Stirring Up the Yankees
By Bobby J. Mitchell
In 1843 Cora White was born in Fayette, MS. At an early age she was orphaned and adopted by relatives in Covington, TN, Judge and Mrs. John W. Harris. She married William Watson, son of Confederate Senator John W. C. Watson, of Holly Springs. She was widowed at the Battle of Franklin but continued to live with her in-laws in Holly Springs, with visits to Covington interspersed. She kept a journal from August 1864 – Sept. 1865.
In 1929 her granddaughter, Cary Johnson, used portions of the journal in her masters thesis at Louisiana State University. We will intermittently use some of her material in the next few issues.
In 1864 Holly Springs and Memphis were more or less occupied territories, Memphis more so than Holly Springs. Troops came through here with regularity, but they did not always stay very long. As most local lore goes, Marshall County changed hands 62 times. Even with all the yankee occupations, the Rebs still enjoyed stirring up the yankees, and enjoyed hugely any practical jokes they could play on them. The following quote from Mrs. Watson's journal contains one such episode.
“Tonight Mr. Daly, one of the soldiers who stayed all night while Cousin Dony was here, came again on his return to the army. While on furlough, both he and his comrade entered Memphis and spent several days. One night at the theater, they and several others, all in disguise, wrote their names, with the number of their regiments and the names of their commands on the playbills and dropped them in the theater. The next morning there was a great stir in Memphis, nearly every man in the city was arrested, and the soldiers had to slip out. We are always so interested in talking to the soldiers - - their experiences seem so wild and strange to us…”
I am sure incidents such as this occurred frequently, probably on both sides, as each tried to relieve the monotony of the army. We will have another excerpt next month.
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