The information on this page consists of transcriptions of taped presentations recorded in 1986 on Early Pickens County History, for Randy Hamilton, then a Fourth Grade Student at Pickens Academy, Carrollton, Alabama and 1990 on War Between the States to the Pickens County Historic Society
Transcribed in 2002 by Dr. Scott Owens from copies of the original audio tapes Provided by Mrs. Brenda Bailey, Aliceville, Alabama
Original Tapes remain in possession of Randy Hamilton, Gordo, Alabama and the Pickens County Historic Society Additional information and corrections concerning this page should be directed to your hosts, Betty Miller and Betty Phillips.
Pickens County in the War Between the States Croxton's Raid and Women of Pickens County in the War Between the States Mrs. Catherine Spell lecture delivered to the Pickens County Historical Society, March 1990
Recorded by Kelly Puckett, transcribed by Scott W. Owens, Nov-Dec 2002
When John asked me to come and speak, I, we were going to talk about the women in Pickens County during the War Between The States, and then he decided he wanted me to tell about Croxton's Raid.
So we're going to talk about Croxton when he came through Pickens County. He was a part of Wilson's Cavalry unit. Now Wilson was one of the greatest cavalrymen that the Union forces had. He was a graduate of West Point, he was a good engineer, he could manage to get up enough horses for most anything. So when he was given the order to bring four different brigades into central Alabama he said that he would have to have about seventeen thousand men to do that, he was going to have to get up that many men. But then he was going to have that many horses. He got all the horses in all the towns up North, those that were pulling the trolley cars, even circus horses, he got those. And finally he got all of , he got three divisions mounted to come South. He brought them into Alabama in the northwest corner up there, and crossed the Tennessee River with them. And then he divided them out, and the told Croxton, now you take a part of this, and go to Tuscaloosa to burn that university which has become a military school, and then go down through the rest of Alabama and destroy anything that is contributing to the Confederate forces. And he said, I'm going on down and I'll meet you where the road crosses the Cahaba River close to Centerville, and then together we'll work on down to Selma, where the arsenal is. At that time the iron works in north Alabama, and around Tannehill, places like that, they were supplying plenty of iron, and all of it was being sent to the arsenal in Selma, and there they were making, uh, guns, and minie balls, and the breastworks for the battleships. And so the Yankee forces wanted to destroy anything that was helping the Confederate army. And so, uh, Wilson took his crowd of soldiers with him and he went on down to Montevalla, and there he ran into General Forrest, and they had a battle there.
And so, Croxton took his forces and went toward Tuscaloosa like they had told him. Out in Vance he had his first skirmish. And then he came on in and he decided he'd cross the Warrior River north of Tuscaloosa and work down on this side, and cro.., there was a bridge between Northport and Tuscaloosa, a covered bridge, he was going to cross there and slip into town under the cover of darkness. Well, after having the skirmish at Vance, he brought his troops on up north of Tuscaloosa, got them across the Warrior River, and it was getting late in the afternoon. He started bringing them down Watermelon Road over there, and he sent some of his troops ahead to put hay on all the little bridges along the way, so the people in Tuscaloosa wouldn't know that he was coming, wouldn't hear his horses' hooves on those bridges.
Well, they got into the edge of Northport, and there he decided he would spend the night, so he was setting up camp there and everything, when he heard the main bridge down there at Northport, he heard somebody tearing up the planks on the flooring of the bridge. So he knew then that bridge was being guarded, and he better not wait til the next morning to get across there and get on over into Tuscaloosa. He had picked up a black man along the way and that black man led him to the bridge, and when he got down there the Cadets from the university, and Dr. Hill, Dr. Hill was one of the cadets at that time, and the home forces were, had been out there tearing up the flooring. And so Croxton went to work to put the flooring back down, and he attacked the guards, and in the attack one Confederate was killed, and a young boy named John Carson, was shot, and became an invalid for the rest of his life. And then Croxton got his men all together, and they crossed the river, and went on over into Northport.
The Leach-Carpenter Wedding
People in Northport that night were, I mean went on over into Tuscaloosa, and they were having a big wedding in Tuscaloosa. Dr. Leach's daughter was marrying a Confederate officer, named Carpenter, from up in Kentucky. And everybody in town that could borrow something or make something had to get them something to wear, wear to that wedding at the Leach home. And so when Croxton got across the river and got into the edge of Tuscaloosa, the ladies in town realized then that the war had come to Tuscaloosa, they didn't think it was ever going to get down in this part of the country. And so, Croxton sent some of his men up to the Leach house, and they went in, and took all the jewelry off of the ladies, took the men's watches, and then arrested all the officers, Confederate officers that were in there. Among those they arrested the groom. So there was the bride, with her, crying about her groom cause they were fixing to take him off. They took all the officers that had been arrested down to Croxton's headquarters, and he had set up camp down right close to the river, in a tent. When they got down there with these men and the groom, and the groom walked in, Croxton recognized him, as an old classmate of his at West Point. They were glad to see each other, and the groom talked to him about he had just gotten married and he wanted to go back home to be with his bride that night. So Croxton believed him, and so he let him go back that night with the promise that he would report back there the next morning. And the next morning he did. Well, they finally got fighting around the Leach house, and the next morning the streets were just littered with dead horses still hooked to the carriages and surreys and so forth, that they had gotten killed in there. And one of Croxton's men put on a Confederate uniform that he found in the Leach house, and he went out and got in one of the surreys parked out in the front, and started through Tuscaloosa driving it in that Confederate uniform. Croxton's own men saw him in that Confederate uniform, and shot at him and killed him. And he was, he belonged to them, but they thought he was a Confederate that was riding through the town.
Well, they spent the night there, and the next morning they paroled most of those men they had taken that night, and the groom was among those. And then they went up to the university, and burned the university, and left a few buildings there. The president's wife defended the president's mansion in such a manner that they decided they better leave it alone. She stood there with a broom and dared them to burn it down. And although they set fire she made them put it out. And so they burned the university, and Dr. Leach owned a hat factory, it was on the Northport side of the river, and was right down on the riverbank, and it was making gray felt hats for the Confederate army, and making a special one for Robert E. Lee to wear. They burned that hat factory down, and the next morning they said that every black in Tuscaloosa was walking around with a gray felt hat on. They got them one before they all burn up.
Federal Incursion into Pickens County
And then Croxton got his forces all together, and they came out of Tuscaloosa, crossed the bridge back over into Northport, and burned it behind them. And so, making it hard for anybody in Tuscaloosa to get away. But all the women in Tuscaloosa gathered around the flag pole and sang ADixie and ABonnie Blue Flag til they got away from over there, til they, uh, Croxton got away with his army. Well when he got on this side into Northport, he called Captain Sutherland up to talk to him, that was a part of his group, and he told Captain Sutherland, says, now you take a part of these, uh, soldiers and go up like you was going toward Columbus, they called it the upper stage coach route. And he says, I'm going to take the lower stage coach route, and that'll wind me up, I'm going through Coker, and I'll probably wind up in Pickens County somewhere. Well he did, he left, went on out through Coker, went down, and went to King's Store. And King's Store is over close to Benevola, for you not familiar with King's Store. And that's where Croxton spent the night.
And then the next morning, when he left King's Store, he took prisoners in Tuscaloosa, brought them with him, and then he took some prisoners out of Gordo, brought them over there with him, and so he had about thirty-five prisoners when he got to King's Store. But during the night, enough men got together, old men, young boys, and people who were home from the army injured, they got together and went out to King's Store, and they freed those prisoners that he had.
So the next morning he started working down toward Bridgeville, and he was going over to Pleasant Ridge, and he got down there, and when he got down to Sipsey he found Lanier's Mill. It was a three-story mill, filled with sides of bacon, flour, and meal, and T. C. Lanier was up in Virginia fighting for the Confederates. So Croxton got his wagons up there, and he loaded them down with all the supplies that they would hold, and just as he was getY set fire to the mill, to burn it down. Now the people of that community had stored a lot of stuff in there that they were going to send to the Confederate army, food and stuff, it all burned like that. So there were the women, they had put all this stuff in there to try to send to the Confederate army, and Croxton was burning it down. And while he was burning it down, General Wirt Adams was coming out of Mississippi. He had his Confederate troops guarding the railroad over there. He came down and crossed the river at Ringo's Bluff, just below Pickensville. Brought em on up, they were tired when they climbed that bluff. And so he brought em on up to the Helen place, and let em rest for a while, so he started working on down towards Bridgeville. When got down there, he sent a scout to Bridgeville to see what he could hear about where, uh, what was happening. And uh, they came back and told Adams that Croxton was burning Lanier's Mill, and he better go on down there and run him out of the county. So Adams went down there and attacked, uh, Croxton's wagons and his stuff, uh, troops that were along with him. And he wound up really running him out of the county. Uh, now Croxton's report that you go down an read in the archives, he doesn't give Adams credit for all of that, but people heard about it, saw it, were living in the county and all, they know that Adams really ran Croxton out of the county.
Sipsey Swamp-Romulus Skirmish
And as I was growing up in the Mississippi Delta, on the plantation next to ours, I was born on Hillsdale Plantation, and the plantation next to us lived a Col. Lambert. And I had a book of his memoirs that he wrote after the War. And in there told about being a part of Adams' troops, and he said, he thought, and he named all the battles he fought in during the War, but he said the hardest battle that he thought was in Sipsey Swamp in Pickens County, Alabama, when he ran up on Croxton burning Lanier's Mill. So they really did, so Croxton left down there with his troops and moved on up the other side of Sipsey over there and, uh, General Adams caught him at Romulus, and so people in Benevola could hear the firing over there, and, uh, they really had good battle at Romulus. And wound up with Croxton losing some of his men, some of his ambulances. And he had a major, in that bunch, named Major Fidler, and he wondered off in the woods with two enlisted men and became lost, and Mr. Horton who lived over there had two hounds, and he got his hounds and he chased that major and those two enlisted men around through the woods down there until he caught em. And when he caught em he looked on them as criminals, and he took em to Eutaw and put em in the jail. And there they stayed until after the war. And Major Fidler went to Vicksburg after the war to catch a ship, one of the ships out there on the Mississippi to go back north. And as ships got, it got him up as far as Memphis, but just beyond Memphis the boiler, it was called the ASultana, the boiler blew up on the ship, and it killed everybody that was on there, including Major Fidler.
Destruction of the Pickens County Courthouse
So Croxton then moved what was left of his forces on up to Northport, and, uh, there wasn't, he had taken everything that was up there, wasn't anything left up there for him to take for him to eat, so he decided he better get on out of the country, which he did. But General Sutherland, I mean, Captain Sutherland, that he had told to come over here and do what he could in this part of the country. He came on up as far as Gordo, and in Gordo he didn't meet any opposition at all, and so he came, we didn't have a highway eighty-six out to Gordo then, he just came through the woods, picking out the best way he could. And he came over here to Carrollton. And he and his troops came into town, and there where Pate's (lumber) Mill stands was a Confederate commissary where people stored the things they had a surplus of to send to the Confederate army. And so he burned that commissary, and he came on up town, and burned the courthouse. And in an old newspaper up here I found a letter from a man in Collins, Miss., and he was writing to the newspaper after the war, and he was telling that he was in Tuscaloosa on the day that they burned the University, and they took him as a prisoner, and brought him over here to Carrollton, riding an old nag of a horse as he called it. And he said while he was standing up here in the street watching the courthouse burn, and a prisoner of the Yankee forces, well, someone rode on a real nice-looking horse, and he asked who is that, and they said that's Dr. Hill. And so when they attacked the University over there, Dr. S.H. Hill was one of the cadets over there, and went on the Confederate Army from there and fought throughout the War, and he's Mrs. Fannie Mae Foster's down here's father, Dr. S.F. Hill's son, Dr. Hugh Hill's father, too. And, uh, so they said that's Dr. Hill, here. So they took his horse, left this community without a doctor, because they didn't have any way to get around to see the patients. And, uh, this man who was writing the letter said that when they left town, that he asked one of the Yankee officers, said, let me ride that real good horse, and he said, ok, ride him, but lead your old horse along behind, and when we camp for the night you feed him well and tie him to a tree so he can't get aloose. So he said he rode Dr. Hill's horse all the way from here.
And the forces went, they went down as far as Union Chapel, and then they sent somebody down to Franconia to see if they could get word on what was happening to Croxton and Adams and so forth, they came back and told him that Adams was fighting Croxton over at Romulus, and that, uh, so Sutherland decided he better not take his forces on down to the Sipsey River, he better on get out of town, and he wasn't going down as far as Franconia. So he crossed, and went out by Unity Church, the Houston Windle home out there, and went on across that way to King's Store, and he spent that night at King's Store, where Croxton spent the night before.
Women of Pickens County Contend with the Invader and the War
And Mr. Harvey Stepp told me, that while they were spending the night out there, that his grandmother told him, that they heard a noise out in the smokehouse that night, and that she and her sister took an old coal-oil lamp, and went out there to see what was happening. And there was two Yankee soldiers that had ridden up there from King's Store where they were spending the night, and they were cutting down the hams and smoked sausage in there, and his mother started beating them with the broom, and they didn't pay any attention to the broom. Well, her sister was there spending the night, and she ran out the back door with this old muzzle-loader and started shooting, and when she shot, they got on those horses and left, and dropped the hams and smoked sausage, and didn't take them with them.
Now Eleanor told me that while they were out there at King's Store, that her grandmother was cooking a black skillet full of cornbread. Food was scarce back then, and if you had some meal to make some cornbread you were lucky. And so she had a black skillet full of cornbread and had it in the old wood stove cooking, and she looked up the road and saw two Yankee soldiers coming horseback to her house. Well she knew that they were going to help themselves to everything in that house, and she didn't want them to have that cornbread, so she grabbed it out of the stove and put it in the dresser drawer. And when they got to her house they helped themselves to some stuff in the pantry and that kind of stuff, but they didn't get the cornbread. And when they left she took it out and put it back in the stove and finished cooking it. And that was her family's supper that night, that with some buttermilk. And so they would do that at most every house that they got to.
Well, when they got down there to Bridgeville, Croxton's bunch, there was a Mrs. Gardner living there at Bridgeville, and, two, so, they all moved on except two, and they stopped at Mrs. Gardner's. Before they got there, she told the slaves, she said, hide the silverware and hide the hams and smoked sausage in the smokehouse out there. They went out, and hitched up the old mule, and they plowed the garden, and down in the furrows, they put the hams and the smoked sausage and the silver. And they plowed all the dirt back over it, so it looked like just worked the garden. So when the two Yankee soldiers came to Mrs. Gardner's, she came out on the front porch and invited them in, and she was just so nice and gracious until they sat down, and she said I'm sorry, I don't have anything cold for you to drink, and it's pretty hot to be April, but I do have some cold buttermilk I have in the well, I'll pull it up and give you a glass of that. So she did, she gave them some cold buttermilk. And they were just charmed with Mrs. Gardner, they stayed and talked to her, and she told they about her husband was off fighting and her sons and this and that and the other. So when they got ready to go, one these officers said, well, we've always heard of southern hospitality, but we didn't know you practiced it during the War. And so he told the other one, said now, you stay here and guard this house until all our troops get by, and don't let anybody take anything out of this lady's house. Which he did, he stayed there and guarded the house, and all the troops went on down on the Sipsey, but they didn't take anything out of Mrs. Gardner's house. So that shows how gracious hospitality really did pay off.
Now the ladies down here, they thought the war wasn't going to last very long, and never realized that it would come to Pickens County. So they were sending their soldiers off in a very festive mood. Before they would start leaving the county they would always have a big party or dance or something like that to entertain em, and then they all, most of em went to Pickensville catch a boat to go down to Mobile, or Demopolis, for basic training. And, uh, as they marched through the county the ladies would meet em at the crossroads with baskets of home-cooked food. And they could eat all they wanted and take some with em.
There was a preacher in Pickensville that after the War, he wrote him memoirs in one of the old papers over here, and he told about going, walking to Tuscaloosa, to join forces with M. L. Stancel, and his whole company left Tuscaloosa And the first afternoon they walked as far as Sipsey River, and they spent the night out there. And the ladies in that community brought em their supper. They got up the next morning, they walked as far as Palmetto, and up there the ladies of Palmetto fed em their dinner. And then they started walking again, and they made it to Tabernacle before night, and the ladies there in Tabernacle fed em their supper. And then the next morning they went on to Columbus, and they were going up there to catch a train, to go and fight in the battle of Shiloh. And this preacher that was writing in the old newspaper up here, he was telling about that when they got to Columbus that one train was already leaving, and some boys in his outfit had never seen a train, and they said, looky yonder, little houses moving round on wheels. They were so surprised to see that something like that, now.
But this war touched practically every home in Pickens County, and as you might call it a young man's war. The troops ranged from fourteen on up to thirty, and only ten percent of em were over thirty years of age. And General John Herbert Kelly, from here, one of the youngest generals in the War Between the States, was only twenty-two when he was killed. And he was buried up there on the battlefield up there in Tennessee, and later his body was moved down to Mobile. And all of y'all have seen the, probably took part in it when we put the marker over here at the Kelly-Stone-Hill house. That's where John Herbert Kelly lived.
Now it's true that it's the men who shouldered the muskets, but it's the women who were left behind that had to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of their families, slaves, livestock, those women had to raise food, and before the war was over many of them were working in the fields, trying to feed everybody that was around them, and send the surplus to the Confederate army. Uh, any war the women have a hard time, but there's never been one where they had responsibility and suffered as much anxiety and fear as they did during the War Between the States. Most of the time, the slaves were loyal to them. The would plow up the garden and hide the stuff or they would put it in the flower beds or something like that, trying to protect them from the Yankee forces. These women had to be everything, from the teacher to the doctor. They didn't have, medicine ran out, and they had to depend on wild plants and stuff like that to make up their own medicines. And the Confederacy sent out little pamphlets all over the South, telling em what they could get and use to make medicine from. But in every home, there was sassafras tea and mustard plasters. And Dr. Hugh Hill told me one time about his daddy telling him about a man in Gordo having pneumonia, and that, uh, Dr. Hill went up there to doctor him for the pneumonia, and he, when he got ready to leave, he handed him a mustard plaster, and said you're going to have to use this. And so he went back a day or two later to see about the man, and his wife met him at the door, and she said, well, I think you cured the pneumonia, but he's had an upset stomach ever since he ate that mustard plaster.
And then the ladies had to raise the cotton, they had to make threads, weave the cloth, and they could boil roots and so forth, they could dye it different colors. And that's where the song, AHomespun Dress came from, cause that's what they were, that's what everybody was having to wear. Unless they take down their draperies from the windows and make em a dress. Mrs. Sarah White told me one time she had a aunt who was a bridesmaid in a wedding in Aliceville, she was a Miss Hughes, and she took some red velvet drapes from a window, and made her a bridesmaid's dress, to be in that wedding. So that was a common practice back then. And they took up the carpets to make overcoats and blankets for the soldiers. The ladies even learned how to tan the skins and make, uh, shoes, and then they made shoes from any kind of coarse cloth that they found. A lot of that was from carpets and so forth.
The only anesthetic they had of any kind back then was whiskey, and nobody, if they were amputating a man's leg, they would just get im so drunk so he couldn't feel it. And that was about the only thing they did back then if you got shot in the arm or the leg was amputation. So these ladies in Pickens County saw many of their men come back with one leg or one arm. All the clothes were just rags and so forth and so on.
This preacher up in Reform was Rev. J. A. Mitchell, I thought I had a note on him somewhere, and he's the one that wrote all that in the paper after that, all his memoirs.
Mrs. Hester Pratt, wrote the history of her mother's family, who was the Valentine family, and in there she told about her grandfather coming home from the war, injured. And he was at home when they heard that the Yankee troops were coming through. His children took him, and hid him down in a hollow under the hill, they also hid the hogs down there, the cow, and the chickens. Well, when the Yankees got to their yard, the hogs came running up the hill. So they killed the hogs, put them in the big wash pot that she had out in the yard, and cooked they, then ordered her to bring some dishes out of the house so they could eat. She brought the dishes out, after they had eaten up all the hogs, they broke every dish. Then the family didn't have a dish to eat from, she said, after that day. And so they never did find the father that they had hidden under the hill. But before they left to go, the hen decided she'd cackle and the rooster decided he'd crow. So they said, well, they've got chickens around here somewhere cause we hear em, so they went to looking for em. And they found the chickens, and they took all of those chickens, took em out there wringing their necks off. They put em in the wagons and took em on, so they would they would have em for the next meal. And Mrs. Pratt, Mrs. Hester, she wrote quite a story about everything that happened around their house while her grandfather was there at home injured.
One of the finest services rendered by the women were their persistent, resourceful, and ingenious search for the essentials of life. The scarcity of staple foods was a everyday problem. There was no sugar. They used sorghum syrup to sweeten anything they had to have. The coffee, they boiled rye and wheat together, and made some coffee. They, uh, took sweet potatoes, cut em in small pieces, put em in the sun to dry. And then when they dried real hard they ground them up and boiled em and made them some coffee. They used okra seeds to make coffee. Wasn't any of it coffee, but they were using it as a substitute for all that time. But they did use a lot of sorghum syrup. There was no salt at all. A lot of people went and dug up the salt in the smokehouse, and boiled that dirty stuff they had dug up to get some salty water from there. There were a lot of people in Pickens County that had friends down round Mobile, and they would send em a jug of the Gulf salt water, up on the boat coming up to Pickensville, and they'd get em some salty water, all they'd do if didn't have any salt. And they learned how to make soda put in their biscuits. They started growing more wheat than they had ever grown in this part of the country before, and they had it ground into flour. It was, they made dark biscuits, tough biscuits, but they were unusually dark and tough because they had to use the homemade lard so sparingly.
They didn't only burned the courthouse, they stripped, and the Lanier's Mill, they burned some houses as they went along. And they sure emptied a lot of smokehouses. And now that home that had the cornbread cooking, that was the Craft home, out at Benevola, Eleanor's grandpa, and grandma's home out there, wasn't too far from King's Store.
After Mr. Croxton loaded his wagons down at Lanier's Mill, one wagon was loaded with sides of bacon, so when Adams was making his attack at Romulus, was a big terrible rainstorm that came up, and he was getting the best of Croxton's, uh, army, and they started hiding behind the sides of bacon on the wagon, that was their protection from the Confederate bullets.
The ladies became skilled seamstresses, some of them that had never sewed before learned how to do all kind of stuff like that. But even the war never dampened the ladies spirit for pretty clothes. Them made em hats from straw and palmetto, decorated them with cotton, wild flowers, and even squirrel tails. They used grapevines for the hoops, and they, uh, made overcoats and blankets, as I said, for the soldiers from the carpets that they had there in the house.
Most of the post offices in the county closed. The only way the ladies could get a message from their soldiers on the battlefield was some soldier coming home, injured, on leave of some description, they would bring letters from the battlefield, bring em home to the ladies in Pickens County. And then, Major E.D. Willis, and Emel Stancel, they were extra good about, when they wrote Mrs. Stancel, and Mrs. Willis, they would list the soldiers that they knew that were killed and the ones that were wounded, and they would ask those ladies to please notify the other ladies of the county what had happened. And they did, they sent off out like that. Very few soldiers ever wrote home that they didn't ask for some socks, some shirts, some jeans, some shoes, some coats, and some blankets.
Mrs. McCaa, down at Franconia, watched Captain McCaa ride away on a big black horse. He organized a cavalry unit in this county, and he, they went up into Tennessee to fight, and he took his devoted slave Wash along with him. One day as Mrs. McCaa was sweeping off the front steps she looked up the Union Chapel Road, she saw Captain McCaa's horse coming, but the black man was on it, and not Captain McCaa. He rode up to the front steps and told Mrs. McCaa that Captain McCaa had been killed up in Tennessee, and he had gotten permission from a Harrison family to bury him in their yard. After the war, he would gladly to go up there with em and show em where the body was so she could move it home. After the war he went back with em, they brought the body back down and buried him out there at Franconia at the McCaa home, they call it the McCaa cemetery, it's mostly McCaas in that cemetery.
Now down on the Tombigbee was a family named Sanders, and that boy survived the sinking of the Eliza Battle, the burning of it, he was on there when it burned, and he lived through that. But then when he went down to, went to the War Between the States, he was injured in the battle of Vicksburg, and was placed in the Confederate hospital down there. His mother took a wagon and one slave, and filled it with hay, and she drove from down below Aliceville on the Tombigbee to Vicksburg in that wagon, and as soon as that boy was able to be moved back to this county, they put him in that wagon on all that hay, and drove him back up here. So women never gave up during the war, they came, kept right on doing everything that they could to help going, keep it going.
Now the ladies in Benevola not only suffered the Yankees coming through their houses but they had to listen to that battle over at Romulus. They could hear the cannons booming over there, and they had to stay there at home and just wonder whom it was that was killed over there, that they were shooting at, and so forth.
Christmas was a sad time all, each year, but the ladies were determined that their children wouldn't be without any kind of toy, so they made rag dolls for girls, kites and slingshots for the boys, and with plenty of sorghum syrup, cookies were plentiful. Now so far as gifts and that kind of stuff, they didn't have any. Uh, they made a lot of kites, too, for their children, along with slingshots.
In December of eighteen and sixty-two, Company B, 40th Alabama regiment, which E.P. Willis had organized in this county, was ordered to go to Columbus. They had been fighting over in Mississippi, the battle of Shiloh. And they were ordered to go to Columbus and guard the city against an attack. They felt like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch, cause they were so near to Pickens County and they knew they couldn't come home, but that some of the ladies could come over there to see them. And so Mrs. Willis, Mrs. John Terry, the wife of Captain John Terry, and Mrs. James Latham, wife of Lt. Latham, spent Christmas in town with their husbands. They stayed that night at the hotel, and at three a.m. the next morning they went to the depot with their soldiers, and watched them get on a train. They just put them in open boxcars like cattle, took em to, uh, going to Vicksburg.
The early minutes of all the churches in this county tell of all the men that were killed in those churches, and how they had memorial services for em, and how the people in the church supported the widows and children that were left here. Every Sunday they would take bacon and meal to church with them to give to these widows that didn't have any way of getting it. Out at Big Creek out here, uh, all these were under twenty years of age, too: killed were John Gordon, John Thomas Jones, James Israel Seaman, James McGraw, and Hansford Duncan Smith, were all killed in one week and they had a memorial service for em one Sunday out there. And if you read those minutes of Big Creek Church you'll just find out how many people supported a widow named Mrs. Carson. And, uh, she didn't have, her husband and sons were all gone off to war.
The elders down at Even Church, right outside of Aliceville, they called for a day of prayer. And many, many of the slaves went, too, for that day of prayer, praying that the war would come to an end.
Now out here where Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart lives was a Blanton family, they had come here from Tennessee. Mr. Blanton was a mule trader and he came down here and he bought that land out there, and when the War started, well, he went to war. And he told Mrs. Blanton, he said, if something happens that you have to have some help, said, you call on somebody that belongs to the Masons, because he belonged to the Masonic Order, and they'll come and help you. So that the day that the courthouse was burning here, she had a child who was critically ill. She put one of the slaves on a horse and told him to go up to Pickensville, I mean, come up to Carrollton, and try to get her some help. And he said that Carrollton must burning up, I just see nothing but smoke up there, but he came on up here. He asked somebody where Dr. Hill was, out there in the crowd on the square, and they told him that the Yankees had taken Dr. Hill's horse and gone on south, so he wouldn't have any way to go out there. So the slave walked around in the crowd and asked, is there anybody here that belongs to the Masonic Order? And one of the Yankee doctors spoke up, and said he did, and said, why? And he told him, that there was a lady out there in the county with a critically ill child, and her husband belonged to the Masonic Order here in Carrollton, and she was wanting some help. And so he said that he'd go out there and help her. So he followed the slave back out to the Stewart house, treated the child, and the child survived.
Then, when the big hospital in Columbus was filled up with wounded soldiers, and the one down in Gainesville was full, they used a little Methodist Church in Pickensville for a hospital, and they moved the troops down the river on barges and so forth, and put em in the church out there in Pickensville. They were given loving care and fed by Mrs. Wilkins, Stinsen, Henley, Dunlap, Funksen, Hildreth, Lee, Burgeon, Petersen, Wilburn, Doss, Nance, Bush, Morehead, Chapman, Williams, Coleman, and many others. And in the Saps community, the Carsons, Colemans, Cummings, Windburns, Spillers, and Jay families spent every morning getting enough food to take in their buggies to Pickensville for the soldiers to have something to eat. While down at Enon, the Balls, the Calleys, the Taylors, the Richardsons, and the Turnipseeds made bandages each day to take up to the hospital up there.
The country had so many widows and orphans after the war that husbands were in great demand. There were eighty-two weddings in the first two months after the war ended. Eighty-two weddings in Pickens County, can you imagine that, now?
Reconstruction was the most difficult time for the families who had mortgaged all their land during the war, they lost, and after the war, they saw it sold for practically a little bit of nothing at auction. If you read the old newspaper you'll just find one foreclosure after another in there. Five hundred acres of land near Speed's Mill sold for two dollars an acre. The Phoenix Hotel here was mortgaged, and it sold for three thousand dollars, and it was the Phoenix Hotel with all the furniture in it, three servants' houses, and a livery stable. And out in Pickensville the Dunlap home which was a two-story house, furnished with nice furniture, and the paper, when it advertised, said good feather beds. And it sat out there and sold for twelve hundred dollars, to foreclose the mortgage. Then they opened up the, I call it the Po' house, I guess they call it the poor house in Pickens County, to take care of, of people that had no where to live. Some of them went to the Old Soldiers' Home, down at Marbury, Alabama, out near Montgomery and Clanton. And then some of them went to the poorhouse.
These women in Pickens County endured four years of turmoil at home, they were brave through Reconstruction, and they proved to the world that they had the strength and the ability to carry on in the face of adversity.
Ode to Confederate Women of Pickens County
True, a hundred and twenty years have passed,
but there isn't a single day,
When we shouldn't remember our Confederates,
Those men who wore the gray.
True, our men shouldered the muskets,
No duty did they shirk,
But equally as brave, were the women at home,
Who accepted and did a man's work.
Under stress, strain, and sorrow,
Upon her the family did depend,
To keep the home fire burning,
Til the cruel war could end.
Her list of chores was endless,
She toiled from dawn to night,
Raising the food for the family,
And sewed by the candlelight
Making clothes for the family and slaves,
And the men who had gone to fight,
Men willing to die for the Southland,
And the things they believed to be right.
Many suffered through Reconstruction,
And they lost their homes and lands,
Many lost husbands, brothers, and sons,
What more could a poor lady stand?
Four years endured these hardships,
Work, worry, and need,
But they proved to the world that the Pickens County ladies,
Were born of a different breed.