Memories of the Civil War in South Carolina

Emma Elizabeth Dowling Speaks was very young when the Civil War started. She lived with her parents and siblings which included brother William Hamilton Dowling in the South Carolina area where Yankee General William T. Sherman marched after going through Georgia, destroying much in his path. In the 1930s Emma wrote down some of her remembrances and they are presented below. When transcribing these I attempted to keep the original flavor of her writings and did not correct her spelling or grammar except where absolutely necessary for clarity. These documents are arranged by time the events took place and not when they she recorded them. I encourage you to read them in order presented below. A link to her original handwritten copy is at the end of each document.

Emma's niece (brother William's daughter) Annie Maud Dowling Turner also recorded some of what her father William Hamilton Dowling passed on to her. Her story recorded in 1946 covers the period both before and after the Civil War. It is very interesting. You can read it here.

Wm. Hamilton and Emma were my great grandfather's brother and sister.

Finally the wife of William Hamilton Dowling recorded her experiences for her children.

April 6th, 1937

Memories of Mrs. Emma Dowling Speaks

February 1865, 72 years ago

General Shermans army marched from Atlanta through Georgia to Savannah, Ga and on to Columbia and marching from Savannah to Columbia the army passed through our home. We were living then in St. Peters parish Beaufort County, but that county now, is Hampton County.

Late one evening several men came to our home came in our yard and lot, caught our horses, out of our lot saddled them, caught our chickens and geese, and tied them by loads and threw them across the horses back and galloped away. Others of them went to our hog pen killed out fat hogs out of the pen, dressed the meat and carried the meat I suppose to their camps. They left the hogs heads and my little brothers dressed the heads and put them in a safe, and Shermans Soldiers I suppose they were dressed in blue came in and tok the heads and carried them away. They nocked our bee gums to pieces and took all the homey they wanted and turned the bee gums over and wasted what was left. This was all done late one evening.

The next morning at sunrise Shermans army Said to be 17 thousand Soldiers began to pass in earnest. They were marching in a wide breast either side of the road and wagons in the road one right after the other loaded with cannons and provition and other things. They took from people some of them came in our home, broke in our smoke hous, took all our nice smoked meat and evry thing they could find that was in there to eat and what they couldn't use they destroyed. They just took possession of my father and mather's hard earned property. mother steped to the back door said to shermans Soldiers please don't take all our bacon. One of them Said a curse word to her, and went right on taking evry thing they could find to eat and distroying what they did'nt want to take with them. One called himself a captain he told we little children any thing we could get in our dwelling house, after evry thing ws gone except a little a little corn left in the barn and a few sheep left afther driving away, eigh fine cows and etc. we caught 4 sheep got about, 2 bushels of corn and put in one of our rooms. But this isn't as bad as some of our neighbours were treated not a knife fork or spoon was left them to eat with if They had had anything left to eat.

Now 4 sheep and about 2 bushels of corn was all that shermans army left for a family of ten to live or die on. I was a young child 9 years of age but remember as well as if it had happened today.

Handwritten Copy

A letter to the Editor. Fairfax S.C.

Feburary 1932

Just a few memorys of the many rongs that General william T. Shurman and his Army did to South Carolina.

I was just a young child 9 years of age (Feb-1865) but remember as well as if it was today when a gang of men came to our home late in the evening. and took my Father's horses and Saddled them caught our chickens and gees tied loads of them put them across the horses backs and glloped of with them. Then others of them tore the tops of our bee gums off took what honey they wanted then turned the gums over to wast what was left, then killed our meet hogs out of the pen butchered them took the meet and carried it a way to their camp I Suppose. This was late one evening then the next morning at sun rise the hole army begin to pass our home. Then they began to finish taking what was left from what had ben taken the eavening befor They broke in Smoke house, Mother stept to the door of our house and said please don't take all our meet they said a curse word * smtied the smoke house the kitchen cornhouse and evry thing they could find but before they got all the corn one called himself a captian he tole my little brothers if they would put some corn in our house he would not let the others bother it. So the little children got about 3 bushels in our dweling house and that was evry moth full of food left for a family of eleven to eat. Except about 1 or 2 lbs of bacon Shurm's army did not happen to find but they took evry thing of any value they could find. They burned Several tenant houses that on one was livng in.

Handwritten Copy

April 9 1937

Memories of Mrs Emma Dowling Speaks during and after the war between the States.

There is always a feast after a famine, people didn't have such an easy time before Lee Surrendered to Grant April 9, 1865 at Appomattox court house. When the women and children had to Spin out of cotton the thread to make the cloth then, weave the cloth in home made looms. Weave about 30-yard bolt in a piece, weave about from 4, to eleven yards a day and start weaving about Sunrise or as soon as they could see how to tie the threads when they broke. but before starting to weave the cloth, the thread was to be put on spools made of large canes about 6 inch long and the thread, was put on them about 30 yds on each spool. These spools were put in a frame on little round sticks the spool standing straight up. One thread taken from each spools held, in hand, till all was gathered to gather, then worped of an what is called warping bars, worped off. Then all these threads attached to what is called a thread beam, on the back of the loom scattered along then, farther in front. There was something called harness made of thread hanging straight up and down with nots, called eyes That evry thread was put through. one would sit on one side and another on the other side, one would hand thread by thread and the one on the opposite side would draw the threads through with a hook until all was pulled through the harness. Then through what was called a Sleigh made of reids out of cane and on to a breast beem. 2 treddles to work with feet which the harness and sleigh was so fixed that when one treadle was mashed it would open the thread and throw the shuttle through. there was something called a battern used by both hands with reid and sleigh which noched the threads to gather, then mash another treadle and it would open for another shuttle to go through evry time the shuttle passed through thread by thread was nocked to gather. The shuttle had little quills filled with thread called filling and the thread that was put in the loom and through harness and sleigh was called warp. and so many other things to be done before the cloth was ready to sew with fingers, it is too numerous to try to explain. That was apart of the way the homespun was made to make though home spun dresses the southern ladies wore.

The women had to nit all the stockings they wore and all the socks the men wore also all the children wore. It seemed to people to be laziness to go with out stocking so no one went with out as the women kept plenty nit for their families no matter how large the familie were. They made almost evry thing they wore and ate then except coffee and that they did'nt except a substitute for 4 years as there was'nt any thin used our side of the Confederate states and coffee did not grow in them. The people parched rye rice meal grist and etc. and grownd it in coffee mills and drank that in the place of coffee they boiled these substitutes like it was coffee in coffee pots. The boys too young to be in war and the elder man that was too old to be in war made all the shoes that was worn and all wore shoes after the war. Rev John Preacher, Mrs Mamie Wilson's father made a neat a man or woman shoe as any one would like to look at. He is Mrs Robie Wilson Sander's Grand father also her other sisters and brothers Grand father. The people grew wheat and growed and bolted the wheat in flour pretty and white. They also grew rice and beat the chaff of[f] in morters with wooden pessils and faned the chaff with home made fanners, the rice when finished was as white as it is now by machine.

The people during the war they also grew Sugar cane grounded the cane boiled the juice in large bailers to syrup and sugar. the sugar was brown. they grew corn potatoes, peas, peanuts and etc, raised hogs, cows, horses, mules, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickings, gees, ducks and so on. But evry body had to work to keep the wheels turning. The mathers worked day and part of night to keep their children in school all they possibly could. My eldest Sister Susan Dowling then, but married J. A. Tuten after the war. She taught part of each of the 4 years at of war. I was little over 5 years of age then but went to school with and to her as long as she taught. She taught Mr Ralph Lightsy's grand mather, her 2 sisters and one brother They were misses Clem Rosa and Lizy Mathews and Dock Mathews. Clem married Mr Langford. Mr Lightsy's mother was Langford. Now the soldiers mothers brothers andsisters and fathers that was too old to be in war did all this and more and when sherman's army came and distroyed near all their labours that they could find and left starvation on the land and a lot what the poor soldiers work for before they went to war. This was the famine now comes the feast. The year 1865 was the most fruitful year I have ever known evry fruit tree vine and bush was loaded with good things to eat. Fruit trees did not blight and die then and almost every family had fruit trees, peaches, apples, plums, grapes, pombgranates, walnuts, hickory nuts, figs and etc. all these fruits were in abundance. It seemed evry thing that was planted just praspered and soon had water melons cantilops and all the vegatables that we wanted and to spare. We got hold of a few hens and raised lots of chickens. Evry body seemed to take evry thing to God in prayers and the greate feast was friendship with all the people. They were kind to each other friendly neighborly and evry body seemed to love each other. After a hard days work peopl would meet at each others houses and have prayer service and giving thanks to our good Lord and savior that things were no worse than they were.

In the fall of 1865, my eldest brother Rev W. H. Dowling and eldest sister Susan Dowling got up a shool of 52 puples, said to be a pay school but no one had any thing much to pay with but they taught with as much interest as if they were getting a great salary. I had 4 brothers and 4 sisters 9 of us and 6 out of nine were school teacher.

Rev J. F Preacher as before mentioned. He was'nt only a shoe maker but he was a minister of the Gospel, a good school teacher and a fine farmer and a mill right. This is just a sketch of many memories.

At the end of the handwritten copy Mrs. Speaks wrote the words from a song that she referred to when writing about "home spun dresses the southern ladies wore." The full words to that song are here.

Fairfax S.C.

July 4th, 1935

Just a sketch of memory

History of Hopewell. Hopewell Baptist Church was builed in the yeare of 1856. It was erected by the members, at that time. And the friends and good people of the Hopewell community. Namely Mr Washington Smith, Mr A. M. Ruth, Sr, Mr Washington Goethe Sr. Mr W. T Speaks, and many others of those christain people of Hopewell. A wonderful church of grate ministers of the Gospal. Namely Rev J. T. Sweatt. Rev Henry Shuman Rev J. F. Preacher Rev George Kinard Rev Jonas Trawell Rev. J. J. Nix. Rev M. H. Shuman Rev J. T. Morrison Rev W H Dowling. These are some of the ministers of the earlier life of Hopewell church who have done a great work in helping save precious souls and conducting those glorious protracted meetings. When so many loved ones joined the church and were Baptized in black creek waters and since those days many worthy ministers have done and are doing a greate work at Hopewell Rev J. W. Middleton and the members and friends of Hopewell are So faithful in doing Such a greate and wonderful work and still keeping up Dear old Hopewell church. Their Sunday School cant be excelled. Through the paster members and friends earnest and faithful work.

I'll recall the names of Some of the members friends and visiters of Hopewell who have long ago passed on to reep their reward. Namely The Youmans' The parnells. The Goeths The Peeples, The Gills, The Smiths, The nixn, The Trowells, The Shumans, The Muligans, The Marees, The chislms, the Foresters, the DeLoachs, The Ruths, The Speaks, The Lavens, The Whitefords, The Googes, The Bowers, The Ginns, The Rentz, The Hiers, The Bishops, The Goodings, The craps, The Griners, The Pies [?], The Longs, The Browns, The Hoovers, The Reids, The Rosiers, Dr H.W.C. Folk and family, The Dowlings, The Tulens, the Weekley, the Allmans the Fritts, The Palls, The Mixsons, The Sharbes, The Carters, The Johnsons, The Hadwins and also Mr Kite Frolk and Mr Getsinger both singing school Professors who taught Singing School at Hopewell.

A church I love being a church my parents loved who sleep in the cemetery by its side I also love the grawn on which the church is builed which recall sweet memaries of meeting and greeting loved ones of long ago.

By the only surviving child of my parents J T and M A Dowling

Emma D. Speaks 

Handwritten Copy

By Mrs. William Hamilton Dowling (Miss Clara Louise Ruth)

Written for Her Children, September 16, 1914 at Hampton, S.C.

 Dear Children:

Time would fail me to write of my remembrances, of observations and actual experiences after the surrender of the Confederate Army in April 1865. But at your request, I pen you some of the events of the ever-memorable months of my girlhood days in 1865.

My father, your grandfather, Honorable A. M. Ruth, who died while attending the South Caroling Legislature, as Senator of old St. Peter's Parish in 1853, owned a large number (82) slaves, and 7,000 acres of land, and my windowed mother's children were all, loyal and Patriotic to the Confederacy. My oldest sister's husband, Major J. J. Harrison, commanding the 11th South Carolina Infantry, was killed in the battle of Pocotalico, S. C. November 22, 1862. My oldest brother, Captain A. M. Ruth of the Hampton Legion (head of his company) was severely wounded in the Battle of Brandy Station in August 1863, and my brother, R. G. Ruth was a brave and gallant soldier boy of Butler's Brigade of Cavalry, and with your father (my husband) followed Hampton to the last ditch.

In February 1865, when General Sherman's Vandalistic hordes were already across the Savannah River in Close advance to my mother's home, sweeping devastation throughout old Beaufort district, my said wounded brother, Captain Ruth, gathered his own sisters, myself, Emma and Carrie, and his wife's sisters, the Goethe girls, and our little brothers Homer Ruth and "Sashie" Goethe, and Tommie Speaks, and with several loyal and faithful servants with wagons, horses, provisions, etc. refugeed before the army to cross Hill Village, Laurens County.

The winter was extremely severe and our encampment at night without shelter from snows and sleet for three weeks of hurried march - to say nothing of anxiety and dangers - were a bitter experience.

The Cross Hill people, Drs. Watson, Coxes, and Simpson were very kind to us but mail communications were all cut off and not tidings from home were we had . . .left our mother's made us distressingly homesick, and in June we all returned, but only to find devastation and destruction even far worse than our anticipation had been, and famine stared us in the face from every side, but for Jehovah Jireh (Biblical expression).

But the worst things at this time were the Negro raids, especially in Beaufort District and adjacent sections of Colleton District, all at that time under the military company Negro rule. These districts, now counties, contained more slaves than any other in our state and until now the colored population here are more numerous than any other section in the whole South. The Yankees, especially northern scalawags and looters, had embittered the Negroes against the Whites, teaching them that the bottom rail was now on the top, denouncing us as "He-Rebs" and "She-Rebs" and filling them with hatred, incendiarism, pillage, and revenge. Consequently, while men organized southing clubs for protection, two of which distinguished themselves, and were known as the 'Lightsey Company' and the 'Boynton Scouts', but for these, unwritten history would have had many additional dark and horrid spots on her horizon of crime and shame.

I will briefly relate a few of these Negro raids and facts which I know to be true as perpetuated by inflamed savage brutes, raiding unarmed and defenseless homes (the few not burned by Sherman) where families were living together, not knowing how nor where the next meal would come from.

After a scanty meal of bread and water, at Newville (?) on the Colleton side of Salkxehatchie, where I had attended the school of my sister's husband, Lieutenanut Buckner, before the war, there was a social and friendly gathering of ladies at a home, and about dinner time, a company of Combanee negroes, with guns, approached the dwelling and abruptly and insultingly ordered dinner prepared for them all and fixed on the table. The ladies being frightened and fearing for their lives, obeyed, and were forced to wait on them, one being ordered to brush the flies. Not fearing that any 'He-Rebs' were near, they had stacked their arms, and were eating gluttonously, using no knives and forks, when the Boynton Scouts rushed up, seized their guns, and quickly every Negro bit the dust, not leaving one to tell the tale, as the joyous ladies, anticipating outrage and death, thanked God and cheered at their deliverance.

On the Beaufort District side, the Lightsey Company, possessed of blood hounds, was a menance to the vicious blacks, as well as Yankee Whites. Nevertheless, a Beaufort Island band came to Ridgeville near Yemassee one night and outraged the home of a noble widow where several ladies were stopping who had just returned from refugeeing. The Black brutes crowed the house, the young ladies, frightened the screaming, clung to the mother for protection. She resisted eroically, and not only was showered with epithets and curses as "Rebel Bitch", etc. but received blows on her head from which she never fully recovered. Two of the girls were brutally and unnamely outraged, and one escaped by jumping from a high window and feeling through the darkness. Two young men of the social gathering were first seized, overpowered, and tied, and of course, would have been killed, but for the interference of an old Negro who knew one of the boys and who loosed his hands to assist the fainting and bleeding mother of the home. The next day, the same raiding and pillaging crowd of savage brutes moved to up the Isham Peeples (my own grandfather) place. Here they met and captured my brother Gassie Ruth, and harassed and would have killed him, but for the help of one of the plantation's former slaves, who knew and loved him - but again he was halted and surrounded, but being mounted, he dashed for his life and escaped the many bullets that whizzed around him through the briers and densely crowded branches of the trees.

On another occasion, several of these black fiends came to my mother's home and set the tourch to her home which Sherman had spared, but our faithful old Daddy Peter (colored) put the flames out again and again. Five of the brutes entered the mansion and forbade my mother calling them Negroes, and threatened her life if she repeated "negroes" again. A girl friend, who was visiting me, and I escaped by a back way through the end of the swamp to our brother's home at our Appling Place (Sylvan Springs).

But these are only samples of other events of those, the blackest days of all Carolina history. Time would fail me to tell of Radicalism and Klu Kluxism that kept it suppressed and protected us like "pillars of fire by night" until 1876 when the Sons of Confederate Veterans had reached their young manhood, and fell into line with their patriotic fathers and with political ballots and civil "personal" powers, arose in splendor, led by the great Wade Hampton, and hoisted the banners of white supremacy under which peace and goodwill will now reign, with prosperity, Christian joy, pride and glory throughout the whole Southland.


Your Mother

Mrs. W. H. Dowling

(Nee Clara Louisa Ruth)

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