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In Their Own Words

July 18, 1864

Diary Entry on Lawlessness in Countryside

William King of Cobb County wrote in length to his diary of a hard order from General Sherman, and the lawless condition of the countryside with marauders from both sides running amuck.

I went to town this morning, and learnt from the Picket Guards that they had new orders today not to let any citizens go into nor to come out of town even with a pass, but he kindly consented to my going in. I saw Col. Ross, the Commandant who [torn] these positive orders from Gen’l Sherman leaving him no discretion. I told him how lonely I was at Home and told him that there were many families of females in town after whose comfort I had to see, he promised to come to see me now and then and said he wanted to try and arrange this matter now and then to give me a special pass to come in and go out of town, and said I must try and bear it patiently for a while. I could not complain having already experienced so much kindness from him and this rigid order seems to have been provoked by the bad conduct of citizens about, chiefly above this, in Bushwhacking and interrupting the cars, a wicked course of conduct on the part of private citizens probably more prompted by the desire of plunder and ravage than any other feeling–the whole country in a lawless condition, citizens and soldiers of both armies all alike availing themselves of the distracted state of the country, committing all depredations of plundering and murdering–these are the unavoidable results of war, and which I had foreseen and foretold before this sad and needless war was commenced by Politicians. I saw Mrs. Morris, she was in much distress, and anxious to get within our Lines, I told her it could not be effected just now, but I thought she might be able to get a pass in a few weeks, she begged me to assist her to do so as soon as possible. I told her I would do all I could for her, so soon as I thought Gen. Sherman would grant permission. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Wayland, they were in great distress, having suffered great loss and annoyance. He was very sick and almost lost his mind, both wept bitterly. I could afford them but little comfort, but promised to call and see them again soon. What trials and sufferings many are called to endure. A country and people once so happy now so afflicted, the innocent suffering equally with the guilty–the distress throughout this county is general and severe, few if any have escaped, not from the evil days of the Federal army, but from the army of Robbers which follow in its wake and from the corrupt people living among us. Laws are suspended and the evil passions let loose. I saw Bro. Barrington’s 2 men Brunswick and William today, they told me they had been left at Home with their families to take care of things with provisions enough, but all had been taken from them, and having no means of support, they all came over here with the hope of getting work enough to support them, but already found it would be hard for them to make a living for themselves and families, and asked if I could not allow them all to come stay with me. I told them I had nothing even for own servants to do here, but told them however if they should be in want to let me know and I would try to assist them, they told me that they could get $20. per mo. but as everything was very high, that amt. would not support them and their families. Today Mrs. McClatchy sent me her milk cow, stating that she could not take care of it, and feared she would lose it. It will be nearly as much exposed with me, but [torn] it for the milk. While in town today, I was informed that our vault in the grave yard had been opened, in returning home I examined it, and found only a part of the Bricks from the opening had been removed, sufficient to enable the heartless Robbers to see that nothing, which they coveted, was concealed therein. I determined that it was better to leave it as it was for the present, as to close it just now with fresh mason work, would only tempt a new band of Robbers to open it a gain. The coffins were all untouched, remaining in their proper places, quiet and unmoved were the remains of the old gentleman and Fanny in the tomb, while so many of their living friends and family were disturbed and almost heartbroken by the sad troubles in the living world above. I could not but feel grateful to God for his mercy in having removed the old gentleman beyond the scene of the sad trials through which we are now passing, as were he now alive, the painful circumstances by which he would have been surrounded, would soon have hastened him to the grave, and he probably not have died the quiet and happy death which he did. How many of God’s seeming afflictions prove to have been blessings–had he been alive and driven to the Low Country how great and many would have been his anxious cares, had he remained here and witnessed what I now do and have done for near 2 months, the wanton destruction of property on his own premises, and those of his neighbors, the heartless cruelty of some and the severe suffering of others, growing out of this cruel and needless war, in what sorrow would it have brought his gray hairs to the grave. I thank God that he was not compelled to pass through so sad an ordeal–and how cheering a thought it is that the pains and sorrows arising from the wickedness of man, are not to last always, to us who now live they will soon pass away–with the hope of the peace and bliss of Heaven in prospect resignation and even cheerfulness becomes us when we remember that the wickedness of the wicked will soon come to an end and must tend to convince us of the vanity of the hope of perfect happiness in this Life–this wicked war may prove to be one of God’s blessings to his people.

Source: Diary of William King; Cobb County, Georgia, 1864