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Three Months in the Southern States

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Three Months in the Southern States
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Author(s): Arthur J. L. Fremantle
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 180
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-875-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-876-6

A British soldier's view of the great conflict of blue and grey

The author of this book has, perhaps, achieved more renown in recent years than at any time since the publication of his literary efforts. Those familiar with the film, 'Gettysburg' will recall the unusual figure of a British Guards officer attired (inaccurately) in his full dress Guardsman's scarlet uniform among the ranks of the Virginians at the famous and pivotal battle. The cinema may have taken its usual liberties, but the character was firmly based in fact and was none other than the author of this book. The British Empire felt no need to come down strongly on either side of the conflict between the States, but its support for the Confederacy was both implicit and occasionally obvious. Fremantle wanted to see the war at first hand and so he travelled to America and accompanied the Confederate forces—actually unglamorously in mufti—in the field. His experiences brought him to the collision of Gettysburg and history is indebted to Fremantle for the observations of a comparatively impartial military man on these monumental times and events. Essential Civil war material.

I had fondly imagined that after reaching Natchez my difficulties would have been over; but I very soon discovered that this was a delusive hope. I found that Natchez was full of the most gloomy rumours. Another Yankee raid seemed to have been made into the interior of Mississippi, more railroad is reported to be destroyed, and great doubts were expressed whether I should be able to get into Vicksburg at all.<br>
However, as I found some other people as determined to proceed as myself, we hired a carriage for $100 to drive to Brookhaven, which is the nearest point on the railroad, and is distant from Natchez 66 miles.<br>
My companions were a fat Government contractor from Texas, the wounded Missourian Mr Douglas, and an ugly woman, wife to a soldier in Vicksburg.<br>
We left Natchez at 12 noon, and were driven by a negro named Nelson; the carriage and the three horses belong to him, and he drives it for his own profit; but he is, nevertheless, a slave, and pays his owner $4½ a-week to be allowed to work on his own account. He was quite as vain as and even more amusing than Tucker. He said he “didn’t want to see no Yanks, nor to be no freer than he is;” and he thought the war had already lasted four or five years.<br>
Every traveller we met on the road was eagerly asked the questions, “Are the Yanks in Brookhaven? Is the railroad open?” At first we received satisfactory replies; but at 6 p.m. we met an officer driving towards Natchez at a great pace; he gave us the alarming intelligence that Jackson was going to be evacuated. Now, as Jackson is the capital city of this state, a great railroad junction, and on the highroad to every civilised place from this, our feelings may be imagined, but we did not believe it possible. On the other hand we were told that General Joseph Johnston had arrived and assumed the command in Mississippi. He appears to be an officer in whom every one places unbounded confidence.<br>
We slept at a farmhouse. All the males were absent at the war, and it is impossible to exaggerate the unfortunate condition of the women left behind in these farmhouses; they have scarcely any clothes, and nothing but the coarsest bacon to eat, and are in miserable uncertainty as to the fate of their relations, whom they can hardly ever communicate with. Their slaves, however, generally remain true to them.<br>
Our hostess, though she was reduced to the greatest distress, was well-mannered, and exceedingly well educated; very far superior to a woman of her station in England.<br>
16th May (Saturday).—We started a little before daylight, our team looking so very mean that we expressed doubts as to their lasting—to Mr Nelson’s great indignation.<br>
We breakfasted at another little farmhouse on some unusually tough bacon, and coffee made of sweet potatoes. The natives, under all their misery, were red-hot in favour of fighting for independence to the last, and I constantly hear the words, “This is the most unjust war ever waged upon a people by mortal man.”<br>
At 11 a.m. we met a great crowd of negroes, who had been run into the swamps to be out of the way of the Yankees, and they were now returning to Louisiana.<br>
At 2 p.m. a wounded soldier gave us the deplorable information that the enemy really was on the railroad between Jackson and Brookhaven, and that Jackson itself was in his hands. This news staggered us all, and Nelson became alarmed for the safety of his wretched animals; but we all determined to go on at all hazards and see what turned up.<br>
We halted for dinner at a farmhouse in which were seven virgins seated all of a row. They were all good-looking, but shy and bashful to a degree I never before witnessed. All the young women in this country seem to be either uncommonly free-spoken, or else extremely shy.<br>
The further we went the more certain became the news of the fall of Jackson.<br>
We passed the night in the verandah of an old farmer. He told us that Grierson’s Yankee raid had captured him about three weeks ago. He thought the Yankees were about 1500 strong; they took all good horses, leaving their worn-out ones behind. They destroyed railroad, Government property, and arms, and paroled all men, both old and young, but they committed no barbarities. In this manner they traversed all the State of Mississippi without meeting any resistance. They were fine looking men from the North-western States.<br>
17th May (Sunday).—We started again at 4.30 a.m., and met five wounded men who had been captured and paroled by Banks in Louisiana; they confirmed everything about the fall of Jackson, which made me consider myself particularly unfortunate, and destined apparently to be always intercepted by the Northern troops, which had happened to me at Alexandria, at Harrisonburg, and now again at Jackson.<br>
At 8 a.m. we reached the little town of Brookhaven, which was full of travellers, principally Confederate soldiers, anxious to rejoin their regiments.<br>
Maxey’s brigade left this place by road last night to join General Johnston, who is supposed to be concentrating his forces at a place called Canton, not far from Jackson.<br>
I called on Captain Matthews, the officer who commanded at Brookhaven, and after introducing myself to him, he promised to assist me, by every means in his power, to join General Johnston.<br>
I then went to a Methodist chapel; a good many soldiers were there, and great number of women.<br>
At noon, just as I had begun to get in very low spirits about the prospects of getting on, a locomotive arrived from a station called Haslehurst, and brought us the astonishing report that the Yankees had suddenly abandoned Jackson, after destroying all the Government, and a good deal of private, property.<br>
This news caused our prospects to look brighter.
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