Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Yankees are Coming

Before proceeding, I must apologize for the lack of a noted source for this article. Only to my apparent carelessness can I attribute not writing down the source of this excerpt when first obtained. If anyone knows of this article's origins, please let me know and I will give the proper credit.

Still, I hope a few will find this interesting, especially those curious about civilian life during the war.

"In the fall of 1863 we were very much menaced by General Rosecrans' army up about Dalton and Resaca, and every little while we would have an alarm that a raid was coming. A raid was a very amusing thing, or rather, it is amusing to think of now. We would wake up out of our sleep and every- body would spring out of bed saying, "The Yankees are coming; they are only 10 miles out of town; they are coming with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other." That was the watchword. Then we would all try to think what we had that was valuable, although at that time we didn't have much except the family silver and furniture, which were rapidly wearing out. The supply of bed linen was also getting small. The blankets had been all sent to the soldiers long before. Very few housekeepers had blankets as late as 1863. On these occasions the ladies would put on three or four dresses and tie around under the dresses everything that could be suspended and hidden in that way. Hams would be jerked out of the smoke-house, and holes would be dug and every- thing thrown in pell mell. Then we would begin to imagine that because we knew where those things were, the first Yankee that appeared would know, too, and often we would go and take them all up from there and dig another hole and put them in that; so that our yards came to look like graveyards. It is very funny to think of now, but it wasn't funny then-to be flying around in the middle of the night that way. Then, to add to the confusion, the children would wake up and would stare around with a vacant look, and begin saying, "What is the matter? What is the matter?" And then we would tell them "The Yankees are coming."...

The ideas of the children about the Yankees was very funny. As soon as they heard the Yankees were coming they would jump up and get under the bed, or run out of the house. In fact they would have no idea of what they ought to do to preserve themselves. If you told them the house was on fire of course their first impulse would have been to get out of the house, but when you told them the Yankees were coming they didn't know what to do or which way to turn-whether to run out of the house or to get under the bed or go up the chimney.

I remember one night-all these things come up to me now so vividly-1 remember just such a night as I have been describing, when all the children jumped up and got under the bed. We asked what was the matter. Well, "the Yankees were coming." There was one little girl who was terribly frightened. She had no idea whether the Yankees were men, or horses, or what kind of animals they were. She just knew that they were something dreadful. That business went on through the whole of that night; we would hear that the Yankees were six miles off; that they were two miles off, and every sound we heard, whether it was the baker's cart, or anything else, we would think it was the Yankees; that they were actually in town.

On these occasions, after we had secured the things, as we thought, there would be consultations as to which of the servants would be the most trustworthy to do the manual labor -which ones we could take into our confidence, for of course it was necessary to have a Negro man around to lift things. We were obliged to take them into our confidence, and yet we mistrusted them on such occasions, because this was in 1863, and by that time there had been a great many stories told among us of the disloyalty of servants in such emergencies.

On the night I am now speaking of this excitement continued until morning came. Everybody had been up all night, and it would have been a relief to us to have known that the Yankees had come; but after awhile we ascertained that it was an unmistakable demonstration; that the Yankees were really down here about Gadsden, and that the report brought to Rome had come from a very reliable man, who had traveled all night to carry the news. The first alarm came from somebody who had heard of the matter but was not able to report the entire truth. That night and the next morning all was suspense...

Just as we were all expecting the Yankees to come in, and expecting that we were just literally going to be butchered- in fact I don't know what we did think-a courier came rushing into town with the news that Forrest had captured the Yankees and was bringing them in with him as captives. Then there was a reaction, and the excitement was worse than any camp-meeting you ever saw. Everybody was flying from one end of the town to the other. Suppers that were just ready to be cooked were never cooked or eaten; there was a general jollification. Everybody in town felt relieved from a terrible pressure. Forrest came into town and every lady insisted on going up and speaking to the general and shaking hands with him and his forces. My daughter Minnie was a baby at the time, and I took her with me and went up and spoke to him and he took her and kissed her. He told us that his prisoners were coming into town, and he wanted them to eat at once. Everybody went home and there was just a regular wholesale cooking of hams and shoulders and all sorts of provisions that we had, and everything was sent down to the respective camps. We were quite willing to feed the Yankees when they had no guns.

-Testimony of Mrs. Mary A. Ward”



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