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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 12, 1865

Diary: Testy Encounter with Yankee; Confederate Treasury

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of more Yankee encounters, including one in which she was personally involved. She also mentioned much of the remaining Confederate treasury being left in Washington, Georgia when Jefferson Davis and Confederate officials passed through - this would lead to an enduring mystery when the treasury was plundered twelve days later and never recovered.

“The Saint and his angels failed to burn Gen. Toombs’s house, after all. Whether the threat was a mere idle swagger to bully helpless women and children, time must reveal. Capt. Abraham returned from Augusta to-day with more reenforcements, and immediately apologized to Mrs. Toombs for the insults to which she had been subjected, and said that orders for the raid upon her were given over his head and without his knowledge. He really seems to have the instincts of a gentleman, and I am afraid I shall be obliged to respect him a little, in spite of his uniform. Although considerably reenforced, his garrison seems to be still in wholesome fear of a conflict with our throngs of disbanded soldiers. A cavalry-man went to the courthouse the other day and deliberately helped himself to a musket before their eyes, and they did not even remonstrate. Our cavalry are a reckless, unruly lot, yet I can’t help admiring them because they are such red-hot rebels. It may be foolish, but somehow I like the spirit of those who refuse to repent, and who swear they would do it all over, if the thing were to be done again. A curious story was told me to-day about the fate of some of the plundered Confederate treasure. A troop of horsemen who were making off with a bag of specie they had “captured,” containing $5,000 in silver, were alarmed the other day, just as they were riding past Gen. Toombs’s gate, by a report that the Yankees were after them, and threw the sack over the fence into his yard. The general sent it to the commandant as belonging to the assets of the defunct Confederacy. I wish he had thrown it into the fire rather than given it to them. I had a little adventure with a party of Yankees myself this afternoon. I was down in the back garden with Marshall, Touchy, Gilmer Sale, and some other boys, shooting at a mark with an Enfield rifle and a minie musket they had picked up somewhere. We were using the trunk of a small cedar at the foot of the hill for our target, and it was such a retired spot that we never dreamed of anybody’s being within range of our guns, when a dozen bluecoats came tearing down the hill on the other side of the rose hedge, frightened out of their senses and cursing like fury. They had been taking a stroll through the woods on the other side of the hedge, and when our balls began to whistle about their ears, thought they were bushwhacked. I heard one of them say, as he made his way through an opening in the vines: “I never saw balls fly thicker in battle.” Fortunately for us they were unarmed and could not return the fire. When they saw that the supposed bushwhackers were only a woman and half a dozen children, they sent one of their number to speak with us. The little boys wanted to run when they saw him coming, but I was afraid the affair might get us into trouble unless I explained, so I stood waiting for the envoy, with Marshall’s rifle in my hand. I told the man what we were doing, and expressed the hope which happened, for once, to be sincere - that we had not hurt anybody. He looked very gruff, and answered: “No, you ain’t shot anybody, but you came within an inch of killing me. You ought to be more careful how you shoot.” I wanted to tell him that he ought to be more careful how he went prowling about on private grounds, but I didn’t know what tale he might carry to headquarters if I angered him, so I answered very politely that I didn’t know there was anybody behind the hedge, or I would not have fired in that direction. “What are you shooting at, anyway?” he asked, looking round unsatisfied and suspicious. I pointed to the cedar trunk, as yet unscathed by our wandering bullets. The fellow laughed, and reaching out for the rifle, said: “Let me show you how to shoot.” But I held fast to my weapon, though I knew I couldn’t fire it to save my life, without resting it on something and pulling at the trigger with both hands, but I thought it best to put on a brave face in the presence of the enemy. He then took Gilmer’s musket, aimed it at a small vine no bigger round than my little finger, twined about a sapling at least 100 feet away, and cut it in two as clean as if he had done it with a penknife. I couldn’t help admiring the accuracy of his shot, but I pretended to take no notice. He then examined the empty barrel closely, returned it to Gilmer, and marched away to join his companions, without even touching his hat, as the most ignorant Confederate would have done. The others were peeping all the time through the hedge, and I heard one of them ask him: “Why didn’t you take the guns away from the damned little rebels?” I didn’t change my position till they were out of sight, and then we all scuttled off to the house as hard as we could go. We had not been there long before a squad of soldiers came up the avenue, and said there were some army guns in the house, which they must have, as by the terms of the surrender they were now the property of the Federal Government. They called father “old fellow” in a very insolent manner, that made me indignant. Our grove is alight every night with the camp fires of Johnston’s men. I often go out to talk with them in the evenings, and hear them tell about their homes and their adventures in the war. They are all greatly discontented with the peace, and I sympathize with them. They are always grateful for an encouraging word, and it is about all we have to give them now. Most of them are plain, uneducated men, and all are ragged and dirty and sunburnt. Some of the poor fellows have hardly clothes enough to make them decent. But they are Confederate soldiers, and those honorable rags have seen some glorious fighting. … ” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 244-248.