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CHAPTER III—WAR 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 all right.

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 successfully.

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 Sherman's men.

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 the trip.

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 Creek.

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 become misplaced.

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 year.

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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