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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

April 19, 1865

Diary Entry on Meeting Governor Brown and Davis Relatives

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of more terror as the Yankees approached, meeting some relatives of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had some pointed comments about Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown (whom she met personally on the train), and of encountering a heavy infestation of bugs on the beds at a hotel in Milledgeville.

“…we were all anxious to push ahead to the end of our journey, but it was impossible to get a conveyance of any sort. Sam Hardeman, Jule’s devoted, spent the evening with us, and as they are both very musical, we tried to keep up our spirits by singing some of the favorite war songs, but they seemed more like dirges now, and we gave up and went to our rooms. We got to bed early, knowing we must be at the depot betimes in the morning, to secure seats on the train for Milledgeville, and had just thrown ourselves on the bed, when Jenny and Jule came running in, frightened out of their wits, declaring that a man and his wife were quarreling in the room on one side of them, and a party of drunken men on the other, trying to open their door. They can beat any girls I know stirring up imaginary scarecrows, from a ghost to a burglar, and we tried to laugh away their foolish fears, but as we failed to pacify them we gave up our room to them and took theirs. We heard nothing more of either drunken men or domestic broils, and were so tired that we slept like logs till some time way in the night, we were wakened by a terrific thunder storm. A bolt struck one of the lightning rods of the hotel and made such a fearful crash that many of the guests, suddenly roused from their sleep, took it for a Yankee shell, and for a time the wildest excitement prevailed. Capt. Thomas told me afterwards that he never jumped so far in his life as when roused by that thunderbolt, which, in his first bewilderment, he mistook for the explosion of a shell. He didn’t want to be killed in his bed now, he said, after going through the whole four years of the war. I had been awake some time, listening to the rain, when the shock came, and knew what it was, but I am just as much afraid of thunder and lightning as of Yankee bombs, and when that bolt struck, Mett and I flew across the corridor in our nightgowns to find the Toombs girls. We had some funny experiences, for it seems to me that everybody at the hotel was running round promiscuously in the corridors, but we were all too much excited to notice each other’s dress - or rather, undress. Once, in my haste, I knocked at the wrong door, and it was some time before we could find the girls. Jenny and Jule had made for their father’s room at the first alarm, and thinking they had found it, Jenny bolted in and called to a man in bed whom she took for her father. The man was either too drunk or too much of a gentleman to wake, and kept his eyes shut till Jenny made her escape. When we got back to their room, we all four piled into bed together and stayed there till morning, but none of us slept much. We were up almost by daylight, and even then found others starting to the depot ahead of us. There was great difficulty in getting transportation for baggage, and we had to foot it ourselves. The Yankees were expected every minute, and as this was our very last chance to escape, there was a great rush to get on board the train. Brother Troup had not been able to carry out his order to join Gen. Wofford, and sent our trunks to the station on a government wagon, and Gen. Cobb gave Mr. Toombs transportation for it on one of his cars, as far as Milledgeville. We gratified a pretty girl from Montgomery, and her escort, by taking their baggage to the station with ours. We saw one overloaded team take fright at a car whistle and run away, scattering the trunks piled up on it, and bursting some of them open - a serious misfortune in these times, when none of us have clothes to spare. We did not wait at the hotel for breakfast, but started off on foot with cold biscuits in our hands, which were all we had to eat. We reached the depot at least an hour before the schedule time. Three long trains, heavily laden, went down the South-Western, and Brother Troup got aboard one of them. I am glad he will be with sister in these trying times. There were enough people and baggage still at the depot to load a dozen trains, and the people scrambled for places next the track. Sidney Lanier, a friend of Fred’s, was there, trying to get aboard one of the outgoing trains. Fred introduced him, but we soon lost each other in the crowd. The poor fellow is just up from a spell of typhoid fever, and looked as thin and white as a ghost. He said Harry Day was left behind sick, in Macon. When the Central train backed up, there was such a rush to get aboard that I thought we would have the life squeezed out of us. I saw one man knock a woman down and run right over her. I hope the Yankees will catch him. Fred and Mr. Toombs had to give their whole attention to the baggage, but we girls are all good travelers, and having legs of our own, which our trunks had not, we pushed our way successfully through the crowd. I was assisted by Mr. Duval, one of Cousin Bolling’s patients whom I met in Cuthbert, and the four of us were comfortably seated. Nearly all our companions on yesterday’s wild-goose chase towards Atlanta were aboard, and we also found Mrs. Walthall, going to Washington to visit Gen. Toombs’s family, and Mrs. Paul Hammond, on her way to Augusta. Many people had to leave their baggage behind, and others still were not able to find even standing room for themselves. Gov. Brown was on board, and Mr. Toombs introduced him to me. He looked at me with a half-embarrassed expression and poked out his hand with no pretense at cordiality. Whether this was due to resentment at father’s political stand, or merely to preoccupation about his own rather precarious affairs, I could not tell. He is a regular Barebones in appearance, thin, wiry, angular, with a sallow complexion and iron-gray hair. His face wears an expression of self-assertion rather than obstinacy and I couldn’t help thinking how well he would have fitted in with Cromwell’s Ironsides. He had on a rusty, short-tailed black alpaca coat that had a decidedly home-made set. He looked “Joe Brown,” every inch of him, and if I had met him in Jericho, I would have said, “There goes Joe Brown.” But when we reached Milledgeville, he heaped coals of fire on my head by offering us his carriage to drive to the hotel in. Every horse, mule, and vehicle in the place had been “pressed” for removing the government stores that had been shipped from Macon; there was not even an ox-cart or a negro with a wheel-barrow to be hired, and the hotel full a mile away, and the sun blazing hot. Still, I declined at first, for I could not make up my mind to accept a favor from a man whose political course I respected so little, but the Toombses piled in and the governor himself courteously insisted that the rest of us should follow, or he would send the carriage back, he said, if it was too crowded. Mett and I then got in and Mrs. Walthall climbed in after us. I felt rather ashamed of myself for all the mean things I have said about the old governor, but I couldn’t help laughing at Mrs. Walthall, who overwhelmed him with gracious speeches, and then, the minute his back was turned, shook her fist at him out of the window, and added in an undertone: “But I would help to hang you to-morrow, you old rascal!” This is politics, I suppose, with the s left off. At the hotel we found all our traveling companions, who had come out from Macon, with a number of other fugitives, and while waiting for Fred and Mr. Toombs to hunt up conveyances, we amused ourselves getting acquainted and exchanging experiences with our fellow sufferers. Among the ones I liked best, were Mrs. Young and Dr. Morrow, from Marietta. Mrs. Walthall introduced us to her escort, Col. Lockett, an old bachelor, but as foolish about the girls as if he was a widower. Our pretty girl from Montgomery was there, too, but I did not learn her name, and a poor little Mrs. Smith from somewhere, with a sick, puny baby that everybody felt sorry for. Mrs. Howell and Mrs. Wardlaw, mother and sister of Mrs. Jefferson Davis, were also among the unfortunates stranded at that awful Milledgeville Hotel. Mrs. Howell was a stout old lady with a handsome, but rather determined face, and pretty, old-fashioned gray curls falling behind her ears. Col. Lockett innocently pointed her out to me as the housekeeper, when he saw me wandering about in search of a clean towel, but I told him I had been at the Milledgeville Hotel before and he couldn’t make me believe that anybody connected with it could show a pound of superfluous flesh - a stroke of wisdom on my part that saved me from committing a dreadful faux pas. Afterwards, when we met in the parlor, she lost no time in letting us all know that she was the president’s mother-in-law, and then went on to pay her compliments to everything and everybody opposed to Jeff Davis, Gov. Brown coming in for the lion’s share. Mrs. Wardlaw, her daughter, had a good voice, and her sweet singing helped to make the time pass a little less tediously, but there her individuality seemed to end. Capt. Thomas, a young officer traveling with them, was charming; I don’t know how we would have got through that “long, weary day” without him. After we had waited a long time, Fred and Mr. Toombs came in and reported that it was impossible to get a conveyance of any kind to Mayfield. It was all they could do to get our baggage hauled from the depot and we would probably have to spend the night where we were. Every conveyance in town had been “pressed” for removing government stores - where? Augusta is supposed to be the next objective point of the enemy, and Milledgeville is directly on the road from there to Macon. The panic has extended here, and everybody that can get out of the way is preparing or flight. Their experience with Sherman’s army last winter naturally doesn’t make these people long for another visit. Fred had engaged a two-horse wagon for one thousand dollars, but while he was having our trunks put on it, a government official came up and “pressed” it. As we couldn’t help ourselves, we resolved to make the best of the situation, so we went to our room to get a little rest and make ourselves presentable before dinner-time. We had engaged a large room with two beds so that we girls could all be together, but when we entered, our hearts sank, accustomed as we are to war-time fare. There was no slop tub, wash basin, pitcher nor towels, and the walls on each side of the beds were black with tobacco spit. The fireplace was a dump heap that was enough to turn the stomach of a pig, and over the mantel some former occupant had inscribed this caution: “One bed has lice in it, the other fleas, and both bugs; chimney smokes; better change.” Prompted by curiosity I turned down the cover of one bed, and started such a stampede among the bugs that we all made for the door as fast as our feet would carry us and ordered another room, which, however, did not prove much better. Our next step was to make a foray for water and towels. The only water supply we could find was in a big washtub at the head of the stairs, where everybody stopped to drink, those who had no cups stooping down and lapping it up with their hands, or dipping in their heads. There was but one chambermaid to the whole establishment, and she was as hard to catch as the Irishman’s flea. Both Fred and Mr. Toombs were off, hunting for conveyances, so we had to shift for ourselves. We tried to ring a bell that hung in the passage, but Sherman’s angels had cut the cord. A young captain who was watching our maneuvers, advised us to cry “Fire!” as the surest way of getting water brought. Just at this time, Fred’s boy, Arch, came up and we made him shovel some of the dirt out of our room and bring up fresh water in a broken pitcher we found there. After making ourselves as decent as circumstances would permit, we went down to the dining-room. There was literally nothing on the table but some broken crockery, the remains of Sherman’s little teaparty, but one of the black waiters promised to get us a nice dinner if we would “jest have de patience to deviate back to de parlor” and wait a little while, till he could get it ready. He was so polite and plausible that we “deviated,” and after more than half an hour, went back to the dining-room, where we exercised our patience for another half-hour, when, at last, he came bustling in with some ham and eggs and raw corn bread. I looked about on my plate for a clean spot on which to deposit my share, and, finding none, dabbed it down at random, and went for it, dirt and all, for I was desperately hungry. Soon after dinner Mr. Toombs came in to say that Gov. Brown had provided him with a conveyance for himself and daughters and they were to start at once. After the Toombses left, Mrs. Walthall asked Mett and me to share her room, as she was afraid to stay by herself, and we, too, were glad of a companion. Late in the afternoon we went out and saw the Georgia cadets on dress parade in front of the capitol. Mrs. Walthall and Col. Lockett joined us there, with several gentlemen that we had met at the hotel, and we had a fine time. Among the cadets we recognized Milton Reese, Tom Hill, and Davy Favor, from Washington, and as soon as the drill was over, we went into the capitol with them and saw the destruction the Yankees had made. The building was shockingly defaced, like everything else in Milledgeville. There don’t seem to be a clean or a whole thing left in the town. The boys told us that the cadets are so hot against the governor for not ordering them into active service that they had hung him in effigy right there in the capitol grounds. His son is among them, and the boys say the governor won’t let them fight because he is afraid Julius might get hurt. The truth is, they ought all to be at home in their trundle beds, Julius with the rest, for they are nothing but children. When we returned to the hotel, Fred met us with the joyful news that he had found a man with a miserable little wagon and two scrubby mules hid out in the woods, who had agreed to take us to Mayfield for twenty-five hundred dollars, provided Fred would get his team exempted from empressment. He (Fred) went at once to Col. Pickett, who granted the exemption, and we could be off as early in the morning as we chose. We spent part of the evening in the hotel parlor, trying to be cheerful by the light of a miserable tallow dip, but soon gave it up and came away to our room.” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 155-165.