Ellen S. Elmore
Columbia, S. C, December, 1901
I am told it is my duty to write what I can personally recall of the days of our hard struggle with fate, and because it is so considered, I shall make the effort to penetrate the dark chambers of my heart and brain for what I know lies there, hidden away from even my present consciousness. To bring it back, I must take myself to the beginning of events that bore immediately upon the grand tragedy of the century, to the summer of i860, the last time our whole family was gathered together under our mother’s roof. Our home was on the outskirts of Columbia, a very large, square house, great rooms, opening by French windows, on long double piazzas, extending along the whole front, and supported by columns from the ground to the roof. The steps were of rough granite, the first stone quarried in this county, and came from “Ticklebury Farm,” now the State Fair Grounds and Elmwood Cemetery, then owned by my grandfather Governor Taylor. Ours was one of the family places only once out of such possession, and bought back by my mother on her return to Columbia, after the death of my father Colonel Elmore in 1850.
We made a large home circle my mother and six daughters: the eldest, Mrs. Thomas Taylor, being often with us, for her own home was quite near; the youngest, Rose, a schoolgirl, and two sons, Frank and Albert, living with us; the second, Albert, a student of the South Carolina College. Mrs. Taylor and two of the sisters spent part of the summer of i860 in Virginia and New York. To us at home it was a quiet time, for, although we felt the disturbed condition of the political atmosphere, nobody really expected what did happen. And when the boys would come in and tell us of new military organizations and weekly drilling, and when Albert’s cap was decorated with a great “M. M.,” and he told me it meant “Minute Men,” ready at a moment’s call to fight the “Yankees,” I only smiled, as I thought how impossible was a war between the States!
By the time the Legislature met, the leaven had worked; the Convention was called, and passed the Ordinance of Secession, which placed South Carolina just where she had been before her entrance into the “Confederation of the United States of America.”
From that time, all was movement around us. Our home became a center of gathering for not only the boys of the family, but for their young college friends, who, being away from their own homes, depended upon our activity to supply them with army fittings and comforts, for all had joined someone or other of the organizations made up during the summer. Most of the young boys belonged to the “College Cadets,” who offered their services among the first, and were preparing to take the field. All were working for them black and white. My business, as general housekeeper and provider, was to see to the parching and grinding of coffee, making of crackers, and filling of haversacks, in which I was heartily aided by our faithful cook, Cynthia; while the other girls, being clever workwomen, with Nellie, Phillis, Phoebe, and others, made up the flannel Garibaldis and gray wool hunting shirts, which were thought indispensable at that time. Ah! how much good material and energy we wasted in making our heroes fit for the camp! But, after all, was it not buckling on the sword, fastening on the spurs, throwing on the mantle, placing our colors, and, lastly, bidding “God speed, and do your devoir,” to our knights? And did not they do their duty all the more gloriously for the spirit which our sympathy put into them?
I can see the splendid young fellows as I saw them then, running up and down the stairs, seeking what and whom they wanted, in any room they pleased to enter, for the whole “Castle” was theirs to command; and my mother, moving in her grand way from group to group of workers, suggesting this or that of comfort or convenience to be added to the boys’ knapsacks, tearless and quite like a Roman Cornelia, sending her sons to do their duty; she who, the summer before, at the first suggestion of the possibility of war, had passionately cried out that her “country was nothing in comparison with her children.” And when Captain Radcliffe’s company, of which her favorite nephew James Taylor was a member, was called, she made me go with her in her little pony carriage to look him up, and when she found him on the streets, and called him to the carriage she said, “James, you are too young; sixteen is too young.” But she had no reply to make when he looked into her face and said, “Why, Aunt Harriet, I am the very one to go, for I leave behind me no one dependent on me; the fellows with wife and children ought to stay at home and take care of them.” She felt that he had judged for himself and believed himself to be on the line of duty.
When the other companies were called, we went to the South Carolina Depot to see them off, and as the train pulled out of the shed, we could hear a deep, continuous rumbling, which we later knew was the bombardment of Fort Sumter. The house seemed empty of everything when we returned to it; but soon the loud and continuous ringing of the big dinner bell outside startled us, and we all came running from our rooms to see what could be the matter; and there was our dear old mother, walking up and down the piazza, and ringing the bell as hard as she could. “Why,” she called out, “Texas has seceded! and I want you all to know it; come and see the star McDonald (our Scottish gardener) has laid out in her honor!” And there it was a beautiful star garden bed, with a fine young magnolia in the center, just under the diningroom windows.
Such was our mother, from first to last brave, energetic, thoughtful, helpful, always ready to sacrifice and to work, and never a word of weakness or of unwillingness to give her best and dearest to the country she loved next to her God; and such were the matrons, old and young, all over our land.
My mother owned a large cotton and grain plantation on Broad River, in York County, and a mill place, with a provision farm, in Lexington County, about ten miles from Columbia. On both of these places she had first-rate overseers; but they had to be supervised, and my mother, with one or other of us girls, visited them frequently: later we had to give these men up, as they were required in the army; and the plantations were carried on by our faithful Negroes, under the sole management of my mother and myself. I recall my consternation when my Uncle Alex. Taylor told my mother that I could manage a lumber mill and make all the lumber accounts. My brother Frank, who had been keeping the books for a year, gave me encouragement, and promised to coach me; and thus I became my mother’s business agent to the close of the war, and had the honor of supplying to the government most of the heavy timbers required here; and, moreover, had the satisfaction of hearing from all parties that the business had never been so satisfactorily conducted. This was truly a feather to my woman’s cap; but we feminine, before the war ended, were to pick up many a one dropped from the helmets of our brave fellows who had work to do beyond our powers, and in which we could aid them only by doing what it had been theirs to do hitherto.
Soon there came to be a systematic division of labor in our household, and so little did we cross into each other’s fields that I really cannot say how my sisters were distributed in the work but work they did, as every man, woman and child worked during these years. I do know that some were engaged in hospital and relief work; others, being clever workwomen, in making clothes, and in spare time knitting socks. I remember that I helped with some uniforms and shirts; but my main energies during the four years were concentrated on the matter of supplies, and to secure these, the mill and plantation affairs required most careful consideration, and a large amount of foresight. So long as we could retain our efficient over-seers, the routine of both places was well kept up, and I owe much to the application of their practical knowledge, and to the docility and faithfulness of the Negroes I was called on to manage for this part of the business my mother turned entirely over to me. Both men belonged to the class that knew the details of labor, and had not yet been removed from dependence upon home supply for the necessities of life; and their use of this knowledge on our plantations made us independent, and gave me many lessons. In 1861, at the mill, our man Walker was able to fit up wheels and looms and set our women to spinning and weaving; made a tan vat to cure the leather obtained from our cattle, which he butchered and sold in the market, but which I had to see properly cut up, as he did not know how to prepare the meat for city kitchens. He also readily took in new crops of such things as could not be procured from the stores. Rice, sorghum, and sweet potatoes never failed, and fruit and vegetables were secured to our table.
At the York place, Inman did even more, for it was a large plantation, and had to sustain many souls, a large number of them old people and children. Being more remote from a city, there was less opportunity to secure, before they should be exhausted, the conveniences necessary to the carrying on of such work as was now required to be done. But he was clever and resourceful. The cow-kettles did double duty, for they were turned into molasses boilers, and when barrels could not be procured, he cut down four immense gum trees, and from their boles dug out troughs for the syrups and to put away the meat in ashes, to secure it from flies. Both men made their own cane-presses.
Salt failing, the dirt floor of the smokehouse was dug up, and the clay washed, to recover the salt that had been absorbed. We raised the sheep, spun and wove the wool and cotton for our Negroes’ clothes, tanned the leather for shoes, and made them, our old carpenter, Daddy John, making the wooden soles. He even improved upon the pattern sent us, by making a transverse diagonal cut in the sole, which made it move a little under the foot. But, oh! the clatter of those wooden soles on the wooden floors ! Some of our wool my mother had dyed and woven by skilful women in the neighborhood, and each of us was presented with a lovely black and white winter suit. How I wish I had mine now, to send to the relic and record room exhibit in Charleston! It was a skirt and long coat, trimmed with great smoke-pearl buttons, presented by my childhood’s friend, “Daddy Moses,” who brought me a quart when he heard me say I wanted some buttons just like those on his coat.
I think it was in 1862 that we had to give up our overseers. And, although we found two white men to stay on the places, we soon discovered they were of no service, and my mother and I had to be constantly on the alert. Finally my mother decided to give up the York man, and to depend upon ourselves, and three specially competent and faithful men Ben, Charlie, and Gabriel not leaving out good old Daddy John, who was general supervisor, and truly a gentleman in bearing and unfailing in devotion to “mistress and young mistress.” I think our interests were well cared for by these people, and certainly they had much in their hands, especially towards the last. Indeed, throughout the war, our Negroes were our friends, and I believe if they had not been meddled with for political purposes, we should never have had the terrible disturbances which continue to this time (1900) .
At home we employed a white gardener, who himself suggested that the thirteen acres around the dwelling could be made to pay all the expenses of the garden, and give the table all of the fruit and vegetables we could require. My mother was willing he should make the experiment, provided she had none of the troubles, and gave him what help he wished, and a little pony and wagon to haul his truck to market. This was our first effort in these small businesses, which have since become so familiar to our ken. One great benefit we had then was that we had plenty to give to the hospitals and to our unfortunate friends who had taken refuge in Columbia when driven from the coast.
Sad as these days were, taken as a whole, we were not without some happy hours. Concerts, fairs and bazaars gave relief from the strain upon our hearts and brains, and when our soldier boys came on furlough and wanted to dance and sing, who of us would refuse to do their bidding, even though there were some croakers who talked about the sin and shame of such proceedings when calamity might be so near. My good, wise mother was of a different mind, and opened her hospitable doors to all the social calls of the situation. The city was full of people from the low country and elsewhere who desired something more than mere shelter, and soon a pleasant society grew up, out of which could be gotten, at any moment, the material for a good concert, the proceeds of which would go to some wartime necessity. To Signor Torriani, of the Italian Opera, stranded here in 1860, we owe many delightful evenings, and much valuable assistance in our musical entertainments. Our first concert was given to help the hospital service, by Miss Garnett and her young pupils, all school girls, but well worth listening to. Can we forget the splendid Gunboat Fair, when our parlors were emptied of pretty things, to be supplied again by the purchase at the stalls, of what had adorned the tables and mantels of our friends? And so the war-tide rolled on to the last heavy days of dread and terror, when we were told to prepare for the worst, for Savannah had fallen, and the next objective point of Sherman’s terrible army would be our dear little city the “cradle of secession.”
I will not tell you of the great bazaar held in the State House, nor yet of the last one, a section of the first, in the City Hall, for others have written of them; but hasten on to the last day I spent in our home.
My uncle, who planted near us in Lexington, came one day to tell my mother that their places were on what would be the enemy’s line of march, and she must do as she meant to do get off all stock, supplies and ablebodied men to the upper plantations. “And the girls had better go, too,” he added. How was it to be done? “The girls” could go by rail but the rest? And so little time! It was decided that the stock, etc., should be brought over and make the start under charge of one of the most reliable men we owned Nick; and later in the day, I and my youngest sister, Rosa, in a little carry-all, with two pet ponies, driven by our regular coachman, Dick, and accompanied by my sister’s (Mrs. Taylor’s) team, should follow and catch up with the caravan, consisting of wagons, cattle, sheep, and about fifteen young Negroes. This plan was carried out to the letter. Before night, three of the girls were off by rail, and my party was on the road next morning. One of the party Nick’s wife, Liddy did not wish to go, and, to my surprise, slipped off after making the start, and went back to the mill. I was sorry on Nick’s account, for he was a great favorite of mine, and devoted to me. I am told he said she “might do as she pleased; but he had done said he would stick to Miss Ellen as long as he lived, and he meant to do it.”
The city was in a furor. Rumors on every side of a most alarming character. General Hampton was in command. I knew my brother-in-law, Captain Thomas Taylor, was with him, and my brother Albert scouting, but I had not time really to attend to anybody’s business but my own. Mrs. Taylor, and Grace, who was to remain with my mother, though she had not told her determination to anyone but myself, were waiting that last evening in the diningroom, and had placed some supper at the fire for Captain Taylor, when two young men came in Peter Trezevant and Julius Pringle. My mother offered them supper, but both declined; and Mrs. Taylor said that was a most unsoldier like thing to do, for how did either know when he would get the chance to eat another meal.
Whereupon both agreed with her, and immediately took up the plate, saying they had eaten nothing all day, but had declined because they thought they would be taking what was intended for another. Captain Taylor came in and said the enemy were indeed upon us, and whoever expected to leave had better not delay. I told him I was all ready, and my cattle train would be on the road by daylight, and his wagon and people with them, but that I would not start with the carriage before 10 a. m. He told me to stop the first night with an old friend of his Mr. Nelson and say I was Tom Taylor’s sister, and he must give me shelter. How we spent the night I do not remember, nor what we did next morning till the hour came for starting.
Isaiah came up with his pretty team of black Morgan mares, and announced to his mistress, in his best style, that he was ready to take her orders, which were to meet her at Chester, where she would go by rail. Then came Rosa’s and my little carriage and our home-raised pet ponies, Selim and Nettie, and our good Dick on the driver’s seat. What I did, and how I got in the carriage, I do not know. I seemed to be turned to stone, and I knew I forgot to say good-bye to anyone, even to my mother, for she came to the steps, saying, “Why, Ellen, you have forgotten to say good-bye to me.” All of us were deathly quiet, for God only knew if we should ever meet again.
Outside of town, I met Olivia Middleton, of Charleston, with somebody in a carriage, and we put them in their right road; and farther on we came upon our travelers, moving along quietly, for the cattle were not yet worried, and the sheep were, as yet, quite docile, the men as lively as though on a picnic, for my mother had seen to their provisions. We traveled slowly, and reached Mr. Nelson’s at 9 o’clock p. m. He declined to take me in until I told him Captain Taylor had promised for him that he would not refuse to receive his sister; then he could not get us out of the carriage fast enough, but said he could only give me shelter, as his house was taken possession of by a rough lot of cavalry, but he could not let Tom Taylor’s sister camp out, as I had said I must do if he sent me away. We were taken into a neat parlor, where was a handsome piano, and Mrs. Nelson asked if either of us played, that she did want to hear her daughter’s instrument once more before it was destroyed, as she understood the Yankees always did with such articles as were too heavy to be carried away. Rosa was a beautiful pianist, and immediately got up and played for the good, kind woman, who longed for one more touch of the sweetness of life before it should be torn from her forever.
When I next passed that road, returning to Columbia, in October, only the chimneys of the kind, hospitable home were left.
At daylight I was on the road, for little sleep could we get, and I think both Nick and Dick were uneasy lest the soldiers of whom Mr. Nelson spoke should make a grab at our horses. Dick came under my window to tell me we had best be moving, and please to hurry. We drew some tea, and ate some cold biscuits and bade adieu to our entertainers; and, to the music of our lowing cattle, and baaing sheep, pursued our way, as I said, slowly, reaching the house of Mr. Brice, beyond Winnsboro, where we usually stopped on our way to the plantation. Old Mr. Brice said he was very sorry, but illness in the house compelled him to refuse, and recommended us to the house of a widow lady at White Oak, a mere country settlement, where we spent the night. The poor woman had not the remotest idea that she was in any danger, and I advised her to secure all valuables, and not to remain in the house alone. These houses also were gone when I next passed that way, leaving only the tall chimneys like sentinels over the hearthstones. At Mr. Brice’s, the gateposts were standing, but no friendly roof to shelter those who might pass between them. Many, many times have those gateposts and those chimneys come to me in appeal against those whose cruel hands destroyed the happy homes they represented. At this moment, I recall a set of iron steps in Columbia, up which I had often gone on festive occasions, and which, with the chimneys, was all that was left of the gay, bright home of Mr. Wm. DeSaussure.
But to my journey: We reached Chester about 2 p. m. and, sending the caravan around the town, we in the carriages proceeded to look up Mrs. Taylor. We found her, and my sister-in-law, Mrs. Frank Elmore, at Mrs. Anderson’s; but she decided to wait in Chester till Captain Taylor should pass with the troops, and turned her carriage over to Mrs. Elmore and her two children. After much difficulty, we induced Mrs. Elmore to accept the opportunity of reaching the plantation, as I told her there could be no certainty of when I could be able to send for her. I told her if she did not hasten, we might be forced to camp out with the children, as there were few houses on the road at which we could stay. To be on the safe side, we had stopped at a house and bought a lot of fodder, for we had used up our supply of horse feed, and stowed it away in and about the carriage till Rosa and I could scarcely breathe; but the smell was sweet and clean. Night caught us about halfway, and Dick, who knew the road and every house on it, recommended that I should try at Mrs. Montgomery’s, who might take us in. Alas! She could not, and came to my carriage to tell me she was sorry, etc.
”Then,” I said, “can you tell me a good place to camp, and will you let me have food for my horses and mules?” As she was about to answer, I heard a tired little whimper from the other carriage, and a child’s voice crying, “Mamma, I am so tired; and I want my milk.” Instantly the woman’s voice and manner changed, and she exclaimed: “Have you got children (she saw our faces dimly through the fodder blades) in there? Where are they? No, I can’t turn children from my door this time o’ night; git right out and take them children in to the fire.” We got out, and so did the fodder, and I told her the children, with mother and nurse, were in the other carriage; but the size of the party did not change her welcome, for she left us and went to the other party, telling Mary and her nurse, Margaret, to “bring them children right into the house, and she would git them their milk in a hurry.”
We were ushered into a large, what you might designate truly a “living room,” on one end of which was an immense fireplace, occupied by a very old man, and numerous little barefooted children, interspersed with cats and small dogs. At the other end were two large beds, which I felt sure were occupied. Poor Mary Elmore was one of the impossible kind; a new situation was something she could not take hold of, and here was one utterly foreign to her town-bred experience. It was different with us, for we were brought up to “take the bull by the horns” and, besides, our experience of life had made us acquainted with all sorts and kinds of people. How I blessed the teachings of my father and mother, which made us able at once to understand the simple nobleness and mother heart of this good woman who took us in because that baby cried our dear, dear little Hallie.
After a while, the door between the big beds was thrown open, and we were invited into a large parlor, with a splendid fire, neatly furnished in mahogany, and a handsome rosewood piano, whose legs were well wrapped as though it were in danger of taking cold. On one side, a shakedown on the floor was assigned to Mary and the babies, and an adjoining room to me and Rosa. Milk was brought for the children, and Mary managed a private inquiry of me as to its wholesomeness, etc. Poor woman! how little she knew of the unwholesomeness the changed conditions of the country would bring to us all. Notwithstanding my protests, and only by insistence, could I make the good lady take pay, except for the large quantity of feed our horses had consumed.
Again we were on the road, and reached the plantation about midday, finding the girls preparing to return, as they had heard nothing since they left Columbia, and concluded they had been sent off under an unnecessary alarm. A strange redness in the sky had, however, made them anxious, but they never dreamed that its true cause was the burning of the city by Sherman’s soldiers. A sad but excited party we made six young women and two babies Hallie and May guarded and supported by nearly two hundred Negroes, and not an idea but that we were safe from all but Yankees. And so we were. There were several families upon whom we rested absolutely. Dick, Nick, Phoebe, Elizabeth, Africa, and Charles Prioleau, and their brother, our old butler, Horace, among his company known as Dr. Prioleau, a name he fancied to adopt from our old neighbor in Charleston, Dr. S. G. Prioleau, and which Horace fitted to his brothers and sisters as they came into house-service, were our personal attendants. Dick was our coachman; Nick my teamster; Charles and Africa, carpenters, and Phoebe and Elizabeth, our maids. The others belonged to the plantations, and all were faithful through-out our time of trial.
And now began our strange life as refugees, full of anxiety and work, for we could hear only rumors from below, but must keep up heart and make preparations for the probable necessities of the future. We divided our household, one taking possession of the little cottage that had been built for my mother’s use, and I, with three of the girls, of the overseer’s house; but we all took our meals together at the cottage. I took up the roll of overseer systematically, as I had seen it practised by Inman. Dick, Gabriel, Nick, Charlie, and old Ben and John, were my coadjutors. At daylight, the call was made at the overseer’s house by old John, for the hands to go out; after breakfast, I went to the lot, looked over the cattle and hogs, and learned that Paul was off with the sheep; looked into the corn houses; called at the children’s house, and carpenter’s and blacksmith shops; and looked up the sick, but before prescribing, went to the house and looked up the case in the old doctor’s book, which, fortunately, had been brought with us. Thank God! I was not called upon for any dangerous case, except once, when I was told old “Aunt Rachel was just ableeding to death, and she said please to come and stop it.” I flew down to the cabin and found the report not much exaggerated, so flew back to consult Dr. Ewell, who told me to administer salt petre in broken doses, which I verily believe saved the good old woman’s life. Afterwards I gave her quinine and kept up its equivalent dogwood bark tea for some time. I also had gathered certain roots and bark suggested by my advisor, and whether they were rightly administered or not, the Negroes believed they were, and asserted that ”Miss Ellen was just as good as Dr. Sims,” in whom they thought all medical wisdom was concentrated. I speak of these things because I am told that it is desired to have the experiences of our women under new and difficult conditions so expressed as to convey a true conception of what was being carried on by their steady and systematic work at home.
For myself, I never questioned if I could do the work that came to my hands, but did it as well as I had ability for, and never looking backward with heartbreaking regrets, which I felt would take from me all strength.
But to go back to my day’s routine: After dinner, the cows came in, and feeding time came round, and Paul brought in his “sheep tally,” which was compared with mine; and John brought in the keys; and he, Dick and Gabriel came to give me private information and advice. Food began to be a serious consideration, and I found it necessary to make many horseback journeys through the apparently deserted country in search of corn. I frequently rode from ten to thirty miles a day, under the escort of Dick, Gabriel, or Charles, who always rode as a groom would ride, at my horse’s tail. One day, passing a blacksmith’s where was a group of rough looking men, I felt Dick pushing between me and the party. He explained, “I was afraid, Miss Ellen, those men might speak to you; but I think they knew who you was.” Evidently, I was a great somebody in Dick’s estimation.
I thought I might find corn in Union County, on Pacolet River, and determined to make the effort through our friend Major Sims who lived there; but it was too long a journey to make on horseback, and Dick advised the carryall, which was light and easy-going. Nick was to drive me; but the night before, the sick nurse Minda sent me word that Nick was too sick to leave home; and I ordered that Gabriel take his place. I heard the carriage come up, and told Phoebe to take Gabriel a cup of coffee and some breakfast and she came back grinning, and said, ” ‘Taint Gabriel; it’s Brother Nick; and he say he ain’t gwine to git off the seat for nobody nobody ain’t gwine but him, for he clone said in Columbia he ain’t gvvine to leff you tell he die; and, Miss Ellen, Brother Nick won’t let anybody else go with you today.”
1 went out, and there were both the men ready, but I the mistress had to give way, and truly I was not sorry, for 1 felt such absolute trust in Nick’s ability to steer through the difficulties. He seemed to be doubly endowed with eyes, ears and intuition. He and Dick were the most intelligent Negroes I ever saw, and never seemed at a loss for a way to do a thing if I their mistress said it had to be done.
When we got to the river, we found the flat had gone avisiting down below, as it was in the habit of doing, and staying there till someone had occasion to bring it back. What was to be done? Nick soon solved the difficulty. There was a small bateau, a pole and the ferryman. “So,” said Nick, “git out, Miss Ellen, and I will take the body of the carriage off the wheels, and we will take it over on the bateau, and come back for the wheels, and then we’ll swim over the horses, and come back for you.” I suggested going in the bateau at the same time, but he said no, for the horses might upset the bateau, and I would fall in the river; and so it was all done much after the transit of the goose, the fox and the bag of corn; but we got to Mr. Sims’ all safe. Nick became too ill to return with me, and I was driven home by a reliable man belonging to Major Sims. My poor, faithful, devoted servant and friend never came back alive, but I sent for his remains, and had him laid to rest in the little plantation cemetery, reading the burial service over him, and doing all I could to honor the memory of one who had been truly ”faithful unto death.”
As I said, the problem of how to feed so many mouths began to press heavily upon my mind. I had had the wheat ground whole, and we ate that at our table, leaving the corn for the Negroes and stock. A neighbor Mr. Smarr sent us a wagonload of peas, and helped us in many ways. But at last I had to put both Negroes and stock on short allowance, which measure the less intelligent of our people could not understand, their idea being that their owners could command everything. Then began my first difficulties in managing them, and I had to go among them in their cabins, and where they were at work; but although they would accept all that I would say, it would be forgotten, and their privations and needs be all that they could apprehend at the moment. Our neighbors, with the exception of Mr. Smarr, held aloof, evidently ranking us as rich people, who could not be in need of their assistance. After a while, it became known that we had valuable stores of household goods and wearing apparel, and from day to day, one or another young woman would come with a chicken or a pound of butter, or something to trade. The first day a girl came in, she caught sight of an artificial rose, which, among other ball finery, had been rammed into a chest to keep things steady; and upon that she set her heart and offered her chicken in exchange. Imagine the joy of my sister Cornelia, a quick, impulsive nature, at the discovery of the direction in which the girl’s desires tended. Out of the room she rushed, and hauled out a lot of flowers, ball dresses, and hats; and from that time we did quite an extensive millinery business, and had chickens and butter quite often on the table. Some came for crockery and clothing. One day a woman took a fancy to some heavy delftware, the remains of an old dinner set, that had been sent to the plantation years before; and as I emptied the plates on the cloth (for we were at breakfast when she came), my little niece said softly, “Lolla” (as she called me) “is going to sell all the plates; I spec’ we will have to eat off the leaves.”
In March, we began to hear frequently from Columbia, and I knew all that had taken place there. My brother’s man Billy had returned from the army to Columbia very soon, for, he said, he “could not rest tell he knew how Mistis and Miss Grace were getting on.” My mother had kept with her Cynthia, the cook; an old family servant, Nellie; our butler, Horace, and a man she thought a great deal of, Jim, a good enough fellow, but who would always think of himself first, and was the only one to fail her, for she lost sight of him, and a beautiful black pony, entirely. My mother afterwards saw the pony and a handsome Gordon setter of Dr. Taylor’s “Jet” by name moving in the Yankee line, as the property of General Logan.
My sister Grace has a diary of what she and my mother passed through in Columbia, and I shall only allude to what I have heard of. Billy did faithful service, securing to them salt and a hog, which he cut up and stored; then, weighting himself with all sorts of things, he took his way to the plantation to see what had come to us. I shall never forget his appearance on the Quarter street, and his happiness as he emptied his pockets of his gifts a pound of coffee to one, sugar for the children, a candle to another, and a lot of preserves from Miss Grace to all not one was forgotten. Billy, good Billy I do not say one among a thousand, for there were many, perhaps thousands, of such among the best grade of our slaves; but he was “our Billy” to the day of his death.
But my narrative must close, since I have brought it so nearly to the close of all the beautiful life that had hitherto been ours.
The spring brought changes; some of us returned to Columbia to see what could be made out of what was left to us there. Our house was not burned, owing to the guard my mother had secured from General Sherman; but our mill place was destroyed utterly.
I remained on the York plantation till fall, when I left to go to Chester, having secured the position of principal of the Female Academy.
The death of my mother caused an entire break-up of the family, each going to work in his or her own way, for there was little left of old wealth and comfort, and necessity compelled. I am grateful that the way was opened to me for self-support in the school at Chester, and later in my native city Columbia where for thirty odd years I had a “Home School for Young Ladies,” which was well patronized from all parts of the State. And this ends my story of a “Household During the War.”