ANGEL IN BLUE
"A CIVIL WAR TALE"
WORDS OF WILLIAMTM
GENERAL WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN
The purpose of this website is to document an incident with Sherman's men that occurred to some of my wife's forefathers during the Civil War. The chapter "Angel in Blue" gives the details of that amazing story. But please read the chapters leading up to it, because they give some history of what was going on at that time in the Civil War.
In this "Introduction" I wanted to share a few of my memories from a heritage of growing up in the South. Growing up in Camden, South Carolina I was aware of the Cash/Shannon duel which was fought there in 1880, and was the last duel fought in the South. There was such a public outcry that as a result, dueling became outlawed in the state. A good friend that I went to school with was the great grandson of Shannon...the loser.
Camden was also the home of Mary Boykin Chesnut who wrote the book "A Diary From Dixie." This book is well known among Civil War historians. Before the war she lived on the family's Mulberry Plantation, which was in the country outside of Camden. During the war years her husband served on the staff of Jefferson Davis who was President of the Confederacy. They lived in the capital which was in Richmond, Virginia. Her diary documents this time in their life. When they returned to Camden, they built a modest home in town using bricks from the plantation home
When I was a young boy I remember there was an elderly black lady that would walk by our house now and then. One summer day when it was very hot, my mother walked out to her and invited her to come up on the porch and sit in the shade with a glass of iced tea. She came up and as she sat and slowly rocked sipping her iced tea she shared some amazing facts about herself. She was past her mid-ninety's and had actually been born into slavery. As a little girl she said that she delivered eggs "to the rich white people." It is amazing now to think that I met someone who was actually born into slavery.
I remember that years ago, my wife and I watched a documentary on television where the speaker was an elderly lady who was a member of one of the "first" families in Charleston. She obviously had a very inflated sense of that city's importance because she stated that, "Charleston is where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean." Also, during her talk she kept referring to the "recent un-pleasantness." We finally realized that she was talking about the Civil War!
A Civil War hero Richard Rowland Kirkland (The Angel of Mayre's Height) was from Camden, and is interred there in the Old Quaker Cemetery. This young Confederate soldier risked his life to crawl out into "no-mans land" to give water, warm clothing, and blankets to the wounded Union soldiers who were laying on a cold battlefield. When the soldiers on both sides realized what he was doing, there were no shots fired.
Well, I could go on, and on, and on...but it's time to move on.
General William Tecumseh Sherman, or as he is best known "SHERMAN" is also known for his "March to the Sea." This march with an army of 63,000 went right through the heart of Dixie, cutting a swath sixty miles wide from Atlanta to Savannah, dividing the Confederacy in half. The army "lived off the land" which was extremely crippling to the South. This event also resulted in desertions by rebel soldiers from the front lines in Virginia who headed home to their families who were caught in the path of the "march."
Sherman's forces completely destroyed the Southern railroad system, beginning in Atlanta which was a huge railroad junction, and all the way to the sea. They would take up the rails and heat them in the middle, and then bend them completely around a tree or telegraph pole. They came to be known as "Sherman's neckties."
Sherman's forces arrived and captured the city of Savannah in December of 1865. At this time Sherman presented the city to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. The army got rained into Savannah by very heavy seasonal rains for several weeks. But then they started moving north to South Carolina. And since it was the first state to secede from the Union, Sherman promised "to make them howl."
At the library, as a boy, I read on the front page of an actual 1865 newspaper which was on display under glass, a report of Sherman's army crossing all night over a bridge, moving into SC. The Confederate forces thought he was heading to Charleston where they started the war with the firing on Fort Sumter, and Sherman did start moving in that direction, but only to make them move their forces to protect that city. But then he turned the opposite way to head to Columbia, where the Articles of Secession were passed. Columbia was his target all-along.
The state house in Columbia, which was under construction, was hit five times by cannon fire from Sherman's army across the Broad River before they marched into the city. Today each spot that was hit by cannonballs is marked by a brass star. Columbia was burned to the ground. Sherman said that he did not give orders for the fire, and that his men tried to put it out. But who knows? After all, it was Sherman who made the famous statement "War is Hell."
When Sherman's army left Columbia moving north, he sent a detachment of Cavalry to Camden which is about 30 miles north-east of Columbia. Maybe, the fact that Camden contributed six Generals to the Civil War, was one of the reasons Sherman sent them there. Which leads us to the next chapter "Camden."
Camden which had quite a history as far as the Revolution is concerned, with a couple of major battles, was getting ready to hit the history books, again.
On February 24, 1865 a detachment of Sherman's men rode into Camden and for three days camped out in a park. For water they used the well of an ante-bellum home which stood next to the park. In fact that house is still standing as a private home.
One of the cavalrymen rode his horse up on the porch of a house that had recently been built. The weight of the horse and rider left hoof-prints in the "green" wood that you can still see today.
They raided and looted many homes searching for food, weapons, and anything valuable. One of the homes they entered belonged to the ninety three year old father-in-law of Mary Boykin Chesnut. The old man tried to strike out with his cane, and was defended from the soldiers by a slave who refused to leave his side. They burned several homes, the railroad depots, a bridge, two thousand bales of cotton, food warehouses, and a flour mill.
After three days they left, riding north to reunite with the main column of Sherman's army, which had left Columbia heading towards North Carolina.
Angel in Blue
The new year of 1865 is in its second month. The "War Between the States" has been dragging on for four long years. The tide has turned against the South following the three day battle at "Gettysburg" in July of 1863. And the war would soon be drawing to a close. General Lee was just a couple months away from surrendering his battle weary army at Appomattox.
Out in the country, about 20 miles north of Camden, on this cool but sunny February day the family had bundled up the triplet boys and laid them in the sun on the long covered porch that ran from the main house to the kitchen.
Houses were built this way to keep the kitchen away from the main house in case of a fire. The family lived in a timber home that had been built in the 1850's from wood planks that had been milled from trees on the property. They lived on a narrow dirt side road several miles from the main road.
Suddenly they heard the sound of horses riding into the front yard. It was the cavalry that had left Camden heading north to reunite with the main column of Sherman's army. The soldiers dismounted and spread out searching for valuables and food, anything they could find in order to "live off the land."
The officer in charge walked up onto the front porch and into the house. He passed through and out onto the long porch in the back. Seeing the triplets laying together he walked over to where they were and asked about their age and names. Upon hearing this he then turned and walked back through the house into the front yard. Mounting his horse he commanded his men to put everything back, and take nothing. The soldiers did as they were commanded, then saddled up and all rode back towards the main road and into history.
This incident that is documented in "Angel in Blue" was an amazing act of kindness by an officer in the Union Army. It was a blessing to all of the family members, including the triplets who obviously touched the heart of the officer. Perhaps he also was the father of young children, and being far away from home was practicing "The Golden Rule." Treating them the way he would want his family treated under similar circumstances.
We have been in that house many times. My wife when she was growing up, used to spend her Summer's there.
Sad to say but the house is not still standing. The land was sold to a timber company, and the house was taken down.
My wife has in her possession an ancestors picture on glass, and this man had lived in the house. The picture shows fingers missing because he was involved in several major battles as a Confederate soldier.
If you are interested in Civil War history, you should read "A Diary From Dixie" by Mary Boykin Chesnut. Through her husband's position in the Confederate government they came to know personally most of the Southern Generals and officers, along with their wives. The diary is a very interesting record of those relationships.
You should "google" the Cash/Shannon Duel...it is fascinating. There was a "code of ethics" governing every detail of how a duel was supposed to be carried out.
Also, research Richard Rowland Kirkland (The Angel of Mayre's Height). A truly inspiring story.
ANGEL IN BLUE
"A CIVIL WAR TALE"
is published by
WORDS OF WILLIAM™
William F. Carawan
All rights reserved
Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.