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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 17, 1865

Diary: Davis in Augusta, Most Soldiers Gone, Boy Orphaned by War

Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her diary of seeing a letter describing the passage of the captured Jefferson Davis through Augusta, of most of the soldiers of Johnston’s army being gone from her hometown of Washington, Georgia, and a heart rending story of a young boy orphaned by the war.

“Cora has a letter from Mattie [her sister] giving a very pathetic account of the passage of the prisoners through Augusta. She says that Telfair St. was thronged with ladies, all weeping bitterly, as the mournful procession passed on, and that even the President’s Yankee guard seemed touched by the exhibition of grief. The more sensitive may have shut themselves up, as Mr. Day said, but I am glad some were there to testify that the feeling of the South is still with our fallen President and to shame with their tears the insulting cries of his persecutors. … Johnston’s army has nearly all gone. The last large body of troops has passed through, and in a few weeks even the stragglers and hangers-on will have disappeared. There have been no camp fires in our grove since Sunday, but five of the dear old Rebs are sleeping in our corn-crib to-night. They said they were too dirty to come into the house, and they are so considerate that they would not even sleep in an out-house without asking permission. Hundreds, if not thousands of them have camped in our grove, and the only damage they ever did - if that can be called a damage, - was to burn a few fence rails. In the whole history of war I don’t believe another instance can be found of so little mischief being committed as has been done by these disbanded, disorganized, poverty-stricken, starving men of Lee’s and Johnston’s armies. Against the thousands and tens of thousands that have passed through Washington, the worst that can be charged is the plundering of the treasury and the government stores, and as they would have gone to the Yankees anyway, our men can hardly be blamed for taking whatever they could get, rather than let it go to the enemy. They were on their way to far-distant homes, without a cent of money in their pockets or a mouthful of food in their haversacks, and the Confederate stores had been collected for the use of our army, and were theirs by right, anyway. They have hardly ever troubled private property, except horses and provender, and when we think of the desperate situation in which they were left after the surrender, the only wonder is that greater depredations were not committed. … I was greatly touched the other day by the history of a little boy, not much bigger than Marshall, whom I found in the back yard with a party of soldiers that had come in to get their rations cooked. Metta first noticed him and asked how such a little fellow came to be in the army. The soldiers told us that his father had gone to the war with the first volunteers from their county, and had never been heard of again, after one of the great battles he was in. Then the mother died, and the little boy followed a party of recruits who took him along with them for a “powder monkey,” and he had been following them around, a sort of child of the regiment, ever since. I asked him what he was going to do now, and he answered: “I am going to Alabama with these soldiers, to try and make a living for myself.” Poor little fellow! making a living for himself at an age when most children are carefully tucked in their beds at night by their mothers, and are playing with toys or sent to school in the daytime. Metta gave him a piece of sorghum cake, and left him with his friends. ” Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 256-260.