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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

April 18, 1865

Diary Entry on Hysterics at Thought of Yankees

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of the rush to get on trains leaving Macon as the Yankees approached - including one woman who went into hysterics at the thought of being captured by them.

“The first train on the Georgia R.R., from Atlanta to Augusta, was scheduled to run through to-day, and we started off on the Macon & Western so as to reach Atlanta in time to take the next one down, to-morrow. There was such a crowd waiting at the depot that we could hardly push our way through, and when the ladies’ car was opened there was such a rush that we considered ourselves lucky to get in at all. Jenny and Jule were with us, and we were fortunate enough to get seats together. Fred and Mr. Toombs had great difficulty in getting our trunks aboard, and were obliged to leave us to look out for ourselves, while they attended to the baggage. Many people had to leave theirs behind, and some decided to stay with their trunks; they contained all that some poor refugees had left them. The trains that went out this morning were supposed to be the last that would leave the city, as the Yankees were expected before night, and many predicted that we would be captured. There was a terrible rush on all the outgoing trains. Ours had on board a quantity of government specie and the assets of four banks, besides private property, aggregating all together, it was said, more than seventeen million dollars - and there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 passengers. People who could not get inside were hanging on wherever they could find a sticking place; the aisles and platforms down to the last step were full of people clinging on like bees swarming round the doors of a hive. It took two engines to pull us up the heavy grade around Vineville, and we were more than an hour behind time, in starting, at that. Meanwhile, all sorts of rumors were flying. One had it that the road was cut at Jonesborough, then, at Barnesville, and finally that a large force of the enemy was at Thomaston advancing toward the road with a view to capturing our train. I never saw such wild excitement in my life. Many people left the cars at the last moment before we steamed out, preferring to be caught in Macon rather than captured on the road, but their places were rapidly filled by more adventurous spirits. A party of refugees from Columbus were seated near us, and they seemed nearly crazed with excitement. Mary Eliza Rutherford, who was always a great scatter-brain when I knew her at school, was among them, and she jumped upon the seat, tore down her back hair and went off into regular hysterics at the idea of falling into the hands of the Yankees. Such antics would have been natural enough in the beginning of the war, when we were new to these experiences, but now that we are all old soldiers, and used to raids and vicissitudes, people ought to know how to face them quietly. Of course it would have been dreadful to be captured and have your baggage rifled and lose all your clothes, but if the Yankees had actually caught us, I don’t think I would have gone crazy over it. So many sensational reports kept coming in that I finally lost patience and felt like saying something cross to everybody that brought me a fresh bit of news. Before we left Macon, Mr. Edward Shepherd gave me the worst fright I almost ever had, by telling me that my trunk and Jenny Toombs’s had been thrown out of the baggage car and were lying on the track, but this proved to be a false alarm, like so many others. Then somebody came in and reported that the superintendent of the road had a dispatch in his hand at that moment, stating that the enemy was already in Barnesville. The statement seemed so authoritative that Fred went to Gen. Mackall himself, and was advised by him to continue his journey, as no official notice had been received of the cutting of the road. At last, to the great relief of us all, the train steamed out of Macon and traveled along in peace till it reached Goggins’s Station, four miles from Barnesville, where it was stopped by some country people who said that the down train from Atlanta had been captured and the Yankees were just five miles beyond Barnesville waiting for us. A council was held by the railroad officials and some of the army officers on board, at which it was decided that the freight we were carrying was too valuable to be risked, although the news was not very reliable, having been brought in by two schoolboys. There was danger also, it was suggested, that a raiding party might mistake such a very long and crowded train, where the men were nearly all forced out on the platforms, for a movement of troops and fire into us. I confess to being pretty badly scared at this possibility, but the women on board seemed to have worked off their excitement by this time, and we all kept quiet and behaved ourselves very creditably. While the council was still in session, fresh reports came in confirming those already brought, and we put back to Macon, without standing on the order of our going. Helen Swift, a friend of the Toombses, who had joined us at Macon, lives only fifteen miles from the place where we turned back. She was bitterly disappointed, and I don’t blame her for nearly crying her eyes out. Mr. Adams undertook to administer spiritual consolation, but I don’t think Helen was very spiritually-minded towards Yankees just at that time. Excited crowds were waiting at all the stations as we went back, and the news we brought increased the ferment tenfold. The general impression seems to be that the Yanks are advancing upon Macon in three columns, and that they will reach the city by tomorrow or next day, at latest. We came back to the Lanier House, and Fred hopes to get us out by way of Milledgeville, before they arrive. When our train got back to Macon, the men on board had gradually dropped off on the way, so that I don’t suppose there were more than 200 or 300 remaining of all that had gone out in the morning. The demoralization is complete. We are whipped, there is no doubt about it. Everybody feels it, and there is no use for the men to try to fight any longer, though none of us like to say so. Just before we reached Macon, the down train, which had been reported captured, overtook us at a siding, with the tantalizing news that we might have got through to Atlanta if we had gone straight on. The Yankees were twelve miles off at the time of its reported capture, and cut the road soon after it passed. There was an immense crowd at the depot on our return, and when I saw what a wild commotion the approach of the Yankees created, I lost all hope and gave up our cause as doomed. We made a brave fight but the odds against us were too great. The spell of invincibility has left us and gone over to the heavy battalions of the enemy. As I drove along from the station to the hotel, I could see that preparations were being made to evacuate the city. Government stores were piled up in the streets and all the horses and wagons that could be pressed into service were being hastily loaded in the effort to remove them. The rush of men had disappeared from Mulberry St. No more gay uniforms, no more prancing horses, but only a few ragged foot soldiers with wallets and knapsacks on, ready to march - Heaven knows where. Gen. Elzey and staff left early in the morning to take up their new quarters either in Augusta or Washington, and if we had only known it, we might have gone out with them. I took a walk on the streets while waiting to get my room at the hotel, and found everything in the wildest confusion. The houses were closed, and doleful little groups were clustered about the street corners discussing the situation. All the intoxicating liquors that could be found in the stores, warehouses, and barrooms, had been seized by the authorities and emptied on the ground. In some places the streets smelt like a distillery, and I saw men, boys, and negroes down on their knees lapping it up from the gutter like dogs. Little children were staggering about in a state of beastly intoxication. I think there can be no more dreary spectacle in the world than a city on the eve of evacuation, unless it is one that has already fallen into the hands of the enemy. I returned to the hotel with a heavy heart, for while out I heard fresh rumors of Lee’s surrender. No one seems to doubt it, and everybody feels ready to give up hope. “It is useless to struggle longer,” seems to be the common cry, and the poor wounded men go hobbling about the streets with despair on their faces. There is a new pathos in a crutch or an empty sleeve, now, that we know it was all for nothing.” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 149-155.