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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

April 17, 1865

Diary Entry on Fear of Yankees and Columbus Falling

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of traveling from Cuthbert to Macon by train (on her way home to Washington, Georgia); experiencing fears of Yankees and learning of the fall of Columbus along the way.

“…When the train arrived from Eufaula it was already crowded with refugees, besides 300 volunteers from the exempts going to help fight the Yankees at Columbus. All sorts of wild rumors were flying, among them one that fighting had already begun at Columbus, and that a raid had been sent out towards Eufaula. Excitement on the train was intense. At Ward’s Station, a dreary-looking little place, we picked up the train wrecked yesterday, with many of the passengers still on board. They had spent the night there in the cars, having nowhere else to go. Beyond Ward’s, the failure of this train to appear had given color to all sorts of wild rumors about the advance of the Yankees into South-West Georgia. The excitement was intense all along the route. At every little station crowds were gathered to hear the news, and at many places we found a report had gone out that both our train and yesterday’s had been captured. The excitement increased as we approached Fort Valley, where the Muscogee road (from Columbus) joins the South-Western, and many of the passengers predicted that we should be captured there. At the next station below Fort Valley, our fears regarding the fate of Columbus were confirmed by a soldier on the platform, who shouted out as the train slowed down, “Columbus gone up the spout!” Nobody was surprised, and all were eager to hear particulars. I was glad to learn that our poor little handful of Confederates had made a brave fight before surrendering. The city was not given up till nine last night, when the Yanks slipped over the railroad bridge and got in before our men, who were defending the other bridge, knew anything about it. We had not enough to watch both bridges, and it seemed more likely the attack would be made by the dirt road. Then everybody blundered around in the dark, fighting pretty much at random. If a man met some one he did not know, he asked whether he was a Yank or a Reb, and if the answer did not suit his views he fired. At last everybody became afraid to tell who or what they were. It was thought that our forces had retired towards Opelika. When we reached Fort Valley the excitement was at fever heat. Train upon train of cars was there, all the rolling stock of the Muscogee Road having been run out of Columbus to keep it from being captured, and the cars were filled with refugees and their goods. It was pitiful to see them, especially the poor little children, driven from their homes by the frozen-hearted Northern Vandals, but they were all brave and cheerful, laughing good-naturedly instead of grumbling over their hardships. People have gotten so used to these sort of things that they have learned to bear them with philosophy. Soldiers who had made their escape after the fight, without surrendering, were camped about everywhere, looking tired and hungry, and more disheartened than the women and children. Poor fellows, they have seen the terrors of war nearer at hand than we. As our train drew up at the depot, I caught sight of Fred in the crowd. He had been in the fight at Columbus, and I concluded was now on his way to Cuthbert to find Metta and me. I called to let him know that we were on board, but he did not hear me, and before I could make my way to the opposite window, the train moved on a few hundred yards and he was lost in the crowd. I was greatly disturbed, for it was said that the train we were on was the last that would be run over the South-Western Road. While I was in this dilemma, Col. Magruder and Marsh Fouche came out of the crowd and hailed me. They said they were on furlough and trying to make their way to Uncle Fouche’s plantation in Appling County. I told them my troubles, and they went to hunt up Fred for me, but must have gotten swallowed up in the crowd themselves, for I never saw either of them again. At last I sent for the conductor to unlock the door so that I could get out of the car and begin a search on my own account. Just as I had stepped out on the platform Fred himself came pushing through the crowd and sprang up beside me. He said that some of the passengers who had come with us from Cuthbert, happened to hear him say that he was going to South-West Georgia to get his sisters, and told him that we were there. From Fort Valley we traveled without interruption to Macon, where the excitement is at its climax. The Yankees are expected here at any moment, from both north and south, having divided their forces at Tuskegee, it is said, and sent one column by way of Union Springs and Columbus, and another through Opelika and West Point. I saw some poor little fortifications thrown up along the line of the South-Western, with a handful of men guarding them, and that is the only preparation for defense I have seen. We are told that the city is to be defended, but if that is so, the Lord only knows where the men are to come from. The general opinion seems to be that it is to be evacuated, and every preparation seems to be going forward to that end. All the horses that could be found have been pressed for the removal of government stores, and we had great difficulty in getting our baggage from the depot to the hotel. Mr. Legriel’s nephew, Robert Scott, was at the train to take us out to Lily’s, but Fred thought it best for us to stay at the hotel, as he wants to leave in the morning by the first train over the Macon & Western. Mulberry Street, in front of the Lanier House, is filled with officers and men rushing to and fro, and everything and everybody seems to be in the wildest excitement…. In the hotel parlor, when I came from Lily’s, whom should I find but Mr. Adams, our little Yankee preacher! I used to like him, but now I hate to look at him just because he is a Yankee. What is it, I wonder, that makes them so different from us, even when they mean to be good Southerners! You can’t even make one of them look like us, not if you were to dress him up in a full suit of Georgia jeans. I used to have some Christian feeling towards Yankees, but now that they have invaded our country and killed so many of our men and desecrated so many homes, I can’t believe that when Christ said “Love your enemies,” he meant Yankees. Of course I don’t want their souls to be lost, for that would be wicked, but as they are not being punished in this world, I don’t see how else they are going to get their deserts.” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 145-149.