Memories of The Civil War
By Margaret Morphis Lockhart
Submitted by Martha Fant
Editor's Note: The following interesting article was written by Mrs. Margaret Lockhart, who was reared in the Mt. Pleasant vicinity, and who died recently in Memphis. The article was taken for a copy of the Hondo Herald edited by Fletcher Davis, who was also born and reared in the Mt. Pleasant vicinity.
As I gazed upon this old building which sheltered me in the most bitter years of the Civil War, I recalled many heartaches we endured while living there. Our home was in the suburbs of the little, then prosperous town of Mt. Pleasant, North Mississippi, five miles from Tennessee State line, fifteen miles north of Holly Springs, Miss., thirty five miles east of Memphis, Tennessee.
My mother was a widow, my father having died in 1855 leaving a large family of children in her care. The eldest answered the South's first call to arms and enlisted for three years, or duration of the war, with Company F. 17th Regiment, Mississippi Vol. Infantry. He served in VA with Lee's army; with them fought many bloody battles and suffered untold hardships, as history truthfully tells us.
In 1861 all the boys, even our nearest neighbor who ran the Stage Coach from Holly Springs to Memphis were gone. The clarion calls we listened for morning and night were hushed forevermore. Our slaves had been sold; all was confusion. Mother felt unsafe in our suburban home without protection for herself and children. As the lady who lived in the old Tavern was leaving it vacant because business would be dull for a time, mother thought best to move there and live near neighbors who would be company for her, if not help in extreme danger.
Lingering still in our memory was the sound of the fiddle and the banjo played by two darkies singing at intervals "John Brown" and other songs to arouse enthusiasm of their young masters as they mustered and prepared for war, marching around and around in the old square. These darkies, and many more, followed them to war as cooks and were faithful in loving care of them.
I was my mother's youngest girl being born in 1851, and lived almost constantly by her side. We spun thread, knitted socks, gloves, scarfs for our soldiers, and sometimes made clothes for our own use. I filled quills for mother to weave and between times studied school books for we had no schools then and I missed the higher education that I craved. Mother used me for errands, I thought, because I could run fast. One day she told me to run down to a picket and give him some socks we had knitted, as it was raining and his feet might be wet. I was proud to carry them as they were knitted grey woolen ones with our flag below the top of the sock in colors. With my old red shawl about my head and shoulders and shoes made by a friend out of boot tops fastened together with sycamore pegs at the soles, which were much appreciated though they were quite heavy, I ran as fast as I could until I reached him, almost breathless, and gave him the socks. He smiled graciously and said "Thank you, my little lady"; embarrassed I just repeated after him, "Thank you, my little lady." Looking up I met his kindly glance and we both laughed. But I ran home faster than I went for I could imagine the Yankees were coming right behind me.
My mother was a brave woman or she would have made a mistake living at the Tavern for we were in line of both armies coming and going and pickets often met from both sides and fought, our boys leading them on until they reached Coldwater bridge and river, then they would turn back in the direction of the Tennessee line afraid to go any further. We could see in every direction the roads leading into town and, after all the vacant homes were burned, our home in the suburbs included, we had little to obstruct our view.
The old Tavern was on the northeast corner of the square and the largest house near the road leading from the Tennessee line into Holly Springs where our soldiers were stationed. The Union army being located near the Tennessee line, both armies often met in skirmish in our little town but never did much harm except to scare us with the firing runs and bullets raining against the doors and walls until we sought shelter on a back stairway and, sitting high upon the steps, we waited to see which would retreat. The Rebel yell soon took effect and they retreated not knowing how many were advancing upon them.
Once our men went too near their line and camps and there was a strong army of Federals in waiting. A real battle followed; they fought all day but were overpowered and had to retreat and the Federals held the line. Near nightfall an officer in grey rode up to our door and asked my mother if she would take some wounded soldiers. She answered, "Yes, bring them in." They brought in twenty-six who were laid on beds and pallets on the first floor. We helped with the wounded when needed and many times up and down the narrow aisles we went with things they were calling for until our brave hearts were almost sickened with the sight and groans of the wounded. Child that I was, I helped mother prepare food, all that we had in the house, for our soldiers who were camped near. Then they brought in more food for they were very hungry and we were glad to cook for them. My mother seemed almost a mother to all of them.
One young boy missed his brother and came to the door and asked to be permitted to look for him among the wounded. He went in softly calling, "John! John! John!" I could bear no more then and crept to the narrow stairway which had been my refuge to shut out the sounds and gave vent to my long pent up grief.
They left quite early next morning taking all but two who could not be moved. Mother kept them two months or longer, with some help from our neighbors who were glad to aid her. There were two doctors too old for war who helped look after them, and also two boys too young to go to war who were a great help many times. Whenever the Federals would come to search the house, mother would show them the wounded soldiers' room, whispering to them to be quiet please and they were. As soon as the boys could be moved, their wives came after them in good old steady ox wagons, for there were no horses then able to travel any distance and the oxen carried them safely home down to Dixie.
Once pickets in grey were stationed north of our home on the road leaving to the enemy's camp and south to Holly Springs where our soldiers were stationed. I was in the garden beside that road when I heard guns firing and flying feet of horses bearing riders in grey pursued by blue coats coming nearer and near going south. The dust was thick, but childlike, I saw everything. A boy in grey turned a corner quickly and fell from his horse, hurt but able to crawl to the ruins of a large building opposite our back yard and hide until they passed on. I lost not time telling mother about this and watched as she hurriedly crossed the street and helped him into the back room up the narrow stairway and up another stairway into our attic, then into a cubby hole with an old fire screen before it with cast off things carelessly hung across to conceal the opening. The blue coats were not long coming back, having gone as far as they dared, and stopped to ask mother if she had seen a Rebel fall from his horse. She replied, "No, I did not see a Rebel fall from his horse," which was true for I was the one who saw it, and I was careful to remain very quiet. Of course, they had to search the house, as usual, and went up the stairways to the attic. After thoroughly satisfying themselves that there was no Rebel in our house, they thought best not to tarry and quickly moved on, so the boy was saved. His comrades came back after him, leading his horse which had followed them, and with difficulty got the boy through that cubby hole into which mother had so quickly thrust him. After a time he came back and thanked mother for helping him.
Although my mother had worked hard for the South all during the war, near the close she lost her son in the battle on Missionary Ridge near Knoxville, Tenn. He, with the small remnant left of Co. F. was captured. Being standard bearer, he tore the flag from its staff and put it in his bosom, thinking to escape, but, this being impossible, he was captured and carried to Rock Island, Ill., prison where he took smallpox and was placed in the pesthouse; later when he was considered better again was cast into prison where he died Feb. 5, 1864. This was a hard blow for us and in vain we hoped it was a mistake and that he would come home to us again with the few who had been spared in his company but it was all too true he was never to return.
The old town stands now as it was left after the invasion. It could not grow and almost seems a living tomb of what once was an attractive little town. The old Tavern seems to me a monument in memory of my mother, recording her wonderful strength, courage and fortitude to do the things that others dared not do. Why should she fear? Had she not lost all? Nothing left but her young children, herself and her duty to humanity.
After the war was over we left the old Tavern and I have nothing worth recording except to tell we saw the first Ku Klux Klan that marched through the town mounted on white horses marching with muffled feet, silently, slowly, all white, very tall, as they sat on their horses, calling for water, water and seemed to drink gallons so thirsty they were. Their intentions were good and they did good, I think, in those days.
Many years have passed since then. Our boys in grey have grown old and most of them have heard the last call, my children's father with them to join Company F, 17 Regiment, Miss. Vol. Infantry, their soldier brothers they loved so well 'til death. I, too, have grown old. Years have dimmed my eyes and bleached my once brown hair to almost snowy whiteness and I am not so fleetfooted as I was in days of yore, yet I remember the Civil war as vividly as if it were yesterday and am writing this for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as a true story I cannot forget.
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