In the summer of 1862, in the Bayou Manchac country near Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, there was a modest little schoolhouse called the “Dove’s
Nest.” To that school came two young girls to complete a course of
study begun in Baton Rouge before the Federals captured that city.
The country was visited quite often by bands of Confederates,
“Jayhawkers,”[1] and Federals; the slaves on the vast sugar plantations
were in a demoralized condition from being so near the enemy’s lines;
yet the girls braved all these dangers, and rode on horseback (both on
the same horse) three miles through forest and field to attend school.
They had no fear, for both could shoot a pistol, and always carried
a loaded one, and a small Spanish dirk for self-protection. All the
valuable horses on the plantation having been given to the Confederate
army, only two were left for family use, an old one, not of much
service, and a young beautiful bay, the individual property of one of
the girls.
[1] “Jayhawkers” were bands of deserters and outlaws that kept in
hiding from both armies and preyed upon helpless citizens.
This horse the girls rode to school. Naturally he had a shambling,
uncomfortable gait, but the girls determined to teach him to pace,
which they did by the use of a small steel spur.
The days sped on, the year blushed into spring, bloomed into summer,
and the girls grew accustomed to meeting bands of the “Blue and the
Gray,” sometimes riding along only fifty yards apart, yet totally
ignorant of the fact. The girls narrowly missed being shot on one
occasion, as some soldiers were firing down the road for practice, and
the bullets whistled near their heads as they turned a curve in the
lane. The booming of cannon could be heard from the Mississippi River;
now and then a friend was killed in a roadside skirmish; loved ones
were captured and imprisoned; but the little school was undisturbed
outwardly, though thrilled with anxiety and patriotism for the beloved
When the days grew too long and hot for study, the earnest little
teacher decided to close the term with a thorough, old-fashioned
examination, and a modest exhibition.
The neighborhood had been quiet for some weeks and no one feared a
visit from the enemy. The “Dove’s Nest” was prettily decorated, a piano
moved in, and all made ready. The day of the exhibition dawned bright
and fair, the woods were full of flowers, and nature seemed to laugh in
the glad sunshine. The two girls arrived early, and one of them decided
to ride to a friend’s home a mile beyond, for a basket of fresh roses;
she told her friend, the owner of Beauty, of her intention, then sprang
into the saddle and rode away.
When she reached the house she noticed a horse and buggy under an old
oak near by. She knew it belonged to an old bachelor who was slightly
deaf (else he would have been in the Southern army), and that he had
come to take the little teacher to the schoolhouse. When she dismounted
she fastened her horse under the same tree, in full view of the road.
The house was surrounded by spacious grounds, some distance from the
main road, and a broad avenue led up to it from a large outer gate. The
flowers were soon gathered, and after a chat with her friends, the girl
started back, when someone cried, “Just look at the Yankees!”
Sure enough, the house was surrounded and a company was stationed at
the big gate. The family stood together on the piazza, pale with fear,
for they never knew what would happen in those troublous times. The
officer in command told them that they were in need of fresh horses
to make a raid, and had orders to “press” any into service that they
could find. Turning to a soldier he said, “Take that horse from the
buggy, saddle him and see if he is fit for use.” This caused the girl
some uneasiness about her friend’s horse, but she hoped the side-saddle
would save him, as it had done when the Southern army were pressing
horses. Anxiously she waited and listened. When the man returned,
the Colonel said, “Try the other one.” The girl was trembling now;
the horse was not hers, it was the only one the family with whom she
boarded could use to send to mill, or for a physician in case of
illness; and she felt that she could not give him up without an effort
to save him.
“Surely, sir, you are not going to take a schoolgirl’s horse for the
Federal Government!” He smiled and asked her if she could swear that
the horse was hers. She told him no, the horse belonged to a schoolgirl
friend. He looked incredulous and said that he suspected it belonged
to a rebel soldier; and, bowing an apology, again spoke to the man,
“Try that horse.” Like a flash a thought came to the girl. She would
not plead or beg,–she was too proud for that,–but she said:
“Colonel, let me try him for you.”
“Very well,” he replied, much amused. “Bring him up, Lieutenant.” The
girl had no time or chance to ask advice from anyone; but she _wore
the sharp steel spur_. The Colonel politely offered to assist her in
the saddle, but she sprang up without touching his hand. Dressed in
white muslin, with braided hair looped back with pink rosebuds; without
gloves, hat or riding skirt, she slowly started down the avenue in
front of the house. She let the horse shamble along in the ugly way he
liked until he reached the large gate where the company of soldiers
were stationed. They looked surprised to see her riding down alone on
one of the horses they had stopped to take, but thinking it must be all
right, as the Colonel was in view, they lined up, saluted respectfully,
and let her pass out. When she was beyond the last guard, she said,
“Now, Beauty, fly!” and, as she used the spur freely, they did fly. For
some distance they were in full view of the Colonel and her friends who
stood waiting on the piazza for her return, then a curve in the road
put her out of sight.
In a few minutes she heard the clatter of hoofs behind her, but as the
road was hard, dry and level, and she knew every foot of it, she hoped
to outrun her pursuers. Glancing back she saw two soldiers splendidly
mounted tearing after her. The “Dove’s Nest” was in sight now, but the
soldiers were gaining ground. She could hear the clanking of swords,
the rattle of spurs, and the hoof beats. On she flew, faster and
faster, for Beauty seemed to feel, with the rider, that an enemy was
after them. The schoolyard gate was wide open, and she dashed through
it and up to the porch where an eager, startled bevy of girls were
assembled. She jumped off quickly and called to her friend, “Here is
your horse. The Yankees are after him!”
Just then the men rode up, very red, very angry, and somewhat scared,
for they were in dense woods over a mile from their command. They
ordered the girl to get back on that horse and return to the Colonel.
She told them that she would not do anything of the kind; she was a
Southern girl, not subject to Federal orders, and that they could not
compel her to return. The owner of the horse said she would go with
them, but they insisted on the girl who ran away going, too. This she
refused to do, and she told them if they did not want to be captured by
the Southern boys, they had better not linger.
This had the desired effect, and the girl who owned the horse, taking a
small child behind her, rode back with the soldiers. When she arrived,
the Colonel was surprised to see a different girl on the horse and to
know that his men did not overtake the other one. The owner of Beauty
was very pretty, very eloquent and spirited, and she could swear that
the horse was hers, and prove it by people present, so the Colonel
allowed her to keep the horse. Her friend was greatly relieved, and all
rejoiced that Beauty was not surrendered to the Federal Government to
make a raid on our own dear soldier boys! This is a true story, for the
writer was the runaway.
The Federals having left, and Beauty being safe, we proceeded with
our exercises that summer day at the “Dove’s Nest.” We passed a good
examination, and just as we were singing our gayest songs a party of
Confederates rode up. They tied their horses to the windows and doors,
came in, and enjoyed the little concert. After the last melody had died
away and the shades of evening were falling, we rode slowly homeward,
each girl with a soldier boy beside her.
One of the soldiers, in particular, was a reckless, daring young man,
who had shot at the Federals from ambush many times, had captured some
of their horses, and was quite a terror to the raiders. His father’s
home was in that neighborhood, and the Federals were trying to capture
Now, when the boys–for they were only boys–left us at the gate this
particular one forgot his gloves–left them on a gate post. We found
them, took them into the house, and threw them carelessly on the hall
table. There were no millinery stores, in fact no stores of any kind
in the country, so the girls, for riding hats, wore boys’ hats, with a
plume jauntily pinned on the side. We took our hats off and laid them
on the table _by the gloves_. The boy’s nickname, “Little Dare Devil,”
was on the inside of the buckskin cuffs, but we had not noticed it.
That night we were aroused from sleep by the barking of dogs, the
rattling of sabers and spurs. We knew, as soon as we were well awake,
that the Federals were in the house, and, slipping on our wrappers,
we ran to mother’s room, for we could hear them beating on our doors.
We were dreadfully frightened, for there was an unfinished suit of
Confederate gray in the house, and we knew that if it was found the
house would be burned to ashes. Mother, who had the suit in her room,
would not “strike a light” until the suit was concealed, and the
pelican buttons slipped into her pocket.
The Federals kept calling loudly for _light_, and we heard them burst
into our room, saying, “Here they are, boys! The bed is right warm! Be
quick!” We knew, then, that they were looking for Confederate soldiers.
The house was searched from garret to cellar, but, finding no one
except members of the family, the intruders hurriedly departed. Next
morning our hats and gloves were missing, having been taken from the
hall table. A few days after this the Federals were out again, but this
time in daylight. One of the officers came in the house and asked for
a drink of water. While waiting for it to be drawn cool and fresh from
the well (for Southerners were courteous to an enemy when he stood upon
their threshold), he seemed disposed to chat with the girls.
“We came very near catching those fellows the other night,” he said;
“we got their hats and gloves, and saw their blankets on the floor.
Where in the world did they hide, young ladies?”
We were very indignant; and told him that no Southern soldier would
sleep in a private house so near the enemy’s lines, and thus endanger
the lives and property of his relatives and friends. We said that the
hats _were ours_, and we would like them returned, and that the roll
of blankets was used by a little colored girl who slept in the house,
which fact they would have discovered if they had not been nearly
scared to death. The officer looked astonished and seemed somewhat
ashamed of the whole affair, but some of them did not believe us, for
they rode away laughing about the _name inside the gloves_.
“I have come to destroy your tannery and burn down your house.”
The officer spoke calmly, and my father did not answer for a moment.
After school closed I had returned to my home, which was about nine
miles from the Federal lines. We had a small, rude tannery, for our
family, including the servants, was quite large, and, as there was
no place to get shoes in that part of Louisiana, my father employed
a shoemaker and tanned his own leather. Our home was beautiful, with
spacious grounds around it, and every nook and corner was dear to us.
A clear winding stream ran nearly around the plantation, and on the
river was our “primitive” tannery. We had all been supplied with hard
yellow shoes (the first tan-colored shoes we had ever seen, which we
were much ashamed of), and there were some hides left.
My father, hearing one day that the report had been carried to Baton
Rouge that he was tanning leather for the Southern army, anticipated
trouble, fearing the loss of his precious leather. He decided the best
thing he could do would be to hide it in some secret place. He was
afraid to trust the servants,–for while some were faithful, others
were not,–so he told the two youngest girls of his plan, and asked
them to help him store away his valuable leather.
When the servants were all asleep in their cottages, we three, father
and two young girls, dragged those things to the house, then upstairs,
and into a long, dark closet. The house was two and a half stories
high, so there was quite a space under the roof. We conquered our
dread of dark, dust, spiders, and mice, and climbed up into the space
just under the roof. Father handed up the hides to us and we hid them
carefully and with many frights from imaginary terrors. After all was
done we came down, closed the narrow little door, hung some dresses
over it, and awaited future action on the part of the enemy.
Sure enough, in a day or two the Federals came. Before we knew it the
house was entirely surrounded by troops. The officer dismounted and
knocked at the door. He asked to see my father, who met him at the
hall door.
“Sir,” he said, “I am informed that you are tanning leather, and making
boots for the Confederate army. I have come to destroy your tannery and
burn down your house. Take your family out immediately.”
My father, my aged mother, and we, his daughters, who had enjoyed and
loved the beautiful home so long, were speechless for a moment, and
pale with fear. Then father said, slowly, “The report is false. We
have a rude tannery, but only for home use,” and begged him to spare
the sacred old place. The Colonel said that he must search the house
and see if any evidence could be found against us, and, taking several
well-armed soldiers with him, he went through every room.
Of course we could not follow them, but we anxiously waited for their
return. The Colonel must have been touched by our mute grief, but he
only said, “I have orders to burn the house, and though I find no proof
against you, I must obey orders.” Then father asked him to step out on
the veranda. They talked a few minutes, clasped hands, and the Colonel,
quickly wheeling around, ordered the troops out of the house. In a few
minutes every one was in line and rapidly marching away. In answer to
our astonished inquiries, we were told that a Masonic sign, the secret
of true brotherhood, had saved our dear home from desolating flames.
One day a little girl was reading a story-book on the green lawn in
front of a Southern home; two gentlemen were seated near under a
wide-spreading magnolia tree talking about the political situation,
the number of Presidential candidates, and the possible results of the
election. Suddenly one of them said, “Yes, there is trouble ahead.
Before that child is grown this country will be plunged into bloody
war.” The child was startled. The prophetic words were indelibly
stamped on her mind. She could not sleep until long after midnight,
and when she slept she dreamed that she, like the “Maid of Monterey,”
gave food and water to the thirsty soldiers, and dressed their bleeding
The dream came true. While she was attending school in the capital
city, talk of secession began, and then came preparations for war. I
remember the day the arsenal at Baton Rouge was seized by Louisiana,
and all the citizens and the college girls marched down to the barracks
on the river to see our soldiers drill. The women and girls went
to work making clothes and little conveniences for the soldiers to
take with them. In a few weeks we were thrilled with enthusiasm when
our first companies marched through the city with their knapsacks,
blankets, and a half loaf of bread strapped on their backs. Poor boys,
they lived to learn that “a half loaf is better than none.”
Some time after two companies[2] were camped near us on the Comite
River, and real work began. How young and brave the soldiers were,
and how proud every woman was who had a son, brother, or sweetheart
in the army! For a time all was excitement, gaiety, and preparation;
bands played, soldiers drilled, and citizens flocked to the camps to
encourage and help in every way possible. One sad day orders came to
move to the front. Knapsacks were packed, tents were folded, the last
good-byes were spoken, tears fell softly but were dashed away, and our
boys were gone–gone to meet their fate, whatever it might be!
[2] Bynum’s and Buffington’s.
Soon after came the hard times. Luxuries were given up, privation was
felt in every home, but no one complained. People seemed proud to
endure, and often met to exchange opinions and plans as to how to “make
something out of nothing,” as they expressed it. Old looms were brought
out and repaired, and the spinning wheels were put to work. Flour,
tea, coffee, and even salt ceased to be used on the family table. From
the smoke-houses, where the salt meats had dripped for years, the
salt-soaked earth was taken up, boiled in a vessel, the salt extracted,
and dried in the sun. Sweet potatoes were sliced thin, cut in little
pieces, browned in an oven, ground in a coffee mill, and a breakfast
drink made from them. It looked like coffee, it was not injurious, so
it was cheerfully taken in place of fragrant Mocha. Okra seed, parched
corn meal, and parched peanuts were also used for making a morning
drink. “Confederate cake” was made by sifting corn meal through a
sieve, and then through cloth. Rice was harvested, and husked in a
wooden mortar, a work which required time and strength. All dress-goods
became scarce–calico was $4 per yard and very hard to get. Jaunty
dresses were made of coarse yellow domestic, piped with bright colors.
No hats could be purchased, but stylish turbans were made of old straw
covered with scraps of black silk or velvet, and were worn with pride,
and called “Beauregard” hats. This recalls a song that was very popular
in Louisiana during the war. It is a wee bit touching to read it over
now, for the Southern girls, daintily reared, sadly missed their fine
linen, their soft silks and sheer muslins. The song was sung to the
air of “The Bonny Blue Flag.”
“Oh, yes, I am a Southern girl,
I glory in the name,
And boast it with far greater pride
Than glittering wealth or fame.
“I envy not the Northern girl,
Her robes of beauty rare;
Though diamonds grace her snowy neck
And pearls bedeck her hair.
“My homespun dress is plain, I know,
My hat’s palmetto, too,
But then it shows what Southern girls
For Southern Rights will do.”
The war dragged on. New Orleans fell. Baton Rouge was in the hands of
the enemy. Some of the Baton Rouge people refugeed to the country,
living in churches, schoolhouses and deserted log cabins; others were
compelled to remain, as they had no shelter and no means of living
outside of the city. Then followed the sieges on the Mississippi
River, Port Hudson, and Vicksburg. Night after night and all day long
we could hear the heavy guns booming and the deadly shells hissing, and
we had no means of knowing how our armies were faring. I remember the
sad and anxious dread which came over me every time a gun was fired,
and how I covered my head with pillows to shut out the fearful sound.
One day in August the news came that Gen. John C. Breckinridge was
on his way to attack Baton Rouge; that his army of less than three
thousand were tired and in need of food, and would be glad if the
citizens would send out something to the road on which they were
marching. Every family in the country began to prepare food; quantities
of green corn, potatoes, vegetables, egg-bread, chickens, in fact,
everything that could be had was cooked, packed in baskets, and carried
out to meet the army.
General Breckinridge pitched camp on the Comite River. On a foggy
morning, August 5, the battle was fought. Historians have told all
about the short, desperate battle. I remember the great disappointment
that was expressed, and how people wondered why the _Arkansas_ did not
do her part on the river, where the enemy’s three gunboats made such
havoc. We did not know that she was lying, entirely disabled, only
four miles away. After the battle the sick and wounded were taken to
Green-well Springs, a pretty little summer resort near us, where a
hospital was established, mattresses being laid on the floors of the
parlors and dining-room of the hotel. Southern women then proved their
love and devotion to their country’s defenders. Every day buggies,
drays, and carts went to the Springs, loaded with jellies, soups, and
every delicate thing that we could make with our limited means. The
surgeons had no lint to dress the wounds, so we went home, tore our
finest linen sheets and table cloths into strips, and with sharp knives
scraped them into fine, soft lint, for linen makes much better lint
than plain cotton.
During this time General Breckinridge, who was a very handsome man,
visited our home and dined with us several times. On one occasion,
just after a charming dinner with the General and several of his staff
as guests, a heavy storm gathered. The rain fell in torrents all the
afternoon. My parents urged the guests to spend the night as it was
so dark and threatening, but the General said, “While it is a great
temptation to enjoy for a few hours the comforts of a home, duty calls
me to my camp and my boys.”
We learned to enjoy our “labor of love,” and memory treasures
Green-well Springs as a sacred spot where hands, heads, and hearts were
used freely in the service of our beloved Southland.
On New Year’s Day, 1862, one of the coldest days ever known in
Louisiana, we were all seated around a bright wood fire talking
as usual of the war, and of our absent boys. All were gone to the
front–not a man was left, except my father, an aged clergyman. As we
talked, we were startled by the furious barking of dogs, the tramp
of horses, and a loud “Hello” at the front gate. When the door was
opened we saw about twenty or twenty-five men muffled up to their
eyes, muffled quite beyond recognition. The men were riding miserable
ponies, and they looked dreadful in their disguise, and seemed numb
with cold.
Father answered the call, and asked what was wanted. The man in front
replied that they were “Government officials”; that they had come to
search the house, as they had heard it contained contraband articles
and smuggled goods. We knew that there was not a shadow of truth in
the statement, so my father asked to see the Government order. “You
need not trouble about that, we have it all right!” replied the leader.
Then they pushed their way into the hall, the parlor, the bedrooms,
and all over the house, opening trunks, bureau drawers, desks, and
closets. They took every yard of cloth they could find and everything
that looked new or valuable, piling them on the front piazza. Toilet
articles, ladies’ underwear, everything!
My brother was a physician, at that time a surgeon in a Louisiana
regiment, and we had quite a collection of jars and bottles of medicine
that had been left over, among them a bottle of quinine valued at
one hundred dollars, and prized above gold or silver. This medicine
they found, and, sneering and jeering, placed it with other things.
When they had gone through every room, they went to the old-fashioned
smoke-house in the yard, where the home-cured meat, the corn meal and
other such things were kept, broke open the door and entered.
Hidden away there was a small demijohn of whiskey, kept for medicinal
purposes, and a box of sugar, kept also for the sick and suffering.
When they found that, the men went wild with glee, and they ran,
shouting, to the kitchen for cups and were soon drinking the fiery
liquid. We stood looking on in agony,–the old father, the physician’s
wife, two young girls, and several small children,–all helpless, at
the mercy of a band of drunken outlaws, two miles from any help!
After they had swallowed every drop, and felt warmed and cheered by the
whiskey, they came out and began to talk about the sad duty of obeying
“Government orders.” We then told them that the report they had heard
was false; that all the things they had collected on the piazza were
in the house when the war broke out, and that we could prove it by the
Home Guards, who would probably be along soon from their camp near by.
Of course, this was a ruse resorted to in our desperation, but it had
a magical effect. The men ran to their horses, mounted in haste, and
dashed off through the woods in a wild gallop. Oh! what a relief, and
how thankful we were! The goods were left on the piazza floor, quinine,
clothing and all. They never came again, but the fear of their return
never left us by night or day, until the war was over.

Rows and rows of white-washed cottages constituted the “quarters,” with
narrow streets between them, many of the little homes adorned with
bright-hued, old-fashioned flowers in the front yards, or with potato
and melon patches.
On cold winter evenings bright firelight shone from every door and
window. Inside, the father sitting in the chimney corner, smoking his
pipe while he deftly wove white-oak splints into cotton baskets; the
mother, mending, or knitting, while the fat little darkies tumbled
about on the floor, or danced to the music of Uncle Tom’s fiddle.
The slaves were well fed, well clothed, well housed, and when ill they
were well nursed, and attended by a good doctor.
Their houses were warmed by fires in broad fireplaces, fires which they
kept burning all night.
They had gay “Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes,” and they generally went to
church, either to the “white folkses’ church,” where an upper gallery
was provided for them, or to their own special service.
If a planter allowed his slaves to be mistreated in any way, he
and his family were ostracized from society, and made to feel the
disapprobation of their neighbors. So general was this method of
administering rebuke that it seemed to be an unwritten law throughout
the South.
Sometimes, as it often happens to-day, an overseer of quick or
ungovernable temper would be severe in punishing an offender; but he
soon lost his place and a kinder man was employed in his instead.
Somewhere in the “quarters” a large nursery was situated, and there the
babies and small children were cared for by the old women while their
mothers worked in the cotton-fields.
White children were taught to treat the grown-up servants with respect,
and as they could not say “Mrs.” or “Mr.,” they called them “aunt” or
“uncle.” On Sunday afternoons the white children were often sent to
read the Bible to the old colored people, and the children thought it
quite an honor. If any of the house servants wanted to learn to read,
they were taught, though after the war we heard this was against the
law. We never knew it!
Half of every Saturday was given to “the hands” to “clean up,” tend
their garden, or go fishing, as they chose. From ten days’ to two
weeks’ holiday was given at Christmas time, and a jolly good time they
had–balls, parties, and weddings galore! The white family and their
guests would be cordially invited down, and they always enjoyed the
festivities. _Noblesse oblige_ was recognized everywhere, and we felt
bound to treat kindly the class dependent upon us. Young ladies parted
with many a handsome gown or ribbon because their maids wanted them and
boldly asked for them. We simply could not refuse, and they knew it.
The faithfulness and devotion of the slaves has been written of by
historians, and they deserve all praise, for many of them were noble
and self-sacrificing. After the war many of them remained at the old
homestead with their former owners, as long as they could be provided
for, and when poverty compelled a separation, they left the homestead
with sorrow.
We of the South are glad and thankful that the negroes are free. We
would not have them in bondage again if we could. _”Social equality”
can never exist in the South_, but the race can be, and many of them
are, well educated, happy and prosperous: living in peace and harmony
with their white neighbors, who are, and have been for many years
paying taxes to educate them.
It is the “floating” class of colored people that cause the trouble we
read about in the daily papers. Those negroes who have been reared in
the South, and know the old traditions, are law-abiding citizens with
comfortable homes, good schools, fine churches, and every chance to be
prosperous and contented.
One bright, beautiful day, we were all made happy by a visit from
the oldest son of the family, a surgeon in the Confederate army. The
river, winding almost around the plantation, was “up to its banks” from
recent heavy rains, all the bridges had been destroyed, and we felt
comparatively safe from the Federals on the other side, though Baton
Rouge was only nine miles away. The Doctor, who wore Confederate gray
ornamented with Louisiana pelican buttons, rode a fine large horse,
which he left in the stables some distance from the house.
Sitting around the broad fireplace in mother’s room, talking of the
home people and the war, we were enjoying the unexpected visit, when
one of the girls chanced to look out through the south door. She turned
very pale, and exclaimed, “Look at the soldiers!” All around the
kitchen, talking to the servants, and all over the grounds were Federal
soldiers on horseback.
What was to be done? If our brother was captured it meant imprisonment
to the end of the war, and perhaps death. When he realized the
situation, for he had been near the door and knew they had come for
him and were questioning the servants, he dropped on his knees, crept
into a small room adjoining, where two of us pulled off his gray coat
and replaced it by an old one from the wardrobe, gave him a book, and
someone whispered, “Go into the guest-chamber and wait. Take these old
trousers with you.” He slipped into the quiet room, and taking a seat
by the window, and opening the book, assumed the rĂ´le of an invalid.
Then we hastily concealed the Confederate uniform, but where we put it
I can never remember. It was securely hidden.
By that time the Federal officers and some of the men were in the house
looking around with curiosity, but they offered no explanation about
their call. There were five or six bright, pretty girls in the house,
and, contrary to our usual custom, we chatted with the officers and
used all our attractive powers to keep them in front of the house and
on the broad veranda. Our attentions seemed to please them, and the
private soldiers were quietly ordered out and were not allowed to
search for and appropriate valuables as they usually did.
In a little while the Federals, the girls, and the family were all
engaged in pleasant conversation on the piazza overlooking the
beautiful flower-yard and the lovely, peaceful scene. Someone quietly
stole back to the prisoner’s room, told him the chance to escape had
come, gave him an old hat, and helped him get out of the window near
the garden, a garden bordered by a dense hedge. Then the messenger
returned to the group on the porch, and we chatted gaily, while our
hearts were beating with excitement and anxiety for the fugitive.
After some time the soldiers began to mount their horses, the servant
having told us in the mean time that the Yankees had the Doctor’s
horse. We concluded that the fugitive would need his horse to get back
to Port Hudson, if he had escaped, and we felt encouraged to believe he
had, and we determined we would try to save the horse also. Two of us
requested the Colonel to step into the parlor, as we wished to speak
to him. He looked a little suspicious and seemed ill at ease when he
had entered the room and the door was closed. The large, beautiful
room with its heavy furniture, its bright brass andirons, its elegant
pictures and wealth of flowers seemed harmless enough, and one of the
girls was beautiful and bewitching, so he braved the danger (if there
were danger!) and asked what he could do for us. We told him a fine
horse had been taken out of our stables by his men; that we needed the
animal as we were fond of horseback riding, and only the old carriage
horses were left to us. He said he was sorry to refuse our polite
request, but his men had seen the army saddle and bridle; that it
looked like a “U. S.” horse,–in fact, was branded “U. S.,”–and under
the circumstances he would be obliged to take him.
All this time our soldier-brother was hurrying across fields and woods,
hills and valleys to the banks of the river, which meant safety on
the other side. The officer, as I remember across the long years now
passed, enjoyed the novelty of his position and looked with interest
and a touch of sympathy at the Southern home and the piquant Southern
girls. When he returned to the veranda the soldiers mounted their
horses, gave us a respectful salute, and galloped down the broad
avenue. When they reached the gate a large flock of geese, about a
hundred, furiously attacked the enemy; their horses reared and plunged,
and the “rank and file” were so angry because they had not been allowed
any spoils, that they unsheathed their swords and, leaning over as far
as they could, cut off the heads of some of our bravest ganders–the
officers sitting erect, and trying to look grave. It was an amusing
sight. “They routed them, they scouted them, nor lost a single man!”
When all had gone we sent a boy in haste to the ford of the river to
find out about our soldier. He had crossed the swollen stream in a rude
dug-out with board paddles, and was safe, safe on the other side.