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Mrs. M. M. Kersh

Fort Valley, Georgia

Today I am opening a book of sad memories and recollections which has lain on the shelf of time since the close of the war of '61. It is seldom that I ever open the lids of this Book of Memories for they are sad indeed, too sacred to be exposed to the curious eye. To me they are the most sacred events of my life and it is with sadness that I read its pages to you today, and to you as the Daughters of the Confederacy I read them.

Prior to the thunder and rumblings war, Military Companies were organized in every little town in the States of the South, even Perry organized a company -- which went with the Georgia regiment to Virginia.

We had two companies: the Governor's Guards and the Fort Valley Rifles. The Guard's uniforms were a dark blue trimmed with white.. a long white plume on the hat... The Riflemen's had blue trimmed with yellow. Every Friday evening they drilled through our streets and were the pride of the town, we were so proud of our soldier boys - so handsome and manly, little did we dream what was in the future for them. In the spring of '60 our companies invited two companies from Macon to come and camp a week with them. Great preparations were made for them. Now where stands the African Church and that row of negro houses - stood a beautiful pine grove that was the camping ground - they came, 100 men to each company - so with our companies made in all 400 men... the grounds were in perfect order and the white tents made a picture (never to be fogotten). It was a gala week for Fort Valley, she has never done anything by halves (as in the last election), but when called on is never found wanting. Ladies came from Macon, Perry, Montezuma and everywhere - for an encampment was a new thing - and we did everything to make them happy, had two bands of music and parties-, while our Fort Valley girls did not dance, visitors did so the week passed amid the praise and thanks of our visitors. Some talk of secession was heard. There were two polical parties: Democrats and Whigs - the Democrats for secession, the Whigs against it. After the elections and Secession was the decree every town had an illumination in honor of it. Macon was ablaze and many went from here to see the sight as it was something new. I wanted to go with the crowd but my father was a Whig and bitterly opposed to it- He said, "No, you cannot go, they will be hanging crepe on the doors instead of lamps in the windows in less than a year," and it was too true for they did hang the crepe. Town companies were organized all over the country, everything was in chaos and confusion. We all saw the war clouds and heard the thunder and knew that trouble was just ahead of us.

When the 1st Georgia Regiment was organized Captain John Houser organized a company in Perry and two of our boys went in that Regiment, William Braswell and Tom Massee. You see we were in the first Regiment, it was sent to Virginia- where the Army was being mobilized soon after.

The Governor's Guard went in Colonel Griggin's company. Jim Mathews went in that Regiment, the third Georgia.. John Hinton soon after. The Riflemen, one of the first, was merged into the Beaureguards, General Anderson's company. These boys hated the Army life - were in many battles, and were wounded and killed... Lon Jones, Lonnie Brown, Lem Clark and Alber Speer were all killed from this company. One more company was organized by Mr. Braham, 57th Regiment ..-my brother, Charlie Gray, Bob, Braswell, and many others. Henry Willis had part of his nose shot off. Charlie Gray was wounded in the head.

Soon they began to send the wounded home. A hospital was furnished up in the old schoolhouse for them. I meant to say here that the first real Red Cross work was done in the Southern States for the Southern Boys. Here the women showed their love for the boys and patriotism for their country. They worked for them day and night, they brought cots and had beds made of cotton...took sheets and pillows and covers from their own homes. When the train would come in, a committee of women would meet it (a new one every day), take the wounded or sick soldier to the Hospital and there he met his mother - though she was far away in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama - they knew no bounds - all belonged to the same family and were fighting for the same cause. Hot soups, coffee, hot breakfast and/or dinner was carried to them. Every lady claimed a soldier and I want to say they suffered for nothing but did suffer from the dreadful wounds from the enemy's guns. When the sick needed a bath, a negro man did the work. Clean clothes were ready and everything they needed was provided. Many homes were robbed of the very best of everything, but it was freely given, even the children vied with each other to do something for the soldiers. A committee of ladies stayed at night and one on duty in the day - everything provided for the soldeirs came from the homes, our coast was guarded by Yankee gunboats - and we were hemmed in and had to rely on ourselves; they said "We will soon starve them out". .. but they didn't. A kind Heavenly Father heard the prayers of the good women and plenteous crops of everything to eat grew bountifully.

A Woman's Aid Society was formed and Mrs. Sanford, Ben Sanford's mother, was president.. .they met in the home that Mr. Woolfolk bought, and there the women made the clothes for our soldiers - every town and county furnished their company's... Carpets were ripped up and the wool was woven into jeans for clothes for our soldiers. I must say here that Miss Kate Wommack's name should be written in gold on your scroll of honor of the Daughters of the Confederacy for she wove the cloth that made the clothes. Nothing but a girl she would sit at the loom all day and weave the jeans. She has the wheel that spun the thread that wove the clothes. I suggest that you get it and place it in your Charter House as a memento of the Confederacy. Soon they needed the Blind Asylum in Macon for a Hospital. Professor Williams taught the blind children here and they occupied the Woolfolk building.  The Aid Society moved downtown to another room.

The hearts of the people were torn and bleeding - hearing nearly every day of another battle and more deaths. Then we had three armies... in Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi. My Austin father and Mr. Walden went to Mississippi where our boys were. Within a few miles of Vicksburg they were stopped and turned back for the Yankees had surrounded our army and declared a seige, that was a cordon of Yankee soldiers around the city - no one was allowed to go in or out the city for 40 days. At the end of that time, they were paroled under oath then they were exchanged. Mr. Nolder's son looked over the breastwork and a sharpshooter shot him in the forehead - he was buried under the breatworks in Vicksburg. A monument to his memory is in our cemetery. My mother, Mrs. Guy Braswell and many others were in the city at that time.

There was a long table built in front of the hotel next to the railroad, and when a message would come saying a Regiment would pass that day, every housekeeper would prepare a basket and all would go down and spread the table, cans of coffee, jugs of milk were there for the hungry boys. This was done three or four times a week - they transferred soldiers from Mississippi to Virginia and vice versa, we were only too glad to feed them, and when a Regiment of prisoners passed throught to Andersonville the same table was prepared for them. We certainly did cloth the naked and feed the hungry. Too much cannot be said of the women of the Confederacy, they worked day and night. The women who were too old to sew, knit socks, comforters and visors, you will wonder where we got the thread, every farmer had a flock of sheep, they would be sheared, and the wool taken to the carding factory owned by Mr. T. V. Miller's grandfather, Mr. Brice, who never charged a cent for the work, it was made into rolls, spun into thread, and knit into socks, jackets, comforters and visors for the boys - everything.

The women wore homespun dresses and knit stockings, hats made of palmettos and shucks, and rejoiced that we could dress in spite of the northern goods. I remember many little insidents but I do not care to be personal in this review but rest assured that I was a rebel then and am yet - I love the grey but not the blue. You will remember that we were blockaded on every side, could get nothing - so had to depend on ourselves for everything.  Every farm raised sugar cane, groundpeas, and everything to eat.  For sugar, when the syrup was boiled, they would stir a kettleful and turn it to sugar - that was put in clean flour sacks, hung up and dripped,  it would form a hard lump that we used for coffee and cake- our coffee was made  from parched rye, potatoes, and wheat.  It was parched and ground and really made a very good substitute.  We had plenty of wheat, corn and meat.  I want to say the negroes were true and loyal to their homes and Masters.  We never heard of a murder, rape or any misconduct.  They seemed to think they were honored to protect us from any danger.  I must not fail to tell you that our Uncle Hal, our foreman on the plantation after the men were all gone, slept every night on a pallet on the back porch, ready to hear any unusual noise; they were true and loyal until those miseable carpetbaggers came and put mischief in their heads.  They were well named carpetbaggers for they came prepared to steal and carry all they could away.

The boys would get furloughs and come home to see the homefolks. We would have parties and picnics for them, the refreshments were parched groundpeas, walnuts, sugar cane, and ginger cakes and beer.

I could talk all evening on my experiences but I forbear ... a great many ludicrous things and many sad ones ... we had a very sad experience during reconstruction days, days of the Klu Klux etc. - but enough for this time.