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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 15, 1865

Diary: Conditions of Former Slaves, Woman Traveled with Stephens

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote more about the conditions for former slaves, and of meeting a woman who had traveled with the recently arrested Alexander Stephens.

“Harry Day returned from Augusta, bringing frightful accounts of what the taxes, proscriptions, and confiscations are going to be. Father says that if a man were to sit down and write a programme for reducing a country to the very worst condition it could possibly be in, his imagination could not invent anything half so bad as the misery that is likely to come upon us. The cities and towns are already becoming overcrowded with runaway negroes. In Augusta they are clamoring for food, which the Yankees refuse to give, and their masters, having once been deserted by them, refuse to take them back.Even in our little town the streets are so full of idle negroes and bluecoats that ladies scarcely ever venture out. We are obliged to go sometimes, but it is always with drooping heads and downcast eyes. A settled gloom, deep and heavy, hangs over the whole land. All hearts are in mourning for the fall of our country, and all minds rebellious against the wrongs and oppression to which our cruel conquerors subject us. I don’t believe this war is over yet. The Trans-Mississippi bubble has burst, but wait till the tyranny and arrogance of the United States engages them in a foreign war! Ah, we’ll bide our time. That’s what all the men say, and their eyes glow and their cheeks burn when they say it. Though the whole world has deserted us and left us to perish without even a pitying sigh at our miserable doom, and we hate the whole world for its cruelty, yet we hate the Yankees more, and they will find the South a volcano ready to burst beneath their feet whenever the justice of heaven hurls a thunderbolt at their heads. We are overwhelmed, overpowered, and trodden underfoot… but “immortal hate and study of revenge” lives, in the soul of every man…. Mrs. Alfred Cumming, whose husband was Governor of Utah before the war, came to see us this morning. She tried to go to Clarkesville, but found the country so infested with robbers and bushwhackers and “Kirke’s Lambs,” that she dared not venture three miles beyond Athens. The Yankees have committed such depredations there that the whole country is destitute and the people desperate. The poor are clamoring for bread, and many of them have taken to “bushwhacking” as their only means of living. Mrs. Cumming traveled from Union Point to Barnett in the same car with Mr. Stephens. The Yankee guard suffered him to stop an hour at Crawfordville [his home], in order to collect some of his clothing. As soon as his arrival became known, the people flocked to see him, weeping and wringing their hands. All his negroes went out to see him off, and many others from the surrounding plantations. Mrs. Cumming says that as the train moved off, all along the platform, honest black hands of every shape and size were thrust in at the window, with cries of “Good-by, Mr. Stephens;” “Far’well, Marse Aleck.” All the spectators were moved to tears; the vice-president himself gave way to an outburst of affectionate - not cowardly grief, and even his Yankee guard looked serious while this affecting scene passed before their eyes.” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 253-255.