Reminiscences of the Confederate War

Mrs. W. B. Dunlap.
Rock Hill, S. C, February 7, 1901

I can recall the four years of the Civil War with many sad and some pleasant recollections. I was young, and the dark days, interspersed with those of sunshine, kept us ever watching and wishing for the “silver lining” to deck our clouds of despair. We did not realize the suffering and privation that would inevitably befall the South until 1864-65; then, being deprived of any foreign aid, as recruits for our army, clothing and the usual luxuries in our culinary department, we resorted to devices which would at the present day seem quite commonplace and ludicrous. Coffee was not in store; therefore, wheat, rye, and sweet potatoes were substituted; syrup made from the sugarcane; the ripe pulp of watermelons and persimmons were used for sugar; our choicest cakes were made with syrup; corncobs burnt, and the ashes were used for soda. Clothing also exercised our ingenuity. Silks, worsteds, and even calico, were seen in a few tattered garments left to remind us of the “days gone by.” All of the old cards and spinning wheels, looms which had been stored away so many years, covered with the cobwebs of antiquity, were brought into use, and homespun was the most fashionable material, dyed in all of the colors of the rainbow; and although we had no Paris Delineator from which we could cull patterns, we imagined our costumes adorned us quite becomingly. Gloves, hose, shawls, and scarves were knit with Confederate thread, not only for our use, but our soldiers. Hats and bonnets were made of wheat and rye straw, bleached or dyed, braided and fashioned into shape; our domestic feathery tribe were deprived of some of their plumage, a small bow of faded ribbon (if such an article could be found among the war wreck); and we donned our Confederate tiara with as much self-conscious loveliness as some of our Rock Hill butterflies of fashion do nowadays. Buttons were made of wood, seed of persimmons, and palma-Christi; quite a pretty button was made with a needle and thread.

I was living twelve miles northeast of the town of Chester, within three miles of the Southern Railroad, about ten miles west of Landsford, on the Catawba River. It was surmised that Sherman’s army would pass through our vicinity. Oh! the horrible suspense! I can recall each day and night as a dreadful nightmare; sleep seemed to haunt us, and when Morpheus wrapped his alluring mantle around us, visions of bluecoats would startle us in our dreams. Our silver was deposited in a spring near our home, by one of the servants, and all other valuables hidden. The rain poured in torrents unceasingly for two weeks; the Catawba River and creeks were over-flowing their banks; bridges demolished; roads impassable, which impeded Sherman’s march through that portion of Chester County.

It would consume pages to unravel some of those thrilling experiences; yet we were blessed in comparison with those unfortunate ones whose homes were within the line of Sherman’s march from the sea to Virginia. “May the night of sectional hate be rolled away, and our beautiful Southland stand in perfect day,” with face ablaze, with eye hope lit, that Peace will spread her wings abroad, heralding forth the tidings of a free field under the favor of a just God.

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