The North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial.
"Hung for Defending His Country"
“Dear Children – Soon our troops began to pass through [Raleigh, April 1865], weary, dirty fellows, and hungry also, every one that could, fed them; they could not stop but in passing, we stood at the gate and handed them bread and ham; they were marching to the tune of Dixie, the war song that we vainly
thought was going to lead them to victory.
Our soldiers retreated towards Hillsboro, the Federal soldiers pursuing. One reckless Confederate soldier from Texas was in the rear guard; he fired on a Yankee soldier, so close were the pursuers to the pursued. After firing he turned and put spurs to his horse, but unfortunately his horse stumbled, and he was captured. The next morning under a guard of soldiers,
he was carried by our home, (I looked on with anguished heart) to the grove back of your Grandfather’s,
and hung to the limb of a huge tree, under which your uncles and aunts had played in childhood.”
(A Grandmother’s Recollection of Dixie, page 29).
“They Whipped Mrs. R.”
Chester, South Carolina, [February]. 27, 1865
“My Darling Sister, I am so rejoiced to be able to once more write you though it is more than probable
this letter may never reach its destination. Every day we were in hourly expectation of a visit from Sherman’s
troops. When Columbia was evacuated they sent all the Government stores to this place….The Treasury
Department went through to Charlotte. I saw a good many of the girls….only stayed a few hours and
were very anxious for me to go to North Carolina…..
I must tell you some of the outrages the Yankees have committed around here. An old man by
the name of Brice lived in Fairfield District….The Yankees hung him because he would not tell where
had hid his money and silver. They robbed every house they passed, burnt a great many. They have
burnt Tom Boulware’s and some houses near there, burnt Mary S. DeG’s gin house, cribs, etc.,
and took two watches and some other things from here.
They stripped old Mrs. R., Kate’s mother, and whipped her, destroyed everything Mrs. N. Beckham had
to eat and the Boulware’s and Watson’s, I hear, are living off the corn left by our cavalry men in the woods.
It has been some time since I have had as comfortable a night’s rest as I had last night…
Wheeler’s men killed sixteen Yanks I hear in retaliation for whipping Mrs. R. Oh Ann, I do think the idea of
a Lady’s being stripped and whipped by those villains is outrageous, the most awful thing I have heard of.
Oh Annie, is it not awful to see the way our people are suffering and the sin that is committed…..
I just know people cannot die from fear…..”
(When Sherman Came: Southern Women and the “Great March,” pp. 229-230).
If You Had Behaved Yourselves, This Would Not Have Happened:
“…[T]he Yankees came by the hundreds and destroyed everything that we possessed---every living thing.
After they had taken everything out of the house---our clothes, shoes, hats, and even my children’s
clothes---my husband was made to take off his boots which a yankee tried on. The shoes would
not fit, so the soldier cut them to pieces. They even destroyed the medicine we had.
In the cellar, they took six barrels of lard, honey and preserves---and what they did not want, they let
the negroes come in and take. They took 16 horses, one mule, all of the oxen, every cow, every plough,
even the hoes, and four vehicles. The soldiers filled them with meat and pulled them to camp which was
not far from our home. They would kill the hogs in the fields, cut them in halves with the hair on.
Not a turkey, duck or chicken was left.
My mother in law…was very old and frail and in bed. They went in her bedroom and cursed her.
They took all our books and threw them in the woods. I had my silver and jewelry buried
in the swamp for two months.
We went to Faison Depot and bought an old horse that we cleaned up, fed and dosed, but which
died after a week’s care. Then the boys went again and bought an ox. They made something like a plough
which they used to finish the crop with. Our knives were pieces of hoop iron sharpened, and our forks
were made of cane---but it was enough for the little we had to eat.
All of which I have written was the last year and month of the sad, sad war (March and April, 1865).
It is as fresh in my memory and all its horrors as if it were just a few weeks ago. It will never be erased
from my memory as long as life shall last.
I do not and cannot with truth say I have forgotten or that I have forgiven them. They destroyed what they
could of the new house and took every key and put them in the turpentine boxes. Such disappointment
cannot be imagined. My children would cry for bread, but there was none. A Yankee took a piece out of
his bag and bit it, and said: “If you had behaved yourselves this would not have happened.”
(Story in Sampson Independent, February 1960; The Heritage of Sampson County (NC), pp. 253-254)
Sherman’s Fiends Incarnate Liberate Women’s Clothing
“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865”
Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me,
and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left
with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.
My experience since we parted has indeed been sad…..[S]uch an army of patriots [as ours] fighting for their
hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political
sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers,
I can but take courage.
[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such
like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock.
They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light,
but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose
something…The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse
than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.
They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck,
but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.
Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or
torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every
tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.
I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep…
Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves
with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.
Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping
up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk,
but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and
handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”
(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History).