In Their Own Words
April 25, 1865
Confederate Soldiers Returned Through Georgia
In Washington, Georgia, Eliza Frances Andrews wrote in her journal of returning Georgia soldiers who had served with Robert E. Lee at the time of his surrender two weeks earlier:
“The square is so crowded with soldiers and government wagons that it is not easy to make [your] way through it. It is especially difficult around the government offices, where the poor, ragged, starved, and dirty remnants of Lee’s heroic army are gathered day and night. The sidewalk along there is alive with vermin, and some people say they have seen lice crawling along on the walls of the houses. Poor fellows, this is worse than facing Yankee bullets. These men were, most of them, born gentlemen, and there could be no more pitiful evidence of the hardships they have suffered than the lack of means to free themselves from these disgusting creatures. Even dirt and rags can be heroic, sometimes. At the spring in our grove, where the soldiers come in great numbers to wash their faces, and sometimes, their clothes, lice have been seen crawling in the grass, so that we are afraid to walk there. Little Washington is now, perhaps, the most important military post in our poor, doomed Confederacy… . Soon all this will give way to Yankee barracks, and our dear old Confederate gray will be seen no more. The men are all talking about going to Mexico and Brazil; if all emigrate who say they are going to, we shall have a nation made up of women, negroes, and Yankees.
” … Everybody is cast down and humiliated, and we are all waiting in suspense to know what our cruel masters will do with us. Think of a vulgar plebeian like Andy Johnson, and that odious Yankee crew at Washington, lording it over Southern gentlemen! I suppose we shall be subjected to every indignity that hatred and malice can heap upon us. Till it comes, ‘Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die.’ Only, we have almost nothing to eat, and to drink, and still less to be merry about.
“The whole seems to be moving on Washington now. An average of 2,000 rations are issued daily, and over 15,000 men are said to have passed through already, since it became a military post, through the return of the paroled men has as yet hardly begun.”
Source: Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, 1864-1865 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1908), pp. 183-185.