Legend Of The South

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One morning Uncle Jerry came home leading a limping horse. “Where on earth did you get that animal?” exclaimed my mother.

“Wal, Miss Sallie,” he drawled, “one o’ dem bluebellied Yanks wuz ‘bout ter shoot hit an’ I sez, sez I, better save dat bullit—you mought need hit. Den I lowed I’d nok ‘im in de haid. Stead o’ doin’ dat, I hid ‘im down in de swamp.”

The horse’s leg was broken, but Uncle Jerry had done a good job of splinting it. Within a month that horse could walk with only a slight limp. It was a fine, beautiful beast and was the only one we had for use around the place for several years. Uncle Jerry named him “Happenwell De Good Lord Provides For De Needy” and called him “Happenwell” for short.

For the full four years of the conflict Newstead was more or less the social center for the young gallants--friends of our friends, my brother’s associates, and our relatives gathered here in large numbers. Once my brother sent us word to prepare a “feast and frolic,” that he was coming in company with General Stephen D. Lee and a number of his soldiers. We had a quantity of food prepared, thanks to Uncle Jerry and Aunt Melissie. There were even salads, cakes, and puddings. We did not know when the guests would arrive, so we had the banquet table spread but kept the food stacked in a large cupboard.

A number of my girl friends had arrived for the occasion and we girls and Mother were in the front part of the house watching for the boys when from the dining room came the “clang, clang” of the dinner bell. We rushed down the hall to see what it was all about. We found a dining room full of Yankee soldiers. The food was on the table and they were about to sit down to eat.

Mother, with quiet dignity, stepped to the door and said, “Gentlemen, if any of you die after eating that food, I want those who survive to distinctly remember —I did not invite you to eat it.” Those soldiers looked sick. Some deliberately walked out, but a few tasted sparingly of the food, then left as quickly as they had come. Just what their mission had been, my mother never knew.

There was sufficient food left for our guests, and when they did arrive, near midnight, we had a most delightful time. However I was doomed to a bit of disappointment. On these visits from my brother and his friends, I hoped that among them would be the young cannoneer whose dashing smile had become an indelible reflection on my memory.

Modesty forbade my mentioning my desire to meet this young man. However I was greatly flattered on being informed that night of the fact that that selfsame cannon had been named “The Cornelia Barrett” in my honor.

“The Cornelia Barrett” was attached to Company A, 1st Mississippi Artillery, Withers’ regiment, and Buxton Townes Ligon was the cannoneer. I made a beautiful silk Confederate flag and presented it to the officer in charge of the regiment.

It was almost a year before my fondest hopes were gratified. Buxton Townes Ligon, in the meantime, was promoted to lieutenant. We were having an impromptu open house when in he walked, wearing his new uniform. He was as handsome as a picture, and although he had grown a mustache and goatee since he had fired the cannon in the yard at our home, I recognized him at once and our first evening together was delightful. He told me that the night following the episode of the cannon, he slept on our front porch and dreamed of me all through the night.

Words fail me in my attempt to describe the awful confusion which existed during the last stages of the war when bands of stragglers began coming to Newstead. They came in large numbers to rob and loot, leaving things bare and desolate. At times our soldiers, if anywhere in the vicinity, would hear about it and rush to our rescue. Captain William Montgomery, a very dear friend of the family’s, on several occasions brought his scouts to drive them away as well as to protect us from bodily harm.

During one of the most desperate raids on Newstead there was a Yankee Captain Lloyd who displayed considerable interest in me. One evening, when the servants had gone to their quarters and my mother and I were alone in the big house, Captain Lloyd rode up, dismounted, and hitched his horse at the gate. When we saw what he had done, we trembled with fear—we were at the mercy of that Yankee captain.

However, our fears were soon dissipated. Captain Lloyd bowed gallantly and informed my mother that he had come to protect us—stragglers were beginning to plunder without authority from military headquarters. He was exceedingly pleasant and cultured. As the evening grew cool Captain Lloyd kindled a fire for us.

Sure enough, it was not long before three drunken soldiers blustered in, cursing terribly. Captain Lloyd ordered them to leave. They refused until he drew two big army pistols and told them that he had orders from headquarters to protect that home, and that if he was compelled to shoot, he would shoot to kill. Reluctantly these soldiers left.

As the evening advanced our confidence in Captain Lloyd grew. I stayed up quite late and entertained him —played the piano and sang, and we talked a great deal about our southern life. He asked if he might correspond with me, and I wrote my name and address in his notebook, but thought nothing of it.