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In Their Own Words

April 01, 1865

April Fool’s Day Pranks Recorded in Journal

During the closing days of the Civil War, April Fool’s Day could still be time for levity, as evidenced by this day’s journal entry for 24-year-old Eliza Frances Andrews, who was visiting her older sister near Albany:

“There was fooling and counter fooling between Pine Bluff and Gum Pond all day. Jim Chiles and Albert Bacon began it by sending us a beautiful bouquet over which they had sprinkled snuff. We returned the box that had held the flowers, filled with dead rats dressed up in capes and mob caps like little old women. Then Albert tried to frighten us by sending a panicky note saying a dispatch had just been received from Thomasville that the Yankees were devastating the country round there, and heading for Andersonville. We pretended to believe it, and sister wrote back as if in great alarm, inquiring further particulars. Albert got his father to answer with a made-up story that he and Wallace had both gone to help fight the raiders at Thomasville. They must have thought us fools indeed, to believe that the enemy could come all the way from Tallahassee or Savannah to Thomasville, without our hearing a word of it till they got there, but we pretended to swallow it all, and got sister to write back that Metta and I were packing our trunks and would leave for Albany immediately, so as to take the first train for Macon; and to give color to the story, she sent word for Tommy, who was spending the day with Loring Bacon, to come home and tell his aunties good-by. They were caught with their own bait, and Albert and Jimmy, fearing they had carried the joke too far, came galloping over at full speed to prevent our setting out. We saw them coming across the field, and Mett and I hid ourselves, while sister met them with a doleful countenance, pretending that we had already gone and that she was frightened out of her wits. She had rubbed her eyes to make them look as if she had been crying, and the children and servants, too, had been instructed to pretend to be in a great flurry. When the jokers confessed their trick, she pretended to be so hurt and angry that they were in dismay, thinking they had really driven us off, though all the while we were locked in our own room, peeping through the cracks, listening to it all, and ready to burst with laughter. They had mounted their horses and declared that they would go after us and fetch us back, if they had to ride all the way to Albany, when old Uncle Setley spoiled our whole plot by laughing and yawping so that he excited their suspicion. They got down from their horses and began to look for wheel tracks on the ground, and at last Jim, who missed his calling in not being a detective, went and peeped into the carriage-house and saw the carriage standing there in its place. This convinced them that we had not gone to Albany, but where were we? Then began the most exciting game of hide-and-seek I ever played. Such a jumping in and out of windows, crawling under beds and sliding into corners, was never done before. The children and servants, all but old fool Setley, acted their parts well, but Jimmy was not to be foiled. They bid sister good-by several times and rode away as if they were going home, then suddenly returned in the hope of taking us by surprise. At last, after dark, we thought they were off for good, and went in to supper, taking the precaution, however, to bar the front door and draw the dining-room curtains. But we had had hardly begun to eat when Jimmy burst into the room, exclaiming:

“Howdy do, Miss Fanny; you made a short trip to Albany.”

We all jumped up from the table and began to bombard him with hot biscuits and muffins, and whatever else we could lay hands on. Then Mr. Bacon came in, a truce was declared, and we sat down and ate supper - or what was left of it - together. After supper we made Uncle Aby hitch up the carriage and drive us over to Gum Pond to surprise the family there. I dressed myself up like an old cracker woman and went in and asked for a night’s lodging. Maj. Bacon thought I was Leila trying to play a trick on him, so he dragged me very unceremoniously into the middle of the room, under the lamp, and pulled my bonnet off. It was funny to see his embarrassment when he saw his mistake; he is so awfully punctilious. He said he was in the act of writing a note to send after us to Albany, when I came in. They were all so delighted at finding they had not frightened us out of the country, that we had a grand jubilee together.

“We counted up before returning home, and found that forty-four miles had been ridden back and forth during the day on account of this silly April-fooling. I don’t think I ever enjoyed a day more in my life. It began happily, too, with Anderson’s return from jail early in the morning, and peace-making with his “missis.” [Anderson was a young slave owned by her sister who had been turned over to the sheriff for repeatedly running away.] I expect we were all as glad of the poor darkey’s release as he was himself. Mett says she wouldn’t care much if they could all be set free - but what on earth could we do with them, even if we wanted to free them ourselves? And to have a gang of meddlesome Yankees come down here and take them away from us by force - I would never submit to that, not even if slavery were as bad as they pretend. I think the best thing to do, if the Confederacy were to gain its independence, would be to make a law confiscating the negroes of any man who was cruel to them, and allowing them to choose their own master. Of course they would choose the good men, and this would make it to everybody’s interest to treat them properly.”

Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl: 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 124-127.