Mrs. Lottie L. Green
For many years, the broad, rich acres and old homestead known as “Sylvan Hill” had successively passed from father to son, until at last, by right of inheritance, it had fallen to John Thompson Green. It was situated between the villages of Bishopville and Wisacky, and at the time of which we are speaking there were no walls for miles around more ancient, and, to us, no spot so lovely, as this our dear old homestead.
Not far away, near the village of Wisacky, stands an old church. Here, too, was the resting place of our loved ones, who had once gathered around the hearthstone of “Sylvan Hill.” This was one more tie to bind our hearts to that of our old-fashioned home. Many and hallowed are the associations connected with it. Here I was brought as a bride; it was here some of my happiest days were spent; much too dear had the friends and surroundings of this place grown to me, for a darker day was to come, when my husband died, leaving me a widow, with two little children my little boy, Willie, aged four years, and Minnie, my baby girl. My mother then came down to be with me, and help me bear this my first great grief. Not wishing to leave me alone and unprotected (for this was the third year that the Civil War had raged), she insisted on me going with her to her home in Lancaster County, near the Catawba Falls. This, my home in Sumter County, I left, with my mother, to endure aye, the story will tell.
We reached her home safely, and had been here for about two weeks when we began noticing campfires, miles away; at nights we would watch the reflection of them on the sky, and reports came in daily that Sherman’s raid would soon be upon us. That it was fast approaching, we knew must evidently be true; still, we hoped they would not cross the river, and felt that we would be safe if they remained on the other side. But we thought it best to begin hiding all the provisions and valuables, such as the silverware, etc., in order to be on the “safe side.” No sooner had we done this than three corps of Sherman’s army were upon us, besieging the house and grounds, and destroying everything they came in contact with. Our pleadings for mercy were treated with contempt.
They bribed the Negroes to tell where the things were hidden, when the heretofore faithful servants, overcome with fear, hastened to obey their least command. After finding the provisions, they took from them such as they wanted, giving the remains to the Negroes. Then satisfied that they had left us destitute of food, they went from room to room, gathering up our clothing; and breaking into my trunk, they took my baby’s dresses, and distributed them among the Negroes.
My younger brother, Columbus Tillman, our only protector and dependence, they captured on the day of their arrival. Already my mother had given up her oldest son Isaac; this was indeed a trial, but she stood it bravely; remembering the cause, she thought it best. But now to stand by and see her youngest son and only help thus captured was like “nailing her to the cross.” My brother was then taken down by the river, a distance of about three miles, where a company was encamped. He left, speaking words of encouragement to my mother.
Solely for the amusement of these men, my little son, only four years old, was taken each day out on the porch, where, with one of their guns, he was made to shoot at a target, while I, horrified, would stand and look on, not daring to remove him.
Among the many cruel deeds that these men committed, this is one of the most marked: With bayonets in hand, they walked around, and would thrust the gleaming blade into a hog or dog, leaving it to suffer and die. At one time there were seven dogs and two horses lying dead in the yard; besides, there were wounded hogs, dying by degrees, by wounds received in this way. It was hard indeed to stand by and see our stock slaughtered in this manner.
Our enemies stripped our beds of quilts and, throwing them carelessly upon the ground, led horse after horse upon them, to be brushed and curried. In those days women prided themselves upon making beautiful quilts. My mother was especially fond of this work, and had quite a number of them. But these things, that we would hold sacred these days as precious heirlooms, were then trodden under foot by horses.
One day, as I walked into an adjoining room, I found several men tearing my mother’s Brussels carpet from the floor. I entreated them to leave us the carpet. Seeing that they did not heed my entreaties, I went to Captain Day (captain of General Kilpatrick’s staff) and asked him to stop the men before they tore the carpet into shreds. He replied, “I can’t do it, madam; the fellows want it for saddle cloths.” Already disgusted with the fact that they had robbed us of food and clothing, and that, by their hand, starvation seemed staring us in the face, fairly goaded to desperation, I said, “Sir! you are no better than the rest of them!” With a bitter, sarcastic laugh, he replied, “Hardly as good, I guess, madam.”
My brother Isaac had, a short time prior to the arrival of Kilpatrick’s men, been at home recruiting. Before he was able to leave, hearing daily that Sherman’s raid was approaching, he thought best to leave, which he only did in time to keep from being captured. We stood on the piazza and watched them burn the gin house in which our cotton, some of which we had kept there for four years, had been stored. Remembering a gun that my brother Isaac had captured, and which was hidden in the house, I hastily slipped it from its hiding place and, wrapping it in the folds of my dress, I made my way to the well, where I dropped it in, feeling greatly relieved. I knew, once they found the gun, which they would have known to have been captured by a “Rebel,” they would, regardless of Kilpatrick’s orders, burn the house.
This was Kilpatrick’s headquarters, and for that reason our home was spared us. Officers guarded the house at night, for which we were very thankful. But one of them sarcastically informed me one day that my mother’s home would be left, but on my return to Sumter I would find my husband’s home in ashes. But it was left, and though somewhat impaired, still stands.
For three weeks we suffered untold suspense, knowing not what the next day would bring forth. When the day dawned on which they were to leave, with hearts too full for words, sighs of relief, and a silent prayer to God for the shelter left over our heads, we watched them ride away, leaving us to the tender mercies of Providence. Immediately after they left we began to realize more keenly the seriousness of our position no food! no clothing! Going out about the premises, we picked up the corn left on the ground by the horses. Washing this carefully, and grinding it in the coffee mill, we made coffee and bread. This, used sparingly, was our only nourishment for several days. My husband’s brother, Major William Green, with other friends and relatives in Sumter County, hearing of our destitute condition, hastened to our aid, and sent in bountiful supplies. These lasted until the return of my brothers, who lost no time in getting the land in readiness for planting.
Oh! daughters of the South, think not your long suffering and patient endurance was in vain! Your reward is not earthly it is in the world beyond; there the Heavenly Father awaits you. Hail! Confederate veterans, be not chagrined; theirs was the victory here let us aspire to something loftier, and as God in his tender mercy forgives us our daily trespasses, let us set the little flame of “forgiveness” to the great barrier that has risen up between the North and South. Let us forget the envy that they bore us, and by so doing set a far nobler example to the coming generation of the South, and may it pass from lips to lips, from generation to generation, “Long live the name of the Confederacy!” Bravely she fought for her rights, until her men became a mere remnant compared to those from the thickly settled North then was she proclaimed defeated.
Again, as bravely as they fought on the battlefield, they fight and win “the battle of forgiveness.”
“All praise to the Sunny South!”