Fannie A. Beers.

Memories A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During Four Years of War online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryFannie A. BeersMemories A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During Four Years of War → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Suzanne Shell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

(The Goddess of Memory.)]





Press of J.B. Lippincott Company,

Copyright, 1888, by Fannie A. Beers.







For several years my friends among Confederate soldiers have been
urging me to "write up" and publish what I know of the war. By
personal solicitation and by letter this subject has been brought
before me and placed in the light of a duty which I owe to posterity.
Taking this view of it, I willingly comply, glad that I am permitted
to stand among the many "witnesses" who shall establish "the truth,"
proud to write myself as one who faithfully served the defenders of
the Cause which had and has my heart's devotion. I have tried to give
a faithful record of my experiences, to "nothing extenuate nor aught
set down in malice," and I have told the truth, but not always the
whole truth. A few of these "Memories" were originally written for the
_Southern Bivouac_, and are here republished because my book would
have been incomplete without them.

I am very inexperienced in the business of making books, but relying
with confidence upon the leniency of my friends, and feeling sure that
I have no enemy who will savagely rejoice that I have written a book,
I make the venture.






Buckner Hospital, Gainesville, Alabama


Newnan, Georgia


Confederate Women

An Incident of the Battle of the Wilderness

Fenner's Louisiana Battery

"Bob Wheat"



Brave Boys

The Young Color-Bearer

Bravery honored by a Foe

Sally's Ride

High Price for Needles and Thread




"My Boys"

The Confederate Reunion at Dallas

Camp Nichols

The March of Time

A Woman's Record


Among those who early espoused the Southern Cause, few, perhaps, were
more in earnest than my husband and myself. Our patriotism was at the
very outset put to a crucial test. The duties of a soldier and a
civilian became incompatible. Being in ill health, it was thought best
that I should go to my mother at the North for awhile. My husband,
after preliminary service with the "Minute Men" and the State troops,
as a member of Company A, Crescent Rifles, was, with this company,
regularly mustered into the Confederate service in April, 1861, and
left for Pensacola, Florida, where the Crescent Rifles, with the
Louisiana Guards, Orleans Cadets, Shreveport Guards, Terrebonne
Rifles, and Grivot Guards, were organized into the Dreux Battalion. It
was then supposed that "the affair" would be "settled in ninety days."

From my house of refuge I watched eagerly the course of events, until
at last all mail facilities were cut off, and I was left to endure the
horrors of suspense as well as the irritating consciousness that,
although sojourning in the home of my childhood, I was an alien, an
acknowledged "Rebel," and as such an object of suspicion and dislike
to all save my immediate family. Even these, with the exception of my
precious mother, were bitterly opposed to the South and Secession.
From mother I received unceasing care, thorough sympathy, surpassing
love. During this troubled time a little babe was born to me, - a tiny
babe, - who only just opened its dark eyes upon the troubled face of
its mother to close them forever.

The guns of Sumter, reverberating throughout the North, "stirred a
fever in the blood of age" and youth alike. Fanatics raved more wildly
than ever, while those who had hitherto been lukewarm hastened to
swell the cry of horror and fury which everywhere arose at this
"insult to our flag." This feeling found vent in acts of oppression,
met by prompt and determined resistance, and thus was inaugurated the
fratricidal strife which was for four years to desolate the land.

Rumors of an engagement in Virginia intensified my suspense until it
seemed unbearable. One day I received a kindly warning from an old
friend concerning a small Confederate flag which had been sent to me
by my husband. It was a tiny silken affair, which I kept in my
prayer-book. This harmless possession was magnified by the people of
the town into an immense rebel banner, which would eventually float
over my mother's house. I had still a few friends whose temperate
counsel had hitherto protected me. The note referred to warned me that
while I retained possession of the flag I might at any time expect the
presence of a mob. I would not have destroyed my treasure for worlds,
and how to conceal it became a subject of constant thought. The
discovery one day of a jar of "perpetual paste" in mother's secretary
suggested an idea which was at once carried out. Applying this
strongly adhesive mixture to one side of the flag, I pasted it upon
the naked flesh just over my heart. One morning the mail brought
certain news of a Confederate victory at Big Bethel. This so
exasperated the people that on their way from the post-office an
excited crowd halted under my window, crying out, "Where's that rebel
woman?" "Let's have that flag," "Show your colors," etc. Carried away
by intense excitement, I threw open the blinds, and, waving the
newspaper above my head, shouted, "Hurrah! Hurrah for Big Bethel!
Hurrah for the brave rebels!" A perfect howl of rage arose from below,
and greater evil might have befallen but for the timely appearance of
the venerable village doctor, who now rode hastily in among the
excited men, and, standing up in his buggy, cried out, "Friends, she
is but a frail, defenceless woman. Be thankful if your morning's work
be not her death." Slowly and sullenly the crowd dispersed, while the
good doctor hastily ascended to my chamber. I lay with fevered cheeks
and burning eyes among the pillows where my mother had placed me. The
terrible excitement under which I labored forbade all blame or any
allusion to my act of imprudence. I was soothed and tenderly cared for
until, under the influence of a sedative, I fell asleep.

Early next morning the doctor appeared at my bedside. Meantime a
change had come over me. I seemed to have lost the nervous
excitability of a girl and to have become a woman, full of courage and
hope. Dr. - - regarded me steadily for a moment; then, - "Ah! better
this morning? That's my brave girl." Meeting his gaze fully, I
replied, "I shall try henceforth to be brave, as befits the wife of a
soldier." A frown appeared upon the doctor's brow. Tenderly placing
his hand upon my head, he said, "My child, I fear your courage will
soon be put to the test. Your own imprudence has greatly incensed the
town people. Danger menaces you, and through you, your mother.
Fortunately, the friends of your childhood still desire to protect
you; but your only safety lies in giving up the rebel flag which it is
said you possess. Give it to me, Fannie, and I will destroy it before
their eyes, and thus avert the threatened danger." I only smiled, as I
replied: "Dr. - - , since the rebel flag has existed, I have cherished
it in my heart of hearts. You may search the house over; you will find
no flag but the one I have here," placing my hand on my heart. The
good man had known me from childhood, and he could not doubt me. He
questioned no further, but took his leave, promising to use his
influence with the incensed villagers. They, however, were not so
easily convinced. They had been wrought up to a state of frenzied
patriotism, and declared they would search the house where the
obnoxious flag was supposed to be. Dire threats of vengeance were
heard on every side. At last a committee was appointed to wait upon
"_the traitress_" and again demand the surrender of the flag. It was
composed of gentlemen who, though thorough and uncompromising "Union
men," were yet well known to me, and were anxious, if possible, to
shield me. They were admitted to the room, where I calmly awaited
them. I reiterated the assertion made to the doctor, so calmly, and
with such apparent truth, that they were staggered. But they had come
to perform a duty, and they meant to succeed. They convinced me that
the danger to myself and to the house of my mother was real and
imminent, but I only repeated my assertions, though my heart throbbed
painfully as I saw the anxiety and trouble in mother's face. Suddenly
I remembered that I had in my possession a paper which, just before
all mail communication had ceased between the North and South, had
been sent to me for the purpose of protection. It was simply a
certificate of my husband's membership and good standing in a Masonic
lodge, and had a seal affixed. As I called for the portfolio, all eyes
brightened with expectation of seeing at last the "rebel flag."
Drawing forth from its envelope the fateful document, I said, "I was
told to use this only in dire extremity; it seems to me that such a
time is at hand. If there be any virtue in Masonry, let it now protect
me and the roof which is at present my only shelter!"

Thus speaking, I handed the paper to one whom I knew to be a prominent
Mason. The certificate was duly examined and, after a short
conference, returned. "We will do our best," said the spokesman of the
party, and all withdrew. The day passed without further trouble, and
as I sank to sleep that night there came to me a feeling of safety and
protection, which was indeed comforting.

Weeks passed, during which I slowly but surely gathered the strength
and health necessary to carry out the resolution lately formed, to
join my husband, and, if might be, to labor for the cause so loved.
The unceasing ministrations of my mother strengthened alike soul and
body, but as I read in that dear face a love and devotion which could
never fail, my heart felt many a bitter pang at the thought of the
parting that must be.

One evening, having found the courage necessary to tell mother of my
plans and hopes, to my surprise the noble woman heard me calmly. "I
had expected this," she said. "It is right - you must, go; but, oh! not
now - not soon," and in uncontrollable agitation she left the room.
Two days later the subject was resumed. Ways and means were discussed.
The mother's face grew paler as that of her child brightened and
glowed with returning health and hope. She pleaded to keep my little
boy, but fearing lest his young heart might receive, among the enemies
of Southern liberty, impressions which could not be effaced, I decided
that he must not be left.

Upon the eve of the battle of Manassas we started on our hazardous
journey. The utmost secrecy had been observed. No baggage could be
allowed. My thoughtful mother converted quite a large sum into gold,
which, stitched into a broad belt, was sewed around my waist. One
bright morning mother and I, with my boy, seated ourselves in the
carriage as if for our usual drive. There was no leave-taking, no
appearance of anything unusual. Once on the road, we were rapidly
driven to a railroad depot in a distant town; there I took the train,
while my poor mother returned homeward alone.

Arrived in Baltimore, we found ourselves among those whose hearts were
filled with ardent love of "the Cause," and bitter hatred for the
soldiers who had, in spite of their heroic resistance, so lately
passed through the streets of the city on their way to subjugate the
South. "The rebel" was enthusiastically received. All were ready to
assist her, but at this juncture it seemed impossible to pass the
Federal lines.

The great battle of Manassas had been decided. The wildest excitement
prevailed. Flying soldiers were everywhere. Almost every hour the
sound of fife and drum was heard, as shattered regiments and decimated
battalions marched through the streets. Although all expression of
feeling, among the citizens, was sternly repressed, the mask of sullen
indifference was known to be _but_ a mask. Hearts beneath were
bounding with pride and joy and hope. Almost without exception, houses
were closed and devoid of all appearance of life. Yet behind those
closely-shut blinds women embraced each other with tempestuous joy, or
paced the floor in uncontrollable agitation, or knelt in earnest
prayer, mingling thanksgivings with agonized petitions for those whose
fate was yet unknown. Mothers, sisters, wives, strove, with trembling
lips, to comfort each other, bidding the voice of patriotism be heard
above the "tempest of the heart." In the midst of all this excitement
my interests were never lost sight of. Secret meetings were held, and
various plans discussed. At last, one day a note was received inviting
me to spend a social evening at the house of "one of the faithful." A
casual observer would have discovered nothing more than a few lines of
invitation, still the paper bore a private mark which made my heart
beat with hope.

Arrived at the house indicated, where seemed to be only an ordinary
gathering of friends, I found it difficult to appear at ease, and
watched eagerly for developments. Not a sign or a word was given,
however, until after supper, when the ladies repaired (as usual) to
the dressing-room up-stairs to rearrange their toilets. Instead of
entering with the rest, the hostess, by a slight pressure of the hand,
indicated to me that I was desired to pass on and up a second flight
of stairs.

We did so unnoticed, and soon entered a small room in the third story,
where were found waiting a few friends, among them a captain and clerk
of a steamboat which was expected to leave in three days for Newport
News with United States troops to reinforce Colonel Phelps at that
point. Here appeared to be a chance, but a hazardous one, since the
officers of the boat must not evince any interest in their passenger,
and could afford no assistance or protection among the rough soldiers
who would crowd every available foot of room. They must appear as good
Union men, engaged in transporting troops to assist in quelling "the
rebellion." In case of any rough treatment of the "rebel woman," they
could only appeal to the officers in charge of the troops, and the
result of such an appeal, in the present state of feeling, would be
doubtful. The boat was not a passenger steamer, and had only two or
three small staterooms, occupied by its officers. These might be
required by the military commanders. Instantly, and unhesitatingly, I
decided to make the trial. We ladies then descended to the parlor,
while one by one our friends were conveyed out of the house.

A new difficulty at once arose; a friend had applied to General Scott
for a pass - unsuccessfully. The precious hours were passing, and
failure seemed imminent. This difficulty was increased by the fact
that I had undertaken the charge of Jemmy Little, a boy of ten, who,
having lingered too long at school in Baltimore, had been cut off from
his family in Norfolk, and being desperately unhappy, had implored to
be included in the plans formed for me. He was to pass as my brother,
and, having once promised, I could not disappoint him, especially as
his waking hours were spent by my side, his hand often nestling into
my own, his large wistful eyes questioning my face, as if dreading to
find there some evidence of hesitation or change of purpose.

One day passed. At evening, as I was anxiously pacing my room, my
hostess hurriedly entered, exclaiming, in agitation, "Your brother
awaits you in the drawing-room. I _could_ not welcome him. I _will
not_ see him. Only for your sake would I allow a Federal soldier to
cross my threshold; but he is your brother; go to him."

Trembling with excitement, I descended to the parlor, where I found my
brother, - a mere boy yet, - wearing the uniform of a Federal officer.

"Sister!" "Charles!" each cried, and no further greeting passed
between us. The boy stood with folded arms, looking proudly, yet
tenderly, at me, his only sister, all the brave ardor of a soldier who
believes in the cause he serves revealed in his handsome young face. I
sank into a chair and covered my face, that I might shut out the sight
which so pained me. The interview that followed was long. Finding that
my brother not only approved the determination to join my husband, but
was able and willing to assist in obtaining the necessary pass, I told
him of my wish to have it in possession by the next day, and received
his promise to send it, if possible. He was going to "the front," and
overcome by the thought that I might never see him again, I threw my
arms around his neck, while tears fell fast upon the blue uniform, and
so, with a last embrace, we parted.

The pass, embracing "Mrs. Beers, _brother_, and child," was
forthcoming next day, and the same afternoon I, with my boys, set
forth unattended for the boat. No sign of recognition passed between
the captain and ourselves as we were conducted to the upper deck, and
seated under the awning. Soon the sound of drum and fife announced the
approach of the troops. A regiment of blue-coated soldiers appeared on
the wharf, and directly they marched on board. Witnessing their
embarkation, I could not repress a feeling of extreme uneasiness,
which increased as officers and men appeared on every side. They were
so many: I was the only woman on the boat. Sitting motionless, with
veil closely drawn, holding my boy on my lap, while poor Jemmy nestled
close to my side (valiant in feeling, but of boyish appearance, and
looking even smaller beside the tall soldiers), I hoped to pass
unobserved, but soon after the boat left the wharf found myself
subjected to rude stares and ruder remarks, and at last was forced to
seek the clerk to beg that I might find shelter in one of the little
state-rooms. All were taken by the officers, who seemed utterly
indifferent to the forlorn condition of "Madam Reb." At last the clerk
(after a short consultation with one kindly-looking officer, who,
however, seemed half ashamed of the kindness of heart which contrasted
so finely with the rudeness of his comrades) led the way to a room
below, - small, and close, _but a shelter_. Here he placed us, having
locked us in to prevent intrusion. The boys soon fell asleep, but I
passed the night in listening to the ceaseless noises outside.

Morning found the boat at Fortress Monroe, whence, after a short
delay, she proceeded to Newport News.

Under pretence of guarding well the "female rebel," the good clerk
escorted us to the officers' quarters. Here my pass was examined
closely; many questions were asked and answered. Still, the result
seemed doubtful; means of transportation were wanting. The colonel in
command was inclined to be suspicious and sternly unsympathetic. While
standing tremblingly before those whose adverse decision would, I
knew, crush all my hopes, one of the officers espied around my neck a
slender black chain, and demanded to know what it held. Instantly hope
returned: I drew from my bosom a small case enclosing the Masonic
document before mentioned. As at my mother's house, it was examined
and returned without comment. An hour later, however, a plentiful
repast was set before us, after which a covered ambulance appeared, in
which was placed for my comfort the only arm-chair the camp contained.
Soon, attended by an officer and a guard of Federal soldiers, our
little party entered upon the last stage of our journey to the
Confederate lines.

The route lay amid scenes of desolation sadder than anything I had
ever dreamed of. Fields, which a few short weeks before had given
promise of a rich harvest, were laid waste. Here and there tiny
columns of smoke arose from the smouldering ruins of once happy homes.
The heat and dust were almost insufferable, but as the sun declined a
cool breeze sprang up, and later a flood of moonlight clothed the
landscape with a mystical beauty. It shone coldly on the few deserted
homes which the hand of the destroyer had spared, and to me it seemed
that its silvery rays were like the pale fingers of a mourner who
places white wreaths upon the grave of love. In the soft wind I heard
only moans and sighs.

The children slept soundly in the straw at the bottom of the
ambulance, and soon the steady, monotonous tramp of the guard lulled
me also to rest. We approached the Confederate lines just at sunrise.
A flag of truce was unfurled, and at once answered by an officer on
picket-duty. A short parley ensued. At a word of command the Federal
guard fell back and were replaced by Confederates. A moment later, I,
with my charges, descended, to be greeted with enthusiasm, tempered
with the most chivalrous respect, by the "boys in gray," who proved to
be members of the battalion to which my husband was attached, and who
at once relieved my fears by assurances of his safety. It was a
supreme moment, such as comes seldom in a lifetime, and yet a time for
stern self-repression.

The emotions of a heart at rest, after trials so sore, were too sacred
to find expression.

I gazed around me in silent ecstasy. It seemed to me that the sun had
never shone so brightly, or on a scene so lovely. Noting the manly
faces and noble bearing of those who wore the gray, I felt that the
purple and ermine of kings could not have clothed them half so
magnificently. And, oh I how delicious and appetizing seemed "the
rations," which, though simple, were served under those green trees
with the earnest, genuine hospitality which is so well described by
the term "Southern."

The camp being several miles distant, nothing remained but to wait
patiently for some means of transportation. It was near sunset when
the loud singing of a negro driver was heard. Soon he appeared upon a
novel conveyance, - a rough, unplaned board or two on wheels and drawn
by a single ox. Unpromising as this "_turnout_" appeared, we were
informed that it was a "Godsend," so we joyfully mounted the cart, a
soldier being detailed to accompany us. My little son was made
supremely happy by being invited to sit upon the lap of the driver,
whose characteristic songs beguiled the way through the shadowy woods.
Within a few miles of camp the challenge of a sentry was heard; half
an hour later we found ourselves among the tents of the Dreux

My husband was "on guard," perhaps thinking sadly of his absent wife
and boy, certainly never dreaming they were so near. As the ambulance
drove into camp it was at once surrounded by soldiers, both officers
and privates. As soon as my name was known, some one who evidently
appreciated the situation rushed off in hot haste to notify and
relieve the soldier most interested. Meantime a dozen hands clasped
mine in kindly greeting. To whom they belonged I could not tell, for
the dense shade shut out the moonlight, and seen by the light of the
camp-fires, disguised as each one was in the rough garb of a soldier,
my quondam city friends wore quite unrecognizable.

I will leave to the imagination of the reader the happy meeting
between long-parted ones and the many caresses showered upon our

I had expected nothing better than to spend the night in the ambulance
or under a tent, and would have taken great pride in "camping out,"
but the chivalrous officers in command would not hear of such a plan.
Their quarters (two rooms in a little log house) were instantly
vacated, and I had scarcely descended from the vehicle when a negro
man appeared, to bring a message. "De Major's compliments, mistis, and
_de room am ready_." I could not have been bidden to a luxurious
apartment with more ceremony.

The next morning the shrill sound of the fife and the drum beating the
"reveille" aroused us, and we were up with the sun.

The scene was entrancing; to me particularly so, for the white tents
gleaming among the trees reminded me that I was among _Southern
soldiers_. As they strode to and fro with martial air, fully armed and

Online LibraryFannie A. BeersMemories A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure During Four Years of War → online text (page 1 of 24)