EDITOR’S NOTE: In commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, Ellis County resident Rose Ryder has written a series of columns of historical facts relating to the War Between the States.
• Second in a series
Twenty year old Kate Stone recorded the following story of her family’s flight from Northeast Louisiana to Tyler, Texas in March 1863.
“Around midnight, the Stone family left the plantation and rode all night on horseback in the swamp. At dawn, they boarded two small leaky dugouts and rowed away just as Yankee soldiers appeared behind them. The water was so deep that the soldiers could not ride fast.
“We kept ahead. The Yankees followed us until their horses were nearly swimming. At last after nearly a mile of this race, the boats shot out into deep water, and we were safe from pursuit.
“We were in the boats for seven hours in the beating rain and the sickening sun, sitting with our feet in the water.”
At last the family came to a clearing and the boats had to be pulled over land.
“Our dresses were nearly torn off.”
Soon they arrived at the Carson’s small residence, friends who had moved inland earlier.
Mrs. Carson gave the family a change of clothing and used shoes – “a pair of nice gaiters such as it would be impossible to buy in the Confederacy. As I have only a pair of old half-worn shoes and can get no more, they are most acceptable.”
Sadness overcame the Stones when they learned in early April that Brother Walter had died of disease in Mississippi.
“For seven long weeks my dear little brother has been sleeping in his lonely grave, far from all who loved him, and we knew it not until a few days ago.”
After resting for several weeks at the Carsons, the family was ready to move “on our journey to the unknown.”
After a six hour trip in a dugout, they reached a railroad bridge and walked a mile to Delhi, La. The Stones boarded the cars (train) and traveled to Monroe – eighty miles inland. Mother Stone then hired a four horse hack for $3,000 to carry the family four miles to a home where they rented two small rooms in a dirty unfurnished house.
The family had lost almost everything – clothing, bedding and table wares. Mrs. Stone could find only used clothing to buy.
“It seems funny to be wearing other people’s half-worn clothing, but it is all we can get.”
They also bought a pair of blankets for $60 and two course linen sheets for $50. Kate then spent her days sewing by hand the linen sheets into “underclothes, thick and strong. They should last until the war is over.”
With news that Federal troops were in the area, the Stones again planned to move. Mother Stone was unable to buy a wagon, so they waited.
“How I dread being secluded on some remote farm in Texas, far away from all we know and love and unable to get news of any kind. It is a terrifying prospect.”
A friend recently released from a Northern prison arrived with news of Brother William. He was wounded in the left arm above the elbow at Chancellorsville and recuperated in Richmond.
“My brother is having a nice time in Richmond and regrets the hole in his coat more than the hole in his arm. The last nature will heal, the first will take money.”
Traveling alone, the family departed in a Jersey wagon – a four wheel cart with no springs.
“It is a ramshackled affair with seats and most of the bottom dropped down.”
In the evening after being turned away from one home, the family found refuge in another.
“We were glad enough of the shelter, for that was about all it was. Chunks of fat meat and cold, white-looking cornbread with very good water were all the refreshments.”
After this experience the family was determined that for the rest of the trip to camp out in their hand crafted tent made of carpeting.
After almost three weeks on the road, the Stones arrived in Lamar County, Texas “a place where the people are just learning that there is a war going on, where Union feeling is rife, and where the principal amusement is hanging suspected Jayhawkers.”
Kate was dismayed at the citizens.
“Nothing looks funnier than a woman walking around with an immense hoop – barefooted.
“Shoes are considered rather luxuries than necessaries and are carefully kept for state occasions.As for bowls and pitchers, Oh, no, they never mention them. One tin pan or a frying pan answers every purpose.”
Wash tubs seemed obsolete and not available for purchase at any price. The Stones found shelter “on the bare prairie in a rough two-room shanty.”
The Stones considered settling in Paris – “a clean, pretty place in the edge of Blossom Prairie.”
They decided not to stop there as Paris “is too near the borderline, the first point for an invasion and right next to the Indian Nation. We do not wish to lose our scalps in addition to everything else.”
Shopping was abundant in Paris with “well-filled stores, but the prices are beyond anything. A pen knife was very tempting, but who would give $25 for a little Yankee knife? Mamma indulged me in a piece of extravagance – a deck of playing cards at $5.”
At summer’s end the Stones were still in Lamar County where they found many old friends and acquaintances from home “for everybody about Monroe is moving out this way, we hear, scattering over Texas.”
They spent their days reading, sewing, and taking walks. Mrs. Stone rented a book for 50-cents per week from a Yankee lady residing in Lamar County and considered purchasing a copy of Shakespeare for $14.
“We will then have what someone calls a good library, Shakespeare and the Bible.”
In October, the Stones learn that Brother William was severely wounded at Gettysburg. He recovered but lost the use of his right hand.
“Poor fellow, this is his fifth wound and the most severe.”
Soon after, the Stones received news of Brother Coley’s death from injuries in Clinton, Miss. – the second son to die for the Cause.
During late October1863, the family traveled for a week to reach Tyler, Texas.
Rose Ryder writes for Parsons’ Rose #9, Texas Society Order of Confederate Rose. For more information, visit www.omroberts.com or www.tsocr.org.