Olive Cochran Minor (Mrs. C. S. Minor)
Anderson, S. C.
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It is hardly without the pale of the present generation’s memory since the roar and thunder of Jackson’s gun had ceased to echo through our happy Southland. The dying embers of Lee’s camp-fires marked the places where recently stood watch the chivalrous flower of Southern manhood. Sherman had begun his march to the sea, and in his wake there was left naught but devastation and sorrow. Thanks to the fates that old Anderson was spared a visit from this fire fiend.
It was May 1, 1865, that a courier, said to have been a member of Wheeler’s Cavalry, came dashing down Main street, giving the alarm, “The Yankees are coming.” In a short while the news had spread like wildfire, creating terror and consternation throughout the village. One of the leading citizens met the raiders in front of the courthouse with a flag of truce, improvised by tying a handkerchief on the end of his cane. He claimed that the war was over, and demanded of the officer in command protection for the citizens and their property. He also informed the officers that they might make his house headquarters if they so desired. Protection was promised, but the Benson House was chosen as headquarters.
On this eventful day, there was a picnic party at Silver Brook, the pretty little stream that winds its way through the “Silent City” near our homes. Just as the merry crowd were ready to enjoy the feast spread before them, they were rudely interrupted by the raiders. All of the teams were captured, but the picnic party was given the privilege of returning to their homes in the wagons. And as the Federal soldiers rode on each side of them through the public square, it is safe to say that they never guarded fairer prisoners than those Southern girls.
The object of the raid was to capture ex-President Jefferson Davis. By some means, the Federals had ascertained that he had been in Abbeville. It was also reported to them that a large amount of Confederate gold and silver was on the road, having left that place. The raiders were commanded by General Palmer, a Kentuckian, who was candidate for Vice-President during the last campaign, on the goldbug Democratic ticket. Palmer’s command was sent in every direction, and especially to all towns and to the bridges over the Tugaloo, Seneca, and Savannah rivers, hoping to learn of Davis’ crossing place, and whether any gold or silver had been sent across those rivers.
Many were the laughable scenes as this family or that rushed hither and thither, seeking a hiding place for their valuables or necessaries. One member of the family watched the front door while another hid the jewels. Garret and cellar were searched for hiding places, and floors and ceilings were ripped from their places to find storage for a handful of sugar or a cup of salt, worth anywhere from $10 to $100 per pound.
No doubt there are old wells hereabouts still holding their treasures, and many family relics bear the mark of hasty concealment. A lady who still resides in Anderson owned a very handsome watch, and when she received the intelligence that the raiders had come she was sorely distressed. In great haste, she secured a tin cup and, placing the watch therein, concealed it in the bosom of old mother earth, beneath a tree in an immense orchard, and, covering the place with grass, she felt that her watch was securely hidden. After the raiders had left town, she returned to reclaim her treasure, but, to her disappointment, she was unable to locate the tree, and finally called out the slaves to assist in the search.
It may be interesting to mention that located at Johnson University, now Patrick Military Institute, was the Confederate Treasury, or a branch of it. Our government had eighty foreign expert artists employed, who were turning out millions of dollars of cheap Confederate money. One hundred and twenty-five dollars in Confederate money was worth about one dollar in gold the day before the raid. There was a small amount of coin in the treasury. It was paid out pro rata to the employees, from officers and clerks down to the laborers in the printing department. Most of the books and papers were stored in the building now occupied by the Hill-Orr Drug Company. This building contained money, books, safes, and many valuables that belonged to citizens all over the South, some having been shipped from Richmond when the Treasury Department was removed from there.
At the time of the raid, the dining room of the Benson House was connected by a door with the storage room of the Treasury Department. When it was rumored that the stores were being broken open, some of the citizens, with the assistance of the slaves, set about to remove the trunks and boxes into the dining-room. There, under a double row of tables, were placed the trunks and boxes. The tablecloths were arranged so as to nearly reach the floor. The Federal officers who had headquarters at the Benson House ate their meals over those boxes of silver, diamonds, gold, and other valuables.
Many old slaves would go to the rooms of the refugees, get their jewels and hide them, and not once did they betray either native or refugee.
In some instances, most brutal and cruel methods were used by the raiders. Mr. Silcox, a wealthy refugee from Charleston, on refusing to reveal the hiding place of his wealth, was immediately hung by the thumbs and treated in a most uncivilized manner.
Standing on the corner, where formerly was Crayton’s store, but now the Bank of Anderson, was a crowd of boys conversing. Suddenly eight or ten Federals rode up and shouted, “To what command do you belong, and what are you doing here?” Before anyone could reply, several shots were fired, and one of the boys, a Mr. Parker, was instantly killed.
A Negro man, commonly known as “Happy Dick” Wilson, whose broad smile, fiddle and bow made lasting impressions on many of our older citizens, was shot down near the First Methodist Church, while running to his master.
Murder and robbery appear to have been the program. There was a man captured near Harrison’s spring who had $700 in gold in a belt upon his person. The raiders were very much elated at that, and near the same place they captured another man and found a large amount of gold in the hollow portion of his wooden leg. The raiders searched every man they met, and not only robbed him of money but took anything of value. The stores were all looted, safes broken open, and Confederate bonds and private papers scattered. Many old iron safes could be seen around the public square for a long while after the raid, being monuments of robbery perpetrated upon defenseless people.
Hundreds of bottles of wine, said to have been a century old, were taken from one of the storerooms. Many Federals drank freely, and had planned to burn the Confederate cotton which was in front of Mr. Tolly’s store. The matter was reported to an officer who had retired; he immediately hurried out, secured a squad, and put the leaders of the movement under arrest, and placed a guard around the cotton till sunrise next morning. These events occurred in May, though the surrender had occurred the 9th of April.
After the raiders had left town, a gentleman found a valise under a trap door in the hotel, and just as he was bringing it up an old darkey rushed up and said, “What you doing there, boss? That’s my valise,” and on being asked where he got it, he replied, “I was up all night, waiting on those Yanks., and they never gave me a thing, so for my reward I captured this valise, and I think it is full of gold”; but it was found to contain papers only.
The Kentuckians in that command, and many Northern troops, conducted themselves as soldiers and gentlemen, while others did not; but none were so vicious and mean as those who claimed to be Tennesseans.
Our townsman, Mr. John Catlett, who had been recognized as a Union man, and originally a Tennessean, had been roughly treated by the post guard. Be it said to his credit that in his quiet way he exerted his influence and did all in his power to restrain the Federals from their misdoings.
The people of Pendleton, on hearing of the outrages committed here, hastily organized a company of patriots and came to assist in protecting our people. So long as time lasts, Andersonians should bear the most brotherly feeling towards the Pendleton people. Mr. John Hopkins, a Union man of this place, and a relative of one of the Federal officers, used his influence and did a great deal of good for the people.
Well, I cannot enumerate all who endeavored to punish men disgracing the uniforms they wore, yet this sketch would be incomplete without mentioning the famous Manse Jolly. It is not known how many men he caught, but it is said that he captured three men at one time, near Providence Church. Seven men wearing Federal uniforms were killed and buried near Townville not on account of the uniforms they wore, nor for being in the Federal army, nor for being Yankees, but for being with a command that robbed and pillaged old and young, white and black, and for committing crimes after the war was over that would make a Comanche Indian hang his head in shame.
The raiders fired at every man they met, but the fire was seldom returned. A United States soldier, who belonged to an Ohio regiment, was shot in the back of the neck from ambush.
While bushwhacking should be condemned, if there ever was a time when it was justifiable it was when Federal soldiers robbed and murdered a people who, without arms and ammunition, had surrendered. I can even draw a veil of charity over the acts of men who made war the science of barbarism; I cannot excuse or palliate the acts of robbery, vandalism, murder and, yea, worse than murder, committed in Anderson County after the war was over. Not even age or sex was respected, and children and old gray-haired men and women were shamefully and brutally mistreated.
I have heard that all of the outrages were not committed by United States soldiers, but a great many perpetrated by ruffians known as “jayhawkers.”
I love the Union and the flag of my country. But I will say that I respect and honor all who from honest convictions and sincere motives fought for or against the Union.