- Historic Sites
Legend Of The South
A southern woman’s memoir of a by-gone era
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
On seeing me, the captain rode up to our front steps with a civil greeting. I told him how sorry my mother would be about the destruction of her flowers and asked him to spare what was left of them. He immediately gave orders and the soldiers rode into the walks and driveways. Then the captain dismounted and came to where I was standing on the gallery. He asked me many questions in a gentlemanly manner. I was shy and reticent and he saw that I did not know the answers. Finally he asked me to give him something to read and I gave him a little Bible. He then gave orders to his men and they rode away without any further destruction.
But later on in the day other cavalry appeared, over-flowing both yard and a thirty-acre lawn which the house faced. Everywhere I looked I could see Yankee soldiers. Of course our yard and lawn were ruined. They did not attempt to enter the house, and in the meantime Mother returned— walking. She had left in a carriage, but some Yankees took it away from her before she reached home.
This cavalry was on somewhat of a reconnoitering expedition and after surveying the entire plantation moved on, much to our relief.
When the drive to capture Vicksbnrg was beginning, my brother Thomas and a number of his close friends and relatives were in Withers’ regiment of artillery. They frequently paid us short visits, to be wined and dined in true southern style. Always we would invite our school girl friends to be on hand. My cousin, Jennie Walton, and my chum, Mollie Brock, were with me a great deal of the time. Mollie’s brother, Glover Brock, was in the same regiment with my brother and we girls looked forward to their appearance at any time, day or night.
One morning we awoke to find the Yankees on one side of the Jackson-and-Clinton road and our forces on the other, with Newstead practically in the center of the battlefield, facing the Southerners. The battle commenced at dawn. Minié balls whizzed overhead. Bands were playing on both sides, only to have their notes drowned out by the boom of the cannons. One minute there would be Yankees in our yard and the next there would be Confederates. Then both would clash before our eyes—bayonets to bayonets.
Mollie’s brother rode up to see how we were getting along, and we brought him a drink of water. Before he finished drinking it, a band of Yankee soldiers came into the yard. He had to surrender or run. He chose to run and the last we saw of him he was leaning far over the side of his horse, going at full speed with the enemy in close pursuit, shooting as they went. My chum and I were distressed and wept bitterly. We were greatly relieved several days later when a message came telling us of his safety.
This battle lasted two days and at noon of the second day, when both of the forces were closing in, we received orders to evacuate the house. We were given military escort to a deep gully about a quarter of a mile from the house. Our refuge was shaded by an immense oak tree. En route to the gully, we heard cannon balls tear through the trees, snipping off leaves and twigs. Minié balls whizzed by, missing us by inches. There was a feeling of awe that pervaded the scene. Brother Tom was assigned as one of our escorts.
The Confederate forces had a cannon stationed in our yard—they had moved up that close by the second day. As we passed out the gate en route to the gully, I saw that they were getting ready to fire that cannon and I wanted to see it done. I slowed down a pace, looking over my shoulder, and not only saw it fired but took particular note of the young fellow who fired it. Furthermore the cannoneer saw me. I have carried a mental picture through the years of that sweet, daring smile that he threw me a mere second before the boom of his cannon rent the air.
Uncle Jerry, one of our servants, brought us water to drink throughout the day, risking his life each trip he made. Of course we had nothing to eat. No one thought of food. By six o’clock that evening the armies had moved on toward Clinton and we returned to the house only to find it, as well as the guest house and office building, converted into a hospital. There were over a hundred wounded Confederates and a large number of Yankees.
Among the mortally wounded was a very young Yankee. He was placed on our front gallery to die. As I passed by him, he beckoned me to come closer and I bent over him to hear what he said. He asked me to write a letter to his sweetheart, to whom he was engaged to marry. I wrote just as he dictated, telling how he loved her and wanted her to remain true to him, and that they would meet in the Great Beyond. He asked me to send her the plain gold ring which he took from his finger and requested that I cut a lock of his hair and send that also. The scene was pathetic and tears rolled down my cheeks as I did what he requested. We made the boy as comfortable as possible, but he died that night.
I asked the young lady to please reply on receipt of my message so that I would be sure she received it, but it was six months before I heard from her. In her letter she expressed profound gratitude to me for what I had done.
With Newstead converted into a hospital, my mother rose to the occasion wonderfully. She set aside one of the large rooms in the house for us girls, and we were not allowed to come out except on special occasions.