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In Their Own Words

April 17, 1865

Fall of Columbus Noted in Journal

After having spent several months with her older sister on a plantation near Albany, 24-year-old Eliza Frances Andrews was returning by train to her parents’ home in Washington, Georgia. In her journal entry for this day, she wrote of the fall of Columbus and her bitterness toward Yankees:

“… 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… . 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… . 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… . 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.