|Widow, in her, "weeds", of a Confederate soldier. Her fatherless baby is on her lap.|
Sunday, April 30, 1865, Lancaster, South Carolina
Where to begin I know not. There has been so very, very much happening that I am afraid that I will miss recording much of it and it will be lost from my memory forever. I am quite drunk but not from any alcoholic imbibing. My senses, not my body is reeling from all kinds of experiences, and I certainly must look drunk as a judge.
Two days ago, we marched into Catawba, in York County had camped for the night there. It is not a very big town but might be considered by some to be big for these parts. Just before we halted, we came across a Yankee brigade looking for our fugitive president. They saw all of our armament and could have thought that we were looking for trouble. Somehow, they recognized us for what we were and no exchange of musketry occurred. They're officers were quite kind to us and ordered their commissary officers to transfer the contents of their wagons to our haversacks. This act was very generous of them.
|Brigadier General William Palmer, shown here as a junior officer. It was his brigade that supplied the Confederates while on their way to Chester.|
While they were not hostile or rude to us, they spoke of the president and his party in very unfriendly terms. There was talk of executions for the last members of the Confederate government as they were thought to be responsible for the death of Lincoln. Some of the Yankees said that they hoped that their new president, Johnson, would place bounties on the heads of the fugitives. None of us believed that the hunted parties had anything to do with the death on Lincoln. These men, after all, are proper Southern gentlemen. Or so we like to believe.
The brigade broke up in Catawba. The division dissolved some time ago. We lost all the North Carolinians from the division before we crossed into South Carolina. The Georgia regiments busted off from the rest of the division to hurry on before we got here. The division, once known as the Light Division, commanded by Hill, then Pender, then Wilcox, is now gone forever. It will continue to exist in our hearts and minds but never again will it take its' rightful place on the field.
The same holds true for the brigade. Some parts of regiments departed for the eastern part of the state. Those of us remaining in Catawba have further to go, some all the way to Charleston. It may have ben a mistake not to go with the Georgians as I will end up almost in Georgia myself. But if I were to do that, I would be parting company with my own regiment and company. I am not yet ready to do that.
Like the division, the brigade of Gregg and then McGowan will pass into history books yet to be written.
Yesterday, Saturday, the brigade, or what was left of it, halted its' march in Chester, the seat of Chester County. We wanted to refresh ourselves so we would look our best when we marched into Lancaster. Not everyone wanted to halt. Many wished to push on through as they still had a ways to go. Chester is not even a days' march from Lancaster. We were close enough to make the distance in quick fashion and not look fatigued.
We spent our time cleaning our rifles and leathers, our uniforms and ourselves. The latter we accomplished as best we could given the scarcity of good soap. All of us broke out our housewives and worked needle and thread like tailors. Everyone contributed buttons and patching materials where needed.
Items of uniforms that were past resurrection were tossed aside and replaced with new or gently worn items. I saw this and, being the old man of the company, admonished everyone to save everything not thought worthy of saving. We were not familiar with the conditions at home and those unknown conditions may necessitate that every sock, every shirt and hat may someday be needed. I gave up a good shirt to Hancock and he donated a good pair of socks to Will Crenshaw.
We took care of each other during this war and we did so one last time.
We woke up this morning and bolted down our breakfast. One last time, the drummers sounded the long roll. We formed up and went off towards Lancaster. Our officers admonished us all during the line of march to maintain a full military demeanor at all times. Even when we reached Lancaster, our orders were not to break ranks should we see our wives or sweethearts. Not everyone could maintain themselves nor could anyone really expect them to.
As the war was still going on, although not for us, there were a good number of our Southern flags on display from homes and shops. The people who turned out to greet their returning veterans were not so many but they were cheering for all they were worth. Sometimes, a wife or perhaps a sweetheart would race from the crowd to embrace her loved one.
We marched in the best of formations into the town square. I can only guess that there were some four hundred of the brigade present and accounted for. Some well-intentioned lads made up a rudimentary backwater band. They played what they knew and I recognized very little of it. No one cared. Some long-winded politician spoke to us and tried our patience with his verbosity. He was sincere, though sincere.
While were were restraining the urge to bust out of the traces, Terry bumped me and motioned my attention to some in the crowd. Amidst the civilians were soldiers on crutches, missing legs. Some waved with their one and only arm. Others could hear but not see through their bandages around their eyes. It was sad to see them but we knew they performed their duty. A number of women were in their weeds with fatherless children by their side. Who will take care of them this winter?
Just when we reached the end of our endurance, Captain Kerr spoke to us. He said that Company I and Company E, being from this area and having fulfilled our obligations to the cause, were dismissed until further notice, to the care and custody of the people. There was such a cheer. The rest of us were marched to an open field not far away.
All those in the two companies flew straight into the arms of their loved ones. I had no one. Troy Crenshaw took me under his wing and introduced me to his wife, Haseltine. She is quite a handsome woman and he is lucky to have her. It was she who made the invitation to me that I should rest and sup with them until I should decide to leave. Will Crenshaw came along, as well.
Their abode was modest, as befits a worker of the soil. We sat at the table where thanks after thanks were offered. And then we broke bread. Not much more was offered but no one cared. The menfolk told our war stories of which we had many. Miz Hasteline offered up her stories, too. The home folk did not have it easy during this war. That holds true for the farmer, laborer and mechanic class, but not so much, if at all for the planters.
As there was no room inside the cabin, I was offered the loft in their barn which smells of something having been burnt in here recently. How much longer will I stay here?
I Send You These Few Lines
When I did the research for this particular diary entry, I went to the Library of Congress. The Library has a very good collection of old newspapers that can be read online. I wanted to read the 1865 newspapers for the area that the 12th South Carolina came from to find out what sort of receptions the returning soldiers received. It was a great disappointment to find nothing on the subject. The brigade historian stated that the regiments were all in their home districts by early May. I examined newspapers from late April through early June and found not a word. Zero.
Hence, the description of the march into the square in Lancaster and the cheering people is pure fiction. I'd like to think that they received some sort of welcome.
Troy Crenshaw and Hasteltine O. Crenshaw were married before the war, on August 6, 1859. She passed on July 3, 1870.
The war was hard on division and brigade officers. A.P. Hill was killed during the breakthrough at Petersburg in April of 1865. Dorsey Pender was killed at Gettysburg in 1863. Maxey Gregg was killed at Fredericksburg in 1862. Others, like Cadmus Wilcox and Samuel McGowan were wounded.
|Dorsey Pender, Light Division commander.|
|Maxey Gregg, division commander.|
|A.P. Hill, division and later, corps commander.|
|Cadmus Wilcox, division commander.|
|Brigade commander Samuel McGowan.|
The regimental and company officers were just as likely to become casualties. Regimental commanders John Miller, Edwin Bookter and Dixon Barnes were all killed. Company commander William Stover was wounded and later transferred to the South Carolina reserves. He was captured during the breakthrough at Petersburg.
The enlisted ranks suffered the most. For the 12th South Carolina Regiment, 213 were killed in combat. Another 182 died of disease. All deaths, including the officers, totaled 514, from all causes.
For the five-regiment brigade, known as Gregg's and later McGowan's, deaths totaled 2,419. Another 3,735 were wounded. The war was a bloody affair for all concerned.
Davis and his party are near the Yorkville, South Carolina area.
Tooms asks an interesting question. How much longer will he stay in Lancaster?