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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

April 20, 1864

Athens Newspaper Article on Civil War Refugees

The Southern Banner of Athens printed an article on the plight of the many refugees wandering the South because of the Civil War.

Refugees. We indulged ourselves lately in a few thoughts about these uncomplaining sufferers.It was indeed a privilege to tell them how much we admired their unostentatious heroism. The article has been extensively copied, and still continues to return to us in our exchanges. This is attributable to the general interest of the subject, for unhappily in every section of the Confederacy, as we then remarked, these houseless, homeless wanderers are to be seen. We had a higher object, however, than merely to excite sympathy. Our hope was to give a tangible form to the kind feelings generally felt for these unfortunate persons. And now, if the “bread cast upon the waters” can be made to return in a palpable and material shape, we will have been more than rewarded for our trouble. The subject should be considered with full knowledge. There is suffering in the land. There is much that is known, and we very much fear there is much more than is felt but not known. It is necessary to inquire into the cause of the difficulty in procuring supplies. We believe it is due to other causes than the only one that would justify it, a scarcity in the country. We may, however, express the hope that the tax on provisions now so generally hoarded will soon liberate them into circulation. But whatever may be the correctness or the error of our speculation as to the cause, there is unfortunately no doubt of the fact that there is suffering, and the refugees are the principal sufferers. The planter is not none; he is really the only independent person at this time. The families of soldiers are wisely and amply provided for by the State Legislature. In this State, and no doubt in others, in addition to liberal money contributions, a tax in kind is levied for this purpose upon provisions, productions and manufactures. We should gladly strain every never to increase rather to diminish, these wise and necessary measures for the families of those upon whose strong arms and brave hearts the fate of the country is at this moment suspended as it were a weight on the balance.–But it has often struck us with some surprise that no legislation nor concerted action of committees has been had for men who have been deprived of their homes and stript [sic] of their whole fortunes. We have little doubt that this is owing to the silent, uncomplaining manner, in which these people have borne their privations. The world does not know how much they bear. They are generally of the better classes–well educated–of refined manners, and heretofore accustomed to the abundance of wealth at their own boards. With such surroundings it is a very natural element of Southern character to add–pride–in its liberal sense. The Southerner is the Bourbon of the days of Louis XIV. His wife and his children share and inherit his magnanimous spirit. The world knows not their trials–but a little one the other day in the ingenuousness of childhood unwittingly told the tale of suffering when her sister died, and she addressed her mother with these touching words: “Ma, I hope little sissy has gone to Heaven now, where she won’t be hungry any more.” But this incident reminds us that we are again indulging our feelings about the refugees. We desire to invite attention to the necessity of some practical measures for their relief. Because they have suffered so long uncomplainingly, they should not be permitted to continue to suffer. As a general rule, with a few exceptions of narrow-minded and ignorant persons, there is a kind feeling for them, which is exhibited in generous actions. True different communities differ widely. Some blame them for high markets; in others we have known a man to plant expressly for them, and to sell them corn at $1.00 per bushel without interest, payable on their return to their homes after the war. But such sentiment as this needs shape. Action should be systematic and concentrated. There are many ways in which it can be made more efficient and less repulsive than that individual aid which may in their eyes assume the appearance of charity. There is no reason why there should not be “Refugees’ Associations,” “Refugees’ Boards of Relief.” Very many will gladly avail themselves of their benefits. Such associations would to incalculable good. We have made our suggestions. It is for others to take them up. There is not a community in this State nor the Confederacy where they would not find an ample field for usefulness.