News of the
Surrender.—Start for Richmond.—Our Detention.—Dr. Hopson as a
Huckster.—Selling Vegetables and Fruit to the Federal Construction Corps
for Tea, Coffee, Flour, etc.—Aiding Two Old People.—Three Attempts to
Reach Richmond.—Trip in a Sutler's Wagon across the Last Field of
Battle.—Arrival at Amelia Springs.—Fishing.—Call to Richmond Church.
It must have been the middle of the week when we heard of the surrender of
Gen. Lee. Cabbal Breckenridge, son of John C., and several Confederate
officers, came through there on their way to the South, thinking it the
safest route. From them we learned the news. All the Doctor said when he
heard it, was, "It is finished! The war is ended." Before we had recovered
from the first shock, another followed—the
death of Lincoln. As soon as we could realize that it was true, the Doctor
said, "It is the worst thing that could have happened to the South at this
time." This was the universal cry.
I asked the Doctor if he remembered my remark about the
advent of Federal soldiers in the county. He said he did. The day he was
taken prisoner Lee surrendered.
His only thought now was to place himself in a position to
communicate with his friends. He sold his horse, saddle and bridle to Bro.
Spencer, and as soon as possible started to Richmond. When he arrived in
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Danville, he at once visited the Provost Marshal's Office, to procure
passes to Richmond. He was informed that he would have to take the regular
oath of allegiance to the United States government, which he did, and the
papers were procured. After considerable delay and no inconsiderable
annoyance, we left Danville. The cars were crowded and packed with
citizens and soldiers. They had to run very slowly, the track was in such
a bad condition. We arrived at Meherrin's Station early in the morning,
and found we could not go much further. Fortunately we were within four
miles of some friends with whom we had stayed while the Doctor held a
meeting at Liberty Church, near by. The cars took us to the station
nearest their house, where the Construction Corps were at
work repairing the road, which was almost entirely destroyed between there
We left our trunk at the station, and walked through the
woods to Bro. Wooten's, a mile. We found Bro. and Sister Wooten, two very
old people, and their two daughters, all the white occupants of the home.
The brothers had not yet been paroled. They were so glad to see us—they
felt so desolate! All their old family servants were gone, and only two
little darkeys, a boy and girl of ten and twelve, were left. They had an
old horse and one cow left of their well-stocked farm. They had a little
corn meal and a few pounds of bacon. In the garden were plenty of beets,
onions and lettuce, but they thought them too small to use.
The day following our arrival, Dr. H. took a basket and the
two servants, and went into the garden. He pulled up some of the young
beets and onions, and half filled the basket. Then he made the little
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some green currants and gooseberries, with which the bushes. were loaded,
laid a paper over the vegetables, and filled the basket full. He then got
a two-gallon earthen jar, and filled it with milk, and with his two sable
companions went down to the camp of the Construction Corps. They were
delighted to see him, and Capt. Drummond at once had the basket and jar
emptied; and the basket was soon filled with packages of rice, sugar,
flour, tea, soda, pepper, salt, and the jar with ground coffee. The
Captain said he was so glad to get the things, and to come every clay and
make the exchanges. By the end of the week the big ox-heart cherries were
ripe, and they were added to the load.
The first day, when the Doctor returned with his groceries,
the old people were astonished and delighted; but when the Doctor laid the
package of tea in the old lady's lap, she smelled it, and actually cried
for joy. In a few minutes the tea-kettle was boiling, and she was engaged
in sipping her favorite beverage, which she had not tasted for months
before. The last pound of tea sold in Richmond, it is said, brought $375,
and the last barrel of flour $2,500.
Capt. Drummond said the way would be open for as to go on to
Richmond in a week. One morning he sent a messenger to let us know that
the cars would be through some time during the day, and to come down and
take dinner with him. sent fur our trunk, and we said good-bye to our
friend, and left. We waited until 3 p.m. No cars, but a dispatch that the
end of the bridge over the Roanoke had settled, and it would be two or
three days before it would be repaired so that cars could cross. It was a
very great disappointment to us, but Capt. Drummond sent us back home
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ample provisions for another week. In a few days he notified us again, and
we went down to the depot, dined with him again, and waited. The train
from Richmond passed down the track to Meherrin's, where the trains
usually met and passed each other. We heard the whistle of the other train
as it came up from the South. We waited on an hour or two, and saw several
gentlemen walking up the track from the station below. Capt. Drummond met
them, and found that the trains had tried to pass on the same track, and,
not succeeding, had collided. I told the Doctor I felt like walking to
Richmond. Capt. Drummond said I must not get out of patience—they
were a good deal longer trying to get to Richmond than we had been. We
went back to Bro. Wooten's again. The Doctor took it very coolly. He said
he was sure if we lived long enough that we should reach there, and he had
learned to be patient.
Four more days passed before we received the third summons.
We told our dear friends we would not say good-bye until we came back. We
were very sure we would be off this time. When we got to the depot the
train was standing on the track—nothing
but box-cars and an engine. We got on board. I seated myself on my trunk
and the Doctor found a bench. The tops of the cars were covered with
freedmen, going to Paradise, as they conceived Richmond to be; the inside
filled with all kinds of luggage, except the car we were in, which was
reserved for half a dozen white passengers. We shook hands with Capt.
Drummond and started. Our hearts were light, and we felt we should in a
few hours be able to write to our friends and hear from them. But in this
instance, as in many others, "the best laid chemes" were all thwarted. We
ran a mile from the
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depot, and had just got into the middle of a fill nearly fifty feet high,
when there was a sudden jar, and when I picked myself up off the floor I
saw heads, hands, feet flying off the top of the car and rolling down the
embankment, some cursing and some praying. A broken rail had thrown the
engine off the track. But for the slow rate we were traveling, the result
would have been most serious. As it was, only one was killed, a boy of
sixteen, who fell between the cars and was crushed to death.
As soon as Capt. Drummond saw something had happened, he got
on a hand-car and came at once to see what was the matter. He told the
Doctor he had done his best to get rid of him, but he believed it was
impossible, so he would load us and our baggage onto the hand-car and send
us back to the depot. We thankfully accepted the alternative, and night
found us again the guests of Bro. Wooten. The old people said they had got
so used to our coming back they would have been disappointed if we had
The Doctor continued his marketing until they had provisions
enough to last them three or four months—sugar,
coffee, tea, canned fruits, lard, pickled pork, dried beef, etc. The
Doctor said the exercise kept him from stagnating.
By this time the paroled soldiers began to return home. Some
of them were bringing horses and sutlers' wagons with them, and the Doctor
now decided he would try to reach our goal by another route. In a day or
two he made arrangements for a young man to take us as far as Amelia
Springs, twenty miles. This was as far as he was willing to go. We took a
last farewell of the dear old people who had sheltered us in our hour of
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and drove down past the depot to say good-bye to Capt. Drummond. We left
him with real regret, for his great courtesy and kindness to us, and we
shall always remember his generous assistance with heartfelt pleasure.
We left by sunrise, as the man wished to return the same day.
We had to drive with great care. A part of the way our road lay right
through the battlefield, where the last terrible struggle of the war
occurred. The scene was one of desolation and ruin. The fences were all
torn down, the trees cut to pieces with minnie balls, or mowed down with
grape and canister; here a pile of shell, there a broken caisson, here a
dead horse, there a male, here a half-buried soldier, and there a bird of
prey glutting itself on the dead carcasses. It was a scene I shall never
forgot. We were momentarily in fear that a shell might explode under us,
but by the providence of God we arrived safely at the Springs in time for
dinner. Bro. Cottrell met us and threw his arms around the Doctor and
wept. I think we all shed a few tears. I, for one, had been ready to cry
all day. There were never more grateful prayers went up to the throne of
God than ascended from the family altar that night.
Something else was to be thought of now. Both armies had
passed over the Springs, and what one left the other took. Bro. Cottrell
was in the condition of Job, with the exception he had his children left,
and was not afflicted with boils, and he had a good Christian wife. Of
forty head of horses and mules, two were saved; of eighty cattle, not more
than two; of one hundred sheep and fifty hogs, but one. He was so wild, no
one could get within rifle shot of him.
The next morning the Doctor and Jimmie Cottrell, a lad of
twelve, were up by daylight, and, with fishing
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rods and bait., off for the creek, a few hundred yards away. In an hour or
two they returned with enough fish for breakfast. This was their practice
every morning the two weeks we were there. The armies had only left Bro.
Cottrell half of a middling, some corn meal, a little flour, and a few
gallons of that great boon to the South—sorghum.
Every day Bro. Cottrell and George, his servant (three of the servants
never left him), would go out and hunt, shooting blackbirds, robins, or
any bird that was eatable. In this way we were provided with meat from day
to day, until the way was opened to Richmond, where alone supplies could
The preceding October, before the Doctor left the Springs to
go to Henry county, Bro. Cottrell sealed up some valuable papers and
$5,000 in gold, with some silverware, and putting them in a heavy canvas
bag, had tied them tightly with a strong rope. He asked the Doctor to walk
with him one night after dark, and they went together to a deep hole in
the creek, a few hundred yards from the house, and he sunk the bundle in
the hole, which was from fifteen to twenty feet deep. He said, in case
anything should happen to him, he wanted the Doctor to know of the deposit
and let his family know. As soon as the road was open to Richmond, they
went down together and fished the package up, finding everything intact.
He at once sent his trusty servant with some of the money to Richmond to
purchase supplies, with which he returned the next day, to our great
delight. In a few days the Doctor received a call to the Richmond Church.
Bro. Pettigrew had resigned, after eleven years' faithful service. He was
greatly beloved by his congregation, who disliked to give him up for any
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Dr. Hopson said he would go and visit the church, and see what was best to
be done. He left the next day, and I remained at Bro. Cottrell's until he
should decide what he would do.
This was our first opportunity to write home, as there were
no mail facilities from anywhere we had been since the war closed. We were
becoming very impatient to hear from our loved ones.
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