Eleanor S. Ivey, nee Turner
(A few extracts from a diary)
I was in the country when the first sound of the war bugle reached my ears. This is an extract from my diary at that time: “How bright the sun shone on this, my natal day. How the birds seem trying to welcome its coming with their songs. But alas! I am far away from home and loved ones, and it is a sad time with us all. News is rife even in the country: even here, the sound of the tocsin of war has reached the ears of old men, young men, and even boys; and as every mail brings some account of added provocation from the North, they rise up in the glory of their manhood and feel that they must go forth and fight for the rights of our own fair Southland. The quiet of the country is broken; confusion runs riot. Each day some pupil leaves the school, and soon I feel that I will have to close, as the patrons have become demoralized and think they will soon be on the verge of starvation, and fear to spend a dollar.”
In a few weeks from the time this entry was made I was at home. I found our village full of enthusiasm, and the ladies and girls busy as bees, making a Confederate flag. Oh! how many hopes were stitched into the folds of those Stars and Bars! often with bleeding fingers, for that was before the day of sewing machines in the South. How proudly we watched the men run it to the top of an immense pole, while our voices joined in the huzzas as its folds floated to the breeze. There was no time to sit with folded hands and grieve over the situation. Indeed, we of the younger class felt it almost a picnic to assist in making fatigue shirts, knitting socks, and cooking dainties to send to “our boys” in gray.
My home, being on the W. & W. R. R., a great number of the soldiers had to pass there, en route to Richmond. A committee of nearly everyone in the village was formed to have lunch for the troops, whenever the train would stop to take on wood and water. The older ladies would have something substantial; the girls, flowers for the gallant boys; while the boys too young to take up arms would take buckets of water for all. Until now I had only sympathized with others in parting with loved ones. My father had been dead many years, and my oldest brother was just twelve years old; but his youth was no drawback to his patriotism. When the first company left, my mother appealed to the captain to tell him he could not go. Another company was soon raised and, the colonel being from our town, words, tears, nor anything else, could keep him at home. A proud boy he was when Colonel Parker made him his orderly. He soon marched away to Virginia, where so many of our brave boys fought, bled and died.
Now came a time of dire trouble and suspense. We feared to scan the list of dead and wounded after each battle. One day, news came that Colonel Parker’s orderly had been wounded while carrying dispatches during the fight around Richmond. Alas! the news proved only two true, and a widowed mother boarded the outgoing train with a sad, anxious heart. But fate was kind, and she was so happy to find her soldier boy only slightly hurt. There was a warm welcome for both when she reached home again, bringing Orderly Wallar S. Turner, who had been honorably discharged from duty on account of his youth. I think he was glad to be back with mother, for awhile, at least.
Those terrible years of war crept on, as a wounded snake drags its weary length along. Slow, tedious, as they were, each day was full of interest and work for those left at home. Soldiers were passing constantly. Sometimes we would hear that several regiments were on the way to the “seat of war.” What a lively, hurrying time we had then. The women made cakes the best our material afforded; the older ones would tie up packages, socks, or woolen comforters, to give to those who needed them; the girls would gather huge bouquets, to be divided into small boutonnieres, to pin on the pockets of the brave soldier boys; while each small boy considered himself a committee to see that buckets of fresh water were ready for them. Then we would meet near the depot or “water tank” and wait their coming. The trains did not tarry long, but sometimes long enough for an exchange of hearts, and on one occasion that I knew of resulted in marriage.
At that time, I had no soldier sweetheart, but was more interested in the conductor who had charge of the train than in the soldiers; so my buttonhole bouquet was generally pinned on the lapel of “Captain Ivey’s” coat whenever he was aboard. Just here let me say that Captain Ivey raised a company of cavalry and reported for duty, but the president and superintendent of the W. & W. R. R. would not let him leave the road; he was detailed and brought back, and served in the civil service during the war.
Those were times that tried women’s souls as well as men’s, and though we worked hard and prayed often for those who were giving their lives for us, there were times when the young folks, at least, had fun. A soldier boy would come home on furlough and persuade his sweetheart to marry him before he returned. Then we were all alive. Old trunks were opened and ransacked for remains of finery that had been long hid away. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to find white slippers, discolored by age; we would chalk them, mend the holes, or would beg or pay the old negro shoemaker “at the quarters” to put soles on jeans uppers. Happy the girl whose mother or aunt had once been a belle, and had left some embroidered or India muslins. Sometimes a light silk would be found and utilized. An old threadbare black silk apron was considered a treasure; when picked to pieces and mixed with wool, it made a nice filling for cotton warp; and when woven, such a lovely soft gray dress the bride would have, trimmed with persimmon seed, or with buttons made of round bits of pasteboard, covered. Then the hat was made of shucks or oat and wheat straw, plaited and trimmed with paper or feather flowers. Having secured the dress, now we turned our attention to the wedding supper. The old black “maumers” would try their skill in this and, with preserved watermelon rind for citron, dried cherries, and other small fruits; we would have a delicious fruitcake.
So the years rolled on sometimes sunshine, sometimes shadow, but with never a doubt as to the final success of our Cause. I can never forget the first news we had of Lee’s surrender. It was a warm Sunday afternoon in April. Several girls were down by the river bank, where the falls make a miniature Niagara. We were chatting or singing, all thinking of loved ones and wishing “this cruel war was over” when we saw a ragged, sick-looking soldier coming slowly along the dusty road. A spring of cool water bubbled near; he saw the gourd hanging by a nail that was driven in a tree, and stopped and asked for a drink. We soon gathered around him, each one with a question. One girl asked why he was coming home alone. “Indeed, Miss,” he replied, “I am not alone; others are behind, and all that are left of the army are coming, for the war is over; General Lee has surrendered.” In a few moments, two other soldiers came up and confirmed what the first had told. We were quite indignant, turned away from the “deserters,” as we called them, and then hastened home to repeat the news. In a few days, our worst fears were confirmed. The soldiers continued to come, all telling the same story. Lee had indeed surrendered. He was confronted with overwhelming odds. Our boys were compelled to lay down their arms; but never conquered.
To this day, the Lost Cause is ever green in the memory of those who lived and acted through the vicissitudes of that cruel war. For this reason we are banded together, that our children, and their children, may not forget our wrongs. Our flag is furled; but the bravery of the men on the field, and the women at home, will live in the memories of the lovers of freedom while the sun shines on our beloved Southland.