sleeves helped out my figure by their fullness. I frizzed my hair and put on the head-dress of black velvet ribbon and gold braid that Cousin Sallie Farley gave me. I think I must have looked nice, because I heard several people inquiring who I was when I went into the dining-room. I had hardly put in the last pin when a servant came to announce that Mr. Charles Day, Mary's father, had called. He was the only person in the drawing-room when I entered and made a very singular, not to say, striking appearance, with his snow-white hair framing features of such a peculiar dark
complexion that he made me think of some antique piece of wood-carving. The impression was strengthened by a certain stiffness of manner that is generally to be noticed in all men of Northern birth and education. Not long after, Harry Day called. He said that Mary * was in Savannah, cut off by Sherman so that they could get no news of her. He didn't even know whether mother's invitation had reached her.
Gussie and Mary Lou Lamar followed the Days, and I was kept so busy receiving callers and answering inquiries about Mett that I didn't have time to find out how tired and sleepy I was till I went to bed. Judge Vason happened to be at the hotel when we arrived, and insisted that we should pack up and go with him to Albany next day and stay at his house till we were both well rid of the measles - for it stands to reason that I shall take it after nursing Metta. He said that it had just been through his family from A to Z, so there was no danger of our communicating it to anybody there. Then Mrs. Edward Johnston came and proposed taking us to her house, and on Dr. Shine's advice I decided to accept this invitation, as it would hardly be prudent for Metta to travel in her present condition, and we could not get proper attention for her at the hotel. I could not even get a chambermaid without going the whole length of the corridor
* This attractive and accomplished young woman afterwards became the wife of Sidney Lanier, America's greatest poet.
to ring the bell and waiting there till somebody came to answer it.
The colonel and his party left on the one o'clock train that night for Columbus, where they expect to take the boat for Apalachicola. After taking leave of them I went to bed, and if ever any mortal did hard sleeping, I did that night. Next day Mr. Johnston called in his carriage and brought us to his beautiful home on Mulberry St., where we are lodged like princesses, in a bright, sunny room that makes me think of old Chaucer's lines that I have heard Cousin Liza quote so often:
"This is the port of rest from troublous toile,
(NOTE. - Several pages are torn from the manuscript here. - AUTHOR.)