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Title: A Blockaded Family - Life in Southern Alabama during the Civil War
Author: Hague, Parthenia Antoinette
Language: English
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A BLOCKADED FAMILY

Life in Southern Alabama during the Civil War

by

PARTHENIA ANTOINETTE HAGUE


[Illustration]



Boston and New York
Houghton, Mifflin and Company
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1888

Copyright, 1888,
by Parthenia Antoinette Hague.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge:
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.
                                                         PAGE
  BEGINNINGS OF THE SECESSION MOVEMENT--A
  NEGRO WEDDING                                             1


  CHAPTER II.

  DEVICES RENDERED NECESSARY BY THE BLOCKADE--HOW
  THE SOUTH MET A GREAT EMERGENCY                          16


  CHAPTER III.

  WAR-TIME SCENES ON AN ALABAMA PLANTATION--SOUTHERN
  WOMEN--THEIR INGENUITY AND COURAGE                       31


  CHAPTER IV.

  HOW CLOTH WAS DYED--HOW SHOES, THREAD,
  HATS, AND BONNETS WERE MANUFACTURED                      45


  CHAPTER V.

  HOMESPUN DRESSES--HOME-MADE BUTTONS
  AND PASTEBOARD--UNCLE BEN                                61


  CHAPTER VI.

  AUNT PHILLIS AND HER DOMESTIC TRIALS--KNITTING
  AROUND THE FIRESIDE--TRAMP, TRAMP OF THE SPINNERS        76


  CHAPTER VII.

  WEAVING HEAVY CLOTH--EXPENSIVE PRINTS--“BLOOD
  WILL TELL”                                               89


  CHAPTER VIII.

  SUBSTITUTES FOR COFFEE--RASPBERRY-LEAF TEA--HOME-MADE
  STARCH, PUTTY, AND CEMENT--SPINNING BEES                101


  CHAPTER IX.

  OLD-TIME HOOPSKIRTS--HOW THE SLAVES LIVED--THEIR
  BARBECUES                                               113


  CHAPTER X.

  PAINFUL REALITIES OF CIVIL STRIFE--STRAITENED
  CONDITION OF THE SOUTH--TREATMENT OF PRISONERS          125


  CHAPTER XI.

  HOMESPUN WEDDINGS--A PATHETIC INCIDENT--APPROACH
  OF THE NORTHERN ARMY                                    137


  CHAPTER XII.

  PILLAGE AND PLUNDER--“PAPA’S FINE STOCK”--THE
  SOUTH OVERRUN BY SOLDIERS                               154


  CHAPTER XIII.

  RETURN OF THE VANQUISHED--POVERTY OF THE
  CONFEDERATES                                            164


  CHAPTER XIV.

  REPAIRING DAMAGES--A MOTHER MADE HAPPY--CONCLUSION      170



A BLOCKADED FAMILY.



I.


On a glorious sunshiny morning in the early summer of 1861 I was
on my way to the school-house on the plantation of a gentleman who
lived near Eufaula, Alabama, and in whose service I remained during
the period of the war.

As I was nearing the little school-room on a rising knoll, all
shaded with great oaks and sentineled with tall pines, I heard
skipping feet behind me, and one of my scholars exclaiming, “Here
is a letter for you, Miss A----! It has just been brought from the
office by ‘Ed’”--the negro boy who was sent every morning for the
mail.

A glance at the handwriting gave me to know it was from my father.
I soon came to a pause in the school path: for my father wrote that
my brothers were preparing to start for Richmond, Virginia, as
soldiers of our new formed Southern Confederacy. As he wished to
have all his children united under his roof, before the boys went
away, my father earnestly desired me to ask leave of absence for a
few days, so that I might join the home circle also.

The suspending of the school was easily arranged, and I was soon
at home assisting in preparing my brothers for military service,
little dreaming they were about to enter into a four-years’
conflict!

But oh, how clearly even now I read every milestone of that
convulsed period, as I look back upon it after a quarter of a
century! Our soldiers, in their new gray uniforms, all aglow with
fiery patriotism, fearing ere they should join battle that the
last booming cannon would have ceased to reverberate among the
mountains, hills, and valleys of “Old Virginia.” The blue cockades
streaming in the wind, while Southern songs, inspirations of the
moment, were heard on all sides: “We conquer or die,” and “Farewell
to Brother Jonathan,” leading with fervent ardor.

While the war was in progress, it so happened that I was far
removed from the seaboard and border States, in southern Alabama,
where our people, encompassed and blockaded by the Federal forces,
were most sadly straitened and distressed. It is of the exigencies
of that stormy day, as hydra-headed they rose to view, that I have
to write; of the many expedients to which we were reduced on our
ever-narrowing territory, daily growing not only smaller, but less
and less adequate for the sustenance of ourselves, our soldiers,
and the Northern prisoners who were cast upon us by the fortunes of
war.

Blame us not too severely, you who fought on the Union side; we,
too, loved the Union our great and good Washington bequeathed us:
with what deep devotion God knoweth. But, as Satan sagely remarks
in the Book of Job, “all that a man hath will he give for his
life.” Also a writer of profane history has truly said that “a
man’s family is the nearest piece of his country, and the dearest
one.” Need there be any wonder that, when a political party, with
no love in its heart for the Southern white people, came into
power, a party which we believed felt that the people of the South
were fit only for the pikes hidden at Harper’s Ferry, we should
have cried out, “What part have we in David? to your tents, O
Israel.” It is cheering to know that our deeds and intentions have
one great Judge, who will say, “Neither do I condemn thee.”

I well remember the day when word came with lightning speed over
the wires, “The State of Georgia”--my native State, one of the
original thirteen of revolutionary fame--“is out of the Union.”
I also remember that we were by no means elated at the thought
that our own noble commonwealth had seceded from the sisterhood of
states. Feelings of sadness, rather, somewhat akin to those of the
Peri outside the gate of Paradise, overcame us, but we thought and
said, come weal or woe, success or adversity, we will willingly
go down or rise with the cause we have embraced. And at that
moment an unpleasant recollection rushed to mind, which caused me
to think that perhaps, after all, secession was not so very bad.
I remembered a temperance lecturer from one of the New England
States, who came to our settlement and who was kindly received and
warmly welcomed in our Southern homes. There was nothing too good
for this temperance lecturer from the far North. He was given
earnest and attentive audiences, with never a thought that in the
guise of the temperance reformer his one sole purpose was to make
a secret survey of our county, to ascertain which settlements
were most densely populated with slaves, for the already maturing
uprising of the blacks against the whites.

After the failure of the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, we saw
with sorrow deep-felt that the three places in our own county which
were known to all too well to be most thickly peopled with slaves
were marked on John Brown’s map of blood and massacre, as the first
spots for the negro uprising for the extermination of the Southern
whites.

When my brothers had left for Virginia, I started again for
southern Alabama, to renew my school duties. As the train
sped onward through the tall, long-leaved pines and funereal
cypress-trees rising here and there on either side, a feeling of
homesick desolation gathered as a thick mist around me, with vague
and undefined forebodings of sorrows in store for us.

To add to the depression, clouds dark and lowering were slowly
looming up and spreading themselves over the nether heavens,
while low and distant thunder dying plaintively away seemed never
before to have fallen so mournfully on my ear. As I looked from
the window of the speeding train to the dark green gloom of the
almost unbroken forest, the low wail of the wind in the tops of the
pines, the lowering dark clouds dimly outlined through the shaded
vista, pressed down my heart as with a great sorrow; the far-away
mutterings of thunder, the low moan of the wind as it rocked to and
fro the tops of the pines, came to me as the Banshee’s lonely wail.
All seemed to presage some dire affliction. Could it be that my
father’s household had joined together for the last time in their
earthly home? Poe’s ghastly, grim, and ancient raven seemed to
speak the “Nevermore;” and, alas! nevermore did we children of that
happy circle ever meet again.

As the train gathered itself up in the village of Hurtville, the
inky black clouds, flashes of almost blinding lightning, and heavy
peals of rolling thunder told that the tempest was unchained.

I still had a distance of fourteen or fifteen miles to travel by
the hack before I should reach my school. But as the storm began to
increase so much in violence, I deemed it advisable to remain in
Hurtville for the night. On inquiring for a place to stop at for
the night I was directed to Mrs. Hurt, whose spacious mansion and
large and beautiful flower yard and grounds stood fair to view from
the little village depot.

Hitherto I had passed the village by, in my trips home and
back to school again during my vacation days, so that I was
altogether a stranger in the home of Mrs. Hurt, but on making
her acquaintance was pleased to find her most kind and generous.
My quiet satisfaction was further augmented by a loved school
companion stepping into the room most unexpectedly, ere I had been
seated half an hour. It was a glad surprise for both. Her father
and mother lived in the village, and as the violent wind and rain
storm had made roads and bridges impassable for the time being,
I accepted the invitation of my friend to spend the time of my
detention with her.

One pleasing episode of that visit yet clings to memory. It so
happened that one of the negro girls of the house was to be married
the very week I was detained. Preparations in various ways had been
making for several days before the celebration of the ceremony.
Dear Winnie, if still a sojourner here, and you chance to see these
lines, I know your memory with mine will turn back on the wheels
of time to that afternoon, when we were seated on the colonnade of
your father’s house. With flowers scattered all around, our laps
and hands full, we twined the wreath for the negro girl, the bride
elect for the evening. When twilight had deepened into darkness,
the bride was called into your room to make ready for the marriage.
When fully robed in her wedding garment, she was inspected by each
and every member of the household, and judged to be quite _au
fait_. But Winnie pulled off her own watch and chain, together with
her bracelets, and with these further adorned the bride. She was
married in the wide hall of her master’s house, for having been
raised in the house almost from her cradle, her marriage taking
place in one of the cabins was not to be thought of.

Directly under the supervision of the mistress of the house, a
supper that would have been pleasing to the taste of an epicure
was served on tables placed out in the smooth gravelly yard. Then
after the feasting was over, a round of merry plays, interspersed
with the merrier songs and dance, followed. Perhaps no happier
beings existed that night. It was like a vision of fairy-land. The
full moon chosen for the occasion rode in silent majesty across
the star-gemmed heavens; fleecy white clouds flitted like shadowy
phantoms across its silvery path; the dark pines, half in shadow,
half in sheen, loomed vast and giant-like on the outskirts of
the village. In the deeper forest could be heard the weird notes
of the whip-poor-wills. The pleasing strains of the violin, the
thrumming of the banjo, accompanied by many negro voices, awoke
the sleeping echoes. From the front colonnade, before us lay the
slumbering village all so quietly under the starry firmament. We
listened there to the mellow peals of negro laughter, to their
strange songs, mingling with the strains of the violin, and the low
breathing of the night wind in the forest.

As we roam back in the past, events of earlier days rise in bright
view to mind; one link in memory’s chain runs into another. I
cannot forbear here referring to an incident which occurred a
few years before the civil war. There came to our settlement
from the North, three cultured, refined, and educated ladies as
school-teachers. Their first Sabbath of worship in the South was
at the Mount Olive Baptist church, in Harris County, Georgia. The
pastor of the church, for some unknown cause, failed to appear
at the hour appointed for service. We waited for some time and
still no preacher. Then the good old deacon, known by all as
“Uncle Billy” Moore, who had lived by reason of strength beyond
the allotted threescore and ten, arose, and said, as the hour for
service was passing, as the minister’s arrival seemed doubtful,
and as the congregation had all assembled, he would suggest that
Uncle Sol Mitchell, an old and honored negro, preach for us, as
he was present, and a member and preacher in good standing in the
Mount Olive church. There was not even a shadow of an objection to
the negro slave’s occupying the pulpit, as our friends from the
far North were witness. Ah, friends of the Green Mountain and Bay
State, you will, if yet in the flesh, remember with me that Sabbath
so long ago in the South, when the negro slave walked up to the
pulpit, opened the hymn-book, and announced the old sacred song:

      “When I can read my title clear,
      To mansions in the skies.”

I remember how loudly my dear father tried to sing--though only a
poor singer--just because Uncle Sol was going to preach; how Sol
gave the verses out by couplets to be sung, as was the custom then
in the country. All joined in singing that sacred song, and bowed
the knee when Uncle Sol said, “Let us pray.” I am very sure I have
never knelt with more humble devotion and reverence than on that
Sabbath morning.

Roads and bridges having been made passable after the storm, I said
the “Good-by” to the friends I had found in the pleasant country
village, and resumed my journey.

It was a pleasing ride that balmy summer morning, ennobling to the
soul, as nature’s great book unrolled its series of beautiful
scenes. Far in the azure blue the great white banks of clouds
seemed to lie at anchor, so slow of sail were they; the gloom of
the dense forest, gently waving its boughs to the morning breeze,
would greet the eye; the dulcet murmur of gurgling streams would
break on the ear never so gently; quiet cottages, surrounded
with flowers and fruits, seemed the abodes of peace and content.
Grass-green marshes all flecked with flowers of varied tints,
with here and there a tall pine or sombre cypress standing as
sentinels of the blooming mead; song-birds caroling their sweet
lays as they flitted from bough to bough, or lightly soaring in
space; fields of deadened trees, all draped with the long gray
Spanish moss, reminded one of the ancient Romans mantled with the
toga, as they were silhouetted against the sky; groups of great
oaks, with clusters of the mistletoe pendent, calling to mind the
ancient Britons with their strange and terrible religion of the
Druids, when they met together in their sacred groves for the
celebration of mystical rites. Now an open field of corn, green
of blade, gently billowed by the wind, an old gray-haired farmer
plowing, seemingly oblivious to all surrounding objects, and
singing, as if from the fullness of a glad soul, the refrain, “I
have some friends in glory.” Ah, honest farmer, thought I, many
of us will join that sad refrain ere this strife is ended! On,
past a large plantation all in cotton, the clashing of the many
hoes, in the hands of slaves, in unison with the merry songs that
floated far on the gentle zephyrs. The lone country church gleaming
white from a wilderness of foliage, with its grass green mounds,
so quiet and still. At times the winds came floating past, laden
with the resinous odor of myriad pines, and filled the surrounding
atmosphere with a sweetness of perfume surpassing the far-famed
incense of Arabia.

In the near distance the home of my generous employer rose to view,
in every respect the characteristic Southern home, with its wide
halls, long and broad colonnade, large and airy rooms, the yard
a park in itself, fruits and flowers abounding. Here there was
little or nothing to remind us of the impending conflict. We were
far from the border States and remote from the seaboard. We had
surmised that our sequestered vale must have been the spot where
the Indian chief and his braves thrust their tomahawks deep down
in the soil, with their “Alabama, here we rest!” But soon it came
home to us, as the earnestness of the strife began to be realized,
and when we found ourselves encompassed by the Federal blockade,
that we had to depend altogether upon our own resources; and no
sooner had the stern facts of the situation forced themselves upon
us, than we joined with zealous determination to make the best of
our position, and to aid the cause our convictions impressed on us
as right and just. And if up to that time, in the South, many had
engaged in work purely as a matter of choice, there were none, even
the wealthiest, who had not been taught that labor was honorable,
and who had very clear ideas of how work must be done; so when our
misfortunes came, we were by no means found wanting in any of the
qualities that were necessary for our changed circumstances.

Surely there was work enough to be done. Our soldiers had to be fed
and clothed; our home ones had to be fed and clothed. All clothing
and provisions for the slaves had to be produced and manufactured
at home. Leather had to be of our own tanning; all munitions of
war were to be manufactured inside the blockade. The huge bales of
kerseys, osnaburgs, and boxes of heavy brogan-shoes, which had been
shipped from the North to clothe and shoe the slaves, were things
of the past. Up to the beginning of the war we had been dependent
on the North for almost everything eaten and worn. Cotton was
cultivated in the South almost universally before the war, it was
marketed in the North, it was manufactured there, and then returned
in various kinds of cloth-material to us.



II.


But now the giant emergency must be met, and it was not long ere
all were in good training; and having put hands to the plow, there
was no murmuring nor looking back. The first great pressing needs
were food and clothing. Our government issued orders for all those
engaged in agriculture to put only one tenth of their land in
cotton, there being then no market for cotton. All agriculturists,
large or small, were also required by our government to give for
the support of our soldiers one tenth of all the provisions they
could raise,--a requirement with which we were only too willing to
comply.

In southern Alabama before the war the cultivation of cereals was
quite rare. There Cotton was indeed king. I think this saying was
true in all the Southern States. It applied to all the territory
south of Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, at any rate.

When the blockade had inclosed the South, our planters set about
in earnest to grow wheat, rye, rice, oats, corn, peas, pumpkins,
and ground peas. The chufa, a thing I had never heard of before,
now came to the front, and was soon generally cultivated, along
with the ground pea, as our position necessitated the production
of cheap food for swine. The chufa was easily cultivated, and on
fresh sandy or porous soil produced large crops. Every available
spot was planted with the chufa, ground peas, and peas. Even in
orchards the interstices between the fruit-trees were filled with
these nutritious ground nuts. I remember an orchard near where I
taught school, planted with chufas. The tubers were dropped about
every two feet, in furrows three feet apart. They seemed like
great bunches of grass, which spread until the interval between
the plants was one mass of green foliage and roots from furrow to
furrow. The owners of that orchard said the feed for their poultry
had cost them nothing that season, as the whole brood of fowls
lived among the chufas from the time they left the perch in the
morning till they were called to be housed for the night, and that
never before had poultry been so well fitted for the table, never
before had the flesh been so white or so well flavored.

Ground peas were rarely grown before the war, and were generally
called “goobers.” I do not remember that I knew them by any other
name; so one day in school hours, when one of the little scholars
called to me that “Hetty’s got my pindars,” I was somewhat
mystified as to what a “pindar” was, and when I called the little
girl to fetch the pindars to me, she laid two or three goobers in
my hand. They were to be seen on all sides, branching out in all
directions, in patches large and small. Many planters in giving
their corn and cotton the “laying-by” plowing, as it was called,
would plant in the middle furrows ground peas, chufas, and cuttings
from the sweet potato vines, which required very slight additional
labor in harvesting the crops; and by the time the crops had all
been gathered in and frost appeared, the tubers were well matured,
and were great helps in fattening pork, thereby enabling the
planter to preserve more corn for the use of the government.

Beside growing the ground pea for help in fattening pork, a good
supply was housed for seed and the use of the family. I have
pleasant recollections of the many winter evenings when we would
have the great oven brought into the sitting-room, placed on the
hearth, with glowing red coals underneath, filled with white sand,
in which we parched the pindars nice and brown. Or perhaps the
oven would be filled partly with our home-made syrup, with raw
ground peas hulled and dropped into the boiling syrup. Properly
cooked, what nice peanut candy that made! Oil from the peanuts was
also expressed for lamps and other uses during war times. In fine,
peanuts, ground peas, goobers, and pindars, all one species, though
known by all these names, played an important part during the
blockade.

Many planters who had never grown wheat before were surprised at
the great yield of grain to the acreage sown. I well remember
hearing a brother of Mrs. G----, who lived in Troy, Alabama, tell
of very highly fertilizing one acre of already rich soil, as a test
of what he really could reap from an acre thus treated. The yield
went far beyond his most sanguine expectations, for that one acre
yielded seventy-five bushels of wheat. Another wealthy planter,
living in the village of Glennville, Alabama, had his overseer
single out and lay off one acre of very rich hammock land, which
was only lightly fertilized, from which he reaped fifty measured
bushels. Of course this was only testing what good uplands, or
hammocks rich in soil, would yield in wheat by highly or lightly
fertilizing. Mr. G---- had sown quite heavily in wheat when all
avenues for its entrance to the South had been closed. I remember
one twelve acres of hammock land that Mr. G---- had sown in wheat,
so rich of soil that no fertilizing was necessary. Morning,
noon, and night that twelve-acre hammock in wheat was a topic of
conversation at the table during our meal hours. In one of our
afternoon rides, when school hours were over for the day, we made
haste to view this paragon of a field, and as we halted our horses
on the crest of a hill from which we could “view the landscape
o’er,” what a grand panorama came into view! There, not the “fields
arrayed in living green,” but wave on wave of long amber wheat
gently rolling in the wind. A large stream of water bounded two
sides of the hammock, and heavy green foliage formed a background
in vivid contrast to the golden heads whose every culm seemed on
a level. We slid almost unconsciously from our saddles, hitched
the horses, and were soon standing in the midst of the wheat, with
eyes scarcely able to peer over that vast plain of golden-yellow.
We took off our hats and gave them a sail on the already ripening
grain,--for it was near harvest time,--and there they lay without
perceptibly bending the stalks of wheat. We plucked some of the
grain, rubbed it in our hands to free and winnow it, and found it
sweet and palatable. Backward flew our thoughts to that field of
wheat near Lake Tiberias through which Christ and his disciples
passed on the Sabbath day and plucked the “ears of corn” and did
eat, for they hungered.

The yield of the hammock was estimated to be at least five hundred
bushels; but a rainy spell set in just as the reaping began, and it
rained in showers, light and heavy, more or less for twenty-seven
days. As the means then for harvesting wheat were of a primeval
order, the reaping was slow and tedious, so that most of the grain
was badly damaged, and some was entirely spoiled.

There was great bother when it came to threshing the wheat;
many and varied were the means employed for freeing the chaff
from the grain. Some planters threshed and fanned the wheat at
their gin-houses. I remember a portable thresher came into our
settlement, and traveled from plantation to plantation, threshing
for a percentage of the grain. Others, whose sowing and reaping
was on a small scale, resorted to ruder methods to free the
grain,--methods which called to mind the rural life and manners of
ancient times. Sometimes the wheat was threshed with the rudest
sort of home-made flails.

A woman, whose husband and two sons were in the army, lived near
our settlement in a cottage which stood some little distance from
the roadside, in a cluster of oaks, whose foliage almost hid the
house from passers-by. While yet some rods from the dwelling, one
day, there came to our ears a succession of regular thwacks, the
meaning of which we could not define by the sound. As the woman
was a neighbor, we turned aside to investigate, and opened wide
our eyes when we beheld the woman seated in a chair, with a common
sized barrel just in front of her, within good striking distance.
There she sat, a sheaf of wheat held with both hands, and with this
she was vigorously belaboring the barrel, at every stroke a shower
of wheat-grains raining down upon quilts and coverlets which had
been arranged to catch it. By this simple process she flailed as
much as a bushel or two at one time. She then spread the sheets out
on the ground, in the open air, and poured the wheat on them in a
continuous stream. The wind acted as a great “fan,” the grain by
its own weight falling in one place, while the chaff was carried
off by the wind. When that threshing was ground at the flouring
mill and used up, the same rude flailing was repeated.

Another contrivance for threshing wheat, even more unique, was
that of a woman whose husband also was in our army. She was left
with five small children, but managed to cultivate a small farm
with those of the five children who had grown enough to give a
little help. She raised a small plat of wheat year by year as the
war went on. She had in her smoke-house a large trough that was
used for salting pork when killed in the winter; indeed, nearly
all smoke-houses then had large troughs, some as many as two or
three, hewn and dug out from the stocks of trees, and sometimes six
or eight feet long. They were very useful in holding salted pork,
salt, soap, and dried bacon packed down in leached ashes. The woman
cleaned her trough nicely, untied the sheaves of wheat, and placed
them in the trough, not quite brimming, so as to lose none of the
grains; then with heavy sticks and little wooden mauls she had
roughly shaped, she and her little children would beat the grain
free of the husks. It was then winnowed the same way as was the
woman’s who threshed over the barrel.

Hundreds during the war resorted to such devices for freeing their
grain of chaff; yet flour was very scarce, although the South
put forth her best energies to cultivate wheat. After delivering
the government tithe, and sharing with our home ones, the crop
rarely lasted till another harvest. It was quite amusing to hear
the neighbors as they met in social gatherings, or perhaps when
separating from service at church, press their friends to come
and see them, or come and have dinner, “_For we have got a barrel
of flour_.” It was even more amusing to have friends sit at the
dining-table, and, when a waiter of brown, warm biscuits was passed
round, to see them feign ignorance of what they were.

Bolted meal, when obtainable, made a very good substitute for
flour, though millers said it injured their bolting-cloth to sift
the corn meal through it; yet nearly every household, in sending
its grist to be ground, would order a portion of the meal to be
bolted for use as flour. Such bolted meal, when sifted through a
thin muslin cloth and mixed up with scalding water to make it more
viscid and adhesive, was as easily moulded into pie crust with the
aid of the rolling-pin as the pure flour. Nice muffins and waffles
were made of bolted meal, and we also made a very nice cake of the
same and our home-made brown sugar.

All the moist and marshy places in the fields that had hitherto
been thought fit for naught as to the growing of farm products,
were utilized for rice and sugar-cane patches, and were found to
yield plentifully. Some people, not having dank or moist spots
suitable for rice on their farms, planted rice on the uplands, and
were surprised to find they had an average yield with those who had
planted the moist spots; and thus it has come about that even now
in the South rice is planted on the uplands. Some few rude rice
mills were hastily put up for stripping the coarse brown husks from
the rice, but as they were distant from most of the planters in our
settlement, wooden mortars had to be temporarily improvised. A tree
of proper size would be cut down; from the stock a length suitable
would be cut or sawed; a cavity would be hollowed with an adze in
the centre of the block endwise. For the want of better polishing
tools the cavity would be made smooth by burning with fire. The
charred surface was then scraped off and made even, the hollow
cleared free of all coal dust, and the pestle, made, perhaps, from
a bough of the same tree, completed the primitive rice mill. Rough
rice pounded in such a mortar and winnowed by the wind was clean
and white. The only objection to it was that it was more splintered
than if it had gone through a better mill.

Mills had also to be erected for grinding sugar-cane and the
sorghum-cane, as some sorghum was raised in southern Alabama. In
our settlement only the “green” and “ribbon” cane were grown,
which, like the cereals, were never cultivated before the war. What
cane had been grown was in patches owned by slaves, and for the
saccharine juice alone. Wooden cylinders had to be used, as those
of iron were not easily obtained. With these cylinders all of the
juice could not be expressed, but our farmers contented themselves
with the thought that there was no great loss after all, as their
swine could draw from the crushed cane all the juice that was left
before it was hauled to fill ditches and gullies. In case one was
so fortunate as to secure a sugar mill with iron cylinders, it
used to go the rounds of its immediate vicinity, as the portable
threshers did. First one and then another of the neighbors would
use it till their crop of cane was ground and made into syrup
and sugar. The furnaces for sugar and syrup making were built of
rocks, if bricks were not convenient. They held one or two kettles,
according to the quantity of cane to be ground and of juice to be
boiled. A couple or more of long wooden troughs hollowed from trees
were necessary for containing the syrup when boiled to the proper
degree of density, before turning into the barrels. That designed
for sugar, after being turned into the troughs, was usually beaten
with wooden paddles, and dipper after dipper was filled with the
thick syrup and poured back into the sugar trough, till all was
changed into sugar. Of course there were mishaps now and then, as
evaporators could not be had, and the planters were not experts in
syrup and sugar making. I remember one gentleman, whose “green”
and “ribbon” cane had been exceptionally fine for the season, who
had engaged a man who was said to be something of an expert to
supervise his sugar boiling. The owner of the cane was to make
his own syrup unaided; yet his very first boiling of syrup, when
run into the trough and stirred back and forth with the wooden
paddles to cool, began to crystallize into grains of sugar, and on
turning into the barrel was soon solid, compact, light-brown sugar,
without further stir, and was his finest sugar, though the one who
supervised, when it came his turn to make the sugar, tried hard
to excel that made by the merest accident; but none of his was so
light of color or so free of dripping. Another had boiled his juice
too much for either sugar or syrup, so that he had a whole barrel
full of dark-brown solid candy, which had to be chipped out with
a hatchet. The syrup that was made later, as the war went on, was
all that could be desired,--thick, clear, and pure. The sugar was
necessarily brown, as appliances for refining at that time could
not be had. The planters would place smooth oak splits and switches
in the barrels of sugar, and just the length of the barrel, to
aid the dripping, and to better free the sugar from moisture.
It was not uncommon to see planters, when they called upon each
other, draw from their pockets small packages wrapped in our own
manufactured brown paper, which packages contained samples of their
make of sugar. These they carried about with them and compared with
the sugar made by others.



III.


A woman whose husband and one son were in our army had raised, with
the help of her few slaves, among other farm products, a surplus of
watermelons. The season had been propitious, and her melons were
large, well flavored, and very juicy. So one day she determined
to make a trial of the juice of the watermelons for syrup. She
gathered those which were thought to be ripe enough for use,
prepared a large tub with a sack hanging over it, sliced up the
melons, and scraped all the meat and juice into the sack. From what
dripped into the tub through the sack when pressed, she managed to
get several gallons of bright juice, which she placed for boiling
in her large iron kettle--generally known in the country as the
“wash pot,” and which was always left out of doors, in a shady,
convenient place, for washing clothes, making soap, or drying up
lard in hog-killing time. She built her fire, boiled the juice
slowly, carefully taking off all the scum, and was rewarded with
syrup of a flavor as fine, or even finer, than that made from the
sugar-cane. Flushed with success, she essayed sugar, also, from
watermelon juice, and cakes as nice as those from the sap of the
maple were the outcome. The balance of her melon crop was converted
into sugar and syrup.

Inasmuch as syrup and sugar had to be placed in barrels,
barrel-making was another industry that was forced upon the South.
Soon several coopers’ shops were built here and there, and it
seemed queer enough for us to have home-made barrels, casks, tubs,
and piggins. They were manufactured of oak, pine, cypress, and
juniper. Those in use for syrup or sugar were generally of oak, as
it was thought they gave a more pleasant taste to their contents.

The _Palma christi_, or castor-oil plant, being indigenous to the
South and growing most luxuriantly in the wild state, was soon
cultivated in patches near our dwellings, for the beans, from which
castor oil as thick and transparent as that sold by druggists was
extracted. As we had no rollers to crush the beans, rude mortars
were resorted to, in which they were well crushed, the oil passing,
as it was expressed, through an orifice in the side of the mortar,
near its base. Water was then added to the oil, and the whole was
boiled, or rather raised to the boiling point, which caused all the
impurities to rise to the top, when it was strained and the oil
dipped from the top of the water. An uncle of Mrs. G---- had made
some castor oil. He brought her a bottle, and when shown me I could
scarce believe it home-made, as there was no apparent difference
between this bottle of oil so produced in southern Alabama and that
which we had been wont to buy before the blockade.

Shoes and leather soon became very high-priced, bringing home to
us the fact that we had indeed entered on troublous times. All
our planters were reduced to the necessity of tanning leather for
their own use, and also in order to aid in supplying the soldiers
of our Confederacy with shoes. The home process of tanning among
the lesser planters was perhaps as crude as that practiced in the
earliest ages; for although there were many rude tanneries set in
operation during the war, and still ruder modes of grinding the red
oak bark for the vats were in vogue in some places, planters on a
small scale did not care to carry the few hides they had the long
distances to the tanyards. With them the question was how best to
tan at their homes, and as the necessity was urgent, it was not
long ere they had devised a plan.

The hides were placed in a trough or barrel and covered with water,
in which a small quantity of weak lye, that was made to answer the
purpose of lime, had been mingled. When the hides had soaked the
required length of time, they were taken from the trough, and with
but little difficulty and labor the hair was removed and they were
ready for the next stage of the process. A pit, of size suitable
for the number of hides to be tanned, was dug in the ground near a
spring or stream of running water; the bottom and sides were lined
with boards riven from the stock of a tree; the seams were caulked
tightly with lint cotton, to prevent the tan-ooze from escaping.
Then the red oak bark, which had been peeled in long strips from
the trees, having arrived, a layer of the bark was placed smooth
and even in the bottom of the vat, a layer of hides was stretched
over the bark, another layer of bark was put in position, then
another of hides, and so on, until the rough vat was filled with
hides and bark,--the bark being used just as it came from the
trees. Water was poured into the vat, and its contents were left
to steep from three to six months, according to the fancy of the
tanner. I heard many planters say they had never bought better
leather than that which they had tanned by this simple process.

Of course, when neighbor called upon neighbor, the leather that
was home-tanned used to be displayed. They would double it over
and over again, and often pronounce it the best they ever saw. It
made a soft, peculiar noise when pressed with the hands, and was
very pliant and supple, answering every purpose for which leather
is adapted. Its chief usefulness lay in its furnishing shoes for
our soldiers and for those at home, but gear of all kinds used on
plantations was mended or made anew from this product; harnesses
for farm use or for equipping army saddles or ambulance trains
were manufactured and repaired out of home-tanned leather. And to
meet our pressing wants, the hides of horses, mules, hogs, and dogs
were all utilized.

One fall, while I was staying at Mr. G----’s, he lost many fine
fattening hogs with the cholera. These hogs weighed from two to
three or four hundred pounds apiece. It had been his habit to
butcher every winter from eighty to a hundred fine porkers. This
fall the cholera epidemic had been so fatal that there was scarcely
a planter in all the neighborhood but lost a great many swine. They
would feed at night and seem to be perfectly well, and be dead by
morning; or seemingly well in the morning, and dead by night. As
this happened in war time, the loss was felt heavily.

We needed leather so badly that the hogs were flayed as soon as
dead, and their hides were tanned. The best and heaviest leather
was used for making shoes for the slaves, as their work was out of
doors as a rule, and heavy brogans could not be bought. But leather
from the hides of swine fell to our lot also, for winter shoes;
and many other white families were obliged to use it. I remember
very plainly when one of Mr. G----’s daughters and I first wore
swine-skin shoes. They were made of leather which Mr. G---- himself
had had tanned, and, except that the pores were very large and wide
apart, it looked like ordinary leather. We had consented with some
reluctance to have these shoes made, for, although we were willing
to immolate ourselves on the altar of our Southern Confederacy,
it had fallen rather severely on us to think that we must wear
hog-skin shoes! They were made, however, at a cost of ten dollars
a pair, we furnishing the leather from which to make them. But
swine-skin leather was very extensible, and our shoes spread out
quite flat by the time we had worn them a day or so. This was more
than we could endure, so we took them off, and one of the negro
house-girls came into possession of two more pair of shoes, while
we stepped back into shoes made of homespun.

As no shoe-blacking or polish could be bought during the blockade,
each family improvised its own blacking, which was soot and oil
of some variety (either cotton-seed, ground peas, or oil of
compressed lard) mixed together. The shoes would be well painted
with the mixture of soot and oil, with brushes made of the bristles
of swine. Then a thin paste made of flour, bolted meal, or starch,
was applied all over the blackened shoe with another brush, which
paste, when dry, gave the shoe as bright and glossy an appearance
as if “shined” by the best of bootblacks. Planters were very
careful in killing their hogs to save a good supply of bristles,
from which shapely brushes were manufactured.

The obtaining of salt became extremely difficult when the war had
cut off our supply. This was true especially in regions remote
from the sea-coast and border States, such as the interior of
Alabama and Georgia. Here again we were obliged to have recourse
to whatever expedient ingenuity suggested. All the brine left in
troughs and barrels, where pork had been salted down, was carefully
dipped up, boiled down, and converted into salt again. In some
cases the salty soil under old smoke-houses was dug up and placed
in hoppers, which resembled backwoods ash-hoppers, made for
leaching ashes in the process of soap-manufacture. Water was then
poured upon the soil, the brine which percolated through the hopper
was boiled down to the proper point, poured into vessels, and set
in the sun, which by evaporation completed the rude process. Though
never of immaculate whiteness, the salt which resulted from these
methods served well enough for all our purposes, and we accepted it
without complaining.

Before the war there were in the South but few cotton mills. These
were kept running night and day, as soon as the Confederate army
was organized, and we were ourselves prevented by the blockade
from purchasing clothing from the factories at the North, or
clothing imported from France or England. The cotton which grew in
the immediate vicinity of the mills kept them well supplied with
raw material. Yet notwithstanding the great push of the cotton
mills, they proved totally inadequate, after the war began, to
our vast need for clothing of every kind. Every household now
became a miniature factory in itself, with its cotton, cards,
spinning-wheels, warping-frames, looms, and so on. Wherever one
went, the hum of the spinning-wheel and the clang of the batten of
the loom was borne on the ear.

Great trouble was experienced, in the beginning, to find dyes with
which to color our stuffs; but in the course of time, both at the
old mills and at smaller experimental factories which were run
entirely by hand, barks, leaves, roots, and berries were found
containing coloring properties. I was well acquainted with a
gentleman in southwestern Georgia who owned a small cotton mill,
and who, when he wanted coloring substances, used to send his
wagons to the woods and freight them with a shrub known as myrtle,
that grew teeming in low moist places near his mill. This myrtle
yielded a nice gray for woolen goods.

That the slaves might be well clad, the owners kept, according
to the number of slaves owned, a number of negro women carding
and spinning, and had looms running all the time. Now and then
a planter would be so fortunate as to secure a bale or more of
white sheeting and osnaburgs from the cotton mills, in exchange
for farm products, which would be quite a lift, and give a little
breathing-spell from the almost incessant whirr, hum, and clang of
the spinning-wheel and loom.

Wide unbleached sheeting was also used for making dresses, and when
dyed a deep solid color and tastefully made up the effect was quite
handsome. On one occasion, when Mr. G---- had been fortunate in
getting a bale of unbleached factory sheeting, Mrs. G---- gave to
me, to her two oldest daughters, and a niece of hers, who was as
one of the family, enough of the sheeting to make each one of us a
dress. We had to hie us to the woods for coloring matter, to dye as
each one pleased.

I have often joined with neighbors, when school hours for the
day were over, in gathering roots, barks, leaves, twigs, sumach
berries, and walnuts, for the hulls, which dyed wool a beautiful
dark brown. Such was the variety we had to choose from, to dye
our cloth and thread. We used to pull our way through the deep
tangled woods, by thickly shaded streams, through broad fields,
and return laden with the riches of the Southern forest! Not
infrequently clusters of grapes mingled with our freight of dyes.
The pine-tree’s roots furnished a beautiful dye, approximating
very closely to garnet, which color I chose for the sheeting for
my dress. A strong decoction of the roots of the pine-tree was
used. Copperas of our own production was used as the mordant. A
cask or some small vessel was set convenient to the dwelling-house
and partly filled with water, in which a small quantity of salt
and vinegar had been mingled; then pieces of rusty, useless iron,
such as plows too much worn to be used again, rusty broken rails,
old horse-shoes, and bits of old chains were picked up and cast
into the cask. The liquid copperas was always ready, and a very
good substance we found it to fix colors in cloth or thread. The
sheeting for the dress was folded smoothly and basted slightly so
as to keep the folds in place. It was first thoroughly soaked in
warm soapsuds, then dipped into the dye, and afterwards into a
vessel containing liquid lye from wood-ashes; then it went again
into the dye, then the lye, and so on till the garnet color was the
required shade. By varying the strength of the solution any shade
desirable could be obtained. My garnet-colored dress of unbleached
sheeting was often mistaken for worsted delaine.

Many of the planters in southern Alabama began to grow wool on
quite a large scale, as the war went on and no woolen goods could
be had. All the woolen material that could be manufactured at the
cotton mills was used to clothe our soldiers, so that all the
varied kinds of woolen goods that hitherto had been used with
us had now to be of home hand-make. In this we achieved entire
success. All kinds of woolen goods--flannels both colored and
white, plaids of bright colors, which we thought equal to the famed
Scotch plaids; balmorals, which were then in fashion--were woven,
with grave or gay borders as suited our fancy. Woolen coverlets and
blankets were also manufactured. The woolen blankets were at first
woven with the warp of cotton thread, but a woman of our settlement
improved on that by weaving some blankets on the common house loom,
both warp and woof of wool, spun by her own hands. The borders
were bright red and blue, of texture soft and yielding; they were
almost equal to those woven at a regular woolen mill. The process
of weaving all-wool blankets with warp and woof hand-spun was
quite tedious, yet it was accomplished. Various kinds of twilled
woolen cloth were also woven. In weaving coverlets, the weaver had
the “draught” before her, to guide her in tramping the pedals and
throwing the design of flower, vine, leaf, square, or diamond on
the right side. Beautiful carpets also were made on the same plan
as coverlets.

Many of the planters, after the shearing of their sheep, used to
carry the wool to the nearest cotton mill and have it carded into
rolls, to facilitate the making of woolen cloth; and often large
quantities of lint cotton were hauled to the factories, to be
carded into rolls to be spun at home. But carding rolls by common
hand-cards was a rather slow and tiresome process.



IV.


There was some pleasant rivalry as to who should be the most
successful in producing the brightest and clearest tinge of color
on thread or cloth. Most of the women of southern Alabama had small
plats of ground for cultivating the indigo bush, for making “indigo
blue,” or “indigo mud,” as it was sometimes called. The indigo weed
also grew abundantly in the wild state in our vicinage. Those who
did not care to bother with indigo cultivation used to gather, from
the woods, the weed in the wild state when in season. Enough of
the blue was always made either from the wild or cultivated indigo
plant. We used to have our regular “indigo churnings,” as they
were called. When the weed had matured sufficiently for making the
blue mud, which was about the time the plant began to flower, the
plants were cut close to the ground, our steeping vats were closely
packed with the weed, and water enough to cover the plant was
poured in. The vat was then left eight or nine days undisturbed for
fermentation, to extract the dye. Then the plant was rinsed out,
so to speak, and the water in the vat was churned up and down with
a basket for quite a while; weak lye was added as a precipitate,
which caused the indigo particles held in solution to fall to the
bottom of the vat; the water was poured off, and the “mud” was
placed in a sack and hung up to drip and dry. It was just as clear
and bright a blue as if it had passed through a more elaborate
process.

The woods, as well as being the great storehouse for all our
dye-stuffs, were also our drug stores. The berries of the
dogwood-tree were taken for quinine, as they contained the
alkaloid properties of cinchona and Peruvian bark. A soothing
and efficacious cordial for dysentery and similar ailments was
made from blackberry roots; but ripe persimmons, when made into
a cordial, were thought to be far superior to blackberry roots.
An extract of the barks of the wild cherry, dogwood, poplar, and
wahoo trees was used for chills and agues. For coughs and all lung
diseases a syrup made with the leaves and roots of the mullein
plant, globe flower, and wild-cherry tree bark was thought to be
infallible. Of course the castor-bean plant was gathered in the
wild state in the forest, for making castor oil.

Many also cultivated a few rows of poppies in their garden to make
opium, from which our laudanum was created; and this at times
was very needful. The manner of extracting opium from poppies
was of necessity crude, in our hedged-around situation. It was,
indeed, simple in the extreme. The heads or bulbs of the poppies
were plucked when ripe, the capsules pierced with a large-sized
sewing-needle, and the bulbs placed in some small vessel (a cup
or saucer would answer) for the opium gum to exude and to become
inspissated by evaporation. The soporific influence of this drug
was not excelled by that of the imported article.

Bicarbonate of soda, which had been in use for raising bread before
the war, became “a thing of the past” soon after the blockade
began; but it was not long ere some one found out that the ashes of
corn-cobs possessed the alkaline property essential for raising
dough. Whenever “soda” was needed, corn was shelled, care being
taken to select all the red cobs, as they were thought to contain
more carbonate of soda than white cobs. When the cobs were burned
in a clean swept place, the ashes were gathered up and placed
in a jar or jug, and so many measures of water were poured in,
according to the quantity of ashes. When needed for bread-making, a
teaspoonful or tablespoonful of the alkali was used to the measure
of flour or meal required.

Another industry to which the need of the times gave rise was
the making of pottery, which, although not food or clothing, was
indispensable. Of course, our earthenware was rough, coarse, and
brown; and its enameling would have caused a smile of disdain from
the ancient Etruscans. Nevertheless, we found our brown-glazed
plates, cups and saucers, washbowls and pitchers, and milk crocks
exceedingly convenient and useful as temporary expedients, as no
tin pans could be had; and we were thankful that we could make this
homely ware.

All in our settlement learned to card, spin, and weave, and that
was the case with all the women of the South when the blockade
closed us in. Now and then, it is true, a steamer would run the
blockade, but the few articles in the line of merchandise that
reached us served only as a reminder of the outside world and of
our once great plenty, now almost forgotten, and also more forcibly
to remind us that we must depend upon our own ingenuity to supply
the necessities of existence. Our days of novitiate were short.
We soon became very apt at knitting and crocheting useful as well
as ornamental woolen notions, such as capes, sacques, vandykes,
shawls, gloves, socks, stockings, and men’s suspenders. The
clippings of lambs’ wool were especially used by us for crocheting
or knitting shawls, gloves, capes, sacques, and hoods. Our needles
for such knitting were made of seasoned hickory or oakwood a foot
long, or even longer. Lambs’ wool clippings, when carded and spun
fine by hand and dyed bright colors, were almost the peer of the
zephyr wool now sold. To have the hanks spotted or variegated, they
were tightly braided or plaited, and so dyed; when the braids
were unfolded a beautiful dappled color would result. Sometimes
corn husks were wrapped around the hanks at regular or irregular
spaces and made fast with strong thread, so that when placed in the
dye the incased parts, as was intended, would imbibe little or no
dye, and when knit, crocheted, or woven would present a clouded or
dappled appearance. Handsome mittens were knit or crocheted of the
same lambs’ wool dyed jet black, gray, garnet, or whatever color
was preferred; a bordering of vines, with green leaves and rosebuds
of bright colors, was deftly knitted in on the edge and top of the
gloves. Various designs of flowers or other patterns were used for
gloves, and were so skillfully knitted in that they formed the
exact representation of the copy from which they were taken. For
the bordering of capes, shawls, gloves, hoods, and sacques the wool
yarn was dyed red, blue, black, and green. Of course, intermediate
colors were employed in some cases. The juice of poke berries dyed
a red as bright as aniline, but this was not very good for wash
stuffs. A strong decoction of the bark of the hickory-tree made a
clear, bright green on wool, when alum could be had as a mordant;
sometimes there were those who, by some odd chance, happened to
have a bit of alum.

There grew in some spots in the woods, though very sparsely, a weed
about a foot and a half high, called “the queen’s delight,” which
dyed a jet black on wool. We have frequently gone all of two miles
from our home, and, after a wide range of the woods, would perhaps
secure only a small armful of this precious weed. We did not wonder
at the name, it was so scarce and rare, as well as the only one
of all the weeds, roots, bark, leaves, or berries that would dye
jet black. The indigo blue of our make would dye blue of any shade
required, and the hulls of walnuts a most beautiful brown; so that
we were not lacking for bright and deep colors for borderings.

Here again a pleasant rivalry arose, as to who could form the most
unique bordering for capes, shawls, and all such woolen knit or
crocheted clothing. There were squares, diamonds, crosses, bars,
and designs of flowers formed in knitting and in crocheting.

We were our own wool-sorters, too, and after the shearing had first
choice of the fleeces. All the fine, soft, silky locks of wool were
selected for use in knitting and crocheting.

Our shoes, particularly those of women and children, were made of
cloth, or knit. Some one had learned to knit slippers, and it was
not long before most of the women of our settlement had a pair of
slippers on the knitting needles. They were knit of our homespun
thread, either cotton or wool, which was, for slippers, generally
dyed a dark brown, gray, or black. When taken off the needles, the
slippers or shoes were lined with cloth of suitable texture. The
upper edges were bound with strips of cloth, of color to blend with
the hue of the knit work. A rosette was formed of some stray bits
of ribbon, or scraps of fine bits of merino or silk, and placed on
the uppers of the slippers; then they were ready for the soles.

We explored the seldom-visited attic and lumber-room, and
overhauled the contents of old trunks, boxes, and scrap-bags for
pieces of cassimere, merino, broadcloth, or other heavy fine
twilled goods, to make our Sunday shoes, as we could not afford
to wear shoes of such fine stuff every day; home-woven jeans and
heavy, plain cloth had to answer for every-day wear. When one was
so fortunate as to get a bolt of osnaburgs, scraps of that made
excellent shoes when colored. What is now called the “base-ball
shoe” always reminds me of our war-time colored osnaburgs, but ours
did not have straps of leather like those which cross the base-ball
shoe. Our slippers and shoes which were made of fine bits of cloth,
cost us a good deal of labor in binding and stitching with colors
and thread to blend with the material used, before they were sent
to the shoemaker to have them soled.

Sometimes we put on the soles ourselves by taking wornout shoes,
whose soles were thought sufficiently strong to carry another pair
of uppers, ripping the soles off, placing them in warm water to
make them more pliable and to make it easier to pick out all the
old stitches, and then in the same perforations stitching our knit
slippers or cloth-made shoes. We also had to cut out soles for
shoes from our home-tanned leather, with the sole of an old shoe
as our pattern, and with an awl perforate the sole for sewing on
the upper. I was often surprised at the dexterity with which we
could join soles and uppers together, the shoe being reversed
during the stitching, and when finished turned right side out
again; and I smile even now when I remember how we used to hold our
self-made shoes at arm’s length and say, as they were inspected:
“What is the blockade to us, so far as shoes are concerned, when we
can not only knit the uppers, but cut the soles and stitch them on?
Each woman and girl her own shoemaker; away with bought shoes; we
want none of them!” But alas, we really knew not how fickle a few
months would prove that we were.

Our sewing-thread was of our own make. Spools of “Coats’” thread,
which was universally used in the South before the war, had long
been forgotten. For very fine sewing-thread great care had to be
used in drawing the strand of cotton evenly, as well as finely.
It was a wearisome task, and great patience had to be exercised,
as there was continual snapping of the fine hand-spun thread.
From broaches of such spun sewing-thread balls of the cotton
were wound from two to three strands double, according as coarse
or fine thread was needed. The ball was then placed in a bowl
of warm soapsuds and the thread twisted on to a bobbin of corn
husks placed on the spindle of the wheel. During the process of
twisting the thread a miniature fountain would be set playing from
the thread as it twirled upon the spindle. Bunch thread from the
cotton mill, number twelve, made very strong sewing-thread, but
little could we afford of that; it was exceedingly scarce. When the
web of cloth, especially that of factory bunch thread, had been
woven as closely up as the sley and harness would permit the warp
opening for the shuttle to pass through, the ends of the weaver’s
threads, or thrums, generally a yard long when taken from around
the large cloth beam, would be cut from the cloth and made into
sewing-thread. We spent many evenings around the fire, if winter
time, or lamp if summer weather, drawing the threads singly from
the bunch of thrums and then tying together two or three strands,
as the thread was to be coarse or fine. It was also wound into
balls and twisted in the same manner as other sewing-thread. The
ball would be full of knots, but a good needleful of thread,
perhaps more, could always be had between the knots.

There were rude frames in most people’s yards for making rope out
of cotton thread spun very coarse, and quite a quantity of such
rope was made on these roperys. A comical incident occurred at one
of the rope-makings which I attended. One afternoon, I had gone out
in the yard with several members of the household, to observe the
method of twisting the long coil of rope by a windlass attached to
one end of the frame, after it had been run off the broaches on to
the frame. Two of the smaller girls were amusing themselves running
back and forth under the rope while it was being slowly twisted,
now and again giving it a tap with their hands as they ducked under
it, when, just as it was drawn to its tightest tension, it parted
from the end of the frame opposite the windlass, and in its curved
rebound caught one of the little girls by the hair of her head.
There was “music in the air” for some little time, for it was quite
a task to free her hair from the hard twisted coils of rope.

Our hats and bonnets were of our own manufacture, for those we
had at the beginning of the war had been covered anew, made over,
turned, and changed till none of the original remained. As we had
no “flowers of sulphur” to bleach our white straw bonnets and
hats, we colored those we had with walnut hulls, and made them
light or dark brown, as we wished. Then we ripped up our tarlatan
party-dresses of red, white, blue, or buff, some all gold and
silver bespangled, to trim hats with. Neighbor would divide with
neighbor the tarlatan for trimming purposes, and some would go
quite a distance for only enough to trim a hat. For the plumes
of our hats or bonnets the feathers of the old drake answered
admirably, and were often plucked, as many will remember, for that
very purpose. Quaker or Shaker bonnets were also woven by the women
of Alabama out of the bulrushes that grew very tall in marshy
places. These rushes were placed in the opening of the threads of
warp by hand, and were woven the same as if the shuttle had passed
them through. Those the width of the warp were always used. The
bonnets were cut in shape and lined with tarlatan.

The skirt of the Shaker was made of single sleyed cloth, as we
called it. In common woven heavy cloth two threads of warp were
passed through the reeds of the sley. For the skirts of our
bonnets we wanted the cloth soft and light, hence only one thread
was passed through the reeds, and that was lightly tapped by the
batten; it was then soft and yielding. When the cloth was dyed with
willow bark, which colored a beautiful drab, we thought our bonnets
equal to those we had bought in days gone by. There was variety
enough of material to make hats for both men and women, palmetto
taking the lead for hats for Sunday wear. The straw of oats or
wheat and corn husks were braided and made into hats. Hats which
were almost everlasting, we used to think, were made of pine straw.
Hats were made of cloth also. I remember one in particular of gray
jeans, stitched in small diamonds with black silk thread. It was as
perfect a hat as was ever moulded by the hatter, but the oddness
of that hat consisted in its being stitched on the sewing-machine
with silk thread. All sewing-machines in our settlement were at a
standstill during the period of the war, as our home-made thread
was not suited to machines, and all sewing had to be done by hand.

We became quite skilled in making designs of palmetto and straw
braiding and plaiting for hats. Fans, baskets, and mats we made of
the braided palmetto and straw also. Then there was the “bonnet
squash,” known also as the “Spanish dish-rag,” that was cultivated
by some for making bonnets and hats for women and children. Such
hats presented a fine appearance, but they were rather heavy. Many
would make the frame for their bonnets or hats, then cover it with
the small white feathers and down of the goose, color bright red
with the juice of poke berries, or blue with indigo mud, some of
the larger feathers, and on a small wire form a wreath or plume
with bright-colored and white feathers blended together; or, if
no wire was convenient, a fold or two of heavy cloth, or paper
doubled, was used to sew the combination of feathers on for
wreath, plume, or rosette. Tastefully arranged, this made a hat or
bonnet by no means rustic looking.



V.


Willow wickerwork came in as a new industry with us. We learned to
weave willow twigs into baskets of many shapes and sizes.

A woman of our settlement wove of willow switches a beautiful and
ornate body for her baby carriage. As much, she said, to show what
she could make out of willow withes, as for the real use of her
baby.

The switches were gathered when the willows were flowering, and
stripped of bark and leaves; what was not wanted for immediate
use was put by in bundles, to be used in our leisure hours. When
placed in warm water the withes were soon as flexible as if freshly
gathered and peeled, and were as easily woven into varied kinds of
wickerwork.

Mrs. G---- had a flock of sixty or seventy head of geese. A large
stream of clear water ran within a stone’s throw of the rear of the
dwelling, through what was the main pasture-lot for the geese.
Clear pools of water, caused by the sudden bend of the stream,
rocks, or perhaps a fallen tree, were formed as the stream wound
through the pasture-lot, in which the geese were nearly all the
time swimming. This kept their feathers snowy white. Wishing a
finer grade of fans than we had made of braided palmetto or woven
rushes or pasteboard, it was not long ere we had learned to put the
secondary wing-feathers of geese to that use. When the feathers
were “ripe” we would pluck them, being very careful in the plucking
to string on a strong thread the feathers one by one as they were
taken out. All the right wing-feathers were placed on one string,
the left wing-feathers on another separate string, so that when we
were ready to arrange the feathers for making fans, each feather
would be in its proper place, just as drawn from the wing of the
goose, and would therefore have the fitting curve. The secondary
feathers of both wings were used to make one fan. Its handles were
of cedar or pine wood and were sometimes made on the “turner’s
machine,” but oftener we whittled them out of cedar or pine wood
ourselves. They were always covered with scraps of velvet, silk,
cassimere, or merino, and bits of old faded ribbon dyed some bright
color. We soon became adepts in the art of making fans out of the
wing-feathers of geese, and beside those for our own use we made
and sold many in the city of Eufaula for ten, fifteen, and twenty
dollars apiece.

A sister of Mrs. G----, who lived some little distance from us, and
who owned a large flock of pea-fowls, often favored her sister with
the more valuable dark olive-green wing-feathers of her magnificent
birds, and they made superb fans. I was remembered by Mrs. G----,
and was given a select pair of wing-feathers. I gave my best skill
to this fan, for it was to be a present to my mother. The handle
I covered with a piece of dark green silk velvet for which I
exchanged a scrap of silk of a different color, so as to have an
exact blending of the feathers and silk velvet for covering the
handle. On either side where I had joined the handle and feathers,
I placed a rosette made of the small green and blue variegated
feathers that adorn the neck and breast of the pea-fowl. Two
buttons cut out of pasteboard and covered with a bit of the silk
velvet, saved from covering the handle, were placed in the centre
of the rosettes. I think it would have been difficult to have
singled out that fan as not imported. I was offered thirty dollars
for it as soon as it was completed. One would scarcely believe how
beautiful our snow-white fans of geese feathers were, with their
large rosettes on either side, made of the blue and green small
feathers that grace the neck of the peacock. We made fans also
of gray goose feathers, and from feathers out of turkeys’ wings
and tails were made strong substantial fans, for every-day use in
summer.

An amusing incident happened one day while we were making fans of
the feathers of the geese. We had been told by some one that if we
would tie a strip of scarlet cloth around a goose’s neck, it would
fly away and never return. Late one afternoon the oldest daughter
of the house and I were strolling all alone in the pasture-lot
where the geese were feeding on the luxuriant grass. At sight of
the sleek, glossy flock feeding _en masse_, the impulse arose on
the instant to put to the test the romantic hearsay, and we quickly
caught a goose of snowy whiteness. My companion then took off her
crimson silk belt (a relic of ante-bellum days). We tied it around
the anser’s neck, kneeling on the soft carpet of grass, one holding
the goose by the wings, while the other adjusted the belt; then we
loosed it, expecting to see the spread of wings that was to bear
it from our sight forever. But nothing of the kind happened. It
stepped cautiously around with its neck gracefully curved as if
endeavoring to divine the mystery of the crimson streamer, while
the entire flock without a single exception set up a hissing and
cackling that was almost deafening, and with necks extended began
to chase the goose with the scarlet pennant. The loud cackling
of the flock awoke the quiet of the house, and soon a negro girl
came running, sent by her mistress, to see what was disturbing the
geese. The legend had proved false; but we wondered not, as we
retraced our steps, that the loud cackling of a flock of geese in
Rome betrayed the presence of the Gauls who were about to storm the
citadel.

Mrs. G---- promised her two older daughters, her niece, and
myself a new home-woven, homespun dress, just so soon as we
should jointly finish the make-up of the slaves’ fall and winter
clothing, which we joined hands forthwith in cutting out. Two suits
apiece of heavy goods were made for their winter wear, and two
suits apiece of material not so heavy for their spring and summer
wear. It usually took from six to eight weeks of cutting out and
sewing to get all the slaves into their new garments. We were ever
willing to lend our aid in the make-up of the negroes’ clothing,
yet the promise of a new homespun dress, to be dyed and woven
as best pleased us four, aroused our latent energy, and we soon
completed the task without once knowing fatigue. Then our homespun
dresses came to the front. There was much consulting, advising,
and draughting by the four, before we had decided as to the color,
check, or stripe we should have our dresses dyed or woven. I well
remember the color, stripe, and check--together with the spangles
that were woven in the meshes of thread--that we each made choice
of. The warp was the same for all four dresses,--nearly solid drab,
with the exception of a narrow stripe of white and blue threads
in a group, for every twelve or fourteen threads of drab, running
parallel to each other the whole length of the warp. The drab was
dyed with the bark of the willow-tree. The hanks of thread for the
woof of my dress were closely plaited and dyed a deep, clear blue
with our home-made indigo. When woven it presented the appearance
of “cirro-cumulus” clouds. The niece and one of the daughters
betook them to the garret to rummage amongst antique silk and
woolen garments much “the worse for wear.” Part of an old black
silk, and some red scraps of merino, and a remnant of an old blue
scarf, was what they decided upon as spangles for their dresses,
and both were to be just alike. The black silk and red and blue
were cut into narrow strips; the strips were again cut into bits
from a quarter to half an inch in length and woven in the meshes of
thread the whole length of their dresses.

The black, blue, and red bits of color were placed in by hand,
varying from an inch to two or three inches apart. Sometimes
the bits of bright color were placed in so as to form a square,
diamond, or cross; sometimes no order or method was heeded, but
they were placed in on the “crazy” plan; yet when all the tiny
bits had been placed in and when the material was made up into the
dress, it presented quite a spangled appearance. The other daughter
had hers woven of solid drab, of willow-bark dye, and with a narrow
stripe of blue and white running the length of it in the warp; and
this was just as pretty as the rest of our dresses, that had given
a deal of trouble.

Buttons for our dresses were our next consideration, and we had
quite a debate on this weighty subject, as our substitutes for
buttons and material for making them were many and varied. It was
something bewildering for us to determine finally what sort of
buttons we should adopt.

Rude machines were devised for making buttons of wood as the war
went on, and we were thrown more and more upon our own resources.
The buttons made of wood were of various sizes, and were strong and
lasting for heavy goods, especially the clothing for the slaves.
Sometimes we would get the wood buttons, polish them with a bit of
sandpaper, and varnish them with a little of the copal varnish
that happened to be on hand when the war began, and which was
being carefully husbanded; our buttons thus polished and varnished
exhibited some likeness to those we had been wont to buy in palmier
days. Many a household manufactured its own buttons. They were
made of cloth cut round, and of as many ply as was necessary for
firmness. Thick, heavy button-hole stitches were worked all around
the edge with thread coarser than the cloth of which the button was
made, and when these were stitched on firmly there was no worry
about the washerwoman’s breaking or washing them off.

Thread that we spun at home was used for making buttons. The
process was simple. A small reed, or, if that was wanting, a
large-sized broom-straw, could be used; around this the thread for
such buttons would be wound till of sufficient bulk; it was then
slid from the reed; the button-hole stitch was used here again, and
was thickly worked around the eyelet made by the reed; the eyelet
was crossed with thread stronger than that of which the button was
formed, for the purpose of attaching it to the garment. Persimmon
seeds were also used for buttons with very good success, for being
of such a tenacious and solid substance they could be put on
clothing that required washing. Very nice buttons were also shaped
out of pine bark, and were covered or not, just as one liked, but
these were useless on garments for wash. The shell of the common
gourd was almost universally used at the South for buttons during
the period of the war; when covered with strong homespun cloth they
could stand washing. Pasteboard was also used to make buttons. We
have often cut in different shapes and sizes pasteboard and the
shell of the gourd for buttons. We would have them round, oval,
square, or diamond shaped, then cover neatly with cloth, with
scraps of silk, or with fine pieces of colored woolen goods, to
match whatever material was used for dress or basque.

Our pasteboard was made in our own homes. I smile even now when I
think of that crude process. We used old papers and worn garments
and a paste made of flour, or bolted meal sifted through fine
cloth. A paper was spread on a table, paste was spread evenly
and smoothly over the surface of the paper, a layer of cloth just
the width and length of the paper was laid on, another coating of
the paste followed, and so on, alternating with paper, paste, and
cloth, until the required thickness was reached; then with a hot
smoothing-iron the whole was pressed till perfectly dry, smooth,
and glossy, and we had pasteboard adapted for all household needs.

But to return to our buttons. They were made of drab thread, and
after we had thickly worked the button-hole stitch around the
eyelet, each took thread colored to blend with the warp and woof
and again lightly overcast the button, so that the drab showed only
as the background. The older daughter and I overcast ours with
blue thread; the other two overcast theirs with red thread. It was
then fashionable to place straps on the shoulder seams of ladies’
dresses, with generally from four to six buttons on the straps. We
placed straps on ours, trimmed with the buttons which we had made,
and they added not a little to the finish.

We had intended to wear our new homespuns to the village church
the Sunday after completing them. Perhaps there was the least bit
of vanity in our thoughts of how we should appear in church in our
first home-woven suits; palmetto hats that we had braided and made
with our own hands; slippers that we had knit, with soles cut out
of our home-tanned leather, and on which we had with our own hands
joined uppers and soles together. But

      “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
                        Gang aft a-gley.”

It was Saturday night, and our new dresses had been pressed with
the smoothing-iron all so nicely and hung on hooks alongside the
wall, so as to avoid any unnecessary creasing. All four of us hung
up the dresses with especial care just before we stepped into
the dining-room to have our suppers. “Eliza and Mary always have
something new and unusual in the make of their homespun dresses,”
thought we, “but they shall be surpassed to-morrow.” Both teacher
and pupils were at an age then when the heart is keenly desirous
for beauty and effect.

Uncle Ben was the negro man who drove the carriage, made fires
night and morning in all the rooms of the house, hoed the garden,
helped Aunt Phillis, the cook, who was his wife, and did chores
in general around the house and yard. Now it happened, as Aunt
Phillis afterward told us, that Ben had made his plans for that
very Sunday also. He was to meet by agreement with the negroes of
contiguous plantations in a swamp not far distant from the negro
quarter on Mr. G----’s plantation, to engage in games with cards.
Their masters of course knew naught of it, for they would not
have permitted it. In passing round the house and yard Uncle Ben
heard us say we were going to the village church that particular
Sunday, and that we should be sure to wear our new home-woven
suits. He knew he would have to drive the carriage, and I suppose
he thought if it had not been for our new dresses of the home-made
cloth, like as not we would not want to drive; for often we did not
use the carriage on Sundays, but preferred walking to the quiet
country church and Sabbath-school scarce a mile from my employer’s
residence.

While we were all at the supper-table that Saturday night, Ben, as
usual, was making the round of the rooms, replenishing all the
fires. He reached our room. There were the four dresses hanging
plain to view, and he thought of having to drive the carriage on
the morrow. One of the little girls had taken a bath and left a
large basin of water, with the sponge in it, near the fire-place.
Ben gathered up the sponge, pressed some of the water from it,
wiped the soot from the chimney’s back, and smeared our prided
homespun garments to his heart’s content! Then he carefully
disposed the skirts so as to effectually conceal the smut. It being
Saturday night, he expected that we could not have the much-soiled
dresses ready for Sunday’s wear, even if we should discover the
smut that evening.

When we went back to our rooms from the supper-table our first
glance was toward our much-valued dresses, which appeared to hang
just as we had left them. But before we had seated ourselves,
surprise was manifested at some large flakes of soot on the hearth
and floor and near to our precious garments. One of us called
attention to the sponge, which was almost black, floating in the
basin of water. The fire, beginning to burn anew, showed the
chimney’s back almost free of soot, and scarcely dry from the
sponge. Thinking no harm had befallen our homespuns, I casually
touched the folds of mine, when several flakes of soot fell to the
floor. Immediately I loosed wide the folds of the skirt, when, lo!
such a smut never before nor since have I seen, from waist line to
the hem, one whole width all begrimed with soot. The other girls
flew in a trice to their dresses, and as quickly unloosed the
folds of their skirts. Lo! behold, it was smut, smut, soot, soot,
broad and long! We knew in an instant it was Ben, for he was often
“contrary” about driving the carriage, especially if he had made
plans for his own amusement. Irritation and disappointment were
the prominent feelings at first, augmented by the thought that our
homespuns would never look decently again, but our vexed feelings
soon gave way to ringing laughter as we pictured to ourselves
Uncle Ben in the midst of smutting our dearly-prized garments.
He deserved punishment, surely, but beyond a good scolding no
correction was administered, although Aunt Phillis declared that
“Massa orter half kill Ben fur sicher mean trick.”



VI.


One blustering, drizzling March night at our home in Alabama
the two little daughters of Uncle Ben and Aunt Phillis, who,
since their early childhood had been brought up in Mr. G----’s
house as servants, came rushing into our room with the startling
intelligence that “Daddy’s arter mammy; he’s got an axe in his hand
and says he’s gwine ter kill her dis berry night.” Where Phillis
was hiding the little girls knew not. She was not in the kitchen,
nor in her cabin; neither had she come into the house to her master
and mistress. “Her’s dodgin’ ’round to keep out’en daddy’s way,”
the younger of Phillis’s girls declared. We all became deeply
interested in Aunt Phillis’s troubles, and dropped our knitting and
crocheting in severe disapprobation of the way in which Ben was
treating his helpmate, and our censure was the more emphasized when
we remembered the smutting he had given our dresses. The smaller
boys and girls of the household came also into our room to hear
Martha and Maria tell of Ben’s chasing Phillis around with the axe,
and soon we had ten all told around the fire, all gathered close
together.

The mournful echoing and reëchoing of the March wind as it rushed
past in fitful, heavy gusts, sometimes rattling the window panes,
then dying away through the dark pine forests that bounded one side
of the mansion, added not a little to our excited imaginings, and
we lapsed into a kind of dread silence, when all of a sudden an
unearthly scream came from just beneath our feet, it seemed, and we
sprang up instantly. Martha, who had recognized her mother’s voice,
at one bound passed through our room door to the rear hall door,
which she opened in a twinkling and Aunt Phillis flew into our
room. We slammed the door to on the instant, thinking Uncle Ben was
at his wife’s heels, and that one of us might catch the hurl of the
axe intended for Phillis. We braced our shoulders against the door
with all our strength, but Uncle Ben was prudent enough not to try
to force an entrance.

Mrs. G----, hearing our screams, imagined that the house had caught
fire. She sped to our room and reached the door just as we were in
the act of slamming it shut, so that it caught her left hand just
across the knuckles, and she was held all of a minute before she
could make herself heard in the great uproar. The third finger of
her left hand was badly crushed, and to this day shows the imprint
of that accident. Mr. G---- also hastened to our room, and, finding
that Ben was after Phillis with an axe, got his gun, and from the
rear hall door peered forth into the bleak night for Ben; but no
Ben could be seen or heard. When the Babel-like confusion of our
tongues had somewhat stilled, Aunt Phillis was called upon to
explain her piercing scream. She said that as she was putting her
kitchen in order for breakfast in the morning, Ben had told her he
was going to split her head open that very night with the axe, and
went to the wood-pile for the axe. Then Aunt Phillis slipped round
on the front colonnade next her mistress’ room, thinking if Ben
should come for her there she could quickly spring into that room.
From the front colonnade she saw Ben go into the kitchen axe in
hand. Not finding her there, he came out again and went to the rear
of the house. Although the night was dark, she imagined her dress
was of light enough color to betray her to Ben, should he come on
that side of the house. She then thought of our room, which, on
account of an incline in the yard toward the front gate, was not
raised as high off the ground by two or three feet as the rooms
on the front colonnade. Aunt Phillis reasoned that if she crept
under the house as far as our room, where a good fire was always
burning in the winter time, she could keep warm seated at the base
of the chimney, and if need be, sleep there all night, secure from
the fury of Ben. So she crawled as far down as our room, and made
herself as comfortable as the ground would permit, chuckling the
while at Ben’s prowling around for her in the raw March wind and
rain. She was the more content as she knew her two girls slept in
her mistress’s room. To use her own words, “I was gitten good and
warm ’gin the bricks o’ de chimbley, and feeling sort o’ sleepy,
soon was nodden. I jest happened to open my eyes as I raised my
head of a sudden, and bless God! dar was Ben crawlin’ right up to
me on his knees, wid de axe in his hand. I tell yer, I never knows
how I did got out fro’ under dar.”

Uncle Ben, despite his eccentricities, lives yet on the old
plantation with his mistress; but Mr. G---- died years gone by now.
No one bears any ill-will, I am sure, to venerable Uncle Ben, not
even those of us who well remember his misdeeds; and this episode
of those days of civil strife--an episode connected with the two
oldest daughters of Mrs. G----, her niece, and myself,--stands out
with clear distinctness, though more than twenty years have gone.

While knitting around the fireside one night, talking of what we
had done, and could yet accomplish, in industries called into
existence by the war and blockade, we agreed then and there that
each of us four could and would card and spin enough warp and woof
to weave a dress apiece. This proved a herculean task for us, for
at that time we barely knew how to card and spin. Mrs. G---- smiled
incredulously, we thought, but kindly promised to have the dresses
dyed and woven, in case we should card and spin them. The older
daughter and I elected to work together. I was to card and spin
eighteen yards of warp--nine yards of our wide heavy homespun being
then ample enough for one plain dress. Of course we used the same
style the whole four years of the war, in our secluded settlement;
not a fashion plate or “ladies’ magazine” did we see during that
entire period, so that we were but little troubled as to “latest
styles.” My companion in work was to card and spin eighteen yards
of filling. Similarly the other daughter and her cousin agreed
as to carding and spinning their warp and woof. We imposed the
number of cuts each should spin, agreeing that each should spin
one cut every night after our suppers, Saturday night excepted.
Every Saturday we were to card and were spin six cuts apiece, till
eighteen yards finished.

Inasmuch as it took about six cuts of our soft spun woof to
make one yard of thick heavy cloth, and about the same of hard
twisted warp, we were not long in numbering the weeks we should
be in spinning the four dresses; and of course, going to school
or teaching school, and spinning only nights and Saturdays, our
progress on the eighteen yards was necessarily slow. We thought,
however, that we would have them ready for the loom in ten weeks at
the farthest. Mrs. G---- said if we had them ready to dye and weave
in three or four months we would do well. But there were those who
could card and spin from one to two yards of cloth per day and do
it easily.

On a certain Monday evening, after we had supper, we began quite
merrily the carding and spinning for our four dresses, and made our
first cut of thread by the number of rolls we had carded and spun.
I remember that seventy rolls carded evenly and smoothly, if of
medium size, would reel one cut of thread. We invariably added two
or three rolls to the seventy for good measure. Our rolls at first
were oddly shaped, often evoking ridicule, but we soon learned to
mould them to perfection.

Our first Saturday to spin was looked forward to with great
expectations by the four, as six cuts were marked down for that
day. I smile even now, as memory wanders back over the tide of
years, to think how, all during the week preceding that Saturday,
I was resolving in my mind to far outstrip the number of cuts
imposed as our task. I kept this resolution all to myself, inwardly
chuckling at the grand surprise I was to give them all when the
day’s work should be finished; and I did give a surprise, too, but
in a way that was by no means pleasing to me.

The eagerly wished for Saturday dawned. Two spinning-wheels and
two pair of cotton-cards, with a basket of nice white lint cotton,
were set in our room before we had risen from bed, according to
orders delivered the evening previous; and as the sun rose the hum
of the spinning-wheels began, as we had the night before carded
enough rolls to supply us with material. Two would be carding rolls
and two spinning, and by alternating between carding rolls and
spinning, we rested, both as to standing and sitting, discoursing
meanwhile what color, or what variety of colors, these self-spun
dresses should be dyed; whether plain, plaid, checkered, or striped
they should be woven. Now and then the monotony would be enlivened
by snatches of song; merry laughs and jests went round; first
one and then another of us would cry out above the never-ceasing
humming of the wheels, “I know I shall have my six cuts by the time
the sun is down;” and I thought to myself, but did not give voice
to the words, “Shouldn’t wonder if I have seven cuts or more, when
the sun sets.”

Steadily all that Saturday was heard the tramp, tramp, as we
marched up and down the floor beside our spinning-wheels. We were
glad indeed to see the sun sinking like a huge ball of fire behind
the green-topped pines, plain to view from the windows of our room.
That evening the words, “The night cometh, when no man can work,”
had for us a new meaning. We were more joyful, I believe, as the
eve was drawing on, than we had been at dawn. We were wearied, but
were in a fever of anxiety to know the result of our steady labor.
So diligently had we applied ourselves that two carded and spun
while two were at dinner; there had been no cessation of our work.

When the sun set, the whirring ceased, and gathering up our
broaches which looked like so many small pyramids, we marched
Indian file to the sitting-room for Mrs. G---- to reel the thread
we had spun. Our broaches had to be placed in a basket for the
thread to be run off as it listed. There was “a scientific way” of
running the thread on to the bobbins, which were of corn-husks or
thick paper, and placed on the spindle of the wheel for the thread
to be run on to form the broach. Any one at all experienced in
spinning could so run the thread on the broach that in reeling, the
broach being held at the base by the hand, the thread would run
smoothly off the apex of the broach without ever a break or tangle
to the very last strand. We had not run our thread on the broaches
with the same amount of skill we had shown in spinning, hence there
was much difficulty in reeling, but before we had finished the
thirty-six yards of cloth our broaches ceased to give annoyance.

It was decided by all in the room that my broaches must be the
first reeled,--how strangely these names sound now, then familiar
household words, “broach,” “reel,” “hank,” “rolls,” “card,” “warp,”
“web of cloth,” and so on! With no little pride I saw my great
day’s work sailing round on the reel. At every one hundred and
twenty rounds, a sharp click of the reel, and one cut would be
told. A thread was looped around that cut, to separate it from
the next cut. But as the reel gave the second sharp click, and
that cut was looped, I saw with dismay that what was left of my
broaches would barely reel another cut. I almost held my breath as
the third cut was flying round. “Shades of Pallas!” thought I, “am
I to have only three cuts?” Alas! click! only three cuts and a few
strands of thread over. How glad I was that I had not voiced in the
household my being so sure of seven or more cuts! All were quite
mystified for a few moments to know why after such a day’s carding
and spinning I should have fallen so short of the task allotted
each one, and which was fairly within our power. Some of the girls
were saying “I think I won’t have my broaches reeled.” Mrs. G----,
meanwhile, was giving my small hank the necessary loops around the
reel before removing, and when she did remove my hank from the
reel it rolled a ball of kinks in her hands. Having been warned
that the warp, to make it strong, required much more twisting than
filling, but being an entire novice in the art, I had given the
thread I spun entirely too much twist,--had really put six cuts
in three, so that, after all, I had not done so bad a day’s work,
and could join as heartily as the others in ridiculing my ball of
kinks, as it passed from one to another for inspection.

The other warp spinner had not given her thread enough twist to
answer for warp, so that it had to be used for woof. Mrs. G----,
dear motherly woman that she ever was, knowing how assiduously we
had applied ourselves to the card and wheels, and wishing to give
encouragement to our undertaking, gave to each of us unfortunates
eight cuts of warp so that we also closed that Saturday night
rejoicing with the other two spinners, who had made just their
number of cuts. But as I lay down to sleep, it was with the thought
that the twelve labors of Hercules were as nothing compared to the
eighteen yards of warp-thread which I had given my pledge to card
and spin.

As the novelty of carding and spinning wore off, we often grew
weary in our strife, and it is not to be denied that all four of
us became heartily sick of our agreement by the time we had carded
and spun two weeks at night and two Saturdays, and never another
Saturday dawned that found us so eager to spin as did the first
one. Each of the four felt inclined to withdraw from the compact,
but that was never acknowledged until victory had crowned our
efforts.



VII.


As no muslin could be bought for summer wear, and our home-made
cloth was very heavy and warm for hot weather, we women of southern
Alabama devised a plan for making muslin out of our own homespun
thread; and the fact that it was made of this thread added not a
little to its excellence in our estimation.

In the weaving of all heavy, thick cloth, whether plain or twilled,
two threads, sometimes three, were always passed through the reeds
of the sley, when the warp was put in the loom for weaving the web
of cloth. The experiment for muslin, and it proved quite a success,
was to draw the threads of warp singly through the reeds of the
sley. In the process of making muslin, both warp and woof were
sized with sizing made of flour, to make the threads more smooth
and unbending; whereas plain cloth had only the warp sized, and
that with sizing made of Indian-meal. When thread for the muslin
was beamed, and one single thread passed through the reeds of the
sley, and only a slight tap of the batten given as the shuttle
passed through the opening with its quill of sized thread, the
texture was thin and gauze-like, and stood out like any real muslin
stiffened with starch.

The thread for our muslins was dyed a deep plum color. In the
case of each of our four dresses, the warp was the same: twelve
or fourteen threads of the plum color and three threads of white
alternating with the plum color and white thread the width and
length of the cloth. The older daughter and I had ours filled in
solid with plum color, which, with the narrow white stripes in
the warp, made a very neat dress. The two other girls had theirs
checked with white, so as to form a square with the white stripe
in the warp; then small bits of crimson merino were placed in the
centre of the square. Our muslins reminded me of “Swiss muslins,”
with their raised flowers of silk or fine wool thread. When we
first appeared in them, they were mistaken for the genuine imported
muslins.

Soon after completing and wearing our home-made muslins, news came
into our settlement that a steamer had run the blockade, and that
the city of Eufaula had secured some bolts of prints and other
notions. The Saturday following the report, Mr. G---- ordered
Ben to harness up the horses, and we were driven to Eufaula, not
to buy, but simply to have a look at these imports. Sure enough,
on the shelves in the store that had long lain empty, there were
tastefully disposed a few bolts of English prints, some ladies’
straw hats, a bolt or two of fine bleached stuff, some calico, and
a few pairs of ladies’ shoes. These were the magnets which had
drawn us eleven miles! We had fondly imagined ourselves satisfied
with our home-made cloth, and had said of it, as David of the sword
of Goliath, “There is none like that; give it me.” When we had
held aloft our knit and cloth-made shoes and slippers, with the
words, “What do we care for the blockade when we can make such as
these?” we had little dreamed that our firmness would so suddenly
collapse before about three bolts of calico and a few pairs of
black morocco shoes, lined with red and deep blue leather, laced
high and scalloped around the top edge. Yet so it was, for when
the merchant unfolded to our view his brand-new prints, looking
so fresh and novel, we four had nine yards apiece cut off, paying
twelve dollars per yard for it. It was something over a yard wide,
and as we knew nothing of the ruffling, puffing, plaiting, tucking,
or shirring of overskirts or polonaises outside the blockade, nine
yards were amply sufficient for a dress.

The design of that print is yet vivid to my memory. The background
was a pale blending of violet with white; the foreground was
dotted with violets of a deep purple color. I bought the same day
a plain brown straw hat, paying one hundred dollars for it, and
a half quire of small white note-paper for forty dollars. A pair
of morocco gaiters cost one of the daughters three hundred and
seventy-five dollars. We surely will be pardoned, if we felt some
pride in wearing muslins that we had manufactured with our own
hands, and fresh new calicoes which had cost each of us one hundred
and eight dollars.

Our neighbors, as soon as it was noised about in that quiet
settlement (where it seemed almost impossible for tidings of the
outside world to come) that we had new store-bought calicoes, all
paid us a visit in order that they might see how a new print looked
amidst so much home-woven cloth; and a bit of the scraps left was
given each visitor. I sent a small scrap of my new calico--our
war-time calicoes, as we then and afterward called them--in
a letter to my relatives in Georgia. Whenever any one was so
fortunate as to secure a new print, small scraps of it were sent in
letters to friends and relatives, so rare were new calicoes.

Indeed, it was not at all uncommon for friends or relatives to
send small samples of new homespun cloth to one another in letters
whenever what was thought to be a particularly good pattern had
been devised, or the colors were exceptionally brilliant.

A woman who was a neighbor of ours made herself what really was an
elegant dress for the times. The material was an old and well-worn
black silk dress, altogether past renovating, and fine white lint
cotton. The silk was all ripped up, and cut into narrow strips,
which were all raveled and then mixed with the lint cotton and
passed through the cotton cards two or three times, so as to have
the mixture homogeneous. It was then carded and spun very fine,
great pains being taken in the spinning to have no unevenness in
the threads. Our neighbor managed to get for the warp of her mixed
silk and cotton dress a bunch of number twelve thread, from cotton
mills in Columbus, Georgia, fifty miles from our settlement, and
generally a three days’ trip. She dyed the thread, which was very
fine and smooth, with the barks of the sweet-gum and maple trees,
which made a beautiful gray. Woven into cloth, it was soft and
silky to the touch, and of a beautiful color. It was corded with
the best pieces of the worn silk, and trimmed with pasteboard
buttons covered with some of the same silk.

Some very rich-appearing and serviceable winter woolen dresses were
made of the wool of white and brown sheep mixed, carded, spun and
woven just so; then long chains of coarser spun wool thread dyed
black and red were crocheted and braided in neat designs on the
skirt, sleeves, and waist of these brown and white mixed dresses of
wool.

Of course braid and tape could not be bought, nor could we weave
that sufficiently narrow to make a neat appearance on dress goods;
but we soon found that long chains of crochet-thread would answer
nicely for braiding. Balls of it were crocheted of various colors;
black, white, red, blue, and dark brown were the colors most used.
It was braided on in various ways; sometimes singly, at times we
would sew three or four chains together of colors to blend, making
the tape an inch or more wide. And thus it was placed upon our
dresses.

The extent and variety of our cloth manufacture, our fertility
in making designs, our different ways of weaving, were really
remarkable. We made cloth in stripes broad and narrow, and in
checks wide and small. We made plain cloth, twilled cloth, jeans,
and salt-and-pepper cloth, the latter by alternating one thread
of white and one thread of black the width and length of the
warp, and the same in the woof. This was a slow process, as the
shuttles, with the quills of black and white thread, were changed
at every tap of the batten. Plaids were woven both of wool and
cotton thread. They required three and four shuttles and as many
varieties of color. We had “dice”-woven homespun, or “basket
plait,” as some would call it, which required three or four
treadles and as many different ways of tramping them to form the
plait. When the warp was dyed a solid red or deep garnet and filled
in with blue, or perhaps purple, slate, or black, as one wished, or
when the warp was dyed blue and filled in with whatever other color
pleased the eye, such cloth we called our “chambrey.”

Sometimes lint cotton was dyed a deep and a pale blue, and then
carded and spun as dyed. If the warp was of deep blue the woof
would be pale blue; or the woof would be deep blue thread and the
warp pale blue. It was woven solid and tipped with bright bits of
silk, cassimere, merino, or other fine woolen scraps, which, cut in
small pieces, were woven in the meshes of thread.

Cloth was woven with two, three, four, and five treadles. An
ingenious way the weaver had of tramping the treadles would throw
up on the right or upper side of the cloth whatever design was
placed in front of the weaver’s eye. Some beautiful carpets of
wool, dyed a variety of bright colors, were woven on our common
house-loom; and large woolen coverlets as well as woolen and cotton
flannels were made in the same manner.

I often wonder how we were able so quickly to adapt ourselves to
the great changes rendered necessary in our modes of life by the
blockade. But be it remembered that the Southerners who were so
reduced and so compelled to rely entirely upon their own resources
belonged to the Anglo-Saxon race, a race which, despite all prating
about “race equality,” has civilized America. The reflection to
which memory gives rise when I recall war times in the South is
this, that “blood will tell.”

As to our cotton flannel, while it was rather heavy for every-day
wear, it was just the thing for capes and cloaks, and was often
made into blankets. The filling was spun rather coarse and very
softly twisted. If it was to be used for capes or cloaks the raw
cotton was dyed whatever color was made choice of before carding
and spinning; if the flannel was to be used for blankets the lint
cotton was carded and spun white. When placed in the loom for
weaving the treadles were tramped in a manner which threw up the
coarse, soft spun woof very nearly all on the upper side of the
cloth. Two or three heavy beats of the batten were given to pack
the filling close and dense. When so much had been woven and was
still smoothly and tightly drawn over the breast-beam, one of a
pair of cotton-cards was used by the hand to raise the lint of the
coarse, soft-twisted, tightly-packed filling, till it was perfectly
smooth and downy. It would then be passed over the cloth-beam, and
again so much would be woven; then it left the loom-bench, and with
the card the lint was raised again in the same manner. And so the
process of weaving and stopping to raise the lint with the cards
would go on to the end of the warp. It was a slow and tedious way
of making cotton flannel, but a large quantity was made. That which
was dyed a very dark brown, and with which great pains had been
taken in raising the lint, was, at some little distance, sometimes
mistaken for sealskin. So much for the ingenuity of the women of
southern Alabama.

Soon after we had finished our self-imposed task of carding and
spinning the warp and woof for our four dresses, and it had been
noised far and wide in our neighborhood that we had had patience to
hold out until the task was completed, one of our acquaintances,
a young lady, set to to excel us, in that she was not only going
to card and spin the warp and woof for a new homespun, but was
herself going to weave the thread she had spun into cloth for her
dress. She finally arrived at the loom with her warp and woof and
commenced with great joy the weaving. Her homespun warp proved
to be quite defective. There were more or less broken threads to
mend in the run of any warp, even that spun at the cotton mills,
which was always stronger than hand-spun warp. At first, when the
threads of warp would break on either the cloth-beam or thread-beam
side, she would leave the loom-bench and mend the broken threads;
but she became impatient and wearied at the oft-breaking threads
(sometimes three or four would snap asunder at once), and by the
time she had woven three or four yards she had tired altogether of
mending and piecing, so she began to leave the threads hanging
wherever they happened to snap apart, and soon a thick fringe of
thread was hanging from the sides and middle of the cloth on both
sides the harness and sley. She kept on weaving, however, saying
she had enough for the plain skirt, and, as it narrowed, that
would cut the waist, and if it narrowed yet more, why that would
make the sleeves; but the more threads that broke the fewer were
there to sustain the remaining ones, so that the cloth, from being
a good yard wide at the beginning, narrowed to less than half a
foot, and after the first two or three yards was useless for any
purpose, and there ended that homespun that was to be the wonder
of the settlement. We felt nowise inclined to exult over our
friend’s failure, for we no doubt would have suffered defeat had we
attempted to weave our spun warp. It required no little patience
to work with warp the threads of which were every now and then
breaking, for every thread had to be mended as soon as it broke,
or if not, thin, flimsy places would occur all through the web,
and the cloth would not wear long enough to pay for the trouble of
carding, spinning, and weaving.



VIII.


One of our most difficult tasks was to find a good substitute for
coffee. This palatable drink, if not a real necessary of life, is
almost indispensable to the enjoyment of a good meal, and some
Southerners took it three times a day. Coffee soon rose to thirty
dollars per pound; from that it went to sixty and seventy dollars
per pound. Good workmen received thirty dollars per day; so it took
two days’ hard labor to buy one pound of coffee, and scarcely any
could be had even at that fabulous price. Some imagined themselves
much better in health for the absence of coffee, and wondered why
they had ever used it at all, and declared it good for nothing any
way; but “Sour grapes” would be the reply for such as they. Others
saved a few handfuls of coffee, and used it on very important
occasions, and then only as an extract, so to speak, for flavoring
substitutes for coffee.

There were those who planted long rows of the okra plant on the
borders of their cotton or corn fields, and cultivated this with
the corn and cotton. The seeds of this, when mature, and nicely
browned, came nearer in flavor to the real coffee than any other
substitute I now remember. Yam potatoes used to be peeled, sliced
thin, cut into small squares, dried, and then parched brown; they
were thought to be next best to okra for coffee. Browned wheat,
meal, and burnt corn made passable beverages; even meal-bran
was browned and used for coffee if other substitutes were not
obtainable.

We had several substitutes for tea which were equally as palatable,
and, I fancy, more wholesome, than much that is now sold for tea.
Prominent among these substitutes were raspberry leaves. Many
during the blockade planted and cultivated the raspberry-vine all
around their garden palings, as much for tea as the berries for
jams or pies; these leaves were considered the best substitute for
tea. The leaves of the blackberry bush, huckleberry leaves, and
the leaves of the holly-tree when dried in the shade, also made a
palatable tea.

Persimmons dried served for dates.

Each household made its own starch, some of the bran of wheat
flour. Green corn and sweet potatoes were grated in order to make
starch. This process was very simple. The grated substance was
placed to soak in a large tub of water; when it had passed through
the process of fermentation and had risen to the surface, the
grated matter was all skimmed off, the water holding the starch
in solution was passed through a sieve, and then through a thin
cloth to free altogether from any foreign substance. A change of
clear water twice a day for three or four days was made to more
thoroughly bleach the starch. It would then be put on white cloth,
placed on scaffolds in the yard, and left to drip and dry. Starch
of wheat bran was made in the same manner. It was as white and fine
as any ever bought.

A good makeshift had soon been devised for putty and cement, and
the artlessness of it will perhaps cause a smile to flit across
the face of glaziers. But no cement could be bought, and this was
useful in many ways, as panes of glass had to be set in, or a break
to be mended; the handle broken from a pitcher to be placed on
anew, or repairing done to table ware. When it was necessary to
repair any such breaks, a Spanish potato (none other of the species
of that esculent root answered so well) was roasted in hot ashes,
peeled while yet hot, immediately mashed very fine, and mixed with
about a tablespoonful of flour; it was then, while warm, applied to
whatever need there was. This paste, when it had become hardened,
remained fixed and firm, and was as durable as putty.

In place of kerosene for lights, the oil of cotton seed and ground
peas, together with the oil of compressed lard, was used, and
served well the need of the times. For lights we had also to fall
back on moulding candles, which had long years lain obsolete.
When beeswax was plentiful it was mixed with tallow for moulding
candles. Long rows of candles so moulded would be hung on the lower
limbs of wide-spreading oaks, where, sheltered by the dense foliage
from the direct rays of the sun, they would remain suspended day
and night until they were bleached as white as the sperm candles
we had been wont to buy, and almost as transparent as wax candles.
When there was no oil for the lamps or tallow for moulding
candles, which at times befell our households, mother-wit would
suggest some expedient by which the intricate problem of light
could be solved.

One evening at a neighbor’s, where we had gone to tea, when we
took our seats at the supper-table we were diverted by the lights
we were to eat by, the like of which, up to that time, we had not
seen, nor even thought of.

In the absence of any of the ordinary materials for lighting,
the good woman of the house had gone to the woods and gathered a
basketful of round globes of the sweet-gum tree. She had taken two
shallow bowls and put some lard, melted, into them, then placed
two or three of the sweet-gum balls in each of the vessels, which,
soon becoming thoroughly saturated with the melted lard, gave a
fairylike light, floating round in the shallow vessels of oil like
stars.

At other times rude lamps or candles were improvised, anything
but attractive in appearance, though the light was fairly bright.
Medium-sized bottles (of course any proper sized bottle would
answer) were taken, and several strands of spun thread twisted
together to form a wick two or three yards long were well steeped
in beeswax and tallow, and coiled around the bottle from base to
neck closely and evenly. When ready for lighting, one or more of
the coils of thread would be loosed from the bottle, raised above
the mouth an inch or so, and pressed with the thumb to the neck of
the bottle. When the wick had burned to the bottle’s mouth, the
same process of uncoiling and pressing the wick to the bottle would
be repeated. This gave a steady flame. When beeswax could not be
had, tallow was used for steeping the strands.

Sewing societies were formed in every hamlet, as well as in our
cities, to keep the soldiers of the Confederacy clothed as best
we could. They met once every week, at some lady’s house, if it
was in the country. To such societies all the cloth that could
be spared from each household was given and made into soldiers’
garments. Socks, gloves, blankets, woolen coverlets, and even
home-made bed-quilts were donated; wool scarfs, knitted on long oak
or hickory-wood needles, were sent for our soldiers in the bitter
cold of Virginia, to wrap around their necks and cover their ears.

In many settlements there were spinning “bees.” Many women whose
husbands were in the army found it uphill work to card and spin
all that was necessary to clothe a numerous family. In such cases,
as often as was needful, there would be a gathering of ladies of
the settlement, both married and single, for the “spinning bee.”
Wheels, cards, and cotton were all hauled in a wagon to the place
appointed. On the way, as often as not, a long flexible twig would
be cut from the woods, and attached to one of the spinning-wheels;
from the top of such flagstaff would play loosely to the wind, and
jolts of the wagon, a large bunch of lint cotton, as our ensign.
Sometimes as many as six or eight wheels would be whirring at the
same time in one house, and assistance was also given in weaving,
cutting out, and making up clothing for such families.

Ah, those stormy days of our convulsed country had their guileless
pleasures, as well as sorrows! We were drawn together in a closer
union, a tenderer feeling of humanity linking us all together,
both rich and poor; from the princely planter, who could scarce
get off his wide domains in a day’s ride, and who could count
his slaves by the thousand, down to the humble tenants of the
log-cabin on rented or leased land. I have now a letter written
by a Southern woman, whose husband and oldest son belonged to
an Alabama regiment, which was ordered to Island No. 10, in the
Mississippi River; and soon surrounded there as it was by the
Federal army, communication was cut off between our soldiers and
the home ones. Soon the island was captured by our enemies, and her
husband and son were taken prisoners. She was then thrown upon her
own resources entirely to provide for a family of ten, no longer
receiving the government pay of eleven dollars per month each for
husband and son. Her two oldest daughters were large enough to give
her some help in her battle to keep the wolf from the door. These
people were of those who had never owned a slave in their lives,
and who had but a few acres of land, but they were just as true and
devoted to our cause as those who numbered their slaves and acres
by the thousand. I cannot forbear quoting here a few lines of this
brave, good woman’s letter.

“We had a hard time [she writes]; myself and two oldest daughters
making a living for ten in the family. There was no work the little
boys could do. We spun and wove cloth to sell, day by day, and we
took in sewing, which was done by night. We knit a great deal, and
worked, oh, so hard! and I thank God that it was so, for had it
been otherwise, had I had time to sit and ponder over all the sad
details that the daily news brought me, I should have failed. But
when night came on, my weary, aching limbs and troubled heart were
soon at rest; and I awoke refreshed, and ready for another day’s
trials; and I am proud to say we never went to bed hungry.... We
even had some merry days, neighbors and friends meeting together,
telling our trials, and even laughing at them; feeling that the
sacrifice was little, could we but gain our cause. There is one
thing I am proud of, and that is, the advantages we took of our
resources, and our own independence. I can hardly see how such a
people could be conquered.”

She lives to-day in the “Lone Star” State, surrounded by nine of
her children, who are all good and useful citizens. Her husband
died in a Northern prison. The oldest son, who was taken prisoner
when his father was, was paroled soon after the South’s surrender,
and returned home, as thousands of others did, to join a broken
home circle.

We often thought, and said too, that it was well for us all in
the South that our minds were so taxed in devising temporary
expedients, and our hands so busied in carrying them into effect;
we really had no time to brood over the sorrowful news that the
papers were daily depicting. We were being led in a way we knew
not: and like the humble woman of the cottage, we even made merry
over our inevitable privations and inconveniences. Indeed, we grew
so accustomed to them that they scarcely seemed privations.

While hemmed in on all sides by the blockade, we used to think
that if no war were raging, and a wall as thick and high as the
great Chinese Wall were to entirely surround our Confederacy, we
should not suffer intolerable inconvenience, but live as happily
as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they tasted the
forbidden fruit. We used to say, “How can we be subdued, when we
have so cheerfully and uncomplainingly given up every luxury, and
in a measure even the comforts of life; and yet with what crude
resources are at hand, we are feeding and clothing the whole people
of the South, civil as well as military?” We felt all the more
pride, when we remembered that at the beginning of hostilities
we were unprepared in almost every essential necessary to the
existence of our Confederacy; yet now, the best part of two years
had gone, and the South was holding her own.

Our day of adversity had not come; it was not unnatural that we
sang with fervor and animation, “We conquer or die,” and “Farewell,
Brother Jonathan.” But we did not forget to call upon the Lord in
the day of our success, as well as in the day of our adversity.
Often the inhabitants of our settlement--and it was just the same
all over the Southern States--were called to the house of worship
to sanctify a fast. What comfort and consolation we gathered from
the reading of the first and second chapters of the book of
the Prophet Joel; how fervently and devoutly we prayed that God
would stay up the hands of our armies, till victory was won; and
trusting God we would return lifted up in spirit to our homes and
to our labor. It was well for us that we had not prophetic vision
to foresee the result of the contest. We fasted, we prayed, we
trusted; but victory did not crown our armies.



IX.


It may excite some amusement to record the fact that among the
thousand and one industries and makeshifts which blossomed into
life in southern Alabama during the period of the war, the making
of hoopskirts, which were worn extensively before, as well as
during, and even for some time after, hostilities between the North
and South, was not neglected. One of the ladies of our county
devised a means of weaving the hoopskirt on the common house-loom.
It mattered not if the tapes were all broken, and the casing all
worn off the steels, a new farthingale was warranted, if only the
steels of the worn skirt came.

There were raids made upon garrets for all old broken-up hoopskirts
and pieces of steel belonging to such skirts, which we either
carried or sent to the renovator of dilapidated hoopskirts. Her
first move was to tightly wrap the steels one by one with homespun
thread, three or four strands double, but not twisted, piecing the
steels, when necessary. An old hoopskirt not so worn was her guide
as to the proper number and length of steels. The thread for the
warp of the skirt was passed through the harness eyes and reeds of
the sley about an inch wide, which was to answer for the tape of
the skirt; a space of threads, six or more inches, was skipped in
the harness and sley; the thread for the tape again passed through
the harness and sley; another skip, and so on the length of the
sley. When ready for weaving, one of the encased steels was placed
in the openings of the narrow strips of warp, the steel projecting
about three inches on each side of the outside tape; the steel was
woven in; then about two inches or more of tape was woven; another
steel was placed in; the same length of tape woven; another steel,
and so on till all the steels required for the skirt were woven in.
The space of tape for the top of the skirt was then woven, and half
of the skirt was finished. The other half was woven in the same
manner; the projecting ends of the steels were joined and closely
wrapped, and the hoopskirt was complete so far as the weaving was
concerned.

These skirts were neat and satisfactory when finished off by hand.
The weaving was slow and difficult, however, because the shuttle
could not make a clean shoot through the narrow openings of warp,
but had to be passed through each one by hand. The maker above
referred to was another humble cottager whose husband and son were
in our army, and to use her quaint expression, she was trying “to
make both buckle and tongue meet,” while husband and son were
fighting for our cause.

It was really ridiculous, our way of making raids upon what
remained of our fine bed-linen, pillow-shams, and slips, for
garments of finer texture than our own home-woven cloth. I well
remember that once, when I stepped into a friend’s room, her very
first words were, “This is the last bleached, seamless bed-sheet
I’ve got, and now I must cut it up for garments!” I doubt very
much if a fine sheet could have been found in any house in our
settlement when the war closed. Perhaps there was not one in the
blockaded South.

Fine white pillow-shams were cut up and made into white waists, to
wear with our heavy home-made skirts in the hot summer. Sometimes
a family would happen to have a bundle of scraps of blue striped
bed-ticking, which would be divided around among the neighboring
girls. We would ravel it all up, taking care to save every blue
thread (which was a fast color) to embroider flowers on the front,
collar, and cuffs of our white waists, made of pillow-shams and
slips; and we did think them beautiful and prized them all the more
highly because of the narrow pass to which we had arrived for fine
material to tide us over till our cause should be won; and if we
used up all the fine sheets, pillow-slips, and shams of ante-bellum
days for our wear, soft homespun, home-woven sheets took their
place.

Cloth that was called thirded was woven for sheets and
pillow-slips. Two threads of warp would be passed through the reeds
of the sley for all plain or twilled cloth. For single sleyed cloth
one thread only was passed through the sley-reeds. For cloth woven
“thirded” the weaver would begin by drawing two threads through the
first reeds of the sley and one thread through the next reeds, two
threads again, and then one, thus alternating the width of the warp
two and one. When filled in with soft fine-spun filling, this stuff
was soft and yielding, and easy to handle in the wash.

Some real nice towels were woven of the thirded cloth, and edged
with wide or narrow blue borders of our home-made indigo, as that
was ever a fast color. A fringe would be formed at both ends of
the towel by raveling out an inch or so of the woof; they had to
be inspected closely to note the difference between them and those
bought in the usual manner.

Many of our women, when cotton was at its prime in opening, and
before any rain had fallen on it, would select and pick themselves
from the bolls that were the longest and fullest of the white
fleecy staple, enough for their finest knitting purposes. They
would also pick the seed from the white silky locks with their
fingers, which would spin a longer, finer thread than if it had
been ginned. I have seen socks and stockings knit of such prepared
cotton that, in point of fineness of texture, were almost the
equal, and in lasting power were more than the equal, of those
bought at stores. One of my pupils, who is yet living in southern
Alabama, prepared enough of such thread with her own hands to give
me as a present, with the expressed desire that I should knit for
myself a pair of stockings. I used very fine knitting needles, and
took great care to draw every stitch on the needles so as to have
no unevenness. Three or four inches above the instep I commenced
knitting “shell-work,” which was in fashion then. We could not have
our hose as fine as that which we had once bought, but we tried
to cover that defect by all manner of fancy designs in knitting,
such as “leaf and vine,” “clock-work,” “shell-work,” and plain or
twisted “ribs.” These covered all the upper part of the foot, and
had they been knit of fine white floss they could not have made a
better appearance.

Another article which we learned how to produce was “hair oil.”
We had plenty of roses, fragrant ones too, which we gathered, and
then filled quite a large bowl with their petals, among which we
put enough fresh, white hog’s lard to fill the bowl to the brim.
When melted, a piece of glass was placed over the bowl securely;
it was then put on a scaffold out in the yard, where the rays of
the sun could shine down upon it all day. There it remained for two
or three weeks day and night, until the petals became crisp and
transparent. The mixture was then strained through a thin muslin
cloth into a mug or other small vessel, and we were content with
it, knowing that it contained nothing deleterious to the scalp or
hair.

Although war was raging all around, both on sea and land, yet in
our quiet valley which, we were vain enough to believe, rivaled the
far-famed Vale of Cashmere, everything moved on the even tenor of
its way. We were happy and contented, both master and slave. Late
on Saturday afternoons, the weekly rations for the slaves were
given out; and in addition to them would be given for Sunday cheer,
flour, lard, butter, sugar, and some substitute for coffee, as real
coffee had been given before the war. They had the privilege also
of vegetables and fruits. On Sundays the slaves would do their
own cooking. On week days a negro slave was regularly detailed to
cook for the laboring hands, and even provender for the plow stock
was placed in the feed troughs by the “trash-gang,” as they were
called, composed of negro boys and girls not old enough for regular
field work. On week days the laborer had only to take the gear off
the mule and turn it in the lot gate, and then go to dinner ready
waiting for him.

Farmers not owning more than fifteen or twenty negro slaves
generally had all the cooking for white and black done at the same
time. I have often heard farmers say since the war, and laugh
over it, that they had really eaten no good cabbage, turnips, or
collard-greens since slavery times. It used to be necessary to
cook so much bacon for the slaves that vegetables and “greens”
of any variety were well seasoned. During the war when bacon was
very scarce, it often happened that the white household would deny
themselves meat to eat, so as to give it to the slaves, as they had
to toil in the field.

If a negro was sick, a doctor, who was already paid, was called in
all haste, as planters used to engage a doctor by the year, at so
much for each slave whether large or small.

One negro boy called “Jim,” about eighteen years of age, was quite
sick of a fever one fall. His master and mistress had him brought
from the “quarter” over to the dwelling-yard and placed in the
cook’s cabin, so that he might be given close attention. One or the
other watched him day and night (for he was a very valuable boy)
and gave the medicine. One Saturday during his illness his master
had to go to the city for some purpose, and he asked me to help
his wife and daughter care for Jim that day, saying, as he stepped
into his buggy, “Now be careful of Jim, and see to it that he lacks
for nothing; if he dies, I’ve lost one thousand dollars, good as
gold.” It was nothing uncommon then for able-bodied young negro men
to be valued at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. If
Jim be living to-day, I know he has not forgotten our giving him
his medicine and gruel at the regular hours, heating hot bricks and
placing them at his feet as the doctor ordered, nor how I burned my
fingers muffling the hot bricks.

Very often the sick negroes would be brought right into their
masters’ houses, so as to be more closely watched.

Then there were the annual barbecues that each and all planters
gave without fail to their slaves when the crops had all been laid
by, which semi-holiday weeks embraced the last of July and the
first of August. I remember in particular one barbecue roast that
I witnessed one night in company with the household. The “pits”
were some little distance from the mansion, and were half filled
with red-hot coals of oak and hickory wood, over which the flesh
of whole dressed beef, mutton, and shoats were slowly roasting,
lying on a grate made of split staves of oak or hickory wood. A
goodly-sized vessel, containing vinegar, butter, salt, pulverized
sage, pepper, and thyme, all mingled together with a “swab,” stood
in close proximity to the barbecuing meat. Every now and then the
roasting flesh would be turned over with long oak sticks sharpened
smoothly to a point at one end, which answered the place of forks;
deep and long incisions would be made in the barbecuing meat, and
with the swab a good basting of the mixed condiments from the
bowl would be spread over; the process of turning the roasting
flesh over the glowing red coals and basting with the seasoning
continued till the meat was thought to be thoroughly done. It would
sometimes be far beyond the hour of midnight before the barbecuing
meat was removed from the “pits,” and I yet think that such
barbecued meats cannot be surpassed by any other sort of cooked or
roasted meats. When cold and sliced, it was certainly delicious.
A night barbecuing was a weird scene. Blazing pine-torches heaped
on the rude stands improvised for the occasion threw a ruddy glow
out over the dark forest, giving an uncanny aspect to the long
thick moss swaying sylphlike in the night breeze. Some of the
negroes would be tending the roasting flesh; some with the swab,
basting with the seasoning; some laughing loud enough to wake the
sleeping echoes; some lazily stretched out on the ground thinking
of to-morrow’s feast. Now and then some one would “pat Juba,” as
they called it, while the dim light of the moon and stars peeping
through the heavy foliage, together with the savory smoke rising
from the pits, enhanced the strangeness of the fête.

When the morrow came, two or three long tables were set in the
far-reaching shade of grand old oaks, whose every limb was hung
plentifully with the long gray moss that is so common in the
southern part of the Southern States, and which imparts to the
trees in that section an aspect strikingly patriarchal.

The tables would be weighted with the flesh of the ox, mutton,
pork, and great pans of chicken pies, as well as fruits,
vegetables, and light bread and cakes of our bolted meal. Seats
were arranged all around, and old and honored negroes, called to
preside at the heads of the tables, would bid them all to seat
themselves,--by fifties, it often was,--when, with hands uplifted,
they invoked the divine blessing.

Many in southern Alabama yet retain a vivid recollection of these
regular annual barbecues, given to the slaves when the crops had
all been “laid by.”



X.


Often have we sat on the colonnade of that lovely Alabama home, and
wondered if any part of the world could be more beautiful. We would
number the stars at night as they peeped forth one by one, in the
clear blue vault above, until they became innumerable, and then
the full moon would deluge the whole scene with its shining flood
of light. Or perhaps it would be in the deepening twilight, when
the heavens were unrelieved by moon or star, that the soul would
be touched, as the drowsy hum of nature’s little wildwood insects
came stealing gently on the ear. Not infrequently the mocking-birds
would trill their varied notes, or we would hear the faint tinkle
of bells as “the lowing” herds wound “slowly o’er the lea.” In the
distance the negro plowmen were returning homeward chanting their
“corn song.” Ah! but those old “corn songs” had melody then! They
lent enchantment to all the surroundings. Even yet they call from
out the misty shadows of the past a host of memories, when they
fall upon ears that were wont to listen to their quaint refrain in
days gone by.

Often Uncle Ben, on the colonnade or in the hall, would while off
on the violin that his master had given him pleasing plantation
melodies, accompanying his performance with his rude singing. He
would seem almost transported with ecstasy, as he used to stand
with head thrown back, eyes shut, and foot vigorously keeping time;
and often as he drew forth his artless strains a dozen or more
negroes, old and young, would be dancing in the white, sandy yard,
as merrily as “birds without barn or storehouse.”

Sometimes, in the solemn hush of the closing Sabbath eve in the
country, sweet strains of song would float out upon the air from
the negroes’ quarter. Many large planters had preachers employed
to teach and preach regularly to the slaves. One Sabbath night I
yet remember above all the others. Our day of gloom was drawing on,
we could no longer close our eyes to the fact that our cause was
drooping; our soldiers were meeting with reverses on all sides,
hope was only faintly glimmering. Cast down and disquieted as we
were that night, the services at the negro church made a deep
impression upon our minds. They sang an old time song, the refrain
of which we could just catch. When they began the first verse,--

      “Where, oh where is the good old Daniel?
      Where, oh where is the good old Daniel?
      Who was cast in the lion’s den;
      Safe now in the promised land.”

When they would strike the refrain,--

      “By and by we’ll go home to meet him,
      By and by we’ll go home to meet him,
      Way over in the promised land,”

we could almost imagine they were on wing for “the promised land,”
as they seemed to throw all the passion of their souls into the
refrain, and fancy would almost hear the rustle of wings, as the
deep swelling anthem rolled forth. Again it would be,--

      “Where, oh where is the good Elijah?
      Where, oh where is the good Elijah?
      Who went up in a chariot of fire;
      Safe now in the promised land.”

And the chorus,--

      “By and by we’ll go home to meet him,”

would peal forth again in loud-shouting strains. I hushed my breath
to hear the mellow strains of that song, and seemed to see the
mantle of our lost cause descending.

It was about this time that a letter came from my father, saying
one of the soldier brothers was at home on a twenty-one days’
furlough. This was the first’ home-coming since the commencement
of hostilities in 1861. My presence was again desired at home, to
meet with the long-absent brother. But by some irregularity of the
mail, it so happened that my letter had been delayed, and I saw by
the postscript and date that my brother would be leaving for the
front again before I could possibly reach my father’s house. Yet a
great yearning came over me, on reading his kindly letter, to see
my father again. Soon I was homeward bound once more, disappointed
and pained at not being in time to see my brother. I gave little
heed to the landscape spread out as the train swept onward; but my
heart gave a glad bound when the waters of the Chattahoochee river,
sparkling in the bright sunlight, greeted my eyes, for now I should
soon be at my father’s house.

Here and in all the surrounding neighborhood, as far as I could
see, the same vigorous efforts were put forth to feed and clothe
the soldiers of our Confederacy, as well as the home ones,
that I had witnessed in southern Alabama. There was the same
self-sacrifice, without a thought of murmuring for the luxuries
enjoyed before the war. Yet with the nicest economy, and the most
studied husbandry,--however generously the earth might yield of
grain, fruits, and vegetables,--the South was awakening to the
painful reality that the produce grown on our narrowing space of
Confederate soil was inadequate for the sustenance of those at
home, our soldiers, and the Northern soldiers whom we held as
prisoners. We were not only encompassed by land and water, but the
Confederacy was divided in twain by the gunboats of the Federals
on the Mississippi River. With nearly all the soldiers from west
of the Mississippi River in the eastern half of our Confederacy,
we had no communication whatever from beyond the great “Father of
Waters.” All aid and succor as regarded provisions and clothes for
our army was at an end from beyond the Mississippi. We were caged
up like a besieged city. There was neither egress nor ingress for
men or means. Our soldiers from the west had to share what little
provisions were grown in our circumscribed limit. They also shared
what clothing could be manufactured in the more and more straitened
condition of the South.

If a soldier from the west drew a furlough he could not get to his
home. Those who had relatives or friends east of the Mississippi
River would spend their leave of absence with them. Sometimes the
soldier from the west would give the furlough he drew to some
friend he had made on this side; or perhaps it would be that the
soldier of our side of the river would send his comrade of the west
to his people and home with a letter of introduction.

I remember a good man and neighbor, who lived near my school,
who had four grown sons in the army, one by one killed outright
in battle, one at Fort Donelson, one at the battle of Franklin,
in Tennessee, another near Chattanooga, the last and youngest at
Chickamauga. A while before the last two were slain, one had drawn
a furlough to come home, but there being in his regiment a comrade
from the State of Texas, to whom he was very much attached, and who
was by no means well, though on duty, this son had the furlough he
had drawn transferred to his Texas comrade, whom he sent to his
father’s with a letter of introduction, asking for his Texas friend
the same welcome that would have greeted himself.

Mr. Saunders, the Texan, came, and was welcomed in Mr. Weaver’s
family as warmly as one of his own sons would have been, the more
kindly by the family and all the neighborhood because he was
debarred from visiting his own home. He spent three weeks in our
settlement, and returned to camp much invigorated in health and
spirits. In less than six months, both the sons were slain in
battle, and a few weeks afterwards Mr. Saunders also fell and was
buried in north Georgia.

My employer also had Texas relatives in our army, who came on their
leave of absence to his home. They could not so much as hear from
their own homes.

To make our situation worse, all the rice-growing lands of Georgia
and South Carolina were overrun by Northern troops; and all the
negro laborers of the large rice plantations, as well as those
lying contiguous to the rice-growing districts, had been decoyed
off by Federal troops, which more and more crippled the eastern
half of our Confederacy, which was then burdened with the whole
Confederate army, as well as thousands of Northern prisoners, to
say nothing of the Federal army camped on this same half of the
South. Corn and what little wheat could then be grown, with rice
and sorghum syrup, formed the base of our supplies. Of course
fruits and vegetables were grown, but being perishable were
worthless for our soldiers or prisoners, so limited were our means
of transportation.

Northern journals often ask why it was that the South gave Northern
prisoners nothing to eat; and I must say here, that there is
a sorrow deep-felt at the knowledge that our soldiers and the
Northern prisoners both suffered for the want of sufficient food to
nourish; they suffered both as to quantity and quality. But I ask
in all candor, how could it be otherwise, hemmed in as the South
was? Not one tenth of the government tithes of grain and meat,
west of the Mississippi River, could reach us; the blockade was all
around; the Federal army’s tents were pitched on Southern soil;
detachments of the Union army were invading the narrowing space of
territory left to raise provisions on, and were decoying off the
laborers and destroying and laying waste the country through which
they marched; every means we had to feed either our army or the
Northern prisoners was disabled.

My brothers wrote home (without murmur or discontent) that they
were living the greater part of the time on parched corn, which
they either bought or begged; that they were foraging around in the
country, on the mountain sides, and in the valleys, for succulent
roots, leaves, and berries to allay the pangs of hunger; sassafras
bushes were stripped in a trice of leaves, twigs, and bark, and
eaten ravenously. They wrote that sometimes for two or three months
they never saw so much as a slice of bacon, and then perhaps for
a week or two a rasher of bacon the size of a pocket-knife would
be issued to each man of their regiment. One of my brothers once
drew from his pocket, when asked about his slice of bacon, the
pocket-knife which he brought home after the war was over, and
said: “It is a fact; the rasher of bacon was no longer, and about
just as thick and wide as this knife.”

Such a slice they held over the fire with bread underneath to catch
the drippings, so as to lose none. A brother-in-law of mine told
me that he, as well as other soldiers of his division, lived on
parched corn most of the time; sometimes they had roasting ears,
either roasted in the ashes or eaten raw; that if they had money,
they would buy the corn; if not, beg it; and at times they would
be so crazed with hunger that if neither money nor begging would
get it, they would steal it. At first the men were punished for
stealing something to eat, but at last the sight of our hollow-eyed
and ragged, emaciated soldiers appealed so to the sympathies of
the officers that they could not find it in their hearts to punish
their men for trying to keep soul and body together with pilfered
corn. Times were almost as hard with citizens all over the South
the last year of the war, as with our soldiers. Corn was twelve
and thirteen dollars per bushel, and our government’s pay to its
soldiers was only eleven dollars per month; so one whole month’s
wages would not quite buy a bushel of corn.

What could be grown of provisions, in the waning of our
Confederacy, was shared equally and willingly between our soldiers
and their Northern prisoners. I verily believe, in the pressing
need of the times the prisoners had the greater share. That was
little enough, to be sure, but in that narrow space that was left
to us as the Northern army advanced, where we had to hold our
prisoners, there was almost no food or forage to be had. When the
great “book of remembrance” is opened to view, on its pages white
and fair the North will surely see, not that the South would not,
but that the South could not, better feed the Northern prisoners,
with all the mighty pressure that was being brought to bear
against us. And of this fact I am very sure that, had there been
an exchange of prisoners between the North and South toward the
last days of our Confederacy, such as there was at first, and such
as the whole South from our chief executive down to the humblest
citizen was begging and praying for, as much for the unfortunate
prisoners among us, as to have our soldiers in the ranks of our
army again, there never would have been an Andersonville.



XI.


Leaving a broken home circle, I returned to southern Alabama, where
everything was moving on as before; the thump of the house-loom and
the whirring of the spinning-wheel were just as regular in every
household; substitutes and expedients were still being devised or
improved upon. There was no diminution of patience or perseverance,
and we still felt, in that section, none of the effects of war,
saving the privations and inconveniences to which allusion has been
made.

We still had our merry social gatherings. Now and then a homespun
wedding would occur, in which the bride and all who were bidden
would be in homespun out and out. We were invited to one such
marriage in our settlement. I wore a homespun dress of my own
labor, but I neither carded, spun, nor wove it. I had become
quite skillful in crocheting capes, vandykes, shawls, scarfs,
and gloves, and as I had had more than enough work carding and
spinning my second homespun dress, I took a neighbor at her word,
when she said: “I’ll give you a hank of thread to crochet me a cape
like yours.” The hank would weave one yard of cloth, and I could
crochet two capes per week, besides discharging my school duties
faithfully. I thus made two yards of cloth clear, as the thread
was furnished for whatever piece I crocheted. More or less in cuts
of thread were paid, according to the article I furnished, whether
shoulder-cape, vandyke, shawl, or gloves. At one time I had so many
hanks of homespun thread that they were quite a weight to lift,
and I was proud of them, too, so proud that if a neighbor came to
spend the afternoon, I always drew forth that bunch of thread from
the large wardrobe where I kept it hanging, for her to view. Beside
having enough for another full homespun dress, and all my knitting
and crocheting, I sent to my mother as many as twenty hanks,
that had been paid me for knitting and crocheting shawls, capes,
vandykes, and similar articles for neighbors.

I had the thread for the dress just mentioned dyed blue with our
home-made indigo, and a deep garnet with a strong tea of pine-tree
roots. One-half was dyed blue, the other half garnet. In the warp
it was four blue, and four garnet threads. Two shuttles were used,
one with a blue quill of thread, the other with a garnet quill, and
the result was a neat and simple plaid. I cut the buttons out of a
gourd shell, and covered them with scraps of red merino. We always
took pains to take such buttons off when our homespuns required
washing. When the stuff had been starched and ironed, we stitched
the buttons on again.

The bride’s dress was woven a solid light gray color, warp and
woof; the buttons were made of gray thread, overcast with white
thread. Special pains had been taken with some white cotton
flannel, three rows of which, about three inches wide, were placed
around the bottom of the skirt, with about three inches’ space
between each row. The cuffs, collar, and shoulder-cape were trimmed
with this white cotton flannel; and from only across the room it
appeared as if the bride wore a real fur-trimmed dress, and the
effect was graceful in the extreme.

Thread was often spun, both wool and cotton, with the band crossed,
so as to knit and crochet with single thread. The wheel-band was
crossed only in twisting thread for sewing or knitting purposes. In
spinning the single strand the band was always uncrossed, unless
we wanted to knit or crochet something very fine and soft, and did
not want it double and twisted. Then it was spun with the band of
the wheel crossed, so that in crocheting or knitting it would not
become untwisted. The cotton thread was bleached by placing it on
a line in the yard, where it hung for two or three weeks in the
sun and dew. It was a common thing to see long rows of hanks of
cotton thread hanging on a line out in the yards or gardens of all
the dwellers of our settlement. Such thread would bleach almost as
white as snow.

Now and then the stern fruits of war were forced upon our community
by the home-coming of some Confederate soldier seriously or fatally
wounded; or by the arrival of the corpse of some one of our
soldiers whom we had seen quit the neighborhood in the flush of
health and confident that the demands of the South would soon be
allowed.

On one occasion I wept with a widow bereft of her only son and
child, who had died in a hospital near Richmond, from wounds
received in battle. She told us that when he had left for the
front, in the midst of her terrible grief, her last words to him as
she held his hand had been, “My son, remember it is just as near
heaven in Virginia as it is here in our home in Alabama.” Years
after the young man had been buried, I happened one Sunday to be
attending divine service in Hamilton, Georgia, and in the course
of his sermon the Rev. William Boothe, a godly Methodist minister,
enforced his text by relating an incident. He told how a young man
native of Alabama, wounded in battle, lay dying in a hospital near
Richmond. The minister, in visiting that hospital, speaking words
of cheer and comfort to the sick, was touched by the sight of the
young man, who, it was plain to see, was in immediate danger of
death. Taking the hand of the dying boy, Mr. Boothe had said in a
kindly, fatherly way, “My son, is there any message or word you
would like me to send, or, perhaps, that I can bear myself to your
people, wherever they may live?” A glad smile lighted up the pale
face of the soldier, who quickly replied, “I am so thankful that
some kind friend will bear a message to my mother, who is a widow
living down in Alabama. I am her only son and child. Please say to
her from me these words: ‘Remember that it is just as near heaven
in Virginia as it is in our home in Alabama.’ There has never been
a night on the tented field, or when entering into battle, when
those words, my mother’s words, and spoken as I left her, have not
been with me.” So speaking, the soldier’s face was lighted up by a
seraphic smile, and he expired.

We were fighting hard at home to keep the upper hand of the
difficulties which hedged us in; we were working and fasting
and praying that victory might reward all our sacrifices and
sufferings, yet day by day the newspapers brought news of defeat
after defeat; day by day they told us of the inexorable advance of
the Federal troops; day by day the conviction strengthened with us
that, struggle as we would, we were on the losing side, and ours
was to go down to history as “the lost cause.” Our soldiers were
living on parched corn, as they had been for a year; they were
going into battle ragged and barefoot and half-starved--in vain.

What a fearful day it was for us, when, in April, 1865, word came
into our placid valley that the Northern army was almost at our
doors! I could not begin to describe our chagrin and terror. In
life one is likely to remember always the exact circumstances under
which the first shock of bad news was received. I know that the
first tidings of the approach of the Yankee forces came to me as I
was about to open the gate leading out on to the public road from
Mr. G----’s homestead. I was on my way to the school, when a man
rode up, and halting an instant said, “General Grierson and his
army are marching from Mobile to Eufaula, and they will probably
reach Eufaula to-night, or early to-morrow morning!”

As Mr. G---- lived near the main highway, he did not expect to
escape the invading army. Now, it seemed, we were to be awakened
from the even tenor of our way, perhaps to know another meaning
for “hard times.” Fear was depicted on every face, for who could
tell but that the morrow’s sun would cast its beams upon a heap of
smoking ruins, and we be bereft of all the property we had.

Teaching school was not to be thought of until our suspense was
over. The blue heavens, so vast and serene, seemed no longer to
clasp, mildly and lovingly, our quiet home in all-embracing arms,
nor to smile upon us in peace and love. “Now,” thought we, “we
shall realize in part, perhaps fully, what ‘Old Virginia’ and the
Border States have passed through for four years, while with us, in
the blockaded interior, all has been so quiet and undisturbed.”

How vividly I remember that day of suspense, as the courier
heralded from house to house his unwelcome message, “The Yankees
are coming!” The explosion of a bomb in each one’s yard could not
have created greater excitement. Planters hastily fled to the
swamps and the deep, unfrequented woods, with their stock and
valuables. At intervals throughout the day, droves of cattle and
hogs were driven past my employer’s residence to hiding-places in
the woods; and wagons and carriages, filled with whatever valuables
could be quickly gotten together, were also passing by.

It was amusing, as well as sad, to see a feather-bed protruding
at least a quarter of its length from a carriage window. In our
great anxiety, appearances were not regarded. The single thought
of the people was to protect themselves and their property as
expeditiously and securely as possible. In the mean time we were
confused and distracted by conflicting rumors. At one time the
report would be, “The army is not a mile off;” then we imagined we
heard guns firing. Again it would be, “They are not coming this way
at all.” Then, “They are only half a mile off,” and we were sure we
saw the smoke from some burning dwelling or gin-house.

It was a day of unceasing flurry and excitement, and as the
lengthening shadows gave warning that night was drawing on, with
troubled feelings we looked from face to face, for no one was left
to meet the Federal army, should it pass by on our road, save women
and children and the negro slaves. Mr. G---- was in a deep swamp,
about half a mile from his dwelling, with all the stock and what
was most valuable. His presence with us would have done no good,
for if the enemy had come, he might have been hung before our eyes;
or he might have been tortured to make him tell where his gold and
silver were hidden. Men were so treated in many instances.

There were some comical places thought of in which to hide gold,
silver, jewelry, and other valuables. A lady of our settlement
wrapped her watch and chain, bracelets, and a valuable breast-pin,
together with some other jewelry, in an old faded rag, and tossed
it into the middle of a large rose-bush in her front yard. There
it remained secure, although the house and yard were filled with
Yankee soldiers, who searched the house, turning up beds and
mattresses, pulling the clothing out of the wardrobe and bureaus;
and yet that rose-bush kept its secret.

Another young woman took her father’s bag of gold and silver, and
ran to the hen-house and put it beneath the nest of a setting hen.
An old lady put all her jewelry in a small jar, cemented the top
tightly on, placed it in an old bucket, and let it down into her
well. When all things had settled down quietly, and it was safe
to draw the jar from the well, nothing was found to be soiled or
injured in the least. Another filled an old ash-hopper with bacon,
covered it with a cloth, put ashes over that about half a foot
deep, then with straw built a hen’s nest or two, and placed some
eggs in them; and of course the Yankee soldiers cared nothing for
that insignificant ash-hopper and its hen’s nest.

As darkness closed in, we sat with folded hands and bated breath,
listening for the tramp of the mighty Northern host, with the
unexpressed thought, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that
I dwell in the tents of Kedar!” In the midst of silent reveries
around the fire, for the night was chill, and a fire had been
kindled, in part to dispel the gloom and dread of our feelings,
one of the daughters turned to her cousin and said, “Annie, what
will you do if the Yankees come?” “Ooo-oo-o!” with hands upraised,
was the reply. Then cousin Annie turned to her cousin, after a
long pause, and asked, “Marie, what will you do if they come?”
“Umph-mph-ph,” with eyes dilated, was Marie’s reply. Never a
word was spoken save that question, followed by an inarticulate
exclamation. Finally it seemed so ludicrous that we all broke forth
into merry peals of laughter, which served as a safety-valve to our
genuine depression.

A married daughter of Mr. G----’s was living in a small cottage
near her father’s, built so that he might have his daughter under
his care while her husband was away in our army. The married
daughter did not feel disposed to leave her house exposed, but was
too much alarmed to remain alone that night with her two small
children. So she urged me to stay with her, as her mother would
have the cousin and two older daughters. As I was going down the
colonnade steps, with the two young girls, aged between nine and
eleven, Mrs. G---- called to me, “Miss A----, if the Yankees come,
I shall be sure to send Martha (the colored nurse girl) to tell
you.” “All right,” I replied, “you’ll see how fast I shall get to
you.”

In painful apprehension we sat long on the porch. It was one
of those half-moonlit nights, so calm that the stillness was
oppressive. But exhausted nature demanded her tribute, and finally
we sought rest from the day’s worry and suspense in sleep, uneasy
though it might be. God only knows how fervent and plaintive was
the prayer that ascended that April night in southern Alabama,
from hundreds of dwellings peopled only by women, children, and
negro slaves. As I pillowed my head, I called up soul-comforting
passages from the Bible, none bringing greater solace than,
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear
Him.” The ninety-first Psalm, that I had committed to memory in
Sabbath-school, now came to mind like a great wave of consolation.

I was just bordering upon the edge of sleep, when I was suddenly
startled by a loud and hurried knocking on the door, and
immediately recognized the voice of the negro girl, who was
excitedly crying out, “Miss A----, missis say come down dar quick,
de Yankees coming.” I sprang with a sudden bound into the middle
of the room, gathered up shoes and stockings in one hand, dress
and other garments in the other, and dashed out in the shadowy
night, with the two little girls, who had just as hastily left
their bed, and now clung on either side of me in their long white
night-robes. A dark cloud skurried across the moon and obscured
its light for a moment, making the night darkish, but in another
instant all the clouds had rolled by, and left the moon clear,
so that the shadows of the great oaks were distinctly outlined,
quivering beneath our feet as we flew past. One of the little girls
tripped, but managed to gather herself up quickly, without ever
letting go of me, to whom she clung with the grip of the Old Man of
the Sea.

As we reached the side entrance of the main yard, and passed
through the gate, we found the yard swarming with the negro
slaves; passing the kitchen, which was detached from the main
dwelling-house (as at all Southern homes in those days), Uncle Ben
and Aunt Phillis were standing in the doorway. They craned their
necks, shaded their eyes with their hands, and peered forth at
us in the darkness, as we passed swiftly by. “Well I’clare fore
God”--The rest of the sentence was lost in our hurried flight. We
jammed against Aunt Jemimah, the regular washerwoman, who held in
her hands a pair of cotton-cards, and on whose arm was hanging a
wisp of white cotton rolls. She threw up her arms at sight of us,
the wisp of rolls floating lightly away on the night breeze. When
she recognized us, she exclaimed, “Lors, chilluns, I did just tink
you was ghosses.”

We entered the house by the back door, just in time to find all in
great confusion, caused by a false alarm. The home guards, composed
of old men and young boys of the county, had that afternoon
disbanded in the city of Eufaula, knowing that General Grierson
would arrive that night or the next morning, and that resistance
would be useless. So they deemed discretion just then the better
part of valor, and here they were, returning home by the road on
which my employer’s plantation lay, their expectation being that
the Federal commander would march his column into Eufaula by a road
on the other side of our settlement.

When the horses’ hoofs struck the bridge that spanned a large
creek, three or four hundred yards from Mr. G----’s mansion, the
sounds, borne on the still night air with startling distinctness,
were naturally mistaken by lone women and children for the advance
of the terrible Yankees. When the Babel-like confusion had ceased
we presented a droll tableau, for, acting on the impulse of the
moment, no one had paused to think of personal appearance.

When asked what she was going to do with the cotton-cards and wisp
of rolls, Aunt Jemimah’s reply was, “Oh, lor bless yer, honeys, I
didn’t know I had ’em.” It had been usual to allow the negroes the
use of the wheels and cotton-cards, and cotton was given them, in
case they wished to spin their own stocking-yarn or sewing-thread
at night.

The negroes, too, had been expecting the Yankee army, and hearing
a great clashing of horses’ hoofs on the bridge, thought with
the rest of us, “They are coming now.” So large and small left
the “quarter” and came over to “Marster’s,” as they called the
dwelling-house and yard, to see the Federal troops. Perhaps some
may have come with the design of going with the Yankees. The
cottage of the married daughter and the negroes’ quarter were about
equally distant from my employer’s residence, but in opposite
directions, so that by the time I had reached the yard of the
dwelling, I found myself in a surging mass of black humanity.

In calling to mind the scenes of that night, I have often thought
that had the Federal army really come, and the two little girls and
I dashed into view in our long white robes, fleeing as if on the
wings of the wind, we should have caused the moving host to halt.
And oft as memory recalls those scenes I rub my eyes and ask, “Can
it be that on that long April night in 1865, while the Federal army
was marching into Eufaula by another road, we women and children,
surrounded by negro slaves, were the sole occupants of that exposed
house?” Yet so in truth it was. We felt no fear of the slaves.
The idea of any harm happening through them never for one instant
entered our minds.

But now, not for my right hand would I be situated as I was
that April night of 1865. Now it would by no means be safe, for
experience is showing us that in any section where the negro forms
any very great part of the population, white men or women are in
danger of murder, robbery, and violence.



XII.


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.

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 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, “Stonewall”
Jackson, 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. Away dashed the
soldiers, sure of a rich prize. Meantime the planter had had time
to flee with his stock to a secure hiding-place, 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, 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.

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 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 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 dining-room, 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.

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 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.



XIII.


The return of our soldiers after the surrender, in their worn and
ragged gray, as they tramped home by twos, threes, and sometimes in
little squads of half a dozen or more, was pitiable in the extreme.

Some were entirely without shoes or hats; others had only an
apology for shoes and hats. They were coming home with nothing; and
we could almost say, coming home to nothing; for many verily found,
when they reached the spot that had been to them a happy home,
nothing save a heaped-up mass of ruins left to them. Often as I sit
in the twilight and drift back into the past, it is not easy to
restrain tears, as memory views those soldiers in their worn gray,
marching home, sad and depressed, with the cause they had so warmly
espoused, lost.

Though not coming rejoicing, as did the Athenians and Spartans from
the battle of Platæa, they were just as dear to the hearts of
their kindred at their ruined homes, as if they had come marching
in triumph, with olive-wreaths encircling their brows.

Need there be wonder if, for a few weeks, it seemed as though we
were petrified,--scarcely knowing which way to turn, to restore
order out of such chaos! Another day of fasting and prayer was
called in our adversity that our spirits might be tempered to
bear the result. But our thoughts soon turned resolutely from the
gloomy picture, the more readily when we remembered how the South
had met emergencies during the war, until she was so environed
and crippled by opposing forces that she _had_ to yield. The same
energy, perseverance, and economy, with the help of an overruling
Providence, would yet make the South smile with peace and plenty.

Our returned soldiers lost no time in making themselves useful in
every sphere of honorable work that then opened. Many of those who
returned in April planted corn and cotton, late as it was, and made
fair crops of both. There was great bother for awhile as to plow
stock, for most of our valuable animals had been carried off by
the invading army.

Three brothers whom I knew, natives of Georgia, owned not one
foot of land nor an animal of any kind, when the war closed. They
reached home among the first of our returning soldiers. They rented
a good piece of farming land, managed to get an ox and an old
broken-down army mule, and set to work in earnest on their rented
land. They “put in” every hour of the sun, and the greater part of
the light of the moon. Neighboring farmers said that at whatever
hour of the night you passed where the brothers farmed, if the
moon shone you would hear them “gee-hawing,” plowing their crop
at night, or the clashing of their hoes in their corn, cotton, or
peas. They are now prosperous farmers, owning broad acres of land
and fine stock. Hundreds of similar cases might be pointed out.

When our soldiers returned we were always deeply interested in
hearing them recount, when we met them at social gatherings at some
neighbor’s house, the straits to which they were reduced toward the
last days of the war, and on the home march after the surrender. A
brother-in-law of mine, who became bare as to pants, and had no way
of getting any in his then distressed state, had recourse to his
army blanket, and having no scissors with which to cut the blanket,
he used his pocket-knife for that purpose. He sharpened a stick
with his knife to make holes in each half of the blanket, which he
tied up separately with the raveling of the blanket: making each
leg of the pants separately. They were tied around his waist with
a string. He managed to get on for quite a while with his blanket
pants, but met a comrade more fortunate than the rest of the
soldiers of our cause, in that, beside having a passable pair of
pants, he had rolled up under his arm a half worn osnaburg pair of
pants, also. These my brother-in-law bought of him for four hundred
dollars. He wore them home after the surrender, and that same
half-worn, four-hundred-dollar pair of osnaburg pants did service
for some time on the farm after the war.

When one of my brothers, who was taken prisoner at Appomattox
during the last days of fighting in Virginia, and who was sent to
Point Lookout in Maryland, was paroled with many others, and sent
by steamer to Savannah, Georgia, he and they had to “foot it” the
greater part of the way to Columbus, Georgia, where most of them
lived, inasmuch as the Federal army had torn up the railroads and
burnt all the bridges. They were all more or less lacking as to
clothing, but one of the comrade’s clothing was in such bad plight
that he could scarcely make a decent appearance on the road, much
less appear in his own settlement. As they were nearing Columbus,
they stopped and advised together as how to overcome the deficiency
in their comrade’s wardrobe. One of the soldiers happened to have a
silver dime (a thing quite rare in those days), which he gave his
needy comrade to buy a pair of pants with. They had the good luck
to get a half worn pair of jeans pants at a small farm-house in the
piney-woods, for the ten cents, and these the soldier wore home.

Five or six years after the war, these two comrades, the one who
had given the silver dime and the one who had bought the pants
with it, met in Columbus, Georgia. They had been together in
camp, in prison, and on that long walk home from Savannah to
Columbus, through the grand stretches of piney-woods, covered with
the green luxuriant wire-grass of southwestern Georgia, and they
recognized each other immediately. One drew from his pocket a crisp
five-dollar bill and handed it to the giver of the silver piece,
saying, “Take this, old fellow, in grateful acknowledgment for that
silver dime I bought those pants with; for I might almost say, ‘I
was naked and ye clothed me.’”



XIV.


Just as soon as the railroads could be repaired and bridges builded
anew, I made haste to get to my father’s again to find how all had
gone with them while our foes were marching through Georgia. I had
tried for three months or more to get a letter or message of some
sort to them, as they had to me, but all communication for the time
being was completely broken up. I had spent many sad hours thinking
of those at home, and was almost afraid to hear from them; but as
soon as a train ran to Columbus, I ventured forth.

I had traveled over the same road time and again, on my way to
and from home, but now as I beheld the ruins of grim-visaged
war, whichever way I cast my eyes, I must confess to a somewhat
rebellious and bitter feeling. There are moments in the experience
of every human being when the heart overflows like the great
Egyptian river, and cannot be restrained. “O thou great God of
Israel!” I cried, “why hast thou permitted this dire calamity
to befall us? Why is it that our homes are so despoiled?” And I
marveled not at the captive Hebrews’ mournful plaint, as by the
rivers of Babylon they hung their harps on the willows.

As the train slowed up on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee
River, I looked eagerly over to the opposite bank, where the home
of my father was situated. For a few seconds my pulse must have
ceased to throb, as I beheld the ruins of the city of Columbus.
With others I took my seat in an omnibus and was driven to the
river’s edge, there to await the coming of the ferry-boat which had
been built since all the bridges on the river had been burned by
the hostile army. The scene seemed so unreal that like Abou Hassan,
the caliph of fiction, I was thinking of biting my fingers to make
sure I was really awake. Had I not had my coin in my hand to pay
the ferryman, I should have imagined we were all shades, flitting
about on the shore of the Styx!

In musing silence, I could but say, O swift-flowing Chattahoochee,
is it thus I behold thee? Thou flowest in almost pristine
loveliness. Where are your huge bridges, that linked the green
hills of Alabama with the beautiful city of cottages and flowers?
Where are the cotton mills and machine-shops that lined your
banks,--mills which from early morn until the sun set sent forth an
incessant hum? Is it thus that I behold thee, city of my fathers?

My reverie was broken when the ferry-boat reached her landing; but
things all still seemed so strange that I could scarcely believe I
was not dreaming. I realized everything better when I saw soldiers
in blue moving hither and thither. I had heard while on the train,
how General Willson had ravaged, pillaged, and burnt, as he passed
through Alabama. Here were his soldiers who had laid Columbus in
ruins; here were they of whom I had been told that their route
from Columbus to the city of Macon, one hundred miles, could be
plainly traced by the curling smoke arising from burning dwellings,
gin-houses, barns, bridges, and railroad ties.

I was not long in getting to my father’s after I had left the city
of Columbus. And there was a joyous surprise in every respect, for
nothing had been disturbed at his residence save some corn, fodder,
and other food, which had been appropriated by raiding soldiers.
I found both of my brothers home. The one who had been carried to
Point Lookout had arrived only two days before. The one who had
been taken prisoner about three months before the surrender managed
to make his escape the night following the day he was captured.
It was a dark, sleety night, my brother said, and he had found it
quite easy to elude the sentinel. First he went, as he supposed,
about a mile from the camp; then he lay down on the frozen ground
with his army blanket, not daring to light a fire, for fear of
recapture. When the sun rose he took his bearings, and began his
long tramp for home. This journey had occupied many weeks, as all
traveling had to be done at night, and often he was in imminent
danger of being recaptured, as the whole country through which he
was passing was filled with Federal cavalrymen. Creeks and rivers
had to be waded or swum; deep and almost impenetrable swamps had to
be passed. Once in the thick woods he had come near running into
what he supposed to be a deserters’ camp, from the surroundings he
descried by the pale glare of the pine-knot camp-fire, but what
really was a camp of Northern soldiers. He subsisted on roots and
leaves, sometimes calling at a house after dark to beg a few ears
of corn, which he parched and ate; sometimes he enjoyed a rare
dessert in the berries of the hawthorn bush.

One blustering March night, just as the clock had told the hour
of two, the watch-dog at my father’s was heard baying furiously
at the front gate. There was some one at the gate speaking to the
dog, as if trying to quiet him. My father arose, opened the door,
and when he could make his voice heard, he called out, “What’s
wanting?” “It’s N----, ‘Drive’ (the dog’s name) won’t let me come
in.” At the name “N----,” our mother sprang from the bed with a
loud and joyful shout that he who had been mourned as dead was
alive and home again. My sisters, who were sleeping up-stairs, were
also aroused by the furious barking of the dog. They arose and
raised the window-sash just in time to hear, “It’s N----.” Their
window dropped like a flash of lightning, and then such a getting
down-stairs as there was! One or two chairs were knocked over in
the scramble for the head of the staircase, and one toppled the
whole flight of steps, making a great racket, in the middle of
the night, as it thumped the steps one by one. The candle, which
some one had managed to light while the sash was being raised, was
let fall when about in the middle of the flight of steps, and in
the then utter darkness one of my sisters stumbled over the chair
that had preceded her to the bottom of the stairs, and all came
pell-mell into the dark hall. My brother told me afterward that
he could not move for some time, he was so tightly pinioned when
finally taken to his mother’s heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

What a change from 1861, when all were so buoyant and full of fiery
patriotism, with never a thought of being overcome! Now our cause
was lost, all our homes more or less despoiled, the whole South
seemingly almost hopelessly ruined, every little town and village
garrisoned by the troops who had overcome us by great odds.

Yet after all our great and sore afflictions, I found only
cheerfulness and Christian resignation at the end of these
troublous war times, and the hope that we might yet rise above our
misfortunes.

In closing, I must say that I know that the people of the Southern
States are now loyal to the Union; their reverence for the stars
and stripes is strong and pure; and it pierces like a sword, our
ever being taunted and distrusted. Accepting all the decisions of
the war, we have built and planted anew amid the ruins left by the
army who were the conquerors. We are still poor; but we believe
firmly that in our new life, under God, we are destined to a
brilliant career of prosperity and glory. Come, happy day!



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

  Pg 34: ‘seams were calked’ replaced by ‘seams were caulked’.

  Pg 42: ‘production was was used’ replaced by ‘production was used’.

  Pg 126: ‘with ecstacy, as’ replaced by ‘with ecstasy, as’.

  Pg 129: ‘communication whatevever’ replaced by
          ‘communication whatever’.





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