Fairfield County, South Carolina History by Ederington

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Page 9

News & Herald, February 8, 1901


The writer who tells of Sherman's march through South Carolina has a prolific as well as a sorrowful theme. Several days before the arrival of the army at Rocky Mount, February 22, 1865, the southern heavens were covered with the smoke of burning buildings. Each day the smoke appeared nearer and nearer, and the hearts of the people beat faster. Next came a throng of fugitives, fleeing from their homes, endeavoring to save their stock and a few valuables. Then came straggling soldiers with many tales of woe and horror. Next was heard the skirmish near Gladdens. Then the smoke of the neighbors' buildings was seen in black columns ascending heavenward, then came the sound of the taps of the drums. The Yankee soldiers dashed up to the doors, gold and silver watches and silver plate were demanded, and whether given or not, the homes were thoroughly searched and everything they wanted, stolen. Often when they did not wish the articles themselves, they took them and gave them to the negroes.

Yards were cleared of dogs. In one instance a soldier presented his gun to shoot a dog which had fled to its mistress's feet for protection. Had not an officer ordered him to desist, death might have been the result to the lady (Mrs. Robert Ford). Firearms were taken away and destroyed, a great many thrown into the Catawba River. The poultry was all taken. Bacon, flour, cornmeal, corn and provisions of all kinds removed. Every locked door was forced open, gin houses (cotton gins), and cotton burnt in every instance. This much was done by the first installment. Late in the evening they put pontoon bridges across the river and a part of the army went over in the afternoon of the 22nd. It rained and the water rose and broke the pontoons. By the morning of the 23rd the encampment reached from Caldwell's Cross Roads on both roads to Rocky Mount Ferry. The six days and nights that the army spent there was a time of much sorrow and fear to the ladies and few old men who were at home.

Gen. Jeff. C. Davis, of the U.S. Army, had his headquarters of Robert Ford for twenty-four hours. He drove Mrs. Ford, her aged mother-in-law, and the children of the family from her room to an open portico to spend the night, an unpleasantly cold and wet one. He occupied her room, much to her discomfort. Gen. Davis traveled in a fine silver mounted carriage drawn by two fine white steeds, stolen on the march. His meals were served on silver waiters.

Gen. Sherman traveled through this vicinity on horseback, and save the wanton destruction of property, did nothing to render himself obnoxious. He had burnt ten buildings belonging to Mrs. Robert Ford, among them a large barn and stable. Several secret efforts were made to burn the dwelling house, but it was saved through the efforts of an Indiana private soldier, whose name I would be glad to mention if it were known. The family of Mrs. Ford had a steadfast friend in the chief of artillery. He found some Masonic articles about the house and asked Mrs. Ford if her husband was a Mason. On being answered in the affirmative, he had the house and yard cleared of pillagers, gathered a few provisions and sent them in, and placed a guard over the premises. Then he moved he left a paper which he hoped would be some protection, but there was but little left then to protect.

The Yankee soldiers shot down all kinds of stock, destroyed all farm implements and burnt the fencing. During the six days stay at Rocky Mount, they foraged the country for miles, going in squads of from four to ten, sometimes without arms. Gen. Sherman's headquarters were near the Barkley mansion. He treated the ladies in this section politely.

The neighborhood was so pillaged that the people for several days had to subsist on the gleanings from the camps. Mr. J. H. Stroud, of Chester County was very kind to the people in their dire distress. He sent an ox cart regularly with meal and flour. His name will ever be green in the memory of the unfortunate people of the Rocky Mount Section. The good people of Bascomville, Chester County, and others also aided them. All aid received was from private persons. For two years the rations were mainly cowpeas boiled in water and a bit of cornbread. Without money, clothing or credit, here was real fear of starvation.

After the army passed, persons in the track of the march came and claimed all unknown stock and broken down and abandoned vehicles of all kinds. A few had some cattle left. They had to keep them under guard, or they would have been claimed and driven away.

Mr. Stephen Ferguson, of Chester County, an aged man asked for a detachment of Wheeler's cavalry and came down and skirmished with the Yankees in the yard of Mr. Robert Ford and Dr. Scott's which greatly frightened the ladies. Ferguson rode boldly up to the window and told them to stand between the chimneys. He captured a few stragglers and left.

We'll be ready next time, Mama.

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The army began to move across the river about ten in the night, seemingly in great excitement. Ferguson came with a large detachment, but was too late. The army had crossed, and the bridges raised.

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