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Mrs. Thomas Taylor.
In the year of unblessed memory to Carolinians, there stood on the outskirts of Columbia a residence of broad white front, with a colonnade springing up from arches, well set back from the public road, in grounds ornamented with forest trees, magnolias and flower beds. On the left of the house grew a red oak, under the shade of which the family children of several generations had located their doll village, where they passed the sunny hours of the days, as was the general Southern custom, watched and checked by the “maumers,” who, placidly stitching their own work, sat by, on guard, so that nothing dangerous or unseemly might come into the children’s play of the game of life and village visiting tattle.
Under this same oak took place an interview which was the historical finale of views taken by the owner of a toy which had for many years been a treasure to Mrs. Elmore, the lady of the mansion, and an appendage well known in Columbia. Colonel Elmore, in a late year of his life, had superintended the building of a light vehicle, to suit a pair of tiny marsh tackeys; and this personal equipage of his widow was ever regarded with a species of reverence by the daughters of the household; the great family compliment was conferred when one of them was invited to a seat in this phaeton with their mother. Many tackeys had dragged that carriage, and the last pair of the series had made their exit some weeks before the 17th of February, 1865, being retired, for safe keeping, to the plantation in York District.
There was a chariot of very different dimensions, style and majesty in the city. Columbians called it “the Boozer glass case.”
The summer evening dissipation of Columbians before the war was the drive and soda water. Old ladies went out in demure caps, and the girls appeared bareheaded. The coachmen knew, without orders that they were to draw up in front of the druggists’ stores, from which the waiters dashed, tray in hand, with the foaming beverage. I remember an old lady of unmitigated right-mindedness who always called for pepper, sassafras and ginger. She said she liked to put together profit and pleasure!
Later in the season, the heads of the girls were covered with gay hats. Light wraps added tints to the picture, which made the heart of the wayfarer give thanks that Youth was a part of Life.
The Boozer coach, with the glass windows partly folded back on hinges, “exploited” a rare vision. A mother and daughter Mrs. Feaster and Marie Boozer the one rich, dark in coloring and costume, the other (occupying the whole front seat) a girl of golden hair, rose shades, blue orbs, healthy, poised, delicious, pressing into the soft cushions, wrapped in ciel blue and swans down, leghorn hat, from which the white plumes fell, curling under upon the white and pink throat. It was an angel’s seeming and she, beautiful as Venus, the goddess of the chariot.
These scenes are changed. Pale tints of tenderness and peace give place to fierce, lapping, red flames of burning cotton bales, charring homes, and toppling chimneys.
Sherman was entering the town. Mrs. Elmore walked down the stone steps of her dwelling, and on through a crowd of terrified people for a mile, to seek General Sherman. A number of old men, women and children had come to her home, fearing the bombardment, and Mrs. Elmore hastened to secure protection from the incoming army.
General Sherman rode several blocks after turning into the Main Street with his forces. Mrs. Elmore took her stand at a corner, watching her chance. She reached over the shoulders of the crowd, and with her umbrella touched the foot of the “great enemy.” He looked towards her and, answering her request for a guard, said, “I will see you at headquarters.” In telling of this, an irresistible flash of fun sprang into the haughty face of the lady as she said, “And it was a cotton umbrella I poked him with.” We all know the ignominy a cotton umbrella bore in days of yore.
General Sherman was scarcely at the house of Blanton Duncan before Mrs. Elmore also was there. He recalled politely enough having met a gentleman of her name in Washington, and promised to send a guard. Mrs. Elmore replied, “I will wait for them.” The general smiled, and ordered a lieutenant to see to the detail; and Mrs. Elmore marched out of town at the head of the men, a long crepe veil hanging to her feet behind her deep poke bonnet. Good and civil the men proved.
The second day of the occupation, the city was given over to pillage. From an upper window, Grace Elmore saw the pony carriage being dragged off by men, through the lane from the stables to the road which ran along in front of the grounds towards Camden the memorable road by which our army preceded the Yankees just to the spot where Mrs. Elmore gave to Gen. M. C. Butler a sword of General Leonidas Polk, which Mrs. Polk left in the house when on her way after the death of her husband.
The carriage was going, and within it was moving flour, bacon everything the men could stow away inside and on the top, with tied legs, jerking heads, and sad eyes sad as those beholding them from the upstairs window were the turkeys, geese, and chickens every one.
The trees intercepted the view; but other conveyance must have been at the road, for the contents never reappeared in the yard, though the carriage was left at the bridge over the drain, and was re-hauled by Horace and Billy, the house boys, to the red oak tree, where had flourished the baby town of antebellum times.
Yet a day! and Mrs. Elmore saw a second grip upon her treasure. She went to the dining room to speak to a guard. He was lying upon the sofa where her sacred head was wont to rest. He asked if she had had her coffee. “No,” replied the lady; “it is months since we have used coffee.” “Then you shall have some now,” said the kindly young fellow, springing to the table. Mrs. Elmore says, “He didn’t even wash the cup he had been drinking from, either, and the coffee was hot; but I wanted him to save my carriage, and I drank to the dregs.” He did his best, but the detail had the order of (I think, General Howard) for a “light carriage.” He seemed particular! One must understand that choice of vehicles was limited just then: most of any sort were on the road gone off on private travels, heavy with old men, feeble women, babies, flour, hominy, candles, sauce-pans, as many and as much of such things as make up a home, chucked and filled in with despair and anxiety and suffering and strange consternation.
“That is my carriage,” said Mrs. Elmore, on reaching the tree. “What are you doing with it?” “We want it for a good Union lady,” said No 1. “Then you do not want it for any one you will find here,” said Mrs. Elmore. “Oh! yes; we’ve got two loyal ladies, and we’ve got to have a carriage for them to go along with us,” spoke No. 2. “But that is my carriage,” persisted Mrs. Elmore, “and your loyal ladies have no business with it. If you have any Union ladies, you must have brought them with you.” “No, we didn’t; they’ve been here all the time,” replied the soldier. So they had been, and hiding a spy in their home, under the shadow of the State House.
Meanwhile the vehicle was being gotten ready for departure. Then the owner asked a question. She says she fixed what she meant to be an eloquent eye upon the marauder and asked, “Young man, have you a mother?” He looked at her saucily, but respectfully, and replied, “Yes, ma’am a nice, sweet looking old lady, just like you.” She laughed, and recognized how small a thing is self in face of universal calamity. “The carriage must go,” said the guard the fortune of war. It went, but whether Mrs. Feaster and Marie Boozer went in it I cannot tell. But they also went, and must have enchanted those amongst whom they settled. We heard they got $10,000 for burnt cotton which they never owned. Miss Boozer made a rich marriage, much world-wide reputation of a sort a second real marriage with Count Portales. And the glass coach was sent by the Mayor Dr. Goodwyn in exchange for that little carriage. For years it remained in the carriage house, big as a boat cabin, and useless as any big thing which cannot fit to a small need.
A daughter of the house married and moved to Fort Motte. One winter, a faithful adherent of her husband’s arrived at the old mansion with two animals. “I come for de Boozer,” he announced. Hitching up his mismatched, scrawny horses, with patched reins, himself arrayed in old boots and dilapidated military vesture, he drove to the door. We heard him murmur from the high seat of dignity, “Now, I tell you, if Miss Rosa ‘spects me to git up here, wid all de winds whistlin’ ’round, she got to find me a overcoat somewhar.” The humor was, where was the possible “whar”?
Later the car of Venus fell from its high estate, and was used for hauling between the station and home. In after years, the material still reappeared in sundry carts, wagons, etc., till all its usefulness followed its glories into nothingness.