CHAPTER IIIWAR INCIDENTS; INGENUITY AND MAKESHIFTS
OF OUR SOUTHERN WOMEN
I HAD this run at Gravel Siding until December of that same
year, when my engine ran off the track, and I was hurt so badly
as to disable me for work for some time.
The country was by this time well in the throes of the Civil
War; so I used this period of my enforced idleness to arrange
as well as possible for the safety of my loved ones. I bought
a place in Cass County, Georgia, where I took my mother and sisters,
together with my wife and little son, remaining among them several
weeks to recuperate.
When I considered myself strong enough, I volunteered for service
in the army, but failed to pass the examination; the doctors saying
my lungs were too weak from my lately sustained injury.
I then went to Memphis and secured work. The Federal forces
were in that town and also in Corinth; so the Memphis and Charleston
road had started their rolling stock South. Some of it went down
to Marion, Mississippi, and some to other points.
The company put a shop at Marion, repaired their engines, and
rented them out, to different roads. I had one of them, and hauled
material for building the road between York and McDowell. After
the track was laid, I ran a ditching train until the road was
ditched out. I then had a freight run until January, 1863.
A week before I left there, I came to Alamuchee Creek, and
found the water very high. I told the conductor that it was dangerous
to undertake to cross the trestle, as I believed it was undermined.
He said: "Very well, we will go back to Bennetts and notify
the Road Master of its condition."
The Road Master arrived about four o'clock in the morning and
ordered the engine fired up, saying we must get away from there,
as nothing was the matter with the bridge. I told him that we
would wait until daylight, as I felt sure the structure would
fall as soon as an engine went on it.
When we arrived at the bridge I asked him to go and examine
it. He did so, and said for me to "come on" as it was
When the engine got about the middle of the bridge, it went
down, and so suddenly, that I went down with it, but I was not
hurt. It took over a week to get the engine out; during which
time, I was running an engine on ditching work.
One day my conductor informed me that the Superintendent said
he was going to have me conscripted for putting that engine in
the creek. Upon receiving this information, I side-tracked to
let a passenger train by, then had my fireman draw the wood out
of the fire-box, and told him to let that engine stay there until
somebody came for her. I boarded the passenger train for Meridian,
and from there went to Lake, a station on the Vicksburg and Meridian
railroad, where the company's shops were located. I secured a
job there and began hauling freight and soldiers.
The work was heavy and the engines so small they couldn't carry
much (the largest having only a thirteen-inch cylinder), so a
man was kept going all the time to accomplish anything.
I well remember going for three days and nights without lying
down, and a man was detailed to keep me awake.
Finally, on one of my trips, I had a "head-on" collision.
I then took another engine that had been deserted by its engineer,
and carried into Vicksburg the last train before the siege. I
was held there for forty-four days, and had many experiences.
The first thing of note was the sight of Grant's army storming
the breastworks. This was kept up several days, until between
the two breastworks the ground was strewn with "Yankees."
There was charge after charge made, but the Federals never succeeded,
as every Confederate soldier had not less than four guns, and
all they had to do, when a charge was made, was to shoot, and
the enemy would fall. Finally, the dead were piled so high that
a flag of truce was sent in to allow the removal of the bodies.
As soon as this was done, they charged again. This was repeated
until General Grant lost thirty-five or forty thousand men.
He then changed his tactics and decided to starve us out, and
kept us interested by firing parrot-guns in the rear, and mortar-guns
on the western side of the river, throwing shot and shell almost
continually. I often saw at night, as many as five mortar-shells
in the air at one time.
A few days after the siege began, five gunboats came up the
river from New Orleans, and attempted to silence the batteries
on the bluff, but failed in their attempt. After firing on them
for three hours, they gave it up and departed. I am sure all those
boats were disabled, or they would have visited us again.
A week or so after the disappearance of these boats, a gunboat
came down the river with the intention of running so close in
that the battery couldn't hit it; but as soon as it was in sight,
at the bend, the batteries turned loose, and the third shot fired
went right through it. It was headed for the bank, but sank until
the cabin just showed above water. One of the crew went floating
down the river on a bale of hay, and the Confederates went out
and rescued him. He gave information in regard to the boat. A
Texas regiment went to said boat the following night, and burned
it to the water's edge. That was the last of the Cincinnati.
By this time meat and bread were getting pretty scarce. The
Government had a big lot of peas, and had a mill that ran day
and night, and when all the corn around there was ground up, started
in on peas, and instead of corn bread, we had pea bread. The meat
supply ran short, and, instead of hogs and beef, we had horse
and mule flesh until the surrender, which took place on the fourth
of July, 1863.
After Vicksburg surrendered we had all we could eat and drink,
for about thirty vessels landed on the evening of the fourth.
They appeared to have been hovering around, waiting to come in.
The set of men that I was thrown with were acquainted with some
of the officers, and we had everything we could possibly need
in the way of bodily comfort.
Four days afterward, the Confederates were paroled and given
the choice of staying in Vicksburg, or leaving the city, just
as they saw fit. I chose to leave and did not meet with any unpleasantness
whatever from the Federals. As I passed through the lines, an
officer asked me where I was going. I replied that I was going
to follow the cause that I had espoused. He said it would be better
to stay with them, as they could give me work. I asked him what
he knew about me, and he replied that I was an engineer, and that
he had had the pleasure of riding on my engine in the capacity
of a "Yankee" spy. Upon my refusal of his offer, he
said, "We will follow you up and capture you again."
I, in turn, answered "all right," adding that I would
keep out of his way if I possibly could; and I did, very
After tramping about sixty miles, I arrived at Brandon, Mississippi,
and upon reporting for duty after my enforced absence of nearly
two months, was given a passenger run from Meridian to Brandon.
Here I remained until the arrival of General Sherman and his army,
when I was compelled to vacate, and had many narrow escapes from
My closest shave came about in this way. I received orders
to take all the passenger coaches I could handle, to Mobile, to
prevent their destruction. With the least possible delay, we began
While on my way, I was flagged by a Confederate scout, who
informed me that Sherman's army was in Meridian, and for me to
take the back track, which I did. At one time I was in sight of
the Federal soldiers, but by a judicious use of steam I escaped
capture, and carried the train to McDowell, remaining there a
few days until the train and engine were side-tracked. Then I
decided to return to Lake Station, and in company with five other
men, started afoot, a distance of over ninety miles by the route
we took. Sherman's forces, or a part of them, were at Meridian,
so we had to take many roundabout ways. I had left my little brown-eyed
girl at Lake Station, and took this trip to see her and learn
how she was faring. I found her well, but much distressed about
me. We enjoyed a happy reunion for a week, then I returned to
McDowell, "footing" it to Meridian, forty miles away.
Arriving at McDowell, I found there was "nothing doing"
so boarded a steam-boat bound for Demopolis, then came by train
to Selma. It was then March, 1864.
I soon secured a job of running an engine for the Confederate
States Government, hauling coal from Calera to Selma, and returning
with corn, which came from the line of road between Selma and
Demopolis. This corn was known as "tax in kind," and
was used by the miners, the coal-mines being located near Buck
The road from Calera to Buck Creek was the South and North
road, built by the Confederate Government for the purpose of getting
coal for naval works in Selma, and for shipping to Mobile in barges.
While I was on this run, rather an odd incident occurred.
The rail then was light and instead of using angle-plates for
connecting the rails, chairs were used, in which the rails were
slipped, and spiked to the ties. These spikes were only placed
at the joints and centres, hence it was very easy for a rail to
On the occasion to which I refer, a kingbolt came down low
enough to catch a rail put in for a siding, tore it up, and carried
it five miles.
We passed over a bridge two hundred feet long, with the rail
dragging. At a signal from the brakeman, I stopped the train,
and we went back to see what was the trouble. This man reported
that there was a rail under the train, for he had seen it sticking
out on both sides over the track. We failed to find anything,
however, and I said to him, "You must be a little off on
sight." He still insisted that he had seen it.
A few hours later, a train wanted to use the siding that we
had passed, and found that it was a rail short. It couldn't be
accounted for until two days later, when the missing rail was
found five miles from the place, bent in a crescent shape.
One thing of importance going on in Selma was the building
of a gunboat, which was launched in the summer, or fall, of this
At this time Calera was known as Lime Kiln Station, and it
was there I had my small family, which consisted of my wife and
one child. This boy was J. J., junior, who was born at Lime Kiln,
in a one-room house in a part of the place called New Town, which
was owned by the Confederate States Government.
We had rough times then but we enjoyed life as much as we ever
did at any time. Living was high, and it took a lot of money to
buy the common necessaries of life. We lost sight of coffee and
sugar long before the war closed, and our substitutes for coffee
were parched corn-meal, sweet potatoes, okra, etc. What little
flour we were so fortunate as to secure, was saved for pies, to
have on "big" occasions. Blackberry pies were sweetened
with molasses. There were fine, large dewberries growing on the
hills, and when I could get a little time at home, we would wander
through the piney woods and hunt berries.
The price of "store" clothing was now exorbitant
as Confederate money depreciated from day to day. I remember paying
$75.00 to have a pair of boots fronted, and shoes for Frances
usually cost $100.00, and lasted about two weeks. Dress material
was correspondingly high.
While in Selma one day, I decided to surprise my wife by carrying
her back a new dress; so going into a store, I asked to be shown
some calico. The first piece displayed was priced at $45.00 a
yard. I asked the clerk if he had any cheaper than that, and he
threw down a piece for $40.00. I concluded that I didn't want
any; remarking, that I "couldn't work two days for a yard
of calico." So Frances didn't get her dress.
Our noble Southern women throughout this land had little occasion
to purchase clothing during those
never-to-be-forgotten years. With their own delicate hands they
turned cotton and wool, by the various stages, into wearing apparel
for their families.
Every housewife had her cotton cards, spinning-wheel, dyeing-pots,
and loom, by means of which the crude material from her plantation
was carded, spun, dyed, and woven into cloth. As for dyes, the
woods furnished sumac berries for a brilliant red, and walnut
bark for a golden brown color. The indigo plant was cultivated,
and logwood, which dyed black, could be bought. Of course careful
mixing of two or more of these produced other colors.
By combining cotton and wool, a material was made called jeans,
the warp being of cotton and the filling of wool. Of this, coats
and trousers were made for the men and boys. My mother even made
shoes of it, having soles of any kind of tanned leather, for which
skins of cows, foxes, coons, and even dogs were used. As for socks
and stockings, she knitted them, in the good, old-fashioned way,
with many varieties of stitch and mingling of colors. Thus she
furnished the entire outfits for members of her family, keeping
her three "soldier boys," away in the army, supplied
with all necessary clothing.
I failed to say that the colored cotton goods was called homespun,
and was used for ladies' and children's dresses.
The hats were either made of plaited or braided straw, or palmetto;
and the pride our women I took in fashioning and wearing their
hand-made apparel was a beautiful thing to see, and from their
hearts they gaily sang the refrain:
"My homespun dress is plain, I know,
My hat's palmetto, too,
It only shows what Southern girls
For Southern rights will do."
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